The following is a comprehensive method of deciding which marker is right for you.
1. Calculate your total budget for paintball equipment. Don't count money you don't have. Don't spend money you don't have (credit cards).
2. Remember that the gun itself is not your only expense. You need to buy a loader, an air tank, a safety mask, lubricant, a few spare parts, and don't forget about field time!
3. Electronic or Mechanical? Mechanical guns are very simple to operate, can be used when it's pouring rain (for those of you who like to play in the woods that's a major plus), and tend to go through less paint, which results in a lower cost to play. If you plan on playing indoors (speedball) or at tournaments electronic markers are probably the better choice for you. Electronic markers are less outdoor-friendly than mechanical markers but shoot at a higher balls-per-second rate. In a speedball game, this high rate of fire is very helpful and can yield a desirable advantage for its user. Electronic markers generally cost more money to buy and will cost more to use because most people shoot more paint with them. You will also have to purchase a suitable loader for electronic markers, and that can easily reach $50. See number 10 for more details on loaders.
3. Go to pbreview.com, pbnation.com, or pbstar.com and read the reviews of markers in your price range. Stay away from anything below an average rating of 8/10 unless it's obvious that a small group of people deliberately posted fake reviews just to give the marker a bad average rating.
4. Try to select a marker that is easy to maintain. Maintenance includes but is not limited to: cleaning paint residue from internal parts; lubricating the internal parts; replacing o-rings; cleaning your anti-chop eyes if your marker has them; and diagnosing/fixing any problems that may arise.
5. Compile a list of potential choices. Write down the average rating the marker gets on the websites listed above.
6. Call a local proshop or retail outlet and ask if they have had a lot of returns of any markers on your list. If they say they have sold 30 of one marker and had 20 returns, you should not hesitate to cross that marker off your list. Then ask them which marker on your list they would buy and why. If the word "sniper" is used at any time hang up the phone. Chances are that anyone who says "sniper" doesn't have a clue about paintball. Feel free to send me a message and I will be more than happy to give an explanation.
7. Go to the closest commercial paintball field on a busy day. Bring a few spare $5 bills with you on top of field costs. Ask a few players that own a marker on your list if you can try it out for a game or two. Give them one of your $5 bills afterwards. Be sure to ask what they think of their marker. Inquire as to what problems they may have had with it. If they say "It broke like every time I played man this thing was a terrible decision" it clearly isn't what you are looking for. On the other hand, if it's all positive comments and they have owned the marker for a long time, you may be looking at what will be sitting in your home in a few weeks. Write down a few notes about what people say about the marker. It may seem nerdy today but you will appreciate it in a day or two when you have completely forgotten what was said.
8. Start to narrow down your list even more. Put a star next to the marker you enjoyed using most. At this point there shouldn't be a marker on your list that spends more time on the work bench than at the field. If it took you less than five seconds to decide which marker gets the star, that's the one you are probably going to have the most positive experience with.
9. Begin to look for places to buy your marker. eBay can be a good place to start. To be honest, you can get a lot of good deals on eBay, but you can have a lot of headaches as well. Try to buy from power sellers that specialize in paintball. I bought a new high-end loader at a higher price in comparison to other offers, and but I bought from a seller that has 2500+ sales. I intentionally did this because I knew I could rely on somebody with such enormous positive feedback to give me a product in perfect condition and a smooth transaction. Another place to look to buy from is your local field! If they sell new markers, it would be a wise choice to buy from them even if it may cost a little more than other places. There are two reasons for this. For one thing, you will probably become a preferred customer by the field owner. They may not say that out loud, but you will be more likely to get cheap/free admission when you go, free service on your marker, and they may even sell you paint for a lower price than what they charge the average player. Secondly, if your marker is going to break, chances are you will be using it when it does. If you're using it, you will probably be at the field. If you're at the field, they will be obligated to fix the marker. Even if they don't truly want to, it's a marketing thing - the field owner wants potential buyers to see someone else getting a problem fixed after buying from the field.
10. Other expenses include a loader (aka "hopper"). The following is a list of loaders with their approximate price (according to actionvillage.com, a great online store in the midwest that I have made several purchases from) and the speed at which they feed paintballs into your marker. For those who do not know, bps = Balls Per Second. You should know how fast your marker can shoot, and that figure will always be given as bps. The average entry-level electronic marker is capable of firing at about 13bps. A nicer one, like the smart parts Ion ($300 after tax at most retail locations) shoots 17bps. An insane marker shoots 25+bps. Never use a loader that feeds slower than you can shoot. IT IS OKAY TO HAVE A LOADER THAT FEEDS FASTER THAN YOUR MARKER CAN SHOOT.
Gravity Hopper - $4 - 8bps, not a reliable feed rate. It can easily jam up. Do not ever use this unless you are shooting an extremely slow marker (mechanical in particular).
Viewloader Revolution - $36 to $50 - 10 to 13bps, relatively reliable feed rate.
Empire Reloader II - $50 - 10 to 12 bps, relatively reliable feed rate, direct competition against Viewloader Revolution.
Halo TSA - $50 - 15bps, reliable feedrate but not too durable.
Viewloader eVLution - $70 - 17 to 19bps, very reliable feedrate.
Halo B - $104 - 22+bps, extremely reliable feedrate but quite the battery hog, it's currently one of the best available.
Viewloader VLocity - $130 - 25bps, currently the faster loader out there and I have heard nothing bad about it.
Empire Reloader B - $144 - 22+bps, it's made in the same factory as the halo b and has the same design but has a different way of detecting paintballs. The Halo B uses a bounce-beam eye (similar to InfraRed) to detect paintballs. This works for the most part but on paintballs of darker color the eye sometimes fails to detect them. The Reloader B uses a sound-activated computer chip that "hears" the marker beneath it shooting and then spins the motor that feeds the paintballs. The Reloader B also comes stock with the RIP drive, a device that allows users to put tension on the paintballs in the loader so that it will still work to almost full potential even in the event of a battery failure. Very useful but for the $20 it costs to buy as a later upgrade I personally find it to be a waste of money. When compared to a HaloB/Reloader B without a RIP drive, the RIP drive is a close enough call to be left to personal preference.
11. Air tanks are a critical component of paintball. Air tanks provide gases that propel paintballs. There are three main types of air tanks, and more information can be found on my other guide. The three types of air tanks are CO2, Nitrogen, and High Pressure Air (aka HPA). Nitrogen and HPA are almost identical and most HPA tanks can accomodate nitrogen as well. CO2 is a crude gas that is actually stored in super-cool liquid form. CO2 is not a desirable gas source because it can cause damage to certain markers. If you have the money, HPA/Nitrogen is always the way to go. CO2 tanks can cost $10-$30. HPA/Nitrogen tanks can cost $60-$500. Always find out if the marker you are looking to buy requires HPA, because running CO2 through a marker not intended for it can yield disastrous results.
12. Safety masks are required at every reputable field. They protect your face and your eyes in particular. A paintball fired into someone's eye can leave them blinded for life. This is why safety masks are a standard. Masks can range from $15 for a basic, no frills plastic-polyester composite to an $80 sleek, strong, and beautiful masterpiece.
13. Spare parts and lubricant play the largest role in maintenance. Spare parts generally include o-rings and cheap marker components that wear down easily. The only two lubricants that should every be put inside your marker are Dow 33 or synthetic marker oil.
Never put anything but Dow 33 in high-end markers. Dow 33 works fine with low-end and mid-range markers as well, but synthetic marker oil does not get along with high-end markers.
14. Field time - the most commonly overlooked expense. Truth be told, paintball is not the cheapest sport on the planet. A lot of inexperienced people empty their wallet on their equipment and then realize as they walk onto the field that they don't have money to play! On average, most people spend $50-$90 each time they go to the field. Always carry more money than you think you will spend, unless you plan on looking through the proshop, in which case you should not have ANYTHING on you at all. Food and drinks can add up, and trust me, you will want a drink after a couple hours of intense action.
I have compiled a list of markers for the price range. The price ranges are for
MARKER BUDGET ONLY. This does not include accessories of any kind.
$0 - $100
JT Tac-5 Recon
Spyders (Made by Kingman)
PMI Piranha eForce R6, eForce GTI,
any mechanical Piranhas
$101 - $200
Electronic Spyders (Made by Kingman)
PMI Piranha eForce SRT, eForce EXT, eForce EVO
Tippmann 98 Custom
Game Face Vexor Eye
Mokal Focus 2
BT-16 (Branch of Tippmann)
BT-4 (Branch of Tippmann)
Diablo Mongoose 2
PCS US-5 (Branch of PMI)
Psycho Ballistics Silver Bullet LCD
2004 WGP Autococker
Smart Parts Ion
Smart Parts Nerve
Smart Parts SP8
Smart Parts Impulse
Evil Omen (Branch of PMI)
Ariakon Sim-4 Series
Diablo Wrath LTD
Smart Parts Vision Shocker
Proto Matrix (Branch of Dye)
Dye DM5 or DM4 or DMC
Evil Pimp (Branch of PMI)
Various Intimidators (Bob Long)
$1001 and Above
Various Intimidators (Bob Long)
I hope this helps! Please message me if there is something you would like to have added.