When Was Paintball Invented: The History of Paintball Sport. You’ve probably played paintball at some point in your life. But you might not have asked yourself: how did this sport come to be? Paintball history is split into two parts. First, there’s the history of the equipment: where it came from and how it evolved over time. Next, there’s the history of the sport in general: where it was played and what rules were used.
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When Was Paintball Invented: The History of Paintball Sport
Let’s take a look at both bits — just don’t get too distracted thinking about whether you should be using a pump or a blowgun!
Paintball’s history is long and storied – When Was Paintball Invented
Paintball was invented in New Hampshire in the late 1960s by a man named Charles Gaines, who was a military enthusiast. He named the game “Paintball” after the object used in the game: paintballs, which are spherical gelatin capsules containing non-toxic, water-soluble paint.
This bubbles on contact with water, creating a smoky, bubbling effect and making the tiny capsules appear realistic (and therefore “fictional”). Gaines consulted an engineer to design the gun itself, and by the 1980s, paintballs were being used to simulate the sound and feel of firing a gun.
In 1981, Gaines created the first paintball arena, which used a 10-foot diameter tube suspended from a mile-long truck — essentially, an open-air stadium designed to house thousands of players at once.
Gaines and his partners also started events in malls and convention centers — which was problematic for two main reasons: And it didn’t take long for the hobby to grow beyond the confines of the arena. By this point, the paintball boom had spread across the country and the world — countries including Iran, Mexico, and the United Kingdom.
Since each event took place on its own rectangular playing field with a mirrored side to help players judge when to fire and where to cover, it made paintball an incredibly versatile sport. It became a spectator sport, as well as a social one.
During the ’90s, the World Professional Paintball Association (WPPPA) organised several large-scale events — including the largest indoor and outdoor paintball battle and the largest indoor paintball event ever staged. And that’s where the sport really took off.
WPPPA president Jeff Makowski (no relation to Charles) succinctly summed up the transition from arena to playing field by saying: Academia plus five friends would play paintball in a backyard. Course, a backyard was a pretty specific definition, and tennis courts, soccer fields, even gyms — they all became fair game for bored teens and twenty-somethings playing a popular pastime.
The history of paintball goes way back to the early 1800’s – When Was Paintball Invented
For those of you who don’t know, paintball is a sport where two teams compete against each other in a field and shoot each other with paintballs. The first paintball gun was built back in 1846 by American inventor Nelson King, who wanted to protect his turkey flock from predators. He fed birds small bits of lead dipped in turpentine and hoped to scare them off.
During the first match, King fired the shot that made everybody’s ears ring: an “augmented” lead ball. After that, paintball went through a lot of trials before people realized it was a lot safer to shoot at each other than to run into a deadly predator. As you can see in the image below (not an actual photo!), early paintball guns used spent gunpowder as their propelling (or gun)powder.
To get the paintballs flying, you needed to pressurized the air inside the gun to create more pressure to push the paintballs out. This pumping process used a lot of energy — an extremely dangerous one, at that! Luckily, the popularity of paintball around the same time that guns started using it saw the death of King’s inflation pump by a competitor when it malfunctioned (a common outcome in paintball).
Another big problem was that paintball guns used a lot of fuel (gunpowder). Fuel is not super energy efficient — to create the pressure in your tank to fire that pricey paintball, you need a lot of energy to do it. Even more annoying: if you used too much fuel, you wouldn’t be able to shoot every ball in that match — the game would be over.
Paintball guns didn’t come cheap. Early models used gunpowder (which is pretty useless for modern day applications) and expenses went up with each model. Gunpowder was hard and expensive to come by, so it wasn’t that practical to use it — even for the lighter guns, which are what most people end up shooting with when they play. Large guns could use tons of gunpowder, which was both heavy and impractical.
Paintball was first used for warfare, but not in the way you’d expect – When Was Paintball Invented
Paintball is a pretty popular sport these days, but it was actually invented for military training! The first paintball game was held in 1981 by a group of friends who converted their farm into a paintball field. They wanted to create a sport that replicated the feeling of warfare in a way that was less dangerous than the real thing.
The sport gained popularity among law enforcement and military personnel, but it was still largely played by recreational players. It wasn’t until the 90s that professional paintball was established. It’s estimated that 4.3 million people played paintball in 2018, which might not sound like much…but back in 1987, that number was just a few thousand.
At the time of the first modern paintball match, there was no official league or hiss league, only semi-anonymous players bringing matches to each other online. One of the earliest recorded paintball matches was held in 1889, with the rules being similar to today’s — players used paint to color the field, and they attempted to match wits with one another using one or two guns at a neutral site.
It was the first known sport exclusively played with paintballs — the first historical match was won by a Maryland boy using a patent-protected paint cartridge. The sport changed throughout the 1900s, with holds paved over the years and the sport peaking in popularity during the World Wars.
It wasn’t until the start of the 60s that professional paintball was established along with most of America, where the sport has been growing ever since. Let’s take a closer look at the equipment: Paintballs have been used since the 1600s.
They’re typically made of clay or other absorbent materials that contain toxic chemicals. You’d think that it’d be hard to come by since they’re obviously fairly expensive. You’d be wrong.
There are two periods when paintball was most popular: the 1970’s and today!
Paintball has been around since the 1960’s, but it wasn’t until the ’70s and ’80s when it really hit it off. There’s a lot of elements to blame for paintball’s unusual rise — the growing military presence, the rise of organized play, and the resurgence of sporting activity in general. But there’s one element of the paintball explosion that is often overlooked: the internet.
2000 was the first real boom for paintball: there was such a boom, in fact, that somebody went to prison for predictive analytics-inspired predictions. Back in 2000, Andrew Bucholtz was working for the St. Louis Department of Environmental Services. Battling a diagnosis of ALS, he was trying to understand the effectiveness of their air quality plans.
The data he was collecting kept pointing to a nasty smog that was hanging over the city. Bucholtz had his suspicions about air quality, though — so much so, that he presented everything he was finding to superiors, all of whom dismissed the data as nothingness. He was right. The data he was collecting was nothingness, though.
The internet was the chemical agent that turned it into something. Through a study conducted by University of California researcher Daniele Chiari, here’s how one entered the picture. The study found that if the St. Louis Department of Environmental Services dipped a paintbrush in a solution of greenhouse gases, it could improve how accurately data was recorded for days, weeks, or months.
Within a few months, they had data that was better than the departments. But why? Where did they get this data? Let’s take a look at the internet and where paintball went from there. The World Wide Web was widely panned at the time, and it still feels odd today.
When was paintball invented? It depends on what you mean by “invented.”
It depends on what you mean by “invented.” Paintball is one of the many variations of the game of capture the flag, and capture the flag has been played for a long time. But paintball was invented in 1981 when a man named Charles Gaines was going to a barbecue and he wanted to play a game that was more interesting than capture the flag.
In order to play paintball, participants cover an area with a material they’ve modified to simulate urine and paint. Some of the side effects of paintball include rashes, blurry vision, and nosebleeds… so everyone wins in the end. In 1987, Tom Bilyeu, a painter from New York, created the first iteration of the modern paintball gun.
Paintballs used at the time contained copper, gunshot powder, and paint thinner. Bilyeu took the idea that people in the 1980s were bigger and stronger than they had been in decades, and over the course of the decade, paintball equipment evolved from guns to blanks to paint guns (modern versions also often use less toxic paint), and paintball videos started to spread online.
In the early 2000s, fans of paintball started growing and creating their own paintball patches and army bases. By that time, there were gun range owners in almost every state in the country, so there was a need for a paintball national league that could host championships. To create this national league, they needed a name, and once again Bilyeu had a suggestion.
“As a painter, I always enjoy nick-naming things. If an ad can be overlooked if it has unrelated descriptive words, paints can be overlooked,” Bilyeu said. So, he and his designer friend Ben Ladwig came up with a new national name: paintball.
In the late 2000s, the PAPA (Plan-A-Paintball Association) was founded and has since sponsored several paintball championships around the U.S. The PAPA’s prize is, of course, bragging rights: the smooth-talking, chest-beating leader of the pack who bravely dominates the paintball field and commands the respect and admiration of everyone who plays with them.