History of The Paintball Gun Part 2

In part 1 of this history of Paintball guns, we looked at where it all started.

(Please read Part 1 here if you haven’t already).

Early guns were simple, but offered very low performance compared with the paintball guns of today.

Then the CCI Phantom paintball gun appears on the scene and everything changes.

The Phantom was a truly remarkable gun.

Now it’s worth remembering that we were used to firing no more than 40 shots with the Daystate, or 10 with the Splat Master before you had to reload the air, and paintballs were in tubes of 10.

Then suddenly we had a new gun, the CCI Phantom that could fire 300 shots on one charge, and be loaded with 200 paintballs on a hopper on top of it.

This gave Phantom users a massive tactical advantage. For everyone else it was like going up against a machine gun with spears!

The Phantom brought nothing new to the table in mechanics but it had been well thought out, it worked and it looked fantastic.

It was just one tube of glorious anodised aluminium with a grip frame below and a 7oz CO2 cylinder on the back. All the mechanics were cleverly in-line, it had a pump handle on the barrel to re-cock it, and best of all it had the revolutionary “Slam Fire”.

If you pushed the pump forward and kept you finger on the trigger it would fire automatically when the pump returned to the forward position, as fast as you could pump it, it would fire and gun owners loved it.

Unfortunately it was not a paintball site rental gun, as it could come undone if you didn’t know what you were doing with it. It was really a tool for serious paintballers.

Shortly after the Phantom along came the Sterling Paintball gun.  In function it had all the same features, its valve and trigger-sear were below the barrel, which allowed for a much more robust and constant valve to be developed.

Admittedly it didn’t look as sexy as the Phantom but it was the first paintball gun to dominate the tournament scene that was developing around the whole world. It was also suitable for site rental use.

So the Phantom brought the theory to the table, and the Sterling brought the reliability of a modern paintball gun to the table. This was a massive step forward, so were could we go from here?

Then, around 1990, one of our Skirmish Paintball players brought an Automag 68 Classic back from the USA.

This could fire paintballs as fast as you could pull the trigger, it was insane and it was gorgeous. Just like the Phantom was in its day but it chopped paint and was a nightmare to use.

Then a very clever person realised it was not the gun at fault but the lack of paintballs entering the breach that caused the chopping. And this is what led to the development of the first electronic paintball hopper.

Now we could keep the paintballs feeding in to the gun smoothly and effectively. They also developed the cross-over feed that bounced the paintballs into the breach.

With this development we were now hitting seven paintballs per second. A previously unheard of rate of fire. This was a major game-changer.

So now we have the partnership of semi-automatic paintball gun and electronic hopper that we see to this day, all thanks to the technical advances that really began with the Automag 68.

I could, and will, write a blog about the Automag 68 classic as it was truly an amazing gun.


Now the sixth great gun was the Bud Orr Autococker, based on the Bud Orr Pump, which the Sterling had been developed from. And yet this was the most unlikely gun to hit the great list.

It was truly ugly, it was heavy, it had a dreadful trigger pull, but even from day 1 it had something different, something special.

Around 1992 I went to buy my first semi-auto from a company in Birmingham, who later invented the last great paintball gun, and fully expected to come away with an Automag, instead I came away with the Bud Orr Cocker.

Like the Phantom and the Sterling, there was the ugly duckling and the gorgeous swan. What had swayed it for me, the Automag had drop off if you fired 7 balls per second, whereas the Cocker did not.

In those days if we went to a tournament and the were 10 x 10-man teams there would be 98 Automags and only 2 Bud Orr Cockers, Wayne’s and mine.

What the Cocker offered was an incredible reliable valve system and a blank canvass for paintball gunsmiths to work on, and they certainly went to town on it.

What I remember more than anything was when you were firing a Bud Orr Cocker it seemed so noisy with the back plate hitting the rear of the gun. From the front however there was very little sound and this meant that nobody knew were you were firing from, unlike the Automag which gave you away straight away.

The reason for including the Bud Orr Cocker on the list of great paintball guns was that it allowed the development of the same modern internals that we see today.

Also, it fired from a closed bolt, and ram system which most top end guns still do today. In the days of CO2 it could fire from 200psi, where all other guns were 800psi, which was actually a major advantage.

Guns with high psi caused them to chill in winter months and their velocity would drop off remarkably. Whereas the Bud Orr Cocker on the other hand would still be firing at 300 fps while the opposition simply could not reach us.

One of the greatest teams in the world, the UK Predators (captained by Marcus Davis) used 3 guns in their complete domination of paintball world-wide. First the Sterling. Second the Automag. Third the Auto Cocker.

The Angel, developed by WDP from Birmingham was the last great leap in the development of paintball gun technology in paintballing history. The Angel brought electronics to the paintball gun.  Mechanically the gun still operated the same, a hammer hits the valve, opens the valve and a burst of air fires the paintball from the gun, but what revolutionised the gun was this was all controlled by electronic wires, just like a modern commercial airliner.

The trigger was no longer connected to the trigger-sear but instead electrically to the hammer-sear, via an electrical circuit board that did many magical things.

One pull of the trigger could fire one shot, or could be programed to fire full auto, or burst fire, 3 shots 5 shots etc.

Did you want the gun to fire 7 balls a second or 20? You had complete control that you simply dialled in.

You could adjust dwell time between shots, but more importantly the gun could regulate itself. Silly mistakes that you could make with the Automag or Auto Cocker could not happen, such as resting your trigger on an Automag could bleed air. And on the Auto Cocker if you half stroked the gun when firing it would miss fire.

With the new Angel it always fired; there was no half way point any more. Paintball guns had changed forever.

On later guns you had ‘magic-eyes’ that knew when a paintball was in the breach so you could not chop the paintball. If there was no ball in the breach it would wait until gravity did its job, then fire.

So there you have it; a potted history of paintball guns and their development. Something we at Skirmish Paintball have been involved in for over twenty years now. I hope you’ve found this an interesting and informative read.

Has modern technology taken the skill out of the game, or allowed us to concentrate on playing the game?

Let us know what you think!


Mike Mason

Founder - Skirmish Paintball

Norfolk & Suffolk


Skirmish Paintball Ipswich Suffolk

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