Paintball guns or paintball markers are equipment used in the sport of paintball. The mechanism behind the operation of a paintball marker involves the use of an expanding gas such as a compressed air or carbon dioxide which serves to propel the paintballs from the barrel. The guns got the marker name from their wide by forestry personnel and ranchers to mark trees and wandering cattle. Most paintballs have the muzzle velocity of 60m/s. Greater muzzle velocity has been ruled unsafe to use in fields and therefore, such lethal paintball guns are rarely produced. Paintballs damages surfaces they hit when traveling at a high velocity. They can also cause serious bruises and can even damage the tissues in some cases. For this reason, those who play paintball are always advised to wear masks to protect the mouth, eyes, and ears in case the barrel blocking gear is not available.
There are two types of paintball guns when categorized in terms of mechanism. They are:
- Mechanically operated paintball guns
- Electropneumatic operated paintball guns
Mechanically operated paintball markers
These markers have internal mechanical parts that facilitate its operation. They are split into five subcategories.
Bolt or Pump action – these paintball markers works in a similar way as bolt action rifles and pump action shotguns. The marker is manually reset after every shot. They were the pioneer markers used in paintball sports. Bolt and action markers have two patterns of internal operations.
Sheridan Valve type has the bolt used in loading the paintball located in an isolated tube away from the valve and the hammer. To cock the marker, the bolt is pulled to open the breech and to load paintball. While the bolt is still held, the hammer is pulled back against the spring which is in turn held back by the sear linked to the trigger. Eventually, the bolt is pushed forward loading the barrel and readying the marker to fire.
Nelson Valve type works very much like the Sheridan Valve type but has the bolt, valve and the hammer all contained in the same barrel. The hammer latches to the carrier during firing.
Sterling Hybrid Valve type has the bolt located in an isolated tube (like the Sheridan valve type) but the hammer tends to latch on a carrier (like the Nelson Valve type).
Double action type of mechanical markers – they have a similar operation with a double-action revolver. The trigger mechanism plays two roles: firing and resetting the shot. The examples of this type of marker are Brass Eagle Barracuda, the NSG Spatmaster, and Line SI Advantage.
Throwback semi-auto – in this type of guns, a valve releases gasses which reset the guns firing mechanism between two shot. It works much like the semi-automatic rifles the type of AK-47. The internal components of a blowback operated paintball marker can either be a valve, hammer, inline or with a bolt having all of them lined up in the same axis as it is the case with Tippman 98 or have the tube and bolt separated as it is in King Man-Spider marker.
Blow forward semi-Auto – in this gun, the firing mechanism uses gases stored in a valve to cycle the moving bolt and fire a paintball. An attached spring resets the entire mechanism in preparation for the next shot. Examples include Tiberius Arms T8 and Tippmann X7 Phenom.
Pneumatically Operated Semi-Auto – the operating mechanism involves a pneumatic piston in a low-pressure compartment being controlled by one four-way valve which is connected to the trigger. The piston resets the mechanism after a shot has been fired. Notable examples include the Typhoon and the WGP Autococker.
Electropneumatically Operated Paintball Markers
The electromagnetic design of markers is distinctively different compared to the mechanical types. Here, the trigger simply activates an embedded electronic micro-switch instead of using a mechanical link. Information from the interaction is transmitted through the control circuits to an embedded computer-controlled solenoid valve. The valve can quickly and precisely open and close to allow the gas to escape or enter the pressure chambers in the gun. This results to the bolt moving and eventually firing the gun. More recent designs of this type of markers come with an optical or magnetic sensor instead of an electronic micro-switch. Disconnecting the trigger from the action makes the electromagnetic pull actions to be short in length and lightweight, just like a computer mouse click. This increases the rate of firing over the mechanical design.