There are four main types of paintball guns: Pump, Magazine Fed, Electronic, and Mechanical. Electronic and Mechanical paintball guns make up most of the paintball guns.
When paintball first started all paintball guns were pump. There was a stick on top that carried 10 paintballs and you had to manually recock (pump) the gun every time. There are still many paintball guns that are setup like this, the Azodin KP3 or Empire Sniper are examples of modern pump paintball guns.
Magazine-fed paintball guns are similar to mechanical paintball guns but rather than a hopper on top they have a magazine underneath similar to real firearms. Most mag-fed guns like the Tippmann TMC and Valken M17 use 20rd magazines.
If pump guns were paintball’s first step, the mechanical gun was its second.
Mechanical guns are any paintball gun that is semi-auto, uses a hopper, and does not require a battery. Some people may call anything that does not have a battery mechanical though.
Some of the very first mechanical paintball guns were just modified pump guns that used extra air to recock the gun making it semi-auto or mechanical. The Tippmann’s and Azodin’s that are used today differ every little from some of the early mechanical guns.
If mechanical guns were paintball’s second step, the electronic gun was it’s third.
The main thing holding back the mechanical gun of the 90s were the people using it.
Because mechanical guns were mechanical, you had to manually release a sear with every trigger pull, this made triggers heavy and long, so the rate of fires was not fast.
Then someone added a microswitch, electro-pneumatic solenoid, a circuit board, and the electronic paintball gun was born. Adding the electronics made the trigger pull millimeter short and only required a few grams to pull the trigger.
Which one is better?
When electronic guns started taking over in the late 1990s. If you wanted a “better” paintball gun it had to be electronic, it’s what most players wanted and it’s what manufacturers were selling. Electronic guns had the best shots, were the most air efficient, had the best barrels, higher rate of fire were better in every way.
The mechanical guns on the market were cheaper, for new players, rentals, or a once-a-year style player.
Until 2016 when we started to see some very good mechanical markers released. Guns like Planet Eclipse Emek and Shocker CVO shed off the stigma of previous mech’s and are much more modern. These styles of guns were new, they had some of the features and high-quality shot that the electronic guns had but they were semi-autos.
I find that electronic guns fit players that are a little more serious about paintball, players that are looking to play tournaments or take paintball to the next level.
Electronic guns have all the required firing modes to play any paintball tournament, and they have triggers that are far more adjustable than most mechanical guns.
Nearly all electronic guns are equipped with low-pressure bolt systems. Operating around 200 PSI gives them a much quieter, softer, and easier shot.
Electronic guns typically also have many more features, like a clamping feed-necks, on/off ASA, two-piece barrels, and tool-less bolt removal.
Mechanical guns are best for new players, players that don’t play often, or someone that wants a challenge.
Mechanical markers in general are much simpler than electronic guns, they have simpler internal parts and don’t require batteries. Being simpler makes them more reliable, as there can be less to go wrong, less to maintain, and less to think about. Simplicity is why they are great for new players or for players that only play a few times a year. Brands like Tippmann and Azodin are perfect for this type of player.
I use a mechanical gun most of the time I play paintball, I don’t really need to high rate of fire that an electronic gun can provide, I’m fine with saving some paintball and shooting a little slower. I do however was my gun to shoot like a high-end electronic gun tough. That’s why I really like the Planet Eclipse M170R it has the bolt system from a high-end but in mechanical form.