In order to play the extreme sport of paintball, it’s a good idea if you have a paintball gun – more commonly called a ‘marker.’
And while most paintball fields and arenas will have their own equipment you can rent, if you’re keen on developing in the sport, you’ll want to get your own hardware ASAP.
But which version do you choose?
In this article, we take a look at the different types of paintball guns, so you can find out which model is best suited to your gameplay, and why.
Let’s fire in.
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Different Types of Paintball Guns – Too Long, Didn’t Read
Without going into too much detail, let’s outline what paintball markers are available, so you can see what’s on offer at-a-glance.
There are three main types:
- Pump action.
- Mechanically operated.
The type you choose will depend on a variety of factors, including your skills and experience, the type of games you’re playing, and your budget.
Read on to discover a more detailed run-down of each marker, and what they’re best used for.
The 3 Main Types of Paintball Guns
Pump Action Paintball Markers
A pump paintball marker is exactly as it sounds – it requires a manual pump action in order to fire, not too dissimilar to a pump shotgun.
If you’re playing paintball for the first time, or at least when you did back in the day, it’s highly likely this was the first type of gun you came across. This was the first marker I certainly ever shot, but paintball has come a long way since then.
As such, they’re as old as the hills when it comes to paintball marker technology, and they’ve been around since the very inception of the sport.
The advantage of pump action markers is that they’re super durable, more affordable, and encourage accuracy and patience over speed and shear rate-of-fire.
The disadvantages are fairly obvious. Pumps are the slowest type of paintball marker, and if you’re up against opponents with semi-auto, or automatic markers, you’re going to get lit up.
They can be very tricky to master for beginners, which is why I think they’ve largely been replaced as the in-house rental guns at many paintball fields. This is the gun I learned on – but that was back in the 90s.
Pumps can also be prone to ‘chop’ – where an unbroken paintball gets stuck in the barrel. And if you’re trying to fire too fast, and mess up your pump-to-trigger timing, you can easily crush pellets and jam the system.
That can be incredibly frustrating and take you right out of the game in the heat of battle, and is a common rookie mistake when trying to fire the unit too fast.
However, today, paintball pump technology has come a long way, and they’re a lot more reliable than they used to be. Check out this article on the best cheap paintball guns for some solid options.
Paintball Games for Pump Markers
As you might expect, if you’re playing speedball, you’re not going to find a pump action paintball gun anywhere near that arena.
These days, pump markers are more commonly associated with something called stock-class paintball games.
Stock paintball moves away from speed and rate-of-fire, and focuses more on accuracy, movement, and teamwork. It’s arguably more tactical than other game types, and pump markers are made for it.
Pump paintball markers are often the preferred choice for MilSim games (military simulation) – particularly historical scenarios, where weapons with rapid fire were not available.
Of course, you’re welcome to use pumps in any woodsball game if you’re looking for more of a challenge. They’re a lot of fun when you get it right.
Mechanical Paintball Markers
Mechanical paintball markers is an umbrella term for a number of paintball guns that are the most common you’ll find in the sport.
Technically, pump markers are also mechanical, but for the sake of making clear distinctions, they’re in a class of their own.
Mechanical markers offer a higher rate-of-fire than pumps, with a semi-automatic setup, that can usually achieve around 5-6 shots per second, depending on your hopper and the quality of the marker.
They’re sturdy, well-built, and reliable, and they don’t cost much more than their pump action counterparts.
As a mid-range weapon, mechanical paintball markers can’t be beat, and you’ll also have the option of choosing between hopper fed and magazine (mag) fed paintball ammo, depending on the gun.
For operation, mechanical markers are commonly of a “blowback” design. Once the marker is pressurized with Co2 (or compressed air), when the trigger is depressed, a catch releases a hammer under tension.
This hammer then fires forward, striking the valve pin, and releasing the gas. This then fires in two directions, sending the paintball downrange, simultaneously blowing the hammer back into position, ready for the next shot.
For a better explanation with a visual guide, check out the video below – which specifically showcases the popular Tippmann A5 paintball marker.
And for other top-quality manufacturers, you can check out this list of the best paintball brands currently serving the community right now.
Paintball Games for Mechanical Markers
Too stacked for stock games, but underpowered and not fast enough for speedball, mechanical paintball markers sit nicely in the middle.
As such, they’re best used in woodsball matches, general rec games, as well as MilSim and scenario games – depending on the gun aesthetic (more on that below).
Favorites with beginners and experts alike, mechanical markers will be found at almost any field or arena – with the exception of speedball play.
Take a look at this article for more examples, with the best woodsball paintball guns on the market.
Electronic Paintball Markers
Now, here we reach the top of the paintball gun food chain. Electronic paintball markers offer the most advanced technology in the sport, and are usually the weapon of choice for pro players and teams – depending on the game.
Commonly used in tournament play, these babies are capable of obliterating the competition.
Typically powered by a nine volt battery, they remove the need for a slower, mechanical mechanism, and utilize an electronic solenoid to allow unsurpassed rate of fire, as well as different fire modes.
Imagine how fast you can click a mouse button – that’s almost identical to how rapid you can fire an electronic paintball marker.
Semi auto, full auto, and “ramping” options are available – whereby the gun can automatically change the rate of fire depending on a given situation. Bear in mind this might be an illegal move, subject to the game you’re playing.
The advantages of these paintball WMDs are obvious, as you can decimate your opponents given the sheer rate-of-fire, which can be up to an astonishing 30 shots per second, depending on the quality of the gun and hopper.
Electronic markers are visually very attractive, and are usually available in striking colors, with a sleek, modern look and feel.
However, as you might expect, they can also cost an arm and a leg. High-end electronic markers can set you back hundreds of dollars, and pro markers can be considerably more.
And of all the paintball marker types, electronic markers are the most unreliable. While the technology is outstanding, they still require the most maintenance and upkeep, and they can malfunction if not well cared for.
As such, it’s recommended only experienced players own and operate electronic paintball markers. However, at these price points, you know you’re getting the very best paintball guns on the market.
Paintball Games for Electronic Markers
These guns were developed for one thing and one thing only – speedball. The clue is literally in the name.
Capable of astonishing rates-of-fire, if you’re not packing an electronic marker when you enter a speedball arena, then the universe protect you.
As such, electronic markers are commonly used in paintball tournaments, and you’ll need that level of firepower to stand a chance against opponents packing similar hardware.
Check out this article on the best speedball paint markers for more information.
Mags and Hoppers
Paintball guns are only as good as the hopper or magazine that’s supplying the ammo into the chamber. It’s no use having a high-powered marker if the pellets aren’t being properly released.
The ‘hopper’ is the device that attaches to the paintball gun that stores all your ammunition.
Also referred to as a loader, it’s commonly located on the top of the weapon, and most are capable of holding up to 200 pellets at a time.
When choosing a paintball gun, you need to decide where the hopper is actually positioned on the frame of the hardware.
Offset feeds will have the feed neck positioned to the left or right on the top of the gun frame, ensuring you can actually sight down the barrel when taking aim.
Center feed hoppers have the feed neck directly on top of the frame, in the center, for ambidextrous more versatile aiming and shooting.
To negate the need for either of these versions, you can always go with a magazine (mag) fed paintball gun, which seeks to replicate real firearms with a realistic ammo feed below the chamber.
You certainly shouldn’t go waving these things around in the street, given how accurate they look – with improvements being made all the time for replica paintball weapons.
Which brings us nicely onto the look and feel of a paintball marker.
A Word on Aesthetics
Aside from the three basic paintball marker types, the guns can actually come in a variety of styles when it comes to aesthetics.
Speedball weapons tend to be brightly colored, as camouflage in these games isn’t a priority or a requirement.
But for woodsball and MilSim games, paintball markers are available that look and feel like real firearms. Usually all black, they’re much more suitable for skulking around in the undergrowth without giving your position away.
Naturally, if you’re engaging in a military or historical scenario game, you’ll want a weapon that looks like it’s from the chosen time period.
And while this is far more common in the airsoft community, given the difference in the way that paintball guns fire and operate, there are still some quality replicas available to paintball players on the market.
Additionally, if you prefer to adopt a particular role in your paintball game, there might be a marker that is best suited to that position.
For example, you can take a look at this article on the best paintball sniper rifles, if you enjoy picking your prey off from distance.
Just don’t put too much onus on the word ‘rifle.’ These are just highly accurate paintball markers that can hit a target from distance, rather than offering the stunning aesthetic of these airsoft models that are strikingly close to the real thing.
Storage and Transport
It’s worth making a note about how you store and transport a paintball gun, as it’s easier to do so with some weapons than it is with others.
While we won’t go into too much detail here (perhaps in an article for another time) in order to preserve the longevity of your paintball gun, you’ll need to understand how to maintain, store, and transport it properly.
Some paintball markers completely break down in order for you to do this easily, with two-piece barrels that allow for simple storage.
When choosing a paintball marker, don’t forget to check what extras it comes with in this regard, such as storage cases, cleaning utensils, squeegees, and cleaning/lubricating grease and solutions.
I also highly recommend finding somewhere safe to securely store your marker, as while they’re not real firearms, they can still cause injury if handled incorrectly by, say, a curious child, or a very clever dog.
What’s the Best Paintball Gun for You?
We’ve briefly explained the basic principles of each gun, and suggested their best use when it comes to types of game and scenarios – but which is the right choice for you?
In a nutshell, it’s as simple as this:
If you’re playing woodsball or Milsim, choose a mechanical or pump action paintball marker, with the former generally being the preferred and more popular choice.
If you’re entering tournaments, and/or playing speedball, then an electronic marker is the way to go.
Aside from that, I would steer beginners towards mechanical guns, and more experienced players towards electronic, again, depending on the type of game you’re playing.
If you’re a wet-behind-the-ears noob, and you turn up with a high-end pro marker, you’re going to be put with the more experienced players, who could well eat you alive.
Suit the type of gun you purchase to your current skill level, and you won’t go far wrong.
Furthermore, your choice of gun will depend on when and where you’re playing, so the decision might already be made for you.
Bringing a souped-up, custom, electronic beast into a casual woodsball rec game isn’t likely to be allowed, for example.
Choosing the right paintball marker for your game is important if you want to stand the best chance of success, and to not constantly be found sulking in the deathbox.
So, it’s important to arm yourself with the basics when it comes to the types of paintball guns on the market.
Of course, this article is just scratching the surface, as these devices are highly complex and intricate pieces of hardware.
But at the very least, I hope it’s pointed you in the right direction. Let me know which gun you’re interested in and why.