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Help & FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) on Paintball

What to expect your first day playing paintball. How to rent a marker, what to wear, what to bring, how to play, safety, fields, rules of paint ball.

  Paintball FAQ   

Q: How should I prepare for and what can I expect on my first day of paintball?
A: First day info:


So you decided to try your hand at paintballing... but where to begin and what can you expect? The main goal of the first day is just to have fun. Expect to do poorly and try to remain realistic and you won't be disappointed. Like any sport, there are people who are naturally good at it, but even they suffered their first time out and took time to refine their skills. You should not expect to walk onto the field and be like Rambo, nor should you have any delusions about being an Army Ranger sniper. Paintball markers and indeed the paintballs themselves are inherently flawed, and they make many realistic war scenarios impossible. You can not do things with paintball markers that you would expect to be able to do with real guns or even laser tag guns. This is one of the main reasons paintball is not a war simulation game, but more of a frenetic team tag.

Paintball is a completely different sport than you are used to. It's not any harder or easier but emphasizes a different group of skills which you have never had to use before. This makes paintball one of the best equalizing sports because any person can play: strong or weak, young or old, male or female, athletic or not. As long as you are able to walk, you are able to play, and potentially play well.

Getting ready for the first time:

The first step is obviously planning your day. Most cities in the country have a variety of fields available each with their own strengths and weaknesses. I would advise against playing in an unorganized game for your first time. These are usually known as "outlaw" games and are merely groups of people on their own property or public property playing on their own. There are several disadvantages to this mainly stemming around player safety and availability of equipment.

For you convenience, we have a number of fields reviewed on this site. Look through them and call the fields to answer any remaining questions. When looking for a field to play at, the questions you need to ask:

How much does it cost:
This breaks down into several categories, so please be sure to get the information for each one.
- 1) Field entry fee
- 2) The actual rental of the marker and mask
- 3) Extra paint (you WILL need it. Expect to shoot between 500 and 1000 balls for 4 hours of play)
- 4) Refills of CO2

Are the rentals for all day or are there playing blocks?
Some fields will rent in four hour blocks, and you will have to rent again if you are staying for the next block. Four hours is plenty of time to have your fun, but it's good information to know, especially if you are not planning on arriving at open.

What kind of fields do they offer?
More on this later...

Do they have a recreational or walk on day?
You are going to get shot either way... but let's face it, we'd all have more fun if we were shot less. Plus, tournament level players play at a tournament level... they will play faster and better and you will be sitting on the sidelines before you even knew the game was on. The more laid back the games are, the more fun you will have. This may not be true later on, but the games can get quite overwhelming in the beginning as it is.

Is there a group discount or private party option?
One suggestion I would make to anyone wanting to try paintball for the first time is to go with friends. It doesn't matter if any of you have ever played, but they make the atmosphere more comfortable which makes it easier to have fun. It's nice to not worry about making mistakes and most importantly, you have a group to share your stories with afterwards. If you have enough friends interested to form your own private party, so much the better. The required number can vary from field to field so be sure to call up the ones in your area first. Remember, it's all about having fun.

The most important thing:

This deserves it's own section. BE SAFE. Any field will have a brief safety lecture when you get there, that's because you can get hurt if you don't pay attention. Paintballs fly at 300 feet per second which is about 204 miles per hour. Even though they weigh very little, one hitting you in the eye could ruin your day pretty quickly. However, take the appropriate safety precautions and you will never experience any problems.

There are two distinct areas to a paintball field. The first is the staging area, which is where you will find the tables, parking lot, check in desk, fill stations, etc.. While you are in this area, there should always be a barrel bag over your barrel and properly attached to your marker, or a barrel plug secured into the barrel. The method depends on the field, but they will show you the appropriate method during the safety orientation. In addition, if your marker has a safety (which most do) keep it on while in the staging area. Barrel bags and plugs are not entirely fail safe, and even when they work they can leave quite a mess to clean up if you happen to shoot with them on. The safety is just an extra measure.

The second area is the playing area where you will find all of the fields. The two areas are usually separated by a large net and clearly marked. Before moving into the playing area, your mask must be on and it must remain on until you leave the playing area. Even if you and your group have their barrel bags on, there can be other groups playing. Keep your mask on. If your mask fogs during a game or gets paint on it, keep it on. Ask for assistance if you need to. Refs would rather be inconvenienced than risk injury to a player. As long as the mask stays glued to your face you will not get hurt. The rest of your body can bruise, but your eyes will shatter. Keep your mask on. Also, most fields will kick you out if you violate this rule... Their insurance is expensive enough without someone going blind. Keep your mask on. Got it?

What to expect:

When you arrive:

This part is easy enough. When you get there look for a check in area. Go there, pay your money, get your gear. There will be a brief safety speech, but please pay attention. It is important and it will keep you from having to leave early. Once you have your gear, find a spot in the staging area to call your own. Most places have tables, but even if you have to use your car find some place to keep your stuff. Between games you will need to return here to cleanse yourself and refill your tanks and your paint. Also, though I have never been to a field when there was a theft, keep your valuables on yourself or in the car.

Game play:

The field consists of two bases and a large area in between containing many barricades or trees. The barricades are known as "bunkers" and are vital to your survival as they have the neat ability of stopping a paintball before it hits you. There are two main types of game play: elimination and capture the flag. The goal of elimination is to take out the other team in it's entirety. The goal of capture the flag is to grab the flag (either at the center or at the opponent's base) and bring it to the appropriate area. (either your opponent's base or your own respectively) During recreational play, capture the flag usually turns into an elimination game with a shiny flag to pull for bragging rights.

The game will start with both teams starting in their bases. Some fields may have actual bases, others just a marking of where to stand. Regardless, be where you are supposed to be and wait for the ref to start the game. They will start the game with a countdown followed by the ever so cryptic starting words of "Go, go, go." at which point you are expected to go. The best places to go are the bunkers and you will probably spend a lot of time in them. The game can end on the elimination of one of the teams, the hanging of one of the flags, or at the end of some predetermined time. This will be clarified before the game starts by the head referee.

Now, on to the fun stuff. To get your opponents out, all you have to do is hit them with a paintball and cause it to break. In order to be an elimination the paint splat left needs to be the size of a quarter or larger. While that seems big, any paintball that busts will indeed leave a much larger area with a festive coat. The quarter rule is mainly to ensure the people don't get called out on 'splatter' which occurs when paintballs strike something hard other than the player (like his bunker). Any place on the person or anything he / she is carrying is fair game. If you get them on the bottom of their shoe, they're out. If you hit their marker, they're out. If they are carrying a large poster board reading John 3:16 and you hit that... they're out. Since the rules are pretty clear cut, it makes it easy. If you think you hit someone and they do not leave, you may call a ref's attention to do a paintcheck on them. (usually by yelling "Hey ref" or "paintcheck" followed by pointing and telling them which player to check)

If you are shot and you can clearly see the mark, yell "OUT!" or "HIT!", quickly stand up holding your marker over your head, and start to walk off the field. On your way out, pull out your barrel bag or plug, and bag or plug your barrel. By yelling "OUT!" or "HIT!", holding your marker above your head, or putting your bag on your barrel you are announcing to the rest of the players that you are no longer playing. This is important, because if you were still playing, people would still be shooting you while you left. This can be quite annoying, so please show the other players the same respect. Again, this game is fun either way... but we'd all prefer to come home with a few less bruises, especially if they were given without good reason. If you felt you were hit but you can not see where the ball landed, you must call a ref for a paintcheck. If you keep playing after being shot, you are cheating and you may quickly lose the friends you are with because that's the kind of people that they are.

You will most likely be playing with surrender rules. These are quite simple really. When you are 20 feet or less away from your opponent, yell "Surrender!" at which point they have the option of surrendering. Generally people take this option as being shot at close range can cause an increase of pain. Shooting people at close range is called "bunkering" which comes from the fact that most of the time it happens the player is still inside of their bunker. Whichever way you play should be clarified at the beginning of the day, but if you are allowed to vote on it (being say, a private group) I would recommend voting for surrender rules. Mainly because it takes time to get used to being shot, and being shot up close and personal is a level above and beyond the normal.

A few things to not do... Do not go out of bounds. If you do, you are out. Do not shoot your own team. Fun or not, if you hit them and the ball breaks, they are out. Do not shoot people who are already out, they can get grumpy. Do not shoot the refs, they will also get grumpy and they don't get paid enough as is. Do not wipe off any hits, ever. This is cheating and will get you in trouble with your friends and with the refs. Do not take off your mask! Do not 'blind fire', you'll probably just end up hitting your team mate in the back of the head. Do not pick up paintballs off of the ground. If they've touched dirt, they are no longer good enough for your marker and you can damage it by doing so. Do not shoot while running, even experienced players will miss the broad side of a barn.

There are two main types of fields to play on: Woodsball and Speedball. Woodsball is just what it sounds like, ballin' in the woods. There is much more space, lots of trees to use as cover and the ability to hide more. These types of games generally can last a bit longer and take a number of slower movements. Speedball is considerably faster, hence its namesake. It is played on a smaller flat field with many man made abstract bunkers instead of trees. These fields are about half the size of a football field and you can usually shoot from one side to the other. The games are a bit more fast paced and to win you need to rely more on fast well placed movements rather than gradual movements. One play can quickly shift the game balance. Many fields have been gradually shifting to Speedball as it uses less land, more paint, and since the games are shorter you can play more. This is also the standard for tournament style play as there can be many games in short duration and the games are very easy to spectate.

Marker tips:

The gun is called a paintball marker (or "gun" for short). The weird balloon thing on top is called the hopper. The thing under the marker is called the tank. The paintballs are called paint or balls. They are not ammo, bullets, or any other military term for such an object. Really, this is for no good reason other than it annoys people who seem to think that paintball is being threatened at every turn. Regardless if you say it, people will call you a newbie, and while they may be right, they don't need to know it. You will most likely be using a blow back type of marker, as they are the cheapest semi-autos and they are easy to take care of. To fire, take off the barrel bag or plug, turn off the safety, and pull the trigger. If the gun becomes uncocked for some reason, pull the knob on the left side of it back until it clicks. Once there the marker should recock itself every time you fire. If they have a shooting range, try out your marker a little bit before your first game. Don't go shooting all of your paint like most people do, but do shoot enough so that you get a feel for the trigger and where the paint drops. Notice it fires in an arc and try to remember that arc for later on. Also look at how much time it takes to get to various distances. Basically, just get acquainted with it's oddities. One last thing. Sights are for the most part useless. For the first day, instead try 'walking' the marker. Meaning, shoot and see where the ball goes. If it's too far and to the right, then aim lower and to the left. Simple.

If the gun starts to sputter, fart, or "go full auto", it simply means you are running low on air pressure. There are two causes. One is that CO2 gets colder as it moves and if a gas becomes colder while keeping the same volume then it loses pressure. (Boyle's law) So, if you fire a long string of shots quickly enough your system will lose some pressure until it warms up from the outside a bit. If this is the case, just wait a few seconds, then recock, and try again. If you haven't been firing a lot or if waiting didn't help, then the other cause is probably to blame and is indeed more usual. That is, your tank is losing pressure. Since CO2 is a liquid at 800psi at room temperature, this will happen suddenly. It's firing fine, then all of a sudden your paint is not going as far and the marker isn't recocking. To fix this, go back to the staging area and ask them to refill your tank. After that, you should be good for awhile.

Another common problem is that paint is not loading properly. This is because your hopper uses gravity to feed and sometimes the balls get kind of stuck. If this happens, shake it a bit and they should fall loose. You can usually tell when this happens because the shots will be louder without paint than with and more gas will come out of the barrel. If shaking it does not help, but the hopper is full, it's probably packed too tightly. The easy fix is quite simple; don't pack it that tightly. Leave a small bit of space when you refill to allow the balls room to move. If the hopper isn't very full and shaking it does not help and you can't hear any balls moving around in there when you do shake it, then you are out of paint. The first time it happens you will probably say "But I didn't even shoot that much!" The easy answer is adrenaline...

Lastly, rent there or borrow a nice marker from a friend. Don't buy a marker until you've played at least once because the choices are many and difficult. Whatever you do though, do not buy a cheap marker for your first day out. The rentals will be better than or equal to most markers priced under $100. If you decide you want a marker later, visit the forums and ask around to find a good one within your price range. A $20 marker will just be $20 wasted.

What to wear / bring:

Wear pants. Jeans are fine, athletic is fine... doesn't really matter as long as they cover your legs. There are lots of different types of grasses and bugs, plus... you'll be kneeling a lot. As for a shirt you have more freedom. You see people wearing all sorts of different things from sweat shirts to long sleeve t-shirts to short sleeve t-shirts. The real main decision is how to balance comfort of being shot to comfort of being hot. Being shot on bare skin hurts more than if you have fabric over it, but the difference isn't too much. However, if it's going to be hot outside you may not want to wear a sweat shirt just because you'll be uncomfortable all day. Personally, I usually wear a t-shirt. It's hot in Texas and I'd find the temperature to be more bothersome than the hits. It's really all personal preference, and if you can't decide, just take two shirts. For the feet, bring normal tennis shoes or cleats. It's best if you don't mind that they get dirty, because they will. I also like to take an extra clean shirt and shoes for the ride home. I'll throw in some extra pants and socks if it's going to be a muddy day. Also, if you plan to eat out afterwards (always popular) take a hat because paint hair isn't pretty hair. If you are overprotective of your hair (like most of you girls out there) feel free to wear a doo-rag or backwards baseball cap under your mask. It's perfectly comfortable and keeps most of the paint out. Regardless of what you wear, wash it as soon as you get home. This paint is soluble and will not stain provided that you wash it that day. If you let it sit for awhile, your clothes will forever be adorned with pink splotches.

Bring water, lots of water. Preferably one of the large thermoses. You will drink quite a bit. A lot of fields sell food, but some snacks never hurt. I recommend crackers and apples. When you run around and sweat a lot you need carbs to refuel your tanks, and salt to replenish your sweat. If you feel exhausted some crackers, apples, and water will have you up and ready again in no time.

A quick checklist:

- Clothes
- Water
- Snacks
- Presigned waivers for anyone under 18. These should be available from the field's website.
- Money
- Sunscreen
- Good Spirits
- Plenty of rest (seriously, get a good night's sleep)

Suggestions / Tips:

This part might as well be called "How to beat your friends for fun and profit." I won't get into a lot of strategy here. That takes time to build and we have forums dedicated to that. However, I do have some general guidelines on how to be more successful. This sport is a game of chances, increase your chances and decrease theirs and you will walk away victorious.

Play the bunker! There are a variety of bunkers and bunker types, but the basics are always the same. Give little to shoot and you will get shot less. Imagine a guy standing up 50 feet away. Without ever having played, you could probably get him nine times out of ten. Now imagine him crouching. Well, it's a little harder to hit, but you could pull it off. Now put a bunker half way over him. You have 1/4 as much area to shoot at than you did with him standing up. He's four times harder to hit. The point is don't give your opponents a clean shot. Kneeling in front of your bunker, lean out so that your marker and half of your face is showing. You can still see, and you can still shoot. Nothing on your end has been hindered. However, your opponent now has less than a square foot to shoot at compared to about twelve when you were standing in the open. That's good. The less he sees, the less he can hit. I recommend trying this around your couch or wall or other object before you go. If you have a full length mirror and can see your target area that's even better. Never go over the top of a bunker. It leaves a lot to shoot at (most noticeably your hopper) and more importantly you have more people shooting at you. (somewhere in the neighborhood of all of them) This leads to a greater chance of being hit. Don't stay hanging out of the bunker for too long. The more time they have to shoot at you, the more chances they have of hitting you. Keep changing things up, don't keep coming out of the same side over and over and don't keep the timing the same. If you keep forcing them to change their attention and aim you will keep them from being able to get a good shot on you. For example, if you are in a stand up type bunker, you have about three different levels to shoot out of: low, medium, and high. Change it up a bit and keep them guessing.

The closer you are, the easier it is to hit them. This is probably the number one thing I see first timers doing wrong. No one wants to get hit, so everyone stays in the back and makes lob shots at each other. Well, no guts, no glory. The team that covers the most area wins most of the time. Get up into the middle bunkers. Just remember the other team is as poor of a shot as you are. Also, use the bunkers in front of you as a screen for when you move. Stay low and run quickly keeping the larger bunkers between you and your opponent. This makes you quite a bit harder to hit and many times you can get to a new bunker without ever even being shot at. Once there, remember how to play the bunker better and take them on one at a time. The other major advantage to this, if you are significantly forward then the other team will spend a lot of time shooting at you whether they have a shot or not. This allows your team more time to move and get better positions. When the other team is deep within their bunkers, use that time to move up. You should always be involved in a fire fight or you should be moving. Otherwise you aren't affecting the game at all.

A few more quick tips. Don't get tunnel vision. Keep your focus over the entire field. If you concentrate on just one person you will have no idea where anyone else is. You could have a really easy shot to the other side of the field, or could be giving one up. Also, the more different people you shoot at, the more people are focused on you. By playing out the sides of the bunkers only one can shoot at you at any given time, but if three people spend the entire game staring at you your team has effectively just added two people to it's roster. Next, angles are your friends. Pretend you have two flat bunkers in front of each other. It's going to be hard to shoot the other person because you would have to wait for them to come out all the while you can be shot by anyone on that side of the field. Now if these bunkers were the same distance front and back but on opposite sidelines, then you will be able to only expose yourself to that bunker while at the same time giving yourself a larger target to shoot at. No matter which bunker you are in, think left and right before you concentrate on front and back.

Last and certainly not least, use team work. Keep in constant communication. Let your team know where their guys are. Organize when you or a team mate is moving and provide cover fire. If you all play individually you'll be sent to the dead box one by one.

Anyway, hope that helps. If you have any other questions feel free to ask on the forums, and be sure to have fun.

Author: UTLadiesMan

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