The History of Paintball

Whose bright idea was it to shoot your opponents with paint?

The actual origins of paintball may be disputed by people all over the world. In fact, if you read five different websites you'll probably get five different versions. Well here are some facts to give you an idea how this game of guerilla warfare got started.

Paintball guns, or markers as they're commonly known, were originally used in the 1970s in forestry and farming industries to mark and identify trees and cattle. The guns weren't that accurate and had a limited range, but it didn't matter as cows and trees weren't hard to hit. Obviously when you get grown people working together with guns that are powered by CO2 cartridges and shoot paint, it's inevitable that they're going to start shooting at each other.

We know the guns used to mark cattle and trees were Nelspot 007 markers, which were manufactured by the Nelson Paint Company. What came next may be up for debate, but one version is that a couple of friends were talking about a recent hunting trip and wanted to recreate the excitement and the thrill that hunting gave them. These two fellows debated about what qualities they would need to survive if they ever became the hunted prey. Their debate about what characteristics made a good hunter resulted in the purchase of 2 Nelspot 007s from an agricultural catalogue. Thus the first game of paintball took place in 1978. Later, the two buddies made up rules and called their game "Survival" and formed a company called National Survival Game. They signed a contract with Nelson Paint Company to be the sole distributor of their paintball guns. The original tree-marking guns were modified to reduce their velocity so they wouldn't cause injury. The first gun that was manufactured specifically for paintball was the Splatmaster, which was patented in 1985.

Another version of the first paintball game has 12 friends buying paintball guns and using them to play various survival-type games in a large field in 1981. It's possible both of these stories are true as the 12 weekend warriors could have read an article on a new type of sport and bought their guns from the National Survival Game Company. Either way, paintball started to take off in the early 1980s, and saw groups of players gathered in the woods, divided into teams while trying to find and steal the other team's flag - all the while protecting their own flag.

In 1982, the first paintball field was opened in Rochester, New York and the first indoor playing field opened up just two years later. The first professional paintball tournament was held in 1983. Today there are major tournaments held in various parts of the world that offer hundreds of thousands of dollars worth in prizes. Over the years, new and exciting versions of paintball were introduced. Between 1992 and 1993 the National Professional Paintball League was formed with championship games - often broadcast on national television.

Early versions of paintball were quite different from these modern games. Back then, Nelspot pistols were the only guns available, however new and improved guns used 12-gram CO2 cartridges, only held up to 12 pellets, and had to be re-cocked after each shot. Paintball masks weren't used any more. Most players wore industrial goggles to protect their eyes, but left the rest of their faces exposed. The first paintballs used were oil-based, not water soluble, and the games usually lasted for hours as players stalked each other without shooting much because they only a limited number of pellets.

Paintball is becoming more popular every year, and the technological advancements in guns and safety equipment have helped it grow quickly. In fact, paintball has become so popular that it's used as a form of military and police training.

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