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Paintball Beginner's Guide

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June 8, 2013
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Paintball is one of the most participated in extreme sport in the world.

Paintball! The hottest "extreme" sport around can be a little intimidating to get into, but it doesn't have to be that way. Through some simple instruction and explanation, we'll help you make the right choices, and before you know it, you'll be on your way to the paintball field or your favorite piece of property!  

Watching paintball on TV, you might think that it's as complicated as Rugby. Not so! Paintball is like tag for adults and has a few basic rules. It's capture the flag — just like you used to play during recess, with a twist! The goal of the game is simple: Two teams (which can be two teams of one) start at opposite ends of the playing field. Each team tries to go get the other team's flag (which is located at their starting point) and bring it back to their own. They must do this without getting marked by a paintball. Getting marked means that the ball has to hit you and break, since a "bounce" doesn't count. It can hit anywhere on your person or equipment and if it breaks open leaving a paint mark, then you are out of the game.  

There are many variations on the game including the popular "center flag" format. In this game there is only one flag and it's located in the center of the field. Each team is trying to get that flag and bring it further across the field to their opponents' starting base. All formats may be played in the woods or on an open court styled playing field. Commercial fields will play a variety of formats and by the end of the day, you'll be exhausted! You can experiment at home with flags or just play "elimination only" where you try to mark all of your opponents out without being hit yourself.  

Player Packs  

When shopping for paintball equipment, you will see several different "player packs." This is the industry's way of presenting you with just about everything you need in one box for one price. Contents will vary by manufacturer, but usually you will get a marker (paintball gun), a tank, goggles and a hopper. The marker is the heart of the player pack and also determines most of the cost. As is true with many things, you get what you pay for when buying paintball equipment. Durability, ease of use, and performance are typical concerns when deciding on a model.  

An excellent entry level player pack can be obtained for around $100. These markers are semi-automatic, which means that they will fire a paintball every time you pull the trigger without having to first pump or cock the marker. Equally important are the goggles which are your primary piece of safety equipment. The ones included in player packs are comfortable and safe. In fact, all goggle systems must meet the same minimum safety requirements so essentially you are shopping for comfort and appearance. You'll know what I mean with regards to comfort if you ever rent a pair at the local paintball field! It is preferable to have your own set of goggles.

PaintballBeginnersGuide SavePhaceIntimidatorMask
Masks can be purchased separately from a player's pack.

The player pack will also include a CO2 or compressed air tank, which is what powers your markers, and shoots the paintball out of the barrel. Tanks are filled very inexpensively at any paintball field, and should last through an entire day of play depending on how many paintballs you shoot. A hopper, also referred to as a loader sometimes, sits on top of your marker and loads the paintballs one by one into the bore. They usually hold anywhere from 40 to 120 paintballs and can be refilled when needed during play.  


One thing that's not included in player packs are paintballs. This is because they are perishable and fragile. They require special packaging and handling are sold separately for this reason. You'll see a very wide variety of brands, colors, and prices when you're shopping for "paint." The fun part is color! It doesn't matter what color the paint is, just buy the one you like the best! How's that for simple? All the paintballs sold for markers are 68 caliber which means that they are all equally compatible. Essentially any paintball will work with any marker.  

There are several factors that affect the quality of paint however, and you'll have to see what works the best for you and your marker. Paintballs have either a gelatin or corn starch based shell. The quality of the shell varies also and this affects accuracy, and more so, their tendency to break in the barrel of your marker. Lower quality shelled paints are generally less expensive, and have a greater chance of breaking in your marker and creating a mess. It's not the end of the world if this happens, just annoying and you will have to stop playing and squeegee out your barrel. Those paints also tend to dimple when pressed against one another and unlike a golf ball, will cause the paint to fly crooked and spin erratically.  

What Do I Wear?  

I would suggest wearing some clothes that you don't mind getting dirty when you go to play paintball for the first time. The paint isn't really paint in the conventional sense of the word. It's more like vegetable oil with food coloring and doesn't stain. You will get dirty from being outside as you would from any sport, but the paint itself should not be a concern. You'll have to see what style of play fits you best before making a clothing purchase.   If you really enjoy playing in the woods, then I would highly suggest some camouflage. Lightweight articles are the way to go since you will be more physically active playing paintball than you would be hunting in most cases. If you choose to play in winter, then there's obviously a huge selection of camouflage that'll keep you toasty warm while you play.

Paintball is a great sport because you can play it with your family and friends on your property, or go to a commercial paintball field and enjoy purpose-built obstacles and terrain.

In paintball terminology, people who like to stay in the woods are "woodsballers" and the guys who prefer the manicured, flat playing fields are "speedballers". The two styles are very different and rarely do you see camouflage on a speedball court. As I mentioned, you'll have to see what strikes your fancy when you go to play for the first time. Normal clothing is common for speedball or some players choose to go for paintball specific jerseys that look a lot like motocross uniforms.  

Where Do I Play Paintball?  

Paintball is a great sport because you can play it with your family and friends on your property, or go to a commercial paintball field and enjoy purpose-built obstacles and terrain. Either way, safety is key. If you do choose to play at home, you should always wear your goggles and use your barrel sock, which is a blocking device that catches any accidentally discharged paintballs at the end of the marker's barrel. Like any piece of sporting equipment, you should respect a paintball marker's force and capabilities, especially when children are present.  

Commercial fields will have strict safety procedures in place to keep everyone safe and happy. At a commercial paintball field you will have to pay a greens fee much like at a golf course. This is usually about $15 to play all day. You can join in with other people who have come to enjoy a day of paintball in what they call "open play". Generally, people will show up alone or with a group of friends and will have varying skill levels. You can rest assured that the referee in charge will keep the teams even so that everyone has fun.  

Some fields require you to buy their paint so call first and make sure before buying some ahead of time because they might not let you use it. Additional costs may include filling your CO2 or compressed air tank. It will be around $3 depending on what size your tank is. If you have to buy their paint, or you run out of your own, they will have some available for purchase.  

Paintball is a great sport for people of all ages. It's currently the third most participated in extreme sport in the world with over 12 million players worldwide! Become a part of this community today; you'll be glad you did. Paintball. It's "the new tag" with teambuilding and family fun all rolled into one!

Tagged under Read 3511 times Last modified on December 12, 2013
Marc Gottfried

Marc Gottfried has been involved with the sport of paintball for over 20 years. He was a globally syndicated columnist, a head referee for the World Series of Paintball and has been featured on ESPN2 and Fox Sports. Marc is also an accomplished combat pistol shooter and metallic cartridge reloader.

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