History of Paintball – A Complete Journey

Beginners Guides > History of Paintball – A Complete Journey

We always have talked about what paintball is. How to play? What different games can we play in paintball? Which marker is the best one? What other equipment do we need? And so on… But has this thought ever crossed your mind while playing this thrilling sport how did paintball even start? Or what is the history of paintball? when was paintball invented? Who invented paintball? 

This article is all about questions like these which players seldom have while playing paintball. We will talk in depth about the history of paintball origins, how it came into being and everything related to its journey up to this day. It’s good to know the basics and the fun facts to know about the game you’re playing.

Paintball is a friendly action packed game where players try to eliminate others with a help of a non lethal firearm known as a paintball gun/marker and a soluble dye filled ball known as a paintball, that break on impact.

Initially, before the birth of this game, these paintball guns were originally designed to mark the trees and cattle from a distance which is why these also go by the name “paintball markers“.

Let’s talk about how paintball came to be. The backstage story is pretty interesting. The history of paintball goes back to a debate between two friends about whether a city boy can survive in the wild up against a country boy.

When & Who Invented Paintball? 

This competitive shooting sport was FIRST invented in May 1981 in New Hampshire. The masterminds behind paintball are Hayes Noel, who was a stock trader, and Charles Gaines, a writer & an outdoorsman.

Both were good friends, loved sports, and loved to compete with each other in tennis, fishing, and skiing. The very first paintball match was played with some other invited friends on 7 June 1981 to settle a debate on nature’s survival instinct. 

How Did Paintball Start? 

It all started with a debate between two best friends and friendly rivals, whether a city driven person has an instinct of surviving in the woods or not. And also, who had more survival chances among them based on their life experiences.

Charles argued that a person needs to learn a set of unique skills and abilities to survive in nature like how to make fire without a match, and how to use a rifle or gun. How to find non-poisonous moss to eat? 

Whereas Hayes has an opinion that harsh city life teaches you to be resilient; that his high stake stock exchange experience has made him a good survivor for anything. soon another acquaintance of theirs, Bob Gurnsey joined the argument.

To decide on this unraveling prolonged debate they thought of settling this with a match called paintball when Charles discovered the very first paintball gun/marker “The Nelspot 007, paintball pistol”. 

Charles ordered a few more of these pistols from an advertised farm catalog and invited Hayes over to his privately owned brushy field to have a very first game of paintball. Initially, there were no rules and the match took place where Charles, with his country boy skills and experience, won against the city boy, effortlessly.

Another friend of theirs joined the debate; Bob Gurnsey, a ski manager. From there they started experimenting with the invented paintball game with 12 people naming it “The Survival Game”. Players had to span 100 acres of field to capture the flag of the other team with the help of eliminating players with paintball guns under the supervision of referees. 

The First Paintball Game

Charles and Hayes invited other people over and a few dozen individuals showed up all camouflage and dressed to take part. Those players were Jerome Gray (filmmaker), Ritchie White (forester), Ronnie Simpkins (farmer), Bob Carlson (surgeon), Ken Barrett (investor), Joe Drinon (stockbroker), Carl Sandquist (contractor), and writers Lionel Atwill and Bob Jones.

This match took place in the month of June 1981. Many different dates in June have been recorded; 2 June, 7 June, and 27 June. We don’t know about the exact date but June was the exact month when the first paintball match took place. 

The gameplay was simple, players had to scout the land of 100 acres in search of different colored flags positioned at 4 different places. The player at the exit point with all 4 flags would be the winner. Of course, players can be eliminated by other players by being shot.

A player has to have paint on their clothes for elimination. The player who won was Ritchie White (forester). He used a stealth method to capture all flags and won the match without shooting a single shot. 

One of the players Bob Jones published an in depth article about how much he enjoyed this sport in the 1981 October issue of Sports Illustrated. From there it started to get all the fame and now has become a competitive sport today.

The friends who invented this sport to settle an argument saw a business opportunity in it. They started to host the game by selling the starter pack of a paintball marker, goggles, and rule book for $150, and renting out the open field. 

So far, we know the initial paintball history, the start of its journey: how the sport came into being, developed, and who invented it? Let’s shed some light on the very first paintball gun that Charles came across. 

When Was the First Paintball Marker Invented?

The very first paintball match was played using “The Nelspot 007”, a paintball pistol. Although it’s been said to be invented more than a decade earlier.

This pistol is a single shot, CO2 powered gun, that shoots paint palettes. Paintball guns were originally designed for park rangers for marking trees for cutting and for farmers to mark their bred livestock from a distance.

Who Invented the First Paintball Gun?

Charles Nelson of the Nelson Paint Company invented paintball markers for the sole purpose of an easier and more accurate way of marking trees and livestock from a longer distance. He is responsible for inventing paintball as well. He made a ball shaped gelatin shell with oil based paints inside that breaks on impact.

Initially, the very first launch of the paintball marker the Crossman 707 ended up as a complete failure. But it didn’t stop Nelson from trying again.

His marker got recognized the second time by renowned BB gun manufacturer, Daisy. They did a few changes and turned it into the famous “The Nelspot 007” marker that took place in the first paintball battle. 

After the paintball sport was published in an article its fame started to grow and those three who invented this game saw a business opportunity and started selling starter kits consisting of the paintball marker, goggles, and a rule book.

They made a contract with Nelson Company to supply them with the necessary equipment for the paintball sport, paintball markers. 

When was Paintball Founded? National Survival Game Inc.

By 1982 the national survival game grew so much in popularity that it became a necessity to have a proper field to play this sport on. From there, three friends started their business “National Survival Game Inc” and started expanding it throughout the USA by opening new commercial paintball fields and began selling starter kits.

It was when paintball was founded. Bob Gurney, a ski manager was the one who officially opened the world’s first commercial paintball field course.

Collaboration with Nelson Paint Company

After the official opening of a paintball field, National Survival Game Inc. collaborated with nelson company to provide them with the necessary equipment like guns and paintballs to complete their starter kit for the paintball game with other stuff like safety goggles, a map, and rule book.

With the passage of time, they also started experimenting with the advancements in guns for more fun and players’ ease.

First Paintball Tournament 

As the business grew bigger and bigger, it also started to host competitions and tournaments with prizes. In 1983, the first official paintball tournament took place. This tournament had a winning prize of $3000 won by a Canadian team known as “The Unknown Rebels’ ‘. 

By 1985, to have more quick and action based matches, the field started to get smaller. And in the late ’80s for players’ safety and protection, the international paintball player association was created.

They were responsible to create safety rules and regulations for more safe fun that included the limitation of speed limit up to 300 feet per second. By the time of 1989, almost 75,000 people were recorded playing paintball sport on weekends. 

Growth of Paintball Sport Industry

What started as a friendly competition to settle an argument became a whole empire by the end of the ’80s. Seeing the fame of the sport, another set of two players Jeff Perlmutter and David Freeman wanted to collaborate with National Survival Inc but were unsuccessful. So they started their own paintball company Pursuit Marketing Incorporates (PMI).

They designed a new brass bodied paintball marker Pursuit Gun Pistol (PG Pistol) in collaboration with Benjamin Sheridan. PMI only offered their goods to direct fields or retailers instead of direct consumers. Competition rose between both companies, so the paintball industry started to flourish. 

Onwards paintball technology also started to develop more by introducing advanced paintball markers like Tippmann, even paintballs got upgraded as well into biodegradable and non toxic ones. Paintball got its first official TV screening in 1995, ESPN showcased the whole championship of the survival game. 

New rules and regulations with time gave birth to new and more advanced paintball gear like safety face masks, gloves, knee pads, hoppers, pods, and so on. Now this industry is a multimillionaire industry where you will find countless different brands offering a wide range of paintball gadgets. 

You can now also enjoy different types of games of paintball both indoor and outdoor as well. With all the paintball gear, paintball field courses have gone through a lot of changes as well to create the most stimulating environment to enjoy the sport to the fullest. 

Other Uses of Paintball Technology

Paintball sport has come a long way since the 1980s. Other than being adrenaline pushing sport, it is also used by:

  • Military Force
  • Police
  • Law enforcement
  • Security organizations 

It is a great means for safety and practice purposes and war practice simulations to enhance teamwork skills, leadership skills, and overall combat skills. 

Different Types of Paintball Games

As you know the first type of paintball game ever played was “Capture the Flag” and it still to this day is the most popular type of paintball game. The number of players could vary from 2 to 100 in it. As the name suggests, in order to win, opposing teams have to capture the flag without being shot. 

With the advancement in paintball sport itself and its gear. The companies also came up with new exciting and thrilling types of gameplay in paintball.

Although the basic gameplay is simple, not to get shot and complete the set of given goals to win. But there are different scenarios players can play paintball like:

  • Elimination
  • Attack & Defend
  • King of the Hill
  • Bomb Squad
  • Protect the President
  • Centre Flag Push
  • Base Capture

Different fields offer different scenarios players can choose from. This sport is now so ever thrilling with advanced markers, gear, and interesting gameplay. 

How to Become a Paintball Pro?

To become a paintball pro you need a set of skills that can only be gained through playing speedball A LOT. Sure owning a good paintball gun and gears contributes a lot but still, it doesn’t teach you the required skills.

Many pros prefer to play speedball because it is more organized and fast paced than woodsball. On top of that, both teams have a similar environment and none has an unforeseen advantage over another. 

This controlled gaming environment teaches and nourishes your paintball skills. There you will find other pro players as well from whom you can learn and become friends. You get to learn a few tips and tricks from their experience as well. 

How to Find a Paintball Team? 

Your best bet for finding a paintball team is by participating in speedball games more and more. Many experienced players prefer to play speedball over woodball.

There you will find potential options for finding a team for tournaments. You can also try out different paintball forums as well like talkpaintball.com or p8baller-forums.com

How to start a Paintball team? 

If you are just a lone wolf and looking for a pack but still haven’t found one. You can always create your own team.

You will be able to find players with the same mindset as you through playing paintball or your friends and family members could make up a great team. 

Just make sure all the players are as eager as you are in participating in all the practice sessions, competitions, and tournaments and are willing to take out time out of their busy life schedules. The first step is to find reliable members then think of a cool name for the team and start entering tournaments. 

How much do pro paintball players make? 

Playing only paintball to become a millionaire is not a smart move even for the world’s best paintball player. Sure professional paintball players do make a significant amount of money by winning tournaments prizes, and sponsorships and do have a salary as well.

However, most of them along with being professional paintball player works in the paintball industry as well. 

If you are thinking of it as a way of living by means of just playing paintball then it’s advisable to have a safe side job as well for a steady income.

Be it related to the paintball industry somehow or other. There are jobs available as well in the paintball industry like graphic designers for advertisement campaigns and designing, accountants, paintball testers, and so on. 

Conclusion about the History of Paintball

The history of paintball sport started in 1980 and covered a journey of 50 years by now. After its very first friendly match, the game thrived as it got covered by journalists, and with time new advancements, rules, and technologies were incorporated into it.

Many people started their businesses related to the paintball niche like manufacturing advanced paintball markers, gloves, face masks, hoppers, and so on. 

With the popularity of paintball new field courses both indoors and outdoors started to develop until this point. Even the environment of the fields went under different modifications for a more lifelike experience like bunkers, wooden blocks, abandoned cabins, etc.

Now paintball has become a proper sport with organized competitions and tournaments and teams, with different types of games.  

We don’t know whether we have the skill of surviving out in the wild or not but the majority of us sure like to test out our shooting skills through paintball.

Nowadays, people love to play paintball not to know about their survival instinct but to experience military life like action scenarios and build other skills like leadership, teamwork, quick decision making, problem solving, and so on. 

With its outgrowing fame, many people even consider playing and earning from being a professional paintball player. You can even be a valuable member of a team or create your own team to participate in tournaments and competitions.