We’ve written a lot about backyard games. As a matter of fact, we once listed 106 of them in a single article. But few games offer the same thrill and excitement as a paintball match. It’s like playing laser tag, but with extra pop when you pull the trigger, and extra splatter when you score a hit. But even the most skilled player will benefit from better gear. That’s why we’ve set out to find the best paintball barrel that money can buy. This can be challenging to sort out, especially if you’re not an experienced paintballer. So after our reviews, we’ve also put together a short buying guide to help you figure things out.
Let’s get started!
In a Hurry? Here’s Our Top Picks…
1. Planet Eclipse Shaft FR Back Kit
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The Planet Eclipse Shaft FR Back Kit isn’t actually a complete barrel. It’s a back kit that accepts a variety of inserts. This allows you to choose your bore size (anything up to .680 caliber). It also means you can customize the barrel to your heart’s content. If you want a ported barrel, you’ll have one. If you want a long or short barrel, you can modify the Shaft FR as desired. It even accepts GOG Freak inserts, which are some of the most popular on the market.
This barrel back is constructed from aluminum and is available in black or silver to match your desired look. It’s very well-engineered and includes a joiner section. The joiner section can be used to attach non-standard inserts, and allows for even more customizability. This is possible thanks to the quick threads that are included with the kit. Basically, this is a “dummy” barrel that can convert into just about anything.
The only downside of the Shaft FR is that it requires an insert. This only makes sense, since it isn’t actually a complete barrel assembly. However, it can be confusing for beginners, who may prefer a “plug and play” barrel.
- Accepts Freak inserts
- Customizable bore selection
- Easy to install and remove
- Requires an insert for operation
2. GOG Paintball 14″ Freak
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GOG is one of the biggest names in paintball. Their Freak inserts have become exceedingly popular, even among paintballers who use barrels from other brands. This is because they’re just plain smoother, better made, and better priced than the competition. So we definitely had to include one of their barrels on our list.
The 14” Freak is a single-piece, non-ported barrel that’s constructed from aluminum. It’s black in color, with a smooth bore that can accommodate a wide variety of calibers. If you want to modify this barrel, you can easily use a Freak insert to customize it as desired.
The barrel itself weighs just over 10 ounces, so it’s very lightweight. You can easily carry this barrel all day, and it won’t make your paintball marker front-heavy. It’s 14 inches long, which is right in the sweet spot where accuracy meets muzzle velocity. This length is also reasonably efficient on gas, so you won’t be wasting any CO2 due to an extra-long barrel.
The one disadvantage of the 14” Freak is that it’s not ported, which means it’s a bit louder than some options. That said, this isn’t a sniper barrel. More likely than not, your opponents will already know where you are, which makes noise less of a concern.
- Accepts all Freak inserts
- The medium length provides plenty of versatility
- Sturdy aluminum construction
- Not ported
3. Empire Paintball Driver XX
Last update on 2023-01-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
The Empire Paintball Driver XX is a two-piece barrel. Although it works just fine as it is, the two-piece design gives you the option to replace either the front or the back portion with a different component. Before we go any further, we should be clear that the Driver XX is designed for Autococker paintball markers with spyder threading. Other threads, including Freak threading, will not be compatible.
The bore size is a standard 6.88, which is on the large side. If you want to use a smaller caliber, there are additional pipe backs available in .678, .683, and a larger .693. These are just Empire Paintball’s offerings. If you want, you can use other calibers from other manufacturers, as long as they’re spyder threaded.
The overall length is 14 inches, which is relatively standard. This provides a good mix of control and accuracy. The 7.5-inch control bore features spiraled porting. While it’s not a true backspin porting, it will nonetheless impart some level of spin. This ensures longer range and accuracy than you’ll get from most 14-inch paintball marker barrels.
- Very lightweight
- Only fits Autococker spyder threaded barrels
4. Deadlywind Null – Kingman 14″
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If you want the highest possible muzzle velocity, there’s no replacement for a carbon fiber barrel. This material imparts virtually no friction, which means it won’t slow down your paintballs as they exit the barrel. In addition, carbon fiber is lighter than any other barrel material. The barrel only weighs 1.76 ounces, so you’ll barely even feel it. That’s a significant benefit when you’re carrying your marker around all afternoon.
In addition, carbon fiber is also durable. As a result, you can use the Kingman 14” for years without requiring a replacement. As the name implies, it’s 14 inches long, which is one of the most common lengths you’ll find. On the downside, it isn’t ported. And since it’s a single-piece barrel, you won’t be able to add porting later on down the line.
The bore is .688”, which is fairly large. That said, it fits a wide variety of inserts, including DLX Luxe, NXT, eXTCy, and Ion XE. If you need to switch calibers, you’ll have plenty of options. Just make sure to use a carbon fiber insert, or you’ll forfeit some of the Kingman 14”’s most convincing benefits.
- Virtually zero friction
- Exceptionally lightweight
- Versatile medium length
- No porting
5. Planet Eclipse Shaft FL Tip
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Like the Null – Kingman 14”, the Planet Eclipse Shaft FL Tip is constructed from carbon fiber. This ensures minimal friction, keeping your paintballs at maximum velocity as they streak towards your opponent.
The Shaft FL Tip measures 14.5 inches in length and has a two-piece design. As a result, you can swap out the front or back portion as desired. Whether you want to add porting or change to a different bore, you’ll have plenty of options available. However, the front and back portions have a unique, reverse-threaded design. Because of this choice, you’ll need to use Shaft FL replacement parts if you want to make any modifications.
The construction is very sturdy, with aluminum reinforcement that helps bulk up the carbon fiber. This adds a bit to the weight. But even so, the Shaft FL Tip weighs only 3.2 ounces. That’s far lighter than any metal barrel on the market and makes it well worth your consideration.
- Virtually zero friction
- Lightweight construction
- Customizable two-piece design
Paintball Barrel Buying Guide
Now that you’ve read the reviews, you probably have a few lingering concerns. So we’ve put together this convenient buying guide, to help you decide for yourself which barrel is the best.
Most paintball barrels are either 14 or 16 inches long. This is the optimal length for most purposes. However, different barrel lengths have different advantages. A long barrel, for example, is more accurate, and also quieter. This is because it allows the gas to bleed out a bit more slowly. However, shorter barrels can improve your efficiency, since they require less gas for each shot.
The bore size is the diameter of the inside of the barrel. The bore needs to match the caliber of paintball you’re using, or your gun won’t fire properly. A larger caliber allows for longer ranges and a harder impact. However, a smaller caliber is more gas efficient, since it doesn’t take as much gas to fill up the barrel.
Ported vs. Non-Ported Barrels
Porting consists of small holes drilled through the end of the barrel. These ports work similarly to a muzzle brake on a conventional firearm, in that they allow gas to escape from the sides of the barrel, reducing felt recoil. They also reduce noise, since some of the gas will bleed out quietly.
Some barrels also feature a second set of ported holes about halfway down the barrel. These are designed to add backspin to your shot, which increases accuracy and speed.
Possibly the most important decision you’ll have to make is the material of your paintball barrel. This affects the weight of your marker, as well as the accuracy of your shots. In addition, some barrel materials are more durable than others and can handle more abuse.
Aluminum barrels provide a good balance of weight and durability. They’re lighter than steel, but they can take more of a beating than ceramic. Aluminum is also an affordable metal, which means you can buy a well-engineered aluminum barrel for less than you’d spend on most materials. When in doubt, an aluminum barrel provides the best balance of features.
Stainless steel barrels
Stainless steel barrels take the durability of aluminum and turn it up to 11. They can take a serious beating, regardless of how rough you are with your equipment. For this reason, many professional paintballers often use stainless steel barrels. The downside of steel is that it’s heavy. Switching from aluminum to steel can easily add 1 or 2 pounds to your marker.
Ceramic barrels are almost as lightweight as aluminum. Unfortunately, they’re also fragile, which makes them a poor choice if you’re rough on your marker. The main benefit of ceramic barrels is that they’re self-cleaning. If a broken paintball fouls your barrel, the next shot will clear the mess. This can save you the trouble of clearing your barrel in the field.
Carbon fiber barrels
Carbon fiber is the lightest barrel material available. It’s also exceptionally durable. The main benefit, though, is that a carbon fiber barrel has almost zero friction on the inside. This ensures that your paintballs will travel as far and as fast as possible. That said, carbon fiber is relatively expensive compared to other options.
One-Piece vs. Two-Piece Barrels
In the early days of paintball, all barrels were made of a single piece. This is understandable. Paintball was originally a way for firearms enthusiasts to blow off steam with their friends, and regular firearms all use single-piece barrels. However, two-piece barrels offer a few distinct advantages over their single-piece cousins.
A one-piece barrel is just what it sounds like. The single-piece ensures that there’s no gas leakage, so you’ll get the full benefit of whatever gas pressure you’re using. It also ensures simplicity of maintenance, since you’ll only have to worry about a single piece when you’re assembling or disassembling your marker.
Two-piece barrels, on the other hand, allow for more customization. The most obvious benefit is that you can remove the second piece if you want to shorten your barrel. This enables you to change barrel lengths without changing the entire barrel.
They’re also better at price. The reason is that you can use an open, ported end piece, and pair it with different caliber base sections. This allows you to change calibers while only needing to change half the barrel. If you regularly switch between different paintball calibers, a two-piece barrel is the way to go.
There are more differences between one-piece and two-piece barrels, most of which fall outside the scope of this guide. If you want to learn more, this thread provides a solid overview, including a couple of demo videos.
Best Paintball Barrel Brands
As with any purchase, it’s important to know a thing or two about who manufactured your paintball barrel. After all, a brand’s history can tell you a thing or two about their quality.
- Planet Eclipse was founded in Manchester, UK, in 1991. They became world-famous in 2002 when they released the Eblade, an electronic upgrade to paintball marker Autococker. Since then, they’ve developed a reputation for manufacturing quality electro-pneumatic paintball markers, along with a variety of parts and accessories.
- GOG Paintball is a manufacturer located in central Pennsylvania. From their origins as a local dealer, they began developing and selling their own gear. Their Freak system, in particular, is well-regarded and is used by several professional teams.
- Empire Paintball is based in Sewell, New Jersey. They’ve been in the industry for several decades, and are widely recognized as a quality manufacturer. Canadian paintball manufacturer G.I. Sportz recently bought them out. However, due to their unique history, Empire Paintball still operates as its own brand.
- Deadlywind is a boutique manufacturer that produces carbon fiber paintball barrels. They focus on this to the exclusion of other accessories, which has made their barrels some of the most coveted upgrades in the paintball world.
Before we wrap up, there are a couple of questions remaining. No worries. We have answers. Here are a couple of questions we’ve left unresolved.
Q: What about kits?
A: One thing you’ve probably seen, even on our list, is a paintball barrel kit. Kits are generally two-piece barrels, and they allow you to mix and match different components. This way, you can customize your marker depending on caliber, range, and the style of game you’re playing.
Depending on the exact kit, you’ll get different options. At a bare minimum, you’ll typically receive a front portion with two or more back portions. The only drawback of a kit, as opposed to a standalone barrel, is that you’ll typically spend more. Make sure you’ll actually use the different options before you invest in a kit.
Q: What is a Backspin Paintball Barrel?
A: A backspin barrel uses ports halfway down the barrel to cause the paintball to spin. This does two things. First, it increases your barrel’s accuracy. Secondly, it increases the overall range. This is due to something called the Magnus effect, where a spinning object is more stable and encounters less resistance.
If you’ve played paintball before, you’ll immediately see the advantage. Typical paintball guns fire in a curved trajectory, so you’ll often have to aim above your target to score a hit. In addition, typical range tops off at around 50 yards. With a backspin barrel, you’ll see ranges as long as 75 yards. You’ll also see a flatter trajectory, which makes it significantly easier to aim.
Which one of these is the best paintball barrel? It depends on what you’re looking for. If you want the best overall performance, right out of the box, the Deadlywind Null – Kingman 14” is a tough act to follow. Not only does it have an exceptionally smoothbore, but it weighs nearly nothing.
That said, you may prefer some different features. If you want an equally low-friction barrel with more customization options, consider the Planet Eclipse Shaft FL Tip. It’s on the pricey side for a replacement barrel, but it has a two-piece design. This allows you to make upgrades later on. Notably, it means you can modify the Shaft FL Tip into a ported barrel if you so desire.
The Empire Paintball Driver XX is the best choice if you want an affordable barrel. Not only does it have a two-piece design, but it’s ported right out of the box. That said, the threading is a bit unusual. Unless you have a compatible paintball marker, you’ll need to choose a different option.