When you arrive at a commercial Paintball field, the head referee will give a short orientation and safety briefing. He will provide all the information you need to stay safe on the field, from common sense rules like “don’t climb trees,” to showing you how to chronograph your gun to check (and adjust) its velocity. He will also explain the rules of play paintball at the field.
The orientation features a demonstration of paintball equipment, including important safety gear. The referee will show how to put a barrel cover on your gun securely, which blocks the ball from leaving the barrel in case of an accidental misfire. Many rental markers have a mechanical safety switch or button, which prevents the trigger from firing, but the barrel cover offers a deliberate “redundant safety”, to be used when you’re in any “safe zone”.
Electronic guns have on/off switches located on the grip frame which, again, prevent the marker from firing. It is still mandatory to use a barrel cover. Not only does it set a good example for younger children, it can prevent an accident in case you thought you turned the marker off, but didn’t. Remember, never fire, or dry fire (firing your gun without paint), in a safe zone where people aren’t wearing goggles. Most importantly, never shoot your marker at anyone who is not wearing goggles.
This brings us to the most important piece of safety gear: approved Paintball goggles – usually called a Paintball Mask today, since the full face mask is always a mandatory part of this protective gear. When you’re entering the playing field, always put your Mask on before entering through the gate, netted door, or marked “Goggles On” area. Any time your barrel cover is off, your Mask should be on. And vice versa: Anywhere Masks are off, Barrel Covers should be securely ON. Most fields have clearly marked “safe zones” and signs that tell you when you are about to enter a “live area,” where your Mask should be on.
What happens if your goggle lens fogs up? Even with the technology in today’s Paintball masks, including anti-fog lenses, superior ventilation, and fans, some goggles can occasionally fog.
If this happens, never remove or lift your goggles. If you really can’t see, tell a Ref and he will escort you to a safe zone where you can clean your goggles.
If your goggles accidentally come off when you’re on the field, drop to the ground, shielding your eyes and face, and yell “Cease fire!” The game will stop, and a Referee will help you put your Mask back on. This is extremely rare, but it is good to know what to do if, for instance, if you were running and a tree branch caught your goggles, knocking them off.
Chronographing Your Gun
After safety orientation, the referee will escort players to the “chrono range” to chrono (short for “chronograph”) your marker. You must put your Mask on before entering this netted area.
The chronograph tests the velocity of the paintballs flying out of your gun. The maximum safe speed for paintballs is 300 feet per second (fps). However, many recreational fields have field limits between 270 and 290 fps. For night play, the standard limit is 250 fps, and some indoor fields require players to chrono down to 250 or 260 fps. If you’re not sure of the limit at your field, look around for posted signs or ask a Ref.
Each paintball marker is a little different when it comes to adjusting the velocity, but most use Allen Wrenches to loosen or tighten a small screw inside the regulator or inside the body of the marker. Essentially, adjusting this screw changes the size of the air chamber, which allows more or less air in to the firing chamber. The bolt hits the paintball with more or less force, changing the speed of the paintball when it leaves the barrel.
If you’re playing a renegade Paintball game (a game not played on a commercial field), the players have the responsibility of chronographing their own markers. Handheld chronos are inexpensive and accurate. You can pick up a good handheld chronograph for about $70 – 100.00. If you can’t afford one, chip in with a few of your friends who play, and purchase one for the group. It only takes a few seconds to chrono a gun, but it is a vitally important safety precaution.
Paintball: Not a Contact Sport
You may be shooting your opponents with small, paint-filled projectiles, but paintball is a non-contact sport. During recreational play, avoid shooting at people closer than 10 feet away. Many fields employ a surrender rule; if you get closer than 10 feet to someone, you can ask them to surrender.
Many scenario games use “barrel tags” as a safe way to force surrenders. You simply touch the player gently with the barrel of your gun and say, “You’re out” or, “Barrel tag.” Make sure not to accidentally fire your gun when you do this; a point blank shot is sure to upset your opponent, and you won’t make any friends that way.
Some local fields don’t have a surrender rule, especially during speedball games. They allow “bunkering,” or firing at players from close range. That’s fine for the pros, but there’s no reason to ruin a young player’s day during a recreational “rec-ball” game with a point blank shot in the head. If you must make a close range shot, aim for the player’s pod pack, vest, or another heavily-padded area.
Similarly, do not overshoot. Fields have different regulations for rates of fire. Some permit full-auto or electronic ramping up to 15 balls per second, while some permit only standard semi-automatic settings. Regardless, there’s rarely any need to put more than three balls on a player, especially if the player puts his hands up and is yelling “I’m out, I’m out!” Watch that trigger finger.
Keep Our Numbers Growing
More than 15 million people worldwide enjoy Paintball. We can keep that number growing by showing new players a good time on the field, setting a good example, and always playing it safe.
If you’re a new player yourself, remember—even the most seasoned pros were “newbies” once. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for help. We’re all friends here. Oh yeah, and keep your Mask on, please.