In the early nineties Australia started restricting the importation of semi auto firearms. Paintball unfortunately was caught in the cross fire and whilst state laws weren’t effected, at a federal level the importation of semi auto paintball markers was.
Into this uncertain arena in early 1993 stepped Bruce Roberts and Darren Hayes. They both saw a need in the market for a locally produced semi auto and so Perentie Paintball was born. They quickly set up a workshop in the back room of Bruce’s house in the small town of Seville, just outside of Melbourne and started work.
The first prototype they developed was a blow back design but it never proceeded beyond the first stages of development. The next prototype off the drawing board was a blow forward design that used the same principle of operation as the AutoMag. However it would be wrong to call the Badger a copy of the AutoMag because Bruce had never seen one.
I saw that second prototype in late 1993 and wrote it up for the October edition of Paintballer. It featured only three moving parts, the bolt, trigger and the pin in the on/off valve assembly. Unlike the AutoMag, early Badgers were designed to operate at full bottle pressure and had no regulator. One area that I felt that Bruce improved on was the seal for the bolt pin. Instead of the o-ring found in the AutoMag, production Badgers used a hydraulic cup seal.
The first large sale of one hundred Badgers was to Skirmish Adventures in Helensburg New South Wales in 1994. These markers were powder coated like all Badgers but in a distinctive fire engine red (early Badgers are usually found in a black powder coat, whilst later models are in a dark metallic grey). Although the production of the components was high tech, the assembly of this first batch of guns was definitely a family affair with relatives and friends pitching in around the lounge room to get the markers completed in time for the overnight dash to Sydney.
The first low pressure (LP) Badgers appeared in late 1994. The major changes required for this drop in operational pressure was the enlargement of the bolt pin and power chamber to allow for a larger volume of lower pressure gas.
It was around this time that the grip frame changed from a sand cast to a die cast design of more robust construction. Several of the early sand cast frames had broken under the stress of rental use so the change was for the better.
Then with the easing of import restrictions, Darren and Bruce went their separate ways. Bruce kept on with development of the Badger whilst Darren found work with the engineering firm that manufactured Perentie’s components.
Bruce was a close friend, so it came as a great shock to me when he took his own life on the 26th of March 1996. This tragic event brought to a close an interesting chapter in the history of the Australian paintball industry. All up around 300 Badgers were manufactured in Australia during this period. Bruce and Darren pioneered the local manufacture of paintball markers in Australia and I am proud to have known both of them.