Paintball is becoming very popular. And there are many who want to get started in this game while there are others who are already engaged in paintball and are now thinking of investing in their own gears and equipment.
Of all the paintball equipment, the most important is the paintball gun also known as markers. They are referred to as markers as the term was originally coined from the use of the guns by rangers to mark forest trees.
But there are a couple of things that one has to consider before buying a paintball gun. This is especially true for those who just started playing paintball.
Frequency of play or use
How frequent will you play paintball? This is an important question to ask as some beginners may want to buy their own paintball guns, but will end up keeping their markers stored and locked since they barely play.
A very basic but complete set-up for paintball may cost around $70 to $120 dollars. This is a lot compared to the rent of gears and equipments which costs about 1/10 of the purchase price of the very basic paintball set.
If you do not plan to play paintball frequently and might end up playing around twice or once a year, then it is better to rent as it will save you both money and storage space.
If you are determined to purchase your own paintball gun, and then consider how much your budget is. The prices of guns vary, and your budget will determine whether you can afford a simple or more advanced marker.
Do you wish to buy a lower end or medium range priced marker? The majority of the low and mid priced paintball guns commonly on Carbon Dioxide, which is considerably cheaper than compressed air. Most of the low end and medium priced paintball markers are reliable, upgradeable and durable enough to last a couple of years.
Body of paintball gun explained
The paintball gun is the main equipment needed to play paintball. Paintball guns are also referred to as markers, a term that came from the original use of these guns to mark forest trees. Paintball guns or markers use expanding gas like compressed air or carbon dioxide to push the paintballs to a barrel.
The marker’s body contains the firing mechanism that includes the valve, bolt and trigger frame. Most manufacturers of paintball guns construct the bodies of the markers using aluminum to make them lightweight.
The trigger of a paintball gun is the main interaction between a player and the marker. Whether the gun can have high rates of fire depend on the amount of force required to fire the gun and the distance, the trigger has to travel before it activates.
The expensive markers have electronic trigger frames that come with sensors such as Hall Effect sensors, micro switches or infra red switches. These electronic triggers have a high rate of fire since they have short throws.
The triggers of mechanical markers make use of levers and springs to drop the sear pushing the hammer in front. For electronic paint ball guns, the trigger frames keeps the electronics of the solenoid, circuit boards and ball detection systems, among others.
Bolt and valve
The bolt and valve assembly is the instrument that lets off the paintball gun. The bolt provides direction of the air flow, as well as controls the access of paintball inside the chamber. The valve, on the other hand, is a mechanical switch with the function of controlling the firing of the marker.
In most blowback electronic paintball guns, the bolt and valves are separate. In other electronic markers, the valve may be part of the bolt or what they refer to as the spool valve.
The majority of the markers come with an open bolt design, and this means that the bolt is in a “back” position when the gun is not being used while its firing chamber is uncovered to the supply of paintballs that are being pushed by the loader.
There are also markers that have a closed bolt design, and when the bolt is in a rest position, the stack of paintballs along with the firing chamber are closed off.
Bolt and valve in mechanical paintball guns
Most of the mechanical paintball guns have the blowback design, and they use the poppet valve that is also referred to as the pin valve.
The poppet valve opens when it gets hit by the force coming from a hammer pushed by a spring. The valve and the hammer in a blowback marker are located at the lower tube, and the bolt that is attached to the hammer can be found in the upper tube.
The poppet valves is easy to maintain and cheap to replace.
Bolt and valve in electronic markers
Mechanical guns use springs and hammers to activate and move the valve and the bolt to fire shots. But for electronic markers, the air is rerouted to different places and is controlled by a solenoid to activate the trigger. Electronic markers use two kinds of bolt and valve mechanisms— poppet valve and spool valve.
Poppet valves found in electronic guns work almost the same as the ones in the blowback mechanical markers. They poppet valve opens when it gets hit by a compressed force. The main difference is that the poppet valves in mechanical guns make use of hammers and spring to create the force while the poppet valve for electronic markers makes use of a pneumatic cylinder where the bolt is connected.
The spool valve, on the other hand, does not make use of a ram to strike the pin valve. Instead, the bolt is controlled by the movement of the air within the small chambers at the back or in front of the bolt, and the air reservoir found at the back of the bolt has the air to shoot the paintball.
Barrels of Paintball guns explained
Paintball barrels are where paintballs come out of. These barrels also have their differences such as sizes, threads (or the part that looks like a screw that is attached to the paintball marker), materials and even diameter size.
Players who are in the process of choosing their paintball barrels may also want to consider the length of the barrel. Many paintball experts say that the best length for a barrel is somewhere between 12 to 14 inches. Contrary to some claims, long barrels such as 16 inch barrel are inefficient as it will require more air to propel the paintball out of the barrel. But long barrels also serve a purpose like for those who are playing woodsball.
The diameter size or the bore size is also an important factor to consider. The majority of paintballs have .68 caliber size, but some of them may be a little less like .679 or higher such as .691 or .689 as not paintballs are created perfect. A good barrel must be able to accommodate these less than perfect paintballs.
In choosing a paintball barrel, one must also consider the material used as they vary from metal, ceramic, brass, among others.
In choosing the material of the barrel, remember that the material also affects the playing performance as the materials can determine the friction quotient. The friction quotient is the unit of measurement for the resistance that the paintball experience when getting out of the barrel.
In most cases, low friction is preferred as this results in faster speed for the paintball and a more maximized use of the marker’s air supply.
There are three types of barrel designs—one piece, two piece and three piece.
One piece barrel
The one-piece barrels are usually made from a single material like aluminum or steel, but there are also other one-piece barrels that are made from other materials. The one piece-barrel will have all the advantages and disadvantage of the material used.
Aluminum barrel- The aluminum barrel is lightweight and inexpensive. It also boasts of a relatively low friction quotient. However, it may not be as durable as a stainless barrel. Plus, its friction quotient is high.
Stainless steel barrel- The stainless steel barrel is very durable but can be quite heavy. This might slowdown fast-moving paintball players. The friction quotient of this barrel, however, is fairly low.
Ceramic barrels- Ceramic barrels are lighter compared to their metal counterparts. They are also very durable and quiet.
Titanium barrels- Titanium barrels are very durable and lightweight, but they are not commonly used given that titanium is expensive.
Brass barrels- Brass barrels are also is heavier than an aluminum barrel and are less durable than aluminum and stainless steel. Plus, they are hard to maintain given that they easily tarnish. But brass barrels have the lowest friction quotient among the four metal barrels. Just like Titanium barrels, the brass barrels are not commonly used either.
Carbon Fiber barrels- Carbon fiber barrels are also very durable but very expensive. But they are easy to clean and polish.
Two piece barrels make use of several types of metal. For example, the barrel’s body may be made from stainless steel while its tip is made from aluminum. Two-piece barrels are advantageous as they combine the best elements of two metals such as being lightweight and durable, among others.
Of course, the two piece barrels are more expensive than the one-piece barrels.
Multi-back Barrel Kit
The multi-back barrels have a two-piece barrel that comes with a single front section and back piece that has several bore options. The bore is the inside part of the gun barrel where the paintball travels. There are different bore sizes so that various sizes of paintballs can be accommodated.
Mechanical markers vs electronic markers
Mechanical markers run mechanically as its name suggest while electronic markers run on batteries and are operated by circuit boards. Mechanical paintball guns make more noise and are usually slower than electronics one. But they are cheaper than their electronic counterparts.
Electronic paintball guns are faster and make less noise. These markers are either electro-mechanical or electro-pneumatic. An electro-mechanical gun has an electronic trigger frame while electro-pneumatic fires by activating the solenoid valve. Electronic paintball guns are more expensive than mechanical ones regardless whether they are electro-mechanical or electro-pneumatic.
There are many who are very interested in getting started into paintball and would like to know more about the game, particularly how to choose the paintball guns or markers.
Of course, the different types of paintball guns are effective in shooting paintballs but they also have their differences mainly on how they deliver the paintball. And knowing how each type works can be very useful for any paintball player especially those who would like to buy their own equipments.
In choosing which type of paintball gun, one has to keep in mind that the paintball markers are intended to fire paint in high-speed motion through the use of compressed gas such as compressed air and carbon dioxide.
When the marker shoots, the small bolt thrusts the ball into the barrel and correspondingly seals the bolt.
Then, the valve will release the compressed gas to force the ball out. The types of paintball markers differ on how it pushes the balls into the barrel, how it seals the ball, and how it releases the gas.
Paintball guns work in various ways but basically, paintball markers are categorized into two—mechanical and electronic. The mechanical paintball markers are operated mechanically as its name suggests while electronic paintball guns run on batteries and depend on circuit boards to shoot. Some markers also combine both, and these are known as hybrid markers or guns.
There are many variants of mechanical paintball guns from the basic plastic pumps to precision milled guns. But the majority of the semi-automatic paintball guns are blowback guns meaning the air blow the bolt forcing it to go back to its original position.
The blowback markers work by shooting once the trigger has released the bolt. The bolt is pushed in front by the spring that in turn pushes the ball to the barrel. The ball gets inside the barrel and then it hits the pin which causes to open the valve. The air will then go down to the barrel, and the bolt goes back into its original position. Mechanical guns either use compressed air or carbon dioxide.
Mechanical paintball markers are generally reliable and are easy to maintain, as well. The O-rings of this gun requires replacement as needed and users should clean the gun and put oil on it after a couple of uses.
Disassembling mechanical paintball guns is also easy just in case users find some issues on how it works and need to troubleshoot. The parts replacements for these markers are reasonably priced, and a user who often toys with mechanical parts can also fix and replace the parts rather than having it done by others for a fee.
In addition, the mechanical paintball markers are much less expensive than the electronic paintball guns. Setting up mechanical guns is also uncomplicated that even those who just started in paintball can set up their own mechanical weapons.
The mechanical paintballs markers are cheaper, but many experts also claim that these guns work slower compared to the electronic ones. Neither are they as accurate and consistent. For example, the amount of air that pushes the ball from the barrel differs from one shot to another. In addition, the ball’s speed also is different for each shot, and this can affect the accuracy of shooting. Plus, this gun type also makes louder noises when firing and users will need to cock the gun before shooting.
Paintball players who use mechanical guns also might either need more refills or get to fire fewer shots compared to those who are using electronic guns as mechanical markers need higher pressure tank. The electronic guns only need at least 200 PSI of pressure to fire. This figure is a lot lower compared to the 600 PSI needed by mechanical guns.
Electronic guns are also referred to as electro-pneumatic markers. These guns run on batteries and shoots paintballs through battery powered circuits which in turn set in motion the solenoids that cause the gun to shoot. This gun fires when the onboard circuit board is activated after the trigger is pulled.
Keep in mind that circuit boards are programmable. Thus, it is easy to for the weapon to start firing. The trigger when pulled activates either the micro switch or for recent electronic markers the magnetic or optical sensor. The activation then passes the information to the control circuit to the programmed solenoid valve that is capable of opening and closing quickly to allow gas to move in or out the pressure chambers of the gun. These movements move the bolt and then the gun fires shots.
Just like the mechanical paintball marks, electronic markers also have different varieties, and their internal composition can vary, as well.
These electronic paintball markers require different ways of maintenance that include putting of oil (lubrication) and cleaning. Users will have to take the time to read the manual of their electric paintball markers to know how these weapons need to be maintained.
Electronic paintball markers have more complicated set-up than mechanical ones making it hard for users to disassemble the weapons unlike in the case mechanical markers. Users who are encountering issues with their guns should take them to professional technicians for troubleshooting given that it is highly advised that owners do not toy with the electrical guns themselves. Simply put, maintenance and trouble shooting of electronic markers are more complicated, and costly, as well.
Electronic guns fire more consistently, accurately and quickly than their mechanical counterparts. Electronic markers are also smaller, and more lightweight since they do not have the physical firing system as pulling the trigger is all that is needed to activate the circuit board. Plus, electronic markers also require lower air pressures compared to mechanical guns which mean that players using the electronic markers will get to fire more per every refilled tank.
But players must also consider that electronic guns are more expensive than the manual ones and maintenance of this type is more costly. Also consider that electronic guns do not use carbon dioxide, and only works with compressed air. And players with electronic markers should have charged batteries with them when playing.
There are also paintball guns that combine both electronic and manual components, and they are called the electro-mechanical markers. These markers generally work like the mechanical markers, but they have an electronic trigger system for firing as it has a circuit board for automatic firing as well as other firing modes.
Since the hybrid has the firing system of the mechanical paintball guns, then its maintenance is the same as those of the mechanical paintball markers. The electro-mechanical markers are also not as quick, precise and accurate as the electronic ones either.
Paintball players must basically decide on whether they want an easy to maintain and less costly paintball marker or if they want an accurate, consistent and faster weapon when choosing what type of paint ball gun to purchase.
Players who are budget-conscious are better off getting the mechanical ones as these are cheaper and less expensive to maintain. They also have the option of choosing between compressed air and carbon dioxide, and they do not have to worry about battery life.
On the other hand, players who have more money to spend can splurge on electronic guns for a more accurate, consistent, and faster firing during games. If winning is extremely important, and if budget is not an issue, then players are better off with the electronic paintball gun.
Firing and trigger modes found in paintball guns
There are different types of paintball guns available in the market. Paintball games lovers who want to buy their own equipments must take the time to research about the various paintball guns or markers, as well as their firing and trigger modes.
Pump Paintball Gun
The pump paintball gun is the simplest kind of firing mode for markers. It is very easy to use given that players only need to push and pull the pump handle forward and back after firing a shot. Pulling of the pump will set the next paintball to be fired and prepares the gun to fire, as well.
The pump paintball gun is the original design of paintball markers but its popularity has lessened over the last few years as other firing and trigger modes have emerged.
Semi-automatic paintball markers require that players pull the trigger for every shot they fire. This type is the most commonly used paintball marker used by players as it can be manual or electronic.
Players who use the 3-shot-burst (also referred to as a 3-round burst) will experience three shots per every pull of the trigger. This kind of firing mode is usually available for electronic paintball markers that boast of multiple firing modes.
Players who use the ramping mode will need to pull the trigger consistently, but the rate of fire will increase as they continue to shoot because of the circuit board.
For example, if the ramping was programmed to increase at four pulls per second. If the player pulls the trigger three times per second then, the marker will continue to shoot with the rate of three balls per second. But if the player pulls the trigger at a faster rate like five times or balls per second, then the mark will shoot at five times per second at first. It will then slowly increase the shooting rate—ramping up the firing rate as long as the player keeps firing or pulling the trigger.
Players who use the fully-automatic mode will need to pull the trigger once, and the gun will continue to shoot as long as the trigger is depressed. The rates of these fully-automatic guns vary from one gun to another.
Types of ‘Loaders’ for Paintball guns
Paintball loaders or also known as hoppers are the devices where paintballs are kept before they are fired by the paintball gun or maker. Paintball players can either rent or purchase their own loaders. But of course, there is an advantage in buying your own paintball loader.
If you are passionate about paintball and winning is important for you, then you can opt to buy a high-quality loader that allows you to shoot more consistently and quickly as opposed to renting loaders that can be of inferior quality.
To understand the different types of loaders, one must first be able to grasp the concept of feed rate. Feed rate is the speed of a paintball hopper to feed balls into the paintball gun’s firing chamber. It is measured through balls per second or bps. The loading mechanism of each loader or hopper can vary, and thus feed rate also differ depending on the type of loader being used. Feed rate can range from eight bps to 50 bps.
Gravity feed loaders is the simplest of all loader types. They are the cheapest, as well. Gravity feed loaders make use of a big round and curved container with a lid that has a molded feed tube underneath. The paintballs slide down through the tube all the way into the markers. It is referred to as gravity load hopper given that this device relies on gravity alone to propel the ball down to the chamber.
Gravity feed loaders have the slowest feed rate at eight bps given that it only has gravity to get the paintballs down. Its slow feed rate also result into the jamming of the balls inside the hoppers. But players would only need to shake the loader to untangle the jammed paintballs.
As a player, however, you may want to consider that dislodging of balls through shaking can consume time that could have been spent shooting. This is one of the disadvantages of getting a gravity feed loader.
If you own an electronic paintball gun, then do not purchase a gravity feed loader as this device was built for mechanical paintball marker that is slower than electronic markers. Keep in mind that electronic markers work faster than mechanical ones.
The electronic markers bolts move quickly, and the gravity feed loader may be unable to load paintballs quickly enough for the requirements of the electronic markers. The paintballs get squeezed somewhere between the feed’s tube and the bolt which causes the paintballs to break.
Of course, gravity feed loaders have its advantage. This device weighs lightly for one. Plus, this loader does not run on motors and are not battery operated either and therefore they do not make as much noise as other types of loaders.
This type of paintball loader makes use of electronic agitators that are designed to increase the feed rate. Electronic loaders’ feed rate can range from 10 to 15 bps which is enough to work with the majority of electronic paintball guns, as well as low-end electronic markers.
Electronic loaders are built with propellers that make spinning motions inside the container. The propellers stop the paintballs from getting tangled or jammed at the feeder’s tube and feeding of the balls is faster as compared to the feed rate of gravity feed loaders.
There are three kinds of agitating loaders—those with sensors, those without sensors and those that re-route the gas in agitating the feeder.
The one with sensors ( sensors also referred to as the “eyes”) have “eyes” in the tube of the feeder. The “eyes” are LED and a photodetector that can detect whether there is a ball or not. If the sensor does not detect a ball, then it will stop spinning thus allowing users to save on their battery life.
Agitating loaders without sensors, on the other hand, can drain batteries quickly and can even cause dents on the paintballs.
The third type of agitating loader is the Cyclone Feed System that was designed by Tippmann, a manufacturer of Tippman Gryphon and Tippman 98 paintball guns. This type of agitating loader does not run on batteries and instead agitates the feeding system by channeling gas from the paintball gun to the loader.
Force Feed Loaders
The force feed loader make use of an impeller—a rotor used to increase pressure—in order to get the paintballs shoved into the paintball gun. The use of an impeller allows paintballs to be fed to the markers at a feeder speed of 50 bps.
Force feeders are often used by players who compete in tournaments and by those who use very intricate and expensive electronic paintball guns.
Choosing a loader is not as complicated as others think. One simply has to consider the budget for the loader and the type of paintball gun to be used with the loader, among others.
If you are thinking about entering a tournament and is very particular with the speed, and if you have the cash to spare, then opt for the force feed loader. But purchase this type only if the paintball marker you use can take such speed. You may also want to consider how frequent you wish to play paintball.
If you are a beginner with a limited budget and uses a mechanical marker, then get the gravity feed loader. But if you can afford to spend more and has a low to mid range type of electronic paintball gun, then you can consider the agitating loaders.
Paintball enthusiasts at the end of the day should consider their budget, their paintball gun type and playing habits when determining which loader type to buy.
Types of propellant systems for paintball guns
There are many who are very interested in playing paintball. And manufacturers of paintball equipments such as paintball markers, loaders or accessories are coming up with different products with new features.
Those who are keen on buying their own equipments and gears are now taking the time to research about paintball. And often, these paintball enthusiasts are asking about the different paintball propellants. As most know, the paintball marker or guns have attached gas tanks and these gas tanks either have Carbon Dioxide or compressed air to push the paintballs out of the chambers and into the barrel. These two propellants have their differences, their advantages and disadvantages.
There are more paintball players who use Carbon Dioxide particularly those who just started playing the games. For one, the gas tanks for Carbon Dioxide are more abundant and these tanks are cheaper, as well. Refilling of the Carbon Dioxide gas tanks is almost hassle-free as there are many shops that refill Carbon Dioxide.
The majority of the beginner’s paintball markers use Carbon Dioxide as it is capable of giving reliable performance when firing the paintballs as long the weather is fair or sunny. Plus, Carbon Dioxide can also be used as a propellant from some advanced paintball markers, too.
The biggest advantage of using Carbon Dioxide gas tank is that the maintenance is cheap and easy. They do not need recertification since no maintenance is required for these tanks. They are durable to and will seldom break down.
Of course, the use of Carbon Dioxide as propellants also has its disadvantages. For example, when the weather is cold or chilly, the Carbon Dioxide becomes unreliable, and the feed rate of the loaders can be affected. The accuracy of the shots fired may deteriorate for each shot.
Under normal weather conditions, speedy firing may cool the gun that could result in an unreliable shooting performance, as well. In some cases, the liquid Carbon Dioxide end up damaging the gun as ice crystals are formed on the tank when the weather is extremely cold.
The use of compressed air as propellants has many advantages and this type of propellant works with the majority of high-end paintball markers.
Shooting with the use of compressed air is more reliable and stable regardless of weather conditions. There is zero probability that any liquid will enter the paintball gun when one is using compressed air. And most of all, firing of paint guns using compressed air is a lot more precise and accurate.
There is also the downside in using compressed air as propellants. For one, this type is more expensive than Carbon Dioxide, and there are lesser places where a player can have it refilled.
Maintenance of compressed air tanks is also more expensive since the tanks will need of rechecking and recertification every three to five years. Plus, compressed air gas tanks must be accompanied with advanced regulators to ensure that the air flows at a consistent pressure that are pricey.
In choosing which propellant tanks to buy one, must consider the type of gun to be used whether it is compatible with compressed air or Carbon Dioxide. Plus, players must also take into consideration their budget as compressed air is more expensive and requires higher expenses for maintenance.
A paintball player must also keep in mind that maintenance of the markers also cost money. Mechanical markers are easier to maintain, and replacement parts are cheaper compared to electronic ones. If the owner is rather mechanically inclined, then the owner can even troubleshoot the marker rather than going and paying for a technician. Mechanical paintball guns are generally easy to disassemble.
On the other hand, electronic markers are more expensive to maintain since their internals are more complicated. Owners will need to pay for a technician to troubleshoot their units.
Additionally, a paintball player can also look at the manufacturer guides to determine the maintenance required by a particular marker.
What kind of paintball?
Ask yourself what kind of paintball you will constantly play as this is also a factor that has to be considered before purchasing a marker. If you intend to play scenario games or woodsball then, you will need to purchase a rifle-type of marker that will allow you to attach a stock. It is highly recommended that players avoid using shiny colors when they play woodsball.
If the player wants to play speedball frequently, then it is better to get a smaller or more compact gun that shoots quickly. If the player intends to dabble in both woodsball and speedball, then the player can opt to buy a smaller marker with the capability of attaching a stock.
Other equipments needed
Before you splurge in buying your most-preferred paintball gun, consider first the other equipments you will need. If you buy a high-speed electronic gun then, you will need more advance loader. There is no point of getting a fast gun if you have the gravity feed hopper or loader that is only capable of loading paintballs at the speed of eight to 15 ball per second. Other loaders such an agitator type will cost more.
Also keep in mind the kind of the gas tank that is needed by your gun. Will it be compressed air that is more expensive than carbon dioxide? Plus, compressed air tanks will need more expensive regulators.
And you may also want to invest in more expensive mask that will fit your face very well. Otherwise, it may slow you down.
Finding out the cost of other equipments, as well as other factors that we have discussed above are important to find out the kind of paintball gun you will buy.