Paintball guns have been a serious part of exciting recreation for a long time now. Over the last couple of decades, however, as interest has increased, so has the technology. What used to be the cream of the crop can hardly hold its own in battle these days. Whether you already have a full arsenal or are looking to buy your first paintball gun, it is important that you are choosing between the best paintball guns on the market. Whether you and your squad are beginner, intermediate, players who basically do this for a living, or somewhere in between, there will be an ideal gun for you featured in this article.
We take a deep dive into firing modes, balls per second, paintball markers, bolt system options, makes and styles (do you want a rifle or a paintball pistol?) and more. Some are looking for a collapsible stock while others care more about the finer details, such as the spool valve. Some want mechanical markers, some want electronic, and some want an old school pump. Regardless, we’re here to help you find the right paintball gun for you.
This isn’t the US army, but it’s still serious business– and it’s not just fun and games.
Let’s take a look at the best paintball gun of 2021.
Paintball guns are by far the most fun gear to get your hands on. Seriously though, who doesn’t like slinging paint at a buddy, or opposing team, as fast as they can. The technology powering paintball markers has come a long way since the 90’s. When the game first started folks were using juiced up cattle markers and making modifications to increase the feed tube with PVC tubes (plumbing parts). Those days are long gone. Today we have electronic markers that are capable of speeds in excess of 30 balls per second, compressed air systems that deliver reliable and consistent power to the paint, and loaders that can keep up with these insane machines. In 1996 we had the Smart Parts Shocker and WDP Angel enter the scene with electronically assisted trigger systems.
No Time to Read? Here’s Our Top Picks
- Best Paintball Gun under $150: Tippmann Stormer Paintball Marker
- Best Paintball Gun under $300: Dye Rize CZR Paintball Marker
- Best Paintball Gun under $500: Empire Axe 2.0
- Best Paintball Gun under $800: Planet Eclipse GTEK 170R
- Best Mechanical Paintball Gun: Planet Eclipse EMEK
- Best Paintball Gun money can buy: DLX HK Army Luxe
At the time we all considered those paintball markers as game changers. The truth was, they shredded paint and had a long way to go before they were ready for prime time. In 2003 our lives changed for the best when the Matrix rolled onto the scene. Break beam eyes and an incredible rate of fire that was very consistent. Since then both the paintball industry and the paintball products have continued to evolve. Lighter, faster, smoother, easier to maintain and field service. What used to be the cream of the crop 15 years ago would be put to shame with today’s paintball guns. Its not to say your old marker is bad, but it would be worth taking a look at the new offerings to see what your options are. If your competing, the firing modes used may have changed and the old boards may not be compliant.
Whether you already have a paintball gear bag loaded to the brim or are looking to buy your first paintball gun, it is important that you are choosing between the best paintball guns on the market. Whether you and your squad are beginner, intermediate, or pro paintball players who do this for a living, or somewhere in between, there will be an ideal gun for you featured in this article.
In this article we take a deep dive into the various features of paintball markers, firing modes, balls per second, bolt system options, makes and styles, budgets and more. Some are looking for a low cost way into the game while others care more about the finer details, such as break beam eyes and tool-less disassembly. Some want mechanical markers, some want electronic, and some want an old school pump. Regardless, we’re here to help you find the right paintball gun for you.
For someone on the outside looking in, paintball may seem like “just a game”. For those of us with the bug, it’s much, much more.
Let’s take a look at the best paintball gun of 2021.
Bottom line up front.. there is no such thing as the best paintball marker. Everyone has different needs and more importantly, vastly different budgets. That said, we all share one thing in common.. a desire to tag the opposing paintball player first. In this article we break down the best paintball marker under $100, under $300, under $500, and of course, what our testing and experience have shown us to be the best paintball marker money can buy.
Why you should trust us?
At PRO Paintball, we have over 20 years of experience playing the game. The team behind PRO Paintball actively competes in the NXL, WCPPL and USXBL paintball series. We run our equipment hard and regularly shoot over 50,000 balls per weekend in practice (that is 25 cases of paint for those of you counting). This helps us quickly figure out what works and what does not. In this particular article, we are taking a hard look at the most popular paintball guns on the market and see how they stack up. In putting this together we ran each of the following paintball guns through the paces and give you our unbiased opinion. No companies sponsored or contributed to this post. Frankly, if the guns suck we won’t waste your time or ours talking about it. Now, on to the good stuff.
- Let’s take a look at the best paintball gun of 2021.
- No Time to Read? Here’s Our Top Picks
- Let’s take a look at the best paintball gun of 2021.
- Why you should trust us?
- Our Overall Pick: Empire Axe 2.0 Paintball Marker
- Tippmann Stormer Tactical [Best Gun Under $150]
- Dye Rize CZR [Best marker in $300 range]
- Planet Eclipse Etha 2 [Great $500 Range Alternative to our pick, the Empire Axe 2.0]
- Planet Eclipse GTEK 170R [Great option under $800]
- DLX Luxe X Paintball Gun [The Best Paintball Marker]
- Other Considerations: Planet Eclipse EMEK [Best (Modern) Mechanical Paintball Marker]
- What to Look for in a Paintball Gun?
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Electronic Marker vs. Mechanical Marker: What’s the big difference between the two?
- Between CO2 and Compressed Air, is one better than the other?
- Is there a preferred material for a paintball marker to be made of?
- What guns do professional paintball players use?
- Do I have to pay an arm and a leg for a good paintball gun?
- Conclusion – Final Thoughts on the Best Paintball Gun
Our Overall Pick: Empire Axe 2.0 Paintball Marker
[ Pro level Performance + Mid market Price = Insane Value ]
- Accurate, smooth and lightweight, the newly improved Axe 2.0 shreds the competition
- Pressure controlled poppet engine for proven, reliable performance
- Externally serviceable, break-beam anti-chop laser eyes
Empire Paintball shocked the industry and the pro field when the Axe debuted in 2011. Based on the proven design of the Empire (then Invert) Mini, Empire revamped the gun from the ground up with community requested features. What surprised the industry was when pro paintball teams Sacramento XSV and Chicago Infamous announced they would be shooting the Axe paintball markers on the pro field. This was a first in paintball history. Typically pro teams shot special super high end (in many times, very custom) guns in order to have an edge over their competition. Whatever it takes to win, right? Companies used their pro teams to help market paintball guns that started at over $1,000. However in this case, Empire was sending their pro teams to work with what turned out to be a high quality, mid-range price point paintball marker. The Axe was quickly proven to be a paintball gun that had all of the features of paintball markers that cost at least twice as much, without the hit to the wallet. Initially folks were skeptical but time and time again these pro teams proved that the Axe paintball markers were more than capable.
What made this mid-range marker special was that Empire sent their product designers, R&D and engineers to the pro paintball events to tech, troubleshoot and ultimately discover how to improve on the already winning platform. In 2017 Empire released a full overhaul with the Empire Axe 2.0 paintball gun. Everything you could dream of came with the gun, out of the box, and at a sub $500 price point. At time of writing they are retailing for about $430.
During our hands on testing and comparison to the 1.0, AXE Pro and Empire AXE SYX 1.5 models, we found the 2.0 to be a great performer and value for those looking for the best paintball gun. The Axe 2.0 includes a new two-piece 14″ paintball barrel with improved porting to help the ball find its target. The body milling is much sexier looking (its no question folks, looks add +5 to your kill count). The front grip has a new slim design that is both waterproof and textured to insure you have control in the most challenging conditions. Between the new milling and slimmer front grip design they were able to remove something around 10% of the weight from the gun. A few big pluses that make this gun standout are price point, a tool-less push button bolt removal, single Allen-key size for any gun maintenance.
What everyone is really curious about is the fire power.. right? Rest assured, the Empire Axe includes several firing modes out of the box including Semi Auto, Multi-shot burst, Ramp mode and adjustable rate of fire. The boards themselves are programmable and include a tournament lock should you find yourself competing in any of the regional or national event series that require it. The guns are exceptionally durable, low maintenance and easy to take care of.
During our field testing on NXL mode we were able to achieve just over 7 and a half pods of paint (just over 1,000 paintball shots per tank) on a 68/4500. If you are thinking that you will shoot more than that during your game, we recommend pairing this paintball marker with an 80ci / 4500psi air system. They are about the footprint of a 68 but provide that extra air in case you find yourself holding down the fort.
The Empire Axe paintball gun is a great choice for someone looking to have a good time with great equipment without breaking the bank. This gun will perform on the rec ball fields and the pro fields without a hiccup. If you are buying once, crying once.. this is a fantastic choice. Price as of writing: $429
If the Axe 2.0 is not available, or you want to compare it to something else, we suggest considering the Planet Eclipse Etha 2 outlined in our other options section.
Tippmann Stormer Tactical [Best Gun Under $150]
- Tippmann Stormer BASIC Paintball Gun - Black - 14911
- TIPPMANN STORMER BASIC MILSIM STYLED .68 CALIBER PAINTBALL MARKER - Semi-Automatic - Adjustable from 250-325 FPS - Barrel Thread: A5 - Proven, In-line Bolt Design - Internal Gas Line - High-Impact...
The Tippmann Stormer Tactical is actually $159.00 at time of writing, but it was the best bang for our buck that we tested. The Stormer paintball marker is based on the well respected Tippmann 98 custom design (#1 rental gun for paintball parks for over 20 years). The Stormer employs the proven Tippmann gas system that is super reliable and consistent. Much like our higher end selections, the gas to propel your paintballs runs through the grip which is a big plus for us. The Stormer includes a built in safety (cross bolt/push button style) , sights for those that want them (hint: they are not needed, run your eye down the barrel and track the target), and a handy but removable vertical grip to help you control the gun during rapid fire.
The Stormer is basic and reliable by design. Don’t worry though, this paintball gun has plenty of aftermarket accessories available so you can upgrade to your hearts content. Collapsible stocks, US Army Alpha branded accessories, you name it. During our testing, the barrel sucked. It gets the job done but if you are trying to keep a gun under $100, the accuracy of the stock barrel is one of the last things the designers focus on.
If you have some extra money to spend, consider picking up an aftermarket paintball barrel in the 14″ range to better maximize the performance and accuracy. This gun works on co2 which will mean you can purchase an inexpensive air tank for around $40. Hopper wise, the Proto Primo loader will work nicely on this and not break the bank. If you are looking for a turn key package that includes everything (paintballs not included) to get started, check out the Cronus Player Package that includes a tank, goggles, loader, pod pack and paintball pods for about $180.
- COMPLETE ALL-IN-ONE PAINTBALL GUN PACKAGE! Tippmann Cronus .68 Caliber Paintball Marker Gun Player Package. Everything You Need to Get in the Game!
- THE BEST CHOICE FOR ENTRY LEVEL PAINTBALLERS! High performance, low maintenance, reliability, and incredible durability make it one of the most popular paintball markers across the globe. Built with...
- TIPPMANN CRONUS MILSIM STYLED .68 CALIBER SCENARIO PAINTBALL MARKER - Semi-Automatic - Adjustable from 250-325 FPS - Barrel Thread: A5 - Proven, In-line Bolt Design - Internal Gas Line - High-Impact...
Dye Rize CZR [Best marker in $300 range]
Great for a beginner looking to step it up but not break the bank.
- Packed with features normally only found on high-end markers, the DYE Rize CZR delivers premium features without the pro price tag. The CZR gives you the ability to compete with any marker on the...
- Featured loaded with the precision True Core two-piece 14" barrel, proven Hyper3 regulator, DYE Ultralite on/off Airport, and DYE Lever Lock adjustable clamping feed neck the CZR is packed with...
- Innovations like the internal Anti-Chop eyes, screw together bolt design, DYE's patented self-cleaning 4th generation Eye Pipe, and Color Coded O-Rings keep maintenance to a minimum and easy when...
The Dye Rize paintball guns are a reliable option that really finds a way to offer premium features for a reasonable price. This paintball guns design is based off the old Dye Matrix (DM Series) and Dye Proto series which were top contenders and many considered the best guns around 2004-2007. The marker has a consistent regulator in the Hyper 3, but it has an external hose which while technically fine is less desirable these days. A clamping feed-neck allows for securely attaching your loader to the gun. Accuracy is reasonable out of the two piece 14″ barrel. The trigger is adjustable, the grips are tacky and the gun has anti-chop eyes and uses the 4th Gen Eye pipe which are nice because in the event you break paint, the design will assist in self cleaning. Its not perfect but its better than pulling the barrel off and trying to clean it out mid game. This gun fires 68 caliber paintballs and operates on compressed air, not co2, which is a plus. Because of the heritage and proven design, this marker is great for intermediate players, but advanced players may want to look at some of our other options outlined. Price as of writing is $319.00
Planet Eclipse Etha 2 [Great $500 Range Alternative to our pick, the Empire Axe 2.0]
In terms of sub $500 paintball guns, the Planet Eclipse Etha 2 is a really incredible marker. The inclusion of the Gamma Core spool valve drive train makes these markers super consistent and great on paint. This is a gas through grip design so you do not need to worry about the hose to the regulator getting in your way. Accuracy is decent out of the stock barrel (which uses autococker threads) but we would suggest an upgrade if funds allow. The Eclipse Etha 2 includes a clamping feed-neck which is a must have as it secures your loader to the gun. The electronic trigger is great for slinging paint in a hurry, and a push button bolt removal helps you to keep the engine clean between games without a bunch of tools needed. These markers are light weight, quiet, and feels awesome to hold. Various colorways are available. Basically, this is a killer choice for the money you’re paying, even though it’s not necessarily cheap. This gun is one of the best options for under $500 and great for both beginner and intermediate players. Price as of writing is $429.00
Planet Eclipse GTEK 170R [Great option under $800]
Plenty of high end features without the sticker shock of the Luxe markers.
The Planet Eclipse GTEK 170R is a light weight, super controllable, and fast shooting paintball gun. While it doesnt have a talking board, it does have some of the nicer features seen only in high end guns. The gun is ball on ball accurate, has a push button bolt removal system. The circuit board has a water resistant OLED display which makes it much easier to modify your settings on the fly. Programming the board is done via USB Mini and a Windows powered PC. The trigger guard is nice and roomy — a big plus for the more advanced players. Eye covers are easily accessible. The body is a bit longer than our Empire Axe 2.0 selection which makes for a more comfortable playing experience. The XLS gun comes with an accurate 14″ Freak XL barrel so for those with the kit, you are in luck. Otherwise, plan to shell out a few extra bones and grab the set. The Boremaster XL kit is definitely worth it.
A big plus over earlier versions of the shocker is that this one runs on a lower pressure of 140psi. This ended up producing a quieter shot then the RSX that we had tested out previously. The Shockers shoot 68 caliber paintballs and run on compressed air exclusively. Don’t bother with co2 on these guns, it just won’t cut it.
For those with some extra funds but not ready to plunk down the $1700 for the Luxe, the Shocker XLS is a great choice. Yeah, it does not have a talking board, tool-less grip removal, or magnetic eye covers, but its also $1000 less. This paintball gun is basically a dream for those in the mid-market range. The Shocker XLS paintball guns would be considered overkill for a beginner, but someone working there way up the ranks or looking to lay down an intense rate of fire at their opponents should look no further. The Shocker XLS was $729 as of writing/testing.
DLX Luxe X Paintball Gun [The Best Paintball Marker]
We have put some serious amount of paint down field with the Luxe. We have history with the Luxe and have used one version or another for over 10 years. The Luxe X is the best paintball marker available. Hands down.
A bit of background for you — we were initially introduced to the Luxe sometime in 2009-10 when the 1.0 was first unveiled by long time pro player Daryl Trent (of championship winning pro teams Ironmen, All Americans). Daryl was super fired up about the Luxe, claiming this was the greatest paintball gun he had ever laid his hands. Daryl is super legit and knows what hes talking about (he also worked for DLX), so we took him at his word. Always on the hunt for that edge over the competition, both my brother and I ran the 1.0 through its paces. Our minds were blown. The Luxe accuracy was exactly what we were looking for. The marker was super smooth, well balanced, nice on paint and best of all, the gun talked to us. It wasn’t long before each of us were shooting the Luxe. In writing this it seems crazy that we have shot a Luxe paintball gun for the last 10 years in one version or another. Sure, we have dabbled with other paintball guns, but we always find ourselves coming back to the Luxe. The Luxe is a super high quality paintball gun that is well built, and podium proven.
Prior to the Luxe we had shot all of the guns that were considered top of the line during their era; Egos, Shockers, Geos, Matrix’s, Autocockers, Intimidators, Marq’s, Angels, you name it. The predecessor to the Luxe, the Smart Parts Shocker, was a favorite of ours during the 05-06 season. It was ball on ball accurate and had a nice single tube profile but there were issues — even with the “High Efficiency” bolt system the gun ate gas, the eyes were a pain to clean and the bolt needed constant servicing. Rings, grease, cleaning, the whole deal. Initially when we started shooting the Luxe we were skeptical (was this a reskinned shocker?) but the gun instantly proved itself worthy of the best paintball gun crown. The Luxe marker solved all of the issues that drove us nuts about other markers available, shocker included. DLX really upped the anty when it came to service and quality of top of the line pro level paintball guns. 10 years later, the newest iteration, the Luxe X, continues to set the stage for not only the best spool valve gun, but most importantly the types of features and performance pro paintball players have come to expect out of their markers.
When you power this gun on you are immediately impressed. The gun literally talks to you! During the start up sequence there is a female robotic voice that lets you know the marker is powering on. From there, she lets you know which firing mode you are in, and verbally provides a percentage of battery life remaining. Its fantastic. To this day I love showing my non-paintball friends the Luxe… and letting them turn it on. They instantly impressed and get a big smile on their face.
There are countless features packed into the Luxe X marker. In addition to the talking electronic board, the Luxe includes a super slick tool-less bolt removal (flip the cover up and pull back) and magnetic eye covers. When we first got our hands on the Luxe we immediately thought the eye covers would fall off, or get shot off. Our concern was unnecessary — never once in the last 10 years has anything like that happened to either my brother or I, nor anyone we know. In the Luxe X, the frame can be removed without any tools. They call it the “Pro-Lock Frame System” and its a nice upgrade from the prior Luxe generation. We don’t really find ourselves removing the frame from our marker all that often, but when we do it typically is between points and needs to be done in a hurry. Not having to source an Allen-key to remove the frame is a nice feature.
The battery in the grip frame is a lithium ion and has multiple options for charging including USB-C or a standard USB. Your choice. One of the gripes with the 1.0 and 2.0 luxe models is that we had to charge them all the time – typically in the car on the way to the field because we would often forget. With the Luxe X there is significantly more power storage on board and its much easier to manage recharging cycles.
The Luxe paintball trigger is the best in all the paintball guns we have tested. This trigger is smooth, fully adjustable, and provides enough length for either single or double trigger finger work. The trigger is secured by a single screw and the bearings are sealed to prevent dirt and paint from junking up your gun. Its a really simple design that is field proven.
The Luxe X paintball gun has a programmable circuit board. With the included USB to Luxe data transfer cable you can keep up to date with the latest firmware and firing modes available. This means when a league changes the rate of fire, or a firing mode, you can easily download the update and reprogram your paintball gun before heading to the park to play.
Firing the Luxe X is a dream. The gun utilizes a spool valve design that is very smooth on paint. When we say the gun shoots ball on ball, we mean it. The Luxe X is the most accurate paintball gun we have tested. You can literally watch your paint fly consistently across the field. Its as if you are shooting a laser beam at the opponent. The gun is super quiet when cycling, even during rapid rates of fire. The gun runs exclusively off of compressed air. No, co2 tanks will not power these markers. Not that you would want to of course..
For those comparing the Luxe X to prior generations, keep in mind that the Luxe X generation offers a improved bolt design and coating with lubricating properties, a redesigned circuit board thats easily removable, and a new solenoid. Last but not least the Luxe X offers several new color ways. As we all know, style is part of the game.
The Luxe X gun includes the famous Freak Paintball Barrel designed for use with the Freak XL Boremaster kit. The original Freak barrel kit was known for its accuracy and included features that players desired, specifically the sizing of paint prior to play. The XL Boremaster does two things for you. One, you can sleeve the inside of your barrel to perfectly match the size of paint your marker will be shooting that day. Yes, this paintball gun shoots 68 caliber paintballs but as you will come to find, paintballs tend to be slightly different sizes of 68 caliber. Ie, sometimes paint is 0.687, on other days, 0.689, and on others 0.682. The better the paintball fits in your barrel, the more accurate the barrel will be and ultimately your shots will be. Next, the XL barrel kit is an upgrade from prior Freak systems where the barrel sleeve is extended further into the barrel which ultimately provides you more control of the ball in flight. We are really big fans of matching your paint to your bore prior to play and the Freak system does an incredible job. Keep in mind, you will have to purchase the rest of the barrel kit separately (about $200 for the entire set).
- 16" The Freak Straight Ported Tip - Black
- Ion / Impulse / Luxe Back - Black
- 8 Piece Aluminum Insert Kit
This gun shoots like a dream. Its literally ball on ball accurate, super smooth shooting and very soft on paint. This is our choice on the field.
If the Luxe X is not available at time of purchase, you may want to consider the Dye M3+ markers.
- New Slide Lock AirPort (SLAP) ASA, 4th Generation Patented EyePipe, BWing21 Mag-Reach Trigger, Updated FL-21 Bolt System, all-new Flex Face Bolt Tip, refined BWing21 Solenoid Housing, and a new UL-S...
- Updated FL-21 Bolt System with all-new 2-Stage Flex Face Bolt Tip sets a new standard for dependability, performance, and ability to operate across the widest range of extreme conditions. The new Flex...
- DYE's patented Eye Pipe System moves into its 4th generation of refinement with updated breech geometry and independent detents designed to accommodate a wide range of paint sizes including extremely...
The above markers are all in the over $1000 fully featured pro paintball gun category and each marker can hold its own against the best. All 3 companies listed have incredible event support and great customer service.
Other Considerations: Planet Eclipse EMEK [Best (Modern) Mechanical Paintball Marker]
Mechanical paintball guns is where most of us got our start. In recent years we have seen a resurgence of old school paintball being played, both in recreational and pro paintball fields. That means mechanical markers are back, and with it they are bringing a ton of improvements to the field. The world renown International Classic Paintball League (ICPL) is selling out events in less than 5 minutes and all sorts of old school pro teams are making a major come back. The mechanical gun of choice these days is the EMEK paintball gun. Why you ask? Its a perfect blend of modern features that we have all come to expect, and the reliability and trigger operation of a mechanical paintball gun.
Most importantly, the EMEK paintball gun includes the iconic Gamma Core Drive Train which is featured in the Planet Eclipse guns that retail over $1000! That means this gun is smooth firing, super reliable, quiet, and very simple to operate. The soft bolt face makes the EMEK very soft on paint so you can shoot brittle paint during colder weather without issue. Another big feature for us is the modern internal gas through grip system which means no external hoses to get in your way.
The EMEK has a low rise clamping feedneck to insure the loader does not go missing when you take a dive or slide into your bunker. We really appreciated the push button bolt for easily removing to field strip and clean should the need arise. Pretty simple really, just run your squeegee from the back to the front of the gun and your back in the fight. The included barrel is one piece and while the accuracy is acceptable it would be one of the first areas we would recommend an upgrade when funds allow. The EMEK was designed to utilize autococker threaded barrel means you have plenty of aftermarket options just a click away.
During our testing we used one of our Freak Barrel Kits and the accuracy improved dramatically. The Planet Eclipse EMEK is designed for compressed air and does not work with co2. Again, do not plan to use Co2 in this gun. In our experience, compressed air is the best choice for a smooth and consistent gas system to keep your gun running on point. The EMEK is far and away an improvement over the competition which is the 98 custom. This just handles and fires so much better. Honestly, at this point its what all the players should be using.
We are big fans of the EMEK. The mechanical paintball marker is a simple yet proven design and when paired with the Gamma Core Drive train it fills a sweet spot in the market. The gun shot accurately and consistently, ball after ball. As with the Cronus, we would definitely suggest upgrading the paintball barrel to a 14″, just make sure to select something with autococker threads to insure proper fit. As of writing/testing we found the EMEK available for $219, which is an incredible bargain for the performance of the marker. Whether you are a beginner intermediate or professional player, this gun will be a force on the field.
What to Look for in a Paintball Gun?
So far, we have looked at the best paintball guns on the market, but there is a broader question that is important to note: what kind of qualities separate a great paintball gun from the rest?
When we’re looking at these guns– whether its the Planet Eclipse Etha 2, the Dye Proto, the Cronus Tactical, or another top paintball marker– we are considering a variety of factors. First of all, we want something that is accessible and possible for anybody to use, ranging from your average entry level beginner, intermediate players who want something easy to use, and even advanced players who want a marker that will match their level of expertise.
We do our best to pick out high quality paintball markers which offer a range of firing modes, an impressive balls per second count, and anything else people seem to be wanting from their paintball guns. 2021 is a different year, and we feel like whether you want electronic paintball markers or a mechanical gun, there are definite objective criteria that keep the average level gun from those we’d call ‘one of the best’ and the general top rated paintball gun.
Certain factors often get overlooked while shopping. Sometimes a paintball marker is great, but it will be a little too complicated and rigid for a convenient field disassembly… As any competitive paintball player knows, this is a nightmare waiting to happen. Not only is an efficient disassembly helpful when it comes to maintenance and cleanliness, but it can also make or break a game should something go wrong and you need to fix a jam on the fly, without tools on hand.
So, we hope to help you find the best paintball gun for you. But there are features that you have to consider for yourself, too. Are you scanning through electronic markers with all the features, or do you want a mechanical paintball gun that is reliable in all conditions? Maybe you want a paintball pistol, or a pump. Do you care about having a collapsible stock? Pro tip: Its not needed, just change the tank size to one that fits your body type. What kind of bolt system and feed system are you looking for? Do you care enough to consider the more minute details, such as a spool valve or poppet valve system? Do you want a 68 caliber or a 50 caliber? [Pro tip: 50 cal is primarily for the 10 and under crowd. 68 cal is used by 95% of the paintball world] Are you looking for something lightweight, heavy-duty, or both?
Discerning players require a clamping feed neck. We think this is a no-brainer and all of our suggestions above include one. No player one wants to risk losing a paintball loader during their glory run on the opposing team. A clamping feedneck is a handy feature that allows you to adjust the grip tension securing the paintball hopper to the paintball gun. On this note, you should get a gun that allows you to accessorize– many top brands will have tons of accessories available which allow you to customize your experience and explore different possibilities for all sorts of situations.
Make sure your marker has options for upgrades such as barrel kits, electronic loaders, programmable circuit boards. On the note of barrel kits, make sure your marker uses common barrel threads ie: autococker, ion/luxe or tippmann threads as that way when or if you switch guns down the line you can continue using the same barrel kit as long as you stick within that product family. Accuracy and consistent rate of fire is a non-negotiable for us. Optional upgrades like picatinny rail space or collapsible stocks might be good addition to your paintball gun if you are playing a milsim scenario or tactical game. That said, save your self the embarrassment and leave the collapsible stock at home if your planning to roll points on the airball fields.
If you do choose to go with an electronic marker, make sure the batteries are rechargeable, and that they also hold a charge for a long time. Many of the prior generation of paintball guns suffered from batteries which depleted way too fast, and this can really have a negative impact on game-play. No one wants to be trouble shooting there gun..especially in the middle of a game. Charge your batteries!!
For those of you just looking to do some target shooting in your backyard, a paintball pistol might be a fun and affordable option. There is not one version that we recommend or another as its not an area we spend much time.
We get a lot of people who ask us about certain brands, players looking for something with brand recognition. Of course, many folks are familiar with the US Army brand due to it being our nations military. Keep in mind that the name is only licensed from the US Army, and that the guns do not meet any sort of mil-spec or anything like that. Sure, its great if you want to rock the US Army labeled gear, or look like you have an AR-15 with the US Army Alpha. [Pro tip: Those are really just re-skinned 98 custom paintball markers] Frankly though, there are way better options outlined above that will help you mark your opponent. Lighter, faster, better barrels that drive way better accuracy and ultimately help you win the game.
Frequently Asked Questions
Electronic Marker vs. Mechanical Marker: What’s the big difference between the two?
Well, there’s a big difference. As the name suggests, the mechanical marker lacks the electricity to power the trigger and increase the markers rate of fire. Sure this means it comes without some of the features that the circuit boards and batteries add to the game. Is this necessarily a bad thing? Not really. In many cases this means added reliability and durability of the marker. That and the lack of circuit board decreases the price point of the markers significantly. Some paintball players prefer the lower maintenance game that a mechanical gun provides, while others really want to get into the special features or compete at a higher level that is enabled by electronic paintball guns. In the end, it comes down to individual preference. There is a pretty big difference between the two– and there are many differences within the two, as well. For example, electronic paintball guns include anti-chop technology which is basically a set of break beam (or laser) eyes that prevent the marker from firing until the paintball is perfectly aligned in the barrel. This is one of those must have features for competitive players.
Between CO2 and Compressed Air, is one better than the other?
Compressed Air is by far the way to go and is considered the field standard in 2021. Co2 was popular in the 80’s and 90’s because tanks were cheap and the compressed air stations were few and far between. That has all changed and now co2 stations are harder to find. Even rental guns have switched from co2 to using compressed air now. Its consistent, has fewer issues, tanks are plentiful, and you get better results with compressed air. Compressed Air only takes seconds to fill, requires no “expansion period”, and allows guns to run on lower pressure. Most all of the popular guns these days are setup for Compressed Air due to its overwhelming popularity. Many guns will use compressed air, stored in a tank, that runs to nearly 5000 psi. There is only one time in our minds you would want to use co2; that is if you are relying on a old school pump gun that uses single use co2 cartridges. Those guns fire one shot per pump and while prided for their accuracy you may find yourself outclassed if you come across multiple opponents. Its in those cases you would want to be using an electronic marker.
Is there a preferred material for a paintball marker to be made of?
Not necessarily. Aluminum has been popular for the last 30 years and is pretty much the one we use as a standard. Yes you will come across a plastic paintball marker in a gas station or something, but save yourself the trouble. Occasionally you will see carbon fiber barrels and tanks, and polymer or plastic for the hoppers/loaders. Don’t overthink this — the major companies know what works and have figured out how to achieve the best performance and value.
What guns do professional paintball players use?
That tends to change by the season and the sponsors interest in which paintball guns they want to push for the year. Right now the paintball guns of choice on the pro field are a steady mix of the DLX Luxe, the Planet Eclipse CS2 and the DYE M3+. These markers are all contenders in the high end category and include all the bells and whistles money can buy.
Do I have to pay an arm and a leg for a good paintball gun?
We are in what is considered the golden age of paintball and paintball gear. In the 90’s and early 2000’s you definitely had to spend to get performance and quality. To the players benefit, those days have changed and technology has improved dramatically.
For players looking for a new marker, $500 is the sweet spot right now for pro level performance and value. The barrels in $500 range markers have reasonable accuracy and features the important options pro players desire. Anything over that and your paying for incremental improvements ie. reduced weight, talking circuit boards, special color patterns or limited releases. Anything below $400 and you start losing important features like break beam eyes, tool-less field stripping, durability and low maintenance. The easy answer for players is that there is a range of guns, with tons of value being offered from the lower-priced options all the way to the highest tier. Let your budget drive your purchase.
Sure, the more you spend the better the gear and guns become. That said, it really depends on what you are trying to accomplish. Are you just marking trees? A $50 paintball pistol or marker will do the trick, but expect to throw it away when your done. Accuracy is not really a consideration if you are only 7 yards away from your target. For those that fit this group, these markers are typically powered by disposable co2 cartridges, similar to your bb or pellet gun.
All things considered, because you have to buy more paintball equipment than just your marker, you should be expecting to pay well over one hundred dollars for your set up, while you can go as low as $30 if you’re just looking to try out some low-quality plastic, or spend over $2000 if you’re looking for a marker that is premium and top of the line. Also, most legitimate companies will offer reasonable warranties.
Conclusion – Final Thoughts on the Best Paintball Gun
Are these the only great paintball guns on the market? Definitely not. However, we think they represent a broad range of excellent options. Some are easy to use, others are advanced. But, in the end, as long as we help you find the right marker for you, we are totally happy. If there are any amazing guns we missed out on, feel free to let us know!
It should be noted that this article is copyright 2020 by PROPaintball.com. All rights reserved etc. etc. and we are just avid players and huge fans of the sport but not actually affiliated with any of these great companies..