If you come into the store often enough, you have probably picked up the fact that I enjoy the history of the sport. From collecting old guns and gear, to pulling old gear out of the back to tell people about how the game used to be played, and how it has grown. When it comes to playing competitively I also like to play in a way that is more reminiscent of when I was a kid watching the pros play in paintball videos and on ESPS- yes paintball used to be on ESPN. That's what brought me to Pittsburgh, home of the original Smart Parts and Urban Assault Paintball Park. Smart Parts is probably most well known for the creation of the Ion paintball gun, the gun that paved the way for the higher-end mid range market segment. Their history though goes way further back than the Ion in 2005, The Boss pump gun debuted in 1990. Slow sales made them withdraw The Boss from the market, but that didn't stop them. They really came into the spotlight when they started selling electronic paintball guns, starting with the Shocker- the long-long predecessor to the XLS. First as a distributor for PnueVentures they sold over a few thousand in just a year, they then got to work redesigning the gun and set to produce it themselves. The 'All Smart Parts' Shocker was made in to some time in 2002, from 1998. The new design was not only lighter, but went on to have multiple custom label versions made. Most notably, mainly because they are still in business- and killing it, is the Planet Eclipse Shocker. Teams with the Shocker, and the later Impulse have won many national and international events spanning decades, with trophies lining the office area and kind of over flowing. Though that is not the most interesting part, at least I didn't think so. The wall was lined with some of the most iconic guns from their history. From prototypes, to Ollie Lang's personal Shocker. Just a massive amount of history nearly as old as the sport itself.
Oh yea, back to what brought me to Pittsburgh in the first place, and about how rather than playing airball, I prefer an 'old school' style. The Iron City Classic, a tournament that in only its second year brought in 54 teams. The largest currently running non-NXL event, and this is not just five man teams, but ten man. Playing on three completely different fields including hyperball, woods, and dirt mounds. This was open division meaning that no matter who you are, what team you play for, or division you play you are welcome and there is no segregation. Rookies play pros, and you might get put in a bracket with no pro teams, or you might get put in one with only pro teams, it comes down to the luck of the draw. It also changes the way the game is played. No one gets to run hundreds of points on the field before they show up to the event, there are no bounce shots where you spend the game shooting at a bunker, being paintball smart is more dangerous than being athletic(though being in shape sure does help). Walking fields to scope out angles takes hours, for each field and remembering everything during the game makes all the difference. You don't see many teams running the same plays over and over again, and you see more team style show through in how they play making games a ton of fun to watch. My team did not go on to finals, but there is always the next one, with a closer to home event 'Bay Cities Classic' in Modesto, and of course Iron City next year.
Many of the games on the Hyperball field from Iron City Classics were live streamed on GoSports.com, so if your a member be sure to check out some games. Also, Inception Designs was live streaming some games from all fields to their Facebook page, so no membership required, go check those out.
For more photos check out our Facebook post here.