A decade ago, I was two weekends removed from a paintball tournament happening north of Atlanta, Georgia, playing a few rounds of speedball at a local course that was still muddy from a heavy rain the night before. I slid into a snake bunker and lost the handle on the gun. The rest was misery. Nearly $800 worth of paintball gun gone by way of a two-foot drop onto some foolishly placed rock. That was the last time I played paintball at a serious level.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but those were the good days of paintball. Gun technology was rocketing upward and the popularity of the sport hit its high point. The guns — more formally known as “markers” — used by most regular weekend players went from a standard semi-automatic, mechanical build (pull the trigger down, paintball fires) to lightning fast electric markers (tap the trigger, paintball fires).
Electric markers were (and still are) more expensive, and they crank out anywhere from triple to quadruple the balls per second (BPS) compared to their mechanical counterparts. Today’s markers are incredibly technical — lighter, less likely to break down, more sensitive triggers, laser sights that prevent ball breaks inside the barrel.
The result of all this is a game that’s become progressively out of reach. Going out to play with your buddies at a local field is impossible unless you have a gun that is close to the quality of those carried by people on the other side of the field. Over time, the game’s popularity has shrunk as its technical acumen has grown.
My old gun is still broken, so when I went back to my hometown field a few weeks ago, I had to borrow a buddy’s new, cheap mechanical gun called the GOG eNMey. This marker has changed my view on the game and brought me back into its one-of-a-kind adrenalin rush.
It’s just plain better than the mechanical markers you’d find a decade ago. It doesn’t chop paint (when the ball doesn’t make its way into the chamber fast enough and gets cut in half by the bolt); when you drop it, nothing happens; and it’s much, much lighter than the clunky mechanical markers of old.
Frankly, it was shocking to use. But perhaps more shocking was the number of other players also using mechanical markers. Instead of facing a literal wall of electro-fired paint, the game was an analog experience — something more akin to the early days of the sport.
After that weekend, I went online and rejoined old paintball message boards and learned the mechanical gun trend I saw that day wasn’t necessarily a one-off event. Many fields are hosting mechanical-only rounds, where winners are determined by the skill and strategy rather than the amount of money they are willing to invest.
In my opinion, this is a great thing, and people who rent guns stand a chance against weekend warriors. The GOG eNMey isn’t the only great mechanical paintball marker — Tippman, Autococker and others have been doing it for a while — but it is the one that got me back into the sport. I’m going again this weekend.