Understanding accuracy differentials in guns (for new players)
Today I'll be discussing in depth to all you new players exactly how to obtain the best possible accuracy from your gun, as well as which guns have greater accuracy, and why. I'll also be dispelling a few myths along the way.
First, half of you are probably reading this wondering which gun exactly has the best accuracy, so you can go out and buy one, stick a 20" barrel on it, and have a godlike sniper rifle. The other half of you are busy getting ready to pop open your PM boxes and send me PMs that say something to the effect of "gun accuracy is all a myth, no gun is more accurate than another...."
The truth is actually somewhere in between.
For the purpose of this post, we're going to assume that the gun is in a normal, everyday play environment, and that all variables outside our control (weather, wind, etc) are the same.
In theory, a paintball clamped in a vise in this environment, that chornographs 300 FPS and is aimed at a 60 degree angle will hit a certain spot every time the trigger is pulled. REGARDLESS of what kind of gun it came from. You could clamp a Talon and an Angel in this vice, and if the barrels, paintball, target, angle, velocity and everything were identical, it would hit in the exact same spot EVERY time. Paintballs don't care about how they are fired. They only care about the barrel they are fired from, how well they fit that barrel, their speed, and thier angle. Make all these identical, and you'll have identical shots, no matter what kind of gun is shooting the paint.
Let's first examine the what affects a paintball's accuracy step by step.
First, the barrel: For a paintball to be accurate, it needs to fit the barrel properly. This means a ball placed inside the barrel needs to not roll out, but should easy enough to blow out of the barrel without your cheeks going red. The length of a barrel is also important, to an extent. Studies show that a paintball only needs about 10" of guidance. The rest of the barrel is worthless from an accuracy standpoint. However, longer barrels are good for a few things. First, they have more room for porting, the holes at the end of the barrel. This can help muffle the barrel to an extent, and allegedly provides a slow outlet for the air, in theory helping ease the ball's transition into open air. While it will change the sound signature of a gun, there has been no conclusive evidence that supports the claim that porting makes a paintball more or less accurate. Anyone who claims differently is either buying into hype, or creating it. A good barrel should typically be between 12" and 16". Anything longer will actually hinder your performance, as the extra length causes more drag on the ball....in order to get the ball up to speed, you need to use more air since there is more drag. That, and they are awkward to maneuver with in speedball, more difficult to hide in woodsball, not to mention a pain to clean and transport.
As far as length goes, 16" barrels are popular with back players. The added length helps some to sight in thier target better, but moreover on an airball field, it allows a player to push into the side of an airball bunker with his barrel to help minimize his profile.
Players that use 14" often prefer it over the 12" simply for the fact that some feel they can sight with the end of the barrel faster, and just prefer it.
Players that use 12" barrels are typically front players, or players who just don't like 14" barrels. These barrel provide all the necessary accuracy, but are small and agile, ideal for tight snapshooting battles, close quarters combat, and generally for the people that do the dirty work on the front lines.
Lastly, a note on rifling. Most paintball barrels have no rifling. Some have straight rifling, and a few have spiral rifling. So far, rifling has not had any conclusive effect on paintballs. CMI brags their straight rifling keeps a paintball from spinning, making it more accurate. Ironically, most players don't really care for these barrels, or find them as accurate as any other. Armson stealth barrels have spiral rifling, which MAKES a paintball spin. Nonetheless, these barrels are known as being good, accurate barrels. And the rest of the world makes non-rifled barrels. The Stiffi is used by many pro teams and has no rifling. So right now, I have no reason at all to believe that any kind of rifling matters.
Phew! We got the barrels out of the way! Now onto the paint itself.
A paintball is like a snowflake. There is not another one exactly like it. Not from the same brand, not even in the same bag. Some brands use thick shells, some use thin shells, some are larger, some are smaller. But one thing remains the same. NO ONE right now makes a perfect bag of paintballs. There will always be a few balls that are slightly larger or smaller than the rest.
Your paint is the single biggest contributor to your accuracy. Good paint will be generally all the same size, that is, they will all fit your barrel the same way for the most part. Good paint is fresh, is round with no noticable seam, and consistent in size. Reach into a bag of cheap paint and do some measuring. Some balls may be .689 caliber, some may be .693, some may be .687 or even .685! Let's say your barrels has an interior bore size that accomdates .689, which is medium size. The .685 balls will roll right out when placed in a barrel that isn't attached to a gun. When the ball is fired, it has the ability to leave the barrel in a slightly different path each time, since it's not touching the whole barrel...instead it kind of bounces around in the barrel before exiting. Sure, it'll fly generally straight, but the proper bore size, .689 balls, they'll fly right on target, ball after ball for the most part. The .693 balls, however, may have a worse effect. They may not want to go through the barrel at all, causing the paintball to break open inside the barrel halfway down. The result will destroy any hope you have at accuracy at all until you clean out the barrel with a squeegee.
As a result, if you buy good paint, you can rest assured that if one ball fits well, the rest will fit about the same and hence, they will all fit your barrel properly, assuming your barrel has the right bore size, and consequently, will all fly pretty much right on target every time.
The second thing to know about paint is that it needs to be kept fresh. Paint that is fresh and just delivered to the store is at optimum performance level. If you put it in an extreme temperature for very long, like in the sun on a hot day, or in the backseat of your car, the heat will soften the shells, making the paintballs form dimples or become misshapen. Likewise, cold weather will make your paint very brittle and more likely to break when fired, not to mention when they warm back up, they will change size and roundness. Moisture will screw your paintballs up more than anything else, keep them away from humid environments and rain at all costs if you intend to use them again later.
Example: About two months ago I went playing and had some paint leftover. As an experiment, I sealed some up in a pod, and the rest I left in my bag. I put them in my apartment, where the temperature fluctuates somewhat. Last week, I pulled them out. I took a ball from the mostly airtight sealed pod and one from the exposed bag and dropped them both off my second story apartment onto the pavement below. The stuff from the pod broke as expected on pavement. The other ball though, acted as a superball, and bounced quite a bit! Needless to say, if I had shot someone with that, it probably wouldn't have broken, but it woulda hurt quite a bit! Turns out I had to fling the stuff rather hard against the ground to get it to break. The moral is: buy good paint unless you're just practicing. Yes, it's more expensive, but that's because there's a lot more quality control on this stuff. Buy it fresh, keep it fresh, and your accuracy will improve.
Next we have basic good ol' physics. I'm only going to touch on velocity here. Because paintball vary in size, and because our guns shuttle high pressure air around inside them, they oftentimes leave the barrel at slightly different speeds. A ball traveling at 280 FPS for instance, won't go as far as a ball traveling at 295 FPS shot at the same angle. Hence, the ball at 285 FPS will strike below the target that the 295 FPS projectile hits. Several things can cause this velocity fluctuation. A different sized paintball for instace. It may fit the bore better or worse than the last shot. Co2 is another good example. Becuase Co2's pressure is always changing depending on temperature, and because liquid Co2 can be sucked into the gun, co2 is, by nature, an inaccurate gas. While our guns usually manage to control Co2 well enough that the difference is tolerable, chrono reading on a Tippmann 98 using Co2 on a good day might read:
285, 283, 284, 289, 285
This is a difference of +/-5 FPS, which is pretty good for Co2. Usually, Co2 performs more on the level of +/- 10 FPS, with as great as +/- 30 FPS in poor weather conditions and when spikes are present.
Finally, we'll move into the last category:
There are a lot of myths out there. The first is that guns affect accuracy. The second is that guns don't affect accuracy.
Let's take on the first one. As I mentioned before, take any two guns that have identical barrels, paintballs, and velocities, put them in a vise, and fire a shot with the same muzzle angle. They will, in theory, hit the exact same spot. The keywords being "put them in a vise."
We don't play paintball with guns in vises. And we most CERTAINLY don't shoot one ball at a time as a general rule. Even the conservative among use fire at least two or three round bursts. And this is why the gun does affect accuracy.
I really shouldn't say a gun affects accuracy. Moreover, the gun affects the user's accuracy. Through recoil. I know a lot fo you are saying "you're a wuss if you can't control a paintbal gun's recoil". I'm not talking about controlling it. I'm talking about eliminating it. Something you can't do.
Let's take a Tippmann 98, a popular beginner gun, and an excellent gun in many regards. However, it's big, it's heavy, and when you pull the trigger, 700 psi or more comes out of the gun, and a metal slug slams forward, and then backwards, recocked by a spring. Now let's put an e-frame on that Tippmann. Now that slug is slamming back and forth and 700 psi is rocketing through the gun many times per second, sometimes as much as 15 or more, depending on the rate of fire! The average guy will feel this, and brace his gun hard, but by no means are all the paintballs going to hit the same spot.
Take an aircraft going at 200 miles an hour. Put it on a heading of 190 degrees, and fly it for an hour.
Now take the same aircraft, put it on a heading of 195 degrees, and let it go for an hour. It's going wind up quite a distance away from the original heading! Paintballs are doing the same thing, but on a smaller scale. They aren't flying for an hour, but even the most minute change in barrel position will offset thier course by more than enough to miss a target down the field.
Back to our guns. The problem with the Tippmann 98, is that it operates on high pressure and has a heavy slug slamming back and forth. No matter how much you brace, you are still going to experiance minute changes in your aim during heavy firing. Keep in mind, during all this, you're also trying to rip on the trigger.
Now let's take a DM7, a high end spool valve electropnumatic gun. What does a cool $1000 get you in a paintball gun? A low pressure (200psi and less) gat with virtually no kick whatsoever. The more managable the kick is under heavy rates of fire, the less your aim will deviate. As a result, you can rip on this thing all day long, and if it weren't for the fact the gun makes a "phishphishphishphish" sound, you would hardly know it's firing. Go shoot a Tippmann. You KNOW when you've fired one of those.
Think about it. Nearly every gun that has had the "it's a (fill in the blank) so it's more accurate" myth has had one thing in common. Very little recoil.
It's not the gun, it's how the gun is affecting the user.
So now we understand that to acheive maximum accuracy, it is important that we:
a) Buy higher quality paint
b) Ensure that that paint matches our barrels properly
c) Ensure that the paint is bought and kept fresh
d) Certain guns have certain operating styles that help us maintain the accuracy granted to us by our barrels and paint.
There are certain internal upgrades that can help accuracy on any gun though. Here's what they are and why.
1) A new, lighter weight bolt. No matter how a bolt is designed, it will only help you if it's LIGHTER. This is because you're reducing the weight of the metal slug moving back and forth in your gun, and in turn, reducing the amount of recoil your gun is giving you. There's less weight, and hence, less recoil. The second thing is that a new, lighter weight bolt, require less effort on the gun's part to recock or propel. This means a lower operating pressure and less air can be used, which equates to less pressure flowing through your gun, and usually, less air, sometimes giving you some extra shots per tank fill.
2) A regulator. Better regulators are designed to make sure the same amount of air at the same pressure is used for each shot. This means each shot achieves the same velocity, and as a result, travels the same distance. It can help with Co2 (make sure that the regulator you buy is capable of taking Co2), and it virtually eliminates any problems you might have at all with compressed air.
3) Compressed air tank. Good tanks will run you in the $150-$200 neighborhood. If you're willing to deal with a heavy, steal tank that gives you much fewer shots, they can be had for $50-$100. High pressure air (HPA) is simply the air that we breathe, only compressed. It is not temperature sensitive like Co2 is, and as an added bonus, has a regulator on the tank that controls how much air your gun recieves. People with HPA can play in any weather and get the same results, typically +/- 5 FPS or better, and in good guns, the only thing that would alter the ball's velocity would be an odd paintball here and there.
4) Barrel kit. A barrel KIT (as opposed to a single barrel) consists of either multiple sleeves or multiple barrel backs. In the the case of sleeves, each sleeve has a different bore diameter marked on it (like the FREAK kit). Simply find the sleeve that fits the paint you're shooting the best, insert it into the backpiece of the barrel, screw on the frontpiece and go play! Mulitple barrel backs (like the Pipe kit, or the J&J Edge kit) have backpieces instead of sleeves. Screw on the appropriate back, thread the front onto it, and go play. Barrel kits allow you to change your barrel's bore diameter on the fly to accomodate whatever paint you're shooting. They can be had from $75-$200. I like my $75 J&J kit, by the way.
So there you are. What matters in accuracy, how to make it better, how not to make it better, and what to blow your allowance or paycheck on.
Have a good day, now stop buying 20" barrels.
This was a much needed topic. Sticky it.
If only my friend's would read this, then they would stop trying to be snipers, and buying stocks, ghille suits, bi-pods, scopes, and "sniper" barrels. Make a TL;DR, please?
Very Impressive Ebon.
I especially like that fro the most part you stayed in the realm of the generic principles vrs brand specifics. Reduces fanboy flaming and teaches concepts.
You can probably even strip out the tippmann and DM refs with just method of fireing referances and a link to a thread that explains (i know there must be a sticky somewhere on this system) blowback, FASOR, Spool, poppet, ect .
I think it might have been a little wandering in the part about the plane, but really a spot on job otherwise.
I would reccomend a subsection on barrels to talk about the difference between regular barrels, backspin inducing barrels and maybe the effect that the palmers eliptical honing is supposed to have and any other white elephant instances you can think of.
Also maybe a basic description of mass and how that will effect kick.
You were definately on track talking about things like bolt weight.
Tippies are great examples. An A-5 stripped down to its basics with an egrip has a noticable kick.
But something like an BT Iron horse, or a heavy milsim modded A-5 (one of thos 15-20 LBers) has little to no noticable kick.
One other minor item I find that effects accruacy is trigger pull. Mechblowbacks like tippies have a hard stock pull vrs say a mini with an HES trigger.
Great job ebon! My noob friends will have to read this
yea, ebon got some cool points!*
*note, cool points are not redeemable at all burger king locations.
Meh, I got bored and kinda slammed it out. Kinda tired of going over accuracy over and over and over again. Now I can just link people. MOre for my benefit actually.
Wow. I'm a selfish jerk. I just realized that.
but your a helpful selfish jerk.
Sticky it...won't do any good but sticky it anyway...hey...why isn't this stickied...oh...we need to use glue...:dodgy:
ebon is officially my pbreview hero, not just for this thread, but for all around awesomeness
my friend uses a tippmann 98 with a 20" metal tube for a barrel on co2 with $25 paint, which basically violates all you just said
im an idiot new to paintball, that needs itiot proof threads... i now know about barrels paint and accuracy lol
some good info man keep it up
Wow, that pretty much put me up to speed. Thanks.
Excellent Write-up. Helped me decide what type of barrel to get.
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