JT Splatmaster Z200 Shotgun Review
JT takes aim at the next generation of paintball players!
Text and Photography by Joshua D. Silverman
Everyone who plays paintball loves the game. If you don’t, you’re doing it wrong. However, most everyone who plays more than a little recreational paintball on the occasional weekend understands that while paintball is getting stronger and recovering from the economic down-turn that hit the game like a ton of bricks just a few short years ago, the most important factor in getting our game growing again is cultivating a strong crop of future paintball players. Paintball has struggled to find a formula for creating a new crop of players that works, but we’ve certainly learned what didn’t work. Small fields that got smaller with each passing season, fast guns that got faster with each passing season and a focus on tournament paintball that left recreational and camouflage-wearing players feeling like second-class citizens rather than the bread and butter of our industry were problems that we, as a game, have gone a long way towards solving. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean we as an industry can’t do more to attract a new generation of players to the game, sport and industry we all love. JT, one of the oldest and greatest brands in the game, one-time sponsors of such greatness as the Ironmen, Aftershock, Dynasty and now XSV, might have just hit on a brilliant way to present paintball to a new set of potential players and get them hooked on our game, and they’ve given it a name that owns a huge chunk of paintball’s history to do it – Splatmaster.
For a name as influential in paintball as JT to emblazon their new product with the name of the paintball gun that game creator Bob Gurnsey used build the paintball industry, it had better be something pretty real. And in this particular case, I think JT nailed it. My first paintball gun was a Splatmaster two decades ago and it certainly looks as if the first paintball gun a good number of potential players might wrap their hands around in 2012 and beyond might very well say “Splatmaster” on the side as well. The new JT Splatmaster line includes an affordable pistol, Splatmaster ammunition, eye and face protection and the “big gun” of the line, the Z200 Shotgun. Looking and functioning much like a pump shotgun, the JT Z200 Shotgun is an affordable, pump-action gun shooting small, fifty caliber paintballs at between 100 and 150 feet per second, or less than half the speed of .68 caliber paintballs. The JT Splatmaster Shotgun fires these little paintballs with spring pressure, so no CO2 cartridges or compressed air are necessary. Simply load, pump once and pull the trigger to make splat happen, then repeat to make fun happen. Even at these low velocities the JT Splatmaster ammunition included breaks cleanly and consistently on soft and hard targets near and far, at least more often than it bounces – an impressive feat of gelatin engineering that makes these little plastic pumps ideal for introducing young players, perhaps too young for “real” paintball or with parents in doubt about paintball’s safety, to the concept of our game.
Light, simple and easy to load and shoot, the JT Z200 Splatmaster Shotgun is absolutely a hoot to shoot in the back yard. It’s difficult to pick one up and not immediately find a grin spread across one’s face. Its most impressive feature is its surprising accuracy – the JT Splatmaster Shotgun shoots straight! Testing the gun in the spirit in which it was designed, I loaded a magazine full of JT Splatmaster ammunition and hit the back yard, where I started plinking at things like the poles of my clothes line, a couple of trees seventy-five feet away and the posts of my chain link fence. Even at distances out to fifty feet, I was able to consistently hit fence posts and trees by doing little more than shooting from the hip. At longer ranges, the groups open up a great deal and nothing is certain, but it’s still fun to try. Over a Paintball Radarchron chronograph, my example of the JT Splatmaster Shotgun delivered velocities of 133, 133, 130 and 137 feet per second. Some manufacturers can’t get their .68 caliber paintball guns with regulators and compressed air to shoot so consistently. At no time during testing did a ball break in the JT Splatmaster Shotgun.
Those who hit the back yard for target shooting and even a little “team deathmatch” on a regular basis will find the JT Splatmaster Z200 Shotgun an accurate, user-friendly and fun companion. Most importantly, while a player hit with a round from a JT Splatmster will definitely feel it and know they’ve been hit, it simply does not hurt. My worst criticism is that JT might have missed an opportunity by not packaging the Z200 Shotgun with eye protection, though warnings and advisories are clearly marked on its packaging. I won’t weigh-in on JT’s decision to call something children might point at one-another a “shotgun” and design it to resemble such a weapon, especially in the wake of some awful mass shootings, but it bears mentioning. Some won’t consider it an issue while it might cause others to leave it on the shelf.
For paintball people looking to introduce friends, family, young people and co-workers to the game in an affordable and painless manner, I haven’t seen anything better than the JT Splatmaster line. Nobody can be overshot, bonus-balled or go home with bloody neck welts when these are the only guns around and a little common sense and supervision are employed. Affordable, accurate, simple, reliable and performing as advertised, the JT Splatmaster line, including the JT Splatmaster Z200 Shotgun, is a great idea for backyard fun for anyone looking for a great afternoon or to introduce new players to the fun and games of paintball. Me? I’m buying a bunch of these things!