Don’t Fear a Project Paintball Marker. Embrace It.

If you read RunThru’s review of Planet Eclipse’s Etek5, you may remember mention of a “project” Dye DM12 I was working on last year. I didn’t want to get into it too much in that post, but I bought what seemed to be a working DM12 on eBay only to find that the marker was in… let’s say neglected condition. This is the story of my DM restoration project and what I gained from the experience.As long as I’ve played paintball, I’ve been the type of player to tear apart and tweak my equipment, changing out parts to get just the right feel. Going back to my very first marker, an open-bolt blowback GameFace Bone Daddy, I even once cut a new spring guide pin out of a spare cotter pin (destroying one of my dad’s saw blades in the process) after the original disappeared during a maintenance teardown.

rightThis tendency probably played a role in my buying a Dye DM12 last summer despite having picked up my Etek5 only a few months prior. I absentmindedly searched for Dye Matrixes on eBay simply because I’d always wanted one, and I was shocked at how cheaply older ones could be had. Pretty quickly, I came across what’s now my DM12 and was immediately taken with its design and color scheme. Emotion and some extra pocket money overrode caution, and I bought it that same afternoon, figuring any issues it had would give me an excuse to tinker.

The first sign of trouble came that evening. The seller e-mailed me saying the gun had a small leak when he first gassed it up, but it went away after firing a shot. He also said he tuned it before shipping and included a free container of Dow-33 grease.

Okay, that’s a bit concerning, but it seems like he’s trying to make it right, and the feedback is 100% positive, so it should be fine. I hope.

The marker arrived a couple days later, and everything seemed great. The finish was a little more nicked up than I realized from photos, but it was still beautiful, so I wasn’t worried about it. After admiring and handling it a bit, I gassed it up. The small leak was there, but it went away, just like the seller said.

I went through the rest of the work week impatiently, excited to try out my new marker ASAP. When the day finally came, the DM gassed up and chrono’d just fine. Cool, we’re in business. I headed out for the first game and just as the countdown started, so did a leak. I didn’t have time to worry about it, so I broke to the corner and swung my gun up, only to find the small leak had become a big one. I tried to shoot but only got maybe 150 fps, so I walked back to the staging area to troubleshoot.

Once I was over the chrono again, I began adjusting the HPR, trying to at least pinpoint where the leak was coming from. As I did this, the leak started moving all over, from the ASA, to the HPR, to the body, briefly to the bolt, back to the macroline. Shit. I decided I wouldn’t be able to fix the problem at the field, so I hung up the DM and played with my Etek the rest of the day.

Backcap extends on magnetic rails. Precursor to modern quick-release bolts

Back home, I first pulled the bolt. All the o-rings looked good, but I figured I’d better replace them anyway just to be safe. Next I pulled the macroline, which looked okay but not super clean. Finally, I opened up the Hyper3 regulator. Fuuuuu… The HPR was not in good shape. It looked like dirty water got into at some point and was never cleaned out properly. Some of the o-rings were torn up; the small one on the brass pressure adjuster had almost split into two rings; the tiny o-ring that the piston rod slides through had basically disintegrated. The regulator seat, too, was well past its use-by date, with the piston rod having nearly punched through the other side of it.

So I ordered an o-ring kit, some regulator seats, new macroline, Teflon tape, and, just in case, a solenoid gasket, though I hadn’t looked at that yet.

Once the parts arrived a couple days later, I replaced the o-rings in the bolt and HPR, switched out the regulator seat, put new Teflon tape on the macroline fittings, and installed new macroline. The good news: The HPR, bolt, and macroline now sealed up tight. The bad news: Air was still leaking from the body and occasionally from the ASA.

I started with the ASA and found it had definitely never been opened before. I cleaned all the gunk and debris out, replaced the tiny o-ring inside, and greased everything up before reassembly. No more ASA leaks. Yay!

Moving on, I pulled the body and frame apart to access the LPR and solenoid. First I pulled the solenoid, which looked… good? It was the first time I’d ever pulled a spool valve solenoid, and I realized I wasn’t sure what to look for. The gasket looked good, though, and the spool pack seemed fine, so I greased it and reattached it. I opened the LPR expecting the worst after the HPR but actually found it in pretty good condition. It was pretty dry, but everything appeared clean, more or less. Erring on the side of caution, I replaced all the o-rings and the regulator seat.

bolt assembled
Carbon fiber sleeve in center allows cutouts in marker body

After fitting everything back together, I gassed it up again. No leaks! …At first. After firing a couple shots, I once again had a small leak between the body and frame, telling me the solenoid was blown. I tried replacing the gasket, but no dice.

A couple things could’ve happened here. One possibility is that the LPR was set too high after reassembly (though I followed Dye’s recommendations), and the LPR threw too much pressure to the solenoid once I fired a shot. Another is that the solenoid was always busted, but it didn’t show up as a clear problem until everything else was fixed.

Either way, I ordered a used solenoid from eBay, installed it, and made sure to drop the LPR pressure this time. I anxiously gassed up the marker and, at long last, everything sealed, even under rapid fire.

After all that, I can see how some people might bear a grudge against a gun they had to put so much work into. I also get why some might have just given up on a gun with so many issues. Because I had to keep waiting for parts to arrive, the whole process took close to a month, which admittedly gave me ample time to wonder if I’d ever get the marker working.

To me, though, the project gave me a much deeper appreciation and understanding of my gun. By tearing the entire marker down and replacing literally every piece of rubber on it, save for the grips, I got to know its mechanics inside and out. Now, if something goes wrong, I can pinpoint the issue pretty much immediately because I understand how air flows through the gun and what each component does. That knowledge, in turn, makes me truly appreciate the engineering that goes into modern paintball guns to ensure they reliably do everything we expect them to. It also allows me to help friends and other players at the field with any issues they might have. Even with different models/manufacturers, many principles are similar enough that I can troubleshoot problems fairly easily.

bolt explodedAnd as for the gun itself, my DM12 has been incredible since I got it working. The only issue I’ve had is the macroline coming slightly loose once or twice, and it’s one of the most satisfying guns I’ve ever played with. Its small size is perfect for snake/front players like myself, it’s very fast when I need it to be, it’s consistently accurate (even with bad paint), and it handles paint well, even in the cold. For an older gun, the DM12 also has an absurdly smooth shot. Even a friend who plays with the famously smooth Planet Eclipse LV1 was surprised how smoothly my DM shot. (This is one benefit of older markers that still have LPRs. Unlike newer, LPR-less models that just shoot the way they shoot, period, adjusting an LPR gives the user some control over shot feel.)

At the end of the day, I have a paintball marker that’s, in my opinion, a beautiful, functional piece of art. After putting less than $50 worth of parts into it — along with a fair amount of elbow grease — I now have a gun I call my “baby,” jokingly telling people I feel like I “rescued” it from its neglectful previous owner. For my time and effort, I now get to play with a marker that brings me joy every time I pull the trigger.

That feeling, ultimately, is why I feel paintballers shouldn’t be turned off at the thought of taking on a gun that’s in less-than-perfect condition. Many seem to view it as a hassle not worth dealing with or believe they won’t be able to figure it out. But if you take your time and put the work in, you can end up with a wealth of knowledge and a marker to truly call your own.



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