When Antony “Ledz” Leadbetter played his first game of paintball in 1986, not even he could envision what his paintball career might look like in the future. At just 16 years old and two years below the legal age to play paintball in England, Ledz played his first game. Like most of us, his first paintball experience was a walk-on game with his friends. Ledz quickly began to organize games with his friends on a regular basis. Soon after, in 1987, the group of friends began to call themselves the Banzai Bandits—and within a few years were winning events all over England and Europe.
Planet Eclipse’s First Branded Gun
It was 2004 when Wood, Carr and Ledz would begin working on their own Planet Eclipse paintball gun and by the end of the year the first Planet Eclipse 05 Ego was introduced. The Ego was something different—it as super-techy, reliable, it was supported well by Planet Eclipse and spares were made available for any issues that might arise. While Planet Eclipse was producing their new gun, they were also creating a new modern style of branding and a culture that still exists today. The start of that branding was to bring Sacramento XSV on board as their premier sponsored team. XSV’s roster included players like Rich Telford, Thomas “Troll” Taylor, Junior Brown, Greg Hastings, Matty Marshall (now with GoSports), Dave Bains and many more. XSV would go on to win dozens of events in the PSP, NPPL and Millennium Series and would also star in the Monkey With A Gun documentary Heroes For A Day. Planet Eclipse would also later sponsor teams like San Diego Dynasty, Los Angeles Infamous and Edmonton Impact as well as dozens of others top level professional and amateur tournament teams.
Meanwhile by 2002 the Banzai Bandits called it quits when UK paintball legend Pete “Robbo” Robinson asked Ledz to join Team Great Britain to play in the first Nation’s Cup held on the grounds of the International Amateur Open in 2004. Ledz and other members of that team would later form Nexus, England’s premiere paintball team at that time. Nexus would compete both in the U.S. and Europe for half a decade, with some success.
By the mid-2000s Planet Eclipse had begun to establish their name as a serious manufacturer in the game of paintball and the Ego was quickly becoming the go-to gun for players worldwide. Each year from 2005 to 2011 Planet Eclipse released a new Ego marker. The 05 Ego was followed by the 06 Ego, the 07 Ego and so on. In 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2020 Eclipse released their Ego LV1, LV1.1, LV1.5 and LV1.6.
From Manchester Paintball, to Paintball Planet to Planet Eclipse
In 1990 Ledz took a job at Manchester Paintball to help fund his paintball habit and that’s where he met Julian “Jules” Carr and Jack Wood. Manchester Paintball was owned by Jack’s uncle Graham and he worked there as the store’s airsmith and official gun-tinkerer. Julian was the shop’s buyer and connection to much of the industry. An illness to his wife forced Graham to put the shop up for sale and Carr and Ledz stepped up, bought the store and changed its name to Paintball Planet in 1991. Jack Wood, also teammates with Carr and Ledz stayed on.
Planet Paintball, who would later change its name to Planet Eclipse, became known for customizing Autocockers, Automags, Icon Z-1s and all of the popular guns of the day. By the mid-90s they would release their own Eclipse versions of many of the hot guns on the market. The VIP Cocker was their first of many Eclipse-customized guns. Planet Eclipse would go on to open a second store in Dartford, Kent, England and that’s where Ian “Jacko Parsons (previously of the UK Predators) would join the company.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s DYE picked up teams like Team Image, The Family, The Cartel, Aftershock, Baltimore Trauma and Legacy. DYE currently sponsors all levels of tournament teams—Los Angeles Ironmen, Chicago Aftershock, London Nexus, Vision France, Toulouse TonTons, Jungle Boyz Brazil, Tampa Bay Damage and many more.
In the mid-2000s Planet Eclipse would also release their ETek marker, a budget-version of the Ego. And in an eight-year span introduced the Etek 3, Etek 4AM, ETek 4 LT and Etek 5. And like the Ego and Etek, the Planet Eclipse Geo, Etha and Emek, Gtek, CS Series and 170R guns are seen on tournament, woodsball, scenario, walk-on and magfed fields worldwide. All of Planet Eclipse’s markers, even their budget guns, are high-end, performance first, efficient beasts. Jack Wood, one of the game’s most accomplished paintball engineers/designers, and his team have established a paintball product line that is second to none in the game.
Planet Eclipse LLC (USA)
130 Franklin Street Building L4 & L5
Warren, RI 02885, USA
Planet Eclipse Ltd (England)
Unit 14 Premier Park Acheson Way
Trafford Park Manchester M17 1GA, England