The Evolutionary History Of Paintball
Surprisingly the paintball gun first began as a cattle marker. The marking balls that were used to mark the cattle were oil-based, When marked a permanent stain was left on the object the ball struck. OK for marking cattle and trees, but no so good for people. It quickly became apparent that equipment designed for paintball was needed. Manufacturers had an answer and produced a paintball that was not only washable, but also non-toxic and bio-degradable.
This increased the popularity of paintball and shortly after marking pistols were being made with the game of paintball in mind. In the beginning pistols were rock-and-cock, The user had to tilt the paintball gun back between each shot to load a paintball into the guns breech, then cycle a pump handle thus cambering the paintball and cock the gun. This lead to the first evolution of paintball guns with the invention of spring loaded magazines that forced the paintball into the breech, similar to the way stock class pumps work.
Like all other sports, players started making changes to their equipment leading to a paintball arms race. The first to get upgrades was the loading system. Players began cutting the magazines off their paintball guns and soldering feed tubes onto them. These loaders were produced out of everything from quart oil bottles to PVC pipe, This allowed a paintball gun to hold more ammo. Even cigar tubes were used to carry more paintballs, offering a player a near endless supply of paint, and a huge advantage over players whose markers held only 10 or less paintballs.
The propellant source wax the next evolution in paintball. The original paintball guns used CO2 cartridges called 12-grams. If you’ve ever used a air rifle, you’re familiar with these cartridges. Each cartridge was good for 15 shots, before having to be changed. Ok when paintball guns held only 10 rounds. However, the evolution of the paintball loader meant players were carrying more paint in their gun and it was quickly apparent that the air source had to evolve.
Tippmann Pneumatics designed the first commercial air source for paintball guns called constant air. The constant air tank is a larger, refillable CO2 tank that screwed into the paintball gun. The introduction of constant air to paintball presented a significant change to the way the game of paintball was played. Players now had the capability to shoot hundreds of rounds per game, rather than just hundred rounds all day. The constant air advance was arguably the first evolution of paintball.
Some players such as stock class players were not so thrilled with constant air tanks. They felt the advancement would result in players adapting a spray-and-pray style of playing, rather than hunting their opponent and taking time to pick each shot. However, commercial field owners saw constant air as an opportunity to sell more paintballs, so it wasn’t long before they added it to their rental fleets.
Next on the list of great evolution’s in paintball was the development of the first semi-automatic paintball gun. Semi-automatic means that the loading of the paintball into the gun and the re-cocking of the firing mechanism are automated by a mechanical linkage. Semi-automatic paintball guns were simpler to use and offered a higher rate of fire (ROF) than earlier pump guns.
Toward the end of 1990’s paintball evolved again with the electrification of paintball guns and hoppers. Circuit boards and solenoids controlled the firing cycle of paintball guns, while the loaders were outfitted with electric agitators that increased the rate paintballs could be loaded into the guns breech. The addition of the circuit board in a paintball gun meant new firing modes could be created. Using a switch or a change of settings on the circuit board will change a paintball gun from semi-automatic mode, to multi-shot mode, and even to fully automatic.
The Evolution Of Paintball As A Sport
The first tournament was held in 1983. Since then countless tournaments and leagues have sprung up all over the planet. The National Paintball Players League (NPPL) was the first professional paintball series. Each year the NPPL hosted 4-5 events throughout the country, with the biggest event of the year being the paintball World Cup. Paintball players traveled from throughout the world to participate at the World Cup event.
Eventually the NPPL fell under the control of some of the largest companies in the industry. A power struggle arose and the NPPL split into a second national league, known as the Paintball Sports Promoters (PSP). The lines had been drawn with the largest companies supporting the PSP and the smaller companies supporting the NPPL. Players loyalties aligned with their teams sponsorships. Ultimately the PSP became the dominate league in the sport.
The Evolution Of Paintball Into The Mainstream
As paintballs popularity increased it turned into a multi-billion dollar industry, and caught the awareness of the mainstream public. Conversations at the office changed from, “what’s paintball”, to, “Guess what I saw on TV”. Paintball got featured in commercials, television shows, and even movies.
In 2004, Microsoft released a Greg Hastings Tournament Paintball game for the Xbox. Wildly popular and routinely ranked as one of the most played games of the year. As millions of people tried paintball for the first time It’s impact on the paintball industry couldn’t be ignored .