I would have to say my Paintball Journey began in 1985 with the release of the movie “Gotcha” with Anthony Edwards (also well known for his role as GOOSE in TopGun – Tom Cruise’s cheeky co-pilot) and Linda Fiorentino.
I turned 13 that summer and the movie was only mildly based upon paintball. For those who haven’t seen it, it is actually a decent movie. Unlike later films with paintball, it is only a small part (but important part) of the beginning and end plot.
Two years later, my brother who is four years older than I am, was the first to catch the bug. He and his friends bought Gotcha! The Sport, guns which were these cheap plastic spring loaded rubber goober flingers. Shortly after Christmas, I bought one for myself. My parents were certainly non too pleased at the idea of us running around and shooting at our friends. Regardless, we would often gather on Saturday mornings behind a friend’s home and play 2 vs 2 or 3 vs 3 games.
However in 1987, after my brother graduated from High School, things changed. That summer some of his high school friends had managed to pick up some actual paintball markers. The first time I saw them it was like magic. I remember a PGP, and a PMI-1. Around Christmas break (1987/1988) One of my brother’s friends bought a Tippmann SMG-60. We would occasionally head to his house for a night of Dungeons & Dragons. On occasion, I would check them out and shoot them in the friend’s yard. However since I was still too young to “play paintball” according to my parents, it would be a full year before I stepped on the field.
I thought I knew what paintball was. The experience of running around with my brother and his friends in our backyards was nothing compared to the rush of my first actual game. On weekend of July 23rd & 24th, 1988, without the permission or blessing of my parents I went with my brother and his friends to their cabin in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. I had become very close with my brother and his high school buddies. I guess as the “little brother” they didn’t mind having me around. I knew the weekend was going to end in paintball. On Sunday morning We stepped out to play. Everything I though I knew about paintball changed at that moment. Although I had loved the sound of that Tippmann SMG-60, finding the owner only a few yards away putting a stream near the tree I was cowering behind changed my mind. I was for the moment terrified. I remember running…running in fear of getting blasted. However his attention turned away from me, and he moved on. It was then the light switch came on, and I went from the hunted to the hunter. I don’t think I lived to see the end of any game I played that first day, however I will never forget that rush of adrenalin. It was as if my life was suddenly complete and this piece I had been missing was filled.
We would play occasionally from that point on, maybe once every other month. In the spring of 1989 I heard rumors of a paintball field opening in our area. By this time I had already started buying APG and Paintball Sports International magazines. They were like my arsenal shopping lists. I had barely begun to play, and I didn’t own my own marker. I always borrowed one from my brother’s friends. However through some research we found it – Cobra Command Inc, which had previously operated from 1986 on an old airport near Willow Grove, PA, moved their field to a new locale near Skippack, PA. We called and made reservations. We had to drive to the owner’s house to pick up a waiver. Begrudgingly, my father took me to get waiver notarized giving me permission to play.
From my first game at Cobra Command until Christmas 1989, I went from a customer, to getting my first paintball marker (my cherished Splatmaster Pistol) which my brother bought me for my birthday in August, to driving and my first car. My parents insisted that to make good on my sins of shooting at my friends I needed to go to church every Sunday. I can’t say I had ever known their were early services before. I would go, and get out around 8:30 – change into camo in the church parking lot, and drive to the field every Sunday. I was officially a paintball junkie.
I think over the years some of my favorite memories have been the years of the International Amateur Open both at the Cranberry Township and Butler Fairgrounds locations.
I would also add the 1990 and 1993 Paintcheck International Events. At both events I saw what was to become the modern Pro Teams Born. I appreciated that all teams were on equal footing. There was no division of the leagues per say. You got a chance to play everyone. I got to know Charles Holton in 1990 on his honeymoon, who later became a great friend and sales representative for ProTeam Products and APP. The 1993 event, I got to know guys on Image and the newly formed Aftershock (Aftershock staged next to us). The All Americans were refereeing as Sgt. York’s was their home field.
- 1991 – Helping the Sigma Nu fraternity and other players from Gettysburg College help form the Gettysburg College paintball Club – I am sure one of the first fully funded programs, along with the Gettysburg College Iron Brigade paintball team.
- 1994 – Starting Alternative Apparel in my college dorm room
- 1996 – Purchasing Sgt. York’s which we ran until 2000; after a devastating fire in 1999 we tried to keep the business running, but we were forced us to close.
- 2000 – Playing the Mayhem Masters outside London England, with my team Misfit Toys. It was my first trip across the pond and it was so different to realize I was playing for more than just my team, We were listed as playing for the USA.
- SKYBALL – the experience was amazing – a world class venue.
- 2004 – Taking 2nd Place Overall in the Novice Division PSP 10 man – the last year 10 man was played.
- 2007 – Starting Ballers Inc Anodizing to present
- 2011 – Started a partnership with my old friend Greg Hastings to service his R7 Line. In April of 2012, I became a sales representative and tech support specialist for the company.
- Head Judge – Refereeing PSP 2004 – 2009
- Ultimate Judge GPL/MAPL 2005 – 2010
- Ultimate Judge EPL 2011 – 2012
The Catshack Reports: Charles what is your current gear setup and some of your favorite pieces of equipment?
1996 – Bob Long Signature Series Cocker (Purple Splash – right feed)
Sniper 1 – custom splashed
2011 Bob Long G6R
2003 Gen-E NYX Xtreme Matrix
The Catshack Reports: You work for R7Usa … how did this come about and what is your role with the company?
I have known Greg since probably 1994 or 1994 when he was first playing with the Secret Agents/Free Agents with Carmen prior to REDZ. We struck up a friendship and my team at the time frequently practiced his team. My team, the Oh-No’s was one of the first team sponsored by REDZ. When Greg launched R7, again my team, now under Misfit Toys supported Greg’s new venture. We have been in the same circle of friends for so very long. Greg and I have gone back and forth about different ideas. He called me last fall just before Christmas and asked to get together. He shared the vision and he wanted to bounce the idea off me. I thought it was great and said I would help in any way I could to support him. I didn’t know he would come back about a month later and ask me to help him service the shipping and customer needs. We opened the distribution center in February and in April the R7 Replay Launched.
The Catshack Reports: As you mentioned you have a unique view on paintball as a “fly on the wall” … please detail what you mean by this and where do you see paintball going as we move into the future say even 5 years from now?
Simply, I have been very fortunate to be at the right place at the right time through no planning. I think it was dumb luck. I was fortunate to meet Mike Hanse and his family when he ran Hanse Hollow before EMR when I was in school at Gettysburg. Similarly I met the Gardner brothers while working and playing at Sgt. York’s, along with the All Americans who taught me much of my ideology about paintball teams and play. I met Gino Postorivo when I was just 17 and going to South Jersey Paintball – well before NPS and Valken. Again, I met Greg by chance as a team we practiced regularly – we became great friends. Brian Barno of GI SPORTZ played as the captain of a team we played in an indoor league in 1990. We became friends shortly after he launched Global Paintball store chain in our area and the GPL and few years later. I consider myself very blessed to have received the paintball education I have from these now industry leaders.
I see the sport progressing to a point where spectators are going to be able to watch live streaming video from the player point of view. We are very close to this being a reality. I see woodsball continuing to grow with so many of the major manufacturers now spending much of the advertising and product development dollars on recreational play. I see that we will see an upswing in the number of players participating in the sport over the next 24 months. I think it will be another 12 months until we reach our highest numbers. I see the “JT Initiative” as a way to bridge the gap between would-be airsoft players and get them into paintball. I see more emphasis on the tactical type and woodsball type of events such as UWL and TTPL. I am looking forward to the Valken sponsored league. I would love to see the “destination events” come back – those stand alone once a year events, like IAO, Skyball, Mardi Gras, Knoxville Indoor Championships to name a few from the past. It seems NPPL HB and PSP World Cup currently are the closest we have.