Paintball is a sport in which players try to eliminate opponents by shooting each other with balls of coloured dye. The balls of dye (called "paintballs") are shot through a device called a paintball marker (or paintball gun). When the paintballs hit, they release the dye. When they hit a player, the dye marks that player as eliminated. The game is often played as an organised competitive sport, involving leagues, tournaments, and professional teams. The field is scattered with natural or artificial obstacles and terrain, which players use to hide behind. The objective can vary according to the type of game being played. Players may have to capture a flag held by the opposing team, defend or capture a particular point on the field, or simply eliminate all other players on the field until they are the only player or team remaining.
Paintguns, also called "markers," come in a variety of shapes and styles as you see in this special "paintgun roundup" issue [ed. APG 12/96 issue]. They may be powered by carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen (N2) or compressed air. Many have power systems that use large refillable cylinders called "tanks" or "bottles" that give hundreds of shots before needing to be refilled. Some use small 12 gram CO2 powerlets as their power source, each powerlet being good for 15 to 30 shots. With pump-action paintguns (pumpguns), each time you want to shoot a paintball you first cock the paintgun or paintball marker by using a pump, then you squeeze the trigger to shoot the paintball; you must recock the paintgun before you can shoot again. Stockguns, using 12-grams, have the most basic pumpgun configuration (though they are becoming ever-more high-tech within the constraints of the configuration) and stock gun play is in a class of its own.
With semi-automatic paintguns, the first time you want to shoot you must cock the paintgun (usually by pulling back a cocking knob or handle), but after you shoot the first paintball the paintgun's action will recock the paintgun for you; you simply squeeze the trigger each time you want to shoot a paintball. With a full-auto paintgun, when you squeeze the trigger for the first time, the 'gun will begin to shoot paintballs and will keep on shooting paintballs as long as you keep squeezing the trigger; when you release the trigger, the 'gun will stop shooting.
Paintguns range from simple to sophisticated, but what they all share in common is a limitation on their power and range. The international safety limit on the speed (measured in feet per second, "FPS") at which a paintgun shoots a paintball is 300 fps. A chronograph is used to test for speed limits, and all paintguns can be adjusted to shoot under the speed limit. A paintgun's range is limited, too; even shooting 300 fps, at maximum elevation with barrel pointed up into the air, a paintgun can lob a paintball only about 50 yards.
A paintball is a round, thin-skinned gelatin capsule with colored liquid inside it. Paintballs are similar to large round vitamin capsules or bath oil beads. The fill inside paintballs is non-toxic, non-caustic, water-soluable and biodegradable. It rinses out of clothing and off skin with mild soap and water. Paintballs come in a rainbow of bright colors: blue, pink, white, orange, yellow and more. When a paintball tags a player, the thin gelatin skin splits open, and the liquid inside leaves a bright "paint" mark. A player who is marked is eliminated from the game.
For safety, paintball players always must wear goggles specifically designed for paintball to protect their eyes. Goggles must be worn during a game 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 nearly everywhere, and should be worn regardless. 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 playsite for breaking safety or playing rules. Fields have boundaries, and a player who steps outside a field's boundary is eliminated from that 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 the benefits of having their staff and management participate in paintball games.