Paintball History

Paintball History

Have you ever wondered about the origin of the game that you enjoy so much? I’m sure you had never bothered, after all, since when did history get interesting, right? Well, rarely, though, but it did for me the one time when I came across the Paintball history, and for you, it’s about to be. Paintball has a colorful history and an unexpected one as well, which is what makes it interesting.

There have been about 50 years since the game originated and was first played. To spark your interest in paintball history, know that its creation was totally unplanned and unintentional. The game was not even named Paintball at first. The paintball gun was not invented as a paintball gun rather for a purpose entirely different; you think you can guess it? Oh, I’m sure you can’t. One more thing, it was one of the rarest times when a fight actually blossomed into a fun and productive sport and also into a multimillion-pound industry. Hooked already? Want to know more? Keep reading; it gets more interesting.

When was paintball first invented?

The First Paintball Gun

The invention of the first paintball gun ever dates back to the 1960s; although it wasn’t intentional, not the invention itself the purpose, it was to be used for, eventually. Charles Nelson from the Nelson Paint Company invented what was called a gun or a marker, which is why it is called a paintball marker today. It was powered by carbon dioxide gas and was later named as Nel-Spot 007. He created gelatin-shelled balls filled with oil paint as ammunition for Nel-Spot 007, the first-ever paintballs.

The purpose behind this origin was purely agricultural, serving park rangers and cattle farmers. The paintball marker was invented as an effective way to mark trees and cattle from a long distance, trees that were to be cut, and cattle that had been bred. You see, the prospect of using paintball on humans was nowhere in the picture at that point. The Nelson Company tried collaborating with the Crosman Company to market their marker but failed. Later, in 1972, it was successfully marketed by a BB gun manufacturing company, Daisy, and was named Nel-Spot 007.

How Paintball Game Came into the Picture?

Like almost every other idea, this one also sprang from an argument, one between two friends in the 1970s, Charles Gains and Hayes Noel. The two spent almost a month arguing about who would be a better survivalist in woods among a city-dweller and country-dweller. Gains betted on someone with learned and practiced outdoor skills and experience, like himself. Noel argued that being a city-dweller equipped with sharp urban instincts, he would excel.

Eventually, they decided to settle this debate with a duel between the two. Gaines came across Nel-Spot 007 in an agricultural catalog and thought of it as a good and safe tool to test their survival skills in woods. They tested using paintballs on humans, on Gaine’s wife, Shelby Gaines, who had volunteered and confirmed that it didn’t hurt much. After that, the two friends had a duel, but it still didn’t sort out their contradicting arguments. So they decided to perform the test on a bigger scale, combat with other competitors as well, and hence created Paintball game, unintentionally.

The First Paintball Game

Bob Gurnsey, their other friend, arranged the combat along with them and wrote a set of paintball rules for it. Along with the three friends, there were nine other competitors in the game, some with an urban background, others with learned outdoor skills. Although the idea was originated between friends in the 1970s, it was not until 27th June 1981 that the first-ever paintball game took place. All of the competitors, 12 in total, headed into the battle equipped with Nel-Spot 007, paintballs, CO2 cartridges, camouflage, paintball mask, compass, and a map.

The battle took place in New Hampshire, USA, on a 100-acre wood playing field in Henniker. 4 flag stations were set up in the field with 12 flags each. The object for the players was to gather all the flags and make it out to the exit without being shot once; whoever was the first to fulfill the object would be the winner. The winner was Ritchie White, a forester, who grabbed all the flags and reached the exit without firing at all, and we got the first-ever winner of paintball.

The Growth and Popularity of the Game

A participant of the game, Bob Jones, who was also a writer, wrote an article about the game, which was published in Sports Illustrated in the same year. The story was bombarded with the immediate reaction by the people who wanted to know more about the game. The original trio was asked about the required equipment and the rules. And Gaines and Noel, who had too much fun in the game to care about the conclusion of their debate, saw this public reaction as a business opportunity.

The two started selling the starter kit for the game consisting of a paintball marker, goggles, paintballs, and a rule book, for $150. Gursley continued to refine the rules for the game, which they begin to call National Survival Game. The trio ended up inaugurating the first commercial National Survival Game field in New Hampshire in 1982. They made a contract with Nelson Paint Company to license their equipment for the game. They began franchising their game and opened several fields throughout the USA, and started holding organized competitions.

In the coming years, the popularity and interest of the game boosted tremendously. Jeff Perlmutter and Dave Freeman, the players, established another paintball company Pursuit Marketing Incorporated and developed their own paintball makers. The game began to be called Paintball, and the paintball weapon saw many modifications and updates like a pump handle, automatic loading, larger CO2 cartridges, and magazines. The oil-based paint switched to water-based paint for easier clean-up. The game outgrew the USA and spread worldwide with safety associations formed and further rules established to ensure safety.


Is paintball a dying sport?
The interest and popularity of Paintball right now is nowhere near the early decades of its origin, but it isn’t a dying sport either. The interest has decreased since 2000 with lesser people having interest, but there are still some players who are totally into it, so it’s not like the game is losing players. It is still considered an efficient and fun way to test survival skills.

Is paintball dangerous?
Paintball sounds like an aggressive sport, but it’s not dangerous though. Paintball injury cases do get reported, but rarely so, about 0.2 per 1000 players. The death and injury reports are caused due to carelessness, violation of rules, or indirect causes. There is not anything particularly dangerous about the game, so if you choose not to play it, the reason shouldn’t be because it’s risky.

Can you shoot any other object from a paintball gun?
There are several other objects that you can safely use as substitutes for paintballs to shoot from a paintball gun. You can go for these options if you have run out of paintballs or if you don’t want the mess that paintballs create while you practice. You can use hard rubber balls; they are not squishy but don’t hurt much; soft rubber balls are a much safer option. Water balls are also a great substitute. You cannot use anything that the gun can shoot, though, like marbles, plastic bullets, or spherical stones; these can be dangerous.