What is Paintball? A Beginners Guide

What is paintball, is very different depending on who you ask and how much experience they have in the sport. Much of the information being passed around is dated or based on misconceptions of the sport. Unlike most other activities, paintball doesn’t really have a guidebook that can help a player or organization and take them from start to finish. It’s up to one’s self to find the best source of information and to build from there.

That takes you here. In this first chapter of What is Paintball? A Beginners Guide, I would like to glance over the whole sport, bring your up to speed with some firm base knowledge, and if you can stay with me until the end, we’ll go into details and provide you with some resources to explore.

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Paintball can can be a past time frequented by a group of friends, or a competitive sport brought together by a manager, coach and team. Much like the Moncton Spartans. What all forms of paintball have in common is that they’re playing tag, but instead of running over to touch your opponent and tag them out, you fire a paint filled capsule at them to mark them. Paintball pellets are fired by air driven paintball markers, which are capable of firing many balls per second (bps) at a set velocity/speed (usually set in fps). Paintball is practiced around the world in over 100 countries and an estimated 15million people play it in the US alone. The average player spends $50 every time that they play and is likely to spend in the area of $120 per year in equipment. The average age is between 12-24 and predominately male gendered sport however that is changing all the time with an estimated 15-20% of players are female.

The term paintball gun, is a term used all to often however mature players will use the term marker in public discourse. In today’s panicked society, someone could be quick to misinterpret a group of teens talking about they’re last paintball battle as would be thugs. At the end of the day, a paintball marker, marks people whilst a gun kills people, so I believe it to be a better distinction of the two.

In order to begin our journey, we must first set the record straight about some misconceptions. Paintball receives much critique in two areas: safety and environmental impact. These are two very hot topics which I wish to address and inform you as many comments about them are grossly ignorant, and plain wrong. In terms of safety, paintball gets straight A’s, beating out all contact sports and all adrenalin sports with its outstanding safety record as insurance statistics show bellow.

While the news media helps to drive the perception that paintball is a ‘dangerous’ activity, those of us who play the sport know differently and the statistics show. In fact the down basic rules of paintball are: a) Keep your goggles on b) Use a barrel sock when ever you are not on the field. The mask protects your eyes, ears, face and neck from the direct impact of a paintball. The barrel sock goes over the barrel of a paintball marker (gun) whenever its not in use and unlike a real bullet, this bag will catch any accidental ball that would be fired.

In returning to the question of environmental impact, is the misconception that paintballs contain real paint, and they they damage the environment and are a risk to wildlife. Whilst all paintballs are controlled for the FCC and they’re contents/ingredients are publicly available, including MSDS data sheets, many still believe this to be true. Paintballs are made with pharmaceutical grade materials including gelatin and colorings, designed to be water soluble and biodegradable.

Some lesser grade paintballs are manufactured in China, where less stringent guidelines may be observed. These balls are easily avoidable as they’re quality is inferior than those made locally and would never be used by any reputable paintball field. The first paintball encapsulation company was ProCaps Paintball, located in Montreal, Canada.

Examples of these Material Safety Data Sheets can be found here and here.

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Now that we have those two big topics checked off, I can return back to the original question, What is Paintball? Paintball can generally be divided up into two types of play based on the playing surface the game is on, wither woodsball (played in the woods) or airball (played on a turf/lawn field with air inflated obstacles).

Woodsball, players are usually dressed in camouflage clothing, and down paintball markers looking like they came out of the latest action film. This is the most popular type of paintball played and can be further divided up by skill/seriousness of the player into rec-ball, and scenario/tactical paintball. Recball is practiced by beginner players. These players play only occasionally. Only one or two players have good equipment and the rest of the crew look up to them. They’re also, usually the worst players of the group. Scenario/Tactical paintball, are players who play often furring the year, and have played for more than a season. They have they’re own gear, and prefer to play games in a team atmosphere where an objective is involved as opposed to simply shooting everyone on the other team.

Airball, or speedball as its been coined by players due to its fast paced nature, is paintball’s attempt at the mainstream. Woodsball requires many acres of land, and lots of preparation to build bunkers and fortresses to be able to play. Airball is played on a netted in field, where the spectators can be mere feet from the action. Where they can see the expression on they’re favorite’s paintball star’s eyes as he performs an amazing feat of skill. Airball can also be further divided into walk-on/pick-up play and tournament play. Tournament players can then be divided into divisions starting at D5, going all the way to D1, then Semi-Pro, then full our Professional. Yes mom and dad, paintball has professional teams and players making a fair living doing what they love. The Moncton Spartans are a D2 7man team that plays in the NEPL.

Its important to note, that the different types of paintball are very generalized. I hockey player will still find himself playing ball hockey in someone’s driveway or pond hockey at his neighbor’s flooded back yard. Much is the difference between woodsball and speedball, rec-ball and competitive play.

To be continued […]

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