Paintball is a sport where opponents use guns or “markers” loaded with a harmless paint and play a variety of war and hunting games. The “paint” balls are many small containers filled with paint, usually gel caps. The guns or markers are powered by compressed gas. Paintball markers evolved from the gas-powered guns used during the 1970s for other purposes, such as those used by forestry groups to mark trees and trails or by farmers to mark cattle. The guns had to be redesigned to regulate the power and speed for the safety of Paintball. The game of Paintball naturally evolved as the users of the marking guns started horsing around and aimed the guns and markers at one another.
A milestone in the history of Paintball occurred in 1981 when twelve friends played a version of “Capture the Flag” using the tree-marking guns. The twelve friends decided to buy into a tree-marking gun manufacturer called Nelson and started promoting and selling the guns to the public for use with the new recreational sport. In 1982, the first Paintball field was opened in Rochester, New York.
According to the Nelson Paint Company website:
The Nelson Paint Company was founded in 1940 by Charles and Evan Nelson… Faced with the challenge of marking trees in hard to reach places, Charles Nelson invented a paint pellet that could be shot out of a gun.
This first Nelson paint pellet was not intended for the sport of Paintball – it was intended for the forestry industry. Likewise, the first commonly used Paintball gun was actually designed for the forestry industry – the Nelspot 007, invented by James C Hale (U.S. patent 3,788, 298 issued on January 29, 1974.)
The first gun specifically designed for playing Paintball was the Splatmaster invented by Robert G Shepherd. U.S. patent number 4,531,503 was issued to Shepherd on July 30, 1985. Later electropneumatic markers were developed like the Shocker and the Angel.
Splatmaster – first gun designed for use with Paintball – original patent drawing
George A Skogg invented a “washable marking fluid formulation for soft gelatin capsules” – a Paintball bullet recipe (U.S. patent 4,634,606 granted January 6, 1987.) The fluid when packaged in a soft gelatin capsule produced projectiles that were more accurate and stable and made bright, highly visible marks that could be easily washed out with water and/or detergent and were ideally suitable for use in the sports and games exercises. Skogg worked for the Nelson Paint Company and this patent became the Nelson recipe for Paintballs.