Paintball Myths Revealed:
Accuracy, Trajectory, Distance
Throughout the years, I have heard every major paintball misconception played out in every forum possible: the subway, the local tavern, and heck, even the local paintball field. A group of paintball-playing buddies get together and discuss their game, and no matter what, the conversation always turns to how accurate the speakers’ marker is. While it is true that, when bench mounted in an area where all variables have been reduced to null, one marker could be more accurate than another, most people take this fact and run with it. I’m sure everyone has heard the famous “my marker is more accurate than yours because it’s a closed bolt!” argument before. And every Autococker owner out there is sure to have been the subject of a rant by a fellow player regarding how accurate the marker is because of its flat trajectory. Oh, yes, and let’s not leave out the “your marker has much more distance than mine” ideal, that would be heresy! Rolling of eyes ensues.
I still can’t believe that in this day and age, people still think that one marker is more accurate, has a different trajectory, or shoots farther than another. The purpose of this article is to inform the masses that the latter is most certainly not true, and to instruct all of those who break from the chains of conformity and actually listen on how to get the most out of their paintball marker. Read on and be enlightened!
Accuracy in Paintball
For all intents and purposes, including those of physics and science in general, no marker can be more accurate than another because no bolt configuration can be more accurate than another, in theory. However, in the real world, this idea rarely plays out as it is intended to. Wind positions, temperature, your FPS reading, all of these will change on a second-to-second basis. Unless one could play in a vacuum that were to be kept at a constant temperature, and used equipment that could keep dead-on consistency at all times, there is no way to prove that a closed bolt marker is more accurate than an open bolt, or that it is the same. In fact, any test on the subject is flawed the second it begins, because of the aforementioned variables present (or absent, depending). There are, however, several ways to improve or control the accuracy of your paintball marker. The most important involves the match in barrel and paintball bore sizes. Even a slight disparity in this match can allow for a severe decrease in accuracy. The best way to test for a paint/barrel match is called the “blow test.” In order to perform this operation, simply insert a paintball into one end of the barrel, and attempt to blow the paintball out of the other end. If it comes out with some slight force, it should be satisfactory. However, if it requires a minimal or profuse amount of force to propel the paintball from the barrel, you have a ball that is either too small or too large, respectively, for your barrel.
Next up is getting the best air system you can possibly find. Look for one with a high flow and recharge rate and a well built regulator. The PSI (pounds per square inch) and CI (cubic inches) of the tank does not affect accuracy. The final method to improving accuracy is to purchase a high-flow regulator, inline, bottomline, or sideline (along the side of the marker; a rare find these days). A high flow will significantly increase accuracy because it will allow more air to flow inside of the marker, increasing consistency, a major factor in accuracy. By following all of these steps, your marker should be as accurate as possible. Keep in mind the effects of barrel length on range and accuracy found later in this manuscript before choosing your new tubular trajectory correction device.
The Trajectory Myth
What is this allegory, you say? Well, it is mostly apparent among Autococker owners who claim that their marker has a “flatter trajectory, meaning better accuracy at longer distances.” Scientifically this is not the case, as any claim of one marker having a different trajectory than another is physically impossible. No matter what the situation, this assertion is always false, regardless of how much the instigator of this idea tries to explain science away. There really isn’t a great deal else to say about this fallacy. Simply know that any declaration of a marker having a different trajectory than another is invariably fictitious.
Regardless of what may be said, there are still some ill-informed, but well-meaning, players out there who still believe and profess that distance varies from marker to marker. Allow me to soundly assure you that this is by no means the case. Closed bolt markers have long been believed to have better accuracy and, of course, distance (it’s a wonder that most people don’t think they allow you to fly as well!), than their counterpart, the open bolt mechanism. Physics state that no bolt operation can make a paintball fly farther than another, unless modified by another operation. The only other operation in the paintball world that could change the flight distance of a ball is the amplification of velocity. This generally is unsafe, and at a certain point, one will encounter severe ball chopping because of the velocity at which the bolt strikes the paintball. Some people think certain markers shoot farther than others because they either held the former marker at a steeper angle, or had a less consistent setup on the second marker resulting in lower accuracy or accuracy spikes.
The Affect of Barrels on Accuracy and Distance
One myth that has stood the test of time is that longer barrels give a marker more distance and more accuracy. This is far from the truth, and the laws of physics state this in numerous places. One object emitted from a source at the same velocity and angle as another object, barring drag in the trajectory and elements such as wind and temperature, will go the same distance and have the same flight path (accuracy). Now, introducing drag into the equation, one can imply that the opposite of the idea abovementioned is true: the longer a barrel is, the less accuracy and the less distance can be expected. Through my own tests and the tests of such paintball greats as Tom Kaye, creator of the Automag, the findings are self-evident: the barrel only uses the first six to eight inches to accelerate, and the next two to four to correct itself before falling victim to drag, which in turn results in deceleration, which produces a larger arc, and finally results in less distance and accuracy at longer ranges. Therefore, the optimum barrel length is at least eight inches and at most fourteen, with the average at eleven inches. Most barrel makers do not produce eleven inch styles of their product, so one must either pick between ten or twelve inch for the most advantageous performance possible.
Blowback and Accuracy
Blowback, defined as the excess gas vented from the marker through various ports (feed tube, barrel, etc.), is another contributing factor towards accuracy; or, should I say, the disparagement of it. Closed bolt markers have inherently less blowback because of their design, which allows less air in the form of blowback gas to escape. Blowback is essentially the leading origin of kick, or the lack thereof. Consequently, closed bolt markers will always have less kick than most open bolt markers. If your marker kicks, it jerks from your grip at least enough to throw off aim slightly. If you have a closed bolt marker that has less kick or none that is noticeable at all, your aim will stay true as long as you can keep your arm steady. This will lead to greater accuracy, allowing you to consistently place shots in and around the area you intend to hit. This does not, however, take the place of the skill of the operator. The shooter must use his own sound grasp of the marker to control the shots.
I trust that this article will assist all that read it. All information in this text has been checked and double-checked for accuracy. Share this information with your fellow paintball players, and let the word get out: the prominent myths of the game of paintball have been disproved many times, and it is time that everyone participating in our great game realizes this.
Copyright 2002 Direct Paintball (http://directpaintball.com).
Hope this helps. This information may also be found very soon on directpaintball.com in the articles section.
Oh yeah: don't give me any grief about the copyright notice. It's an article I am being paid for, so it has to be there.