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Arguing Over the Roots of Paintball

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Arguing Over the Roots of Paintball

These days, you can shop for a wide variety of sophisticated paintball equipment and accessories – from dye barrels and 4500 nitro tanks to the JT ProFlex X and Empire joggers. But when the first paintball games were played, you had to look through the pages of an agricultural catalog to find a gun that could be used. 

As JAKE ROSSEN reports in his Colorful History of Paintball, which he wrote for Mental Floss, it was Charles Gaines who came up with the idea of using the Nel-Spot 007, “a gun powered by carbon dioxide (CO2) gas and used to mark trees or cattle using a gelatin ball filled with oil-based paint.” 

But why was Gaines even interested in something like the Nel-Spot 007? 

The Origins of Paintball

Gaines and his friend Hayes Noel were engaged in an ongoing argument regarding who would be better as a survivalist: a weekend outdoors enthusiast or a city slicker used to clawing a path through the concrete jungle day after day? 

They had argued back and forth – and back and forth – for weeks and finally decided to settle their dispute by putting their theories to the test. It would be Gaines, who Rossen says was “a writer and fly fisherman,” against Noel, “a Wall Street stockbroker, thought his urban instincts would prove superior.”

“Gaines thought [the Nel-Spot 007] would make for an interesting combat simulator,” Rossen says. “Instead of testing survivalist skills with ammunition, they could test it with globs of paint.”

The pair dueled but the results were inconclusive. As Rossen explains it, each claimed to be the winner. “These conflicting narratives failed to settle their argument, and so the two friends decided a bigger, more involved experiment was in order. Purely by accident, they created the game of paintball in the process.”

If you would like to know more about the history of paintball or if you are looking for equipment like dye barrels and 4500 nitro tanks, call Shop Cousins Paintball at 631-243-1100.

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