main Paintball equipment
Paintball equipment varies depending on the type of paintball game being played and the skill level of those playing. Every player, however, requires three basic pieces of equipment:
A full set of paintball gear may cost anywhere from under $100 to several thousand USD, depending on the equipment. Some players may invest hundreds of dollars in equipment to improve accuracy, rate of fire, weight, reliability, comfort, or aesthetics. Instead of purchasing their gear, occasional players may instead rent equipment from a paintball facility for about $10-$80 USD per day.
Field paintMost modern paintball fields enforce a 'field paint' rule; as the name of the rule implies, the participants are not allowed to use their own paint and must purchase what paint they require from the field operators. The 'field' rules are presented as safety precautions: it's common practice in commercial venues charge more for field paint than a case may cost somewhere else. However, many fields will allow BYOP (bring your own paint). The rules for paint vary by field, and players should check with the field operator before planning their outing.
Reusable ballsA reusable ball is a rubber substitute for a paintball. Reball is a specific product line, as is T-ball, but is often used when describing Rufus Dawg Target Balls, and other brands of reusable paintball-sized spheres. Most reusable paintballs are the same size as normal paintballs but weigh less, and do not contain a paint filling. They do not break open to leave a paint mark on players, so the lack of filling makes them practical for indoor locations where accumulation of paint from broken paintballs would be a problem. A reball is more expensive than a paintball, but since they can be reused many times, they potentially have a lower cost per use. Some paintball parks have added dedicated reball fields. The primary use of reballs, as intended initially by the manufacturer, is as a practice aid for teams who wish to save money by using reusable ammunition. Other manufacturers have created similar products, such as the V-Ball, a Velcro (hence the name V-Ball) reusable paintball. Reballs are also used at a lower velocity because of their inability to break on whoever they hit. For example, a Regular paintball will normally be shot at approximately 280 ft/s, but a Reball is supposed to be used at around .
It must be noted here that the term 'reusable balls' does not refer to paintballs that have been picked up from the ground. This 'loose paint' should not be used in a paintball marker, as groundwater or condensation might have swollen the paintball, which could cause it to jam in the barrel, or rupture and foul the internal workings of the marker.
Regular paintballs are made of a gelatin shell with a food colored filling. The gelatin shell is designed to break upon impact, however, ricochets may occur. There are many types of paintballs including two toned, high impact, and single toned.
Most players prefer to go to commercial paintball parks, which charge for admission. These paintball parks usually feature different themed fields (e.g. woods, jungle, city, or historical battlefield), as well as a complex of speedball fields for speedball and tournament teams. Some commercial fields are indoors, allowing players to play when it is too hot, too wet, or too dark outside. Commercial fields also (but not always) provide such amenities as bathrooms, picnic areas, lockers, equipment rentals, air refills, and even food service. These fields adhere to specific safety and insurance standards and have a paid staff, including referees, whose job is to make sure players are instructed in proper play in a manner that ensures all participants' safety. In order to avoid liability, commercial fields strictly monitor paintball velocity with chronographs.
Players that find commercial fields to be too expensive or too crowded sometimes play on private land, often referred to as "renegade" play or "outlaw ball". Though less expensive and less structured than play at a commercial facility, the lack of safety protocols, instruction, and oversight means that the vast majority of injuries incurred by paintball players occur in these "renegade" games. Private landowners may also be liable for injuries sustained on their property, especially if they opt to charge fees for play.
Major scenario and tournament events may sometimes occur at other locations like fairgrounds, military bases, or stadiums, essentially turning them into temporary paintball parks. The same trained staff and insurance found at permanent commercial paintball parks can be found at these events.
A recently occuring trend in paintball is that of a mobile field, where a business primarily provides paintballs and paintball related services on land that they are using only temporarily. This is often done for the means of scenario gaming, to provide different tracts of land for players to play on.
Common rules of playThe following are the most basic and common paintball rules. While there is little variation in safety rules, variation in other game rules is quite common, and players should ask about the specific rules where they are playing.
Safety rulesLike many sports, safe participation in paintball requires observance of proper safety procedure. When safety rules are followed, paintball is extremely safe with an injury rate of only 0.2 injuries per 1,000 exposures. Tennis, on the other hand, has 2.3 injuries per 1,000 hours of play.
Goggle systemThe most important rule in paintball is that all players must wear a protective goggle system or mask at all times when they are playing or near other people who are playing. While paintballs will not cause permanent injury to most areas of the body, the eyes, and to a lesser extent the ears, are vulnerable to serious injury if hit by a paintball. Paintball masks are specifically designed for the sport, and the goggles are capable of withstanding a direct hit from a paintball traveling at well over 300 feet per second (90 m/s), the safety limit adopted by paintball marker manufacturers. The lenses of the goggles are composed of either single sheets of tough plastic, or thermal lenses, which cut down on fogging. Most masks have flaps that protect the ears, and some include a visor to shade the player from sunlight. Some players use masks that cover the entire head for maximum protection, while the majority of tournament-level players choose smaller masks that offer a wider field of view, better hearing, vocal communication and more venting. Recently, small timers were created to fit in the goggle, alerting the user to a certain time in the game.
Paintball velocityIn addition to the mandatory use of masks, paintball markers must not fire paintballs that exceed a certain velocity. The industry standard maximum velocity for safe play is 300 FPS (feet per second), about 90 meters per second.
Many commercial paintball facilities mandate a lower velocity, usually around 280 feet per second (85 m/s, 300 km/h or 190 mph), with a muzzle energy of approximately 11 joules, in order to create an extra margin of safety. Due to the closer proximity of players to each other, indoor paintball facilities cap marker velocities at an even lower level, between 220-230 FPS.
Paintball velocity is measured using a chronograph. Chronographs are standard equipment at commercial paintball facilities, but should be purchased if not playing at a commercial location. Players who play without first using a chronograph put themselves and other players at risk. Changes in temperature greatly affect a paintball's velocity when propelled by compressed gases that undergo phase change, such as compressed carbon dioxide, the most commonly used propellant. Markers should be chronographed several times throughout the day. Paintball markers should also be chronographed after any adjustment, replacement of parts, such as the barrel, or paint as these changes generally affect the paintball's velocity.
Compressed air is rapidly replacing CO2 as the most commonly used propellant. This is because it provides a constant and stable pressure that isn't subject to changes in outside temperature and is also easier to refill and more environmentially friendly.
OvershootingTo overshoot (also called bonus balling, overkilling) is to repeatedly shoot a player after they are eliminated. Generally, it's considered a few extra shots after a successful break. This practice is frowned upon by most recreational players, but is the accepted form of play by tournament players. There is no set rule as to what constitutes overshooting. It varies in recreational play, with each field having its own individual set of rules. However, in tournament play, it is generally up to the head referee's discretion. The penalty for overshooting in tournaments is usually a 1-for-1, the elimination of the guilty player as well as another player from his or her own team, but each tournament has its own set of rules. Overshooting is more commonly also referred to as bonusballing, especially by tournament players.
Blind firingTo blind fire is to discharge a marker around a corner or over an object with your head still behind that object or corner, making you unable to see where you shoot. Blind firing is discouraged on many fields, for potential safety implications. As the shooter cannot see where their shots are landing, they could accidentally fire at somebody point blank, hit a referee, hit a person that had removed their mask (also a major safety violation), or otherwise cause damage or injury through indiscriminately firing paint at an unseen target, although many players use the arc of a paintball to shoot at someone they cant see over low bunkers.
Player eliminationsPlayers eliminate each other from the game by hitting their opponents with a paintball that breaks upon impact and leaves them visibly marked with paint. Rules on how big a paint mark must be to count as a hit vary, but a paint mark from a paintball that breaks on some other object before striking a player, referred to as splatter, does not count as a hit. Once a player has been marked, they are eliminated from the game.
Most fields consider hits on any body part, clothing, gear, or object the player is carrying or wearing as an elimination. This includes the marker, backpack or an object picked up from the field, such as a flag or a pod. Some fields do not count hits on the marker or head or both, or other areas of the body as an elimination, such as anywhere but the torso, or require more than one hit in certain areas for elimination. These special rules are usually found in scenario paintball games. Wearing baggy clothing helps reduce the chance that a paintball will break on you. If a player is uncertain whether a mark they have received is a valid hit or not, possibly because the mark is from the spray of a paintball breaking on another nearby object, they cannot see the part of the body where they have been struck by a paintball, or because the paintball may have been shot by a player who had already been eliminated, the player should ask a referee or a nearby teammate to determine whether or not the player has a valid hit. This request is commonly referred to as a 'paint check', and is most often requested by the player yelling the words 'paint check' to a nearby referee. Some game rules allow a referee to call a player 'neutral' during a paint check so that the referee can more closely inspect a player. If a player is called neutral, they must discontinue play while being checked and opponents may also not fire or advance on the neutral player.
Players may also be eliminated from the game for reasons other than being hit by a paintball, including calling themselves out by saying "I'm hit!" or "I'm out!", from paint marks from paint grenades or paint mines in games where such equipment is allowed, or due to a penalty, such as stepping out-of-bounds or leaving the starting station prior to the beginning of the game. Because players who call themselves out are eliminated even if they are not actually hit, players should always check to see if a paintball that has hit them has indeed left a mark. A paintball may simply bounce off a player’s body without breaking, which does not count as a hit. Players may also call for a paint check on another player if they believe they have marked an opponent to ensure the player is promptly eliminated from the game, especially if the opposing player may not be aware they are hit or may be attempting to hide or remove a hit. Removing a hit and continuing to play is a severe form of cheating commonly known as 'wiping' and can result in severe penalties, including being permanently banned from the playing location at a recreational or commercial facility. In tournaments, a "3 for 1" penalty may be called, where the offending player and an additional three teammates are eliminated from play.
Surrender ruleRecreational fields often suggest a player within a certain distance of an unaware opponent, usually 10 to 15 feet, should offer the unaware player's surrender by yelling "Surrender!" (or Point Blank) before they may open fire. If the opponent complies, either verbally or by raising their hand or marker, they are considered marked and are out of the match. However, if they refuse or attempt any hostile action, such as turning to fire, the challenging player may fire upon them. Getting hit by a paintball from close range can be painful, and it is considered polite and good sportsmanship to offer an opponent the opportunity to surrender when possible instead of unnecessarily shooting at close range.It is also good policy to fire at their foot so as not to cause pain because of their boots.
This "rule" is subject to great interpretation between fields, and even between players, for a variety of reasons. A common field interpretation of the surrender rule is not to prevent two players in a heated exchange from shooting each other close range, but rather from having an experienced player mowing down a first-timer who is in shock and hiding in a bunker. Interpretation at the other end of the debate often stipulates an automatic elimination for any move where a surrender would be offered, such as surprise or bunkering. This strict variant is often called a "bunker tap rule," to differentiate it from a more lax interpretation.
New players can become packed with adrenaline in such situations, and often attempt to fire out of reflex. Thus, experienced players often decide to offer a surrender only in situations where the opponent is completely off guard, and will be too shocked to make any reflex action. For these reasons, when a bunkering move is executed, even in recreational play, a surrender is rarely offered unless field rules absolutely require it.
In tournament play there is no enforcement of a surrender rule. When a player catches an opponent off guard, they will fire until they see that the paint breaks, or until a referee calls the opponent out. Moves such as a 'run through', where a player runs down the field shooting opponents as he passes them and continuing on, have developed over time and are now important plays. Another popular move is "bunkering", where a player charges up to the bunker or barricade that an opposing player is behind and shoots them from over the top or around the side of the bunker. Players also sometimes call themselves out if they are the last player, just in plain fear of getting hit.
Some players use the term 'mercy kill' rather than 'surrender'. However, the industry itself is trying to drop the term 'mercy kill' in an effort to distance itself from a militant image.
Types of games
- Capture the Flag - A team must take the flag from the designated flag station, often either at the opponents' flag station at the opposite side of the field, or in the center of the field. The flag must then be 'hung' at one's own flag station or the enemy flag station, respectively.
- Elimination - A team or individual player must eliminate all of the opposing team members.
- "King of the Hill" - two or more teams attempt to capture and hold one or more bases. The game is won by the team that holds the base(s) for the longest net amount of time.
WoodsballPaintball started out as a recreational game in wooded areas, with capture the flag and elimination being the most common formats. Woodsball can involve any range of players with a variety of bunker types. The size and terrain of woodsball fields make it unlikely that a player can observe more than a small subsection of the field at any given time. This limited field awareness coupled with the usually larger number of players causes woodsball games to generally last for an extended period of time. Many playing locations often have their own custom variations. Woodsball gives players the freedom to engage in any number of typical and atypical scenarios such as ambushes, assaults on fortified positions and protecting VIPs. Woodsball can be played throughout the year, although cold weather play often hinders the use of CO2 because lower temperatures don't allow the gas to expand properly. Playing woodsball in varying weather conditions further adds challenges and advantages for the players.
Woodsball is sometimes played in National Forest areas, although the same rules that apply to the discharge of firearms are applicable to paintball players.
SpeedballSpeedball is a type of paintball characterized by a small field filled with bunkers. While a woodsball field may cover several acres, speedball fields are usually less than half the size of a football field, and located on level, treeless terrain. Bunkers on a speedball field are man-made, and have evolved from wooden spools and crates to corrugated sewer piping to the customized inflatable obstacles in various shapes that are common today.
Because of the small field size, and the lack of foliage or any other objects aside from the artificial obstacles on the field, players can see from one end of the field to the other, and games are usually much shorter than those played in the woods. Since players can see each other and start the game within range of each other, action between opponents is immediate and lasts the entire game. Due to the smaller field size, there are usually fewer players per team than in woodsball, commonly from three to ten players.
While speedball is presently used in tournament play far more often than woodsball, many casual recreational players also enjoy speedball outside an organized, competitive setting, especially at indoor playing facilities where a woodsball field is not an option.
Speedball is the only format of paintball that is played professionally in the three major professional leagues, the NPPL, NXL, and Millenium series.
Stock paintball play has specific rules regarding the configuration of the marker, restricting the technology of the markers to mechanisms available in the early 1980s. Markers used in stock class play must use a pump action to fire, can not hold more than 10 rounds of paint with in the marker at one time, must be powered by 12-gram carbon dioxide powerlets, and must hold paintballs in a linear feed tube parallel to the barrel.
A pump action paintball marker lacks an automated mechanism for moving the bolt between the firing and loading position, and instead has the bolt attached to a manual cocking mechanism. Using a pump handle attached to the cocking mechanism, the player must slide the bolt back to allow the next paintball to fall into the marker, then push the bolt (and the paintball) forward into the chamber, requiring a total of two separate movements to cycle the marker. After the bolt has been moved forward and the paintball is in the chamber, the paintball marker is ready to be fired and expel the paintball.
A 12 gram CO2 powerlet will typically only fire 20 to 40 rounds, depending on the efficiency of the marker, before needing to be changed for a new powerlet. Because the paintballs are lined up parallel to the barrel, they will not naturally fall into the marker while it is held in a level firing position, requiring the marker to be tipped (rocked) forward or backward before being pumped (re-cocked). This complete action for loading another paintball into the chamber of a Stock Class marker is thus called "Rock & Cock".
Strategies and tacticsPaintball, like many other games, revolves more around teamwork than it does equipment or even the skill of individual players. A well-organized team working together can defeat a team whose players are in disarray, even if individual members of the confused team have better skills and gear. Communication is key to a winning team, and often presence of mind and teamwork help to win a game.
Different game types, woodsball, speedball and scenario paintball, all have their own different strategies, although woodsball and scenario paintball share many of their strategies.
Organized paintball competition is nearly as old as the sport itself, starting with regional tournaments held at National Survival Game locations in 1983 and culminating in the National Survival Game National Championship (Won by Canadian team "The Unknown Rebels" from London, Ontario).
Though tournament paintball was originally played in the woods, the rise in popularity of teams such as Team Dynasty in the late 1990s saw speedball become the standard competitive format. The small size of speedball fields brings several advantages to competitive play. The artificial nature of bunkers allows each side of the field to be set up as a mirror image of the other, ensuring that neither team possesses a terrain advantage (as can be the case on woodsball fields). The flat, vegetation-free playing surface makes it easier for officials to see players and make the correct call and, coupled with the small field size, allows spectators to view the entire game at once or be televised. There are many type of tournament rules and regulations for speedball, ranging from the number of players (7 vs. 7, 5 vs. 5, etc.) to time limits.
Due to the largely artificial nature of speedball, camouflage is of little strategic use. Clothing with camouflage patterns, common in wooded play, has been largely replaced in tournament play by distinctively colored team uniforms similar to those found in other competitive team sports.
Paintball leaguesProfessional, semi-professional, and divisional leagues regularly hold high-class, well-organized tournaments involving a large number of professional teams, crowds of spectators, and large cash prizes. Major national and international leagues include the National Professional Paintball League (United States), Paintball Sports Promotions featuring the National XBall League (United States), and the Millennium Series (Europe).
The SPPL (Scenario Paintball Players League) is a 10 vs 10 national competitive outdoor paintball league that recognizes teams who maintain exceptional sportsmanship while on their quest to become a better players. This is demonstrated by prize packages for “best sportsmanship” that are equal to the top scoring teams prize package and is decided by the votes of their fellow competition and referee staff. Though the League tournaments feature skilled, highly competitive matches, the environment surrounding the event is similar to that of larger mission based scenario games, where players and teams mingle around campfires and even share equipment and gear. Friendship, integrity and sportsmanship are the driving factors behind the success of the SPPL.
- Main article: Glossary of paintball terms
Due to the unique nature of paintball and paintball equipment, players have developed a large body of jargon to describe the special kinds of tactics, equipment, phenomena, and even people found in the game. While most of the terms are neologisms, many are also borrowed from gamer and military culture.
Public perceptionWhile paintball has received recognition and acceptance as a safe sport and is played by over 10 million people in the United States each year, it has been attacked by some as glorifying, trivializing, or popularizing war and the use of firearms. Some paintball players in the military utilize paintball to supplement military training, and in many (but by no means all) cases, paintball games and players take on a military theme, especially regarding camouflage and terminology. Incidents of both accidental and intentional misuse of paintball markers resulting in vandalism, death, personal injury, harassment, assault, etc. draw controversy as well.
Paintball supporters have combated these negative perceptions in several ways. Some attempt to de-emphasize military themes, for example by using less violent terms such as "marker" instead of "gun", or by wearing colorful athletic uniforms instead of camouflage. Media coverage of tournaments, teams, and scenario events shows that mainstream paintball possesses the same general level of sportsmanship, professionalism, safety, camaraderie and constructive competition as many other sports and activities. It includes diverse members consisting of many races, nationalities, ages, creeds, ideologies, and genders. As an organized sport, it bears no pattern of drawing criminals or inciting civil disturbance.
Since the sport's inception, its level of acceptance as a legitimate recreational activity among the general public has increased largely with greater exposure. It is believed by paintball's supporters that greater coverage and education of the sport will settle the controversy and lead to greater overall public acceptance.
Recent research has shown that paintball is one of the statistically safest sports to participate in, with a 0.2 chance of injury per 1000 players. Looking at sports eye injuries alone, which paintball has been vilified for, an international study has shown that modern sports to include paintball are responsible for only 8.3% of eye injuries. Furthermore, a one-year study undertaken by the Eye Emergency Department, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston has shown that most sports eye injuries are caused by basketball, baseball, hockey, and racquetball. Another analysis concluded that eye injuries incurred from paintball were usually in non-commercial settings where eye protective equipments such as masks were not required.
Some cities, such as Minneapolis, Minnesota, have banned the public possession of paintball markers along with other devices that look like real guns. The concern was prompted by gun look-alikes, such as markers, being used to threaten people and the difficulty of identifying whether a person walking with a paintball marker is actually carrying a gun.
Recently, professional players have started signing contracts and getting paid. Ex-Dynasty player, Oliver Lang, widely regarded as the best player in the world, signed a 3-year contract with the Los Angeles Ironmen for $100,000. Many players see this as the next step to the acceptance of paintball as a legitimate sport.
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