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Planet Eclipse

Planet Eclipse


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In a Galaxy far far away………..
(Well, Manchester, England),
There were two lads doing things, getting by, making a living, a little bit bored, looking for a break, something to do, a chance to shine. Meet Julian and Leds…. Julian Carr, entrepreneur, wheeler-dealer, geeza. Anthony “Ledz” Leadbetter, beer-drinker, ‘baller, good-time guy. Together, founders, then partners, now directors of one in paintball: Planet Eclipse.

It’s 1991 and Julian is selling stuff out of the back of a van. Literally, selling stuff out of the back of a van. Paintball gear, mainly imported from America, was the bread and butter, and on the back of that, a side-line in manufacturing and selling CO2 bottle valves. Pi-valves at first, and later on/off valves, they were the best quality valves you could buy for a paintball gun, and ones he sold all over the world, the USA included. In fact, even Smart Parts at one point had all their valves supplied by Julian. It’s the kind of attention to detail that Julian took in manufacturing these valves that would shine through later in everything Planet Eclipse would produce.
But back in England he’d be spending all week traveling the length and breadth of the British Isles buying, selling and trading gear, But this paintball gear side of his life was basically an accident. It wasn’t really a path he initially chose. Before all that he was educated and trained through college as a Dental Technician, making moulds, bridges and false teeth for dentists, a practice he must have used more than once repairing injuries from his days as an American Football player. A short-lived career terminated by a broken back, gained during an untimely tackle playing the game. Luckily for him, and the rest of the paintball world, it wasn’t critical and wasn’t the kind of break that you normally associate with the kind of injury. No severed spinal column. No paralysis. Just no more American Football for Julian. But the paintball was really thrust on him by his uncle. Even more of a wheeler-dealer than Julian, but just nowhere near as good, he was the type of entrepreneur who liked to spend all the company’s earning before the company had actually earned anything. His fly-by-night, door-to-door paintball business was going to the wall, only this time Julian, who had nothing to do with the business at this point, was his uncle’s signed Goarantor. See where this is going? Rather than letting everything go to crap, and himself end up black-listed for his uncle’s incompetence, Julian had no option but to make over and at least try to repay the debts that were signed against his name. With no-one to bail him out, and no-one to turn to, it was a do-or-die situation. And that is how Julian Carr became a paintball salesman.
Over on the other side of town, and Ledz is sitting in an office, selling vehicle leasing, Yawn. Having left school with just one qualification, in digging (yes that is a qualification in digging holes in the ground!) to his name, I think most people were surprised he got any job at all. But the qualifications meant nothing to Ledz. He just wasn’t a “school” type of person. With a sharp mind, sense of humor and a domineering kind of personality, there is little that he cannot achieve once his mind is set to task. Anyone who has ever tried to argue a point with Mr Ledz will know just how quick his mind can work, how stubborn a personality he has and how competitive he is in everything he does. He never like to be beaten, at anything, and will never back down from a challenge. But still living at home, with his Dad and step-mother, sister and two step-brothers, life was pretty good. So good, in fact, that he continued to live at home into his thirties. There was absolutely no point in moving out when he had a restaurant, laundry, maid and cleaning service as complimentary additions to a roof over his head, in exchange for an absolute pittance in return. A nice house, in a nice neighborhood, plenty of money in his pocket, but a slave to the wage non-the-less. Bored, looking for something to do.
But ledz had found a past-time he loved. And every waking spare moment was spent plotting and dreaming about playing paintball. He’d formed a paintball team with his mates, a few years before, starting with Splatmasters and PGPs, before following the technological advances of the times of pumps. His team, the Banzai Bandits were having more than a little success, and the squad grew, picking up players from all over Manchester. In the usual way that teams do, the Banzais made money from reffing at their local field and whilst there, Ledz picked up the nephew of the site owner to lay on the team. Grahman Wildman was the owner of the site as well as a store based in Manchester, and his nephew, Jack Wood, had been working and playing on his site from the age of 14. Now, at the age of 17, he was spending his summers working full-time, split between the store and the site, but spent the rest of the year in the south of England, in Hereford, the home of the infamous SAS, at college. But that didn’t stop him playing, or working, in paintball. The next few year were spent playing with the Banzais whilst he finished up his A-levels and spent a year in Industry in Birmingham before moving to Manchester to study Engineering at University in ’91.
With his Uncle struggling to cope with the fatal illness of his wife at the time, and his two protégée store managers deserting him to set up their own paintball store literally
It was inevitable that Julian and Ledz would meet, and with Julian’s access to cheap imported paintball equipment, it was obvious there was potential for a nice hook-up for Ledz and his team. But things progressed further than that, and Julian was actually drafted to the Banzai squad and became a serious 1st team player.
100 yards down the same street, Jack ended up running the store on his own whilst studying at university. As back-up on the busy Saturdays in the store, and when he wasn’t off watching Manchester City play football, Ledz would come in to help out his team-mate. The job made Ledz some extra paintball cash, gave him access to cheap paintball equipment, and sparked his interest in owning his own store. It was inevitable that Julian and Ledz would meet, and with Julian’s access to cheap imported paintball equipment, it was obvious there was potential for a nice hook-up for Ledz and his team. But things progressed further than that, and Julian was actually drafted to the Banzai squad and became a serious 1st team player. And from there, the obvious happened. Over man, many paints in boozers all over the country following the paintball circuit, plans were hatched and cogs put in motion. Julian and Ledz saw the opportunity to take over Manchester Paintball from Graham, whole enthusiasm for the business was all but dead, and turn it around to be a profitable and viable business. They approached Graham, offers were accepted, and the deal was done. In 1993 Ledz and Julian became the proud owners of their very own paintball company and as a fixture and fitting of the company, and player on the Banzais, Jack Wood was thrown in for free.
News company, new start, new name. Paintball Planet was born. By this time, the competition down the road were by-far the dominant force. They had all the deals, all the distribution rights for all the hottest gear, the better laid-out store, and all the customers. It appeared suicide to take on a business in such close proximity to such a successful competitor. But there was method in this apparent madness. To start with, Julian had access to newer, hotter, and cheaper products through his direct American connections. Combine that with almost guaranteed passing paintball trade going to the competitions store, and it wasn’t long before every paintballer was making the trip to Manchester to what had become the Mecca for paintball in the north of England. Two excellent shops selling shops selling the best and latest equipment, at prices that only two companies too stubborn, at prices that only two companies too stubborn and proud to agree stable prices could produce. If you loved to haggle, loved paintball and needed some new paintball gear, Deansgate, Manchester was the place to go.
But it didn’t take long to realize that Planet had a little something else to offer. Jack, a natural tinkerer with an inquisitive nature had already been performing surgery on a variety of markers for his team. And as Planet started to grow, and the cocker started to emerge as one of the top two domiant markers on the circuit, his marker upgrades became sort-after fare. Players were soon sending markers from all over the country to Planet for customization. Initially trigger jobs, valve enlargements, and general tuning, and later for full cosmetic and performance packages, Planet started to offer a different level of service to that of their bitter rivals.
And so the Eclipse branding was born. In these early days Eclipse was the name given to their high-end custom markers, which initially consisted of just the Actococker and the Automag. They offered for the first time a complete package of customization. They were machined not only for light weight, but for style too. They utilized the very latest in andonization techniques to make them stand out from the crowd. And they offered exceptional performance, with the invaluable cache of being incredibly reliable. Later, they brand spread to cover almost every major marker of the last ten years. Eclipse versions of Bushmasters, Spyders, Shockers, Impulses and of course Angles can still be seen being used on fields all over the world.
As a store selling paintballing product to the British public Paintball Planet was a success in its own rights. It was only a couple of years before they had such a domiant control of the northern market that their close, local rivals were forced to close down. But not everything went quit so smoothly. As the company grew Julian and Ledz looked to make the company a “Limited” Company. This process requires the company name to be registered at Companies House, a government facility where all the details of all Ltd Companies is kept. However, it transpired that a low-life local field owner who had been keeping his eye on the grown of the company had already registered the Paintball Planet Ltd name and was now demanding a fee for it to be passed over to the rightful owners. In true stubborn and defiant nature, rapture, rather than bow to this underhand plan, it was decided a name-change was in order. And paintball Planet Became Planet Eclipse Ltd.

New company, new start, new name. Paintball Planet was born. By this time, the competition down the road were by far the dominant force. They had all the deals, all the distribution rights for all the hottest gear, the better laid out store, and all the customers.

But with the Banzais starting to play abroad, particularly in the USA, it didn’t take long to realize that there was a massive market for their unique style of marker customization waiting to be tapped into. But it wasn’t really until the arrival of the Eclipse Angel that that dream could be at least partially realized. With WDP, another English company, in relative proximity to Planet, it was far easier to produce larger quantities of custom machines that the US market craved for. Their quantities went from producing just tens of guns to producing them in hundreds. But even that didn’t seem to be enough. Them more they produced, the bigger the back-orders appeared to get. As word got around, their popularity sky-rocketed. Around the same time, Ledz and Julian decided to take on another little challenge. In the south east of England, just outside London, they took over a second store, previously owned by one Pete Robinson. And lthough it had some minor success and was never a burden to the company as a whole, it was also never a real inspiration to its new owners. Even having the likes of Andy Piper at the helm couldn’t help rustle more than the tiniest enthusiasm. But what it did hail was the arrival of Ian “Jacko” Persons to the company. Having worked with Dave Galsworthy through the seminal years or Pro-Line and the advent of the Sterling Pump, followed by the ground-breaking time spent working with WDP during the development of the Angel; he was another valuable addition to the team that was to arrive through the Banzai Connection. Brought in to manage the London store, it was soon apparent that his expertise, talent and knowledge of the US paintball market would be best utilized in a different way. With the US sales side of the company growing at such a rate, it was obvious that presence inside the US was what was going to be required if the company was to move the next level. So Jack packed his bags and moved lock-stock with his family to Rhode Island, and Planet Eclipse USA was created. This distribution hub did indeed carry the company to another level within the US. Dealers no longer had to try to get to grips with transatlantic time zones, importing, duties, and dollar-to-pound monetary conversions. They could now deal with and buy gear from this Great British Company as though they were actually buying it from any other US distributor. At this stage, Planet were still producing custom versions of a range of markers, as well as accessories, kit bags and a large quantity of pods. Things were going well. And then along came Flash. Surprisingly, Steve “Flash” Monks was another player from the Banzais. Only his past was not in paintball (apart from the playing side) but in electronic control systems. Now how could electronic control systems be incorporated into paintball, do you think? Well, as a product “tester” some bright fool came up with the idea of trying an electronic trigger frame conversion for the Autococker. What a crazy idea! The philosophy was very much “ Lets try it, we may even sell a couple of hundred frames, and them we’ll move on to something a big more serious!” Jack and Steve sat down and started mulling over the idea, and between them, with Jack PRODUCING THE MECHANICAL ELEMENTS AND Steve the electronics, they came up with the E-Blade. Well, three years, one WGP license agreement, and countless thousand Eclipseblade Autococker Frames later, the “something a bit more serious” is launched. The Eclipse Ego, their first fully in-house designed, manufactured and assembled markers is released to the world. With less than 12 months of production under its belt, there have been Nexus and XSV team versions released, with XSV already battling every event with Dynasty for the top spot. So in almost every respect story. Two friends buy a little shop selling little paintball parts to a small paintball community. Twelve years later and their products are competing with the very best products, produced by some of the industry’s biggest companies, used by some of the best players in the world.

Julian and Ledz saw the opportunity to take over Manchester Paintball from Graham, whose enthusiasm for the business was all but dead, and turn it around to be a profitable and viable business.


Planet eclipse, founder, LEDZ, Famous Banzaï bandit Captain, The english legend of paintball.


Jack wood




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