What is the History of Paintball?

Man Shooting From Paintball Gun

Paintball is, without a doubt, one of the most entertaining sports you can partake in. It’s also very engaging and offers a fast way to make some new friends. If you’ve had a couple of games already, you’re probably interested in the evolution of this sport. Today we’re going to talk about how paintball came to the scene, how it progressed, and where it is now.

There’s so much information around that it would be nearly impossible to touch on everything, though. The staggering amount of details that went into paintball leaves even the professionals in awe. Starting with the terminology, over an endless number of new features, to new gadgets which are sprouting on the market by the minute; paintball is definitely at its peak now.

We’ve conducted thorough, in-depth research on this sport and its many sub-categories; so, if you are interested in the history of paintball, stay with us for a minute.

The invention of paintball: The historical timeline

Despite the fact that it’s one of the most popular sports of all time, paintball is actually quite young. The first paintball shooter was made and invented by the NPC (Nelson Paint Company). A very interesting fun fact is that the paintball gun first served as a ranged marker; it was never meant to be a gun.

At first, it was used by cattlemen and woodchoppers in a very plain and straightforward way. Loggers marked the trees for cutting while the cattlemen marked their cattle; this allowed them to maintain more accurate cattle records.

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This ranged marker was several times more efficient in comparison to typical markers of the time. Instead of moving from tree to tree, a woodcutter could easily tag a couple of them from a distance. The same applies to cattlemen.

Even the first guns came supplied with a mixture of oil-based paint. This blend was incredibly resistant to water due to obvious reasons; the idea was to make the paint persist through heavy rain.

Now, the first sample was actually a paint-filled horse pill. The paint was injected into a thin gelatin film which would burst on impact. Nelson wasn’t the real inventor of the paintball, though. There are numerous differences between the marker and modern paintballs.

This ‘marker’ combined with the encapsulated gelatin film gave birth to the actual paintball gun. However, Nelson is only credited for the idea – not the actual product. Once he joined hands with Crosman, the first paintball shooter came to be.

Nelson & Crosman partnership: The invention of the Crosman 707

As we have just mentioned, Nelson never really put the marker into production. He simply devised a gelatin-filled film and needed a tool that would shoot it. He partnered up with Crosman and the two of them developed the gun marker which bore the name Crosman 707.

The marker borrowed the design from a pistol; it was supplied with a pistol grip and a very similar trigger. It was much bigger, although it could still be used quite easily with one hand. Of course, another obvious similarity between classic pistols and the Crosman 707 was that the latter also featured iron sights.

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The first concept can still be perceived as revolutionary; even though it was derived from several pre-existing ideas. It was undoubtedly hard to fit such large ‘caliber’ ammunition down into such a small clip; not to mention that the gelatin-filled film was several times heavier than most high-caliber bullets.

Nelson’s original idea and Crosman’s technology have laid the foundation of a paintball gun. Sadly, their camaraderie was short-lived, and they only started the whole story.

Daisy Company overtook the Marker project

The Nelson & Crosman partnership was a short one. Their biggest contribution to the invention of paintball gun was that they’ve materialized the first ideas with the Crosman 707. After the partnership broke, the markers were acquired by the Daisy Company. You might have heard about the Daisy; they’ve invented the BB gun.

It is more than likely that the design of the Crosman 707 marker had a big impact on the invention of the BB gun. Both of the guns are bolt-action and non-lethal after all.

 

The 1970s: First rules of paintball

Survivalism was as much of a hot topic in the ‘70s as it is today. Hayes Noel and a certain Charles Gains made up the first rules of paintball totally by accident. Namely, they were simply conversing about general odds of survival an average city dweller would have outdoors; to them, it seemed like a good to put theory into practice hence the first paintball rules came to be.

Man Shooting With Paintball Gun

The actual rules weren’t invented by the two gentlemen. Their friend called Bob Gurnsey made them up; although it is more than obvious that he was inspired by their conversation. These three people are also the first paintball team, as well as the first participants in this sport.

The first paintball gun ever used on a human target was Nel Spot 007. It proved to be quite safe, even without particularly rugged ‘armor’ paintballers are today required to use.

 

1981: The first paintball game

It goes without saying – the first paintball game was much different from the games played today. Even so, the basic idea was pretty much the same: shoot or get shot. The first game garnered quite a bit of attention and it was recorded and thoroughly planned. Due to the fact that there was no actual market for paintball equipment at the time, each player needed to pay an admission fee of $175 which covered both the gear and refreshments.

The first game took place on an 80-acre ground, which is a substantially bigger area in comparison to today’s paintball fields. Now, the first and biggest difference between the first paintball game and modern rules of paintball is that it wasn’t a ‘free-for-all’ match; rather, it was a ‘capture the flag’ type of scenario.

The area was cornered by 12 flags divided into 4 flag postings. To win the game the players needed to capture only 4 flags. Ritchie White, a forester, won the first game, probably due to the fact that he had an upper hand in terms of outdoor knowledge and subtlety.

After the game ended, the trio (Gurnsey, Gaines & Noel) recognized a huge profit opportunity. They went on to sell starter paintball geat which involved a compass and protective goggles. Surely enough, the paintball market was created and new players have entered the scene; David Freeman joined with Jeff Perlmutter, both of which were originally paintball players, have founded the PMI (Pursuit Marketing Inc.) with a similar modus operandi.

The 1980s: Birth of Modern Paintball

Ever since the first game, paintball started getting a lot of attention and popularity. The original guns weren’t as precise and reliable, so Dennis Tippmann took it upon himself to upgrade the first design with a revolutionary feature – the fully-automatic stock. Prior to starting the Tippmann Pneumatics company, Dennis used to make half-scale machine-guns.

The first ‘modern’ paintball gun which came with a full-auto mechanism was the SMG 60. It completely changed the playstyle, replacing the need for accuracy with the need for mobility. Ever since then paintball games were getting more and more fast-paced.

The SMG 60 was packed with a CO2-powered tank which allowed the players to fire volleys instead of single shots.

At the beginning of the ‘90s, Dennis introduced the Tippmann 68-Special paintball gun. Its design brings it even closer to modern paintball guns as it came outfitted with a gravity-fed kind of hopper, as opposed to the conventional manual-reloading clip. As time went on, paintball became immensely popular all across Europe.

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Even so, the first modern paintball was one manufactured by Kingsman International – the Spyder paintball gun. It featured an aluminum body and was significantly lighter in comparison to most semi-automatic markers.

Spyder guns were actually available at an attractive price. They were also readily available and were pretty easy to get. Paintball was just going to get bigger ever since.

The .50 caliber paintball gun fluke

Modern paintball utilizes all sorts of ‘guns’, including pistols, shotguns, snipers, and so on. The first time that the idea of introducing a .50 caliber paintball was brought up, though, it didn’t get much success.

The .50 caliber version was labeled as ‘too dangerous’ for all the right reasons. It shot ‘bullets’ at super-high velocities, which meant two things; first, it wasn’t as safe to use; second, the gun could actually damage itself with its overly potent mechanism.

Low-impact variants of the .50-cal were a substantially bigger success. This was also the moment when paintball became more of an extreme sport and less of a hide-and-seek entertainment.

Paintball went global

Paintball got so big in pretty much every corner of the globe that it was accepted as an actual sport. The rules for competitive matches are a bit stricter and more oriented towards objectives (as opposed to the typical ‘stand-your-ground’ type).

The original paintball rules have withstood the test of time for almost half a century. It’s the gear that is changing.

New Inventors are upgrading Paintball sports even further

With most modern countries taking a slice of the cake, it’s only obvious that the industry suffered some massive changes. The market has become huge and competition stiff; this means that new manufacturers are more than motivated to be as creative and original as they can be.

Nowadays, we have quick-reloading magazines, laser-fit paintball guns, full-armor protective gear, and many other interesting gadgets. However, participants in paintball tournaments are still required to use ‘conventional’ paintball guns.

The craze for paintball has reached such a level that thousands and thousands of DIY (do-it-yourself) paintball guns are popping up on the market. Genius inventors are bringing revolutionary ideas to the table, combining the design of a paintball gun with various other (similar) gadgets. That’s how air-soft guns and laser tags were invented.

Conclusion

Paintball is as much fun as it was back in the day when it was invented. This sport isn’t nearly as violent as it seems, and it actually helps promote better mental health and physical condition. Team-building skills are also essential, but even so, it’s just a game packed with plenty of entertainment.

Adrenaline junkies, gun enthusiasts, and people who simply view it as fun and interesting – the world of paintball welcomes everyone.

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