The evolution of the game has been swift from its origins in the 70s to the modern game we know today. It all started with the paintball gun. The term “marker” is a much newer term introduced to make the sport more marketable to the masses. So, what is the history of this relatively new sport and how has it evolved over three decades?
The first paintball guns were used on cattle ranches in the 1970s to single out animals from the herd. James Hale, of Daisy manufacturing , invented a gun for this purpose.
This practice soon evolved into a game and the first ever recreational paintball game took place in June 1981 in New Hampshire, USA. A group of friends used Nel-Spot 007s to play a very basic form of the game over a massive area to capture the flag.
One of the earliest guns available was the Splat Master; it was made entirely of plastic. It could hold ten paintballs, was powered by small co2 cylinders and had a slow fire rate. The gun had to be tilted back to drop each paintball into the firing chamber and cocked by pushing a button on the handle.
The paintball game was first marketed by Charles Gaines, a writer, as National Survival Game- NSG. It started in a very primitive form with players working individually rather than in teams. As the game evolved over time, the rules became more sophisticated and teams became a matter of course. Different types of games sprung up, but the “capture the flag” principle was the most popular.
As the paintball game developed, so did the need for a more sophisticated gun. The pump action marker was introduced with its increased rate of fire.
Caleb Strong opened the first outdoor commercial paintball field in Rochester in 1982. Two years later he opened an indoor version in Buffalo. The development of the commercial industry allowed for more organized, tournament style games and interest in the sport accelerated. The games became more exciting as smaller fields made the action quicker.
The gun continued to evolve in line with the paintball game. As the need for speed increased, the introduction of the 12 ounce co2 tank with its constant air was a major breakthrough.This in turn led to the advent of the semi-automatic gun with its incredible fire rate. Then followed the electric hopper to cope with the fire power of the semi-automatics.
Private and commercial fields are everywhere today as the sport has attracted a huge following. Whilst most players will only ever compete at a recreational level, professional teams compete at a national and international level with prizes worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. The National Professional Paintball League was founded in 1992 and is the major force in the professional tournament circuit.
Professional players today are using fully automatic computerized markers. The Angel was the first of its kind. It was equipped with a motherboard in the gun’s handle offering a selection of different modes of fire.
There is no reason to believe that the paintball game has completed its evolution. It has come a long way from the cattle ranches of thirty years ago, but it is fair to assume that the sport has not finished its journey just yet.