Paintball is a popular game that has been around for over 50 years. There are many people who enjoy the fast-paced action and excitement that paintball offers. But what is it about? Who invented it? And when was paintball invented, anyway? If you’re interested in learning more about this exciting sport, read on to find out!
Why Is A Paintball Gun Called A Marker?
Charles Nelson, the co-founder of the Nelson Paint Company, created the very first paintball gun in the 1960s.
The device was intended for agricultural use, and was originally used by National Park Forest Rangers as a safe and efficient way to mark trees for sawing, and by ranchers for branding cattle. Gamekeepers in South Africa used them to mark dangerous animals, and they were even used by biologists in Antarctica to mark penguins! This original purpose is why paintball guns are also called paintball markers.
Nelson invented gelatin capsules that could be injected with paint and fired from a gun. The capsules would not break up until impact with the target.
At that time, there were no specific paintball guns developed, until 1972, when Daisy, the largest producer of air guns, sealed an agreement with Nelson Paint Company to produce “The Splotchmarker”, the first purpose-built paintball marker. When mass production began, the Splotchmarker was renamed the 007 Nel-Spot.
Previously, paint gels were fired from 0.22 pellet guns. Crossman manufactured the guns but Nelson Paint Company marketed them, until the paint gels became popular, industry demands began pouring in, and the Nel-Spot 707 was introduced.
The First Game Of Paintball
In 1981, a group of friends took part in an outdoor game where the hunter becomes the hunted. The first time was a wager between city boys and outdoorsmen. Hayes Noel (a stockbroker) and Charles Gaines (a writer) have been arguing for years, over whether city-dwellers could survive in the woods if pitted against professional hunters. The question was: who had the best survival skills?
In order to guarantee safety, they needed a weapon that could tag the individual without harm. By chance, one of them saw an advert in a farm catalog, for paintball guns used to mark trees and cattle. A volunteer was chosen to test the effects of being hit by a paintball (he said it didn’t hurt much). The friends decided that the Nel-Spot 007 paintball marker and a set of rules written up by Bob Gurnsey would help them play a game that would give them a definitive answer…
The first organized paintball game was on June 2, 1981. This match had a dozen participants, each paying $175 to cover the cost of equipment, plus food and beer. They all competed against each other in a “capture the flag” tournament, in an 80-acre regrowth forest, whose main use was cross-country skiing. Bob Jones, another competitor in the first match, wrote about the game in Sports Illustrated, which eventually led to nationwide interest. (Side note – the winner didn’t fire a single shot, he just stealthily collected all the flags…)
The first paintball games were far from the organized, competitive sport that it is today. Players would even resort to throwing paintballs at each other while armed with limited ammunition and low-tech firearms. There were no detailed written rules during the early days. As equipment evolved, the games became more competitive and organized.
History Of Paintball
Paintball is a relatively new sport that has attained popularity in recent times. The concept for the game was based on the excitement of primitive hunting and survival skills.
Friends Bob Gurnsey, Bob Jones, and Charles Gaines had the idea for the game which became paintball. In truth, it was a way to recreate the feeling of being an outdoorsman when hunting prey.
National Survival Game
After Bob Jones wrote about the first paintball game in Sports Illustrated, interest steadily increased. A few follow-up articles appeared over the following months – each time, the publication would find their mailbox full of requests for information about getting into this new sport. Eventually, Gurnsey formed a company to promote the new sport, the National Survival Game Company (NSGC). Nelson Paint Company became the exclusive distributor of guns and paintball equipment. Aspiring paintballers bought starter kits from NSGC including a Nel-Spot 007 marker, paintballs, a compass, goggles, and a rule book. Apart from that, it was up to these early adopters to find their own fields and run their own games – the first commercial paintball field had not been created yet.
Rivals Spring Up
Rival manufacturers quickly evolved and paintball rapidly grew in the 1990s, promoting the development of technology, improving both the paintballs themselves, and the markers. Paintball technology gradually developed as manufacturers made advances such as adding a front pump for easy cocking. The 12-gram cartridges were replaced by compressed air tanks with much larger capacity, allowing players to fire paintballs in rapid succession.
The first games of paintball were very different from today’s modern hunt. Nelson were the only guns available, and they used small 12-gram CO2 cartridges good for a few rounds before replacement, and had to be cocked after each shot, which is time-consuming, and places players at a disadvantage while waiting to constantly reload their gun.
Paintballs have developed over time as well. When the game began in the 1980s, paintballs were oil-based. Today, paintballs are made of a gelatin coating with water-soluble liquid inside. A number of variations have been developed, including glow in the dark, scented, and cold-weather varieties.
Paintball became so popular that Nelson Paint Company later split into two companies: Nelson Paint Company, which focused on the products of traditional painting, and Nelson Technologies, Inc. – better known as Nelson Paintballs – which they still manufacture today.
Just as the technology improved as more and more people began to take part, so did the organization of the sport. Competitive tournaments have been going on almost as long as paintball has. The first major paintball tournament was held in 1983. Billed as the National Championship, it was won by a Canadian team.
Several rival organizing bodies sprang up. The first World Cup took place in New York State in 1992, and it became the season final for the newly-created National Professional Paintball League (NPPL) in 1994.
The Birth of an Industry
Originally developed as an outdoor sport, today paintball is played in outdoor and indoor fields. The game can be played with any number of people, but paintball is generally a friendly competition, typically played with 2 teams of about 5-12 people.
Everyone is equipped with a protective mask to protect eyes, face, and ears. Players use markers and shoot balls, made with a gelatin coating, which break on impact, leaving a stain. This painting is completely biodegradable, non-toxic, and usually washable, thus with protective gear, there is really no need to worry about danger.
Paintball: A Worldwide Sport
If you want to test your outdoor survival skill in the forest, playing paintball is a great chance. With so many people who have never hunted or faced an opponent in battle before, it’s only natural to be curious about the outcome. Playing paintball is the only chance many of us have to test these skills.
Paintball continues to draw in fans and casual players and the Sporting Goods Association estimates that approximately 10 million Americans play paintball annually. In short, it’s a fun competitive sport that mainly focuses on teamwork and the spirit of adventure.