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What is a Paintball Marker?

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What is a Paintball Marker?
Copyright 2010 David Muhlestein, licensed to About.com, Inc.
Most simply, a paintball marker is the same as a paintball gun. If you have an understanding of what a paintball gun is, then you know exactly what a paintball marker is. The names are used interchangeably, though some people strongly prefer one or the other. I will use the term "paintball gun" for the remainder of this article as it is the more commonly used term. If you are unfamiliar with paintball markers or guns, I will lay out what they are in plain English.

What is a paintball gun/marker?

A paintball gun is a device that uses compressed gases to rapidly propel paint-filled, gelatin balls (paintballs) at high velocities. The are used primarily in the sport of paintball which is a variation on the game of tag. In the game, players will use their paintball gun to shoot paintballs at one another. When the paintball hits something, it breaks apart and releases its paint on the person, resulting in a small paint mark being left on the person which signifies that the person has been "hit".

Why is it called a paintball marker? Isn't it just a gun?

Originally in the sport of paintball the device used to shoot paintballs was called a paintball gun. Through the years, though, a concerted effort was to taken to rename them "markers" so that paintball would not be perceived as a such a violent sport and to discourage associations between paintball players and paramilitary training. The name marker comes from the fact that paintballs, when they break on a person or object, "mark" them with paint. A marker is simply a device that marks something else and paintball guns/markers are used to mark other players.

The name marker is used by many people, though the term "paintball gun" is more common. Following the September 11th attacks, there was a concerted effort to call them "markers" within the industry and the practice was adopted by many fields, stores and vendors. Lately, though, the trend has been to find many more people referring to them as guns once again because the name is more easily understood by a much larger group of people. For example, where online vendors once exclusively sold "paintball markers", many now exclusively sell "paintball guns." From a practical side, this makes sense as new players have no idea what a paintball marker is but the concept of a paintball gun is immediately intuitive to almost everyone.

How are paintball guns/markers used?

Paintball guns are used almost exclusively to play the sport of paintball. While there are some non-traditional ways to use a paintball gun, almost all are used to play the sport of paintball. Generally, during a game, players will move around a defined field and will shoot at one another with the paintball guns. If a paintball hits and breaks on a player, then that player is deemed to be "hit" and is thus eliminated from the game.

Where can I buy a paintball gun/marker?

Paintball guns can be purchased at many different locations. While there are some paintball-specific stores that sell equipment, it is much more common to purchase paintball gear from either a larger store (such as a bix box store like Wal-Mart or a sporting goods store like Dick's Sporting Goods) or online. Most paintball players purchase their first paintball gun as part of a set with a tank, hopper and goggles/mask. For higher-end equipment, paintball equipment is sold separately. Beginning paintball gear can be purchased for around $100 for a complete set while high-end equipment may cost several thousand dollars for a set.
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