Paintball History BS (Before Semi)

The first paintballs were created in the 1970s by Charles Nelson of the Nelson Paint Company of MI, Inc. in Kingsford, MI for use by foresters in marking trees from a distance, and also for use by cattlemen to mark cows. The earliest versions of paintballs were made from wax, but they were not sufficiently durable, and soon softgel encapsulation was identified as the best method of containing the paint in a projectile that would survive being rapidly accelerated when fired, yet break on the intended target.

In 1976, Hayes Noel, a stock trader, Bob Gurnsey, and his friends Mark Chapin, a S.W.A.T. officer, and Alex Rieger, a Green Beret were walking home and chatting about Gaines' recent trip to Africa and his experiences hunting buffalo. Eager to recreate the adrenaline rush that came with the thrill of the hunt, and inspired by Richard Connell's The Most Dangerous Game, the two friends came up with the idea to create a game where they could stalk and hunt each other.

In the ensuing months, the friends talked about what sorts of qualities and characteristics made for a good hunter and survivalist. They were stumped, however, on how to devise a test of those skills. It wasn't until a year and a half later that George Butler, a friend of theirs, showed them a paintball gun in an agricultural catalog. The gun was a Nelspot 007 marker manufactured by the Nelson Paint Company.

Twelve players competed against each other with Nelspot 007s pistols in the first paintball game(not a sport) on June 27, 1981. They were: Bob Jones, a novelist and staff writer for Sports Illustrated and an experienced hunter; Ronnie Simpkins, a farmer from Alabama and a master rhino hunter; Jerome Gary, a New York film producer; Carl Sandquist, a New Hampshire contracting estimator; Ritchie White, the New Hampshire forester; Ken Barrett, a New York venturer and hunter; Joe Drinon, a stock-broker and former Golden Gloves boxer from New Hampshire; Mark Chapin, a trauma surgeon and hunter from Alabama; Lionel Atwill, a writer for Sports Afield, a hunter and a Vietnam veteran; Charles Gaines; Bob Gurnsey and Hayes Noel. The game was capture the flag on an 80 acre wooded cross-country ski area.

Thereafter, the friends devised basic rules for the game fashioned along the lines of capture the flag, and invited friends and a writer from Sports Illustrated to play. They called their game "Survival," and an article about the game was published in the June 1980 issue of Sports Illustrated. As national interest in the game steadily built, Bob Gurnsey formed a company, National Survival Game, and entered a contract with Nelson Paint Company to be the sole distributor of their paintball equipment. Thereafter, they licensed to franchisees in other states the right to sell their guns, paint, and goggles. As a result of their monopoly on equipment, they turned a profit in only six months.

The first games of paintball were very different from modern paintball games; they often threw the paintballs at each other, and Nelspot pistols were the only gun available. They used 12-gram CO2 cartridges, held at most 10 rounds, and had to be tilted to roll the ball into the chamber and then recocked after each shot. Dedicated paintball masks had not yet been created, so players wore shop glasses that left the rest of their faces exposed. The first paintballs were oil-based and thus not water soluble; "turpentine parties" were common after a day of play. Games often lasted for hours as players stalked each other, and since each player had only a limited number of rounds, shooting was rare.

Between 1981 and 1983, rival manufacturers such as PMI began to create competing products, and it was during those years that the sport took off. Paintball technology gradually developed as manufacturers added a front-mounted pump in order to make recocking easier, then replaced the 12-gram cartridges with larger air tanks, commonly referred to as "constant air". These basic innovations were later followed by gravity feed hoppers and 45-degree elbows to facilitate loading from the hopper.

The Nelspot pistols began to lose popularity as semi-automatic markers began to dominate the growing sport. Nelspot pistols are now considered to be a collector's item. Later, Nelson Paint Company of MI, Inc. spun off into two separate companies: Nelson Paint Company, which is still focused on paints; and Nelson Technologies, Inc., commonly referred to as Nelson Paintballs, which still produces paintballs today. Oil-based paintballs are still available through the Nelson Paint Company and are still used for tree marking and for veterinary purposes. Nelson's oil-based paintballs have been used to mark animals on every continent of the world, including Antarctica.