Paintball – The Beginnings and The Basics


Today, paintball is almost universally recognized as a sport; great for recreation, fun, and critical tactical consideration.  It takes more than a good shot to be successful at paintballing.  One must be able to listen, think fast, and think like their opponent, among other things, in order to emerge victorious.  In addition to being very popular, paintball is also very safe, which creates a lot of relief for parents of young and or aspiring paintballers.  Statistics report somewhere in the range of only twenty to forty five injuries per 100,000 participants; promising numbers for extreme recreationalists who seek thrills, but also to err on the side of caution.  There are some issues with the legality of paintballing in some areas in the world, but this is tied more to age restrictions and weapons permits than the sport itself.


Paintball was invented by Charles Gaines, who, after returning to his home of New Hampshire from an African buffalo hunt, sought to create a game in which participants would sneak around and stalk one another in a natural setting.  Gaines cited the short story The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell as a large inspiration in the conception of the sport.  The first game of paintball was played in 1981 by Gaines and eleven other participants, utilizing pistols intended for tree and livestock marking.  Later, an acquaintance of Gaines’s, Bob Gurnsey, founded the National Survival Game Company, which became the first firm to offer paintball equipment for sale.


Known widely as a paintball gun, the official name of the weapon utilized is actually the paintball marker.  Initially implementing bolt-action technology to propel the paintballs out, great strides have been made since the infancy of the sport, with the markers now using a compressed air tank or carbon dioxide.  Paintballs, the ammunition, are spherical gelatin capsules which contain non-toxic and water soluble substances, along with dye; the latter is incorporated to provide a variable palette of marking options, of course.

Many regions, by law, require the use of a facial mask or goggles while paintballing, as the most common and severe injuries incurred in the sport are those of the eyes.  Various other protective measures may be taken if desired, such as elbow pads, knee pads, and sex-specific guards.  In some venues and or styles of play, vehicles may also be used as a means of rapid transportation and protection from opponents, either by being in constant motion or using it as a temporal shield.

Styles of Play

There are three primary styles of paintballing:

Woodsball – A name developed relatively recently to represent the original form of the game, where participants play in a natural or wooded area.  This is often the most commonly played style, due simply to the fact that woodsball venues are the most widely available.  This style is more a game of shadows and tactical prowess, rather than speed and a good shot.  One must remain one step ahead of the opponent.

Speedball – These games take place in an open or partially wooded field.  Over time, more artificial initiatives have been introduced into the environs, negating terrain advantages, in order to make the game as fair as possible for each participating individual or team.  Speedball is a faster paced, high energy style of play where much more ammunition is used than in the original woodsball style.  Additionally, artificial inflatable bunkers are scattered throughout out the field to be used to protection. Essentially, speedball is more energy and speed oriented, is fairer, and is safer.

Scenarioball – As implied by the name, this style of play enshrouds participants in different scenarios where certain goals must be met in order to achieve victory.  Some scenarios are actually history remade, one of the most popular being D-Day from World War II.  In addition to the paintball marker, other items sometimes used in scenarioball games include smoke grenades, paint grenades, and bazookas.