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''Tanks'' for the Advantage on the Battlefield

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Paintball, a sport that is now played by more than 10 million people each year, was developed in the early 1980s by a group of friends who created a survival game using artillery that was manufactured to mark trees and cattle. After the sport was featured in an edition of Sports Illustrated and its popularity began to grow, one of the founders, Bob Gurnsey, established National Survival Game Inc. in order to capitalize on the growing trend and make paintball paraphernalia available to the masses.

Since its early days the game has evolved substantially, and today the sport has several variations ranging from woodsball to speedball, as well as paintball competitions and expanding equipment options, including Funtrak's Paintball Panzer. (For those who have never felt the sting of a paintball shell, "paintball is a sport in which participants eliminate opponents from play by hitting them with paintballs shot from a compressed-gas-powered 'marker.'")


Weighing in at 9,000 pounds, the one-person Paintball Panzer is seven feet long and three feet high and features a Honda GX390 engine, fiberglass shell, caterpillar tracks, roll cage, and fully integrated fire-while-driving paintball gun. The gun itself is two feet long and has enough firepower to shoot 15 paint shells per second.

With its base model starting at $18,000, Funtrak also allows you to modify your tank's artillery, changing out the paintball firing mechanism for a battlefield-technology laser tag system or a water cannon. (The laser tag option, which is used in tandem with detector vests, is especially sophisticated, as "the gun can be set to scattergun effect, which enables it to take out several players in one go.")

And each tank is custom designed to fit the individual who orders it, which translates to a lead time of three months as the tank is modified for each client's weight and height. Additionally, purchasers have the option of choosing one of six colors for their vehicles ranging from "drab olive" to "ice warrior."

One word of disclosure: for the sake of "equality" the Panzer is not completely unstoppable. "During a 20-minute game, the tank can be put out of action if it is struck in a particular spot a set number of times." The marshal keeping track of the game can tally the number of times the tank has been hit and disable the engine via remote control when it reaches the predetermined number.

Still, driving something that is meant to resemble some of the most powerful vehicles in the world, you'll definitely have an overwhelming advantage when you enter into battle.




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