The History Of Paintball

The first paintballs were created by the Nelson Paint Company in the 1950s for forestry service use in marking trees from a distance, and were also used by cattlemen to mark cows. Two decades later, paintballs were used in a survival game between two friends in the woods of Henniker , New Hampshire , and Paintball as a sport was born.

In 1976, Hayes Noel, a stock trader and his friend Charles Gaines, a writer, were walking home and chatting about Gaines' recent trip to Africa and his experiences hunting buffalo. Eager to recreate the adrenaline rush that came with the thrill of the hunt, and inspired by Richard Connell's The Most Dangerous Game , the two friends came up with the idea to create a game where they could stalk and hunt each other.

In the ensuing months, the friends talked about what sorts of qualities and characteristics made for a good hunter and survivalist. They were stumped, however, on how to devise a test of those skills. It wasn't until a year and a half later that George Butler, a friend of theirs, showed them a paintball gun in an agricultural catalog. The gun was a Nelspot 007 marker manufactured by the Nelson Paint Company. Noel and Gaines each purchased a pistol and had a duel in what became the very first game of paintball. Gaines won.

Thereafter, the friends devised basic rules for the game fashioned along the lines of capture the flag, and invited friends and a writer from Sports Illustrated to play. They called their game "Survival," and an article about the game was published in the June 1980 issue of Sports Illustrated. As national interest in the game steadily built, Gaines and Noel formed a company, National Survival Game, and entered a contract with Nelson Paint Company to be the sole distributor of their paintball equipment. Thereafter, they licensed to franchisees in other states the right to sell their guns, paint, and goggles. As a result of their monopoly on equipment, they turned a profit in only six months.

The first games of paintball were very different from modern paintball games. Nelspot pistols were the only gun available. They used 12-gram CO 2 cartridges, held at most 12 rounds, and had to be relocked after each shot. Dedicated paintball masks had not yet been created, so players wore shop glasses that left the rest of their faces exposed. The first paintballs were oil-based and thus not water soluble; "turpentine parties" were common after a day of play. Games often lasted for hours as players stalked each other, and since each player had only a limited number of rounds, shooting was rare.

Between 1981 and 1983, rival manufacturers began to create competing products, and it was during those years that the sport took off. Paintball technology gradually developed as manufacturers added a front-mounted pump in order to make relocking easier, then replaced the 12-gram cartridges with larger air tanks, commonly referred to as "constant air". These basic innovations were later followed by gravity feed hoppers and 45-degree elbows to facilitate loading from the hopper.