Newbie – F.A.Q.

The term “Newbie” is an affectionate term that relates to the new guy to paintball no matter what age. Much of this is similar to other sites with similar content. In this article, I will try and cover the following…

What is Paintball?

Paintball is a team sport that can be played indoors, outdoors, woods, or open fields that resemble soccer fields. Young and old with varying skill and physical levels enjoy it. It is a cross between capture the flag and tag. Most games consist of two teams starting at opposite ends of the field. Horn blows and they try and retrieve their opponents flag and take it to the home flag station while protecting their flag. Each team can eliminate the opposing team using “guns” that use compressed air or CO2 to propel gel filled capsules that marks the target with paint. No physical contact is permitted and the referees and field staff enforce rules of the game and safety concerns. Both on and off the field. For some, it is viewed as war games. True in a sense. Similar tactics are used. But paintball encourages cooperation with others in a team setting to achieve a goal. Plus, it is great exercise.

The paint capsules mark players that are shot. Marked players tagged out are eliminated from the current game and sit out until the next game. Paintballs come in a rainbow of colors to choose from. Since they first were produced, paintballs have gotten better. Paintballs are round capsules with a gelatin inside that marks a target with a splat. They are now environmentally friendly as compared to what was used when they first were used. These are now washable from your clothes. For more info on how paintballs are made and how to take care of them, look at my upkeep on paintballs.

Back in the early days, goggles were the only protection used. Not the full-face masks like today. Today only specific face protection that is made for paintball was allowed. Shop goggles are not permitted. During play, the goggles are supposed to be on at all times in designated areas and are strictly enforced by the referees. If anyone disregards this not only jeopardizes his safety but will be asked to leave the game.

Paintball can range in price. More if you want your own equipment. From $30 for a used stock class pump to nearly $1,500 for an electronic marker. For the new guy just getting into the game with his own semi-auto marker and equipment can cost in the neighborhood of $200 to $500 depending on brands. I will get into what to get later.

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Short History lesson.

I won’t get into the history of paintball too much. Paint pistols (or markers) were used in the agricultural industry for marking trees to be cut down and by cow herders to mark cattle. In 1981, paintball begins in Henniker, New Hampshire by Bob Gurnsey, a sporting goods retailer; Hayes Noel, a stockbroker; and Charles Gaines. The game played was capture the flag. Would you believe that the winner captured all the flags without firing a shot? Yep, sure did. Then, in the spring of 1982, the first outdoor commercial playing field is opened in Rochester, NY, by a Caleb Strong. The creator of paintball, Mr. Gaines markets paintball as the National Survival Game. PMI (Pursuit Marketing Inc.) is founded to market and distribute paintball products. A $14,000 cash purse was the prize in 1983 at the NSG National Championship.

Also in 1983, the sport travels across the border to Canada making it an international sport. Skirmish Games was now the name in countries like Australia. Our friend Mr. Strong opened the first indoor play field for year round play in 1984. Finally, England got a taste of the sport and opened its first field in 1985 with a continued growth in other European countries though to 1991. Then, in 1992, the NPPL is formed.

Up until the late 1980’s, all markers were based on pump action, the use of 12g cartridges, and limited to 10-20 shot magazines. A typical game day would expel 200 paintballs, tops. With hardcore guys that wanted to improve their markers tried everything. I remember seeing a coffee can strapped on a marker that carried 100+ paintballs. Soon after, the first commercial bulk hoppers made the scene. Also in the late 80’s, constant air was added to markers for extended shooting. These systems were commonly known as California Conversions since they first appeared in California. From the late 80’s to early 90’s, players used both pump and semi-autos. Mid to late 90’s, paintball markers operated by electronics were introduced.

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Is this safe?

Since many people think of shooting each other with guns, they wonder if it really is safe. Currently, paintball is very safe as compared to other seemingly safe sports. Like bowling and baseball? Yep. Even golf! Insurance and medical statistics have shown proof of this. See the stats for yourself.

* Be aware though that the chart below is based on sports using the proper equipment and on regulated playing areas. This is not based on backyard playing.

Yearly Injuries Per 1,000 Sport Participants
Paintball 0.30 Baseball 27.65
Bowling .60 Football 27.50
Golf 1.14 Gymnastics 7.21
Hockey 12.49 Lacrosse 221.89
Rugby 23.12 Soccer 11.21
Skiing (Snow) 3.67 Swimming 1.13
Tennis 1.10 Volleyball 4.62
Skiing (Water) 2.11 Wrestling 28.44

Note: These injury statistics were collected through a several insurance companies and national medical associations. The injury was only counted if it required professional medical services.

The ASTM International dictates the safety concerns for fields, equipment, and masks. Because of this, the fields dictate the velocity of the paintball to a tolerable velocity. I have yet to see a field to allow 300fps or higher. Paintballs are made to break on impact, lessening the “pain” factor. Full-face goggles are mandatory. Also, barrel plugs (a form of a gun safety) are enforced in non-goggle areas. Whether on or off the field, there are always referees and field staff enforcing these safety issues. Continued violation will lead to the player or players ejected from the game or field itself. Even before a single game is started, there is a mandatory pre-game meeting for ALL players to go over and stress the rules of the field before any game is started.

I will not lie to you; it can hurt when you get “tagged” by a paintball. Ever been snapped by a towel? That would be my best description to what it feels like to the common person. It will sometimes sting. Many times it will leave a small bruise or welt. After a few days, it will disappear. I have been told that some do not feel any pain because you are so focused on the action. I will say that I mostly received bruises from the environment than from the paintballs themselves. You are running around and crawling on the ground. Sometimes you trip or dive behind a bunker. All part of the fun.

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Playing the first game

You do not have to be on a team to play paintball. You can just be a “walk-on” and go by yourself. Or, ask your family, friends, co-workers if they want to play. If you get enough, you may already have yourself a team. Just call your local field to see if and when walk-ons are allowed. Most fields will have a team and have practice times. So you will not be able to play then. Having some physical fitness is not a must. But can help. Most likely you will be running, crouching, and crawling in grass, gravel, thickets, and streams.

Fields will vary in looks. In general, they all play the same types of games. Try and choose a field that the field owner sounds knowledgeable. Let him know that it would be your first game. He will hopefully offer some helpful suggestions. Some fields will have different types of layouts. Some fields may have a stream through the center, some may have mobile homes, and other fields may have taken the time to build structures. They may even of scenario day where you play a part of history or a possible future event. It could be 30 against 10, pumps only, re-enacting Bullrun. They will also have tournament type of fields known as “Speedball”. These fields resemble an area the size of several tennis courts put together with equal amount of bunkers on each side.

Prices will vary from field to field. They will usually have the initial field fee that can range from Free on certain days too as much as $50. With that fee, some fields include rental markers that you can use, paint, mask, and air. Some fields will charge extra for rentals. Most fields require you to use field paint. This is expensive. But is a requirement. Why? Two reasons, 1) that is the only way they can make money for the upkeep of fields, and 2) safety reasons (old paint do not break and hurts more). Most all of the fields allow the use of your own equipment and will charge for air fills and paintballs. Not all fields charge the same. Call the field your interested and ask what they charge and what that fee include. If your lucky enough to get a large group together, you may be able to have a private day with nobody else but the ones you invited. That depends again on the field. It is usually about twenty or more people. Also with private days, a pre-payment may be requested to hold the field that day.

Find out when the pre-game meeting is. This discusses the rules of the field. Don’t be afraid to ask questions on things that you do not understand. The referees will be happy to explain it better for you. It is also a good idea to let the head referee know that it is the first time that you (and your friends) are playing. Also would not hurt to let them know of any medical problems that could occur like allergies. If they are a good field, they will try and put you on equal teams measuring skill levels. Also expect to sign a waiver. This is basically a piece of paper that lifts most responsibility from the field in case of a lawsuit and to confirm that you are responsible aged “adult”. If under this age, and parent or guardian is needed to sign it for you to play.

For some basic tactics and other suggestions while on the field, read my short article on that subject.

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What do you need to play?

Old clothes that you do not mind getting dirty. Remember that you will most likely get tagged out. Even though paintballs are water soluble, they could still stain. Also, I suggest that you wear dark clothes. This will help you blend in with the background. If there are flea markets or farmers markets, you can pick up cheap used Army clothes for $10-$15. Or, visit an Army/Navy store. Something with long sleeves and long pants are good. T-shirts and shorts are something I would not recommend. Even though paintballs are traveling at safe speeds, unprotected skin can be torn. Some fields may not allow shorts. The long sleeve and pants can and will offer you some protection from getting hit. No need to wear 5 layers of something. Two is fine. Keep in mind of the weather conditions. Bring extra clothes to keep in the car incase it decides to rain.

For the feet, I suggest something comfortable yet can support your ankles. Boots or sneakers. Again, something that you do not mind getting dirty. Sometimes, you may play on a field that has a stream or is muddy from the days rain a few days earlier. You also will be running around.

Another item that should be considered is “protection”. JT has a Neck Guard that is neoprene and wraps around your neck. This will lesson the impact of the paintball hit to that area. Nothing worse than having a lump feeling in your throat for the rest of the day. Turtlenecks seem to work well too. Or a bandana. Then there is that certain protection that the individual sexes require. I do suggest it. Nothing macho about getting hit in the groin and having to go the hospital because you did not take the right precautions.

Depending on the field, they may have a “snack bar”. They are reasonable in prices at times. But would not hurt to bring something from home. Eat a healthy breakfast before heading out to the field. Then bring along energy bars, fruit, or light sandwiches. I would not feast on things that are heavy and resemble a Big Mac. Water or Gatorade should be the choice of drink. Cokes and Pepsi’s will only make you thirsty and dehydrate faster.

With the above mentioned, that is pretty much all you need to play. The field that you visit will have everything else you need. From safety equipment to paintballs and air. Just bring yourself and enjoy the day. Choosing a field for a first time play can be difficult choice. One thing to keep in mind is to be with a well organized field with a good number of referees. The head referee should explain all of the rules to all players before any game is started.

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Your own equipment

Before investing in your own equipment, play a few games of paintball first; see if you like it. I have seen plenty of players spend several hundred of dollars before playing a single game and called it quits after the game day. Rental markers are usually not the best things to use, but it will introduce you to what to expect in paintball. Almost like bowling and shoe rentals.

After you play a few games and are hooked, then go ahead and buy yourself your equipment. The most important thing to purchase is a mask. Never buy a used mask. NEVER! This is your main piece of safety equipment that you will invest in to protect your eyes. There are several companies that offer these items. They are all good. Get one that you like. As a preference, get a thermal lens one. These are double paned to reduce the chance of fogging. Either Scott, JT, or Brass Eagles are good mask manufacturers to consider.

The second item to consider is what marker you want. Do you want a pump with a 200 round hopper or a semi auto? It is your decision. One type of marker will appeal to one person and not to another. It is personal preference. You really cannot ask what marker to get. Simply for personal preference reason. There are many different types to choose from with many configurations. The most common marker to get is a semi-auto. A semi-auto marker is a type of marker that will shoot and load automatically with each pull of the trigger. I will suggest two manufacturers to consider. Tippman or Kingman. They both offer great priced introductory markers that has plenty of room for upgrades. There are other markers of similar prices. But these are the ones I highly recommend.

The Tippman products are tough. I have seen an M98 run over by a Jeep (would not do that to any marker), was loaded up, and fired. They can take the abuse. If you do not like cleaning, there a way to go (all markers should be cleaned anyway).

The Kingman series of Spyders are a little more delicate. They are tough markers, but require just a little extra care. Easy to fix and a very wide range of aftermarket parts available. Many of the Spyders come with upgrades already on it as noted on my comparison chart.

Both markers can be bought used at pretty good prices. Some may have problems already in them. Buy at your own risk. I do suggest that you visit your local shop and hold a few markers in your price range. Some fields may offer rentals on markers that you are interested in. Take advantage of that. Another suggestion is to ask the various people at the field that has these markers and listen to their opinion. As I mentioned already, you may prefer the look and feel of one to another. Nothing wrong with that.

I suggest that you support your local shop at all possible. Many times if you purchase a marker from them, they also offer a lifetime warranty if it needs fixed. All you pay is parts. Markers not bought at their store may be subject to a large service and/or labor fees. Sometimes, they will not even service them at all. Most all the stores, local or on the internet, offer packages that consist of a mask, tank, squeegie, barrel plug, and a ball hopper with the purchase of a marker. Pretty much everything you need to play. Take advantage of these if you want. To go along with your “new” or new marker, consider some upgrades listed in my FAQ if you have some extra dollars.

After you get your marker, sit down and get to know it. Take it apart and figure out how it works. Most of the markers come with some kind of directions on upkeep or a diagram of the parts. Just remember, do not gas up and load paintballs in your marker while in the house. There could be an accidental discharge and paint dripping from the ceiling or wall. I discuss a tool box to carry around in my Upkeep – F.A.Q..

Another consideration is that many of the packages that come with markers are a Co2 tank or a Nitro tank. Which is better? Depends where you live. Visit my Air – F.A.Q. for help in choosing which is best for you.

Sponsors are nice to have when you have a team. Getting the first sponsor is always the hardest. To help out getting one, visit your local stores or emailing companies. Not just the local paintball shops, but places like shoe stores. Maybe a metal shop that does anodizing or powder coating. Always show them what is in it for them. Like, how will you advertise them? On a banner? Maybe a silk screened logo on the jersey. Another way is by talking with other teams that are sponsored. You could get contacts from them. Also, if your on tournaments and are doing well, use your stats as advertisment. When you do get a sponsor, you could ask them if they know anybody that may be willing to sponsor you. Another important note when you have a sponsor, don’t ask for much. Do not expect to get all new equipment. Companies newly sponsoring a team will not want to invest that much in you. Especially if your not playing well.

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Safety tips to keep in mind

To make your day of fun safe, follow some of these suggestions. Never point your marker at anyone that is without face protection. Always assume that the marker is loaded and the safety doesn’t work. Also, do not shoot animals. Your marker should only be shot at the designated areas at the field or during servicing at the shop. Obey the velocity that the field requires. When your marker is not in use, unload it. Carry the marker barrel down. Also, when carrying the marker off the field to the staging area, insert a barrel plug and keep it inserted at all times until you are ready to play again.

Place the mask on your face so that it will not come off accidentally during play. If your lens of your goggles starts to crack or seems weak, replace them immediately. If the goggle band is tearing, replace them. Never remove the goggles during play for any reason.

Know the rules of the game and safety. Obey the referee’s direction. Alert any medical trouble to the nearest referee. Either self-inflicted or other. Stretch before playing. You may be suprised by your aching muscles at the end of the day. A game of paintball is suprisingly exhausting. Eat a good breakfast and eat high energy food or snacks throughout the day. And drink lot’s of water. If not physically fit, limit yourself. Only you know what you can and cannot do. Have the right footgear for the terrain. For more on safety, read a more in depth article on safety.

Common good and bad things to do

Here is a list of good and bad stuff to do on and off the field.

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  • Good stuff

1) Fill your hopper to the maximum before starting a game. After that game, fill it up again. If possible, carry extra paintballs with you onto the field and fill up during a lull in battle. Also, watch your gas levels. If you shot a little more that a half of a case (1000), not a bad idea to top it off.

2) Communicate with fellow teammates. Tell them what you want to do. Just remember, generally if your teammate can hear you, your opponent can also.

3) Make sure that you are out. If you can see the splat, call yourself out. Do not wipe. I have seen players take great offense to wipers. Be honest. If not sure if your tagged, call for paint check on yourself and let the referee determine it.

4) When you are out, you are dead. Dead men don’t speak. Keep silent on your way off the field.

5) Be mindful of your velocity. You would not like it you were hit by a paintball 310fps or more.

6) Think what you are going to do. Be alert. Do not focus on one thing. This is known as tunnel vision. Look from side to side. Be mindful of the entire field. Most of the time, when you get shot, it will be from the side. Not directly in front of you. With that in mind, you may find yourself a target to shoot at from the side. I will still get sucker punched by a guy that is able to sneak around the side of me and get off a few lucky shots. Also, shoot at multiple targets if possible. Do not shoot at one guy. If you do, then you have tunnel vision.

7) Show up for the pre-game meeting early. Get your equipment and make sure it is working. Get used to the rental and the general workings. Also, sign that waiver.

8) Ask questions. Either the referees, field owner, or your team captain. If you do not understand anything and not ask, you will make a mistake. Let them know that it is your first time. They will try and help out. If they want to help spread the enjoyment of the sport, they will try and team you up with the more experienced players or offer some advice.

9) At the practice range know how to add paintballs, change CO2, use the safety, and clean the barrel in case of breaks.

10) Have fun. If you are taunted by goons, ignore them. They were new guys at one time too. Play hard. Don’t be afraid of getting shot. It is all part of the game. Paintballs do hurt at times. Do not let this discourage you from charging a bunker. Think about this. If the opponents know you are new, they will not expect you to charge. That is a definite advantage.

11) In the near future after several games and experience, help out the new guys. Like you when you first started, they will need some help too.

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  • Bad Things

1) Absolutely, positively, do not take your mask off for ANY reason while on the field or other areas designated “Goggles Only Area”. Even if your goggles fog up. Lifting the goggles even by a little bit is enough to get you booted out from most fields. Safety is fore most to the fields’ agenda. So don’t think of the owners or referees as asses because they kicked you out. Serious damage can occur. Especially to eyes. I have seen some one-eyed paintballers because of this.

2) I do not suggest Hawaiian shirts and shorts while playing. You want to blend in with the surroundings. Bright colored clothes will let you stick out. You can get cheap, sometimes used, Army clothes from flea markets or Army/Navy stores. If looking like a bush doesn’t appeal to you, where dark colored clothes. There is an exception. Speedball is usually a court the size of 2 -5 tennis courts. You can usually see all the players. Footwear is important. Must be comfortable. Boots that support you ankles are good. If you do not like the weight of boots, wear sneakers. Remember that, the day you play could be wet from the day before that it rained. I wear black soccer shoes with cleats, black long sleeve shirt, and black SWAT team cargo pants.

3) If you rent from the field, make sure you understand how it works. Test fire it at the target range to get the feel of it. What you want to know is what to do incase a ball break, changing CO2, adding paintballs, etc… If you own your own marker, know how it works. I have seen kids and adults come for a day of fun with really expensive markers and sit out half the day trying to fix it.

4) Not asking questions. Not everybody knows everything. And if you ask a question and you hear snickering, ignore it! Listen to the answer. Remember, they probably asked the same question when they first started. Know the field rules. Listen to the pre-game meeting. The head referee or owner will go over rules that should be observed. They will go over calling yourself out, how to call for a paint check, goggle designated areas, maximum velocity, etc….

5) Do not develop tunnel vision. Be aware of your surroundings. Always keep your eyes moving left to right. Occasionally, look behind you.

6) Never wipe off a splat. Be honest. Just because the referee doesn’t see it, the guy that shot you very well could have. If he sees you wipe, more than likely you will be his target the entire day along with his friends gunning for you. If you know you got hit, but cannot see a splat mark, call for a paint check. Stay down until the referee comes and pronounces you neutral. Do the same if you think you hit your opponent. Call for a “paint check” on them. A thing to remember is to not call yourself out just because you felt a hit. Sometimes, paintballs do not break. The only time your called out is if there is a paint splat. If you are marked, try and walk around the battle. Not through it. Unless you like being hit.

7) Do not go off and do your own thing. Follow the instruction of the team captain. He usually has a plan. If you go off and do your own thing, you are not only hurting yourself, but the team as a whole. Even if you think it is a really stupid plan.

8) Keep moving! If you are sitting in one spot for more than 2 minutes, you are not helping the team. Unless the captain instructs you to stay put. If behind a bunker, pop out from different sides when shooting. Do not pop out in the same spot. And do not move up too far. Move as a team by leap frogging forward or backwards.

9) Just because you got out quick, do not take it personally. It is all part of the game. My first two games, I was tagged out before I got a shot off. As you play more, you will get experienced. First few games, you will do some real dumb stuff. It is natural. Even the experienced players do some real stupid stuff. I have been playing since 1985, and I will trip over my own feed. Real dumb!

10) Do not shoot at animals. Or people without face protection. Shoot only in designated areas with a mask on. Point the barrel down when walking and with the safety on. Your marker could still have a paintball in the breech. Use barrel plugs when not playing.

11) Ignoring the referee. Doing so is grounds for being booted off the field.

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Slang terms of paintball

Term Definition
12g Small cylinders that are about 2.5″ long and filled with CO2
Air Generalized term to mean either CO2 or HPA/Nitro. See my CO2 and HPA/Nitro – F.A.Q. for a description of both gases.
Anti-Siphon Tube A bent tube that is installed in a large CO2 tank to suck air only.
ASA Air Source Adapter. What an air tank screws into.
Barrel Plug A secondary safety device that plugs the front of the barrel and keeps paintballs from exiting.
Bottom Line The general term refers to a device that is mounted on the bottom of the trigger frame that the air tank screws into.
Bunker A general term for a man made cover to protect oneself from getting shot.
CA Constant air. Old school term for large air tanks.
Chronograph A device that measures the speed (velocity) of paintballs exiting the barrel.
CO2 The most common gas used in paintball.
Dead Man’s Walk Pretending you are out and walking to a better position to shoot the opponent. Cheating!
Feeder This is a large device that is attached to the marker that can hold large amount of paintballs.
Flanking Maneuvering around the enemy to either side to get a better shot. If your opponent does it to you, then you have been flanked.
FPS Feet Per Second. This is a measurement of velocity a paintball travels. Maximum velocities are dictated by different fields, but never over 300fps.
Hopper This is a large device that is attached to the marker that can hold large amount of paintballs.
Hot Gun A marker that is shooting over the fields maximum velocity.
HPA/Compressed Air A stabile gas as compared to CO2. See my CO2 and HPA/Nitro – F.A.Q. for a description of both gases.
Marker Old School term for paintball gun since they were first used to mark trees.
Nitro/N2 A stabile gas as compared to CO2. But is rarely used. See my CO2 and HPA/Nitro – F.A.Q. for a description of both gases.
Old School Terminology used by paintball players that have been playing since 1980’s.
Paint Generalized term to mean paintballs.
Pods A paintball carrying tube to carry extra paintballs that do not fit in the hopper. Carried in packs that are worn around the waste.
PSI Pounds per Square Inch. A unit of measure showing how much pressure is used in a marker. Typically 800-850psi.
Rec Ball Generalized term to mean players that play for fun and not on teams or play on speedball courts.
Regulator A device that feeds the marker with a certain PSI of air.
Remote A hose that connects the marker to an air tank that is attached to a pack.
Speedball A type of game that is played on a confined area with equal amounts of teams and bunkers on each side. Fast paced game.
Squeegie A device that is run through a barrel to clean ball breaks.
Walk-On A person that plans on playing at a field without any prior arrangments
Wiper A person that wipes of splats or consciously hides a paint splat to try and stay in the game. Cheater!

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