Differences Between a Mechanical and an Electropneumatic Paintball Gun

Most beginning players are familiar with classic, mechanical blow-back paintball guns. They may also be familiar with electropneumatic guns. Most new players, though, do not know how these guns are different from one another. There are a few significant differences between the types of guns and many smaller differences.

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A mechanical paintball gun is solely powered by mechanical actuation. The firing process is initiated by pulling the trigger and then a series of mechanical processes causes the gun to fire and then recock. The power comes from the stored energy in springs and then the driving power comes from the expansion of the compressed air or carbon dioxide (CO2).

In an electropneumatic paintball gun, the power for the gun to fire still comes from the expansion of compressed air, but the actuation of the firing mechanism comes from an electropmechanical actuator called a solenoid. When the trigger is pulled, rather than a mechanical connection, an electronic pulse goes to the solenoid which then opens up a valve and allows air to enter into the chamber to fire the paintball. Whereas the trigger pull on the mechanical gun releases the energy stored in a spring, the trigger pull on an electropneumatic gun releases electrical energy stored in a battery to actuate the solenoid.

One disadvantage of this is that you must have a battery in your gun which means you must also regularly replace your gun. A second disadvantage is that the electronics are also very susceptible to water damage. Whereas a mechanical gun can work in many conditions, including in the rain, electropneumatic guns really need dry weather to perform properly.

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Mechanical paintball guns are limited by the speed at which a person can pull the trigger. They are able to be fired relatively quickly, but the practical maximum rate of fire is around 10 shots per second.

An electropneumatic paintball gun is able to fire considerably faster because its firing speed is determined by an electronic circuit board that can be adjusted to fire much faster than human can pull their finger. Different guns have different maximum rates of fire, but most electropneumatics can fire upwards of 20 balls per second.

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Mechanical paintball guns are not very consistent shot over shot. When mechanical guns fire they rely on heavy hammers, multiple springs, and the varied rates of expansion of air as it flows through the gun. Most importantly, they have multiple moving parts which shake the gun each time it fires. The result is that mechanical guns, particularly ones that use CO2, have considerable variation between shots. It is not uncommon for mechanical paintball guns to shoot at very different speeds between shots. A typical mechanical paintball gun may vary by as much as 10-20 feet per second between shots. The result of inconsistent shooting is that accuracy drops.

Electropneumatic paintball guns are much more consistent. Because they have an electric solenoid, there are fewer moving parts which means the gun vibrates less as it fires. Also, the electronic solenoid is able to open and close very consistently between shots. The end result is that electropneumatics have very consistent shooting. It is not uncommon for an electropneumatic to only vary 3-5 feet per second (or less) between shots. The result is that these guns are generally much more accurate.

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One of the most apparent differences between a mechanical paintball gun and an electropneumatic paintball gun is the cost of the guns. While there are some high-end mechanical paintball guns that cost in the hundreds of dollars, most modern paintball guns that are mechanical cost less than $200. Electropneumatic paintball guns, though, generally cost close to $200 for the cheapest models and can cost considerably more, up to more than a thousand dollars.