Okay - so I got bored sitting in front of the PC with a load of work to do, and typed up a guide to buying your first marker. Hopefull it'll be of some use to somone:
Buying a marker is a big investment. You’ll be spending a decent amount of money, and it’s possible to make some very expensive mistakes!
The first thing to know is that it’s by far best to buy second-hand. As long as you choose the right marker, you’ll get a huge amount more for your money than buying new – spend £300 on a brand new marker, and it’ll be worth more like £200 before you’ve finished unwrapping the box. You may worry about backup and servicing – but buy from a trusted seller on here and there’ll be no bother. Plus – if you decide to sell it on later, you’ll get most or all of your money back. (whatever you do, don’t be tempted to get one from the US – you’ll lose the money you saved on import duty and have to return it to the states to honour your warranty)
The first choice is the firing style. Broadly, there are three: (older players will forgive me for ignoring pumps, ‘cockers and mags I hope)
Blowback. In a BB marker, the valve that release the air is opened by a spring loaded hammer, which is held back by a sear (trip switch). When the sear is released, the hammer thumps into the valve and opens it. The air released both fires the paintball and pushes the hammer and bolt back to where they started. It’s a massively unsubtle process, but basic and simple. It can be reliable, but it is largely outdated and perhaps best avoided. The trigger can be mechanical or electronic – but the basic cycling of the marker is the same. These are the types of marker that most sites use as rental markers.
There are then two types of electro-pneumatic systems. An EP system is controlled by a circuit board running a solenoid to cycle air around the marker. A poppet valve marker uses the solenoid to release low-pressure air to push a rammer into the valve to open it and release the high-pressure air into the bolt to fire the paint. This combination of high and low pressure air, combined with a solenoid makes for a gentler, subtler way of operating than a BB marker, and can be controlled better by the onboard circuitry.
A spool valve is a little different. Here, the solenoid releases low pressure air to push the bolt forward, which allows a reservoir of high-pressure air to flow through the bolt and fire the paint. There is a long-term argument over the merits of the two systems – spoolies tend to be smoother quieter, but can use a lot of air and require a bit more involved maintenance. Poppets can be a lot more reliable if they are neglected, use less air, but are louder and can have a little more kick. Either is a fine choice! (I have a couple of each. There are a few slightly different systems – eg the Invert mini which uses high-pressure air only and a spring to return the bolt, but most markers fall into these categories.
The next choice is the “type” of marker. You’ll here people describe “Woodsball” and “Speedball/Tournament” markers. Woodsball type markers tend to be the ones looking like “real” firearms. Tippman and BT are the most well known examples (the 98c, A5, BT4 and a few others). With a few exceptions, they almost all use a variant of the blowback system. There is nothing wrong with this type of marker, as long as you are aware of the drawbacks. They are generally heavier, bulkier and more cumbersome than EP markers and only suited for games played in woodlands and “scenario” type days. On a tournament field, they will be totally outgunned by the EP markers. The main advantage seems to be to the “realism” of them. You can get all sorts of rails, sights, fake magazines and so on – all of which add nothing/little to the performance of the marker. You’ll hear claims that they are harder wearing – but unless you fancy thumping you’re marker against trees or hammering down loose nails in the barricades, then this isn’t a huge factor!
A “Tournament” style marker will have been made to be as small, light and smooth shooting as possible, and they will all be an EP marker (spool or poppet). You’ll still be able to run around the woods with one (it’ll be lighter to carry around!) but it’ll be at home on a tournament field as well – far more versatile. My advice would always to buy a tournament marker every time – a frightening amount of people I know have an old Tippman A5 or 98c sat in their cupboard which they upgraded after a year or so The big advantage here is that a tournament marker will have a programmable circuit board with a variety of factors to adjust and firing modes which will allow you to shoot faster than you can pull the trigger.
The third choice is brand. Simple advice here – stick to a well-known brand. Planet Eclipse, Dye, Proto and Invert are all very well known and respected and I would strongly advise sticking to one of these. You’ll be able to get the marker serviced easily, buy spares and parts from anywhere and most events will have someone who can help if there are problems, if not a retailer who can fix it for you (although it’ll be worth buyer a basic spares kit and learning to do the basics first)
Budget wise –
£100 - £200 will buy a second-hand Invert Mini, Proto PMR + PM8/7, Planet eclipse EGO5/6/7 or Etek 1 or 2.
£200 – 300 adds in DM7s, EGO8, Etek 3, maybe even an EGO9 or DM8.
£300+ and the worlds your oyster!
The only considerations are –
1 If you intend to play in tournaments, and a fair few other events, then you must be able to cap the rate of fire to 10.5 bps – some older markers may need new software to do this, so ensure you check with the seller if unsure.
2 You need to be able to buy spares – o-rings and lube are readily available, but spare solenoids and other specific parts might be tricky for older markers.
For your shiny new cannon, you’ll need a gas source. This is either air or CO2. CO2 is becoming obsolete now, and is only suitable for blowback markers, as it can be sucked into the marker and destroy the delicate internals of an EP marker. So buy air! Steel tanks will hold up to 3000psi and are cheap and inexpensive – second-hand steel air tanks can be had for <£30. They are heavier, but will do the job fine. Fibre wrapped tanks are lighter and hold up to 4500psi – in theory this is much more air per fill, but 4500psi fills are getting a little uncommon. You’ll be fine with a steel tank – but most people end up with a fibre tank eventually – prices for a fibre tank second-hand go up from £70, depending on how much time is left before it needs re-testing.
With a hopper, it’s also fairly simple. There are very few bad hoppers for sale. £20-40 will buy a Halo, Reloader B or possibly a Torque of Vlocity. All will do a very good job, and offer no disadvantage on the field. £70 and up buys a second-hand Rotor or Prophecy, both of which are easier to clean and have better battery life. Buy what you can afford and forget about it once on the field!
Anyways – hope that is of some help to newbies thinking of buying their first marker. Feedback or questions would be great!
What are you looking for in a marker?Planet eclipse, sp or luxe the best for me