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Two paintball players

Paintball is a game whose participants use gas-powered markers to launch marble-sized pellets containing colored goo at each other. Among the most common of the many variations is a version of capture the flag, in which two teams of players attempt to seize each others' banner without being struck by a pellet.

The first paintball game was played in New Hampshire in 1981 by Bob Gurnsey, Hayes Noel, and Charles Gaines, who used markers built to tag cattle or trees. The first tournament with a cash prize was held in 1983.


The game of paintball

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Penn State University Paintball Player at the 2004 NCPA College Paintball National Championships

The rules of paintball vary by location and game variation. In general, a player is "marked" and must leave the field of play if he or she is hit by a paintball that bursts and leaves a colored splat. Many venues do not count a player as marked if the paintball does not break, or if it breaks in flight, say, by coming through brush. Some games require multiple hits to retire a player.

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U.S. and Turkish security forces paintball exercise in Turkey
Many venues employ referees to enforce the rules, verify hits, and ensure safety. Violators of game rules or safety regulations are usually thrown from the game or even ejected from the venue.

The basic equipment includes a marker, sometimes called a paintball gun for its physical resemblance to a firearm. Paintballs flow from a bulbous hopper into a chamber. Upon the press of a trigger, pressurized gas (usually air, but sometimes carbon dioxide or nitrogen) flows from a small attached tank and propels the paintball out the barrel up to 300 ft/s (90 m/s), depending on venue rules. Some hoppers have agitators that keep the balls flowing and increase the rate of fire.

Players must wear a mask and goggles (some with thermal lenses that reduce fogging) and carry a marker plug or barrel cover to prevent accidental firings between games. Most players wear long sleeves and pants; this eases the pain of getting hit, which can sting, bruise, or, very rarely, break the skin.

Paintball games

Woodsball is the oldest and most common style of paintball played. Most woodsball fields are large enough to hold dozens of players on each team and usually have some pre-made bunkers along with the natural cover. Woodsball games are generally longer in duration than other indoor formats, and rely on entirely different tactics. Whereas speed and rate of fire are key elements in a speedball game, woodsball relies much more on concealment and patience.

Speedball is much faster and usually played on a much smaller field. Most speedball fields use inflatable bunkers and are large enough for teams of 3 - 10. Since the opposing teams are much closer together with more cover, there is a lot of movement and a lot of "bunkering", or running up to an opposing player's bunker and eliminating them from a close distance. Speedball is usually considered to be more team and strategy oriented.

Scenario games are often giant re-enactments of historical battles involving hundreds of people, such as the Battle of Normandy, or modern day scenarios such as storming a building and rescuing hostages. Scenario games can last hours to days, and bigger games often have player re-insertions at set intervals.

Gauntlet generally is a one on one in a narrow area with little cover. These are very simple very fast games that become very competitive.

Duel is a simple game between two players. The hopper is generally removed and each player loads one paintball into the marker. Standing back-to-back, they walk apart until the referee (or a chosen player) yells "turn" or "fire". The players quickly turn around and fire at their opponent. The scenario repeats itself if both players miss each other.

Tournament is played by the same rules as normal paintball, but in a competitive environment. There are a set number of people on each team (common formats are 3-man, 5-man and 7-man), and modern tournament play is mostly speedball. Due to the competitive nature, most players use high end markers capable of higher rates of fire. The major leagues are NPPL, PSP, X-Ball and Millennium and consist of a whole circuit of paintball tournaments, however smaller regional and local tournaments are common.

X-Ball is a faster, more aggressive tournament format designed to give paintball an extreme sport turn. It was created by Richmond Italia and has its own sports league, the NXL (National X-Ball League). Teams of up to 19 players field up to 5 players at a time, scoring a point each time they take the center flag to the opposing side of the field. The team with more points at the end of the match wins, with final scores like, 10-5, 20-18 or 15-2. Recently, the NXL world championships were broadcast nationally on ESPN2.

Types of markers


An Electro-pneumatic firing system is controlled electronically. This allows for firing of the marker with less effort than it requires to click a button on your mouse. It also enables markers to have several different firing modes such as 3 shot bursts, 6 shot bursts or even fully automatic. However, virtually all tournaments and paintball fields only allow semiautomatic mode (1 trigger pull, one shot). Because of this, some high end markers ship with a control board only allowing semiautomatic, and for fully auto modes the board will need to be replaced. Others rely on LCD screens to indicate that a non-semiautomatic mode has been selected. Many newer electropneumatic markers incorporate an ACE system, or anti-chop eyes which use lasers to detect whether or not a paintball is in the breech when the trigger is pulled in order to prevent ball chopping. This system is usually made in two systems, either reflective (in which the laser bounces off the ball), or break-beam, in which the laser penetrates the ball and hits a receiver at the other end. Examples include the Bob Long Intimidator Series, the Dye Matrix and DM5, various WDP Angels, the AKALMP Excaliburs and Vikings, Smart Parts Shockers, Impulses and Ions, and Eclipse Eblade Autococker.


The action is controlled solely through mechanical means. Many mechanical markers have a hammer which when cocked is held back by a catch connected to the trigger (trigger sear). It will also have a spring trying to push the hammer forward. When the trigger is pulled, the catch is released and the hammer is allowed to slam in to the valve. This diverts the flow of air from the tank, through the bolt and into the paintball, propelling it out the barrel. Excess air not used to propel the ball is then used to recock the hammer. This type of marker is called a blow-back design and is the most common approach used. Common examples of blow back markers are the Kingman Spyder line of markers, and the Tippmann 98 line of markers.

  • Open Bolt - This means the bolt is back when the gun is cocked, leaving a paintball in the chamber at all times. The bolt is the internal part of the marker that the CO2 or N2 travels through to propel the ball. On these blow-back markers (the blow-back mechanism is the most common open bolt mechanism) when you release the trigger sear it allows the bolt to move forward. At the bottom of the bolt is a hole allowing air to travel through it, so when the bolt is released and moved to a certain point the air will travel through it. Most markers, high end or low end, work this way. The other form of open bolt marker is the blow-forward, the most common example of which being Automags.
  • Closed Bolt - The exceptions to typical open bolt markers are the pumps and Autocockers. On these markers the bolt is forward, or closed, when cocked. Once the shot is fired the bolt moves back allowing another ball to drop in the chamber and then moves back to its closed position. In a pump marker this recocking process would be done by hand. An autococker is very similar to a pump, the only difference being that the autococker has parts called the 3-way, the ram, and the LPR (low pressure regulator), which is used to cock itself. This system is believed by some to improve the accuracy of each shot because the bolt does not move when the air is released. There have been numerous tests on the subject, but the most scientific ones (using machines to fire rounds instead of humans) have shown there is negligible, if any improvement in accuracy and consistency of shots.

Electro-mechanical guns

A hybrid approach, where the mechanical firing of the marker is actuated via an electric coil. This allows for the short light trigger associated with electronic markers on an otherwise mechanical marker. Common examples of this are Kingman markers using their ESP trigger as well as the E-Mag by Airgun Designs.


Also known as hoppers. These devices hold paintballs for the marker to fire. There are many different variations, but the primary feed methods are gravity, agitating, and force-feed. Gravity loaders are a simple, shaped plastic container with a hole at the bottom. The paint is simply pulled down by gravity. Agitating loaders are different, they have some sort of propeller to encourage, or agitate the painballs into loading. This helps increase the rate of fire. Force feed hoppers can use a propeller or spring loaded system to force balls at the maximum rate into a marker. Some also include other features, which may include information about how many balls are remaining in your hopper, or how many balls you can shoot in a second. There are also clips similar to ones used on guns, these are more expensive, gun specific, and may be able to hold less balls.


  • Carbon dioxide: Because CO2 becomes a liquid when compressed, it needs to expand to a gas to be used by the paintball gun. This expansion is not adiabatic and requires energy, causing the tank to cool as heat is used to expand the liquid CO2 into gas. Eventually, under sustained fire, and especially in cold weather, the tank can become so cold that ice crystals form on it. If the CO2 bottle does not have an `anti-syphon' tube fitted, or is shaken while firing, the liquid CO2 may enter the gun. The liquid CO2 then passes through the gun instead of the tank, evaporating and causing the gun to freeze. This occurrence is made obvious by the large clouds of CO2 vapour ejected from the gun upon firing, caused by the liquid CO2 evaporating in/around the barrel. This is known as `drawing liquid'. This can and will cause damage to internal seals and O-Rings, which will put the gun out of commission for some time while it warms back up.
  • Nitrogen or High Pressure Air: When nitrogen or HPA is compressed, it remains a gas. When it expands, it also cools the tank, but at a far lower rate than liquid CO2 because it does not have to transition from liquid to gas. Therefore it is viewed as a superior source of propulsion. However, because these propellants are stored at up to 4500 lb/in² (31 MPa) while liquid CO2 is stored at 1200 lb/in² (8 MPa), tanks for nitrogen and HPA are more expensive at over $100 US. The tanks for themselves can either be filled with pure N2 or compressed air, which is 79% N2. These air sources are primarily used by people who play often and have tournament-grade markers.
  • Comparison: Nitrogen is generally prefered over carbon dioxide for a few reasons. Nitrogen will not liquify and leak into the gun, while if the CO2 tank doesn't have an anti-siphon installed, liquid CO2 will leak into the gun, causing damage to O-rings. The solenoids on electronic markers are particularly sensistive to this, and thus many manufacturers will specify to use only nitrogen or HPA with their electronic markers. Nitrogen generally has a more consistent shot than CO2. This is because when the playing area is warm, the CO2 will expand more rapidly from the liquid form, causing the gun to shoot at a higher FPS. But when the temperature is lower, the expansion occurs more slowly causing a decrease in the velocity of the shot. The effect of temperature on HPA or nitrogen, on the other hand, is negligible. However, CO2 tanks are significantly cheaper than nitrogen tanks, which may cost between $150 and $500 US. The CO2 tanks cost slightly more to be filled, than the Nitrogen tanks at approximately $3-4 US.


A discussion of markers is not complete without reference to types of barrels. There are three general types of barrels - One Piece, Two Piece and Three Piece as well as Specialty Barrels.

One Piece barrels are just as described, machined from one piece of material, usually aluminum. The standard paintball size is .68 caliber (0.68 US inches) and these barrels are honed to have an inner diameter anywhere from .68 caliber to .69 caliber.

Two Piece barrels are made from two pieces of machined material. The parts are the Front and Back. The Back is what attaches to the marker and is machined with a pre-specified inner diameter usually .682, .684, .686 or .688 caliber. These barrels are machined with varying dimensions to better match the size of the barrel to the size of the paint being put through it. A closer match in size means a more accurate shot. The front is usually made to be the same ID as the largest back the manufacturer offers.

Three Piece barrels are similar to the two piece with a front and back section. What makes these distinct is the use of sleeve in the back so that the user can select which sleeve ID to ball match they prefer. The front is then screwed on to keep the sleeve in place. Sleeves are generally offered in either aluminum or stainless steel. This type offers the most flexibility in that the user needs only one set of sleeves and a rear for each marker they own. They can also select front sections to make the barrel length they prefer. This type also generally offers the widest selection of barrel diameters to match paintball size, usually .680, .681, .682, .683, .684 ... to .690 caliber.

There are few Specialty barrels out there. The two that stand out are made by Tippmann and are called Flatline Barrel Systems. These are made specifically for their Model 98 and A-5 markers although slightly modified versions can be found on guns such as the Autococker. What makes these unique is the slight curve that the barrels are made with and the top part of the inside of the barrel is slightly roughened to induce the spin. This curve causes the paintball to enter an intended backspin as they leave the barrel. Tippmann claims (with strong evidence) that this backspin increases the effective range of the paintball by 50%. Many complain that at long ranges, some of the shots bounce off players instead of breaking (thus not being considered a legit hit). These critics fail to mention, however, that the flatline is currently the only barrel that can shoot paint that far, and without it, the shot would not even have a chance of getting to the target. However, as the paintball travels the extra distance due to the backspin, it continues to slow down and has a greater chance of not breaking on the intended target unless it hits a hard surface such has a paintball marker or goggles.

Generally barrels are 12, 14, 16, and 20 inches. Some people have had custom barrels made which may reach up to 35 inches. There is no accuracy nor efficiency benefit for barrels beyond 14" or even 12" long, though. Indeed, barrels longer than this require more propellant to keep the paintball at speed while traveling the length of the barrel after accelerating, and can produce a noticeable decrease in efficiency. Some barrels are ported, which is essentially holes drilled into the front of the barrel allowing the propellant to dissipate, decreasing the sound signature of the marker.

Barrels also require different threading for different guns.

There are many marker brands including Air Gun Designs (, Tippmann, Kingman Group (, Worr Games Products (, Indian Creek Designs (, Sheridan, WDP (, Eclipse (,Bob Long (, Dragun (, Smart Parts (, Dye ( etc..

Common accessories

Drop forwards are attached to the bottom of the gun, it essentially helps mount the tank into a more conveniant and more comfortable position, allowing the tank to be used as a stock. They may also offer on/off which is an added safety feature. These have becoming increasingly popular and are practically standard on most guns

Remote lines are essentailly a cable or tube, hooked up from the gun, to the tank, which allows the user more flexablity with their gun, making it more maneuverable. They may get caught in trees and shrub, and if hit, is considered an out. A trick with remotes is to feed them into your sleeve and down your shirt to where you place your tank, but of course, it is a big hassle

Harnesses are also used in big games, they hold pods full of paint. A shot to the harnesses is considered an out.

Pods are simply tubes that hold paint.

Paint to barrel matching

There is no such thing as a perfect paintball. Paint generally changes during different temperatures and humidities. Paintballs are generally made out of gelatin and filled with water soluable dye. They also have seams where the gelatin is melted together(Note: Don't pick up paint off the ground and put it in your gun, these are generally swollen and will chop in your gun). A good rule of thumb is you want to take 10 paintballs from a batch and put them one by one in your barrel. They shouldn't roll out, but, you should be able to blow them out with a breath. Also, never leave your paint in your car, not even your trunk. This causes expansion due to the heat. A good trick to keep your paint good is when you buy your paint, leave it in it's air tight bag; this keeps out moisture. Then place it inside a cooler. This keeps it at a good temperature. And as a final note, some people believe that frozen paintballs shoot better, but this is unproven and dangerous.

Types of players

Players usually fall into two categories: recreational and tournament players. Tournament players take the game seriously, investing in excess of US$2,000 in paintball gear. They also attend tournaments in teams consisting of 3-10 people. A common tournament team game is "Speedball", where players play on an enclosed field with a single central flag and take cover behind small scattered walls and barrels. A top of the line paintball marker can cost US$700 - US$2,000. A recreational marker can however be purchased for US$80 to US$300.

There are many types of recreational players, ("rec ballers"). Many, if not most, play games in commercially licensed and insured paintball fields. Paintball is often played by casual or first-time players who play with an organized group, for example, office and birthday parties and team building exercises. Sometimes, if there are not enough players, "walk on" players who are not part of the group may join in to even the teams. "Renegade" players use unregulated fields often in wooded areas, many times without the owner's knowledge. It shouldn't be thought that these "Renegade" players are unsafe or breaking any laws (only exception is where strict firearms/air weapons laws are in order, such as the United Kingdom, which using a air weapon within a 100 ft (30 m) distance of the queen's highway is illegal). There are many people who don't play on regulated fields, however they do abide by all the safety rules the fields enforce. Finally, "scenario" players are ones that gather at paintball fields for "Scenario games". These can range from a simple game of "cops and robbers", to elaborate full scale military style conflicts which may last for days.

Common Rules of Play

Depending on the field you are playing in make sure to find out their own "field rules" and follow them. The following are usually assumed to be common knowledge while at a paintball field.

Barrel plugs/covers/condoms/socks: These are to be in whenever you are not on a field. They prevent an accidentially discharged paintball from leaving the barrel to ensure that no injury is caused by an un-intentional discharge. Forgeting to replace it after leaving a game and entering a safe zone will usually get you a warning followed by removal from the field for repeat offenders. Barrel socks (formerly condoms, but name change for the sake of younger players) are usually prefered because of the lower possibility of discharging the safety equipment from the marker.

Picking targets: Do not shoot at people who have already been tagged, referees, or anyone who is not wearing a paintball mask. Avoid friendly-fire in team games by knowing who is on your team, usually distinguished by a colored armband in less-organized games.

How to know if you are marked/hit/tagged: Generally if you are marked (hit) anywhere on your body or on anything you are carrying (marker, hopper, pods) and the paintball broke upon impact you have been marked. If you believe the paintball broke before impacting or you cannot see the area to confirm a hit then you should call for a paintcheck (by yelling "paint check"). A referee will come over and make a judgment call. You can still be shot at while you are calling for a paintcheck, so stay alert.

Announcing that you have been hit: If you have been legally hit you announce it (by yelling "Hit") and raise your hand or marker above your head. You then proceed to a specified location (affectionately known as the "Dead box") for the marked (hit) players, with your marker still above your head. If you bring your marker down or take too long getting off the field players may think you are still in the game and may fire at you. Note: Once you declare yourself hit, you are out, even if you discover after that you were not hit (ex. the paintball didn't break)

The X foot (meter) surrender rule: Some fields require if you are within X feet (meters) of an unaware opponent, you must demand their surrender (by yelling "Surrender!") before you may open fire. If your opponent complies (verbally or by raising their hand or marker), they are considered marked and are out of the match. However, if they attempt any hostile action (such as turning to fire at you) then you may fire at will. A commonly used term for this type of situation is Rambo. For instance you just Ramboed someone or you just got Ramboed.

Surrendering: You may surrender at any point that you wish either verbally (yelling "I surrender/I give up") or by indicating you are out (raising a hand or your marker). At this point you are out and must leave the field as if you have been tagged.

Dead Man Walking While this is a legal move on most fields, it is a move that can gain many enemies for the day. The act of "dead man walking" mean that a person that has not been shot stands up from his/her bunker and begins to walk down the field in a manner as if he/she was out. The catch is that the player has never called themself out or plugged the gun. The player will then "backdoor" the opposing team. While legal, it's not totally admirable.

Note: Safety while playing paintball is strictly enforced. This means wear only paintball-specific goggles and facemask at all times while playing, even if you are out. Under no circumstances should you remove your mask while on a live field!

General Strategies and Advice

These General Strategies are designed to be used in friendly play where the players are not professional paintballers. Keep in mind that these strategies work best when the other player is not an expert paintballer.

Basic Shooting A paintball marker essentially fires a projectile around roughly 200 mph or 300 fps. Because the barrel is usually smooth-bore and the paint is not a solid gel slug, getting any amount of accuracy from a gun is fairly difficult. As such, a basic rule of thumb is to use a marker to 'pin' your enemy, an act which entails shooting quickly and steadily at his/her position. This encourages him/her to hide behind their cover completely, giving you the opportunity to advance without fear of being shot. Ultimately, this brings you close enough to get an accurate shot and eliminate your opponent.

Cover Cover is one of the most important aspects of paintballing. It essentially entails a player using any sort of terrain, be it a hay bale or tree or inflatable bunker to hide behind, preventing him from being caught in the open and eliminated. Knowing what cover is good to use and what is bad to use is important- trees and multi-walled bunkers are usually some of the best cover, whereas trellises and sparse brush tend to be the worst. There is also a technique of "using" your cover, to fool your enemy. Popping your head out and seeing the enemy then popping out again to take a shot at your enemy in the last place you saw him. Your enemy now thinks he knows where you are. He will start to fire at where your cover is. That's when you move to another position behind your cover, and since he's firing where you are not, you know where he is. Pop you head out, take another few shots at him then duck behind cover again. Your enemy will come after you in your new position. Generally this causes a huge amount of distraction and makes them think that there are more of you then there really are. This also allows your team to close on him and mark him out.

Flanking Flanking is a very important tactical maneuver in paintballing, as it negates the effects of cover. Essentially, it entails one 'flank', or side of the field, being overrun by another team. This allows them to attack their opponents from the side as well as the front, preventing them from taking effective cover and most likely eliminating the team. It is usually difficult to repel a dedicated flank charge, provided it is done quickly and skillfully.

In general, just about any small squad infantry tactic can be adapted and put to use in recreational paintball situations.

Tournament Formats

  • Tournament Paintball is a relatively new phenomenon, having developed within the past 15 years of paintball's history. Tournaments, while once held in the traditional woodsball fields, have quickly made the transition to speedball fields, utilizing inflatable bunkers called "Sup'air" bunkers. These bunkers are easy to inflate, deflate, and move about the field in order to change field configurations.
  • The most common tournament formats are with teams of either 3, 5, 7 or 10 players per team, with two teams per field per game. The object of the game is to pull and hang the flag (usually placed in the center of the field) on your opponent's starting bunker or base. Points are given per game: Eliminations are worth a certain amount, as is pulling the flag, and finally, hanging the flag. Depending on the format, a perfect score includes eliminating all opponents, pulling the flag from its original position and hanging the flag.
  • Current professional and semi-professional leagues, such as the NXL ( (National X-Ball League), NPPL ( (National Professional Paintball League), PSP ( (Paintball Sports Promotions], NCPA ( (National Collegiate Paintball Association), CFOA ( (Carolina Field Owners Association) and the NEPL ( (North East Paintball League], regularly hold high-class, well organized events. These aren't the only leagues, however, as most regions in both the USA and the globe have leagues. The Millennium Series, the former European X-Ball League, the Centurio Circuit, the XSPL, and many more leagues exist and draw large amounts of teams and fans.

Paintball variants

  • Airsoft is a sport similar to Paintball, but uses a different type of projectile and gun.
  • Scenario paintball is type of role playing paintball game played over one to three days.
  • Tournament paintball is a new style which is played for longer peiods of time with differing formats

See also

External links

de:Paintball fr:Paintball nl:Paintball no:Paintball pl:Paintball pt:Paintball fi:Paintball sv:Paintball sr:Пеинтбол


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