FAILURE TO UNDERSTAND THE RULES
The first things every player should understand are the rules of the game. At commercial fields the rules are usually presented at the start of the day. Knowing what constitutes an elimination, for example, can keep a player from leaving the field prematurely. Knowing the boundaries and time limits can help a player decide on strategy. Knowing that the people wearing orange vest are referees can eliminate wasting paint.
FAILURE TO UNDERSTAND EQUIPMENT
While it is not necessary to be able to field strip a paintball gun, every player needs to know at least three things: 1) how to cock the gun, whether it is a pump or semi-automatic, 2) how to reload the gun and make sure the ammo hopper is secure and won’t loose balls, and 3) where the “safety” is and how it works. Failure to understand any one of these concepts can not only leave you with a completely useless gun at the most inopportune moment, it can also be quite embarrassing when you finally figure out what went wrong.
FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE
Players need to communicate with teammates, whether by very vocal means, or simple hand signals. It is not necessary to develop a set of secret codes or signals when simplicity works fine. If you see two players from the opposing team on the hill ahead, get your teammate’s attention, hold up two fingers, and point at the hill. Chances are, he/she will not mistake the signal for your opinion on how peaceful the hill appears.
LACK OF TEAMWORK
Failure to operate in conjunction with your teammates basically leaves you as a group of very lonely individuals. This is especially a bad thing when your opponents are actually acting as a team and tear through your ranks one player at a time. Team players support each other with cover fire, communication, and by working for a common objective. Even people who have never met each other before game day can work together – really.
While teamwork is a great idea, is does not imply that you have to hold hands with your teammates. Getting too many players in one position offers the enemy a large, tasty target of opportunity, while concentrating your own firepower and defenses in a limited area. It doesn’t matter if the tree or bunker is big enough for three of you – piling in behind it only offers an aggressive opposing player an opportunity to ruin your day times three.
FAILURE TO EFFECTIVELY USE COVER
If the tree is smaller than the diameter of your thigh, you might want to reconsider the location. If the bunker has lots of holes a ball can get through, don’t think an opponent won’t spend his/her time and balls trying to make it happen. Got a solid bunker? Good. Now stop looking over it and presenting your opponents with the big target of your forehead and skull. Look around the side of the bunker.. peek out with one eye while keeping the rest of your body covered. Pull that elbow and that knee back in there – some people will shoot at dang near anything.
There is a whole game out there despite the fact that the player shooting at you has a seemingly endless supply of paint. While defending yourself from that player is important, also realize the player’s buddies are using your fixation as an opportunity to move on you. You must stay aware of your surroundings at all times. Fixating on one target only serves to distract you, and create a smile on the face of the player sneaking up on you.
FIRING TOO SOON
Paintball guns have a limited range. Most commercial fields have a target range where you can check a gun’s performance before you play. Whether precipitated by panic or over-zealousness, one of the most common newbie mistakes is to fire at an opposing player long before there is a snowball’s (or paintball’s) chance in hell of hitting him/her. This is an especially bad thing when the opposing player hasn’t even seen you yet. If an opposing player isn’t aware of your position, wait until he/she is as close as possible before firing. The chance of hitting targets increases exponentially with every yard the distance decreases.
FAILURE TO BE AGGRESSIVE
Did you come to play or merely to survive? There is no point in playing a totally defensive position in paintball. Besides, the best defense is a good offense and all that stuff. In paintball, there is usually an objective, like capturing a flag. You can’t do that from way back there. Having trouble reaching your opponent with paintballs? You can’t do that from way back there either. Move up. Get on the trigger. Take the game to them. After all, it’s only a game, and the worst thing that will happen is you’ll have to come back and try again next time.
FALLING PREY TO INTIMIDATION TACTICS
Shiny paintball guns DO NOT perform any better than their dull-looking counterparts. Anyone with money can buy a flashy jersey. Get honest with any experienced player and he/she will tell you that a lot of the flash is exactly for the effect it has on you – intimidation. Don’t be fooled. The most effective player on the field may be the guy standing next to you with a rental gun – but that doesn’t matter either. What should concern you is what you do when the game is on. Now, what are you going to do? Learn the rules, understand how your equipment works, communicate and work with your teammates, look for good cover but don’t bunch up, don’t fixate on one person, don’t fire too soon, but be aggressive and use firepower when you need it – and look at the player with the shiny gun and just say to yourself “you’re mine!”
What is an Expansion Chamber?
An Expansion Chamber is a device attached to a paintball gun designed to reduce occurrences of liquid Co2 getting into the valve area. Expansion Chambers accomplish this by routing Co2 through a passage or series of passages, which allows liquid an opportunity to boil, or expand into gas.
When do you need an Expansion Chamber?
The introduction of liquid Co2 into a valve system can cause pressure fluctuations which lead to velocity spikes. This occurs most frequently on paintball guns which use a “bottomline” set-up. Since liquid Co2 follows gravity, the horizontal orientation of the bottle in combination with the various angles at which the gun is held by the user allows the erratic introduction of liquid Co2 into the system. Any gun suffering from this problem can benefit from an Expansion Chamber, although like any anti-liquid system it is not always 100% effective.
Since remote lines serve a similar purpose and are most often connected to bottles in a vertical position, guns with remote Co2 set-ups may see no real advantage from the addition of an Expansion Chamber. As in other cases, an Expansion Chamber should only be used in remote systems that are experiencing continued problems related to Liquid Co2.
Guns using HPA (High Pressure Air, a.k.a., Nitrogen) as a power source do not need an Expansion Chamber since the entire “liquid” issue is nonexistent.
What is a Regulator?
A Regulator is a device which controls the output pressure of the gas power source on paintball guns. The Regulator can only maintain or reduce the pressure of the gas coming from the source tank – It cannot increase the pressure. Aftermarket, or on-gun Regulators are adjustable through a certain pressure range as determined by the manufacturer – not all Regulators work with all paintball guns. For example, some Regulators are adjustable for 0 to 600 psi, which would negate the use of the Regulator with a gun requiring more than 600 psi to operate.
Co2 tanks are generally not sold with built-in Regulators, all though several companies manufacture replacement valves which include a built-in Regulator. For most Co2 powered paintball guns, regulators are placed in the gas line somewhere between the tank and valve.
All HPA tanks have a built-in regulator, since tank pressures are 3000 psi and above, which far exceeds the operating requirements of any paintball gun. The built-in tank Regulator is often used in conjunction with an on-gun secondary Regulator, especially in cases where the tank Regulator is not adjustable.
When do you need a Regulator?
Anyone wanting to control the pressure at which their paintball gun operates needs a Regulator. Whether Co2 or HPA is the power source, there are numerous advantages to controlling the operating pressure of paintball guns such as maintaining the consistency of the velocity, and more finite control over velocity adjustment. There are also some advantages to operating at lower pressure, which requires a Regulator.
A Regulator can also be used to help eliminate the erratic introduction of liquid Co2 into the system. Since liquid Co2 exist at higher pressures (at a given temperature), the lower the operating pressure, the less likely Co2 will exist in a liquid form. Like the Expansion Chamber, the Regulator alone will not totally eliminate liquid Co2 and should be used in conjunction with another device, such as an anti-siphon tube in the Co2 tank.
Should a Regulator and Expansion Chamber be used together?
Depending on how the system is set-up, a Regulator and Expansion Chamber can be used together, but in most cases, the use of both devices is excessive. More likely than not, the combination will adversely affect performance.
An Expansion Chamber can be used to help eliminate liquid Co2 before it reaches the Regulator, but is more cumbersome than other methods such as the use of an anti-siphon tube in the Co2 tank.
A set-up where the Expansion Chamber is placed between the Regulator and valve system may partially negate the effectiveness of the Regulator, since it allows the regulated gas an opportunity to warm and expand. Such a set-up is also unnecessary in a properly organized system, where efforts should be made to eliminate liquid Co2 before it enters the Regulator.
Which is better, a Regulator or an Expansion Chamber?
With price not being a consideration, a Regulator far outperforms an Expansion Chamber. While offering the same anti-liquid advantages, the Regulator also offers actual control over the operating pressure of the paintball gun. An Expansion Chamber should only be considered if liquid Co2 is a problem, and a Regulator is outside of the user’s price range.
Regulator vs. Expansion Chamber vs. Vertical Bottle
The following test was conducted using a stock Avalon Diamond GT, which is a two-tube blow-back paintball gun. The purpose of the test was to check the differences in velocity consistency when using a standard vertical bottle set-up, a 6-stage expansion chamber, and a regulator. Every effort was made to keep the parameters as close as possible during the test. The three steps of the test were performed back to back, using and the same brand/batch paintballs. A standard 12 ounce Co2 tank was used (no anti-siphon tube), and both the expansion chamber and regulator were used in the vertical bottle position, and fed from a standard bottom-line adapter secured to the grip frame.
The photos on this page were taken at Wayne’s World of Paintball in Ocala, Florida during several different 24-hour scenario events. After doing a number of these, I can say that large scale scenario games are definitely what I prefer to play. There’s a certain sense of adventure in big scenario games that has slowly disappeared from the rec-ball scene over the last decade. The games are usually held on relatively large fields, offer a multitude of smaller styles of games within a game, and more opportunities to make an impact. In scenario games, a player can successfully use styles of play that are simply ineffective in recreational or tournament ball. They also offer a chance to meet and play paintball with a bunch of really cool people. Many of the scenario regulars I’ve met are people burnt out on “regular” paintball and are there because they want a unique playing experience. Overall, they tend to be a lot less concerned about absolute victory, and much more interested in how the game is played. This results in a great attitude toward the game, and lots of fun.
To put it mildly, scenario games are all about variety, and with 24-hour events, offer a LOT of playing time. The scenarios of the game can be based on anything from historic military battles to science fiction stories. A lot of them are what is referred to as “mission oriented”. The format is somewhat reminiscent of military war games, in that both teams have a number of “missions” they must accomplish, and points are awarded accordingly. Missions may vary from holding a strategic point for a given period of time, to destroying an objective, to recovering a specific object. In most cases, the elimination of opposing players does not count for points. Rather than having a direct, simple objective like recreational games, scenarios are more complex, and require a consideration of strategy for success. Many times two opposing platoons on different missions may see each other and choose not to engage in a prolonged battle for fear of not getting the assigned mission accomplished in the given time. At the same, the most massive exchanges of paint I have ever seen have taken place during scenario games which involved hundreds of players. Successful scenario players (and teams) pick and choose when and where to expend their resources.
Scenario games are unique in the equipment allowed. Most allow for such items as radios, multi-shot cannons, ghillie suits, multiple guns, armored vehicles and more. Role playing scenario games also have the addition of characters with special abilities like demolition experts who can destroy structures, combat engineers who can rebuild structures, medics who can heal the wounded, or spies who can infiltrate the opposing team.
One of the new experiences for a lot of first time 24-hour scenario game players is night play. Night play can be fascinating, fun, and down right scary. Engagements generally happen at much closer ranges at night, and most game operators require lower shooting velocities because of that. Paintchecks are difficult to perform at night and players are expected to be on the honor system. As a general rule, any hit is an elimination, whether it breaks or not. The use of nightvision equipment is becoming more prevalent in 24-hour games. As a relatively inexpensive counter-weapon, some players use huge million candle-power spotlights. Night play takes some getting used to, but is one of the facets of the game that draws players, including myself, to 24-hour events.
Most 24-hour events include several scheduled stand-down times for meal breaks, although players can leave the field at any time. A typical game might run from Noon Saturday, to Noon Sunday, with 1 hour breaks at 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. A re-incarnation rule allows eliminated players to return to the field on given time intervals, such as on the hour and half hour. If a player chooses to leave the game on his on accord, he still has to wait for the re-insertion time.
The following suggestions are the result of some of my personal experiences:
- Find out ahead of time about allowed gun velocities. Many fields require lower velocities at night. It’s a good idea to make sure your gun is capable of being adjusted through the necessary range. Some guns will require a spring change or other modification just to operate properly at lower night velocities. Having a back-up gun chronoed specifically for night play helps.
- Take a back up gun or guns (if you can) – it’s no fun spending time on the sidelines working on your piece. It’s much easier and less frustrating to pick up another gun and go, then work on the down gun during a meal break. And even if your gun is the most reliable in the world, your friend’s gun may not be – so have a spare chronoed and ready to go if you can. Along those same lines, kind of back-up items are nice to have along, such as spare parts, clothes, etc.
- Take a flashlight – although a flashlight is a dead give-away at night, it’s still handy to have one if you have to walk off the field, find something you’ve dropped, etc. I usually attach one to my gun so it’s easy to find. I end up taking a lot of laughs from people who make remarks about how ineffective it will be while playing – but that’s not what it’s there for – it’s a safety device and should be considered a necessity for night play.
- Take all of the stuff your local rec-field may be supplying for you. Often with hundreds of players showing up, scenario game organizers can’t afford to have such things as paper towels, or cold water on hand. Think of it as a camping trip in the deep woods and take everything necessary. This could include an awning to provide shade, a portable table, and chairs to set up in your campsite, which especially comes in handy for working on equipment off field.
- Make preparations for playing in the rain, and enduring the rain off field. Despite the best efforts of meteoroligist, the weather is still largely unpredictable. If you have special gear for playing in the rain, don’t leave home on a long trip without it. Again, a shelter such as an awning comes in handy for keeping you and your equipment dry during showers while off field.
- Consider having your group invest in radios, but keep radio chatter to a minimum – use it on an “as needed” basis. FRS radios are getting to be relatively inexpensive and are the most popular types on most fields. They are awesomely useful in large scale games, especially if you get separated from your unit. However, too much radio traffic can bog you down quick. Avoid casual conversation since it ties up the frequency. Also, using a simple earplug keeps unexpected radio noise from giving away your position.
- Don’t overweight yourself with equipment – most people don’t consider how much equipment they are carrying since they’re used to playing in 20 minute games where the harness comes off after it’s over, but when you’re on the field for hours at a time anything can and will become heavy, and this effect multiplies if you try to over-supply yourself for a 24 hour game. Most scenario games have a re-incarnation rule that allows you to return to the field on time intervals. Use the times you get eliminated to reload, swap tanks, etc. or make an agreement with friends where you bring in re-supplies for each other after you get eliminated.
- Pace yourself – trying to go the whole 24 hours is simply not wise for some people (especially us old guys). Pick and choose your play time. For instance, in the middle of the night there may be no action on the field, which would be a good time to get some rest and be refreshed in the morning. (On the other hand, it’s also a good time to score points for your team since opposition is low.) Also consider things like the drive home, how far it is, and how apt you’ll be to doze off on the road and kill somebody if you tried to stay up the whole 24.
- Consider taking a source of drinking water on the field if you think you’ll be playing for long periods in hot weather. With medics to heal your wounds and put you back into the game, it’s easy to be on the field for several hours at a time. A Camel-back style set-up works well and with it’s drinking tube can be accessed without removing your face mask, which is an important feature to include on any on-field drinking device.
- Consider making extra vehicle keys if several friends come to the event with you. It always seems someone needs to get back into the vehicle but the guy with the keys is out on the field. This is also a good safety precaution in case you loose your keys on the field. Along those same lines, keep all of your valuables (money, wallet) and other keys locked in the vehicle. Trust me, it’s just no fun to search a huge field for a lost wallet.
- Take fake props. Often, role-playing type scenario games rely on props for points or accomplishing an objective. Taking something like an old circuit board from a computer, or odd looking object can give you something to barter with off field, or something to bait an ambush on field. In general, players will not know what is a “real” prop, sometimes until the game is over.
- Play for your team – if it’s a mission oriented game, try to accomplish the mission and help the team win. Despite the number of people you personally eliminate, it’s sort of anticlimactic when you’re team loses the game because there were players more interested in their own personal agenda or kill talley. Be willing to work with others on your team. One of the things that makes large scale scenario games so fascinating to me is seeing so many people working together for a common goal. In every one I have played, I honestly think the winning team was the also the best organized.
- Have fun!!! Go with a good attitude and expect a good time and that’s what you’ll find.
- and finally, don’t shoot guys with cameras – they are there to record the game and the chance of your smiling face appearing in a magazine will greatly diminish if you even accidentally shoot one of these guys.. (my apologies to Hollywood)
This article came from a question that gets asked often on the usenet newsgroup rec sport paintball. Considering the number of paintball guns currently on the market, it’s certainly a legitimate question. Most people want to get the best bang for his or her buck, but with so many from which to choose, which way do you go? What follows is based entirely on my opinion developed from my personal experience. Although I talk about specific guns, my purpose here is not to endorse or attack a particular product, but to give my opinion on what that item represents in overall value for the user. If you are someone who has money to burn and doesn’t care where it goes, then this article is not for you. However, if you are looking to get the most for you paintball dollar, I hope this helps.
First off, let me say, that I would not recommend anyone seriously invest in a paintball gun without playing the game first. Sure, if you want to buy a $30 plastic gun at a discount store to experiment with, that’s fine, just don’t overlook the safety aspects of it. Even a cheap gun can put someone’s eye out, and discount stores do nothing to promote the use of eye protection. However, you’ll get a much better sense of what paintball is all about if you take that same $30 to a commercial paintball field, and rent the equipment you need to play for a day. You’ll find out if paintball is something you actually want to play. At the same time you’ll get an idea of the performance level of different guns, while being schooled in the proper safety procedures of the game.
If you decide paintball is something you like, I highly recommend a relatively inexpensive gun for new players. More money is capable of buying higher overall performance, but with that performance you also increase complexity. Also, if you are a new player, increased performance in a gun is something you shouldn’t worry about until you are a) certain you want to invest serious money into this game, and b) convinced the performance level of the gun is somehow holding you back. Even if money is no object, that concept may come back to haunt you if you find out paintball is just a passing fad for you, or you realize that you could have done just as well for less money. I have seen a lot of people buy expensive equipment only to find out it didn’t magically make them a better player. That can be disappointing and the end result is often hundreds of dollars worth of merchandise collecting dust in a closet.
When friends ask me about a first gun purchase, I usually recommend something along the lines of the PMI Piranha, because it’s a good functional gun, simple to operate and clean, easily upgradable, accurate, efficient, and one of the better values for the money. It is not perfect – nothing is. There are plenty of other guns that will work as well or better. However, in a “bang for your buck” sense, few paintball guns can compete directly with the Piranha. It’s a solid, yet low price investment. Kingman Spyders are also good starter guns (I own 3.2 of them myself), but when compared to the almost identical Piranha, fall slightly behind on features .vs price.
My second recommendation is usually a Tippmann gun such as the Model 98 or Pro/Carbine. Both are durable and reliable. Tippmann guns are well built, and they tend to be heavier and longer than stacked blow-backs like the Piranha. However, some people prefer that heavier, solid feel. Tippman makes an excellent product, and stands behind it with a well known reputation for “outstanding” customer service. If you want something you can sling over your shoulder and accidentally drop every once in a while, you might consider a Tippman.
Third I would recommend a pump gun (any number of them) if you are the type of person who likes a challenge. A new player with a pump gun will be at a disadvantage in a field full of semi-automatics, but sticking with it will force you to learn how to play smarter. The Maverick/Trracer (same gun) is an excellent value, although I recommend the “deluxe” model, which for $10 more gives you easily adjustable velocity. Also the Phantom should be considered a bargain even at twice the price of a Maverick. It’s accurate, quiet, efficient, smooth and offers a variety of unique upgrade options.
All of the above guns can be obtained for under $200, and represent a good value for the money invested. That’s basically the criteria I have for recommending guns for first time buyers. It is also the criteria that leads to a list of guns I do not recommend for first time buyers, which is probably more important than the previous list. Let me say here that I am not trying to discourage anyone from buying any of these guns, but I hope to point out why they don’t represent the overall value of the under $200 crowd.
I would not recommend an AGD Automag as a first gun simply because the initial investment is too high. Although a mechanically sound and reliable gun, Automags do not like to run on Co2, especially in stock form. That means an additional investment of an anti-liquid system of some sort or HPA. Automags also tend to have more expensive upgrades, such as the barrels. In my opinion, if you are going to keep the stock barrel on an Automag, you would have done just as well in performance to buy one of the cheaper guns.
Once again, the entry price keeps me from recommending electronic guns as first time guns. For many (but not all) electronic guns the investment will also need to include the price of HPA. Also, to get your money’s worth of performance on these guns, you’ll need to figure in the cost of an agitated hopper. There are lower price electronic guns coming onto the market, but even those are in the $400 price range for the gun alone.
I personally wouldn’t recommend an Autococker, automated Palmers, or the ATS guns as a first gun because of their complexity. A lot of this depends on how mechanical minded you are, but the guns have a myriad of adjustments or parts, and those who cannot resist tinkering before understanding should not buy these as a first gun. The result will be more time playing with the gun off field than on. That’s not to say that any of these guns are bad – I have owned one type of each of them and they work fine, especially if you leave them alone. But if you are not mechanically minded, a more simplified gun will give you more playing time. Also, you’re still looking at close to $400 for the initial investment into the Autococker, or Palmer gun, while ATS guns start around $500.
The suggestions on this page don’t take much into account for style or cosmetics. Those things cost additional money and do nothing for performance. While I am certainly not the person to argue against having something that’s pleasing to the eye, that’s not really the focus of this page. As a paintball enthusiast, I think it’s more important that new players have a positive experience with a well functioning paintball gun, than to have something flashy that impresses his friends. I also think it’s more important for a new player to have a gun he can use every time he plays, rather than a so-called “tournament level” marker he can’t keep functioning. However, if you can do it all within your price range, then more power to you.
Paintball began in the early 1980’s when a couple of people got the idea that it would be fun to shoot each other with guns made for the forestry industry. It was a natural extension of the “Cowboys and Indians” or “Army” games kids play. At commercial paintball facilities, the game usually involves the available players being divided into two teams. Within a time limit, and limited field of play, the teams will strive for some objective, such as capturing the flag. Game variations in paintball are as limitless as the imaginations of the players. Most games involve eliminating your opponents from the field of play by marking them with paint.
From a technical standpoint, paintball revolves around gas-powered guns which fire a gelatin capsule filled with paint. Although the original paint was oil based and tough to clean, for over a decade the industry has been using biodegradable, non-toxic, water-soluble paintball. The paint is fired from a variety of guns with a variety of capabilities, sold at a variety of prices. All are powered by compressed, inert (non-flammable) gasses. Early guns were single-shot, hand-cocked pistols with a magazine capacity of a only a handful of balls. Today’s most advanced guns are electronically controlled, have an ammo capacity of 200+ rounds, are programmable to fire a single shot, a multi-shot burst, or full-auto, and have a trigger pull as light as clicking a mouse.
Why Play Paintball?
I could spend a lot of space on the political arguments concerning the nature of the game we call paintball, but the fact is, you are either intrigued by the idea or not. If you don’t like the idea of shooting at people in what is basically a combat-like arena, then I don’t think there is much I can do to change your mind. Things like that come from your personal convictions, and you should stick to them. At the heart of it, despite whether some in the sport like it or not, paintball is a war game. However, the key word here is “game.” In that sense it’s no different than a board game or video game. I think if you ask any sensible person who has played paintball, they’ll be quick to tell you how actual combat is something they would rather not be involved in. If a paintball, which has a ridiculously short range and can be stopped by plywood, small twigs and tall weeds is still able to find its way to its target, how much easier would it be for a real bullet to do the same? Paintball players know as well as anyone (who hasn’t been there) that real war would be no game. We do this not because we are war mongers, not because we are somehow warped, not because we get some sadistic thrill from being violent — we do this simply because it’s fun.
That fun comes on a lot of different levels for different people. For me personally, I am a somewhat competitive person, I like the adventure I find in scenario games, I like the creative outlet of tinkering with the equipment, and most of all I enjoy the camaraderie with my friends. One of my closest friends is someone I met nearly a decade ago while playing paintball. Paintball is something at which anyone can be competitive, regardless of age, size, gender, shape, race, religion, etc. The way you play can be tailor made to your personality or physical abilities, and more often than not, it’s the brain that triumphs over brawn in this game.
The Pain Factor
The possibility of pain is a big issue to a lot of people who are considering playing paintball. The industry long ago set a standard maximum allowed muzzle velocity of 300 feet per second. With a standard .68 caliber paintball, this produces a point blank impact of somewhere around 9 foot pounds. That figure doesn’t mean much to me. It means even less when you consider few shots are actually taken at point blank range. So what does a paintball impact feel like? It’s similar to being hit by a large bug while doing about 80 miles per hour on a motorcycle — but again, that won’t mean much to a lot of people. To find a comparable feeling in everyday life is difficult. If you can imagine being hit by a baseball being thrown by a major league pitcher, then you have imagined far more than a paintball impact is capable of producing. Paintball impacts can hurt, or sting, while leaving bruises or welts, but do not always do even that. Sometimes, they are hardly even felt. A lot of it depends on the range at which you are hit, what part of your body is hit, and how much your adrenaline is working to cause you to ignore it until later. Some days I take the majority of hits on equipment and feel nothing. I have certainly been hurt a lot worse playing backyard football or falling off of a bicycle than I have ever been hurt playing paintball.
Paintball has an outstanding safety record. Do some searching and you’ll find according to insurance industry statistics, on a per capita basis paintball has less reported and treated injuries than many common activities, such as fishing, bowling, or golf. Most people balk when they hear such a thing, but the fact is, people incur serious muscle injuries during golfing or bowling (and being hit by one of those balls could really hurt!), and people have actually died while fishing. To my knowledge, in the nearly 20 year history of the game, no one has ever been killed while playing paintball. Part of the reason for the safety record is the industry’s near-paranoid approach to the issue. From the start, the industry and players alike have recognized that participating in such a potentially politically incorrect activity must be made safe for the game to survive. Safety issues only bring unwanted attention, and raise the spectre of government regulation. From demanding quality personal safety equipment, to regulating gun performance, the paintball industry, at least in my opinion, has done a very good job of policing itself. That’s not to say that injuries don’t occur — but the most serious of those could hardly be called accidental when they usually involve the lack of proper (and simple) safety procedures.
The most important safety procedures concern eye protection. A paintball can flat take your eye out — gone, good-bye.. see no more. That’s why at commercial facilities face and eye protection are mandatory — as they should be absolutely everywhere. There is no room for negotiation on this issue. I have personally taken many, many shots in the place that would have been my eye, if not for the eye protection. If you think you’ll be uncomfortable or not quite look cool enough wearing face and eye protection, then please move on to something else, because paintball is not for you. Most serious paintball-related injuries concern the loss of eyes by players who were either not wearing protection during the game, or were the victim of someone’s carelessness off the field.
Your First Game
The most important thing to take to your first game is a good attitude. Don’t forget it’s just a game and your main goal is to have a good time. It’s also important to realize that as a new player, you are probably not going to have an ultra-successful day competing against experienced players, but you can still have plenty of fun. There are a lot of “ins and outs” that take time to learn, but fortunately the learning process can be very entertaining. You will find that by the end of your first day, you will already have begun picking up valuable experience.
Also take the time to realize that not everything will go perfectly. You may experience equipment problems, or poor attitudes from other players, but these things can be overcome. Try to determine whether or not you enjoy the concept of the game itself, not just the particular game in which you are involved. If you like the concept, there are always ways to make it better.
If you are thinking of playing paintball, going to a commercial facility is the best way to find out if you’ll really like the game without making a major investment, because paintball is not for everyone. Commercial facilities will rent everything needed to play safely, while providing a place to do it and a staff to help and answer your questions. I strongly recommend doing this, at least the first time, even if it’s a long commute.
A lot of what I do is referred to as “renegade” play — that is, playing on noncommercial, privately owned land. I would not recommend anyone start this way on their own simply because of the initial investment required to do it safely. You would have to have proper face and eye protection, guns, supplies, and a chronograph to check the gun’s velocity. Anything less would be potentially dangerous. On the other hand, if you have friends who play in this manner, do it safely, and will allow you to borrow equipment, renegade ball can be a good introduction for a new player.
Another form of paintball is referred to as “outlaw” — that is, playing on land that neither you nor anyone you know owns. This is often done on public park land, or in rural areas by people who use their own equipment and feel they have few practical alternatives. I strongly recommend against it, as playing on someone else’s property can invite a world of legal troubles, and playing on public land could bring unaware victims into the field of play.