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Different Types of Paintball Guns You Should Know
Equipment plays a part in most sports, even the purest of athletic pursuits like track and field. In an extreme team sport like paintball, it’s even more central; clothing, goggles, helmets, paintballs... you can’t play without them. But at its heart lies the most important piece of gear: the paintball gun.
The Main Types
In spirit, one of the sports that most resembles paintball is tennis. It’s gladiatorial, it’s all about aim, accuracy, power, and strategy, and the players use equipment to fire balls at each other. There are three basic types of tennis racket: Control, Tweener and Power. By pure coincidence, there are also three main types of paintball gun: Pump, Mechanical and Electronic. Each of these has an influence on your firing rate, your accuracy and your budget. Within each group, there are variations, but these are the three distinct operating models. Let’s look at their basic similarities and differences.
The pump action paintball gun is the oldest and simplest version. Its operation is entirely manual, relying on the traditional shotgun pump action to load the chamber and cock the gun for firing. Clearly this is going to make you put more concentration into each shot rather than going for the scatter shot technique, but what it certainly does do is encourage you to develop your field skills and accuracy. Instead of blasting everything in sight, you need to pick your targets and make the most of each shot.
Of course, if you’re playing against opponents armed with semi-automatics, the mismatch in styles could leave you at a disadvantage. For this reason, pump guns may not be ideal for newcomers who probably feel safer with the insurance of a semi-auto’s rapid fire on their first few outings, but as you become more experienced, a pump action gun can make for an extremely satisfying game.
These are the guns you’ll encounter most frequently in casual play. Top-of-the-line ones have made it into the professional sphere, but on the whole they’re the weapon of choice for the serious amateur. They’re mostly semi-automatic, firing one shot each time you pull the trigger, so there’s no need to worry about reloading. They tend to be relatively cheap and easy to maintain, and because most of them use CO2 as well as compressed air, it’s easy to get them refilled.
The most common firing mechanism in mechanical markers is the blowback design. This involves activating a hammer, held under spring tension, which hits and opens the valve, propelling the paintball at the target before allowing another paintball to drop into the breech. Tippmann are one of the brand leaders in this type of market, and this Maddog Tippmann Starter Package is surprisingly affordable. These are great all-rounders.
There was a time when electronic paintball guns were prohibitively expensive, but in recent years, we’ve seen prices come down a lot. The firing mechanism is powered by a 9-volt battery, and you’ll really feel the difference. Instead of much heavier conventional trigger action, with an electronic gun ,you’re simply exerting enough pressure to flick a micro-switch, so it's more like clicking with a mouse than firing a rifle. This also means you can expect a much higher firing rate, plus simple switching between modes because all the settings are controlled via a circuit board. Empire makes some of the best electronic markers around, like the Empire Axe.
Electronic markers fall into three categories: sear tripper, pneumatic poppet valve and spool valve. The first of these is essentially a mechanical marker reconfigured to operate the hammer via the solenoid instead of manual triggering. It’s fast, with several firing modes, and is very easy to maintain. The poppet valve models use a pressure-powered ram in place of the hammer and deliver fast, consistent firing. Spool valve markers have just one moving part, which is the bolt. This means they’re easy to maintain, but one of their additional advantages on the field is that they give virtually no recoil. That’s a considerable bonus in terms of accuracy and physical effort. For the bigger budget, GTEK’s HK Army range has some excellent spool valve models, such as this HK Army Custom Designed and Machined Marker.
How to Choose
All three types of paintball gun have their upsides. A mechanical marker is probably the best choice for getting to know the game, the pump action is great for the work of a marksman and the electronic one is for the seriously committed. Whichever model you choose, however, you’re going to have a great time!