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What Is A Paintball Marker? The Most Important Piece Of Equipment

If you are new to the world of paintball, you may have heard that you'll need a paintball marker. But what is a paintball marker and why do you need it?

Like all sports, players have to wear protective gear and use the right equipment to play. Players use various equipment in a paintball game. And each piece of gear is necessary, but the essential part of this equipment will be your paintball marker.

What Is a Paintball Marker?

paintball marker weapon

Image via Pixabay

To put it simply, a paintball marker is the gun you use in the game of paintball. The terms “paintball gun” and “paintball marker” are interchangeable.

So now you know: What is a paintball marker? But why is a paintball gun called a paintball marker? If you find yourself asking this question, then you've come to the right place!

There's a reason behind the name.

The Difference Between a Gun and a Marker

When asking what is a paintball marker, we look to the mid-sixties. In that time, a man named Charles Nelson was asked to design a device that would help foresters. What he invented was the paintball marker.

The original design of the paintball marker was initially used to mark trees or livestock rather than people. It would save foresters and ranchers time by giving them the ability to mark from a distance.

Years later, Nelson decided that he might have more success if he sold his paintball marker as a toy. At the time, BB guns were popular, so he contacted the air-soft company, Daisy, to construct the first paintball marker.

After seeing the paintball marker in a catalog, a man named Bob Gurnsey and his friends set out to settle an arguement — could a novice survive in combat against a trained hunter?

Testing their theory, they invited six woodsmen to compete in a game of capture the flag against six untrained players. All players were equipped with maps, whistles, and paintball markers.

The first paintball game occurred on June 7, 1981, in the New Hampshire woods. Incidentally, the winner of this first-ever game didn't fire a single shot. Instead, he stealthily collected all the flags to win.

One of the other participants wrote an article about the experience for Sports Illustrated. This instantly made the game famous and brought paintball to a whole new generation of players, and they subsequently shaped the sport into the paintball we know and play today.

What is a paintball marker? It's the beginning of the paintball game itself.

Understanding the Main Types of Paintball Markers

Now that we've answered your question of "What is a paintball marker?" let's learn about the different types.

Paintball markers come in many styles, and the type of gun can influence your game. Whether you are buying your gun or renting one from the field, there are a few things to consider.

The first and most important thing for you to know is what type of marker to use.

With so many options on the market, there is a paintball gun for every type of gameplay and skill level. However, every kind of marker comes with its unique pros and cons.

Even though there are dozens of models, paintball markers can be broken down into three defining types.


Mechanical paintball markers

Easy to maintain, mechanical paintball guns are the most common marker in recreational games. They are available at most sporting stores and the best choice for those just getting started in the sport.

Mechanical markers are typically semi-automatic, which means they fire one shot per trigger pull. The pulled trigger releases a bolt which propels forward, pushing the paintball into the barrel. Once the ball is in place, the valve opens, allowing air to go through to fire the gun.

These guns require little maintenance beyond regular usage cleaning. However, mechanical markers may not be as accurate as a pump-action gun. The amount of air propelling the paintball varies and sometimes makes the speed of the ball inconsistent.

The best thing about mechanical guns is that they are usually significantly cheaper than other types of markers, which makes them readily available for most players.

A great example of a top-quality mechanical paintball marker is the Tippmann 98 Custom Ultra Basic. The credibility of this gun shows with an impressive rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars at Dick's Sporting Goods.


Electronic paintball markers

Empire Paintball Mini GS Marker
  • Pressure controlled poppet engine for outstanding performance
  • Integrated break-beam anti-chop eyes
  • Wrap-around fore grip for protection from elements and increased grip

Accurate and fast to operate, electronic markers are lightweight and can generate very high rates of fire.

Unlike mechanical, a circuit board controls power this type of marker with a 9-volt battery. The trigger pull communicates with the circuit board telling the gun to fire.

Electronic guns also use regulators to assure consistent firing. With the circuit boards programmable, it's easy to maintain and customize the marker's firing modes.

One downside is that electronic markers cost considerably more than mechanical markers and are not as readily available.

Besides price, another drawback to using an electronic marker is that they require more maintenance. This makes regular cleaning more complicated than that of a mechanical gun.

They're also more difficult to disassemble. Any significant repair should always be done by a professional, which is why electronic paintball markers are typically for seasoned players more than new players.

If the idea of using an electronic marker has caught your interest then check out the Empire Paintball Mini GS Marker. Its reliability and accuracy have rewarded it with an excellent 4.4 out of 5 stars on Amazon.


Pump paintball markers

Empire Paintball Sniper Pump Marker with Barrel Kit, Dust...
  • Tournament Level Performance pump marker
  • Low Pressure Operation
  • Auto-Trigger for rapid firing

A pump marker is one of the oldest paintball styles in existence. They are the most basic and the most reliable.

It is also the only type of marker with a pump trigger. You have to manually pull the pump backward and forward to set the next paintball between each shot.

The biggest drawback can be the rate of fire because it entirely relies on you.

Players who choose to play pump must learn how to use tactics over speed since they have to make every shot count. Many seasoned players like returning to pump markers for this reason.

Pumps are often the most accurate markers available and offer a fun alternative to the game.

A legendary example model of the sport is the Empire Sniper. The marker's reliability and optimal performance are apparent, with a high rating of 4.2 out of 5 stars on Amazon.


Choosing the Best Paintball Marker for Your Game

Now that we've gone over "What is a paintball marker?" and the different types of markers available, what paintball is right for you?

Your choice of paintball marker can make or break your game.

First, you must choose which type of game you want to play. Like your equipment, there are many different paintball fields, and there is a marker best suited for each game. So you will want to choose a marker that complements your skills and helps your gameplay.

All paintball games are categorized into two unique styles: woodsball and speedball.

Woodsball

person wearing green and brown camouflage suit holding paintball marker

Woodsball is the original form of the sport and is usually played outdoors. These games depend on the terrain, and the pace of the game is moderately slow. They can last anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes to hours, to even days, depending on the style of game.

There is a wide range of playing styles in woodsball, which allows you room to choose and customize your marker. You can play aggressively, or you may find that you prefer the more tactical way to defeat your opponents more appealing.

Either way, you want to focus on choosing a marker that can fire long distances. The wooded fields are large, and players get spaced out, so you are typically far from your target. Accuracy is also essential in this style due to all the trees, bunkers, and brush you have to shoot around.

And what is a paintball marker good for if it can't hit your mark?

The most common markers for woodsball are typically the semi-automatic mechanical or the classic pump-action guns. Both of these markers have a long firing range and excellent accuracy.

Speedball

person holding a paintball gun

Image via Pixabay

As the name suggests, speedball is all about speed. Unlike woodsball, this type of game is extremely fast-paced and usually lasts around three to four minutes at a time.

Yes, it's that fast!

In speedball, you'll have to move very quickly to get the perfect angle on your opponents as they take cover behind specially designed bunkers. The fields are usually smaller, and the play style more aggressive.

If you plan on playing speedball, you must have a gun that will respond quickly. Electronic markers are for speed. They are efficient and much faster than mechanical or pump-action guns.

Therefore, electronic markers are an excellent choice and best suited in games of speedball.

Every Game of Paintball Begins with Your Paintball Marker

man firing the paintball gun

via Giphy

Your first paintball marker is a significant investment. And while these devices are all paintball guns, the term paintball marker comes from the early history of paintball. Additionally, the term "marker" might be less controversial than saying "gun" when describing the game of paintball to those who don't play.

So the next time someone asks the question: "What is a paintball marker," you can tell them it's the most essential piece of equipment in the game.

Which term do you prefer using when referring to paintball? Please let us know by leaving a comment below!