3 Types of Paintballs and How to Choose Which to Get


Ready to go paintballing, but don’t know which paintballs exactly you should get? You’ve come to the right place. Paintballs directly affect your shooting technique as well as the speed and velocity in which your paintball gun fires. Therefore it is important to choose the right kind of paintball depending on the paintballing you are looking to do.

So, what are the different types of paintballs, and how should you choose the right one?

The different types of paintballs are:

  1. Recreational Grade Paintballs
  2. Tournament Grade Paintballs
  3. Reusable Paintballs

All of these are available with different calibers, with .50” and .68” being the most common. Choosing the right paintball for you ultimately comes down to the kind of paintballing you are looking to do and what kind of paintball gun you will be using.

Below, we are going to define exactly what a paintball is before comparing these three different types. We will then discuss the different caliber options available and how you can make sure you choose the right one. After this, we will list out some of the best paintball brand options on the market now for you to choose from. We will end by briefly explaining the three types of paintball markers and answering some additional questions.

What are paintballs?

Paintballs sometimes referred to as “paint,” are spherical gelatin capsules containing biodegradable polyethylene glycol, other non-toxic and water-soluble dyes, and other substances. These capsules are designed in such a way to hold the fill and not break unless it makes a heavy impact with a surface.

Paintballs consist of the same materials we found in food items. They are non-toxic and are considered edible – we wouldn’t recommend consuming any, though, since they do not taste very good. Therefore, if you get some paint in your mouth during a paintballing game, you are not at risk of any serious health issues and can continue playing. Since polyethylene glycol is a laxative, paintballs can cause gastrointestinal distress when ingested. You should keep them out of reach of young children.

Back in the day paintballs were made of glass and filled with oil-based paint for marking trees and cattle. Today, modern-day paintballs consist of water-soluble substances, and you can easily wash them out of most clothing. Also, keep in mind that the color of a paintball’s fill does not always directly match the color of a paintball’s shell.

A paintball’s gelatin shell is designed to break on impact, although at times it might ricochet or bound off a surface instead. Once dropped on the ground, a paintball can become swollen due to condensation or groundwater. Such paintball can cause a jam in the barrel of your paintball gun marker and damage its internal workings. Because of this, paintball that has dropped on the ground is also called “loose paint,” and it is recommended never to use it in your paintball marker.

What to Look for in Paintballs

The kind of ammunition you use is one of the most important aspects of paintballing. It’s important to consider certain details about the ammunition you are using to ensure greater accuracy and minimize errors.

You want to make sure that any paintball you choose doesn’t break when exiting the paintball gun. Broken paintball can damage the gun itself and create a chaotic, messy situation in which you get struck out instead of eliminating an opponent.

Here is what you want to look for in a quality paintball:

  • Consistent size and shape – the rounder the better
  • Thin shells that break on impact every time
  • Thick, opaque fills that are highly visible and hard to wipe off
  • Bright, neon-colored fills that contrast against the background and clothing you are paintballing in

The 3 Types of Paintballs: Recreational, Tournament, and Reusable

Lets separate types of paintballs into:

  • recreational grade
  • tournament grade
  • reusable paintballs

Tournament grade paintballs are going to be more expensive than recreational paintballs. Tournament grade paintballs are subject to more stringent manufacturing quality checks and standards.

Despite the difference in quality, however, recreational paintballs shouldn’t be ruled out entirely. At times, recreational paintballs are all you need to have a good time. For those who enjoy paintballing once in a while and are looking mainly to have fun rather than an intense, elite-level type competition, recreational paintballs will get the job done.

Reusable paintballs – or reballs – have their uses as well, particularly in instances where a team is practicing and don’t want to waste actual ammunition. Indoor parks that can’t allow the paint to splatter all over the arena use reballs.

Regardless of the particular type of paintball you end up choosing, it is important to make sure the caliber (size) of your paintball matches up with the caliber of your gun. To determine the caliber of your gun, refer to the user’s manual, which most often you can find on the manufacturer’s website. If you’re unsure about which caliber you need, you can always use a barrel bore sizing tool (more on this below.)

Recreational Grade Paintballs

Recreational (or field) grade paintballs are paintballs designed for general play or practicing and are best for popular, less intricate tactical markers most often used in scenario games. These are the paintballs most commonly used in commercial fields, and you can buy them in boxes of 2000+ at major sporting goods stores.

Recreational paintballs have a thicker, firmer shell and are compatible with almost any kind of marker as long as the calibers are the same. Since recreational paintballs have slight inconsistencies in their shape that can cause inaccurate flight patterns, they are the least expensive kind of ammunition. They would be a great option if you were looking to buy bulk paintballs at a nearly wholesale price.

This kind of ammunition is available in a bunch of different colors, along with some neon fluorescent options as well.

Tournament Grade Paintballs

Tournament grade paintballs are the highest quality paintballs, made for professional woodsball or speedball tournaments, and designed for use with the top-of-the-line paintball guns. Due to their quality, reliability, and increased accuracy, tournament grade paintballs are more expensive than recreational paintballs.

One of the biggest features of tournament grade paintballs is their thin but firm shell that breaks more easily on impact more consistently. Additionally, one can expect better performance in the form of a straighter flight leading to improved accuracy due to the remarkably consistent size and shape throughout.

Tournament grade paintballs have bright fills that make marks on targets easily visible. On the other side, neon colors are not available as these are prohibited for use in professional competitions.

Reusable Paintballs

The last kind of paintball is the reusable paintball or reball. Reballs are foam substitutes for paintballs. These balls are the same size as paintballs, but they don’t have a paint filling and weight slightly more. These were initially designed by manufacturers to allow teams that are practicing to save money on ammunition. However, nowadays, some paintball parks have dedicated reball fields.

Reballs are most often used in indoor facilities where paint splattering out of broken paintballs could be a problem since they have no paint filling and do not break open. The downside of this is it makes it easier for players to cheat since there is no visible mark of paint to prove whether or not someone was shot.

Reballs are more expensive than paintballs, but since one can clean and reuse them many times, it ends up costing less over time. Reballs must be fired at a lower velocity than regular paintballs (about 65 feet/s less) to compensate for the fact that they don’t break on impact.

YouTube: Reusable Paintballs

Paintball Caliber

The caliber of a paintball refers to its size in inches (diameter). It is essential to match up a paintball’s caliber to the caliber of the marker you are using. Using incompatible calibers can cause you to damage your marker.

The most popular paintball and paintball marker caliber is .68, which is considered to be the standard size for paintballs. .50 caliber is the second most popular, which is used in lower-impact games. There are, however, several factors that affect the exact dimensions of a paintball’s caliber.

Slight fluctuations in the caliber’s dimensions can arise since paintballs are usually not perfectly round, and they are very sensitive to moisture and heat. If it is a hot or humid day, the paint in a paintball can swell or become misshapen. Additionally, if a paintball has not been used for a long time the paint will begin to harden. Paintballs in which the paint has hardened should never be used since the paint will not burst and mark the opponent when fired.

If you already have a paintball gun, then choose a paintball with a caliber that matches the caliber of your gun. Also, keep in mind that there are conversion kits that can be used to modify a paintball gun from a .50 caliber to a .68 caliber and vice versa. There are other calibers available on the market, but they are only used on rare occasions.

.68 Caliber Paintballs

.68 caliber paintballs are the industry standard and continue to be the most popular size used by serious players. This size is versatile enough for many different games and field styles, with a great velocity and splat effect when hitting other players.

One downside to .68 caliber paintballs is that they are a bit heavier, and the guns made for them are a bit heavier as well. Due to their slightly larger size, you won’t be able to fit as many rounds into the gun’s hopper. However, experienced players do not find this to be an issue at all.

Since the .68 caliber paintballs are a bit larger and heavier, it will hurt a bit more when it hits you. A little bit of pain is all part of the game, so if you want to experience the real deal for paintballing, you should go with .68 caliber.

.50 Caliber Paintballs

.50 caliber paintballs are another popular option for many paintball players. This caliber is most popular for what is known as low-impact paintball. It is preferred for beginners, young kids’ casual field play, indoor fields, or corporate or other adult outings in which people want to enjoy the fun side of paintball without feeling any pain.

Since a .50 caliber paintball is only 0.5” in diameter, it won’t hurt quite as much as a .68 caliber paintball when you get hit. The trade-off, however, is that you won’t get quite as much distance or velocity out of it when firing. There is also an increased chance with this caliber that it won’t break on impact.

A benefit of going with the smaller size caliber is that you’ll be able to fit more paintballs in the hopper. This means more rounds can be fired before needing to reload. Additionally, the smaller rounds will allow you to shoot through thick brush successfully. This is optimal in scenario games and woodsball.

Finally, there is a cost advantage to going with a .50 caliber paintball. Since these paintballs cost less and offer you a higher volume of shots, it is the most cost-effective option. Also, .50 caliber markers don’t need to use as much air (CO2 or compressed air) when firing.

Barrel Bore Sizing

Since not every single paintball is a perfectly round sphere, there is most often going to be gaps between the ball and the barrel of the gun itself. When a paintball is fired, air can escape through these gaps, which leads to an uneven distribution of pressure on the ball. This can cause the paintball to exit the gun at an odd angle or spin and thus decrease your overall accuracy.

Barrel sizing kits exist to address this problem. By matching up the paintball to the barrel, you can get rid of these air gaps. This will not only increase your accuracy but will also make the velocity of the paintball leaves the gun at a more consistent rate.

To test the fit of your paintball to your barrel, take a paintball and drop it into the back of the barrel. If the ball falls through the entire barrel, then you need to use a smaller barrel. If the paintball sticks, see if you can blow it through the bottom using the air from your lungs. If you can’t, then this barrel is too small, and you need to get one slightly larger. Repeat this process until you find a barrel with the perfect fit for your paintball.

YouTube: Check barrel bore sizing

Variances in the environment can cause paintballs to swell or shrink. It is important to use this test to check sizing and adjust your barrel if needed when playing at a highly competitive level.

Which Kind of Paintballs Should you Buy?

Now you’ve determined whether you should get a recreational, tournament, or reusable paintball and which caliber you need. Buying the right paintball ultimately comes down to choosing one from a reputable company with high-quality manufacturing that is within your budget.

Below are some of the best recreational, tournament, and reusable paintball options currently available on the market.

Recreational Paintball Options

Valken Infinity

If you want a solid, highly reliable, and very affordable paintballs for recreational use, then you can’t go wrong with the Valken Infinity. Valken is known for its quality in the paintballing industry. With the Infinity, in particular, you can expect accuracy and durability, as the super thick outer shell ensures the ball will never burst within the marker. This paintball is suitable for most entry-level markers as well.

Veska

Veska is another solid option, although slightly more expensive than the Valken Infinity. The additional cost gets you two additional color options: pink and yellow. Regarding playability, you can expect extreme accuracy and durability, as this paintball has a thick outer shell and is made with clean, smooth seams.

May Vary Paintball Pellets

One of the least expensive paintball options on the market, the May Vary is a great option for anyone on a budget in need of a recreational paintball. The May Vary paintball is sturdy with many color options and paint that is easy to clean.

GI Sportz XBALL Certified Midnight

Another recreational paintball option is the Certified Midnight XBALL by GI Sportz. Overall, this paintball is sturdy, versatile, and reliable in the field for any recreational play.

DXS Basic Training Paintballs

An eco-friendly and weather-resistant option is the DXS Basic Training Paintballs. These are perfect for beginners in recreational games or for tournament players practicing.

Tournament Paintball Options

RPS Empire Marbalizer

The RPS Empire Marbalizer is a paintball often used in tournament play for its superior construction and ability to handle extreme environmental conditions such as humidity.

Valken Graffiti

One of Valken’s highest quality paintballs available, Graffiti, is a great option for competitive paintballing. You can expect extreme accuracy and a nice, even splatter when it hits a target. You never have to worry about this paintball bursting inside your marker, as the shell is thick enough to maintain itself when dropped from chest-height.

Tiberius Arms First Strike

The Tiberius Arms First Strike paintball uses fin stabilization technology along with a unique aerodynamic shape to guarantee a 50% higher range. It has the most consistent velocity and unrivaled accuracy to its competitors. It has a polystyrene shell to guarantee it only breaks on target, as well as resistance to humidity and moisture.

One drawback of this particular paintball is that it is slightly bigger than your typical .68 caliber paintball. It is important to double-check and make sure it fits properly with your bore barrel.

Reusable Paintball Options

Reball

There is Reball, and then there are companies that sell reballs. Reball is the first and to this day, the best manufacturer of reusable synthetic paintballs worldwide. If you want a high-quality reusable paintball, there is no way you can go wrong with the Reball name brand.

GXG Rubber

Another reusable paintball option is GXG Rubber. This paintball is made of rubber, cleans easily, and is one of the most affordable options. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that some report it to be a bit too small for standard .68 caliber barrels.

Paintball Markers

If you plan on doing some paintballing, you better make sure you have a paintball marker! In this section, we’re going to go over the three different kinds of markers. Keep in mind that all of these markers are compatible with any of the paintballs discussed in this article as long as their calibers are the same.

Pump Paintball Guns

YouTube: Pump Paintball gun demonstrated

Pump paintball guns are the most difficult kind of marker to use, but still a ton of fun. These require manual operation in the form of a shotgun-like pump to fire. Before each shot, you have to cock the marker and chamber your next paintball.

Pump guns are reliable and a great way to help a player focus on on-field skills and accuracy. They are challenging and thus rewarding to use. New players first getting into paintballing, however, should probably avoid pump guns due to their difficulty of use.

Mechanical Paintball Guns

Mechanical paintball guns are the most common type of marker used in recreational play. These markers are semi-automatic, which means one shot is fired with every trigger pull. It is like using a point and shoot camera. These are popular since they are both easy to use and easy to maintain at a very affordable price.

Mechanical markers require either CO2 or compressed air to operate, both of which can easily be refilled at a commercial field or a nearby pro shop. If you are unsure of whether or not you have access to compressed air, then opt for a CO2-based marker.

Overall, this is a great option for beginners getting into paintballing due to its simplicity and user-friendly construction.

Electronic Paintball Guns

While electronic paintball guns used to be an expensive luxury, they have recently become a lot more affordable. These markers are powered by a 9-volt battery and use an electronic solenoid to fire.

Unlike the single heavy trigger pull on mechanical markers, an electronic marker’s trigger is a simple click that instantaneously activates a micro-switch or laser beam. Pulling the trigger on one of these is comparable to clicking a computer mouse so that one can get extremely high rates of fire.

With more versatility, electronic paintball guns can do either burst, full auto, ramping, and other fire modes.

As long as you have access to 9-volt batteries, going with an electronic paintball gun is going to deliver the best paintballing experience. These guns are versatile, easy to use, and customizable in terms of the rates of fire.

Additional Paintball Questions

Below are some additional questions you may have regarding paintballs in general.

Can you Freeze a Paintball?

I have already written the whole article on that. You can read about it more here. But to give you a summary:

Theoretically, a paintball can be frozen. But the polyethylene glycol additive that makes up the “fill” of the paintball significantly lowers the mixture’s freezing point, which makes it highly unlikely that it will ever actually freeze into something other than just a cold paintball.

If the paintball is exposed to a frigid environment, the shell will begin to form dimples and become brittle. While dimples will decrease the accuracy of the paintball when fired, the extra brittleness will increase the chances that the paintball bursts when impacting against an opponent. Believe it or not, some professional speedball teams intentionally cool their paintballs in a freezer before a match to make the paint a bit more brittle.

Can I Reuse a Paintball?

The short answer is no; you shouldn’t reuse a paintball. You shouldn’t use a paintball at all if that paintball has been damaged in any way or has soaked up any moisture since it is biodegradable.

If you see a paintball on the ground that looks to be in perfectly good condition, you still should never pick it up and insert it into your loader. This is because even a slight defect on the surface of the paintball can cause your gun to jam. For the best paintballing experience, always use fresh paintballs.

How Many Paintballs Do You Need?

I have also written the whole article on that. You can read about it more on this link. To give you a summary:

It varies from game to game depending on how many people are playing and the size of the field or arena being played on. The average player can expect to use about 200 paintballs per hour. If it is an intense match and everyone is going all out, it could easily be 300+ paintballs per hour.

How Many Paintballs Are Sold in a Package?

While different brands sell their paintballs in different sizes and quantities, a standard package of paintballs will contain about four bags of 500 paintballs each, so approximately 2,000 paintballs per order. This is unsurprising when one considers that the average number of paintballs used per hour in a game is around 200.

Recent Content