Original article by Jessica J. Sparks, edited and updated by Peter Zorn.
The sport of paintball has become recognized as one of the world's most exciting outdoor participation sports. Paintball is played in over 40 countries by millions of men and women of all ages and lifestyles. Whether homemakers, high-school students, professionals or retirees, all paintball players share a common love for adventure and a strong competitive spirit.
Paintball is a combination of the childhood games "Tag" and "Hide and Seek," but it is much more challenging and sophisticated. There are many different game formats, but typically a group of players divide into two teams to play. The number of players on each team can vary from as few as 5 players to as many as 30.
All paintball games have an objective which is achieved by eliminating opposing players by hitting them with a paintball, shot from a special airmarker called a "Paintball marker." Most games are either 10 or 15 minutes, depending on the objective and the number of players.
Between games, players take a break to check their equipment, get more paintballs and have a snack or drink while they share stories about the thrills of victory and the often funny agonies of defeat. Win or lose, everyone has a good time and there's always another game waiting to be played.
A paintball is a round, thin-skinned gelatin capsule with coloured liquid inside. Paintballs are similar in size to large, round vitamin capsules or bath oil beads. The capsules are filled with a "paint" that is non-toxic, non-caustic, water-soluble, and biodegradable. It's removable from clothing and skin with mild soap and water.
Paintballs come in a rainbow of bright colours: blue, pink, white, orange, yellow and more. When a paintball hits a player, the gelatin skin breaks open, and the liquid inside leaves a bright "paint" mark. A player who is hit -- marked with paint -- is eliminated from the game.
Paintball markers come in various shapes and styles. They may be powered by carbon dioxide (CO2) or compressed air. Many have power systems that use large refillable cylinders called "tanks" or "bottles," which give hundreds of shots before needing to be refilled. Some use small 12-gram CO2 powerlets as their power source, with each powerlet good for 15-30 shots.
Pump-action paintball ball markers (pumpmarkers) require that you first cock the paintball marker by using a pump, then you squeeze the trigger to shoot the paintball. You must do this each time you want to shoot a pumpmarker. Stockmarkers use 12-gram powerlets and have the most basic pumpmarker configuration, though they are ever becoming more high-tech within the constraints of this configuration. Stockmarker play is in a class of its own.
Semi-automatic paintball markers require that the first time you want to shoot, you must cock the paintball marker, usually by pulling back a cocking knob or handle. However, after you shoot, this paintball marker has an action that will recock itself for you; you simply squeeze the trigger each time you want to shoot a paintball.
Paintball markers range from simple to sophisticated, but they all share a common limitation on their power and range. The international safety limit on the speed at which a paintball marker shoots is 300 fps (fps = feet per second; this is a speed measurement). A chronograph is used to test for speed limits, and all paintball markers can be adjusted to shoot under the speed limit. A paintball marker's range is also limited -- even shooting 300 fps, at maximum elevation with barrel pointed up into the air, a paintball marker can lob a paintball only about 50 yards.
For safety, paintball players must always wear eye-protecting goggles specifically designed for paintball. Goggles must be worn during all games and at all times when a person is in an area where shooting is permitted, such as the target range or chronograph area. A protective facemask is mandatory as well. Paintball is a very safe sport as long as safety rules are followed. Insurance statistics have shown that paintball is safer than golf, jogging, tennis, swimming and many other sports.
Referees on the field enforce safety and game rules. No physical contact is permitted in the game, and players are ejected from games or the premises for breaking safety or playing rules. Fields have boundaries, and a player who steps outside a field's boundary is eliminated from the game.
Paintball is a sport played by people from all professions and lifestyles. It is a sport where women and men compete equally, and where age is not dominated by youth. Like a game of chess, being able to think quickly and decisively is what makes you a star in paintball. Intelligence and determination, not merely strength, speed or agility, are key to success in the sport.
Paintball is a character-building sport. Players learn about teamwork, gain self-confidence and develop leadership abilities while having fun and getting welcome stress-relief. Increasingly, corporations are finding benefits of having their staff and management participate in paintball games.
Paintball is an exciting sport, and above all paintball is fun! It's a chance to shake off your day-to-day responsibilities and rekindle your spirit of adventure. When the adrenaline starts pumping, you can't help but love the thrill of the game!