what is a paintball marker?

What is a Paintball Marker

You might know what a paintball gun is, but have you heard about paintball “markers”? What is a paintball marker, anyway? Is a paintball marker the same thing as a paintball gun, or is it used to mark something on the paintball field of play? Admittedly, the terminology is confusing, but this article will clear it up for you.

So, what is a paintball marker? A paintball marker is an older name for a paintball gun. Before paintball was a sport, paintball guns and paintballs were used to mark trees or cattle at a distance. Hence, paintball guns were called paintball markers for that function.

Wow! Read on to learn more about how paintball markers became paintball guns!

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Paintball Marker vs Gun: What is a Paintball Marker?

Essentially, a paintball marker is just a paintball gun.

paintball marker vs gun

Paintball guns, before the sport of paintball was invented as the National Survival Game in the 80s, were called paintball markers because they were used by forestry services and ranchers to mark trees and cattle.

The developer, Charles Nelson, created paintballs and paintball markers so that these workers could mark trees, cattle, or other things at far distances or across difficult terrain, such as rivers, ravines, or dense brush.

A paintball marker itself is an air gun that uses compressed gases or air to shoot paintballs, gelatinous spheres filled with dyes or paint, at a target.

Earlier paintball markers, such as the NelSpot 007 were more simple, only allowing for single shots. Now, paintball markers are more complex and are usually able to hold and fire multiple shots at impressive firing rates.

What are the Parts of a Paintball Marker?

Paintball markers can be broken down into four distinct parts: 

  • Gun/Body
  • Loader
  • Barrel
  • Air tank.

Some paintball markers can be customized to include different parts, pieces, and styles, while others come in fixed form.


The body of a paintball gun has these main components: trigger frame, bolt, and valve.

Most markers are made from aluminum.

Triggers are the button that is pushed by a player to shoot a paintball. The trigger frame houses the trigger.

The bolt and valve assembly is the mechanism that fires the marker after the trigger is pushed. The valve controls the firing of the marker and the bolt controls the entry of paintballs into the chamber by directing the flow of air or gas.

The gun or the body of a paintball marker come in several different forms, depending on the fuel type for the marker.

If the paintball functions mechanically, then it will have one of the following actions: pump/bolt action, double action, throwback semi-auto, blow forward semi-auto, or pneumatically operated semi-auto.

Some markers are electropneumatically operated, which means they use electromagnets in their triggering devices instead of mechanically triggers.


Loaders, also known as hoppers, are the holding and loading tool for a paintball marker. Loaders can be split into four distinct types:

  • Stick feeds
  • Gravity feeds
  • Agitating hoppers
  • Force-feed hoppers

Stick feeds are simple tubes that hold between 10 and 20 paintballs.

Gravity feeds are hoppers that are large containers, filled with paintballs, which rely on gravity to feed the paintballs into the gun. Gravity feeds can become jammed occasionally, but turning the paintball gun to the side can help fix this.

Agitating hoppers use a small motor and propeller within the hopper to forcibly feed the paintballs into the gun. Much like agitating hoppers, force-feed hoppers force paintballs into the gun, but with an impeller instead of a propeller.

Markers with higher rates of fire will benefit from agitating and force-feed hoppers as they are more reliable at quickly feeding paintballs. Force-feed hoppers tend to dominate tournaments.


The barrel of a paintball marker attaches to the gun’s body and directs the paintball by controlling the release of the gas pocket behind the paintball.

There are different sizes of barrels, both length and width.

The most important feature of a paintball gun barrel is the interior diameter of the barrel which determines the bore size of the barrel. These bore sizes correspond to different sized paintballs.

Much like the body of a paintball gun, barrels are most often made of aluminum to decrease the overall weight of the gun.

Air Tank

The air tank a paintball marker uses depends on the type of fuel needed for that marker. These tanks hold compressed gas or air which is used to propel the paintballs out of the gun, through the barrel, and at the target.

The most common fuel types are Carbon Dioxide, High Pressure Air, and Propane.

Often, the compressed gas or air is regulated by a gas regulator which affects both accuracy and firing velocity of the paintballs.

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