The History of Paintball – It Started With Cows

Paintball didn't start out as a game. It wasn't even intended as any kind of sport. Paintball began in the 1970's through the forestry and department of agriculture. Guns/markers were used to mark trees for research and in planning trails. Farmers and ranchers also used these paintball guns to mark their cattle. Boys will be boys and the farmers and foresters started having fun and shooting at each other. This sounds similar to how a food fight gets started. One thing lead to another and the sport of paintball started. In 1971, James Hale of the Daisy Manufacturing Company developed and patented the first actual paintball gun; later used in playing paintball. The real fun didn't begin until May 1981 in New Hampshire. The principal creators of the paintball guns and paintball game were Bob Gurnsey – a sporting goods retailer and Hayes Noel – a stockbroker. In June of 1981, 12 people took foresters paintball guns and used them to play a game called "capture the flag". This game is still a big part of the game today. Two teams try to find and steal the other's flag and still protect their own flag. Players must call themselves "out" when they are hit by a paintball. The first 12 people that started this game really launched it to its popularity. They bought up as many tree marking guns as possible and the Nelson Company began selling these guns to the public. This was great fun for many and in 1982, the first paintball field opened in Rochester, New York. The first indoor arena soon followed. Charles Gaines marketed paintball as the National Survival Game (NSG). This is how paintball was first played. It was more an "every man for himself" sport than it is now. In the beginning it was really thought of as a survival game or something that would be done in the military for war games. In 1983, the first NSG national championship was held with a purse of $14,000. In 1984, paintball fields were opening in Australia, and the next year, England began their first paintball games. In 1988, the International Paintball Players Association was founded. It is a non-profit association that has grown the sport and lead to the education and safety of paintball. As time passed; paintball fields and indoor arenas have opened all over the world. It is now one of the fastest growing sport/games out there.

As the sport of paintball evolved; so did the commercial aspect of paintball. People wanted to be entertained when watching a match. Smaller fields made for quick action. New scenarios,styles and methods of play were developed to keep things interesting. There are now products or all types and prices available online and in sporting goods stores. Arenas are everywhere, and of course people still play outside. The first cash purse was a lot of money in the 80's, but now the purses for paintball tournaments can reach hundreds of thousands of dollars. Leagues and organizations are developing all over the world; but paintball still has a long way to go to compete with basketball or football.

This very young sport of only a few decades is still evolving. The equipment has really become quite sophisticated. The equipment is the main thing that sets paintball apart from other sports. Where else will you find the combination of guns and paint? When the paintball hits the body; there will be sometimes a slight sting but no real injury, but if the paintball were to hit the eye; it could damage the eye. In the early days; no safety equipment was worn at all. Now, safety goggles as well as face masks and helmets must be worn at all times. The head is the most vulnerable to attack from a paintball. The guns are also becoming quite sophisticated using compressed air/co2 vs. the older manual pump models. Entrepreneurs are constantly improving the quality of the equipment as this sport grows.

Paintball has also been used in military training. The guns are completely different from what a soldier would use in combat; but it is still good training for combat. The most important part of this training is the strategy. Strategy is a big part of winning at paintball as well as winning a battle. Soldiers can learn a lot about not getting shot just by playing paintball.

Paintball has had sort of a strange beginning; but the sport continues to evolve and grow. Men, women and children are playing the sport for enjoyment as well as giving them confidence and self esteem. It is still a very young sport, so it's anybody's guess what all of this painting craziness will lead to in the future. One thing is for sure, you will come back for more of the adrenalin rush paintball gives you. And don’t look much further than Manchester’s largest and only outdoor paintball site, paintball HQ, have fun.