As part of our research into the history of paintball in New Zealand we come across some weird things from yesteryear, and the strangest one so far is, the Tippmann .22 Calibre Machine Guns circa 1980s.
Note that you will never see many of these products on a paintball field, or even in New Zealand, due to their legal status, or restrictions for military or law enforcement only.
Tippmann’s official history on their website doesn’t talk about much about the company pre 1986, so I’ve had to search the deepest parts of the internet for information regarding the mythical machine guns. These were legal in the United States until 1986 when the Firearms Owners Protection Act was passed banning machine gun ownership from civilian use. We are not 100% sure of their current legal status in the USA, but understand that ownership of these is now legal in the USA, and these sometimes come up for sale, reaching values of around $25,000 USD!
Tippmann (or possibly Lakeside) M2, .22 Cal Machine Gun
Apparently they even have one on display in their head office lobby in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
From what I understand, a similar .22 cal firearm was later manufactured legally in Semi Auto (but full auto aftermarket sears were availalable on the grey market) as a Tippmann M2 by companies in the USA, but after a legal battle, the name Tippmann could no longer be used on the product.
Originally a manufacturer of collectible, half-scale replica machine guns, family-owned Tippmann entered the paintball industry (forming Tippmann Pneumatics Incorporated Company in 1986) when gun law changes (The Firearm Owners Protection Act, or FOPA banned machine guns) forced them to re-evaluate their business.
Accord to their website they originally thought of paintball as a passing fad:
At the time, the Tippmann’s were afraid that paintball was just a passing fad that would have about as much staying power as the hula hoop. But it seemed like a natural transition for the company anyway. After all, they knew how to make guns, and paintball markers shared the same basic principles as the machine guns they were manufacturing.
Thinking the sport would never last, they entered the paintball industry with a goal: to make high-performance, durable products that people could afford. Because of their experience in the gun industry, the Tippmanns’ products were light years ahead of the competition. They built the very first semi-automatic and full-automatic paintball markers, and the sport never slowed down. Tippmann went from having eight employees in 1986 to 120 in Fort Wayne, Indiana and Tippmann Sports Europe in Tournai, Belgium.
In 1986 they released the SMG-60, a .62 calibre, full auto paintball marker, powered by constant air (a 7oz CO2 Tank, when the industry standard were 10 shot, 12 gram CO2 cartridges) and a blow back mechanism similar to that found in M16 rifles. Tippmann’s history and experience in making belt fed .22 full automatic half scale weapons probably explains why they built the original SMG-60 why they did, when everything else was pump action, rock and cock style (what we would now refer to as “stock class”) type paintball pistols.
The SMG-60 was the first fully automatic paintball marker on the market. It is modeled on the appearance of the British STEN of World War II. The marker is .62 caliber, has a fixed steel barrel, and uses three stripper clips of five balls each (or four clips if using the extended 20-round magazine); the fire rate is 10 paintballs per second, therefore an entire standard magazine can be emptied in about 1.5 seconds. Rate of fire was deliberately limited by use of a heavy hammer and maintained by a valve designed to use liquid CO2. Some versions offered a 2-stage trigger (similar to those on firearms such as the Steyr AUG) in which a short pull produces semi-automatic fire and a long pull produces full-auto.
The SMG-68 is a .68 caliber version of the SMG-60, configured for semi-automatic operation, and featuring a removable barrel. Tippmann offered a trade-in for SMG-68’s to be converted into 68 Specials, by adding a front bolt and external linkage arm.
Interestingly enough, the SMG-60 and SMG-68 was legal and in use in New Zealand in the late 1980s and early 1990s, prior to law changes that banned fully automatic paintball markers in New Zealand. As of the 2012/2013 law changes, these paint markers are now legal to import and possess again.
Interstingly enough, Tippmann style products are now being made for other industries such as law enforcement, and even a .22 pellet gun made by Air Ordinance LLC (who have a staff member named Ben Tippmann) or pepperball products based on the A-5, Model 98 and TPX Pistols.
SMG-22 by Air Ordinance LLC
Its amazing what you find on the internet!