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Monday, 09 September 2013 20:48

Paintball FactX #6

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Bob Gurnsey saw the potential that this new found game had after that first time they played as a group in 1981. Gurnsey had just lost his ski shop business and was in financial straits, but knew this paintball thing could be big. So he went to his closest friends Charles Gaines and Hayes Noel and asked them for financial backing to start a new company called the National Survival Game. Noel put up $20,000, and in addition to the startup money, paid Gurnsey $139 a week to work on the project. Gaines went to work on the public relations side of things. In the meantime, articles about the first group game of paintball ran in Sports Illustrated and Sports Afield, creating a buzz that Gurnsey was sure would help things get started.

According to Gaines while speaking at the 2004 IAO, “After the Sports Illustrated article ran, I received hundreds of letters from people that wanted to know where they could buy the gear from. Somehow my address ended up the article. Gurnsey, Noel and I bought a bunch of Nelspots, shop goggles and pellets and packaged them together with our original rules and sold the kit for five times what we paid for it.” We later included rules for a second variation which was similar to the Capture the Flag game that was and is still played.”

By the end of the summer of ’81 Gurnsey and Gaines flew to Wisconsin and met with Charlie Nelson of the Nelson Paint Company where they reached a worldwide exclusive distribution agreement for selling their Nelspot paintguns to anyone, anywhere, as long as it was not for forestry or agricultural use. It sounded like a great deal and it probably was, but things did not go as planned for a long time. After paying attorney’s fees and start-up costs to get the NSG going, Gurnsey’s company was already struggling. Still Gurnsey stayed on course.

By Spring of 1982 Gurnsey’s business bank account was down to a mere $400 and his two partners were losing patience with the business. Noel was about to be $20,000 poorer and Gaines had probably already moved on emotionally. A few months later Gurnsey ran an ad in Shotgun News which generated about 200 sales, “But I still wasn’t making any money,” Gurnsey recalled. One night Gurnsey got a call from an Oklahoma oilman named Carl McCown who heard about this paintball game. Guensey talked him into buying twenty kits which he rented to his friends. This got Gurnsey thinking that he should market and sell kits that included everything you needed to run games. He spent the next six months on the phone talking people into playing at his field, with the thought that they would purchase these paintball business start-up kits. The plan worked and by the beginning of ’83 there were more than 350 National Survival Game fields across North America.

Meanwhile Guensey developed a team game concept that was catching on. This eventually led to the formation of the NSG Championships, a yearly team tournament held in places like Pittsburgh, Houston, and Nashville. Gurnsey’s thought was, “There would never be any real money in an individual game.” Gurnsey’s National Survival Game business lasted until 1993 when he decided to throw in the towel amidst lawsuits and mounting debt. Among many other things, NSG is best known for designing and selling the Splatmaster and Rapide paintguns and for running the NSG Championship tournaments for seven years.

Source: APG September, October 1992 – Interviews with Gurnsey, Gaines, & Krischke

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