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How Paintball Markers Work

Marker diagram

I saw a press release advertising a shiny new animation made by paintball marker barrel makers Furious. For some reason the makers opted for a slightly James Bond-esque diagrammatic look at their barrels, using phrases like ‘scientifically calculated’ to make sure that you know they mean business. It’s not particularly exciting, judge for yourself.

However, seeing the barrel cross-sections made me realise that I’ve neglected to blog about a pretty obvious topic: how do paintball markers work? Everything in the game revolves around this one piece of paintballing equipment and even though on the surface it might look pretty straightforward, every marker is slightly different; so I thought it was about time we had a look at what makes a marker work.

Though a paintball marker looks and operates much like a real gun (i.e. one with explosive munitions), there are a few key differences in their build. Generally a paintball marker has a far shorter barrel and, attached behind the trigger is canister which holds either CO2 or compressed air. Above the barrel is the final major difference – the hopper. Just as a regular gun has a magazine full of rounds, a paintball marker has a hopper full of paintballs.

What you can’t see though (so use the illustration below for reference) is the internal workings. Inside is a bolt which regulates how and when a paintball is allowed into the firing chamber in front of the trigger. In effect, this bolt loads the paintballs from the hopper to the trigger by releasing enough space for a paintball to pop through. In a regular gun, when the trigger is pulled it hammers onto the bullet, creating a small explosion which propels the bullet through the air. In a paintball marker though, the trigger does something entirely different.

Marker cross-section

When the trigger is pulled on a paintball marker, it pulls back a small hammer which exerts pressure onto the valve seat of the pressurised CO2 or air. So, when the trigger is pulled a bolt moves back to release a paintball and, at the same time, a sudden blast of air hit’s the waiting paintball sending it soaring along the barrel.

As the video above suggests, all barrels are made slightly differently, often to provide the perfect accompaniment to certain brands of paintballs. However the longer the barrel the more accuracy is available to the player, whereas a shorter barrel allows for more movement and a generally quicker firing capacity.