Paintball Gun Buying Guide & Review
Whether you’re new to the world of paintballing or simply looking to take your arsenal up a notch, shopping for your next marker can be like navigating a minefield. Mechanical markers might be the standard today, but with so many affordable options on the market, ensuring you get a good deal from your investment is nigh on impossible without knowing which specs will boost your game and which are nothing but boasts. Got the money to upgrade to electronic? An electronically enhanced marker might initially impress, but you don’t want to throw a huge investment at a model that might be supplanted by something better (and more affordable) in a year or so.
Below, you’ll find our go-to guide for those looking to make the right choice when it comes to their next marker. From build and materials to barrel size and gas systems, you’ll find all the insights you need to ensure you pick the perfect new addition to your paintballing arsenal. If you’re looking to protect yourself from one of these pain machines, take a look at our review on the best paintball masks.
Before taking a look at the best paintball guns, we’ll have a look at the main three types of paintballing gun currently on the market.
For many years, pump markers were your only option when it came to paintball guns. Mechanical markers have largely replaced them in recent years thanks to advancing technology, but the classic pump variety is seeing something of a revival.
The pump paintball guns of today utilise the compressed gas aspect you’ll find in both mechanical and electronic markers. This certainly improves the accuracy of the marker and makes them more precise than pump markers of the past. Beyond that, the single-shot pump is pretty much its own animal. Some newer pump paintball guns do enjoy an enhancement known as an auto-trigger. This feature means a shooter only needs to keep the trigger held and only pump for each subsequent shot, rather than requiring the trigger to be pulled and pumping to occur each and every time a shot is fired. Single-shot guns might seem like a limiting option when compared to the performance of mechanical and electronic markers, but the pump paintball gun enjoys an enthusiastic following for good reason. The time required to handle a single-shot marker means shooters need to demonstrate real skill when playing, picking the perfect moment to attack an enemy before having to take cover or retreat from returning enemy fire.
Once a reserve of the wealthiest players, electronic paintball guns combine the best of mechanical systems with integrated electronics to significantly improve firing rate and overall accuracy. Today, advancements in the manufacturing of electronic components used in such paintballing markers have made them more readily available and affordable to the average player.
As mentioned, electronic guns rely on many of the same elements of mechanical ones, namely compressed gasses. In addition to this, electronic markers use a circuit board, allowing such parts to be controlled electronically. Provided a marker boasts this design aspect, a paintball gun can be enhanced with features like a greater number of firing modes, such as multiple-round bursts and automatic firing. With more expensive electronic guns, further features may include digital displays providing status information on things like rounds fired and gas levels. Furthermore, hopper agitators can be expected with more advanced models of electronic marker, allowing the shooter to be more precise when it comes to the loading of paintballs into the breach of a marker.
In terms of the recreational market, mechanical paintball guns are the most commonly encountered. These particular paintball guns are so popular thanks to their user-friendly design and the lack of maintenance they require, not to mention their relatively affordable price tag. The markers you’ll find here are almost always of the semi-automatic variety, giving the wielder one shot for every pull of the trigger. In almost every instance, mechanical markers utilise compressed air or CO2, with both being readily available at specialist shops or commercial paintballing fields. If neither such location is within a convenient distance of you, you may wish to abandon plans for compressed air tank refills and opt for C02 as your standard, with this being much easier to obtain.
Whether you’re working with compressed air or CO2, your gas of choice is stored in a tank that’s attached to the gun via the grip (if you’re using a 12 gram cartridge) or on the end of the marker on a gas line (if using a larger tank). Gravity-fed hoppers are used with mechanical guns, allowing for one paintball at a time to enter the chamber. When the trigger is pulled, a hammer is released and the compressed air stored in the tank drives the bolt into the paintball, sending it through the barrel at high speed. This firing system is better known as the blowback feature.
Why Material Matters When it Comes to Barrels
When it comes to ensuring accuracy and the utmost in precision, the barrel of your marker is a crucial component. However, for those new to paintballing, understanding barrel specs can be a little tricky. Firstly, there’s the material to consider. Aluminium barrels are not only light in build, they’re also very affordable and are a popular choice for newbies to paintballing. The lightweight nature of aluminium does mean it’s easy to bend out of shape and render it unfit for play, however. If you’re seeking something at the premium end of the scale, consider a barrel made from carbon fibre. Lightweight like aluminium, carbon fibre barrels are by contrast very robust and durable. Slightly more affordable are stainless steel barrels, scoring high marks for durability and easy maintenance, with the material holding up well to heavy use for a long time. However, this bulkier material will add unwanted extra weight to your marker.
Why Barrel Size Matters
The length of your barrel is a key consideration when it comes to purchasing paintball guns. In the case of shorter barrels, the overall marker remains short as well. This provides the shooter with more flexibility and ease in manoeuvring their surroundings. Enemy exchanges in close quarters are also better served by short barrels. With longer barrels, shooters can enjoy better levels of accuracy. In contrast to shorter barrels, longer alternatives to restrict the shooter when it comes to stealthiness. In short, it’s best to remember that length determines how long the paintball pellet remains in the barrel, ultimately affecting maximum velocity. The longer a paintball is in the barrel, the further it can be fired. Provided the paintball can achieve maximum velocity before being discharged from the barrel, the paintball can travel at higher speeds. The result is enhanced precision and better levels of accuracy.
Another key part of barrel specs is porting. So-called “ported” barrels feature drill holes, or ports, at one end. These ported holes help get rid of pressure prior to the final discharge of the paintball, making the shot quieter overall. Some barrels also feature an extra set of drilled holes, usually at around the centre of the overall length. The purpose here is to give fired paintballs added backspin, increasing the overall distance travelled and enhancing accuracy.
Selecting the Right Gas System
It’s crucial you select the right gas system for the marker you’re using. Many newcomers to paintballing make the mistake of thinking gas systems are a one-size-fits-all scenario, not realising that using the wrong sort of gas with an incompatible marker can render it useless. One of the most common types of gas system is CO2. This liquid gas turns into its gaseous form when pressurised, resulting in a paintball being discharged from the marker. On the plus side, CO2 is still relatively inexpensive, with an entire day’s worth of paintballing possible for next to nothing. On the downside, CO2 can prove unreliable when it comes to velocity thanks to temperature fluctuations. What’s more, you need to drain your tank entirely of CO2 before it is feasible to property refill it. As such, the inconvenience of having to carry a backup tank is unavoidable.
High-pressure air (HPA) is also sometimes referred to as “nitro” due to the fact it used to be made with nothing but nitrogen. Is another gas system to consider. First formulated to compensate for the shortcomings of CO2, high-pressure air won’t cause the same issues encountered with temperature changes or high firing speeds. Unlike tanks filled with C02 that only let you know they’re empty when you’re unable to fire, HPA boasts the convenience of pressure gauge displays. In a fraction of a second, a player can see how much longer they can carry on shooting for without having to weigh the tank and make broad guesses about remaining capacity. You don’t have to wait until a tank is empty to refill it when dealing with HPA. This is particularly handy as you can regularly keep on top of tank capacity, ensuring it remains full enough for each and every game you play. It also saves you the hassle of having to keep a backup tank on your person at all times. However, the 3000 psi specification of HPA tanks may mean accessing refills becomes a problem. With their larger build and higher RRP, high-pressure air tanks are also an investment out of the reach of many players and those new to the sport.
Key Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Buy
Although aesthetics, barrel specs and other details can inform your buying decision when looking for a new paintball gun, making the right choice of marker requires you ask yourself a couple of key questions. For one, think about how regularly you intend to play paintball. Those players looking at the very occasional jaunt to the nearest paintball field with friends won’t want to spend a small fortune on a marker. Such players don’t need to be too worried about material here, with the robust choices of stainless steel and carbon fibre only really an advantage to those who put their markers through the ringer on a regular basis. Regular players of paintball will also know that weight plays a big part of any game. A marker that’s lightweight and easy to carry for long periods of time is a must if you’re going to use it effectively on a regular basis. You’re going to want a gun that weighs in less than the 2.5 kilogram mark as a general rule. However, if you’ve the budget to pay for it, much lighter options are available on the market from premium manufacturers.
Style of Play
This is another major thing to consider when fine-tuning your buying decision. For those playing fast-paced games with more close-quarter environments, a marker that fires rapidly and with accuracy is an essential. Don’t worry too much about accuracy for this type of game, with your targets usually well within range at all times. As this type of game and firing profile means you’ll be getting through a considerable amount of paintballs very quickly, you need to ensure the marker you’re armed with is fit to withstand such heavy application.
Other than speedball games, woods paintball is another popular format. Here, players tend to prefer markers that allow for stealth and strategy, while customisation potential is also seen as a required perk. With woodsball, firing with accuracy at long distances is common, so a marker needs to be capable of delivering precise hits from afar. Markers made with woods paintball in mind are almost always customisable thanks to the inclusion of railing systems in their design, while barrels tend to have a longer length as standard.
Now you’ve familiarised yourself with what’s important when picking out a new marker for your next game, why not see our breakdown of some of the best options available on the market today below. Wanting to complete the ultimate offensive attire? Check out our review on the best paintball hoppers on the market today.
The Best Paintball Guns of 2020
The BT D*Fender will elevate your standing on the paintballing circuit. This electronic marker has an integrated loader for convenience, while no less than five firing modes make it suitable for all kinds of game situations. An easily mounted T-rail allows for simple customisation, while battery changes and basic maintenance tasks can be handled without the need for tools. A versatile performer that adapts well and delivers the performance a higher level of player requires.
An evolution of the Invert Mini, the GS bring enhanced features typically reserved for more premium markers with higher price tags. User-friendly and easy to maintain, the Invert Mini GS delivers high levels of accuracy and high firing rate as standard. New additions to the GS model include rubber grips for better handling, a low profile regulator, plus weather-proof board and housing to ensure moisture stays away from your marker’s electronics. What’s more, this marker is Classic Mini compatible, meaning you can use all your favourite accessories and upgrades previously used with the Empire Mini.
High performance is the name of the game here, with the Tippman TMC Cal Mag Fed Marker providing a tactical choice for your next paintballing fixture. There’s dual feed functionality here, with a choice between Go MagFed and traditional loader, while semi-automatic firing with a wide scope of adjustment makes this a must for situations requiring speed over stealth. There’s plenty of flexibility when it comes to making this marker your own with accessories, while high-quality stainless steel components make this one a gun that will last.
This great value set includes the Tippman US Army Alpha Elite Marker with Red Dot Sight and carry handle, along with the Action Village 20 ounce CO2 tank and folding grip, plus the Action Village 4+1 paintball harness and 140-round paintball pods. Furthermore, there’s the GXG 200 Round Loader and Action Village Pull Through Squeegee thrown in, with the GXG XVSN Paintball Mask and a paintball wrist band included for good measure. The star of the show here is the US Army Alpha Elite marker, with a realistic aesthetic that’s a close match to the real thing. As a complete package, it’s a one-stop way to get geared up with kit that will ensure you excel against your opponents.
If reliability and accuracy are top of your list of wants for a new marker, the Tippman A-5 .68 Calibre paintball gun is well worth looking into. Not only is this user-friendly marker easy to get grips with and simple to maintain, it gets extra points for personalisation potential, with the ability to upgrade with new components. It also scores well in terms of handling, with a light enough design that won’t hold you back during all-day play. Of note here is the Cyclone Feed System, allowing you to fire up to 15 balls every second.
If you’re a regular paintball player who values high levels of performance and demands rigorous standards of durability, the Tippmann Cronus Tactical is a marker that might just tick all your boxes. The tried and tested Tippmann in-line bolt system delivers the goods, while the composite build is robust enough to withstand even significant impacts, meaning this marker will hold up well in the field. Aesthetic upgrades include the carry handle, mock silencer, plus an adjustable stock, all adding to the military appeal of this paintball gun. Four Picatinny rails are on hand for mounting accessories, allowing for high levels of customisation.