What is paintball?
It's a sport in which a bunch of adults (loosely defined) go out in the woods or specially designed fields and relive our childhood by playing capture the flag. Only, in this game each player has a gun that fires gelatin capsules filled with a water-soluble marking dye. If you're shot and marked, you're out of the game and have to wait until the next one starts. The most common variation is two teams at opposite ends of a playing field, each with a flag hung at 'home base.' The object is to go get the other team's flag and bring it back to your base. When you encounter people on the other team, you try to tag them out before they get you. Pretty simple and lots of fun.
Is it safe?
Like all action sports (football, racquetball, basket-ball, hockey, etc.) paintball is potentially dangerous unless adequate protection is worn (most importantly: eye protection) and safety rules are understood and followed.
Most paintball guns shoot a 68 caliber paint pellet. The pellet is a thin plastic shell filled with a water soluble paint. Guns shoot the pellets at a speed of 200 to 300 feet per second. Since the paint pellets are fairly light (only weighing a few grams each), they have little momentum while in flight, and thus are not lethal like the heavy lead projectiles fired from conventional firearms.
In addition to using a non-lethal projectile, paintball players *always* wear protective goggles to protect their eyes and usually wear masks covering the rest of their face as well.
Safety is highly stressed at most fields. Many fields require goggles be worn at all times unless in designated areas. Many fields also require that barrel plugs (plastic inserts that prevent projectiles from leaving your gun's barrel) be used while players are in certain areas. Ignoring safety is a good way to get yourself ejected from a field.
Anyone 12 years old or older can play paintball. Ages 12-18 are regulated on a field by field basis. Typically, when accompanied by an adult (no you don't have to play - but you should), younger people are allowed to play.
Doesn't it hurt when you get shot?
The paint pellets break open upon impact, and generally cause very little pain. What pain is experienced is more of a stinging sensation from the pellet's impact against the skin or through clothing. In my experience, the stinging pain goes away after a few seconds. Of course, the closer you are to the muzzle of the gun, the higher the velocity of the pellet when it hits you. Thus, more pain may be experienced when shot at close range rather than farther away.
In general, one can count on coming off the field with a few welts from paintball impacts, but your most annoying injuries are more likely to be scrapes and bruises from the local terrain.
Do I have to be on a team?
You don't have to have an organized team or go to an organized field in order to play. If you have some paintball guns, paintball goggles, and a few friends, you can simply get together and shoot at each other.
Most commercial fields allow walk-on games, where anybody can show up and play.
How can I play?
Almost all paintball 'fields' rent guns and welcome new players. Fields can be found using www.Paintball-Guns.com, yellow pages (look under 'Firearms' or 'Sports Equipment'), local newspapers, or ads in a number of the paintball magazines.
What kind of Paintball Field should I look for?
For the first few games you should play on a well organized field. Size is not the best way to judge the field. The things to watch for are the number of referees on the field for each game and the explanation of the rules. The rules of safety and specific rules for the field/game should be clearly stated by a referee before anyone steps foot on the field to play. There should also be a sufficient number of referees for the number of players, one referee can not handle a field with fifty people on it. If these conditions are not met, you should seriously consider waiting for your first day until you find a field better suited to a beginner.
How much does it cost to play?
The average field in the United States will cost approximately $15-25+ for 1 day rental of goggles, gun and some paintballs. Extra paintballs are usually 4-10 cents each. Better guns and facemasks are usually available at an additional cost.
A beginner should plan on using 100-300 paintballs for the first few days with rental guns, depending on how comfortable you are shooting.
A day of play is usually 9:00am to 3:30 pm.
If you start playing regularly and would like to have your own equipment, you have several options open to you. Buying a used pump action gun and a new pair of goggles is a good start. You can buy a used pump for $50 to $150. You can buy an entry level semi-automatic for $100 to $300. A new pair of goggles might cost $20 to $40. Buying yourself a new pair of thermal goggles designed specifically for paintball is a must.
Paint costs about $.03 to $.06 per pellet. You may go through several hundred pellets of paint over the course of a single day, so this cost should be a long-term consideration. Depending on the type of gun you're using, the cost of CO2 should also be a long-term consideration. If you're using a 12-gram gun you can buy disposable 12-gram cartridges at your local sporting goods store for a few dollars a pack. If you're using a constant air tank, you should be able to get it refilled at your local paintball shop or field for about $3-$5, depending on its size.
What do I need to bring?
The field owner may not supply food or have facilities where food can be bought so a lunch and snacks should be brought just in case.
Bring water, lots of water.
Bring old, sturdy, dark clothes and shoes or boots with some sort of ankle support. Toilet paper to clean your mask and gun and perhaps an old towel to clean yourself off, just in case.
What safety equipment do I need?
The minimum safety equipment necessary is goggles, facemask with ear and throat protection, and, for men, a protective cup.
How can I play safe?
Do not shoot animals or wildlife.
Never shoot in the staging area.
Do not fire your paint gun anywhere except on the field during the game or in the designated chronograph area/shooting range.
Inspect the lens of your goggles for cracks or signs of weakness.
Make sure your mask is well seated and will not come off during the game.
Make sure the velocity of your paint gun is below 300 feet per second.
Always assume the gun is loaded; even if you know otherwise.
Always assume safety devices won't work.
Unload the gun when not in use.
Upon receiving or retrieving a gun check if it's loaded.
Anytime you are carrying a paintball gun in a 'safe zone' such as the parking lot or staging area where people are not wearing goggles, you MUST have a barrel plug in the barrel. If possible engage the safety or turn off the air supply, so the paintball gun will not fire accidentally.
Know the rules of the game and abide by them.
Never remove facemasks or goggles while on the field.
Do not play when very tired or hungry. Bring food or money to buy food from field. Most injuries occur at the end of the day when players are exhausted.
NEVER look down the barrel. Not even with protection. If barrel needs checking remove from the gun and check. If the barrel cannot be removed, disconnect all CO2/CA equipment, test fire the gun downrange until no more air is left in the gun, clear the breech or ball loading area, and then, carefully and while wearing goggles, glance down the barrel.
Notify the field owner or manager of any medical conditions, allergies etc.
Do I need to be physically fit to play?
Not really, but it will help. As with all strenuous exercise participants should stretch and warm up before playing. Since typical games require quick sprints followed by a rest having good aerobic fitness is beneficial.
Players should gauge their play to their level of fitness.
All players in poor physical condition or with physically limiting conditions should consult a physician before playing.
Proper footwear is very important. Some players find that lightweight canvas topped army boots or leather work boots protect feet and ankles in the woods. Other players prefer the support that sneakers give, as paintball does involve running. Personal preferences vary, but footwear should not be overlooked. Sports cleats are excellent for playing in.
Can I get the paint out of my clothes?
Paint is water soluble and should wash out as normal.