The History of Paintball

The History of Paintball

The sport of paintball came about quite accidently. Paint markers (guns) were initially made to be used to mark cattle on ranches to make counting and keeping track of herds easier. The United States Forestry Service used markers to shoot trees that were infested with parasites, bugs, insects and other afflictions. The marked trees were then cut down to keep the infestation from moving on to other trees. Logging companies adapted the practice of marking trees so that workers would know which trees to cut down and harvest.

Eventually, someone got the idea that the markers and paint pellets could be used to play a rather elaborate game comprised of hide-n-seek, tag, and capture the flag. The premise was that players would hide their flag in the woods and then run around attempting to find the other person’s flag. While searching, they had to avoid being hit by a paint pellet; otherwise, they were eliminated from the game. From there, larger groups of people started playing the game and teams developed.

Initially, there was no protective gear beyond wearing camouflage hunting gear and protective face goggles from a hardware store. But early players did not mind this and played the game simply for the enjoyment. As teams began to develop, more elaborate strategies and variations of the game began to spring up. The game started to take on tones of military conquest and war. Variations included establishing bases that contained the flags of the teams. Opponents would have to make their way from their base, through the woods, to the opponent’s base, capture the flag and then make their way back to their base, all without being hit. Other variations included once a player was hit, they had to surrender and be taken to the opponent’s base and held as a prisoner.

The game of paintball was originally called survival. In 1981, Sports Illustrated featured an article about a new survival game and thus paintball was officially introduced to the public at large. As popularity spread, so did playing fields. The game moved from out of the woods to cornfields. People began to set up open fields laden with obstacles, barricades, and bases. Since then, the game has grown in popularity at a phenomenal rate. The rate of growth can be attributed with turning paintball from a game that is played on weekends by a group of men into a professional sport, with professional teams, arenas, and spectators.


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