What are Paintball Markers?

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Even on this website, you’ve likely seen the terms paintball guns and paintball markers. What is the difference? What are paintball markers?

Paintball markers are paintball guns, and the terms are used interchangeably. There are three different types of paintball guns, and they all work in similar ways, but they are very different. 

If you want to read more about paintball markers, check out the complete beginner’s guide to paintball.

Why Are They Called Paintball Markers?

Before paintball was a game, paintball markers were used by rangers and farmers to mark trees and cattle from a distance. It wasn’t until years later when a couple of friends were wondering who would be the best survivor; a countryman or a city man, that paintball was invented.

A team of country folk and city folk played against each other, and in the end, it was the countrymen who won. 

paintball marker

Since the first design was used to mark trees and cattle, it was referred to as a marker and not a gun. To this day it is called a marker because it is a less frightening term than a gun, although both are used interchangeably. 

How Do They Work?

Paintball markers have many, many moving parts. The best way to tell you how paintball markers work is to show you first. 

This video slows down the process of how the inside of a paintball marker works. It shows each movement step by step so you can see how each moving piece contributes to the launch of a paintball. 

This video is for a very specific type of gun, but for the most part, they work in similar ways. 

There is a mechanism that advances a paintball into the chamber. When the trigger is pulled, CO2 or compressed air fills a chamber behind the paintball. And when the trigger is released, the built-up pressure launches the paintball down the chamber towards the target. 

What Are The Different Types of Paintball Markers?

There are three different types of paintball markers; pump, mechanical, and electronic. The main differences between the three are how the paintball ends up in the barrel and how the barrel is sealed. 

Pump Paintball Markers

Pump paintball markers are a lot like the very first paintball marker. 

To work a pump marker, you need to manually load the paintball by pumping a shotgun-like pump for every shot. 


Pros:

  • Extremely reliable
  • Can use them on any field
  • Low maintenance
  • Lightweight

Cons:

  • Challenging
  • Slow fire rate

These guns do provide more of a challenge; having to manually load each shot before being able to fire, but a lot of players view this as an asset. 

Players who use a pump marker have to shoot with more accuracy and make each shot count because they may not get the time for a second shot. These players will also save money on paintballs because their accuracy is much more precise than players who fire several shots to hopefully hit their target. 

JT SplatMaster z18 .50 Cal Paintball Marker w/ 200 Round Hopper
  • Shoots up to 100 feet
  • Marksman accuracy up to 50 feet
  • Spring Action Firing
  • No batteries or CO2 needed

They don’t need a lot of maintenance either because they have a very simple design. Unless you have an air leak, all you need to do regularly is wipe down the outside of your marker. 

Once a year, you can give your marker a tune-up by putting 3 drops of air tool oil into the Air Source Adapter (ASA), and dry fire until there is no more mist coming from the barre. Then remove the bolt and wipe it down, and clean the barrel with a squeegee. 

If you keep your gun clean and oil your marker, you probably won’t ever have an internal leak. If you do, you’ll need to take your marker apart and change the O-ring.

Mechanical Paintball Markers

Mechanical Paintball markers are the most used on fields. These types of markers are semi-automatic and fire one shot when the trigger is pulled. 

Mechanical markers are a type of “blowback” marker, which refers to the air that blows the bolt back into position. When the paintball is ready in the barrel, the bolt strikes a pin, which operates the valve to allow air down the barrel, and then the bolt is forced back into position by the expanding of air. 

Pros:

  • Easy to maintain
  • Affordable
  • Easiest to use
  • Easy to set up

Cons:

  • Not as fast or consistent as electronic
  • Louder
  • Fewer shots per air tank

Mechanical markers are great for beginners because they are affordable, easy to use, and are easy to maintain, but their drawbacks during gameplay might outweigh the advantages. 

Mechanical markers need much higher pressure to fire a paintball: between 600-800 psi. By comparison, an electronic marker only needs 200 psi. This means that your air tank is going to empty a lot faster than if you were using a different type of marker. 

T4E New Walther PPQ M2 (GEN2) The Most Realistic.43cal CO2 Semi Auto Blow Back Paintball Pistol - FDE
  • Caliber .43cal (11.1 mm) Paintball/Rubberball/Dust Balls
  • System: Co2 Hard Kick Blow Back - Safe/Semi Auto
  • Magazine Capacity: 8 shots
  • Metal Slide and Barrel
  • Package Includes: Gun, 1x Magazines and Hard Case

The increased pressure also makes these markers louder. This isn’t going to be helpful when you’re trying to discreetly take out your opponents. 

As for the maintenance, they should be cleaned and oiled after every few games. The more often they are cleaned and oiled the better though, so if you have the time it is recommended that you do it after each game. 

If you need to replace an O-ring, mechanical markers are very easy to disassemble. And if any part stops working, replacements are inexpensive and are relatively easy to fix. 

Electronic Paintball Markers

Electronic markers are automatic, and pulling the trigger can cause a burst of shots to happen at once. 

Every time the trigger is pulled it communicates with the circuit board telling it to fire, which then activates the gun. Because circuit boards are programmable, you can change your firing options to fire a three-shot burst, fire automatically, or other firing modes. 

Pros:

  • Consistent
  • Accurate
  • Fast
  • More Shots Per Tank

Cons:

  • Complex
  • Hard to repair
  • Need to keep batteries charged

Quite the opposite of mechanical markers, electronic markers are great for on the field, but their cost, general upkeep, and maintenance are much bigger drawbacks. 

Regulators in the marker make sure that every shot is being fired at the same amount of pressure. This makes your marker much more accurate, but you also don’t use as much air.

To maintain an electronic marker, it is important to clean and oil your marker after each use. It is also important to keep your marker dry. Rain and electronics do not mix well! 

Unless you are mechanically inclined, you’ll have a difficult time repairing your marker. Many players who use an electronic marker opt to take theirs to a professional for repairs because they find it too challenging.

Final Thoughts

A paintball marker is the exact same thing as a paintball gun. The term marker came from its original use as a way to mark trees and cattle from a distance. 

There are three main types of paintball markers, each one with its pros and cons, some that are great for beginners, and some that help you become a better player. 

Hopefully, this guide has helped you learn what a paintball marker is, how they work, and what one is right for you.