Paintball Safety: How to Play Responsibly and Avoid Injuries
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Paintball is a competitive team shooting sport in which players eliminate opponents from play by hitting them with spherical dye-filled gelatin capsules called paintballs that break upon impact. Paintballs are usually shot using low-energy air weapons called paintball markers that are powered by compressed air or carbon dioxide and were originally designed for remotely marking trees and cattle.
The game was invented in June 1981 in New Hampshire by Hayes Noel, a Wall Street stock trader, and Charles Gaines, an outdoorsman and writer. A debate arose between them about whether a city-dweller had the instinct to survive in the woods against a man who had spent his youth hunting, fishing, and building cabins. The two men chanced upon an advertisement for a paint gun in a farm catalogue and were inspired to use it to settle their argument with 10 other men all in individual competition, eventually creating the sport of paintball.
The legality of the sport and use of paintball markers varies among countries and regions. In most areas where regulated play is offered, players are required to wear protective masks, use barrel-blocking safety equipment, and strictly enforce safe game rules.
The paintball equipment used may depend on the game type, for example: woodsball, speedball, or scenario; on how much money one is willing to spend on equipment; and personal preference. However, almost every player will utilize three basic pieces of equipment:
Paintball is played with a potentially limitless variety of rules and variations, which are specified before the game begins. The most basic game rule is that players must attempt to accomplish a goal without being shot and marked with a paintball. A variety of different rules govern the legality of a hit, ranging from "anything counts" (hits cause elimination whether the paintball broke and left a mark or not) to the most common variation: the paintball must break and leave a mark the size of a US quarter or larger. Eliminated players are expected to leave the field of play; eliminations may also earn the opposing team points. Depending on the agreed upon game rules, the player may return to the field and continue playing, or is eliminated from the game completely.
The particular goal of the game is determined before play begins; examples include capture the flag and elimination. Paintball has spawned popular variants, including woodsball, which is played in the natural environment and spans across a large area. Conversely, the variant of speedball is played on a smaller field and has a very fast pace with games as brief as two minutes fifteen seconds in the (NSL) or lasting up to twenty minutes in the PSP (Paintball Sports Promotions). Another variant is scenario paintball, in which players attempt to recreate historical, or fictional settings.
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Tournaments are skill based competitions. These are often bracket tournaments with 5 person teams, taking place on Speedball (paintball) fields. Tournaments such as the NXL hold different events throughout the summer months all over the United States with a range of skill divisions. Other series such as the Ultimate Woodsball League (UWL) play tournaments with large teams on large wooded fields. The types of tournaments and applicable skill divisions vary wildly to serve the diverse interest of paintball competitors.
Woodsball, or "Bushball", is a fairly recent term that refers to what was the original form of the game: teams competing in a wooded or natural environment, in which varying amounts of stealth and concealment tactics can offer an advantage. The term is commonly used as a synonym for specialized scenario-based play, but it technically refers to virtually any form of paintball played in fields primarily composed of natural terrain and cover such as trees and berms, instead of manmade obstacles. Usually the gamemode is team death match although some times it is capture the flag, or protect the president (where one player is chosen as the "president", the president's team must protect the president, the enemy team must eliminate the president).
Commonly referred to as "Big Games" or "Scenario Games". "Big Games" refer to territory control based gameplay, while a "Paintball Scenario" refers to a game where tasks are given to each side at timed intervals. Pioneered by Wayne Dollack, "Scenario Paintball" focus much more heavily on Live Action Roleplaying events, elevating their immersion, storyline, and game play mechanics above the paintball aspect of play. Many variations and combinations of these games are currently played and are unique to each event and event producer. The game uses the entire venue it is at, combining all normal gaming fields into 1 large playing area. Popular examples of the scenario format are Paintball's Grand Finale at Wayne's World (Ocala, Florida), Cousin's Big Game in Coram, New York (on Long Island), Hell Survivor's Monster Game (just outside Pinckney, Michigan), Invasion of Normandy at Skirmish U.S.A in Pennsylvania, Oklahoma D-Day (in Wyandotte, Oklahoma), Fight For Asylum at PRZ Paintball (Picton, Ontario), Battle Royale at Flag Raiders Paintball (Kitchener, Ontario), the Sherwood Classic at Sherwood Forest (La Porte, Indiana), and Free Finale at Low Country Paintball (Ludowici, GA) events which draws in 100 to 5000 players and run at least 6 hours of uninterrupted play, most often averaging 12 hours of play in 2 days. "True24" scenario events run at least 24 hours continuously, the most recent one taking place in May 2019 at Sherwood Forest. These formats vary widely and are frequently historical MilSim, movie, or pop culture themed.
MilSim addresses the logistics of combat, mission planning and execution, and dealing with limited resources and ammunition. Players are typically eliminated from the game when struck by paint just like in any traditional game of paintball. MilSim is a popular gamemode also played in Airsoft, which is a similar sport to paintball.
With the advent of shaped projectiles, such as the First Strike, and the resulting development of magazine fed markers, a considerable increase in range, accuracy and MILSIM realism was gained. Functionally speaking, magazine-fed markers are no different from any other paintball marker, with one exception. Instead of paintballs being gravity fed from a bulky hopper, which sits above the marker, shaped projectiles (or paintballs) are fed from a spring-loaded magazine from the bottom of the marker. The caliber of both the gravity fed and magazine fed markers are the same (.68 caliber) and the velocities are also generally the same. The increased range and accuracy of the shaped projectile comes from the higher ballistic coefficient that the shaped projectile has, and the gyroscopic spin imparted onto the projectile from a rifled barrel and fins on the projectile itself. Magazine fed markers and shaped projectiles have allowed marker designs to more closely approximate the styling and functionality of actual (real steel) firearms, which in turn has given paintball a better avenue to compete with Airsoft in the MilSim environment.
Mag-Fed Only Game. An increasingly popular style of game play that forbids bulk loading devices such as the traditional paintball "hopper" or "loader" and under or back mounted bulk loaders such as the Dye BoxRotor, Maxxloader backpack, and AGD Warp Feed. In this style of play all markers must accept a magazine, greatly limiting paint capacities and creating a type of paintball much more similar to popular First Person Shooter video games.
A single player paintball attraction in which participants move through a closed course and shoot at a succession of targets. Runs are timed and competition among players is through a leader board, competing to be the quickest.
A static (or mobile) entertainment attraction. Venue staff are padded up and dressed as zombies. Paintball markers are mounted to a flat bed trailer. Participants are taken on a "Haunted Hay Ride" style attraction, towed through the property, where they defend themselves from the zombie hordes with paintballs. Generally, black lights and glow in the dark paintballs are used as ammo.
A key element of intermediate and advanced strategy is the concept of "firing lanes". These are clear lines of sight between obstacles on the field and thus potentially between opposing players on the field behind them. A lane is "occupied" if at least one player of the opposing team can fire along it, and it's "active" if any player is firing along it, friend or foe. Occupied and active lanes hinder player movement as the player risks getting hit and eliminated. Open fields with sparse cover often have long open lanes between most or all bunkers on the field, most of which will be occupied if not active. Therefore, players have to keep track of which lanes to and from their bunker become occupied by the other team, so the player can make sure the bunker is between themselves and the opponent(s). This becomes harder the more occupied firing lanes there are; when most available firing lanes on the field are occupied, each team has to create cover in at least one direction using suppressing fire (rounds sent to the opponent's location designed to keep their head down more than to eliminate them). Speedball, which tends to use small open fields with relatively few obstacles, requires each player to use hundreds of paintballs in the course of a game to keep his opponents pinned down, lest he be pinned himself. Conversely, if most firing lanes on the field are clear, players on each team have greater mobility and the use of covering fire to pin an opponent is less useful as the player can stay behind cover while moving long distances, so players tend to fire less and move more to gain clear shots. Urban scenarios and woodsball fields tend to be larger and with more cover, shortening firing lanes and requiring players to move more to get good shots against their opponent.