Paintball Gun Basics

Paintball Gun Basics

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Paintball guns, also commonly referred to as markers, can be a whole lot of fun. Nothing beats a Saturday of playing paintball with your buddies. Call of Duty and PUBG are a lot of fun to play, but trust us when we say it is 10 times more fun to get outside and play the real thing. However, markers can be pretty intimidating to beginners. They are loud, complex weapons, and if you’ve never used one before you might not know where to start.

Although paintball markers might look, feel, and sound intimidating, they are actually pretty easy to learn how to safely use. So our goal in this article is pretty simple: teach you the paintball gun basics so the next time you get invited to go play with your friends, you’ll feel comfortable and confident to pick a marker up and paint the competition!


Paintball is not a dangerous sport as long as everybody makes safety a top priority and knows how to safely play the sport. Yes, accidents can happen. However, the most common injuries we see on the paintball field are not caused by a marker.

We will go more in-depth in regards to paintball gun safety in another post, but for now, we just want to discuss barrel covers. Barrel covers, also sometimes referred to as barrel sleeves, are simply covers that cover the end of your marker’s barrel to prevent an errant round from being fired when the marker is not intended to be used. A barrel cover should ALWAYS be on your barrel when you do not intend to use it.

Barrel plugs are also available, but we recommend you stay away from them. They are prone to falling out of the barrel and therefore are not nearly as effective as a simple barrel cover. Most commercial fields will not let you in or on the field if your marker does not have a barrel cover, so it is an essential piece of equipment. It is essential not just so you can get on the field, but more importantly, so you keep everyone else safe.

Paintball Gun Basics/How a Paintball Gun Works

Would you agree that paintball guns and actual firearms look pretty similar? I mean they both have a barrel, a trigger and they both fire a projectile out of the barrel at high rates of speed. So they might look similar, but does that mean they are operated in the same manner?

Even if you’ve never actually shot a firearm, we’ve all seen movies and know how to fire a round from a firearm (pull the trigger), but do you know what has to happen inside the firearm for that round to exit the barrel? Well, there are many different types of paintball guns, but they all operate using the same basic principles.

First, the entire process of firing a round is started when the trigger is pulled. Pulling the trigger then causes a firing pin to strike the primer which then ignites the gunpowder and creates a sudden, vast amount of pressure. This buildup of pressure fires the projectile down and out of the barrel. That’s the entire process of firing a round from a firearm.

How a Paintball Gun Works
How a Paintball Gun Works

And guess what? Paintball guns follow pretty much the exact same process. But instead of a firing pin hitting gunpowder and acting as the catalyst, compressed air is used to launch the paintball down and out the barrel. Below is the step-by-step process for how a paintball round is fired out of a marker.

  1. The trigger is pulled
  2. Compressed air is released into the expansion chamber or air regulator
  3. A burst of compressed air is directed into the upper body of the marker
  4. This burst of air rockets the firing pin forward
  5. The firing pin launches the ball through the barrel
  6. Part of the air is used to re-cock the firing pin which makes the gun ready for the next round

It’s pretty incredible when you realize this entire process can happen in the blink of an eye. In fact, this entire process can happen multiple times within the span of one second depending on the paintball gun! Most standard gravity-fed guns can fire around 10 paintballs per second while other paintball guns with built-in circuit boards can fire up to 30 times per second!

Basic Design Features

If you have done any research in looking for a marker, you know that their features and designs can appear to vary pretty significantly. However, there are 4 distinct parts that all paintball guns have: body, hopper, compressed air tank, and barrel.


Most of the marker’s functions and aesthetic features are contained in its body, which contains the main components of the firing mechanism: the trigger, bolt, and valve. Most paintball marker bodies are constructed from aluminium to reduce the marker’s weight, and many feature custom milling and color anodizing.

  • Cocking knob: pulled back to cock the gun for a round
  • Safety: switch used to prevent the marker from firing when it is not intended to be used
  • Trigger: the mechanism that initiates the firing sequence
  • Firing chamber: paintballs are fed into the firing chamber from the hopper.Venturi bolt: fires the ball from the barrel, only has to be cocked once


The way in which the paintballs are loaded/re-loaded back into the marker is very important. If you can’t get paintballs into the marker, it doesn’t matter how good of a paintball gun you have. There are 4 types of hoppers available: stick feeds, gravity-fed, agitating, and force-feed.

Stick feeds

  • Should really only be used on pump action markers
  • A simple tube that holds between 10 to 20 paintballs
  • Lots of players make DIY stick feeds
  • Slow and inefficient, do not use on mechanical or electro-pneumatic

Gravity feed

  • Simple and cheap way to feed a paintball
  • Large container with a feed tube at the bottom
  • Placed on top of the marker
  • Can sometimes jam, the user has to shake the marker until it un-jams
  • Works best with mechanical markers


  • A propeller inside the hopper spins to “agitate” the paintballs
  • The goal of an agitating feed is to prevent jamming at the feed neck while allowing the paintballs to feed more rapidly than a gravity feed
  • These are battery-operated where the propellor only kicks on when the paintball gun is empty or in use
  • Agitating hoppers are a huge advantage over gravity-fed because they can be the difference between your marker jamming or not jamming at a critical time
  • We highly recommend agitating hoppers for mechanical markers


  • Force-feed hoppers are a step up from an agitator hopper as they actually “force” the paintballs down into the marker by using an impeller that is either spring-loaded or powered by a belt
  • Some force-feed hoppers can re-load a marker more than 50 times per second!
  • Electropneumatic markers require the use of force-fed hoppers because they are the only type of hopper that can feed and keep pace with their quick firing rate; professional paintball players exclusively use force-feed hoppers.
Basic Design Features
Basic Design Features

Compressed air tank

The compressed air tank is what holds the compressed gas that is used to fire the paintballs out of the marker. The tank should always be inspected for any defects before being screwed into the air source adapter. The two main types of compressed air that are used are carbon dioxide and high-pressure air, also known as HPA.

Carbon dioxide used to be the more common propellant used in paintball, but it has been replaced by HPA. The advantage of HPA over carbon dioxide is that it maintains much much more consistent and stable pressure and temperatures. The most popular tank size used is a 67 cubic inch tank and this delivers on average a range of 800 – 1,000 shots before a new tank is needed.


The barrel is what directs where the paintball goes and subsequently controls the release of the gas pocket behind it. Keeping your barrel clean and in pristine condition is very important if you want your marker to remain accurate and reliable. The bore size of a barrel is the diameter of the barrel and they are available in several different bore sizes to fit different sizes of paintballs. There are also different lengths and styles of barrels.

Most modern paintball markers have barrels that screw into the front receiver while older types slide the barrel on and screw it in place. It is important to note that your barrel threading must match that of your marker. The most common barrel threads are Angel, Autococker, Impulse/Ion, Shocker, Spyder, A-5, and 98 Custom. Don’t worry too much about barrels for now though because whatever marker you end up buying, it will already have a barrel. Once you get a little more into paintball though, you may want to upgrade the barrel to a different size or length.


Most barrels are between  8 to 20 inches long. A longer barrel is usually quieter than a shorter barrel because it allows the gas to exit the barrel a little more slowly. But a shorter barrel is a little more gas efficient as it requires less HPA for every round. We think the optimal barrel size is probably a 14-inch or 16-inch barrel.


The bore is the interior diameter of the barrel and is the most critical part of the barrel. The size of the bore must be an exact match to the size of the paintball being used, otherwise, it will cause velocity disruptions and inaccuracy. When researching potential markers, try to ensure that it has a well-made bore.


paintball guns, also known as markers, can be a lot of fun. However, they can be intimidating to beginners. In this article, we have learned the basics of a paintball gun so that you can feel comfortable and confident to pick a marker up and paint the competition! Safety is a top priority in paintball. Barrel covers are essential to prevent an errant round from being fired when the marker is not intended to be used.

Barrel plugs are not recommended as they are prone to falling out of the barrel. Most commercial fields will not let you in or on the field if your marker does not have a barrel cover. Keep everyone safe by using a barrel cover when you do not intend to use your marker. We will go more in-depth in regards to paintball gun safety in another post.

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