What Is Paintball? — Definition, History, And Playing Tips.

There are few sports that get your adrenalin pumped up like paintball. Paintball is in a class of other extreme or action sports that require some measure of physical exertion, speed, skills and risk.

The risk in paintball is often amplified by the fear of the use of guns, but these guns — also called paintball markers — are filled with paintballs not bullets.

Many times, that risk factor has been characterized by other subtle reasons, founded in treating safety precautions with glove hands. Irrespective of that, it remains a popular sport with large following and indulgent players.

Here, we answer the question “what is paintball?” by examining the history behind the sport, how it has morphed into an undeniably mainstream sport, what defines it, and the rules guiding its play. Let’s begin with a short background to its evolving.

What Is Paintball?
Image by Christoph Schütz from Pixabay

Brief History

Paintball didn’t start out as a strategized, defined game or sport. It came out of the flippy pastime of three friends who had a friendly bet on surviving in the woods. However, the paintball itself had been used for different purposes before then.

A paint company, Nelson Paint Company, had designed and manufactured a set of paintballs made in gelatin shells. The paintballs were specifically used for marking livestock, to distinguish between them afar from by cattle owners or famers.

The balls were also used to mark trees and having them splashed with paints to mark them off for accurate positioning and more by park rangers. This was all in the 1960s and the brain behind this was Charles Nelson

Charles’ company was producing these balls and the guns (or markers) used to shoot them and had patented them exclusively as tools for agricultural or farming use.

There were moves sometime in the 70s to sell the guns made. The paintball gun — Crossman 707 as it was so called — was not a commercial success. But its return to the market by another trial gave rise to the now well-known Nel-Spot 007 gun.

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The gun is an important touchstone in the historical narrative of the paintball. It was the gun that Charles Gaines, Hayes Noel, and Bob Gurnsey sprawled with after getting on following through each other’s survival debate and argument. That paintball gun was powered by CO2 gas. There is background to their story.

Sometime in the late 1970s, Charles Gaines, who was a famous author of the Pumping Iron book and a fisherman, challenged his friend, Hayes Noel, to who will better survive in the woods owing to their distinct growing experiences.

Gaines was better suited for the outdoor, village-like, growing years, as opposed to Noel who was largely a city man, nurtured by the urban instinct and strategy that makes great places.

Their contest was to find out whose experiences count for much in determining who survives better in the woods in a combat sport. Their mutual friend, Bob Gurnsey, came now into the picture to develop the rules that would guide their survival game.

That rule led to the creation of the first game of paintball. It was the Nel-Spot 007 that became the paintball marker of choice at the first game. Soon it was declared safe for taking on hits and the game assumed a wider interest among people who wanted to try out the survival game.

Their duel was worn by Gaines, as he so claims, although both had a different version of that story, complicating the historical narrative. However, what began as a private project of 3 friends grew into 12 and on and on till what the game has become today.

So, What Is Paintball?

Paintball is a combat sport. It is a game won through elimination of opponents after hitting them with paintballs.

These balls are made of dyes that are water soluble, but are shaped capsule-like, with gelatin shells. You fire these balls using a paintball marker that is powered by compressed gas or CO2.

When the ball hits the opposing players, and the paintball leaves behind the dye, the hit player is eliminated and the player who made the hit is declared winner. The name of the sport owes it to this component of the game’s equipment. There is no paintball game without paintballs. 

The sport is mostly engaged by people purely recreationally, but it has also evolved quite well into a formal game setting kind of structured tournament where professional players and teams participate in them for prize and trophies.

The popularity of the game and archetypal representation of the military structure has also made it a big alternative training supplement for various military and security outfits around the world. Paintball can be played as an individual and team sport. 

Since it is used for different intended purposes, the overriding rules are mostly specific or tailored to the basis for wearing them. However, there are core rules and tips that those who play paintball are expected to know, follow, and keep. 

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Guiding Tips For Playing Paintball

To effectively play paintball, you need to prioritize the following:

1. Ensure Your Safety 

Theoretically, paintball can lead to death of players. Better tempered reality is that it can inflict serious injuries on bare, open, or exposed skin.

A paintball marker should be used to shoot paintballs at safe boundaries within a specific velocity limit which doesn’t potentially threaten the safety of your opponent or other opposing players.

The feet per second (fps) measure of a paintball’s speed averages at about 300fps. Many paintball fields and user spaces have a capped maximum safety at about 280fps for obvious reasons.

The threat a paintball poses to players of the game has little or nothing to do with the size, shape, or style of the paintballs, but the speed at which they are shot at and eventually hit a player. 

In that case, you have to wear protective gears and wears that protect very sensitive parts of your body during the paintball games. Areas like your eyes, your neck, your forehead, your kneecap, your groin, your chest, amongst others.

One of the key paintball equipment is your paintball mask. Your mask can sometimes come with overhead protection and you wouldn’t have to wear a baseball cap or bandana for protection.

Head protection, from face up, forehead and other parts of your head is so that you can protect yourself from damning injuries. Besides, there is the potential damage to the eye leading to blindness because of the force and flares of the paintballs.

There are other types of protective equipment like the hand gloves which protects the dorsal side of the hand from splinter shots. The challenge, however, is with the choice of glove. You must ensure that the glove is not so thick or handful that you can’t hold your paintball marker or gun well. A fingerless glove could prove useful, too.

This is also connected with choice of wears – the pants must be long enough to protect the legs and the shirts must be long sleeves, with also well-fitted shoes or boots.

In all, the clothing must be targeted towards ensuring total safety. Ensure, therefore, that you never remove your protective gears; that primarily includes your paintball mask from your face.

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2. Play To Game’s Rule

Paintball is built on an established, unwritten rule of personal and collective honesty. When a paintball hits an opponent, the opponent is expected to call attention to their elimination. This is must be done in full respect to the objective of the game.

This means there is a pattern, a strategy, or a purpose to winning a game, and to win, you must play to the rules.

In professional or even recreational paintball field space, where there are referees managing the game, there is ample motivation towards ensuring that you play to the objective of the game. It is important that you know that and play in that view.

If your game objective is about eliminating your opponent by tagging them with paintballs, work towards that, ensuring you target your opponents.

In other words, when a player is hit by the paintball, it evidently leaves the dye or solid mark on whatever body surface is hit. That mark is the proof that such a player should be out of the game.

If the game is “capture the flag”, then when you pick or seize your opponent’s flag from their bunker and return to mount it on your own territory, you win.

The objective of the game could also play into what the type of game it is. Generally, paintball is broadly categorized into four game types: Woodsball, Speedball, Scenario, and Tournament Paintballs.

The woodsball paintball can be defined as the quintessential paintball setting game. It gives the perfect scenery to what Gaines and Noel had in mind when they had their duet. It is purely recreational and the games are played in wooded arenas or places.

The methodology to winning the game is by elimination or using the “capture the flag” rule. The outdoor field of play is so wide that players have a wide array of land to launch assaults, ambushes, and protect their VIPs. 

The speedball paintball is mostly characterized by semi-natural fields which are much more insulated than the setting woodsball paintings, and they are filled with built, man-made bunkers.

Since the fields are not always that large or wide, players can often easily sight one end of the paintball field to another, allowing competitors to easily play paintball and view games without predictable hassles. This kind of paintball games are played more at the professional level and more invested in.

The other types are somewhat within the backdrop of the other two. What scenario paintball is about is creating a story or theme around the game which might vary and straddles around historic and much popular-driven themes, or other examples.

The tournament paintballs evolve from the woods game culture but soon morphed into artificial, man-made bunkers and fields. Ensuring that these games can now be seen, viewed and engaged as a competitive sport. 

3. Pick Your Equipment 

To play paintball, you must familiarize yourself with the equipment for the game. The protective wears and gears, as mentioned earlier, like the paintball mask, right choice of clothing, both long pants and shirts, amongst others are important part of the paintball item.

Aside this, there are other equipment like the paintballs which is what the game is named after.

The paintballs are basically water-soluble dye made like capsules with gelatin shells. This is what the player hits opponents with. The paintballs are fired from another item. There is also the paintball gun which is another important item in the paintball.

There is also the hopper, which is attached to the paintball gun (or paintball marker) and holds where the balls are stored for loading to and firing from the gun.

The paintball marker also make use of compressed gas or carbon dioxide (CO2) to power the gun. These are the basic equipment used in playing the game.

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Where Is Paintball Played?

Paintball is are generally played on fields which could be indoor-created or outdoor. There are commercial venues where there are fields with structured layout and required size that accommodate whatever kind of paintball you wish to play.

Paintball fields can be either be an artificially built terrain or natural ones. The advantage of playing in commercial parks or fields is that you are better equipped to use the gears and amenities that make your sporting experience more rewarding.

So, you get clearly marked out fields, picnic areas, safety-conscious standards amongst other attractions. 

Final Word

Paintball still faces some resistance across some nations, quite understandably. While there have been widespread fears in some that it promotes violence, there are some done under strict oversight and state watch.

Paintballing is a sport that thrives on respect for safety and genuine concerns for opponents.

As a player, you must shoot at safe distance and not risk putting the opponent in harm’s length. However, a player must also preempt potential accidents and forestall them by being heavily and rightly protected for games. 

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