Why Are Paintball Guns Called “Markers”? – Learn The Facts Today!

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Paintball is well known to be an extreme sport in which players compete against each other and one of the most important pieces of equipment that you’ll definitely need to take part in this sport is a paintball gun also known as a “marker.”

So, why are paintball guns called markers? The main reason why paintball gun are called markers is because they were initially used by the US Forestry Department to mark trees with paint from a distance that were to be cut down by the Forestry officials.

In this in depth article, you will learn why most people refer to the equipment as a paintball gun, while others call it a paintball marker. Also, you will be learning about the history of the paintball marker as well as the first paintball game played.

Why Are Paintball Guns Called “Markers”?

Why Are Paintball Guns Called "Markers"?

In order for you to understand why the term ‘marker’ was coined, first we have to take you back to 1970, where a man name Charles Nelson became well known because of his paint related business.

One of his key inventions was a squirt device which was used by the US Forestry Department to mark trees that was going to cut down by the officials. The US Forestry Department was the ones that ask Charles Nelson if he could invent a product that will give them the opportunity to mark trees with a dash of paint.

At that time this was a super great invention for the Forestry Officials because they didn’t like the idea of walking right up to each trees to mark them, as they were likely to encounter uneven terrain, thick bushes and rivers. So having the ability to mark trees from a distance was life changing.

Using his knowledge and unique skills in the paint business he then went ahead and created this amazing product that he named the paintball marker. The name was pretty simple, just like the product itself. Nelson managed to put this together by encapsulating paint into a little gelatin film that explode upon impact and has the potential to be shot through the air, by his paintball marker.

Nelson was then credited for the invention of the gelatinous ball of paint. In order to get the ball of paint to hit the target, Nelson had to seek the help of popular company know as Crosman. This company was actually the first to develop a paintball marker, a gun they referred to as the Crosman 707.

The paintball marker actually did an amazing job, but its demand was quite on the low side. With that said, there were only a few US Forestry officials who wanted to use the marker. But that didn’t stop Nelson from achieving his goals even though Crosman had stop manufacturing the markers. He went into a partnership with an airgun manufacturing company called Daisy to create a gun they called Splotchmarker in 1972.

Though paintball was never considered to be a sport at that time until 1981, the Splotchmarker was being used by a group of people that wanted to mark things by simply shooting them with paint. At a later date, Splotchmarker was renamed Nel-Spot 007.

It was said that Splotchmarker was dropped because the name wasn’t considered to be good enough. Apart from the US Forestry Department, the cattle ranchers also bought Nelson’s markers has it provides them with the opportunity to mark their cattle from a distance, a feature that allow them to save energy and time.

After a few years, the paintball marker had became very popular developed into the modern paintball marker also known as paintball gun.

Paintball Turned Sports: The First Paintball Game Played

The strange thing is that the thought of playing paintball as a sport was first conceived by a guy that was drunk. It might sound a bit weird, but paintball becoming a sport has been well documented from the start.

The drunk discussion between Charles Gaines (a stockbroker) and Hayes Noel (a writer) took place in 1977. It was said that Charles and Hayes thought of paintball as a test of human survival. What they had in mind was to equip players with harmless weapons with which they could see who would outlast the others in the woods (the name woodsball comes from that).

Their goals was to get players from all walks of life to play with someone who had great survival skills, like maybe a soldier or hunter, just people skilled at surviving.

However, the idea of making paintball a game was put on pause as Hayes went back to stock trading and Charles to his writing.

In 1981, both Charles and Hayes were back at it again with their paintball idea. This time, they bring forth another paintball enthusiast in Bob Gurnsley, who owned a ski shop. After having several discussions between eachother, they decided Nel-Spot 007 would be their preferred paintball marker, probably because at that time it was the only paintball marker they could find.

First they had to make sure that the Nel-Spot 077 was safe and couldn’t kill anyone, so what they did was tested the gun on a human target. The son of Charles Gaines, Shelby Gaines was chosen as their first test subject. He claimed that he didn’t feel any pain or perhaps the pain was bearable. His exact words were apparently “it didn’t hurt much”.

The three then put out invitations to begin their game. Luckily, 9 nine players signed up to take part. Together with the three founders, there were approximately 12 players in total who wanted to take part in the first paintball game in Henniker New Hampshire.

A package was then put together, which contained a player kit that equipped them with the Nel-Spot 007, food, supplies and alcohol. At that time the package cost $175, which was considered to be quite expensive.

In order to maintain their original idea of playing people from different walk of life against people used to surviving in the outdoors, they had to choose the team very carefully. One team had members that were stock broker, writer, ski shop owner and a venture capitalist. This was to make sure that they didn’t have any experience in the outdoor department. They even had a boxer and forester player as well.

The other team had six members that were all hunters, which means that they were all used to aiming and shooting. The first game was a capture the flag styled game and took place in a field that was a 80 acre ski area, covered by forest. The playing field had four flag stations, with 12 flags in each station.

At each flag stations were referees who blew their whistles every 15 minutes, this was to help the players locate the stations, if they lost hope in their map reading skills.

The game was very intense, with shots being fired at all directions. After all the firing, a player name Ritchie White was the last survivor. The most surprising thing is that he was the Forester in the group. Perhaps his experience with marking trees from a distance using the Nel-Spot 007 came in very handy, giving him the edge over his opponents.

The idea of making paintball a sport, which was conceptualized by 12 players in 1981, is what has become our modern day paintball, a game played by over 3.4 million Americans as of 2017. The amazing thing is that the paintball industry saw a total sale of paintball guns, paint, paintball mask, gear, accessories, clothing and miscellaneous product sales that amounted to $157 million.

The next time you consider taking part in a paintball game, you should take a few seconds to think about the 12 players who decided to battle it out in New Hampshire so that we could take part in the game as well.


As you can see paintball marker has come a very long way. They were first created to mark trees at a distance by the Forestry officials. The use of paintball has grown over the years, being used by cattle ranchers to mark their cattle with paints from afar. Then came two drunkards, who invented the paintball game without even knowing.

Their main goal was to play people who didn’t have any outdoor skills against people used to surviving in the outdoors. They were all pretty much surprised when the game was won by a Forester. Paintball is a very popular game today and is on a rapid growth as we speak.

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