In 2001, 39-year old Kenneth Costin, a father of two died several days after being shot in the head with a paintball gun. He collapsed due to a stroke.
Similar horrid stories ranging from liver ruptures to actual deaths as a result of a mere paintball shot are all over the internet.
But is it really directly caused by paintball? Is paintball really life-threatening?
Read on to find out.
Keep In Mind
Paintball is a shooting game, in which you ‘mark’ your target by paint-filled gelatin capsules which are shot by a paintball gun, also called a ‘paintball marker’.
Said gun borrows force from a small air tank it’s equipped with. These tanks may contain CO2 or HPA (high-pressure air) stored at pressures of 1,800 PSI and 4,500 PSI respectively.
The Speed at Which a Paintball Pellet Goes
On shooting, some of this highly compressed air is let out of the tank into the gun which powers the pellet.
The pellet is shot out of the gun and reaches a speed of up to 300 FPS (Feet per second) or its imperial and metric equivalents; 200 MPH (Miles per hour) and 322 KPH (Kilometers per hour) respectively. On impact, the pellet bursts letting out all the paint stored in it.
But is 200 MPH speed considered high?
To get a sense of how fast 200 MPH is, it’s worth to learn that a .22 bullet rifle projects a bullet at a speed of 729.5 MPH. So a 200 MPH shot is actually quite minimal in speed.
The Size and Weight of a Paintball Pellet
Traditionally, a standard paintball pellet is a .68 caliber, which means it’s 0.68 inches in diameter. It weighs approximately 3 grams.
Recently, there has been a new variant of paintball pellets called ‘Low-impact’ pellets. These are much smaller in size as they’re only 0.50 inches in diameter, and weigh approximately 1.25 grams.
Markers shooting these low-impact pellets are also set up to shoot them at a lesser speed. Low-impact paintball is the optimum choice for children who’d like to play paintball.
What May be Hazardous In a Paintball Game
So there are two concerning issues in a paintball game. The pellets, and CO2 tanks.
A pellet shot from a safe-distance has an impact that’s similar to a tough flick on your body.
The real issue is with pellets shot at a sheer close-proximity. They’d leave bruises especially if it was in direct contact with your skin.
Pellets shot at a close distance may also cause injury if they hit delicate body parts like your throat, eyes, ears, and your reproductive organs.
Most cases of injuries caused by pellets are either because of being subjected to a close-range shot or because of not wearing protective equipment and clothing.
The tank valve in old CO2 tanks used to be secured by a thread lock or an epoxy thread lock.
When the valve was removed to get replaced or fixed, the thread lock had to be broken.
After re-attaching the valve, it becomes much easier to unscrew from the tank as the newly applied thread lock isn’t as efficient as the factory’s default.
When players used these modified tanks and attempted to detach them from their paintball guns after they’re done playing, they accidentally unscrewed the weakly connected tank’s valve instead.
This releases the 1,800 PSI of trapped CO2 so the tank shoots like a rocket killing anyone just with its sheer force. This has been the cause of deaths associated with paintballs, but in reality, it’s just mishandling of a CO2 tank.
To treat the issue of improper valve replacement, since 2003, valves have an added safety feature. On unscrewing the valve, it begins to minimally leak before being able to totally uninstall it.
This ‘leak’ feature is a warning sign that you’re unscrewing the valve. This indicator ensures that CO2 tanks don’t become lethal rockets.
Safety Regulations In Paintball Games
The following regulations are what guarantee that your paintball experience would be entirely safe and risk-free.
Clothing and Safety Equipment
Try to wear layers of clothing to provide cushioning against the impact of the paintball. If it’s too hot, you’d still make sure to wear a thin long-sleeved t-shirt and thin sweatpants.
Optimally, you’ll equip a full face mask that protects your head and eyes, as well as protective padded armor and a pair of gloves. If these aren’t available, you should rent your own.
NEVER, I repeat, NEVER take off your face-mask or goggles as long as you’re in the paintball arena. Most injuries are caused because a player takes off his mask/goggles off too early.
Each field will have its own rules that ensure players’ safety, but these rules usually include the following:
A player must get hit with a pellet that’ll burst and leave a paint stain about a quarter inch.
Once a player is hit, shouting “I’m hit!” or “I’m out!” while holding your arms and marker up in the air is a good way to avoid being bombarded by other hits.
If you’re in doubt whether or not you’re eliminated, possibly due to the pellet not bursting correctly and only leaving a small stain, you can yell “Paint check!” and a referee will come over and assess the shot.
Players, especially novice, are granted the option to surrender if their opponent can shoot a direct-shot at them within a span of 10 to 15 feet.
Their opponent will usually shout “Freeze!”, “Surrender!” or “Point-blank” to signal that they’ve cornered another player. It’s totally fine if the player tries to escape but this may get him shot at a close-range which may sting a bit.
If your opponent is at close proximity and you’ll shoot them, it’d be best if you aim for their feet or legs so as to not cause them pain. But generally, you shouldn’t shoot opponents less than 15 feet close to you.
Handling CO2 Tanks
Never try to remove the valve on your own at home, whether your tank is new or old.
After a paintball game, if you don’t know how to properly disassemble a CO2 tank from a paintball gun, refer to an experienced adult.
Markers should be inspected before the game to be calibrated to proper shooting speed. 280 FPS is the most accepted in the majority of paintball arenas and fields.
Paintball participants should generally be older than 16 years old. However, there are fields hosting low-impact paintball that are less dangerous for children.
Please consult your health specialist if there are any particular contradictions that would hinder you from playing a paintball game.
Paintball, like any other game or sport, carries risks and dangers.
Following safety rules and regulations will keep these risks at bay and protect you and your mates so that you’ll have the time of your life playing a good paintball game.