How Do Pump Paintball Guns Work? The Complete Guide


If you’ve recently gotten into paintball, you will hear about pump paintball guns sooner or later, then you’ll have questions like–how are they different? Are they right for me? And how do they work?

Pump paintball guns work by having a paintball fall from the hopper into the barrel’s chamber, and a burst of gas sends the ball out of the barrel. Pump paintball guns need to be re-cocked, so they are at a disadvantage against semi-automatic markers. But they are accurate and reliable guns.

In this article, we will explore paintball guns in detail and answer your questions. Once you understand how they work and what makes them different, you will decide if you want to add a pump gun to your arsenal. 

What Is a Pump Paintball Gun?

A pump paintball gun is a single fire marker that needs to be pumped between shots. They fire fewer paintballs than mechanical or electronic markers, so pump markers are at a disadvantage against those markers.  

However, pump paintball guns have greater accuracy, are lightweight, and have a smaller profile. A pump player can be an asset to a team by taking on a sharpshooter role. You can find pump markers only in tournaments.

Finally, pump markers have fewer moving parts and are considered more reliable than mechanical or electronic markers.

Video: Pump play. This guy goes on a tear with his pump paintball gun.

What Are the Basic Parts of a Paintball Gun?

All paintball markers have the following parts:

  • Hopper. The refillable hopper (also called feeder) sits on top of the gun and holds the paintballs.
  • Chamber. After a paintball falls into the chamber, pressurized air pushes the paintball through the barrel.
  • Barrel. The tube that the paintball travels through before leaving the marker.
  • Trigger. The trigger mechanism controls the compressed air as it enters the chamber.
  • Air Tank. The tank holds the compressed air, which is sent through an airline into the chamber.

Some of these components are similar regardless of the marker, while some, such as the chamber, are unique. In the next section, you will learn more about each part.

The Feeder

There are two types of feeders–gravity and electronic. Gravity feeders don’t have mechanical parts such as agitators and motors because they let gravity do the work of dropping the paintball into the chamber. The lack of extra parts means they are more durable and reliable than mechanical hoppers, making them less expensive.

Gravity hoppers tend to be smaller—holding between 50 and 200 balls. Since a pump marker tends to use fewer paintballs, it doesn’t require a large hopper. A pump marker has the advantage of being smaller and lighter, so players usually use a small hopper.

A disadvantage of gravity hoppers is their slow load time. They can’t fire more than 8 to 10 balls a second and can’t keep up with electronic markers.

Many players prefer to use electronic hoppers with mechanical guns. However, an electronic hopper on a pump marker makes little sense because the gun won’t keep up with the hopper.

That’s why you will see most pump players using small gravity hoppers.

Some players use a stick feed instead of a hopper. This is a tube that holds 10 to 20 paintballs. A stick feed lowers the profile of a pump marker even more. Players often carry several sticks feeds as back-ups.

The Chamber

The chamber is where the action is. The pump’s chamber’s design is such that the trigger must be pumped for another ball to fall into the chamber.

Once air enters the barrel, it goes past a valve spring and stops at the valve plunger. The plunger keeps the air from going further into the chamber. The chamber is now pressurized and ready to fire.

When the player pulls the trigger, several things happen at the same time. The ball is pushed forward, another ball falls into the chamber, and the player resets the trigger and shoots.

This is a simplified explanation, and a fuller description is outside the scope of this article.

The Barrel

The barrel is responsible for controlling the paintball’s release. Bore size is important for all markers, but especially pump guns. These guns typically use small air tanks, so if too much air goes past the ball, that’s wasted gas. Another danger from having a too-large bore is the ball rolling out of the barrel.

One way to solve this problem is to buy a barrel kit. These kits come with barrel backs or inserts of different sizes

Just make sure that you get the correct barrel threads for your marker.

The Trigger

From the outside, the pump gun’s trigger looks like other triggers. On the inside, mechanical triggers are shaped differently for the semi-automatic mechanism to work correctly.  

The Air Tank

Keep it light should be your motto when using a pump marker. A large air tank is going to weigh you down, so use one of these sizes:

  • 13/3000. These small and lightweight tanks are the most common tank. You should expect to get 90 to 150 shots from one tank.
  • 12-gram CO² cartridges. These cartridges are not refillable, but at three inches, they are light and practically invisible.  
  • 26/3000. Some players prefer the larger tanks, so they don’t need to worry about running out of air.

Except for the cartridges, the tanks are designed for HPA gas.

Interested in buying a pump paintball marker? Below you can get a hiqh quality one on Amazon:

How Is a Pump Paintball Gun Different From Other Paintball Guns?

There are three types of paintball markers—pump, mechanical, and electronic.  

Pump Markers

The original paintball markers used the pump trigger pull, with mechanical and electronic coming later. A pump gun is a single-fire marker that requires a pump between shots. They are reliable and accurate, but new players often get frustrated playing against opponents using mechanical markers.

Mechanical Markers

The markers commonly used in recreational play are mechanical. These are semi-automatic guns that don’t require a pump between shots. These are ideal guns for first-time players because the guns fire paintballs rapidly.

However, more advanced players also like them because mechanical markers are affordable, easy to maintain, and have many customization options.

Electronic Markers

Electronic paintball guns use electrical circuits to control the valve. The trigger pull is smooth and faster than mechanical and pumps guns. Players can fire in bursts, go full auto, or use a 3-shot burst, and these guns are ideal for fast-moving games.  

Interested in the best full auto paintball guns? I have them listed in this article.

However, electronic guns are more expensive and need both compressed air and batteries.  

As you can see, pump markers use older technology, are slower to fire, and can only fire one paintball at a time. So why would anyone use them?

Does Anyone Still Use Pump Paintball Guns?

Pump markers are still in use, but maybe not by the players you would expect.

Let’s explain. Since pump markers were the first paintball guns and have the simplest design, you might think they are beginner guns. Beginners, however, rarely use them, preferring to shoot the much faster semi-automatic markers. Becoming an accurate shooter requires practice, while a semi-automatic marker doesn’t rely as much on accuracy as rapid-fire.

Advanced players who pride themselves on their skills and accuracy prefer a weapon that requires them. Some long-time players prefer the classic pump paintball guns they grew up with—they use the weapon for accuracy and nostalgia.  

People who play pump list these as reasons they use them:

  • Preference for lightweight marker and tank
  • Like focusing on their marksman skills
  • Preference to play a slower game

Also, pump markers are reliable, easy to maintain, and cheaper than their semi-automatic and electronic counterparts.

Video: Why would you want to Play Pump?

Games That Use Pump Markers

Pump guns are practically useless in some games and required in others. In some situations, some players on a team will use them while others use electronic or semi-automatic markers.  

  • Speedball. In a game that’s all about shooting all the other team players, a pump marker hinders, not helps. While you are aiming at one player, several paintballs are coming your way. Few players would recommend a pump marker for a speedball game.
  • Scenario. In this game, players create a scenario with a storyline. The players set the rules for the game, including what weapons to use. Because they have greater accuracy, players often agree to use pump markers in these games.
  • MilSim. A military simulation game has players reenacting war games. The era the players choose determines the type of gun that will be used. A Civil War MilSim game, for example, will require pump guns since semi-automatic or automatic rifles were not used in that war.
  • Woodsball. Instead of being played in a paintball course, woodsball is played, as its name implies, in woods. In this game, a team might want to have a few of its members play as sharpshooters. A pump would be the preferred marker for the sharpshooters.

Since speedball is the most popular game, it makes sense that pump guns are not as popular as semi-automatic or electronic markers. Still, for the right player in the right game, they are useful weapons.

The Advantages of Pump Paintball Guns

Besides their lower price and easier maintenance, pump markers have several gameplay advantages.

First, they weigh less. Pump players have smaller hoppers and lighter tanks. This improves their reaction time and speed, two essential aspects of the game. Often a split-second decision is a difference between hitting another player or being hit.

Second, pump guns have a lower profile. This makes a player harder to hit. The larger hoppers needed for other types of paintball guns can often give a player’s position away.   

A pump player might not have as much paint, but the extra paint becomes unnecessary when you combine being lighter and smaller with good aim.  

How Can I Improve My Pump Paintball Skills?

People always say the way to improve is to practice. But if you are new to something, how do you know what to practice? Here are nine tips to keep in mind while you work on your skills.

Hold Your Gun Correctly

Sometimes a split second is a difference between getting shot or dodge a paintball. Moving your hand from the pump arm to the pump handle could be that split second.  

The ideal way to hold your marker is to have one hand on the trigger frame and the other on the pump handle. Also, keep your marker close to your shoulder. You will save time by not always having to move your hands.

Not only will you save time by keeping your hands in a shooting position, but you will also have more consistency with your aim.   

Video: Does playing paintball with a pump make you better?

Work on Your Shooting Stance

A good shooting stance and holding your gun correctly work hand in hand to improve your accuracy.

You should work toward what is often called a power stance. It looks like this:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Point both feet in the same direction.
  3. Get into a half squat.

Practice this stance until it is automatic. That way, you will quickly get into this stance when you come from behind a bunker to shoot, and your aim will be consistent. Otherwise, your body’s natural aiming point is subject to change, leading to a lack of consistency.

Use Small Targets When Practicing

You won’t improve your accuracy by shooting at large targets. 

To improve your accuracy, practice shooting at consistently smaller targets. A good strategy is to put small targets at different distances and heights and shoot at them randomly. Next, practice from different positions on the field—finally, practice shooting from a bunker.

Combine good shooting and target practice often, and you will develop the muscle memory to give you consistency in your aim.

Invest in High-Quality Paintballs

We get it—paint can get expensive, but if you want to be accurate (and with a pump, you do), don’t get cheap paint. Cheap paint is inaccurate to paint.

You could look at it another way. When you shoot for accuracy, you use less paint. Instead of shooting up a case of paint in a day, you’ll need a bag. Add an extra $5 for high-quality paint, and you’ll still come out ahead.

Not only will you pay less for paint for the day, but you’ll also use better paint.

Avoid Too Much Gear

Yes, it can be fun to load up the gear. But adding too much weight defeats the lightweight aspect of the game. As an accuracy player, you have to be quick on your feet, not weighed down by gear.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the more gear and tactical equipment you have, the more opportunities that something can go wrong. Pump markers are the most reliable markers, so why add equipment that can cause something to go wrong?

If you want to load up with tactical gear, you should probably play with a mechanical or electronic marker.

Video: How to Play Pump Paintball

Aim Before You Clear the Bunker

This tip applies to all paintball guns, but it is essential with a pump marker. You will often have one opportunity to take a shot, so you won’t have a lot of time to waste.  

So before you step clear the bunker, take aim. Have your marker up to shoot and be in a power stance before you step out to shoot. You won’t be wasting time bringing your marker up to shoot out in the open.

A couple of other things to keep in mind:

  • Resting your barrel on the bunker reduces mobility, so don’t it.
  • You should be able to move your marker, so stand back from the bunker.
  • Leaving extra room allows you to duck back quickly.

Practice Snap Shooting

Snap shooting and aiming behind the bunker work together. The idea is to jump out, take your shot, and immediately snap behind the bunker. This way, your exposure is limited to several seconds at most.

If you hit the other player, you’ll know. If you didn’t, then you probably spooked them, and they’ve gone into hiding or backed off. Now you can snap out again, hopefully catching someone off guard.

Also, keep in mind that you will have a much smaller profile due to the reduced size of a pump marker.

For more tips on how to aim better in paintball, I have this in detail step by step article for you.

Bring a Second Marker

It’s always a good idea to bring a second marker. The obvious reason to do this is in case your gun malfunctions. But there are two other reasons.

First, if you get frustrated with your pump, you can change to a mechanical or electronic marker. Remember that when you change markers, you should also adjust your gameplay style.

Second, you could run into someone who has never played with a pump marker, and you could show them the ropes. Or if another player brought a pump, you could have some fun 1vs1 games.

Keep It Fun

Yes, the point of a paintball match is to defeat the opposing team. But the goal is to have fun. Playing with a pump can be challenging, especially at first. Challenging is not the same as frustrating, though.  

Don’t be afraid to switch up to a different marker if you get frustrated. Maybe you need some additional practice at another time. Just like there’s muscle memory, there’s also frustration memory. Don’t get to the point where you focus on the frustration instead of the fun.

Bottom Line

A pump paintball gun is not for everyone and definitely not for beginners. However, players interested in improving their accuracy should invest in a pump marker. Not only will it be less expensive, but they will also have a more reliable gun. And when you hit someone, it’s not because you shot more balls, but because of your accuracy and skill. That’s a good feeling.

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