The History of Paintball: How Paintball Started
The First Paintball Game
The How Paintball Began story goes back to the 1960s, when the Nelson Paint Company developed a gelatin-shelled sphere filled with oil-based paint. They first contracted airgun maker Crosman, then later Daisy, to make a CO2 powered air pistol to shoot this sphere. The original application for this paint and pistol combination was for loggers to mark trees and ranchers to mark cattle from truck or horseback. This first paintball gun was the Nel-Spot Paint Pistol, basically an oversized version of an existing pellet pistol.
In the late 1970s a group of friends, Hayes Noel (a stock broker), Bob Gurnsey (a sporting goods retailer), and Charles Gaines (a writer) had for years discussed survival in the woods. Would someone with street smarts from the city be as successful as a country person with survival skills from the country? The debate went back and forth until 1981, when a friend discovered the Nel-spot pistol in a farming catalog. With the equipment chosen, Noel and Gurnsey sat down and wrote the rules to what they called “The Survival Game”.
The first paintball game was played on June 7th, 1981, in the New Hampshire woods. The twelve players in that first game included Gaines, Gurnsey and Noel, as well as Lionel Atwill and Bob Jones (both sports writers), Jerome Gary (a film producer), Ritchie White (a forester), Bob Carlson (a trauma surgeon), Ken Barrett (a venture capitalist), Ronnie Simpkins (a farmer), Joe Drinon (a stock broker), and Carl Sandquist (a contracting estimator). Each participant had a Nel-Spot Pistol, some extra tubes of oil-based paintballs, and shop goggles (now considered unsafe!). Multiple flag stations were placed over an 80 acre area, with 12 different colored flags at each station. Whoever collected all twelve of their flags first or was the last player not eliminated was the winner. Some tried to run from station to station. Carlson the trauma surgeon opted to ambush others and go for eliminations (he tagged five players). Lionel Atwill distracted Gaines by yelling “GRENADE!” and throwing a nearby onion. He charged Gaines and shot, but the ball bounced and Gaines quickly returned fire and eliminated Atwill. The winner was White, the forester. No one ever saw him and he never fired a shot, creeping from station to station stealthily gathering all his flags.
How Paintball Began
Bob Jones wrote an article about the game for an October 1981 issue of Sports Illustrated, soon followed by Time Magazine and Sports Afield. Letters began arriving with requests of how to play the game; Gurnsey, Gaines and Noel saw a business opportunity. They began selling a starter kit that included a Nel-Spot pistol, some paintballs, a compass, goggles, and the rulebook for what they called NSG, the National Survival Game.
Bob Gurnsey expanded the business, opening the first commercial paintball field in March, 1982, in New Hampshire. He branded National Survival Game and entered into a contract with Nelson Paint to be the sole distributor of their paintball products. He then licensed the NSG franchise to people wanting to start fields and sell equipment. Later that year, two players named Jeff Perlmutter and David Freeman saw business opportunities with the new game but could not reach an agreement with NSG. Instead, they struck out on their own by starting a company called Pursuit Marketing Incorporated, or PMI. They contracted air rifle manufacturer Benjamin Sheridan to create a new pistol, the brass bodied PG (Pursuit Gun) Pistol, and had their own paintballs made. This new company was solely a distributor to new fields and retailers as opposed to selling direct to consumer and franchises. NSG now had competition, and the paintball industry was born.
In 1983, the first NSG National Championship was held, with the Ontario, Canada team “The Unknown Rebels” becoming the first nationally recognized tournament winning team. As the year progressed, despite making it unusable in NSG sanctioned tournaments, people began adding pump handles, magazine extensions and gravity feeds to the Nel-Spots. Barrel extensions were soon to follow. Some players begin complaining that this increased rate of fire and capacity will ruin the spirit of the game. The paintball arms race had begun.
In 1984 the PG had a knurled steel pump handle added, making it the PGP (Pursuit Gun Pump), while NSG released the original SplatMaster. The SplatMaster was the first paintball gun designed and made specifically for the new sport, as opposed to being a re-engineered existing pellet gun. The same year also saw the game starting to be called Paintball, and the release of the first water-based paintball fill. No longer did you require mineral spirits to clean up after play! By year’s end the game begins spreading to Australia and England.
Throughout 1985 and 1986 paintball spreads worldwide, gaining more media exposure but also enduring much negativity publicity or misconceptions as a violent or paramilitary activity. More products come to market such as cheaper 10 round tubes, paintball harnesses, swab barrel cleaners and plastic face shields to fit under the goggles to protect the face (shop goggles are still in use, however). Players begin soldering direct feed ports onto their markers and making stick feeds and bulk hoppers from PVC and plastic bottles. The first paintball magazines, Adventure and Frontline, are published. Gramps and Grizzly, an airsmith/ proshop in southern California, ups the arms race by introducing “Constant Air”, the refillable CO2 bottle with thermal valve and adapters to be fitted to the paintball gun by attaching to a shoulder stock. Many players are against this, claiming that no longer being limited to 5-20 shots before changing CO2 or reloading will ruin the spirit of the game.
The Golden Age of Old School Paintball
The years 1987 and 1988 saw paintball taking giant leaps and three future powerhouse companies emerge. Dennis Tippmann Sr. is looking for a new industry as his business of making half-scale machinegun collectible replicas has to close due to new firearms laws. Discovering paintball, he utilizes the family pneumatic industrial sewing machine business to create Tippmann Pneumatics. His first offering is the blowback operated Tippmann SMG-60, the first full automatic paintball gun. It was a .62 caliber marker that fed from 5 round stripper clips loaded into a 15 round side feed magazine. To make it tournament legal, he soon offered a select fire model to operate as a semi auto. Tippmann also introduced the first paintball CO2 tank with a pin valve, re-engineered from the soda industry. It soon becomes the new standard for all paintball tanks.
At the time there was .50, .62, and .68 caliber paintballs, leading to a debate on which was better. This led Tippmann to release the SMG-68, a semi auto only, .68 caliber version of the SMG-60.
Worr Game Products, or WGP, is started by Bud Orr. He began by building paintball markers in his garage. These are the first WGP Sniper Pump paintball guns. These were one of the first markers to be easily modifiable with removable barrels, caliber conversions, and air source configurations. Later, he develops the first paintball hopper to be commercially made, the WGP Ammo Box that held 45 paintballs.
Glenn Palmer opens Palmer's Pursuit Shop in California, specializing in custom Sheridan-based markers and modifications. Tired of aggravating an old arm injury while pumping a marker, he builds “Camille”, a modified Sheridan KP-model paintball rifle using a four way valve and pneumatic ram and thus a self-cocking marker. Bud Orr develops a similar system for converting the Sniper, leading to the first WGP Autococker paintball gun in 1991. A seemingly never-ending debate ensues as to who gets credit for the designing the self-cocking action first.
JT USA, one of the largest companies in off road motorcycle sports, steps into the paintball market with the first JT Goggle. A re-engineered model of their popular motocross goggle, it features the first paintball mask lens specifically designed for proper impact protection. The incredibly comfortable design is an instant player favorite. This is a revolution in paintball, ushering in a new era of safety and kickstarting the paintball goggle industry. Within a few years, shop goggles will be banned from all field use and only approved goggles with facemask systems are on the field. JT continued to dominate the paintball safety and apparel market, introducing products like plastic armored gloves, chest protection, and paintball pants. Scott, another major sport goggle manufacturer, quickly follows.
The paintball industry is taking shape, as more and more products are factory produced as opposed to a home-based cottage industry. The first paintball barrel plug was introduced in 1987, and soon all paintball fields would require a barrel blocking device when not in play. The first paintball grenade to be made and marketed commercially, the Bouncing Betty, was released from Pro-Star Labs. The first paintball stick squeegee, the Straight Shot, is built by a company of the same name. The Los Angeles Paintball Company, aka LAPCO, develops a threaded adapter to accept a pin valve CO2 tank that screws into the bottom of a grip frame and runs a hose to the valve. This is the first Bottomline Air Source Adapter, or Bottomline ASA, and changes paintball marker design forever by allowing players to shoulder the tank without mask interference. The Line SI Bushmaster pump paintball gun is all the rage, being manufactured by Indian Creek Designs. Components Concept Inc., aka CCI, release the first Phantom pump paintball gun. Designed and started by Mike Cassidy, CCI becomes one of the longest running, single owner companies in paintball (still in business as of this writing). The first Action Pursuit Games Magazine (APG) is released, becoming the first internationally distributed news stand paintball magazine.
The US state of New Jersey, where playing paintball had been against the law, overturns its decision and legalizes play in 1988 after much effort by the pioneering paintball legal efforts of Raymond Gong and Jessica Sparks. After much debate, .68 caliber becomes the standard paintball size. Over time, 300 feet per second (300 fps) is recognized as the maximum safe velocity for outdoor paintball play. As more insurance companies create policies for paintball fields, this becomes the internationally recognized max velocity.
The year 1989 sees Sat Cong Village, a large and popular paintball park in southern California (later to be renamed SC Village), introduces a new field in an arena that they call “SpeedBall”. It utilized brightly painted tires, pallets, wood structures and other open field, artificial bunkers. Complete with spectator bleachers, it sets the stage for “concept fields” and a whole new style and era of the sport. The Center Flag Format also begins, moving the focus of many games away from two separate flag stations into one in the middle, funneling action and aggressive moves to a focal point. The first Viewloader paintball hopper, the VL100, is introduced and gives players the option of loading from 10 round tubes or larger pods. Smart Parts revolutionizes the aftermarket barrel market with the first Smart Parts Paintball Barrel and later the two piece All American Barrel. This was the first barrel to include spiral porting, which was claimed to increase accuracy and also significantly reduced the sound of a marker firing. The first World Cup paintball tournament and trade show is put on by Jim Lively. Eventually this will become the largest and most anticipated paintball tournament in the world. In late 1989, a young entrepreneur named Gino Postorivo opens a small retail operation in the back of the family’s pizza business. This steadily grows to become National Paintball Supply, a major paintball distributor.
Paintball kept moving forward in 1990 when Tippmann released the Tippmann 68 Special Paintball Gun, one of the first mass produced, gravity hopper fed paintball markers. Airgun Designs, a company started by paintball mastermind Tom Kaye, releases the 68 Automag. This is the first blow forward design marker and famous for its durability and function over form appearance, as well as featuring a built-in regulator. The large scale importing of paintball guns manufactured overseas begins, with as many as ten different branded pump markers all being essentially the same marker. The Music City Open Paintball Tournament becomes the first national event to abandon the old NSG 12 gram CO2 cartridge only restriction, allowing constant air CO2 bottles, semi auto and BYOP (Bring Your Own Paint).
In 1991, paintball began to spread throughout more of continental Europe as the image of the sport improves and old negative misconceptions fade away. Tom Kaye and Airgun Designs develop the Nitrogen Regulator and re-engineered fiberglass wrapped pressure vessel, thus creating the first Compressed Air Tank for paintball. While proven to be superior to CO2, especially with the rising number of semi autos, the industry rejects it out of safety misconceptions. The Autococker Kit from Bud Orr is released, first as an add-on upgrade to convert the WGP Sniper II into a self-cocking semi auto. It is later offered as a complete marker out of the box as the first Autococker and kicks off years of ‘Mag versus Cocker debates.
The year 1992 saw the PMI release the PMI-III semi auto paintball marker. While incredibly heavy in both weight and recoil, it becomes a player favorite due to its lower cost and reliability. This will be the last Sheridan-built marker for PMI, as Benjamin Sheridan would later release the marker as their own brand with the VM-68. Viewloader, seeing the need for a system to prevent paintballs from jamming with the higher firing rates, releases the VL-2000. Powered by a 9v battery, a motor with an agitator paddle was activated as paintballs passed a reflective eye in the feed neck. Though rather bulky and aesthetically ugly, the VL-2000 was eventually awarded the patent for the motorized loader (a major factor later in The Patent Wars). Arthur Chang creates a new company, Kingman International, with a goal to distribute affordable markers. Their first markers are pumps under the model name Hammer, while behind the scenes a semi auto is in development. R.P. Scherer, the company that had been contracted by various paintball companies to perform the encapsulation process, creates a separate facility solely for the manufacturing of paintballs. As the encapsulation machines are a major investment it is proof that paintball is here to stay.
The Nation Paintball Players League, or NPPL, is formed and hosts its first paintball tournament. This sets the stage for a new era of competitive paintball, taking it from a regional to a national level. Originally an Open-style event, the next year sees the NPPL separating into Pro and Amateur divisions. While these tournaments are held in the woods, the first signs of concept fields and the move away from camo are appearing.
The Rise of Semi Auto and Corporate Paintball
Semi-automatic paintball markers up till now have been heavy, clunky, finicky and expensive. Kingman International changed all of that forever with the first Spyder Paintball Gun. The Spyder was a mass produced, aluminum bodied semi auto that was easy to maintain and affordable. Overnight the pump players on a budget who felt under gunned by the more expensive semis were suddenly able to have similar firepower. As the sales of the popular Spyder marker grew, so did aftermarket upgrade parts and paint sales. Pump paintball guns were dropped except for a cult following that kept a few models alive.
A young player in southern California, Dave “Youngblood” DeHaan, had been apprenticing with Earon carter and other famous SoCal airsmiths. Famous on the covers of APG magazine for playing in a suit and chrome plated markers, he stepped up to create his own company. Dave Youngblood Enterprises, better known as Dye, began making aftermarket barrels, hard parts and custom Autocockers. Rather than trying to exploit the emerging budget market, he focused instead on making Dye the paintball connoisseur’s high quality brand of choice. As tournament paintball grew, so did his company until it became synonymous with the sport’s elite.
While there had been various smaller paintball websites and newsgroups on the fledgling Internet, a new site called Warpig.com came on the scene. Short for World And Regional Paintball Internet Group, Warpig became the go-to source for new paintball news, product releases and forum discussion for many years. In October, the first World Cup to be held in the Kissimmee/ Orlando, Florida area was held. A success to due to the lower cost flights, amenities and weather, this tradition is still going a decade later.
In 1995, the World Cup is filmed and broadcast on ESPN. While it is the first time a paintball tournament is broadcast on a major network, it is not successful as the game format is not particularly TV viewer friendly. The BATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) rules that silencers/ sound suppressors for paintball fall under the same rule classification as real firearms models and are thus illegal without proper licensing and taxation.
Brass Eagle, which was a company in Canada making Crosman-based paintball markers, paintballs and other gear owned by Aldo Perrone, was sold to the Daisy Manufacturing Company. The result was a complete new line of paintball markers, with the focus on making them as cheap as possible and some in bright, non-firearm looking designs. A couple of years later, this business sale would have huge repercussions in the industry.
Competing companies were developing the first electronic paintball gun, a behind the scenes arms race that would have a major impact a few years later. The Shocker was unveiled in 1996. PneuVentures, Inc was the designer and manufacturer, and Smart Parts was the sole distributor. The partnership was short-lived, Smart Parts going on to manufacture the Shocker in 1997 and PneuVentures developing but never releasing the Cyber9000, a marker with an LCD screen and built-in chronograph.
Brass Eagle is split from Daisy to be stand-alone company. WDP (which stood for Who Dares Plays, a takeoff of the SAS motto Who Dares Wins) unveil the first Angel paintball gun, the Angel V6. This new and revolutionary design of electropneumatic paintball gun was originally to be distributed as the Brass Eagle Angel, but this deal ultimately never materialized. WDP went on to distribute the Angel, taking it to legendary cult status through brilliant marketing and sponsorship deals. From 1998 to the early 2000s, the Angel was the most winning gun in tournament paintball. Brass Eagle released the Brass Eagle Rainmaker, an electronic version of the earlier Air Power Vector marker.
The years 1996-1997 saw the first use of two similar products destined to change the face of the game. WDP, at a tournament in England, unveiled Hyperball. This was a small paintball field utilizing a ribbed, large diameter irrigation pipe as bunkers on the field. The other was the first airball field, a similar arrangement except for the bunkers being inflated balloon-like structures. These “concept fields” were designed to promote fast aggressive play and, more importantly, make paintball more spectator-friendly. Soon, tournament-level paintball would leave the woods and abandon camouflage as more brightly colored, eye catching sports apparel became the norm.
Paintball began to show up on the shelves of Walmart and other national big box stores in 1998, when Brass Eagle did a push to place products there. The result would have major repercussions on the industry. Paintball received more exposure and was more accessible to new players than ever before, with more parents seeing the game as a “legitimate” sports and player numbers exploding. The downside was many new players frustrated with the cheap, low quality equipment and a rise in vandalism and misdemeanors involving paintball markers.
Viewloader is finally granted the patent they applied for regarding the first electronic paintball loader. All competing companies must now pay royalties, thus being the first wave of The Paintball Patent Wars. Tippmann releases the Tippmann Model 98, a departure from their usual design using a two-piece “clamshell” body instead of one piece. The Model 98, eventually evolving into the 98 Custom and the 98 Custom Platinum, becomes famous for its incredible durability and reliable performance, making it the most popular rental marker ever.
The owner of Viewloader chose to cash out and sold the company and lucrative patent royalties to Brass Eagle in 1999. Several aspects of paintball which had previously been unregulated are now part of the ASTM (American Society for Testing & Materials), to help standardize the sport and minimize liability. The first items to be rated by the ASTM are rate of fire, goggle lenses and velocity. The Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA) officially recognizes paintball as a true sport. The paintball industry and the game itself achieved bona fide legitimacy. In 2000, the first collegiate paintball league holds the first College National Championships, with the University of Illinois taking first place.
The NPPL , in 2001, bans the use of barrel plugs at events and requires the use of barrel covers, also known as barrel bags or barrel condoms. The move is due to the more visible barrel cover when off the field, as well as increased safety due to the tendency of barrel plugs to be shot out from multiple firings of sensitive electronic triggers. As most products and ideas in tournament play eventually trickle down into recreational play, the barrel cover soon becomes the international BBD (Barrel Blocking Device) standard.
The first Bob Long Intimidator paintball gun, debuted the year before, begins to gather a loyal following and then takes over the high end market. Always in contention with the WDP Angel, the “Timmy” as it is known becomes the most sought-after gun for national tournaments.
Brass Eagle made headlines in 2002 when it acquired JT USA from its original owners. National Paintball Supply, originally a distributor of other products, was slowly creating its own product lines before stepping up and buying Diablo Direct, thus securing a major paintball manufacturing capacity. Competition between PMI and NPS, the two main manufacturer/ distributors supplying fields and stores, heats up.
Richmond Italia, a former paintball manufacturer owner, creates a new speedball format called X Ball and a new league, the NXL (National X Ball League). One of X Ball’s primary goals was to make paintball television-viewer friendly. The format is a departure from conventional center flag or two flag paintball with a best-of-three semis/ finals structure. The new game involves a small square field, regulation bunker layout, and a running game clock. Players try to hang a flag at the other end of the field, and then play stops for a regulation time before playing the next point. Players needed to be on field for the start of the point or play short like American football, and penalties were player time served in a penalty box similar to hockey.
At World Cup 2002, the infamous “Sniper Incident” occurred where a team member not playing in an important game hid in a wooded area near a field boundary and shot at opposing players. This is considered to be the most extreme instance of cheating ever seen in competitive paintball. After the event the NPPL, the tournament organization, and the PSP (Paintball Sports Promotion) event promotion company split over differences. Now there were two leagues competing for players, with both trying to beat the other to getting on television first.
The Paintball Patent Wars
In 2003, Smart Parts was granted a patent for paintball markers using an “electro-pneumatic valve to operate a bolt assembly”. Using this, Smart Parts initiated a series of lawsuits regarding markers that were built during the patent pending period. When the first case was won and set precedence, a major shock wave went through the industry as royalties and fines loomed for many companies. Several smaller manufacturers immediately ceased making electronic markers, or eventually closed their doors and cited the SP lawsuits as the primary reason. A huge backlash against Smart Parts grew amongst many players.
K2 Sports, the famous ski and snowboard company, stepped up and purchased Brass Eagle. Thus the Brass Eagle, Viewloader and JT brands were now under the umbrella of a major sporting goods distributor. PMI purchased R.P. Scherer, securing the largest dedicated paintball manufacturing facility in the world.
Tippmann releases the first Flatline Barrel. It is a curved barrel that puts backspin on the ball to increase its effective range and flatten the trajectory. Many players consider it a gimmick or not as effective as claimed; it does develop a cult following of loyal users. Compressed air tanks are becoming more and more accepted as the early misconceptions about HPA are proved wrong and its use becoming necessary for high end tournament guns.
In 2004, K2 Sports continues its paintball purchases with the acquisition of Worr Game Products (WGP). Summit Partners, a venture capitalist firm, acquires Tippmann Pneumatics, changing its name to Tippmann Sports.
While paintball magazines and websites focused on the tournament side of the game, a new movement was growing under the radar. The overwhelmingly vast majority of paintball players were still dressed in camouflage and running around in the woods. The industry, ever trying to get paintball on television, considered this to be a negative image and did everything it could to keep it out of the media. Regardless of their intentions, the fact was that not only did the largest paintball consumer base not want to play on airball fields, but a growing number wanted markers and equipment that more closely resembled real firearms. Called Milsim (Military Simulation), this paintball subculture grew steadily and was fostered by companies such as Special Ops Paintball. More and more woodsball articles and reviews begin showing up in traditional tournament paintball magazines.
Greg Hastings, a well-known professional paintball player and the founder of Redz Paintball, introduced the first successful paintball game for the Xbox game platform. Greg Hasting’s Tournament Paintball got the approving nods of paintball players and was well received in the gaming community, introducing paintball to a wide audience. A later release, Tournament Paintball Max’d, improved upon the game as well as made it available for the Sony PS2 system.
The year 2005 saw the release of the original Smart Parts Ion paintball gun. The Ion utilized a simplified spool valve system similar to the 2003 Smart Parts Shocker SFT, and crushed the lower to mid-end paintball marker market. The Ion was lightweight with an easy to achieve high rate of fire for only a quarter of the cost of a high end marker. Suddenly the gap of firepower on the field between low end and high end virtually disappeared, and paint sales soared. The Ion re-ignited an aftermarket parts boom that had not been seen since the Autococker’s golden age. Planet Eclipse releases the first Ego paintball gun, a stacked tube electro-pneumatic that begins to edge out the Bob Long Intimidator as the dominant high end marker in national tournaments.
The woodsball revolution continues to grow and the industry can no longer ignore it. Smart Parts releases the SP8, a milsim version of the successful Ion. K2 releases the JT Tac-5 and WGP Tactical Autococker. PMI unveils the PCS line of Tippmann-like markers and camo playing clothing. Tippmann launched the X7, a magnesium-bodied marker with a modular design to readily accept upgrades and look like several different models of real military weapons. One Tippmann experiment that failed was the Tippmann C3 propane-powered paintball marker, using combustion as its pressure source. The next year, Kingman rolls out the MR Series beginning with the Spyder MR1 and MR2. More items like goggles and harnesses become available in various camouflage patterns, and new models of shoulder stocks, remotes, red dot sights, and body/ barrel shrouds flood the market.
The shaky economy of the US began to have repercussions in the paintball industry. A private investment firm stepped up in late 2006 and bought both PMI and NPS, merging the two largest paintball distributors into one company now called Kee Action Sports. Dave Perlmutter and David Freeman both retire from the industry, while Gino Postorivo goes into other sports industries and waits for his non-compete to expire. K2 announces an unexpected sales drop, further signs of the weak economy’s effect on the industry. Other manufacturers begin to close or sell, citing poor sales or the Smart Parts lawsuits and royalties as the main causes.
All of that soon changed in mid-2007. Rather than pay any fines and royalties, WDP fought Smart Parts in court. After a costly court battle it was ruled that WDP, even though they filed their patents late, were part of the creation of the electro-pneumatic marker. As a result, the patent was now jointly shared between the two companies. Jarden Corporation, a company with a varied portfolio of companies, buys K2 Sports and thus also JT, WGP, Viewloader and Brass Eagle.
Between 2005 and 2009, several new paintball guns were released to compete with the Smart Parts Ion. Looking to appeal to the price range of a fully loaded and accessorized Ion, markers such as the Invert Mini and Proto Rail begin hitting the market. Up till now the Halo B paintball loader and the Viewloader VLocity were the only competitive options for the fastest paintball hopper. The Dye Rotor changed all of that. Dye unleashed the Rotor at the 2009 World Cup and it took the high end market by storm for its fast and durable design.
The NPPL and PSP both got paintball on TV, and both times it was not a success. Realizing that television was not the silver bullet to push paintball into the mainstream, the tournament scene began to contract and team sponsorship started to shrink. The NPPL, backed by WDP as its promoting company, ultimately had to declare bankruptcy in 2008. The PSP, absorbing the NXL into its format, continued to be the dominate tournament series. Woodsball continued to grow in addition to the scenario game scene. Big games and scenario games with 1000s of participants all on the field at once, such as Oklahoma D-Day, Skirmish Invasion Of Normandy, and Living Legends began garnering the paintball headlines. Several woodsball tournament leagues begin to form.
All the manufactures now realize that the woodsball and speedball players are equally important. Virtually all models of markers and equipment, if not milsim in design, are also offered in camouflage or variations of black, dark earth, and olive drab. A rising number of players want to play in the woods but not dress or look milsim, and are taking to wearing traditional speedball clothing and using tournament-style markers in subdued colors.
2009 also brought something the industry had not seen in 20 years… a caliber debate! G.I. Milsim (later renamed G.I. Sportz) began pushing a .50 caliber paintball concept, originally marketed as a superior product to .68 caliber. The player response was an immediate and overwhelming “NO!” Both GI (in cooperation with Smart Parts) and Kingman went deep into .50 caliber; it was initially a failure.
2010 and 2011 brought many changes to the industry. Kee Action Sports purchased all the paintball assets of JT, WGP, Viewloader and Brass Eagle from Jarden, making them the dominant distributor of paintball equipment. Smart Parts surprised many by filing for bankruptcy as well as Angel Paintball Sports, formerly known as WDP. The controversial Intellectual Property regarding electronic guns was then purchased by Kee. The Gardner Brothers were certainly not out of paintball as their high end gun company DLX Technologies, making the Luxe paintball gun, was still going strong. They came back later as GoG Paintball and began concentrating on the beginner and intermediate market. Gino Postorivo’s non-compete came to an end and he immediately rolled out Valken Paintball, a new manufacturer and distributor to compete with Kee.
As paintball continues under the strains of a recovering economy, the sport is focused on getting new players into the sport. The big surprise was the rise of .50 caliber paintball play among the rental crowd. Experienced players were very vocal in their disinterest to switch to .50 caliber, but the markers caught on with recreational family-oriented games and with paintball field use as rentals. Because .50 caliber paint impacts with less energy, they become popular for youth-oriented group games and parties. JT released a youth and family alternative using a name from the earliest days of the game. The JT SplatMaster combined pump action plastic markers with an easy to break, proprietary .50 caliber paintball. This system was widely marketed through family and kid media, quickly becoming a new family pastime. Cashing in on the pop culture trends of Halloween activity and zombies, many fields and state fair booths set up a “zombie paintball shoot”, where participants shoot markers at “zombies” attacking them.
In 2013, Kee Action Sports acquired Kingman, while Valken bought Sly Paintball, a popular maker of goggles. In 2014, GI Sports buys Tippmann Sports.