Although paintball is relatively new to the world of sport, paintballs genesis began decades ago in the 1960's.
Where Did It Begin?
1970 was probably the most important year in the history of Paintball. It was the year the first paintball marker the "Nelspot 707" was designed.
In the mid 1960's Charlie Nelson was approached by a forestry group to create a air powered marker to enable forest personal to mark trees and wandering cattle, here the term marker was born. Nelson alongside RP Scherer created the first .68 calibre oil based ball that would be used for such markings.
The next challenge was how to propel these balls. Here Nelson created the Nelspot 707 alongside Crossman (one of the largest airgun manufactures). However it wasn't meant to be, Crossman backed out of the deal due to slow sales and the 707 was a commercial failure.
Daisy another airgun giant picked up the 707 and a new model the Nelspot 007 was later released. This would become the marker that would later inspire the likes of the Razorback and Bushmaster.
In 1976 Charles Gaines (a writer) and Hayes Noel (a stockbroker) got into a heated debate over drinks. Could a businessman stand a better chance of surviving a stalking game than a outdoorsman? Was it simply a matter of instinct or was it a product of the environment?
Bob Gurnsey (a ski shop owner) had his say, he stated that the outdoorsman would surely have the advantage. They pondered about creating a stalking game to challenge their friends and to test their theory. They took inspiration from a book called "The Most Dangerous Game" and began creating the overall concept.
A friend of Gaines saw the Nelspot 007 in a farming magazine. This was purchased and tested on Shelby Gaines, Charles' son who claimed it "didn't hurt much". The dream was about to become a reality, a 12 man game was in the pipe line.
The First Game
In June 1981 the first real game of paintball was played with Nelspot 007's and rules written by Bob Gurnsey. A mixture of avid hunters to a boxer and surgeon, the game cost $175 each covering equipment, food and drinks
"Before we ever played that first game, Hayes and I each wrapped towels around our waists and shot each other to see how badly it would hurt. Hayes shot first and missed. Then I shot him in the butt. Once we realized it was going to be fairly safe, we talked about playing our first one-on-one game. We wrote some simple rules, went into the woods and played a 45-minute game. It ended when I got snuck up behind Hayes and said, ‘I guess I won the argument!’ Neither of us fired a single shot.” – Charles Gaines speaking at the 2004 IAO
The first game played was "capture the flag" with 4 flag stations with 12 flags in total. Each player was given a Nelspot 007, eye protection and a map of the 100 acre playing field.
The game proved to be a success and Ritchie White became the first winner of a paintball game, despite not firing a single shot!
One player Bob Jones covered the game in renowned magazine, Sports Illustrated.
The interest in paintball began to grow and as more media attention was earned Gaines, Noel and Gurnsey saw the business opportunity to begin selling starter kits equipped with markers, paintballs, goggles and a rule book supplied by Nelson Paint Company.
National Survival Game
The game was trademarked as the National Survival Game and in 1982 the first ever commercial paintball field was opened in New Hampshire. National Survival Game Inc was franchised and fields began opening up throughout America.
Continuing with the success In 1983 Gurnsey hosted the first major paintball tournament with Canadian team The Unknown Rebels taking home the cash prize, the first nationally recognised tournament winning team.
The Rise Of Paintball
In the following years Paintball took off around the world. In 1984 the National Survival Game began to be called paintball and new products such as the first mass produced paintball gun, harnesses, barrel cleaners and water based paintballs we're created. The first paintball magazines Adventure and Frontline were published.
1985 saw the first outdoor paintball field to be opened in England, as the popularity expanded worldwide fields became smaller for fast paced action packed games.
In the late 1980's the International Paintball Players Association was founded to ensure the growth and safety of Paintball, here the 300 feet per seconds speed limit was established.
The Golden Age
Between 1987 - 1988 giant leaps were taken as three future powerhouse companies emerge. Dennis Tippmann Sr creates Tippmann Pneumatics and offers the first full automatic paintball gun the Tippmann SMG-60. Tippmann also produce the first ever co2 tank with a pin value reengineered from the soda industry.
WGP is founded by Bud Orr by building paintball guns in his garage, the first WGP sniper paintball guns. The first guns easily modified with removable barrels and calibre conversions. Later he develops the first paintball hopper holding 45 paintballs.
JT a major player in off road motorcycle sports steps into the paintball market with the first ever JT paintball goggle. engineered from a popular motocross goggle, designed for impact protection.
The Take Off
Throughout the 1990's the popularity for the sport blossomed around the world. Paintball technology developed to create state of the art equipment from Spyder guns and biodegradable water soluble paintballs.
The National paintball players league was formed and hosted its first ever tournament, a new era of competitive paintball from regional to national.
In 1995 paintball had its TV debut as ESPN screened the World Championship Games, an iconic moment for the sport although not viewer friendly.
Today Paintball is a multimillion pound industry with a vast range of equipment including pioneering markers, masks and air systems. It continues to grow with various styles of play available such as Speedball, Milsim, Scenario, Concept and Woodsball.
There are various tournaments, leagues, events and professional teams around the world, a sport loved by many.
The question is where will paintball be In 10 years time?