Paintball, a sport enjoyed by many young and old, has had a long and somewhat complex history. It is well known for its highly organized tournament play overseen by the International Paintball Federation (IPF). However, the history of paintball guns has gained popularity in the 1980s. As a low-budget recreational activity, played on beaches and vacant lots with nothing but one’s own equipment to use.
Today, paintball is considered an “extreme” sport because of its high level of danger–much like other such sports as skydiving or riding motorcycles. Yet remains one of the most popular teams sports today.
Its history has gone through many changes: from simple beginnings using rudimentary handmade equipment with no defined rules to what we now know as modern paintball. Besides, it plays in professionally designed fields with high-end equipment and strictly enforced rules.
However, the history of paintball can traces back to the early 1970s when Hayes Noel, Bob Gurnsey, and Charles Gaines were college students attending Princeton University.
One summer day in 1978, they were on a fishing trip in southern New Hampshire. After drinking all their beer they started throwing out empty cans at passing cars when suddenly one of them hit a bus driver in the forehead. Soon after this incident–and because of it–Noel decided that instead of throwing cans they should play capture the flag. This idea developed into something called “The Survival Game.” With actual rules set down yet, Gaines went to his family’s sporting goods store and talked the employees into building equipment for it.
Thus, the first paintball gun was created! This weapon consisted of a nail gun with the nails replaced by paintball projectiles. The game took place on an abandoned World War II ammunition dump outside of New Hampshire where Noel kept peacocks as hunting birds. They ran through the fields dodging bullets (paintballs) while trying to seek shelter behind haystacks during intense firefights.
The game became so popular that they played every weekend, even receiving coverage in “People” Magazine. As years passed, others throughout America tried to play this game but were not satisfied because nobody agreed on a set of rules.
In 1981 Bob Gurnsey, a former pro paintball player, attempted to resolve this lack of unity by holding a tournament with ten teams from the east coast competing for an all-expense-paid trip to Hawaii.
Although this was not very successful in terms of attendance, it did show that there were players out there–albeit small in number–who wanted to play paintball professionally. This game is known today as the first National Survival Game (NSG) Championship and took place at Fort Phalanx in Massachusetts on November 13th through 15th 1981.
This event did not bring about any changes immediately; however, it did lay some groundwork for future plays. By 1986 companies such as Dräger, Nelson Paint Company Brass Eagle Eyeshields, JT SplatMaster, and NASCI had begun to mass-produce the equipment used in the game. At this point, paintball has become more popular across America with players participating in Leagues and Tournaments.
During this time period is when Charles Gaines created the “Official Rulebook of Paintball” which is now known as the Universal Soft Marker Technical Rules. These rules remain virtually unchanged even today in the history of paintball–with only slight modifications being made every few years.
It is still recognized throughout the world by paintball enthusiasts everywhere. While many people enjoy playing recreational paintball today, there are some who continue to play professionally either participating in tournaments or playing the Survival Game exclusively.