Paintball Guns / Markers
Obviously, the only way to play paintball is with a gun or marker. Originally developed as a recreational sport, paintball grew fast to become both a competitive sport as well as a combat training exercise for military units around the world.
- Material – Using special materials to make the gun sturdier and more resilient to knocks and usage as well as barrels designed for higher accuracy and smoother delivery.
- Speed – methods to speed up the delivery of paintball pellets and the shooting speed and range.
- Maneuverability – designs made to hold guns with easier maneuverability when considering the gas balloon attachment as well as the pellet feeding methods.
- Accuracy – providing real-life accuracy similar to actual guns.
Types of Paintball Guns
Electronic guns are the most advanced paintball marking systems on the market today. These units incorporate software and hardware to activate electro-mechanical firing mechanisms that harness the speed and computational efficiency to provide the user with the most reliable firing operation. The firing mechanism integrates solenoid valves and spool valve mechanism, which reduces the number of moving parts to a bare minimum.
As a golden rule of mechanics, the less moving parts in a system, the more reliable the system will be. Most electronic models incorporate multiple fitting methods, such as single shot, semi-automatic and fully automatic. The more advanced models can be programmable for a double shot, and staccato. Professional players and competitors will only be found with the latest electronic paintball guns.
This is still the most popular paintball operating mechanism today, partly due to cost and partly due to the number of professionals and amateurs that prefer a non-power source reliant system. These are the most reliant models that do not require a power source other than your hand.
However, they are not programmable, and they only fire according to pre-set methods. In most cases they are single shot, but with a quick repeating mechanism based on compressed gas.
Paintball Gun Parts
Propellant Systems Overview
There are some different propellants used by various paintball guns. These include: Carbon Dioxide (CO2), High-Pressure Air (HPA) and Nitrogen (N). No matter which gas you use, they are all inert, which means they are fireproof and safe to use.
This is the most commonly used and cheapest propellant. The downside of CO2 is that it is a cold gas, which means that it tends to freeze both the player and the gun during intense usage. This “freeze up” is a much-feared issue and can mean the end of a game for a player as well as damage to the gun, which will cost the player to replace.
HP and Nitrogen are similar in the property, after all, HPA is 72% Nitrogen. These two inert gasses are used by competitors and are very reliable. Both gases do not lead to “freeze up,” and both gases maintain a constant flow. The only difference between these gasses and CO2 is price, and as ever, personal budgets dictate a lot, that is why some people drive Porsches and others, well don’t.
Apart from the firing mechanism, the most important part of any gun us its barrel. The barrel is where the pellet leaves the weapon, and a good barrel will provide excellent release properties that can speed up as well as increase accuracy.
Aluminum barrels are cheap and light, but they are also soft and bendable.
These are more fragile than aluminum but are excellent conductors, and even broken paintballs will not hinder this material.
Stainless steel barrels
While these barrels are heavier than other materials, they are affordable and strong. These are the best budget barrel material to buy. They won’t bed or break.
Carbon fiber barrels
These are the most expensive barrels and the bets there are. Carbon Fiber is used in military applications for the most advanced weapons. So, it’s expected to perform best for paintball too, but only if you can afford a Porsche.
Slightly less expensive than Carbon Fiber, but also less common, are Titanium barrels that provide the strength of Stainless Steel at 1/3 the weight.
Yes, Brass, that good old nearly gunmetal material, used for centuries to deliver death. This is perhaps the best material for your barrel and is cheap too. However, it is a soft material, and since it is thin, it will bend very easily.
My take: If you are a serious competitor, you need Titanium or Carbon Fiber. If you are a frequent player, you need stainless steel for durability. If you are a Sunday player, it doesn’t matter what barrel you have. If you don’t mind changing barrels, then brass is a great consideration.
Centre Feed or Side Feed?
There are two feeder options, a center feed that sits on top of the firing mechanism or a side feed, that enters the gun from the side of the body. Both mechanisms are good, the side feed is perfect for the sniper, while the center feed is best for the full-frontal attack. The type of feed is purely personal, so you should actually practice with both and be adept at either method. Most guns come with a customization kit that will enable you to change the feed direction.
Fields of Play
As it sounds, woodsball is played in a woodland arena. These grounds are large, with a lot of trees, foliage, and other natural terrain hiding places. Players go in and either fight it out against each other or try to traverse a course with targets.
This kind of scenario can also be played in a built-up area, providing a house to house combat scenarios that many military personnel trains with. In this case, two and three player teamwork is considered to be essential. The woodsball gun is usually lightweight, easy to maneuver and fast to operate.
Scenario Paintball (Mil-Sim)
This is the military operations simulator. Many different scenarios can be played out here, including hostage release, capture the command or flag, and guerilla warfare scenarios. Also, anti-terrorism scenarios a replayed out here, with cars and buildings.
The guns will either match the scenario and can include an assortment of military-style weapons, handguns, and shotguns. Woodsball guns have been used on occasions, but they do not truly capture the nature of a Mil-Sim, so they are usually frowned upon.
This is a fast-paced 3-4-minute game that involves thousands of pellets being fired from all directions with only a limited amount of coverage. The guns have to be fast, really fast, so most speedball (if not all) games are played with electronic guns. If you don’t have an electronic gun, make sure your mechanical weapon responds well, you only have a few minutes and microseconds to react.
Paintball Gun Culture
Being an ex-army engineer, I have had my fair share of action as well as handling all kinds of interesting devices. As with choosing a gun or a device, you need to suit the weapon for the task, and since there are usually many options to choose from when it comes to guns, the same goes for Paintball.
There is no real “best,” only what suits you “the best,” there are different qualities and styles, and there are better and worse guns. In this review, I will only present you with the guns from reliable brands. The makers of these entertainment weapons use the best materials and have the best quality controls in their production process.
That is why choosing the “best” gun is a personal affair, and anyone of these guns reviewed here is best for you. Just try them out until you find the one that sits in your arms and reacts to your requests smoothly.
Paintball Gun/Marker Buying Tips
Before you go out and take a mortgage to buy the most expensive gun on the market, sit back, take a deep breath and think. Think of the following questions:
- How many times do I want to play a month?
- What kind of games or competitions do I want to play in?
- How many gun types do I want?
- What is my operating budget?
Once you answer these questions, then you can begin to define which gun or guns you need to buy. Most professional players that go at least once a week if not multiple times a week will own more than one type of gun and match each weapon to each specific game.
Amateurs that play once or twice a month should own their own weapon, maybe even two for different scenarios. Sunday players, going into a range less than once a month don’t need to buy a gun, rent one…it’s Cheaper. However, if you still want a gun, then buy a model that suits the type of range you will play in, and don’t get the most expensive one. Get one that is reliable.
Take into consideration the following factors:
Weight: always seek a lightweight weapon, usually under 2.2 kilos (5 pounds), you don’t want to get tired.
Feel: this is perhaps the most important factor when you try out a gun, check to see how it feels in your hands, and how it responds to you. Just like a bike or a car, everyone has a preference, and that preference is mutual.
Price: match the gun price to your budget, don’t spend a fortune on a gun, unless you want to show off, and then, well, go buy a gold one with diamond bling.
The bottom line is this: Paintball is a sport, as well as an entertainment, it is also a tactical engagement simulation, so go in there, kick ass and destroy your opponents. This review will present you with the tip rated paintball guns/markers, I will not go into too many technical details, but will give you my personal take, which is over 30 years of service and over 10 years with paintball simulations behind me.
Here are the best paintball guns:
This is a Mil-Sim model that provides all the power and accuracy of a Tippman gun in a neat military body. It is made up of a high-impact composite body and comes with an internal gas line. The body has multiple Picatinny rails and a vertical grip, as well as front and rear sights for better aim accuracy. Your hands will grip onto a molded rubber, and you can add many options including a stock and mock silencer.
- Light-weight – just 3.7 pounds
- .68 Caliber
- CO2 & HPA Air Capability
- Mechanical Trigger
- 9 Inch Stock Barrel
- Black & Tan Dessert Op Tactical Exterior
- Gravity Feed for Paintballs
- Open Bolt Blow Back
My take: If you want to feel like special ops, then this is the model you want. Just don’t wear a big red helmet. Otherwise, you will ruin the whole effect.
You will find that I include a few Tippmann models, that’s because they are my preferred gun makers and because they are good at what they do. The Tippmann A-5 is one of the most popular Woodsball and scenario models around.
This is an aluminum gun with a cyclone feed system that fires up to 15 balls a second and can be customized with a wide range of options. You also get a two position external selector switch so you can lock your weapon for safety. (just like a real gun) Also, this gun can be field stripped in under a minute.
- Cyclone feed system feeds 15 balls per second
- Switch to change from safe to fire mode
- Can be disassembled in under 60 seconds, without tools.
- Aluminum Body
- Low Profile offset 200 ball capacity hopper for better field visibility
- 8.5” Barrel
- Co2, HPA air or nitrogen driven
- 20” total length 3.1 lbs
- 150 ft range
My take: This is a great model for all levels, from beginners to professionals.
The Kingman Spyder MR100 Semi-Auto Paintball Gun is a Woodsball weapon of choice. The design includes the popular stacked tube blowback which is extremely gas efficient. This model comes with a collapsible stock and 7/8″ tactical rails so you can mount any accessory you feel like. This unit provides 1500 shots from a 20oz CO2 tank and integrates aluminum with high impact polymer for lightweight performance.
- Shoots up to 1500 shots from a 20oz CO2 Tank
- All Aluminum Constructed Body
- Aluminum Trigger Frame
- Aluminum Magazine Style Fore-Grip
- Standard Picatinny Rail
- Removable Composite Shoulder Stock
- Durable Matte Anodized Finish
- No-Slip Rubber Grip Panels
- Quick Strip Delrin Bolt
- 12” Muzzle Break Barrel
- Off-Set Feed Neck
- Two Finger Trigger
- Angled Bottomline with Drop Forward
- Operates on CO2 or Compressed Air
My take: What can I say, it looks good, and if you wear the right attire and get into character you might even provide para-military scale action.
If you are seeking an all-metal (aluminum) mil-sim weapon, then the Project Salvo is your best choice. This is an all-aluminum marker with a high performance 11” ported barrel, it comes with top and side Picatinny rails, and a magazine that is in fact for tool storage.
- 11-inch quick-thread anodized barrel
- Removable/adjustable front sight
- Front sling mount
- Four built-in Picatinny rails
- Quick-release feeder elbow
- Durable, all-aluminum die-cast receiver
- Built-in tool storage AR-15-style magazine
- Heavy-duty stainless steel braided gas line
- Under 3-pound trigger pull
- Removable/adjustable rear sight
My take: It doesn’t matter if you served or not, this is a great M16 style looking gun, very good in mil-sim arena’s.
This is another Tippmann classic; the 98 Custom is a lightweight polymer gun with an aluminum receiver and an e-trigger and response trigger kit. This unit is one of the most popular paintball models in the market, and apart from being easy to upgrade comes with Picatinny rails, a split receiver and an easy to remove power tube. The body comes with a vertical front grip, and provides semi-automatic fire, with an effective range of up to 150 feet.
- Vertical removable fore-grip
- Removable feed elbow
- Built-in adjustable “iron sight”
- 3/8 Inch Dovetail accessory rail and 7/8″ Weaver style rail
- Bottomline air feed
- In-line Blow-back operation
- Stock barrel length: 8.5 in (216 mm)
- Caliber: 0.68 in (17.3 mm)
- Cyclic rate: 30+ Cycles per second
- Weight: 2.9 lb (1.3 kg)
My take: Do you remember those WWII scenes where the spy had a small nasty looking semi-automatic pistol to shoot USSR Commie Generals? Well, this is that model, it just screams cold war.
The Empire Mini™ GS is an ultra-compact gun that delivers everything it claims to provide. This new all-aluminum design includes a full wrap-around rubber foregrip and an On/Off ASA that eliminates thread issues.
The new design includes Empires known for features that are a hoseless design, a clamping feed neck, and a Pressure controlled poppet engine with an integrated break-beam anti-chop eye. It comes with multiple adjustable firing modes and a Venting ASA regulator.
- Pressure Controlled Poppet Engine
- Break Beam Anti Chop Eyes
- Fully Adjustable Trigger
- Clamping Feed-neck
- Multiple Adjustable Firing Modes
- Wrap Around Rubber Foregrip
- Venting On/Off ASA
- Through Grip Air Transfer – No Air Hoses
- Micro-honed Ported Aluminum Barrel – Cocker
- Only Two Allen Keys Needed
My take: This is a professional marker for a professional player and is a great unit to practice on as well as to compete with.
Whether you love Apocalypse Now or Predator, the M-16 look alike Alpha Black Elite provides you with both the Military looks as well as the paintball performance you would expect from a Tippman gun. Just like the real deal, this gun comes with Picatinny rails, two full-automatic modes, and a three-shot safety burst. It also features the M-16 style collapsible stock for providing different handling modes.
- All aluminum cast body for extreme durability
- Heavy duty stainless steel braided airline
- Quick release hinged feed elbow
- 6 position collapsible stock
- Compatible with E-Grip, Response Trigger and Cyclone Feed Systems
- Removable mock magazine with interior tool storage
- Removable M4-style carry handle with rear sight
- Cast 7/8″ picatinny body rail
- 11″ 98 Custom threaded barrel
- M4 barrel shroud with raised front sight and bottom 7/8″ tactical rail
My take: Yup, the actual full M16 version, brings back a lot of memories and is a great feel. I actually felt very comfortable with this one, but that’s only because I held a real one for over 20 years.
Looking for accuracy and speed? You want to play Woodsball or speedball, then this is your weapon of choice. The two-piece Driver XX barrel gives you increased accuracy and a perfect ball-to-barrel match. This Empire marker weighs 10% less, and grips are now made with micro-texture that improves hand grip even when splattered by paint.
This is Empires most weatherproof model to date. The new Axe features a pressure-controlled poppet engine with a shockwave board that gives multiple adjustable firing modes, and Empires bespoke Relay™ venting ASA regulator with On/Off lever. The wrap-around foregrip with micro-texture gives added gripping control, and the foregrip is not adaptable to the drop-in OLED Redline™ board.
- Pressure controlled poppet engine for proven, reliable performance
- Externally serviceable, break-beam anti-chop laser eyes
- Shockwave board offers multiple adjustable firing modes (Semi, Ramp, Burst, Full Auto)
- Relay venting ASA regulator with On/Off lever
- Wrap-around foregrip with micro-texture for non-slip protection from the elements
- Foregrip accepts the aftermarket drop-in OLED Redline board
- Push button bolt removal system for tool-less engine maintenance
- Lightweight and accurate Driver XX two-piece barrel
- Superior velocity consistency for shot-on-shot accuracy
- Low pressure operation is gentle on fragile paint
- 10% Weight savings over previous generation Axe
My take: this is another great woodsball or speedball model and should be in the hands of a professional player. If you are looking to upgrade, then this is your weapon of choice.
The X7 Phenom is for all avid woodsball players seeking the integration of a sleek design with a military-style body. This model has over 202 different modifications that can reconfigure your gun any way you like.
This model comes with the patented FlexValve® Technology that provides low-pressure operation features that virtually eliminates recoil. This gun operates below 300 psi. and is compatible with CO2 or HPA.
- Action: Semi-Automatic (Open Bolt Blow Forward Spool Valve System)
- Hopper Capacity: 200 Paintballs
- Feed Rate: 15 BPS
- Capable Gases: NO2, CO2
- Firing Rate: 8 BPS
- Trigger: mechanical
- Barrel Length: 9.5 inches
- Body Length: 9.75 inches
- Weight: 3.92 pounds
- Effective Range: 150+ feet
My take: If you want a smaller milk-sim model, then this is your model of choice. Sort of an Uzi hybrid, but without the weight, believe me, an Uzi is heavy.
Where would I be without a handgun option? Here it is, my preferred small JT ER2 Pump Pistol. This kit includes the JT ER2 pump action pistol with 2 x 12 Gram CO2 Cylinders and 3 x 10 Count Paintball Tubes.
It has a smooth action single trigger pull that gives you a recoilless lightweight experience. This is a great choice for residential scenarios including hostage release and anti-terrorist simulations.
- .68 Caliber pump marker
- Lightweight Composite Construction
- Smooth Pump Action
- Uses 12-gram CO2 cartridges
My take: I like this semi-transparent model, while it doesn’t really mimic a handgun in color, it does mimic it in design and handling.
The Kaos 2 is a modern comes with a 12″ multiphase honed barrel, an all-aluminum lightweight, sturdy body, a 45-degree gas through foregrip with slim dovetail ASA and a stainless-steel hose. It is CO2 and HPA compatible and comes with a 20ox CO2 tank and a 200 round paintball loader.
- 12″ Multiphase Honed Barrel
- Lighter Body
- Screw-Lock Feedneck
- 45 Degree Gas Thru Foregrip
- Double Trigger Frame
- Slim Dovetail ASA
- Stainless Steel Hose
- Feather Striker
- Quick Strip Bolt and Striker Assembly
- Compatible w/ CO2 and HPA Silver
Perhaps one of the leading small handhelds around. The Tippman military style revolver is an extremely lightweight model. This baby comes with a CO2 under barrel air system that weighs in at 12 grams! This unit comes with two 7 ball feeder magazines and minimal recoil. It comes with Picatinny rails, an external velocity adjustment controller, and a removable barrel.
- Metal Trigger Punctures C02 On First Pull
- 2 Self-Locking 7-Ball Magazine Clips
- Quick Release Magazine Feed System
- Under Barrel 12 Gram C02 Air System
- Easy To Load 1/4 Turn C02 Cap
- External Velocity Adjuster
- Internal Regulator
- Ability to Add Remote Line
- Ergonomically Designed Grip
- Co vered Ammo Windows
- Re movable Barrel with X7 Threads
My take: A great sim handheld, this will give you all the simulation scenarios you require at an affordable price.
Here it is (drum roll), the Etek 5, an ultra-light, ultra-fast speedball, Woodsball gun that has a redesigned frame based on the LV1. The main changes include the low-pressure firing mechanism that uses an enlarged valve chamber releasing pellets at a pressure of 150-165 psi.
It also comes with a three-color LED interface that enables you to upgrade to a super-bright OLED screen without replacing more parts. The Etek5’s tough composite grip frame comes with a soft tip cure bolt and Zick 3 rammer kit.
My take: There are no words to describe how good this model is, apart from the fab colors its performance, and accuracy is nearly unparalleled. Did I say it looks good?
- Zick3 Rammer System
- Cure5 Bolt Internal LPR
- SL4 Inline Regulator Inline OOPS
- Larger Valve Chamber 85psi LPR Pressure 150psi
- Inline Pressure Contoured Dual-Density Grip and Console Dual-Density Unibody Foregrip
- Durable SMC Solenoid Valve Tool-less Bolt
- Rammer and Valve Removal 14.5”
- Two-Piece Barrel (Shaft4 compatible)
- Infra-Red Break Beam Sensors
- RGB LED Interface 16-Bit Microprocessor – 16 MIPS
- Deftek Offset Feed Tube Lever
- Operated Clamping Feed
- Integrated Rammer Housing
- Integrated FRM Magnetic Trigger Return Ramping and Semi-Auto Modes
This is Umarex’s Walther look alike pistol that is so real, you end up worrying if you are firing paintball pellets or real bullets. This model uses CO2 and comes with an eight-round magazine that provides real-life simulation.
- Magazine capacity 8 shot(s)
- Velocity 105 m/s
- Energy < 7.5 Joule(s)
- Length 171 mm
- Weight 532 / 850 (with magazine) g
My take: “Are you looking at me?” Yup, the ultimate real-life looking handheld there is. You don’t get much more realistic. I only wish it came with the same weight as the real model, then the sim would be perfect.