Marker Stories

Sandra pushes her barrel against the board, the timer is counting down to game on and every nerve in her body pulses with anticipation. In a few seconds the buzzer will sound and she and her team will explode from the boards and launch a withering assault of paint towards the team on the other side of the field. The buzzer sounds like an angry and bloated bull frog and Sandra and her team mates spring into action. She makes a run through a hail of paint to the snake insert and slides in and comes up to shooting position in a single, fluid, and beautiful movement. She walks her trigger but nothing happens, as her team shouts out positions and continues with their planned strategy, she sits stupidly behind her bunker staring down at her gun. “What the kitten*,” she exclaims; she put fresh batteries in all her equipment this morning, the hopper is on, the gun is on, air is on....”Why isn’t this working?!?” Just then, a string of paint sails past her bunker and stitches her leg that now pokes lazily out from behind cover. Sandra has just met a big fan of paintball, Murphy. The point ends, badly, and Sandra returns to the pits cursing the Paintball gods who abandoned her. So what happened? Sandra had put new batteries in all of her equipment this morning, however the batteries were cheap. Not only were they cheap but they were sitting in the cold all morning and connected. Most paintball equipment that requires battery power never fully closes the circuit once they are powered down. If you leave a battery in your marker for any length of time, the marker is pulling down the charge of that battery. Paintball markers, high end electro-pneumatics in particular, require a serious amount of juice to operate and perform well. The average 9 volt battery tends to read between 8.9 and 9 volts out of the package. A paintball marker typically enters failure point when the charge drops below 8.2 volts or so. However, voltage is not the only consideration; or even the main one. What counts and matters most is amperage. A name brand 9v battery typically offers 850 milliamp hours (mAH) of usage. It is generally difficult to determine how many amps are left in the battery so as a rule of thumb don’t use a battery with a voltage weaker than previously mentioned (assuming you use a multimeter to check your batteries). The easiest thing to do is change ALL your batteries the day of an event, in the hours leading to game on. In Sandra’s case, her battery did not hold enough amperage to operate her marker’s solenoid. Even though the display was powered on, the considerable energy needed to actually shoot was simply not there. I get customers at the field with similar problems, they come up and tell me their electronic marker won’t shoot. My reply is always, “Battery.” They will inevitably say, “But I just put one in!” When? Where did you get it from? How old is it? These things really do matter when it comes to the battery that powers your marker. Also, consider that some batteries are just “bad” and even though they are of high quality, and fresh – they simply will not work.

Bud lurks in his hastily, yet well put together, hide. He was tasked to find a good point to observe the other team by his general this morning, report movement and when possible ambush unsuspecting victims. He loved this, and any chance he could get to play the patience game he took readily. Then it happens, a whole group of OpFor walk right past him. Eight live players now walking with their backs to him in the open, he smirks under his mask as he clicks the safety off on his marker and into full auto mode. He shifts slightly to get a better angle on the players and prepares to spray them all in one sweeping motion with his marker. The moment is finally perfect and he executes his plan, squeezing the trigger and unleashing a hail of paint. “POP! POP! POP! CLICKCLICKCLICKCLICK!” The first three shots find their target as suddenly his marker stops shooting and the solenoid clicks ignorantly away inside his grip frame. The remaining five players are stupefied from the opening attack, but quickly regain composure and waste Bud in a shower of paintballs. Moments before being eliminated, Bud just stared at his marker and then looked up in time to see the rain of paint coming in towards him, “oh mortgage*….” Bud’s case is difficult, in that his marker is sear-tripped. And even though this marker is electronic, generally these are more forgiving on poorer quality and lower charged batteries. As Bud lay in his hide, occasionally shifting this way and that, he slowly rolled his marker back and forth under him. His tank gradually unscrewed from the ASA just enough for the pin valve to close. Those first three shots were the last of the air in his marker. It seems like a simple and obvious fix, but you would be surprised how few people think to check their tank is screwed in all the way. Especially veteran players who have been installing Air Sources since most of the kids in the sport now were still in diapers. Ego aside, however, this does happen – and it happens more than you might think!

Sandra returned from the Tech Tent and cursed her dollar-store batteries. Now it was time for another point, and she tried to put the last one out of her mind completely. The angry bullfrog croaked again and off she went on her break out plan. This time when she posted up to shoot her marker choked and shreds of paint flew out of her barrel. A few clouds of paint mist issued from her barrel before the marker simply stopped shooting. Fighting the urge to chuck the marker across the field she stayed in the game and called out movements for her team. They won this point, but Sandra seriously needed to shoot someone to make her day worth it. Now she has a good battery, why is Murphy still sphinxing* with her? The next thing many users forget is that their markers need lubrication from time to time. In her pre-game jitters and rushed battery installations that morning, Sandra forgot to grease her bolt. This is another problem some customers go through at my field; they will finally put a new battery in the marker and still have problems with it. When I remove the bolt from their marker I find it is drier than a teenager’s mouth when he goes to ask out the hot chick in home room. The O-rings inside your marker are put under considerable force with every cycle. Friction causes heat to build up and the o-rings dry out and can cause chopping, and seizing in the marker. A little lube goes a long way to preventing headaches.

Bud finally figured out his tank problem and stormed back onto the field. He made a stop by the pro-shop and picked up a remote line so he wouldn’t roll around on his marker anymore. Now he was ready to get back in it. He stalked across the field and found a new ambush spot to take cover in. Before he could settle in all the way, another group of OpFor walked in front of him with their backs turned. He smiled and was glad he made that burnt offering to the paintball gods that morning. He opened fire but watched, horrified, as the paint arced in every direction except straight. Paintballs zigged and zagged and seemed to make a point of avoiding his targets, who now turned on him and opened fire. Moments before he was eliminated he wondered if the paintball gods would have preferred an entire chicken biscuit instead of his leftovers. The paint zipped in towards him and all he managed to say was, “are you guacamole* serious?” This time the problem was simple, Bud was going to take his gun apart to figure out what happened. Like most of us he started by removing his barrel. But, when he discovered his tank was already unscrewed he rushed to get back in…not tightening his barrel. Paintball markers generate a lot of vibration as they shoot. Even the smoothest shooting ones generate this energy as they cycle. In Bud’s case, the barrel was jumping up and down and side to side with each shot causing the paintballs to exit at angles from the marker instead of straight out.

These examples are typically the most common problems I encounter at the field, I hope they serve to put in perspective that sometimes Murphy is a mean son of a hamster* and will find unconventional ways to try to ruin your day. The best thing to do, keep in mind the basics of marker operation (you could follow the handy checklist below) and don’t let it get you down too bad. Marker problems stink, but they don’t have to ruin your entire day

CHECKLIST – ELECTROS
1. Battery, seriously, B-A-T-T-E-R-Y
2. Lube/oil.
3. Is your air system on/supplying your marker with air?
4. Is your hopper turned on?
5. Is there a blockage keeping paint out of the chamber of your marker?

CHECKLIST – MECHS
1. Is your air system on/supplying our marker with air?
2. Is your marker assembled correctly?
3. Lube/oil
4. Is there a blockage keeping paint out of the chamber of your marker?

I certainly hope this helps get you back in the game quickly. But lets not forget that nearly all of these issues can be prevented with proper maintenance and good quality batteries replaced at frequent intervals. Happy Painting! *For the sake of cleanliness, typical paintballer response words were replaced with randomly picked substitutions.

Mike "Voodoo" Shumate
Originally posted on 'Voodoo Spells It Out'