History of Paintballs

History of Paintballs





Paintballs started out as capsules of thick oil based paints in order to have a longer lasting mark on trees and cattle. After the sport got going a request was made for a paint fill that would come out of clothing and off of the skin easier. Therefore a water-soluble paintball was designed.


Today paintballs are gelatin skin capsules filled with a water-soluble marking dye. The dye inside is non-toxic and harmless to humans and mother nature.

Quality of Paintballs

Paintballs are manufactured by many different companies. As with most things, paintballs can be either low quality, or high quality. You may have heard of the expression of First Runs, Seconds or Thirds. This grading system refers to the process in which paintballs are boxed during production.

  • First Runs are the paintballs that are filtered out of the machine first because of their perfect shape and size. These paintballs are boxed as tournament paintballs and sold for a much higher price.
  • Seconds are the paintballs that normally carry some dimples and odd shapes. These paintballs are picked up for lower prices and used for recball play.
  • Thirds are the paintballs that make it past both filters and are boxed in plain boxes and sold as practice paint. 

Paintballs also come in a variety of thicknesses. The gelatin capsules range in thickness, thicker for recball players and thinner for tournament players. The reason for a difference in shell sizes reflects on the ability of the paintball to break.


The thicker the shell allows the paintball to withstand more impact before it breaks, allowing you to shoot through underbrush and hit a solid object before the paintball will mark your opponent.


The thinner shell Paintballs are for tournament players. These players do not have to worry about underbrush getting in the way. Most tournament fields are grassy fields with cut and dry obstacles. A tournament player normally carries a higher quality marker with abilities that prevent the paintballs from breaking inside the gun.
The inner gelatins also vary in thickness. The thinner the gelatin for recball players, which normally play more honest, and like the paintballs to wipe off before the next round.


A thicker gelatin is used in tournaments to prevent professionals from cheating in game and whipping the paintball mark off.


The best way to determine which brand/quantity/quality of paintballs you should buy is to know how you will be using those paintballs. If you are using the paintballs for practice, you naturally will want to go with the cheapest paintballs, the seconds or third runs. Quality will not matter much in this instance.


If you will be using the paintballs for rec-ball, again, quality is not quite as important, and you may want to go with the cheapest price, I suggest seconds.


However, if you will be using the paintballs for tournament play, quality matters a great deal. You are going to want paintballs that will break easily when they hit an opponent. Many tournaments will require you to use the paint that they are selling, which will most likely be grading for such play.

Paintballs and Size

You must also purchase the right size paintballs for your gun. Paintballs sizes are measured in calibers. The most common caliber of the barrel on a paintball gun is .68. However, it is important that you check the documentation that comes with your paintball gun barrel to make sure you know the correct caliber of your paintball gun’s barrel, therefore enabling you to purchase the correct caliber paintballs.


Both paintballs and paintball gun barrels range in sizes from .67 to .71 calibers. Just because your gun requires a .68 caliber paintball, does not necessarily mean that this is the best caliber for your paintball gun. Paintballs are not commonly perfectly round. You will need to experiment with different sizes, close to the caliber your paintball gun calls for. It may be that a .67 caliber paintball works best in your paintball gun, even if your barrel bore is .68. An easy test to see if a paintball will work in your paintball gun is to put the paintball in one end of the barrel. If it rolls out on its own, it is too small. It is a good fit if you can easily blow it out of the barrel. If the paintball is tight then it of course is too big.

Paintballs and Breaking

It's been said that old paint breaks easily. I have proven this wrong again and again. I tend to think of paintballs as a wine, they only get better with age.


Ever notice that new paintballs have a slight oily texture to them when you open the bag. This is because the manufacturers spray oil on their machines so that the warm gelatin doesn't stick to the metal like cookies on a cookie sheet.


When you cut open your bags of paintballs let them sit out for a couple months and let the oil dry. This oil will help throw off the balance of your paintballs and make the paintballs less accurate. If you allow this oil to dry, your paintball capsules will also become harder and tend to shrink, this is good for the paintball because when it shrinks it will become tight around the inner paint and round out the shape of the paintball. Again this increases the accuracy of the paintball.


When storing your paintballs, keep this in mind. Higher quality paintballs last longer than low quality when kept in storage. You will need to store your paintballs in a dry area where the temperature does not vary too much. It is best to store paintballs in an area that they are not going to collect dust or dirt with a room temperature of about 70 degrees.