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Is Paintball Safe?

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]FORT RUCKER, Ala. (July 20, 2016) – So your 10-year-old comes to you and says, “Dad/Mom, I want to play paintball.” How would you respond? I found myself in that exact situation a few years ago, and I’ll admit my initial response wasn’t the greatest. I’d experienced paintball several years earlier at a competitive pistol shooting event and really didn’t care for it. I thought the paintball guns were frustratingly inaccurate, expensive and unsafe. However, my opinion was about to change.

My son kept bugging me about paintball and I eventually gave in to him. I read some things about the sport and learned a lot of new paintball-specific rules. I figured my son would probably want to quit the first time he got hit with one of those gelatin balls traveling at 300 feet per second. (Just for reference, 300 fps equals 200 mph.) Still, I went out and spent $200 for two starter packs that had everything we’d need to play paintball, or so I thought. The packs included a marker (also known as the paintball gun), mask, safety plug for the barrel and carbon dioxide (CO2) bottle.

The instructions stated to never shoot someone with the marker set higher than 300 fps because serious injury or death could occur. You’re probably wondering how you check the velocity of paintballs. Well, you can’t, unless you have a chronograph, which measures the time an object passes between two sensors and calculates the speed in feet per second, miles per hour or whatever measurement standard it is programmed to clock. There are also radar chronographs, such as the kind law enforcement officers carry to look for speeders. While chronographs used to be really expensive, you can now pick up a good one for less than $100.

Being a conscientious father, I went into the garage and retrieved my shooting chronograph to measure just how fast those little paintballs were traveling out of the barrel. The first marker I shot was about 250 fps; the second one, however, was more than 320 fps — and that was right out of the box! I adjusted our markers to about 280 fps (?10 fps) so we could play the next morning.

When we sat down for dinner that night, my son started asking questions like, “Is it going to hurt?” Still trying to discourage him from getting involved in the game, I said, “Imagine your worst pain and multiply that by 10.” My wife gave me that you-better-not-hurt-my-baby-or-I’ll-kill-you look. I reassured her that the paintballs would sting a little, but wouldn’t hurt that much.

The next morning, I told my son to put on a sweatshirt and long pants. I then asked him to call his mother at work and tell her he loved her before we went out to play. While this made him extremely nervous, it worked to my benefit because he paid a lot more attention to what I had to say as we walked out into the woods. I then explained the safety rules.

The rules were pretty simple. The mask was to stay on his face at all times when the barrel plugs were out. If he got hit anywhere, even the marker, he was out of the game. He was to then raise his marker into the air and put in the barrel plug. Once both barrel plugs were in, we would move to our patio, where we would take off the masks. In the event his mask fell off, he was to cover his face with both hands, drop to the ground and scream. That would signal me to stop shooting in his direction and run over to see what was happening. He agreed to everything I said and we went to separate corners of the wooded field, about 75 feet apart, and got ready to play.

I yelled the countdown and we started shooting at each other. With each hit he took, he yelled, “Ouch!” When we were through, I figured he would never ask to play again, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. He absolutely loved it and wanted to play more and more. For the first time in a long while, I saw a sparkle in his eyes. He could not stop talking about how much fun it was.

That day, I, too, developed a love for paintball because it helped build an even greater relationship with my son. My opinion of the game had changed. It was no longer a waste of time. From now on we would play safe, fair and often! For the next year, we continued to play in the wooded lot. Most of the time it was just the two of us; occasionally, though, some of the neighbors would join us.

One day, my son was invited to a paintball party with 15 other boys at a friend’s house. My wife and I thought nothing of it, so she dropped him off in the morning and I was to pick him up later. When I drove up to his friend’s house that afternoon, I noticed the boys were playing without shirts and had huge red welts, some bleeding, on their bodies. I asked my son what happened. He told me they didn’t have a chronograph to set the velocity of the paintballs, so they set the markers by comparing the sounds. They then picked teams and played shirts versus skins.

I felt like a failure because I thought I’d taught my son how to play safely. Yet, the first time he played without me, the safety rules went out the window. Determined to prevent this from happening again, I came up with a plan. I had my son invite all the boys over to our place for a three-man tournament, at which I would give each member of the winning team a trophy.

When boys arrived, I explained the tournament rules and then the safety rules. After everyone said they understood, we used the chronograph to set the velocity of their markers to 290 fps before getting on the field. The first boy fired three shots over the chronograph at 340, 320 and 350 fps, so I adjusted it down to 280 ?10 fps. This went on until the last marker was set to a safe velocity.

The boys were curious as to why I was adjusting their markers. I explained that their protective equipment was designed to shield them from hits up to 300 fps. Anything over that could cause their mask lenses to break, leaving them vulnerable to eye injuries or worse. It was at that moment a light bulb went on in their heads. They realized that playing without properly calibrating their markers could be dangerous.

So how does this affect you? If your child wants to give paintball a try, there are some important things you should do before sending them out on their own. Take them to a professionally run paintball field for their first experience. There, referees will be on hand to explain and enforce the safety rules and remind players about the importance of wearing masks and using barrel plugs.

The well-run facility will have chronograph stations to ensure paintball velocities are within the safety limit of 300 fps or less. Also, the field is going to be clean, with well taken care of bunkers and very few obstacles to trip over. In addition, an adequate number of staff members will be available to ensure each group is properly supervised. It’s a good way for parents to ensure their children are playing safely.

Author’s note: When the 10th Mountain Division’s commanding general instructed the Directorate of Family Morale, Welfare and Recreation to create a place on post for his Soldiers to play paintball, I was in the right position, garrison safety officer, to influence the integration of safety into the program from the start. The DFMWR program manager and I were sent to the Paintball Training Institute in Tennessee to become experts in all things paintball. From the inspection of paintball air tanks to the proper way to lay out a course, we learned it all. Later, a spinoff program for family members was started, and the Youth Services Paintball Program came online with full support from the safety office. The program has developed into a great place to introduce 10- to 18-year-olds to paintball in a controlled, safe environment. And to think, it all started with a simple request from my son.

Knowledge magazine is always looking for contributing authors to provide ground, aviation, driving and off-duty safety articles. Don’t let the fact that you’ve never written an article for publication scare you. Our editors promise to make you look good. By sharing your knowledge, you can make a valuable contribution to those who need your information to do their jobs safely. Your article might just save another Soldier’s life. To learn more, visit https://safety.army.mil/MEDIA/Knowledge/TellYourStory.aspx.

FYI

Editor’s note: Tippmann Sports, a leading provider of paintball markers and gear, offers the following information to anyone interested in playing paintball. Neither the Army nor any of its components endorse Tippmann Sports. These tips are provided for information purposes only and do not constitute an endorsement of Tippmann Sports or its products or services.

Paintball is fast, extreme and, most of all, fun. Like all sports, an informed player can help make the game safer. In fact, safety is one of the most important parts of the game. Here are some tips to help keep the game more safe and enjoyable.

1. Never fire your marker when you or anyone near you is not wearing proper paintball-approved eye protection.

2. Never remove your goggles in the field or in the elimination zone.

3. When you are eliminated, call “out” as loudly as possible, raise your hand and walk off the field. Do not remove your goggles until you are back at the safe zone.

4. Always wear eye protection; never wear anything but goggle/mask systems made especially for paintball.

5. When you are in the designated safe zone, or not on the playing field, make sure to have your barrel plug in your marker barrel.

6. Many markers will fire even after a CO2 or high-pressure system is removed from the gun, so always wear goggles when working on your marker – even when the air source is removed.

7. Do not alter your cylinder or valve in any way or try to remove the cylinder from the valve.

8. Since velocities have a tendency to fluctuate throughout the day, it is wise to chronograph your marker several times during play.

9. Always keep the safety in the safe position and, if your gun has a power feed, keep it in the OFF position when not playing the game or taking a break from play.

10. Don’t stand in the open for too long during play.

11. Always reload your marker or catch your breath from behind a tree or bunker.

12. Markers should be stored uncharged and unloaded.

13. Markers should be transported uncharged and unloaded.

14. Do not shoot cars, homes or other items with painted or finished surfaces. The paintballs are nontoxic but can discolor or dissolve painted or finished surfaces.

15. Never shoot anything from the marker except water soluble paintballs.

16. Remove all power sources before disassembly of a paintball marker.

17. Never shoot at another person with the intent to cause injury or harm.

18. Pressurize your paintball devices only when you’re ready to use them.

19. Don’t handle, play with, load, use or shoot a paintball marker while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

20. Observe all safety rules applicable to firearms when handling a paintball marker.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Physical and Mental Benefits of Playing Paintball

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Paintball has been a popular sport for a long time. Even though it is called an extreme sport, paintball is one activity that can be enjoyed with friends and family. This sport has a plethora of benefits that bring about an all-round development in players. Apart from the physical exercise, paintball also offers mental health benefits. Paintball’s popularity also lies in the simplicity of the game. All you need is the required protective gear and a paintball gun and you are ready to go.

Spicing up your exercise regime

Paintball is a great activity for those who do not have time to hit the gym or are simply lazy. Regular exercisers can also benefits from paintball as it adds variety to their workout routine. It is believed that following the same workout routine for a long time can become less effective over time. Paintball is a great way to shake things up and get an intense exercise routine. This sport does not include monotonous motions like a treadmill, and allows the players to experience a whole range of movements like running, climbing, ducking and tip toeing behind enemies.

Weight loss and immunity

Needless to say, paintball also aids in weight loss. The intense exercise gained from a session of paintball can improve sleep cycles and boost metabolism. Intense workouts also result in the release of endorphins that elevates the mood of the player. Apart from burning more calories, regular exercise through paintball also reduces risk of heart diseases, blood pressure and depression.

Stress relief

Working professionals have more and more to worry about in this fast paced world. Sometimes the stress can deeply affect the mental state of the person and resurface at inappropriate times. Playing a rough game of paintball is one of the best ways to vent out your frustration without risking hurting others. Sometimes, venting your anger in the game can also help you improve your skills as a paintballer. The endorphins released during intense exercise also eliminate mental stress brings a sense of calm.

Teamwork and leadership

Paintball is primarily a team sport with a goal. In order to win the game, one team should defeat other teams and fulfill the objective. This requires some amount of strategizing and execution which can be done only when all the players work together as a team. It is this aspect of paintballing that promotes team spirit. You could also use paintball to improve your leadership skills. Tense situations in the game often bring out the best in many players and boost their self confidence.

Absolute entertainment

Paintball is becoming increasingly popular not because it aids weight loss or improves team building skills, but simply because it is so entertaining. The rush of adrenaline gained from simply running around a field and shooting opponents with dye pellets makes stressed out adults feel like a child again. A game of paintball always includes a fair amount of laughter and excitement which makes it the perfect group activity on a lazy Sunday morning.

 

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What is Paintball?

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]In 15 short years, the sport of paintball has become recognized as one of the world’s most exciting outdoor participation sports. Paintball is played in over 40 countries by millions of men and women of all ages and lifestyles. Whether homemakers or high-school students, professionals or retirees, all paintball players share in common a love for adventure and a strong competitive spirit.
Capture the Flag

Paintball is a combination of the childhood games “tag” and “hide & seek,” but is much more challenging and sophisticated. Although there are many different game formats, typically a group of players will divide into two teams to play “capture the flag.” The number of players on each team can vary from one or two, five or seven or ten, to over 1,000 on a side, limited only by the size of the playing field.

The object of the game is to go out and capture the other team’s flag while protecting your own. While you are trying to capture a flag, you also try to eliminate opposing players by tagging them with a paintball expelled from a special airgun called a “paintgun.” Games run from 20 to 45 minutes, depending on the size of the field and the number of players.

Between games, players take a break to check their equipment, get more paintballs and have a snack or soda while they share stories about the thrills of victory and the usually funny agonies of defeat. Win or lose, everyone has a good time and there’s usually the next game waiting for you.
Paintballs

 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.

Paintguns

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.

Safety

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.

The 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.

Paintball is an exciting sport, and above all paintball is fun! It’s a chance to shake off your day-to-day responsibilities and rekindle your spirit of adventure. When the adrenaline starts pumping, you can’t help but love the thrill of the game![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]