There’s no doubt about it—paintball is an ultra-cool sport. Where else do you get to shoot your best friend in the butt and get away with it? There are so many roles to play. Do your best John Wayne impression with your mates and have a duel to the death, eradicate aliens as your favorite Starship Trooper, or just go to the course and shoot off some steam. It doesn’t really matter – anyway that you look at it, you’re bound to have fun.
Paintball isn’t all fun and games, though, those balls come out at quite a speed, so you’ll need to don some protective gear as well. Wondering what equipment you need for paintball?
Paintball Gun or Marker
Without a marker or paintball gun, there would be no point in playing. I suppose you could throw beanbags at your buddies, but it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun. So, where do you get a gun?
If you’re heading off to a well-established course, you can usually rent a paintball gun when you’re there. If you really enjoy the sport or want to mark up your own course, it’s worth considering buying a paintball gun of your own. There are a lot of models to choose from, and how much you spend will depend on how much you want to play.
Honestly, you can get a pretty decent gun at a reasonable price online or from most local department stores—don’t feel as though you need to spend a fortune.
We recommend trying out a few different courses in your area to get a feeling for the guns themselves, that way, you can make a more informed decision about which one you should consider adding to your collection.
For most beginners, a marker is the most important thing. We understand the excitement. Everyone wants the biggest, worst gun out there. Hold on before you blow your budget, though. Your mask is going to have a lot more impact on your experience than your marker will.
Don’t believe us? Take a paintball between the eyes wearing a cheap mask, and you’ll quickly change your mind. You can do well with a cheap marker but aim to spend a bit more on your mask.
It’s there to protect your face, and, more importantly, your eyes. As mentioned above, the paintballs come out at quite a speed—a direct hit in the face could easily break a cheap mask.
It also bears considering that a better-quality mask is going to last you a good few years and will be more comfortable overall. You’ll appreciate the great insulation when it comes to playing in colder weather or over a few hours.
Additional Safety Gear
Additional safety gear such as kneepads and elbow pads can help you if you plan on ducking and rolling, but you don’t have to go for full-on body armor unless you plan on doing your best SWAT impression. You can get a vest and pants designed for paintball.
These include padding in the right areas to help absorb the impact of paintballs. Some guys do wear a cup while playing because there is a possibility that someone will shoot you in the junk and that would be pretty painful.
The disadvantage of a cup though, is that it can be bulky and could cause pain if you dive into it. Most paintballers use slider pants, and maybe a towel in front, but otherwise, take their chances.
Aside from the impact, which can cause a few bruises, paintball is pretty safe. We would advise wearing gloves to protect your hands when you slide, along with your face mask, of course, but, aside from that, very little safety gear needed.
Technically, the only safety gear that is essential is something to protect your eyes, but you’ll be glad of the padding if you take a closeup hit.
A hopper is like the magazine of a real gun. It stores your ammo. There are two main categories of hoppers – electronic and gravity-fed.
An electronic hopper has a motor and paddles that feed paintballs into the marker to be fired. These are more expensive but have the advantage of allowing you to get more shots off in a shorter time period. If you really want to be able to nail your friends, there are hoppers that shoot around about 15 balls per second.
A gravity-fed hopper is a less expensive option and works pretty well. Additionally, with no moving parts, there’s less that can go wrong. The disadvantage is that you have to wait for the balls to fall into the gun, and this could take longer.
You might also have to shake your marker from time to time to dislodge balls, or to help them load faster, and this could be annoying when you’re involved in a pitched battle.
There are more choices here than you might think, but essentially what you are getting is paint that has been compressed into a sphere.
Like bullets, paintballs come in different sizes or calibers. You’ll need to make sure that the caliber that you select will work in the marker that you have, but other than that we wouldn’t spend too much time worrying about it.
We would suggest choosing a different color to that of your friends, though, as it makes it a lot easier to see who hit who. This is especially useful if you want to play regular games or if you and your friends are highly competitive.
An air tank is what provides the propulsion needed to shoot out paintballs. There are two basic choices here – Co2 and compressed air.
The first markers on the market came with a Co2. Their primary advantage is their cost efficiency. Their tanks are cheaper and easy enough to refill. You don’t need to find a specialist paintball store to get a refill.
Co2, however, does have some pretty big drawbacks. Pressure is created when it changes from its liquid state into a gas, and this reaction also causes cooling. This, in turn, causes pressure fluctuations.
So, the longer you play for, the more likely it is that your marker will lose pressure altogether. Another downside is that Co2 performance is dependent on a number of variables, such as the temperature, elevation, etc.
Compressed air, or HPA tanks, were developed as an answer to the issues with Co2. Generally speaking, they offer more reliable performance and aren’t affected by the weather or elevation. The downside is that the tanks tend to be bulkier and have to be refilled at a specialist paintball or scuba shop. They’re also going to cost a lot more.
Obviously, you shouldn’t wear your Sunday best to a paintball match. Get ready to get down and dirty. If you’re really good at ducking and diving, and your friends are bad at shooting, you can avoid being hit, but do expect to hit the dirt every once in a while.
In our book, if you come out looking clean and tidy, you’re doing it all wrong.
Clothing-wise, you might consider the vest and pants that we spoke about earlier, but you can get away with wearing shorts and a t-shirt if you like. That’s a big part of the fun.
We would recommend wearing a long-sleeved t-shirt in a natural material. If the weather allows, wearing a couple of extra layers can help to absorb some of the impacts of shots. We’d also recommend long pants to protect your legs, and a beanie to keep the worst of the paint out of your hair.
Do take a change of clothes with you to wear on the way home—unless you want your car decorated.
Snacks and Water
Paintballing is a high-energy sport, so you’ll need some snacks to help you keep up your energy. Keep the burger and fries for after you’ve finished playing but take some carb-rich snacks with you.
Fruit and nuts are good options, as is trail mix, etc. The longer you plan to play for, the more energy you’ll need, so stock up on some healthy snacks before you head out. Keep the snacks light and portable so they won’t weigh you down on the course or arrange snack breaks throughout your game.
Regarding drinks, you’ll need to keep hydrated, so make sure that you take plenty of water with you. You could swap it out for a sports drink if you really like, but this isn’t really necessary unless you plan to play for more than an hour at a stretch. Plain water is the best energy drink.
It’s best to keep a small screwdriver on hand so that you can open up your marker if need be. There’ll be minor adjustments that you might need to make at times, like when a 0-rings need to be replaced for example.
Aside from that, a screwdriver can come in handy if you need to clear out snags or blockages from the hopper or the marker itself. This is not something that you’ll need every time you play, but it is important to keep these on hand in case something does go wrong. That way, you can fix it quickly and keep on playing.
O-rings are used to maintain the pressure inside your air tank and in your marker. Over time they will wear out and can go at any time without much warning. It’s a good idea to keep a few of these on hand so that you can replace them as necessary.
The rings are simple to replace, so there is no reason why an O-ring failure has to ruin your game. We recommend asking about how to replace these rings when you buy your equipment so that you know exactly what to do when the time comes.
Wrapping it up
Be warned; paintball is pretty addictive. It’s fun, challenging, and you get to shoot people. It’s a great way to relieve stress and an excellent way to spend an afternoon. It’s also great exercise and relatively safe as long as you are wearing the right eye gear.
You’re bound to get some scrapes and bruises, but that’s all part of the experience. Wearing a padded vest and slider pants will help reduce the impact of the worst of the hits. Wearing long sleeves and long pants will help to keep your body relatively clean.
And, as a bit of clever strategy, wearing a few soft layers could prevent some balls from breaking when they hit you. And, if they don’t break, it’s not a hit, is it?
Remember the primary rule always, though – have fun.