Beginner’s Guide to Buying Paintball Equipment
If you’ve never played paintball before, it’s best to try this game first to make sure you like it before investing in your own equipment, as equipment can be quite expensive. Many players have their first experience camping or at a local commercial course or park. It’s much easier to rent all the necessary equipment than to spend hundreds of dollars on paintball supplies that you only use once because the game was too intense. Equipment rental on a course will cost a player between $10 and $30 per day; this is recommended for the first few times you play to make sure you’ll want to play enough times to justify buying your own. Rental paintball guns and equipment are usually basic models and very easy to learn. Shooting a paintball gun is not a complicated affair, however it may take a few games to get familiar with the intensity of this adventure when other players are shooting at you. When you get hit, you’re not just out of the game, it hurts! The fear of being hit causes many first-time players a kind of paralysis that is hard to get used to.
Once you’ve played with rented (or borrowed) gear a few times and decided that paintball is the sport for you, some research is in order. The first decision for a new player in the market for new equipment is to decide what type of paintball they want to play. There are basically two different types; stage and paintball tournament. Scenario paintball is played in an open field, often in a natural setting (also called woodsball) with players carrying out military-style missions using realistic-looking assault rifles and camouflage clothing. Paintball tournaments are played in an enclosed field, often with inflatable bunkers to hide behind for timed elimination matches (which team can eliminate the other in the given time period). These players use faster electronic paintball guns and wear professional sports jerseys and/or uniforms. Once you’ve determined which game you like best, the first piece of equipment to buy is a beginner paintball gun. Beginner paintball guns are made simply so they are easy to maintain and keep clean. Whether you choose woodsball or a tournament, beginner’s scoreboards are easy to spot because they come at the cheapest prices.
After you have a good beginner paintball gun, the next required item on your list is a protective mask. You are not allowed to play without one, so this is mandatory equipment. There are other pieces of protective gear such as elbow and knee pads, neck and chest protectors, however they only serve to make the game more fun/less painful, but are not required. Paintball masks come in a wide variety of styles and price ranges, but they all offer the same level of protection. Cheaper entry-level goggles have fewer features and often single-pane lenses that tend to fog up more. Expect to pay a bit more for thermal lenses, but this feature is definitely worth the extra money. Generally, when it comes to protective gear, there is no specific gear for a specific type of game. However, manufacturers make more “flashy” gear for tournament players and more “military pattern” gear for arena players.
The final piece of your starting setup is an air tank; this is what powers your paintball gun. Some beginner paintball gun packages come with a CO2 tank, but if yours doesn’t, it’s a necessary expense. CO2 tanks come in different sizes, but for longer gaming, choose the largest available; these are 20 or 24 oz. tanks and you can expect to pay $30-$40 for one. The air tanks come empty, so you’ll need to fill them up before you can use them. Refills can be found at commercial fields, large sporting goods stores (such as Dick’s, Bass Pro, or Cabellas), and some gun stores that sell air rifles. If you don’t have access to these types of facilities where you live, you can purchase an adapter for your marker to use CO2 cartridges. These are cheap and easily available at Wal-Mart or gun stores, however they only offer a few shots/cart (25-30 depending on the gun). Depending on this method, it is required to constantly change the cartridges during the game and the fun of your game will be over. If you have to go this route, paintball is probably not the sport to start with.
Unlike renting equipment, owning your own equipment will require you to keep up with maintenance. Paintball guns use high-pressure air/CO2 blasts to propel the ball at high speed. Constant high pressure makes it common for little things to go wrong, like broken o-rings causing a malfunction with your marker. Paintball is also very complicated; the very nature of the game is to shoot paint and get hit (marked) with paint, so expect to have to clean your gun regularly after playing, even for a short period. Most paintball guns come with a squeegee, cleaning cloth, and extra O-rings for maintenance. Beginner markers are also usually very easy to take apart for cleaning and maintenance; however this is not necessary, but maybe once a year to re-oil them and clean them more thoroughly. Although breakdowns happen regularly, most problems you can solve yourself; however, it’s smart to buy equipment from a well-known brand so that there’s a good warranty in case you need to return something.
Once you have everything you need to play, you’ll be excited to play and want to practice every chance you get. If you are interested in climbing the tournament rankings, it will be essential to be part of a team or organize your own. To do this you will want to play as many different teams/players on as many different fields/locations as possible. Even if you think you’re not ready, pick a beginner level tournament and go ahead and sign up. Gaining tournament experience early on will help shape your skills, strategies, and practices to become a competitive player. Waiting until you feel ‘ready’ to compete will only postpone learning important skills you need early in your career. Competing will also tell you if it’s something you want to continue with. Some players think they want to compete, but after their first tournament they change their minds and only end up playing recreationally; Of course, this is fine, but it will determine how you play and what kind of gear you end up buying.
Knowing how to enter it; paintball is not a cheap hobby. It can be quite expensive, but like any hobby, if you love it, it’s not expensive at all! Test the waters first before diving into this investment by playing with rental or borrowed equipment first. If you like it, buy a starter build to keep expenses down while you learn the game and what gear you might like. If you fall in love with the sport (as most players end up doing), save your pennies to buy higher-performing, more expensive markers and supplies. Once you have your dream setup, the costs will come down, however ongoing expenses such as air refills, paintball ammo, tournament and travel fees should also be considered. If it’s all too confusing, feel free to ask a more experienced player for advice on how to play or what to get and why.