Paintball today

At the start

The origins of paintball can be traced back to the 1970’s, when three gentlemen, Bob Gurnsey, Hayes Noel and Charles Gaines, were discussing survival in the woods. This soon led to a twinkle of an idea, they decided to use tree marking paint guns (Forest Service marking guns) to test their survival skills against each other. The first paintball game was played in New Hampshire in June, 1981 by 12 players including Bob, Hayes and Charles. The first recreational paintball field opened up in 1982. In 1983, the first tournament was held, with a grand prize of $14,000. The next year, 1984, saw the first indoor paintball field. In the late 80s, paintball fields began to appear in England and Canada. By 1991, fields were opening throughout Europe. In 1992, the National Professional Paintball League (NPPL) was founded and began hosting highly-publicized tournaments offering hundreds of thousands of dollars in prizes. By 1996, paintball fields and tournaments were being established and hosted all around the world.

"A friend of ours found a gun in an agricultural catalog that was used by cattlemen to march cows. It wasn't long afterward that we bought two of these things and had ourselves a little duel. After it was over, we just knew we had stumbled upon something great." - Hayes Neal, One of the founding fathers of paintball.

It was Bob Gurney who pulled the game forward and turned it into a company, The National Survival Game, Inc. It was then the revolution of sports had begun.

Soon, paintball began to be known as ‘The Survival Game’ and franchises soon started opening up paintball sites over the country. The franchising fees were humble, but the company support was feeble. Despite this, Bob entered a contract with Nelson Paint Company to be the sole distributor of their paintball equipment; because of his monopoly he received profits within the first six months of operation.

The paintball marker used originally was called a Nelspot, which was in fact used to mark trees and cattle. They used 12-gram CO2 cartridges, held only ten rounds, and had to be tilted to roll the ball into the chamber and then re-cocked after each shot. Dedicated paintball masks had not yet been created, so players wore shop glasses that left the rest of their faces exposed. The first paintballs were oil-based and thus not water soluble; "turpentine parties" were common after a day of play. As players had a limited number or shots, shooting was rare and games lasted for hours.

It was during the time of 1981 and 1983 that rival manufacturers such as Pursuit Marketing, Inc. (PMI) and Benjamin Sheridan Air rifles entered the market that the game started to take off and gain popularity. Paintball technology gradually developed as manufacturers added a front-mounted pump in order to make re-cocking easier, then replaced the 12-gram cartridges with larger air tanks, commonly referred to as "constant air". These innovations were followed by gravity feed hoppers and 45-degree elbows to facilitate loading from the hopper.

Early business operators had problems with liability insurance among other things. Some ran without it, some lay the groundwork with insurance companies that weren’t too familiar with the game and the workings and a few lucky ones found companies that that were willing to write their liability policies and carried on protected from game liability risk.

In the beginning years of paintball, safety wasn’t taken into much consideration. Goggles were bought randomly off of hardware stores and were propped on logs and shot pointblank. The ones that were resistant and didn’t break were considered safe to use.

The paint used in paintballs back then was filled with acrylic paint which left a stain. Instead of being able to be wiped off after every game as we are able to do now, they sprayed it with black paint for it to be considered ‘clean’ and ready for the next game. The markers or paintball guns were cleaned with turpentine.

Back then it wasn’t known how fast or how hard the pellets were being shot but it was noted that they hit harder in warm weather. The speed wasn’t of much concern back then except for the customers who wanted markers that shot the hardest.

In 1984, RP Scherer Company was filling pellets with a non-staining colored liquid that was environmentally safe and biodegradable. This was a breakthrough for the paintball industry as it changed the way the game was played, it also helped in reducing costs as new clothing wasn’t required as often and paintball operators didn’t require black spray paint anymore. RP Scherer soon opened factories on every continent making it easily available worldwide. However, the main drawback was that despite providing paintballs around the world, they weren’t doing any marketing, thus making it the same as going to Alaska and selling polo saddles. Paintball operators had to do their own informative advertising by entering these new markets.

Before RP Scherer, customers had to buy their paintballs from Nelson Paint Company which was costly, charging customers 25 cents per ball. Once RP Scherer entered the market the price reduced marginally making it more affordable to play, however businesses were forced to buy their paintballs in excessive quantities that wasn’t required and would be able to last them for months or even years.

Soon PMI started buying RP Scherer’s bulk quantities and distributed them to firms in smaller amounts at reasonable prices.

By this point, the trade was still growing and was a mess of entrepreneurs going their own ways. An official name for the sport hadn’t been decided on as of yet. The Survival Game was a name solely used by it franchise. The most well known ‘name’ was War Games that was often used by the media and was the most familiar with the public. A few called it a strategic adventure game, pursuit game or even action pursuit game.

By 1985 a magazine was formed once a few sites popped up around southern California that appeared to be doing well. IT provided California with game tactics, provided local paintball business with a place to advertise, wrote relevant reviews and covered the field on a regular basis.

Some time towards the end of 1985 the magazine staff visited Skirmish. During the interview and game play, they inquired as to what they were calling the sport. Skirmish was obstinate on not calling it ‘War Game’.

‘A game with a peach basket became basketball and a game with bases became baseball. Heck, even a game where you tie a rope to a ball and secure it to a pole became tetherball. Paintball is the way to go.’


The next issue of the magazine sported the game calling it ‘Paintball’. Despite different versions of the game around the world, ‘paintball’ stuck. Paintball now gained its individuality and its status began to grow as a sport.

The marker has evolved into something completely different from what it started out from in the eighty’s. It has moved from bolt knob cocking, to pump cocking to using CO2 gas. The paintball propellant has moved from 20 shot, 12 gram enerjet CO2 to 1000 shot CO2 tanks.

In the present day, regulated nitrogen and compressed air is taking over previous demands. The masks completely cover the eyes, mouth, ears and nostrils of a person. Some masks even feature throat guards. The lenses are designed to protect against paintballs traveling up to 300 feet per second. Double-layered or "thermal" lenses are also available. These lenses are much less prone to fogging. The exterior of the thermal lenses (or the lenses, in non-thermal masks) is usually made of Polycarbonate. The speed and velocity of a paintball shot is recorded. With the new safer equipment and laws passed, paintball has safely entered the 21st century.

Despite the obstacles the sport has faced in the past, what we’re really concerned with is how paintball fares today. If the sport still held the standards of its past, it would have long since died out. Paintball firms are lucky for the changes that have been made in the equipment and rules, for if nothing had been done, the game would surely have gone extinct. Paintball is an industry that had gone through various corrections, changes and developments. It stands today as a 200 million enterprise worldwide, whose sales go over the 60 million ball count. It’s played on every continent except for Antarctica and the name paintball is already a part of most dictionaries. Paintball rather than having reached its peak is still climbing steadily with the number of participants increasing annually. Now more than individual’s families have added it to their activities. Many companies (coca cola as an example) are using paintball as a field activity to help increase team work and strategic thinking.

Paintball is making constant appearances in movies, music videos and many other magazines. Ever since ESPN broadcasted paintball through television, public acceptance of the sport has soared. Forums around the internet are in excess discussing various paintball tactics and many paintball tournaments are being held around the world. In 2007 people started a request forum to ask ESPN for Paintball coverage for the 2007 season. The Palm paintball league Middle East holds yearly tournaments that in 2009. Millennium Series - the European Paintball Series - which is the oldest, largest and the most powerful paintball series in the world; sets the rules of the sport and runs the sport worldwide. On its main news website it stated ‘For the first time in 2010, a major series event has sold out 6 weeks prior to the starting date’ 26 of August, 2010, showing us how far paintball has progressed as a global sport. A station called pigtv aka paintball television opened in 1997, has been broadcasting anything and everything on paintball ever since. Paintball is an official sport that’s playing in its own league.

The publicity paintball has been receiving has created a positive image, making it a common household word. Such exposure has increased business for firms in the industry and has enabled paintball to become one of the fastest growing sports in the world.

Previous problems such as consumers not having enough exposure to the sport, it being called a ‘war game’ and liability insurance is no longer an issue. The Middle East has accepted paintball with a roar and is participating in the various tournaments. Thus customer awareness is not a problem. Liability insurance can easily be found across the Middle East with well known companies. Having your own paintball business has never been easier.

Paintball, despite its stereotyped image of being dangerous has actually proved to be safer than many sports – even tennis. Throughout its course in time, it hasn’t been troubled by lawsuits and injuries – any that do occur is because of not following the rules. Now that insurance companies are in favor of paintball, it goes to show how safe it really has become. Insurance companies wouldn’t come near it if they hadn’t the chance of making money and paintball was filled with clients that were injured often.

The Middle East has many paintball fields scattered around their cities and many are prospering the business they are receiving. Paintball has become something of a pastime for family and friends and is expected to grow all the more as time progresses.

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