paintball marker

Markers 101: A Guide to Paintball Guns for Beginners

The first sanctioned paintball game was played on June 27, 1981 in a forest near Henniker, New Hampshire. In the 40 years since, countless players have joined in on this adrenaline-inducing action sport. 

If you're a fan of first-person shooter video games, paintball could be a great way for you to get off the couch and into the action. However, many would-be paintball players find the sport intimidating, especially when it comes to paintball guns.

Fortunately, all paintball guns, also called markers, are composed of the same basic parts and work on the same principle. A hopper holds the paintballs, a tank of compressed gas provides the propulsion, and the barrel controls the accuracy and speed of your shot.

Read on for an in-depth look at how all the components of a paintball gun work together. 

Markers

paintball marker breakdown

Marker is simply another name for a paintball gun. The term harkens back to the first-ever paintball guns. In the 1960s, cattle ranchers and forest workers used paint guns to "mark" choice livestock or trees due for felling.

Markers come in all different sizes, shapes and specifications. Let’s take a look at the different types and components of markers to build a better understanding.

Mechanical and Electric Markers

Markers can either be mechanical or electric. While one offers distinct advantages over the other, it's important to understand the difference.

Mechanical markers are semi-automatic guns. When you pull the trigger, a bolt forces the paintball into the barrel. One trigger pull fires one paintball.

With electric paintball guns, the firing process is governed by a circuit board. The circuit board connects to solenoid valves, which allow the gun to fire automatically. Electric markers can be programmed to fire at different rates, which isn't possible with a mechanical marker.

Many players will argue that electric markers are simply superior to mechanical markers. The trigger is easier to pull, they're more accurate, and they can fire at a much quicker rate.

Paintball Gun Body

The body of your paintball gun houses the bolt, trigger frame, and valve. These are the most important components when it comes to firing your marker. The bolt pushes the paintball into the firing position, the valve seals it in place, and the trigger causes the gun to fire.

Most marker bodies are made of aluminum, due to their lightweight but durable nature.

The marker body is also where you'll be able to express your personal style. Many marker bodies are anodized or milled to give each gun a distinctive appearance. 

Hopper/Loader

The hopper or loader holds your paintball rounds, and most hoppers can hold around 200 rounds. There are three common types of hoppers.

Gravity-Fed

As their name suggests, gravity-fed hoppers rely on gravity to feed paintballs into the marker through a tube at the bottom of the hopper. They're always fastened to the top of the marker.

Gravity-fed hoppers are some of the most inexpensive hoppers and work best when paired with a mechanical marker. They are, however, prone to jamming, but proper maintenance can help so it doesn’t jam as often. 

Agitating

Agitating hoppers make use of a battery-powered propeller to prevent jamming. This allows the paintballs to enter the marker more rapidly, improving your rate of fire and reducing the likelihood of your gun jamming at an important point in the game.

Force-Fed

Force-fed hoppers are even more efficient than agitating hoppers. A spring-loaded valve or a belt pushes the rounds into the marker. Electric markers should always be paired with a force-fed hopper, as these hoppers are the only ones capable of keeping up with an electric marker's rate of fire.

Air Tank

The air tank holds the compressed air or gas that fires the round out of the paintball gun. You'll have the choice between high-pressure air (HPA) or carbon dioxide. 

HPA is preferred by professionals and anyone who takes paintball seriously. Nitrogen, the gas that most HPA air tanks use, is much more stable than carbon dioxide. This helps keep your shooting rate and performance consistent. 

Air tanks range in size from just 13 cubic inches (cu in) to 90 cu in, with 50 cu in and 68 cu in being the most common sizes. Shorter players will want a tank on the smaller end of the spectrum.

Tanks also have a pressure rating, which denotes how much HPA you can fit in them. The more gas a tank can hold, the more rounds it can fire.

Pressure is measured in pounds per square inch (PSI), and 3000 PSI and 4500 PSI tanks are the most popular. 

Barrel

Your marker's barrel directs your shots. Barrels can be short or long and have different bore and threading. 

Short barrels are excellent when it comes to close-range shooting. They're also lighter, which makes it easier to traverse the field. They tend to use less gas than longer barrels. However, they are loud and less accurate for longer distance shots.

On the other hand, long barrels are perfect for precision shooting. They are incredibly accurate and can fire very quietly, though they often come across as more cumbersome and difficult for close range encounters.

Bore refers to the diameter of the opening of the barrel. You'll need to match the bore with the size of your paintball. Most paintballs are .50 or .68 caliber.

Threading is the final factor to consider when looking at barrels. It's what allows you to screw your barrel into your marker. Make sure to research the threading on your marker before purchasing a barrel.

Barrels aren't universal, and each marker is designed to accommodate different threading. However, thread adapter kits allow you to use any barrel on any marker. They're relatively inexpensive and don't affect your shooting abilities.

Where to Buy Paintball Guns

Paintball guns can seem complex and intimidating to a new player, but breaking them down piece by piece makes it simple to understand how each component fits together.

The marker body is the main part of the gun and houses the important firing mechanisms, the hopper holds your rounds, the air tank holds the compressed air that fires the paintball rounds, and the barrel directs your shots.

Now that you understand the anatomy of a paintball gun, buying a paintball gun should be at least a little easier. At Lone Wolf Paintball, we’ve also created these Beginner Gun Paintball Packages to help make your decision a little easier. These beginner marker packages are a great place to start, and give you the basics you’d need to start playing paintball.  

We have also created many helpful YouTube videos on this subject, especially this one titled “What Paintball Gun Should I Buy?” This video and many of our review videos will be helpful as you go to make your decision. 

Last, check out Lone Wolf Paintball's catalog of products for beginners. From markers to barrels, they have everything you need. Contact us at any point to ask any questions you may have, our experts are here to help!