When Was Paintball Invented? : How It All Started

When Was Paintball Invented.

When was paintball invented? What do you think of when you hear the word ‘paintball’? We’re guessing that images of masked men in forest green outfits and goofy face paint sprung to mind – and you wouldn’t be wrong. 

Paintballing is a game that involves players shooting one another with capsules filled with synthetic paint instead of bullets. It’s also a game that’s been around for some time now!

But while it might look like a modern invention, there are records of people playing games involving shooting projectiles at one another for recognition dating back as far as the 17th century. 

So when was paintball invented? Who invented paintball? And why did they come up with such an unusual pursuit? Keep on reading to learn more about this popular game’s history.

A Brief History Of Paintball

The invention of the first paintball marker

Paintball, as we know it today, has existed for about three decades, but the idea of shooting balls with color to mark your opponent goes back much further.

It all started in the 1960s with Charles Nelson, the owner of Nelson Paint Company, after inventing a paintball marker intended to be used by loggers and cattlemen. 

The markers were designed to be a more accurate and easier way to be used by cattlemen to mark their cattle while on horseback and loggers to mark trees. 

Charles patented the marker for agricultural use and later invented the balls for making. The original ball markings used gelatin and oil-based fill.

Below is a picture of the first paintball marker used in the first game of paintball, and it’s on display for the public at the Paintball Museum. 

First, sell attempt

In 1972, Charles tried to sell his paintball marker, Crosman 707 but turned out to be a failure. 

Nelson Paint Company got lucky during its second attempt and struck a deal with the BB Gun Manufacturers. The company later fine-tuned the Crosman 707 and turned it into the iconic Nel-Spot 007.

First official paintball game

The game was born from a discussion between three friends, Charles Gaines, a writer; Bob Gurnsey, a sporting goods retailer; and Hayes Noel, a stockbroker. 

The three argued about who had what it takes to survive in the woods between city and country folk. 

They saw paintball markers by Nelson Paint Company advertised in an agricultural catalog and decided to settle their argument in a survival game. 

Bob was tasked with writing the rules to ensure the game was fair. Nine more players were invented to play the game on June 7th, 1981, on a field in New Hampshire. And this was the first-ever paintball game in the history of paintball.

The game had 12 players, six woodsmen and six city men, and the type of game played was capture the flag. 

The game’s objective was to go on the opponents’ side and grab their flag without being eliminated to be declared the winner.  

This first paintball game was played on a 100-acre land of wood, and the players were given a Nel-Spot 007 marker, a map of the land, and eye protection. 

Fun fact; this competition was won by forester Ritchie White, who never even fired a single shot! 

The fame and start of business

After the competition, Bob Jones published an article in Sports Illustrated, discussing his experience playing the game. 

The move to publish on media outlets sparked an interest in many citizens. As the interest grew and media attention encroached, the three pioneers saw a lucrative business opportunity. 

They began selling the starter kits you needed to play the game to tap into this new market niche. The kit comprised the rule book for the game, goggles, and a paintball marker. 

Later, Bob, Gaines, and Noel trademarked their game and named it National Survival Game. They also struck a deal with the Nelson Paint Company to supply them with markers and gaming equipment.

Later in the year 1982, two men, Dave Freeman and Jeff Perlmutter, tried to work out a deal with the National Survival Game owner, but it was unsuccessful. 

Unable to reach an agreement, the two came up with their company and named it Pursuit Marketing Incorporated.  

They contracted Benjamin Sheridan to design and produce their own markers to avoid copyright tassels.

World’s first commercial paintball

Boy, was the National Survival Game business booming by then! As a result, Bob opened the world’s first commercial paintball field in New Hampshire. 

Later on, they opened many other branches across the United States. With continued fame and success, in 1983 the first major paintball tournament was hosted; it was known as the National Survival Game National Championship. 

The winners of this championship were a Canadian team, The Unknown Rebels, who went home with a staggering prize of $ 3,000. 

 Paintball becomes popular in the USA

It was in the year 1984 that the National Survival Game started to be called paintball, and it took off around the world. 

This led to the production and release of new paintball products, such as water-based paintballs. By 1985, the first outdoor paintball field was built in England. 

The resurgence in the popularity of the game comes with the need for an oversight body to foresee the game’s safety, rules, and all that concerned paintball. 

And that led to the formation of the International Paintball Player Association in the late 1980s. Some of the notable regulations passed by this body include the speed limit of a paintball would be 300 feet per second.

Such rules and regulations would play a major role in ensuring that paintball is safe and can be played by people of all genders and ages. By 1989 it was determined that an average of 75000 people played paintball on weekends.

Throughout the ’90s, paintball became more popular among people, which saw many industries, especially those producing paintball gear, spring and flourish. 

The technology behind paintball also improved, and accessories produced were now safer, much easier to use, and affordable. Paintball was first aired on TV in 1995 by ESPN during its World Championship Games. 

Today, paintball is a multimillion business with an endless catalog of gears, including paintball pistons, paintball cleats, and paintball cameras

The game has also evolved, and there are many different types, such as elimination, capture the flag, center flag push, neutral bomb, and predator vs. prey, to mention a few.

The Rise Of Professional Paintball

‍In the early days of paintball, it was an amateur sport played mostly by friends and family members. You created your team and rented equipment and time at a field to play the game. 

The thrill of getting hit with liquid latex pellets while trying to hide in the woods with your friends was exhilarating! 

With time things have changed, and now it’s a professional sport that offers many different opportunities for players and business owners who want to make a living from this amazing game. 

Several variations of the game include speedball, Woodsball, and scenario games. And today, many tournaments and competitions are held throughout the world. Some play because they enjoy the thrill of competing, while others do it for the money.

To become a professional team member, you must be a skilled player with excellent tactics and strategies. 

Some teams are so selective that they hold tryouts and only pick the top players to join. While some tournaments and events are open to the general public, others require that you have a certain skill level to play.   

Pros of Being a Professional Player

There are many benefits to playing paintball professionally; here are a few reasons why many players love being a professional paintball player: 

  1. Making money – Making a living from paintball is possible. Many pro teams pay their players a salary or prize money. 
  2. Getting Recognition – Being on an elite team gives you a chance to be known as one of the best players, and it comes with fame, and all that gravitates to it. 
  3. Playing Your Favorite Sport – Playing your favorite sport is great, but being able to get paid to play is even better. 
  4. Networking – Playing paintball for a living allows you to make connections with other players. You can network with lifelong friends and business connections.

Cons of Being a Professional Player

While the benefits of being a professional paintball player are great, there are also some negative aspects of playing for a team. Here are a few reasons why playing professionally might not be for you: 

  1. Risk of Injury – While playing paintball is always a risk of injury; some teams are more careful than others. Professionals play more games than amateurs and are at a greater risk of injury. 
  2. Low Pay – While some pro players make a good amount of money, others are only paid in prize money. 
  3. Poor Equipment – If you land a spot on a low-level team, you might not have access to the best gear in the game.
  4. Tournaments – Playing paintball is fun, but playing in tournaments is almost like a job. You travel a lot and are usually gone for weeks at a time.

Recent Developments In Paintball Technology

With the continuous advancement of technology, paintball guns have become more sophisticated. 

New paintball guns and sights are being developed continuously, introducing new features while improving existing ones. 

New technologies such as electronic loaders, higher capacity magazines, and collapsible stock are helping to keep paintball players on the field for longer periods. 

Paintball guns are also becoming more affordable and customizable. With the right paintball gun, you can make your paintball game more exciting by adding new features to your gun. 

For example, you can add a laser sight or scope to allow you to shoot at long distances. You can also add a noise suppressor to make your toy quieter.

The most recent advancement in paintball technology that everyone is talking about is the T68 splitfire dual-feed paintball gun. It is the first paintball gun to have a magazine and hopper, and you can use them simultaneously. 

The gun can carry two types of ammunition, which allows you to choose the most appropriate profile depending on the situation on the battlefield.  

The Future Of Paintball

While paintball games are currently played primarily on outdoor fields, indoor arenas are an emerging trend. 

But what about paintball stadiums? Could this be the future of paintball? To understand why paintball stadiums could be the future of this favorite game, we need to look back at its past. 

The first paintball games took place in outdoor fields due to their accessibility, cost, and simplicity. 

They remain the primary location for games today because they are cheap to rent and easy to construct from materials that are readily available almost anywhere. And as we have seen in other games, with time, rules change, and even the mode of play change. 

Why Are Indoor Stadiums The Future Of Paintball?

Paintball stadiums are the next evolution of the game, taking it from its simple outdoor roots to a more advanced indoor setting. 

Stadiums will offer a controlled, more challenging environment with a higher intensity comparable to indoor sports making the game more exciting and giving players and spectators a truly immersive experience. 

Paintball stadiums can be built to almost any size or shape, allowing them to be tailored to specific challenges, game modes, and experiences. 

Paintball stadiums can take the game to the next level and put it on a similar footing to other big indoor sports like basketball and American football. 

These venues will also be able to accommodate large numbers of participants, spectators, and staff. 

They will be large enough to take on big events and can be purpose-built to host tournaments and competitions, Thus making stadiums the perfect place for paintball leagues to be played out.

The dark side of Paintball Stadiums

While paintball stadiums may offer numerous benefits, they will have a few downsides. The biggest challenge to be faced by stadium-based paintball is finding an appropriate venue. 

This is because stadiums are designed for indoor sports and other activities, making outdoor field-based paintball out of reach. 

Meaning that paintball stadiums must be built from scratch, which is not cheap or easy. And this may be a deterrent for some paintball organizations, but the long-term benefits may be worth it if stadiums become the norm for the game. 

What’s So Great About Paintball Stadiums?

Paintball stadiums will be like indoor arenas but on a much larger scale. Their sheer size and controllability will create an environment more similar to the indoor sports arenas we are accustomed to today. 

This means that stadiums will enable paintball to take a big step forward regarding the game’s experience and spectacle. 

Stadiums can increase the intensity of games and allow for much more exciting strategies. Here are some reasons why paintball stadiums will be fun

1. A more controlled environment

One of the major benefits that paintball stadiums will offer is that they provide a much more controllable environment. 

This will allow organizers to set specific rules and challenges for the players, making games more exciting and competitive.

With indoor arenas, you can set the walls to be porous or solid, allowing different game modes where players must work together to solve problems and challenges. 

Indoor arenas could also be set to specific heights. For example, the walls can be set at knee height, creating a challenging game where players must stay on their knees to avoid getting hit. 

2. More drama and excitement

The tricky game modes and challenges in the paintball stadiums will all translate to immersive entertainment for players and spectators. 

Spectators can watch players from a distance or up close, enjoying the opportunity to get a great view while staying out of the action. 

3. An opportunity to create unique experiences and moments

Paintball stadiums will give event organizers more freedom to create truly unique experiences for players. 

By setting the venue to their specifications, they can create challenges and scenarios that can’t be done on outdoor fields. 

And this will make paintball games more immersive and compelling and give participants a chance to create new memories and moments that they can look back on for years. 

There are many ways to set up indoor arenas to make them specific to a particular game. Venues could look like a spaceship, haunted house, medieval castle, sports arena, etc. 


You now know the brief history of paintball and the answer to the question, when was paintball invented? Paintball has come a long way since the time of the first paintball game. 

It has changed from simple shooting games to such advanced technology that players have paintball cameras and electronic paintball guns

John Henrick

My name is John Hendricks, and I am a passionate paintballer who loves to play and compete. I have been involved in the sport for many years and have a wealth of experience to share.
I believe that paintball is a great sport for people of all ages and skill levels and should be accessible to everyone. That’s why I created this website – to provide a one-stop shop for all things paintball.

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