There are three main categories of paintball guns, all of which are suitable for all styles of play despite having some significant differences that can prove to be advantageous in specific situations. Understanding which type of marker matches best with what style of play and level of skill can help you to better plan your arsenal and ensure that you find the right gear for your game. Here’s a quick overview of the three main types of paintball guns and how they differ from one another.
Main Types of Paintball Guns
Mechanical Paintball Guns
By far the most common style of paintball gun on the market, mechanical markers utilize pressure, springs, and force of motion to fire paintballs. The exact components and assemblies inside the paintball guns vary from brand to brand but usually consist of precision-engineered parts that move without any electricity or motorized systems. The pressure generated by your air tank is all that these guns need to move the bolt, reset the trigger, chamber a new round, and fire.
In some ways, the components inside of mechanical paintball guns are far more complex than other types of markers, which is why I find it surprising that they are usually the least expensive options available from trustworthy manufacturers. Despite the advanced tools required to design and produce a mechanical paintball gun, most companies keep costs low by manufacturing many thousands of them and re-using the same internal components across multiple different models. Tippmann, for example, has one of the most complicated bolt systems on the market but uses that system for most of their highly diverse product line.
These guns are great all-rounders. They work well for both fast-paced speedball arenas and slower, more tactical environments. By being less expensive than most other paintball guns, they become the clear choice for a beginner player looking for entry-level paintball equipment.
Electronic Paintball Guns
The second most popular type of marker, electronic paintball guns utilize motors and electronics to control pressure and shoot paint. The complexity of an electronic paintball marker can vary by price and manufacturer – many top-end electronic guns use microcomputers to regulate pressure and fire rate with the highest possible reliability and precision. All electric guns I know of share a few characteristics, however. They all have electrical triggers, requiring less pressure and allowing for better speed on each trigger pull. They also all have fewer moving parts and less dependence on air tanks for pressure, allowing them to work well even when the tank is almost out of air and causing less recoil with each shot.
Most of the paintball pros I know prefer to use electronic paintball guns whenever possible. They feel great to use, have minimal recoil, and can often fire much faster than mechanical paintball guns. However, first-time players might want to think twice before buying one. These models tend to be much more expensive than mechanical options despite having only minimal increases in reliability and accuracy. They can also be much more difficult to repair if something breaks inside the gun. And, finally, most electronic markers come with bright metallic finishes that can make them sub-optimal for woodsball play.
If you want an edge over your competitors in speedball and arena play, investing in an electronic paintball gun may be the right choice. Beginner players, however, may still feel more comfortable with a well-built mechanical marker.
Pump-Action Paintball Guns
I see far fewer pump-action markers than either electronic or mechanical markers, and they’re almost always in the hands of a seasoned paintball veteran. These markers fire slowly and require a back-and-forth pump (much like a shotgun) to shoot the next round. Their internal components are typically not very complicated since they need neither pressure nor electricity to reset the bolt and trigger. However, most pump-action paintball guns are just as expensive as their electronic counterparts, thanks to the lower quantities at which they are produced and sold.
It might seem like a bad idea to play with a gun that puts you at a disadvantage to other players, but pump paintball guns may be exactly what you need as an advanced player to keep the game fun and challenging. When playing with a pump-action gun, you tend to take a more cautious and slow approach to the game, since you’d lose most up-close confrontations against a faster-firing gun. Pump guns also tend to be highly accurate, making them perfect for sniping and long-distance shooting. These guns are also highly reliable and, with no electronic components and few pressure-operated parts, require the lowest maintenance of any type of paintball gun.
I don’t have a pump-action gun of my own, but after using them a few times, I’ve decided to get one soon. They may not work well in competitive play (except against other pump guns), but the unique playstyle and approaches that they promote make pump-action paintball markers a very attractive choice to me.
A mechanical paintball gun should have everything you need at an affordable price point. However, if you’re willing to spend a bit more and enjoy a fast-paced style of play, an electronic marker might be just what you’re looking for. I don’t recommend getting a pump-action gun unless you already have experience but, if you’re like me and want something fresh to add to your collection, a pump gun could be the biggest change you can make.