The Splatmaster was the staple product of the NSG company. The simple plastic pistol was the marker of choice for many hands. The Splatmaster lined the walls of paintball fields as a venerable rental gun, used by early tournament players in the NSG sponsored tournaments, and purchased by thousands of early players looking for their own way to play the "Survival Game". The Splatmaster was light, simple, and did not require a great deal of maitenance. Its lack of many parts and clamshell design allowed the Splatmaster to be hit, dropped, smashed, and fallen upon with only aesthetic damage. The guns came in grey, green, brown, and woodland camoflauge. Many Splatmasters were also painted by players looking to distinguish their gun, and engraving of rental numbers or player names was common as many Splatmasters looked identical to each other.
The Splatmaster is a curious gun because it is not a true pump gun. Many players and historians accredit the Nelspot 007 as the largest marketed paintball gun before the Splatmaster, as it spawned an entire genre of pump gun. The original bolt action was comparable to a rifle: the bolt was unlocked, pulled back to engage the sear, and then shoved back forward and locked. The addition of a pump (a simple "screw in" addition) made this process much simpler. Thus, other "Nelson" based pumps use a pump to engage the sear, chamber a round, and prevent other rounds from entering the breach.
Yet the Splatmaster was different. Without any external pump, the pistol is cocked from the rear "button" which protrudes from the back of the gun above the grip. This made the gun much different to cock and shoot compared to an "under barrel" pump gun. The round area near the rear of the gun (behind the rear iron sights) were used as an anchor for the player's pointer and middle finger as he pivoted his palm inwards to cock the gun. It sounds difficult but is a very simple process and can be accomplished with moderate speed.
As I am not a technically inclined player, I'd like to quote "minghelterra", an eBay user that posted this description under a Splatmaster auction. (Whether or not this is his/her own work I do not know, and so if you recognize the author, please let me know). This paragraph best describes the technical operation of the gun:
"The Splatmaster is a pure stock class pistol. 10 round cigar type tubes fit into the upper receiver above the barrel in the front. Arming the gun is accomplished by pushing in a large plunger at the rear of the gun. The sear is part of the trigger, and catches on the guide rail which is attached to the cocking plunger. This in turn locks the bolt and the entire barrel in a forward position, allowing a ball to drop into the breech. Pulling the trigger, the bolt and barrel release, moving rearward, as CO2 is expelled from the valve pushing the ball forward. At rest the oval port to allow a ball to drop (rear end of the barrel,) is just behind the ball feed port in the gun body, which prevents double feeding by blocking off the feed. A very simple, yet effective design. "
With the exception of the two small springs, the screws, and the valve, all the internals and externals of the Splatmaster pistol were plastic. This offered few upgrades. Some users polished their plastic barrels, while others machined new barrels out of brass. Splatmaster users always remember a phrase about the ability to clean the gun in water ( I would not recommend this as the paint on existing Splatmasters is old and will wear and fade if put under water ). Yet at the time, running the gun under water would be a quick and effective way to clean the entire gun, especially for a player who did not have the tools or skills to carefully dissemble a Nelson based pump gun.
Aditionally the cost of the gun was very attractive. At times where some pump guns were being sold for up to $200.00 USD, the Splatmaster was generally available for around $70.00 - $80.00 with shop goggles and insturction manual (which often included a coupon, a warantee, and an invitation to the NSG sponsored paintball club). Low maitenance and functionability was perfect combination for the new player and for early fields which needed guns that could take a beating and still shoot.
So what did you get when you purchased a brand new Splatmaster pistol?
The box covers vary from different time periods and eventually Splatmasters were even sold in "Walmart-style" plastic clamshell packages. But most collectible Splatmasters with boxes are similar to this one. The gun fit in a cutout area, with an adhesive tape over the front end of the gun. Shop goggles (acceptable at the time for safety) were also included along with an instruction manual. If not ripped up, the box makes a nice little case to tuck the gun into and slide into a closet or in a drawer. Again, perfect for the recreational gamer.
So why is an old, beat up, plastic paintball pistol from the 80s and early 90s at all important to the overall development of paintball?
-The Splatmaster was one of the first widely used rental guns. With thousands of paintball fields across the globe, we have become accustomed to seeing the venerable (albeit aesthetically unpleasing) rental guns hanging on the shelves and waiting to be abused by young children and hyped-up bachelors. We can directly trace this use of "beaters" to the Splatmaster. In fact, one modern field in the United Kingdom still rents out Splatmaster pistols.
-Modified grips on the gun are made specifically for user comfort. Today's market of paintball guns has all sorts of comfort grips such as the "Z" frame, the 90 degree Angel grip, and other seemingly oddly shaped grips in the name of comfort. Many players new to the Splatmaster ask me what the "double trigger but not actually a trigger" thing is for; the middle finger rest, despite its appearance, is actually rather comfortable and helps grip the gun.
-Goggle/gun Combo: While the shop goggles included with the Splatmaster are laughable when compared to today's standards, at least the gun included a safety measure that stressed the importance of eye care on the field. The Nelspot 007 was not marketed in any package of this nature. Today, "player packs" are common at general sports stores and paintball fields including a gun and a mask to get players going safely.
-Plastic use: The Splatmaster is mostly plastic, and still manages to take quite a beating. Of course it's not at all accurate and the parts are not going to last as long as metal parts, but the Splatmaster is extremely light and easy to run with. I suspect this choice of material helped mass market the gun and kept the price down on each model. Today, guns such as the PMI Black Maxx, the Trracer Semi-Automatic, the Tippmann A5, the Brass Eagle Samurai, and others use noticable amounts of polymers. One rumor I had heard said that the NSG company sold the rights to their plastics to the Glock company after they went out of business but I cannot confirm nor deny the conjecture.
-Decock Mode: With a Nelspot 007, if the user chambered a round and then de-gassed the gun, the sear was still engaged and the ball was still in the chamber. With the Splatmaster, the user could hold the "button" in the rear of the gun inward while pushing the trigger, allowing the rail to return without firing the gun. Then paintball could then be pushed backwards with a squeegee or left in the gun to be shot the next time.
-Mass production: While not always seen as a good thing, the Splatmaster was made in wide, wide quantities. Many players had Splatmasters and so the community of users was large enough to support homemade modifications, company sponsored clubs, and gathered enough attention for companies to make aftermarket parts. Most notably is the now-dismantled TASO company.
Why did the Splatmaster fade away if it was such a great idea? The Splatmaster completely dominated the market for a long period of time. Yet other pump guns, especially Nelson and Sheridan based guns, were going through rapid evolution and improvement. The guns could accept constant air and used hoppers, and eventually even carried the coveted auto-trigger feature. Yet NSG did not introduce new models to the table. While the GZ-1000, a direct feed version of the Splatmaster, was produced by ex-NSG employees under the new name of GFR Incorporated, no drastically new models or improvements were introduced to the market and so the Splatmasters were gradually phased out by newer, faster, and more accurate guns. By the early 90s when NSG disbanded, early semi-automatic guns made the Splatmaster an obsolete relic of the past.
Today, the Splatmaster legacy still lives on however. Collectors strive to expand their libraries of markers with Splatmaster models and stock class players still occasionally use the aged guns on the modern paintball field. They can be found at scenario games and there is even a Splatmasters Owners Group (see links for the URL!) And so the Splatmaster legend continues and will continue as long as someone is willing to hear the familiar click of plastic and thwack of an exploding round.
This post has been edited by slinkyaroo: 18 January 2010 - 11:50 AM