The paintball marker is obviously at the center of the paintball universe. It’s the primary tool you’ll use in play. It will determine how far you can push your game and how much time you spend doing maintenance instead of playing.
Here we have ten of the most popular choices of marker. Some of these are popular simply because they are affordable and get the basic job done. Others have something really special about them.
In reviewing these markers I have tried to do a few things. First of all, I’ve tried to figure out what is the best use for each marker. Then I decide whether it lives up to that use case or not. There are also plenty of general attributes you want in your marker regardless of what it is meant for. Any marker should be reliable, at least relative to the alternative – meaning rental markers.
I also try give some weight to price, but there’s no price low enough to justify a marker that doesn’t, well, hit the mark. That said, for once none of these options seems objectively bad. It’s more a question of finding the marker that matches your needs and budget than weeding out the lost causes. Let’s dive right in and see what’s on offer.
Tippmann Cronus Tactical Paintball Gun
Best Mainstream Marker
Tippmann bills the Cronus Tactical as a “milsim” paintball marker. Or at least the marketing copy published by web retailers uses that word. I could almost believe this, if you look at its profile in the product shots. It definitely looks like a plausible assault rifle of some description. The whole rifle looks pretty good, actually, and is available in olive and black & tan.
The problem is that the illusion is shattered as soon as you attach the CO2 bottle and hopper. The marker still looks just as cool, but no one is going to mistake it for an actual rifle without using a big helping of imagination. That being said, the feel of the marker is much closer to a rifle. The stock, foregrip, and trigger with guard are all pretty much what you would get on a real rifle. The stock is also collapsible, in case you need to play in tight spaces.
The body itself is made of a composite material, with the gas line hidden away inside the marker. That at least makes it impossible to snag the line on a tree branch, a fact that should make this a good choice for woodsball. As with most markers, this is a .68 caliber, semi-automatic marker. It uses Tippmann’s inline bolt design, which means the rifle should be highly reliable and require fairly low levels of maintenance.
That’s exactly what owners of this gun have said as well. Jams are infrequent, maintenance is easy, and overall performance is perfect for regular players. The best thing about the Cronus is, however, the price – making it the best mainstream marker out there right now.
Planet Eclipse Etha 2
The Luxury Choice
The first thing to catch my eye when it comes to the Etha 2 is the eye-popping price tag. That may be the wrong perspective, however, as the Etha 2 is one of the CHEAPEST markers made by Planet Eclipse. The company says it created the Etha 2 as a budget option so that people who are basically too poor to buy their regular fare can also afford the brand. So think of this as the Porsche Boxter of paintball markers.
From the perspective of most non-professional players, even this “entry level” model seems packed with a lot of technological features. Whether any of this will make you a better player is an entirely different question.
First let’s talk about the build quality. Planet Eclipse has used aircraft-grade materials to make a marker that will stand up to high and low temperatures. The outside is made of advanced composite material and the inside of high-quality aluminum. Everything on this marker is made from tough, high-quality material; I expect that it will last a long time and rarely give any sort of trouble.
This is an electronic marker, so you need a 9v battery, which is stored in the grip. Luckily, grip access is toolless, making it easy to change if you need to. The LED status indicator is readable to both lefties and righties, with three display colors to choose from.
There’s a long list of small technical wonders included in this marker that I don’t think are worth discussing individually when it comes to your buying decision. What it all adds up to is a complex, refined, and highly capable marker at a substantial asking price. This is for the person who takes their paintball seriously, but doesn’t yet have the benefit of a sponsorship where money becomes no object. Think of it as privateer-class equipment; then it all makes sense.
Tippmann A-5 .68 Caliber Paintball Marker
The Basics Perfected
Most mainstream markers come in somewhere around the hundred dollar mark and then you have professional markers that cost hundreds and hundreds of dollars. It seems there’s plenty of space in the market between these two price points, and that’s where the Tippmann A-5 comes in.
It costs twice as much as the typical marker that you’d buy for weekend jaunts at the local speedball facility. However, this marker has been built from the ground up to offer several real advantages for the sort of paintball you play away from the pro shop.
Tippmann recommends the A-5 for woodsball or general scenario play. In my mind, however, the features that make this marker great could also make it perfect for speedball, depending on your style.
First of all, this marker can manage fifteen balls per second without an electronic feeder. That’s pretty impressive and removes one more thing that can go wrong in the field. The marker can also be stripped for maintenance in the field without any tools at all. Tippmann says this can be done in 60 seconds, but of course your mileage may vary.
Now let’s talk about the design of the A-5, which is an important part of the value proposition here. Tippmann has put some thought into the ergonomics of the market, moving the foregrip to a more optimal position. I have actually heard people who’ve served in the army complain that paintball marker foregrips aren’t comfortable. It seems Tippmann is also aware of this.
The whole marker has been made lighter, compared to previous generation products, and there’s a long list of incremental improvements you can examine in the product description. To me, the bottom line of this marker is that it represents the pinnacle of Tippmann’s years of design improvement. It’s not fancy, but it’s got the fundamentals down. It’s a hamburger, but it’s a gourmet hamburger. I’ve heard people refer to this as the AK-47 of the paintball world. If you know anything about that real-world rifle, you’ll know exactly why the A-5 is so appealing.
Tippmann 98 Custom Platinum Series Paintball Gun
The Legendary Classic
Oh boy, what can be said about the Tippman 98 that hasn’t been said before? First released in 1998, this is a legendary marker that has developed a reputation for being fast, reliable, and accurate. This is, however, not the same model that came out 20 years ago. Tippmann has upgraded and improved on the 98 as the years have gone by. Like a Porsche 911, the classic design is still present and correct, but under the hood things are quite different.
This marker uses the proven Tippmann inline bolt system, which is one of the main reason it’s so reliable. The receiver is all aluminum and the gas line is stainless steel, so I don’t expect corrosion will be a major issue over the years. Tippmann has also improved the barrel, gas porting, and overall performance and accuracy; building on an already very competent marker.
The 98 Custom also has a number of rails that allow you to customize it with attachments such as handles or scopes. You can also use CO2, air, or nitrogen without any trouble. The only real criticism I have of the 98 is the design. Yes, you can’t mess with it, but it does look a little long in the tooth. Tippmann has more modern-looking markers that have all the same technology under the hood. So your taste will dictate how much love you have for the 98.
Azodin Blitz 3
Best Bang for Buck
The Blitz 3 has similar design cues as the Azodin Kaos 2 further up this page, but overall sports a much more aggressive and “tactical” look, especially if you take it in black. You’ll notice that the Blitz 3 is quite a bit more expensive than the Kaos 2, which made me wonder what the extra asking price gets you if you opt for the more expensive sibling.
The clue is in the name, since “Blitz” means “lightning”, as in “blitzkrieg”. Unlike the Kaos 2, this is an electronic marker, which means you get more control over firing modes. Combine it with an electronic hopper and you can really spit out some paint with this baby.
It’s well-made and incredibly well-priced, and I have seen nothing but love for this marker, as it really seems to punch above its weight. If you have friends with expensive and powerful gear you can’t quite afford right now, the Blitz 3 looks like a good way to level the playing field.
Valken Cobra Paintball Gun – 50 Cal
The Valken Cobra sports a ruthlessly efficient design. There doesn’t seem to be a wasted line or inch of space anywhere. This is a marker whose form is the result of function, with arguably handsome results. The marker has a generous trigger guard and grip. The ported barrel can be removed if you want something else. It’s also compatible with both CO2 and HPA. I also like the fact that you can adjust the velocity with an external screw, making it pretty easy.
This package does not come with a hopper or gas, so you’ll have to buy these items in addition to the main marker. You should also note that this marker uses the smaller .50 caliber paintballs instead of the .68 caliber. Your current standard paintballs won’t work, and that can be a pain, but the advantage is faster, more accurate balls. Or at least so proponents of smaller calibers say. Either way, the Cobra is dirt cheap, even if you factor in hopper and gas bottle prices. It’s worth looking at if you’re trying to play on a budget.
Tippmann Gryphon Paintball Marker Gun
The gryphon is a mythological creature with the head and wings of an eagle and the remaining anatomy of a lion. It’s a mismatch of two different yet awesome creatures. It shouldn’t work, but ends up being fit for a metal album cover.
Does any of this apply to the marker Tippmann has chosen to name after the mythical beast? Well, in a way the answer is yes. You see, in other sports such as F1, companies spend a ton of money developing cutting edge technology. Then eventually that technology filters into products that we mere mortals can afford. Looking at the spec sheet for the Gryphon, you see a collection of proven technologies that were at one point in the flagship markers of yesteryear. Now, you can get them in an entry-level product.
This is a center-fed marker with an internal gas line, making for a slick composite design. The whole marker is built in such a way to make it feel solid, which is often an issue with many cheap markers. Most importantly, it has Tippmann’s reliable inline bolt system.
The overall result is a cheap marker with a good brand name on it. It lives up to that brand name by being more accurate and more reliable than the asking price gives us any right to expect.
Azodin Kaos 2 Paintball Marker
The Kaos 2 from Azodin is one sleek-looking paintball marker! It comes in a range of colors, most of which are very nice indeed. I also really like the curves featured in the receiver cast. 10/10 for styling.
Azodin says that it’s improved the ergonomics coming from the original Kaos, but without actually holding both, who would know? The marker certainly looks pretty comfortable.
At this price, it’s not the cheapest marker around. You do still have to buy a hopper and gas bottle, but all in all this is at the upper end of entry level. The Azodin does, however, look more expensive than it is; owner feedback shows that it’s a reliable product for normal gameplay wear and tear. This is a beautiful marker at a fair price, so if you want to look sleek on a medium budget, this is your guy.
Tournament Ready: Empire Paintball Axe Marker
At the asking price of the Empire Axe, it’s trading blows with the Etha 2, which means I expect it to have a similar level of advancement for the money. In fact, this marker used to be MORE expensive than the Etha 2, so it’s going to be a hard sell, from my point of view.
Well, Empire knows how to sell hard, it seems. The marketing copy boldly proclaims that this is the best marker for the money and backs it up with one simple fact – the pros use the Axe to win tournaments.
Now, did Michael Jordan kick butt because of the Air Jordans? Clearly buying those shoes did not turn everyone into a world-class athlete. However, I don’t want to be too dismissive of this angle. Competitive markers have to live up to much higher standards than those used by casual players. They have to be almost perfectly reliable, for one thing.
These markers also have to be quick and easy to work with. The Axe has a few features that make actions such as changing out bottles quick and easy. Reading all the testimonials from players, it is abundantly clear that this marker is beloved both in performance and versatility. If you can live with it not being quite as fancy as the Etha 2, it’s a worthy alternative.
Empire Paintball Mini GS Marker
Size isn’t everything and bigger isn’t always better. These are two sentiments that might sound like platitudes, but in the world of paintball markers they can both be very true.
The Mini GS is more compact than most markers, which means if you have big old gorilla hands it may be better to go for something else. However, if you are in with this more modest take on marker design, you’ll be buying a product that hits hard and fast while being highly reliable.
It’s priced towards the higher end of the mid range, but there are plenty of small details that remind you of why you spend a little extra. For example, the wraparound foregrip is a nice quality touch. The only real gripe I have is the fact that if you can afford this, you can probably hold out for something like the Etha 2.
As I said at the onset of these reviews, among these ultra-popular marker choices there are no outright failures. Each is excellent in some way and only at the very lowest end and high end of this range might we make an argument to avoid a given marker completely.
This is a huge change from the way things were just a decade ago, where plenty of products were, to put it bluntly, trash. Now you have to look long and hard to find a real turkey, which is good news for everyone. So check how many pennies are in the piggy bank and decide what sort of paintball player you are. Then order your shiny new marker with confidence, and don’t forget to also head over to the mask reviews to protect your money maker too.
I know that the better markers can cost quite a lot, which is why you might also want to consider picking up a used one from someone who is upgrading or getting out of paintball for some reason. Check out my used gear guide if that sounds like a good idea to you.