How To Prepare for a Paintball Game: A Beginner’s Guide


Whenever you start something new, you want to know what to expect. That’s easy if it’s a sport you’ve seen on tv or in person. But when the sport doesn’t get that type of coverage, how can you find out how to prepare?

To prepare for a paintball game you must know what to expect, understand the basic rules, and have some idea of basic paintball strategy. You don’t need to buy equipment for your first game. Wear head protection such as a baseball cap, long sleeves, and jeans or cargo pants.

If you have watched a few YouTube videos or checked out a paintball facility’s website, you might be overwhelmed by all the equipment and gear the players have. Don’t worry—we will let you know what you need for your first game to succeed.

Decide on Your Paintball Goals

If you plan to try out a sport like tennis, you need a racket and some tennis balls. If you decide you don’t like it, you didn’t invest a ton of money. Should you choose to continue, you might invest in shoes and eventually upgrade to a more expensive racket.   

Paintball requires a lot of equipment: a gun (usually called markers), mask, accessories such as a tank, loader, pads, and more. Even the kind of shoes you wear it matters. You can easily spend several hundred dollars buying used equipment.

But here’s the good news: there is no need to buy a lot of equipment—most paintball fields will have everything for rent. It will not be the highest quality equipment, but one doesn’t expect that from rental equipment, right? Here I have a detailed cost breakdown of buying a gear vs renting one.

If you want to invest in one piece of equipment, it should not be a gun but a mask.

We will explain why later, but let’s take a minute to discuss expectations.

Video:  The Ultimate Beginner Guide

Go In With Reasonable Expectations

Paintball is a fun, exhilarating sport. But if you expect it to be easy, you’re in for a surprise. It’s not Call of Duty, where the worst thing that can happen is spraining your thumb. Also, don’t think you can go on the field and run around Rambo-like. You will be one of the first players shot.

Here are some other things to expect.

You Will Get Hit, and It Will Sting

As a newbie, do not expect to be able to dodge all the paintballs lobbed your way. A paintball leaves the marker at speeds up to 300 fps (feet per second), equivalent to 200 mph. By the time it finds you, the paintball will be flying much slower. Still, an object that’s flying 100 mph can sting.

Depending on the speed and how close the other player was, you might feel a sting. If it’s your first time playing, the adrenaline might keep you from feeling much of anything while you’re playing.

Statistically speaking, paintball is safer than most sports played in school. More people injure themselves while running, playing tennis, or horseback riding. So although you will get hit, likely that’s about the worst injury you will get—if you follow the safety rules, which you’ll learn about later.

If you do happen to get a welt, then there a ways to heal them fast.

Don’t Expect the Marker To Be Accurate

Beginning players are often surprised at how paintball guns are off the mark, which leads them to question their aim. They shouldn’t.

Paintball guns have a well-deserved reputation for being inaccurate. There are several reasons for this, but the fact that paintballs’ sizes and shapes are inconsistent is probably the most important. Also, bullets are far more aerodynamic than paintballs.

Please don’t give up because your aim is not what you expected–with practice; it will improve. Take advantage of the practice area before joining a game, especially if this is your first time playing.  

Expect To Be Exhausted

New players are also surprised by how exhausted they are after a day spent playing paintball. For starters, you will be weighed down with a mask, camouflage overalls, and other gear.  

Do not be surprised if you are sore the next day. Beginning players underestimate how much cardio the sport requires. They also don’t stretch the first time they play. And they don’t stay hydrated. Avoid being one of those newbies.

Many serious players hit the gym several times a week. So don’t be surprised if you are sore the next day. Take it as a sign that the day was well played and that you should head to the gym more.

Rental Equipment 

If you do not play well using rental equipment, don’t blame yourself. Instead, blame the equipment.

As with most sports, rental equipment is cheap and used. No owner wants to invest in top-of-the-line equipment that will go through lots of hands.

Both the mask and marker often give newbies problems. Inexpensive masks tend to fog up (I have a list article of best anti-fog paintball masks), making it hard to see, and markers tend to be dirty. You can quickly clean a barrel’s marker with a barrel swab and squeegee (if the rental does not have them, you can find an experienced player who will let you use theirs).  

There won’t be much you can do about the mask, which is why your first investment should be a mask. 

Just remember, you are there to have fun. Take what you learned from your first time and use it to improve.  

This excellent video shows how to clean a marker:

Know the Basics of the Game

Some people think that paintball is a free-for-all, but there are rules that all players follow. If the refs see players breaking a rule, they will either give a warning or send the player off the field (called the theater by some players).  

Since safety should be priority number one, let’s go over a couple of safety rules first.

Keep Your Mask On

Rule number one: always keep your mask on while you are on the field. Serious eye injuries have happened because a player ignored this rule. When you rent your equipment, you will be told the same thing. When the refs gather the teams to go over the rules, they will say the same thing. 

Or they might say, do not ever take your mask off, which is the same thing.

If you are caught with your eyes unprotected, say by lifting your mask, you will be sent off the field. Do so repeatedly, and many facilities will ask you to leave. If you are unsure whether it’s okay to take your mask off, watch the ref. Take yours off only after they have removed theirs.

Also, shooting glasses or shop goggles are not suitable for paintball. They are not designed to take the impact of a paintball flying over 200 feet (61 meters) a second. Use only eye protection designed for paintball.

Cover Your Barrel

Imagine what could happen if a paintball accidentally goes off in a group of people who are off the field and have taken their masks off. To prevent that from happening, barrel sleeves or barrel covers need to be in place whenever a player is not on the field.

A barrel cover goes over the marker’s barrel, and in the event of an accidental firing, it keeps the paintball from shooting out of the gun. Sometimes a player loses a barrel cover. If it happens to you, let a referee know. Most refs carry spare covers.

Video: Ball Breaker Barrel Cover Stress Test

Game Rules

Although there are different types of games, including Elimination, Capture the Flag, and Attack and Defend, some rules apply to each game.  

Getting Players Out

Marking your player means that you have hit someone. When a paintball hits a player and breaks on them, they are out or eliminated. If paintball doesn’t break it means no-hit.

Typically, the paintball must hit the player directly and leave a quarter-sized mark. Paint from a ball that hits something close to the player does not count. But if your marker gets hit, you are out.

Should the paintball hit you but not break, you are still in the game.

In most games, a player offers an opponent the option to surrender if they have gotten within a close distance to another player. The paintball field determines the distance, but it is usually between 10 and 20 feet.  

Call out “surrender” if you have gotten that close, but keep your marker trained on them. If they turn to try and shoot, that player has given up the option to surrender, and you can fire away.

What Is a Paint Check?

Players who aren’t sure the ball broke when it hit them or think they hit someone else can call for a paint check.

Call “paint check” and wait for a referee to come. Players who are being checked should not be shot at, nor should they shoot. They are neutral players until the ref says otherwise. And don’t be that player who calls for excessive paint checks. Not only will the other players get mad, but most facilities have a maximum number of calls. If you exceed those, they might ask you to leave.

Do not automatically assume the player you hit was trying to cheat. Players won’t always feel a glancing blow.

Leaving the Field

When you are hit, you need to do three things:

  • Loudly yell, “I’m hit.”
  • Make sure the safety is on and put the barrel bag on the barrel. Then raise your maker over your head as you walk off the field. Not everyone will have heard you yell.
  • Although players won’t aim at you if you have been hit, they won’t automatically stop firing at each other. Keep your gun raised and try to walk around the firefights.

Once you have left the theater, double-check that your safety is on and the barrel cover is in place. Drink water to keep hydrated.

Other Rules

Most paintball facilities will have similar rules to these:

  • Don’t move bunkers or other sources of cover.
  • Don’t fire blindly by sticking your marker around a wall or bunker and fire. Look at your target before shooting.
  • Don’t call out tactical info to your team as you are leaving the theater. 
  • And the most important one–don’t argue with the refs. They are always right.

Facilities might have additional rules, which a referee goes over before a game. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you do not understand something.

Now let’s talk a little about what to wear.

Dress for Paintball Success

Dressing for paintball is a balancing act between being comfortable and staying safe. For example, in sunny weather, you might be tempted to wear a t-shirt. This could keep you more comfortable than long sleeves, but a paintball that hits bare skin can leave a welt.

In winter, dressing in layers can keep you from getting cold, but it can also make you a slower player.

For your first game, you don’t need to buy a lot of tactical gear. You probably have almost everything you need, and what you don’t have, you can probably do without. I’ll start at the top and work my way down.

Head Protection

We have already talked about your mask’s importance and how it should be your first purchase if you want to buy equipment. If you want more guidance on masks, check out this article. But you don’t need one for your first game.  

Masks tend to fog up, something new players rarely think about. So consider buying anti-fog spray, such as the Debatlog Anti-Fog Spray includes a lens cleaning cloth.

Another thing to consider is some head covering, such as a baseball cap worn backward. The cap or other head covering will provide a cushion if a paintball hits your head. And wear a headband to keep the sweat out of your eyes. New players don’t always recognize how hot a mask gets.

Clothes

There is no need to imitate experienced players and buy their gear. If you keep planning and play at their level, items such as kneepads and other protection will become necessary. A baggy long sleeve shirt and old jeans or cargo pants will do. Although paint from the balls will wash out, wear clothes you don’t mind getting dirty.

Wear dark or camouflage clothes. Light-colored clothes make it easier for opponents to spot you. Plus, they stain more easily.

A trip to your local Army Surplus store can net you some inexpensive camo clothes. Remember–the more you wear, the more you weigh.   

Two beginner mistakes to avoid:

  • Wearing t-shirts, tank tops, or shorts.  Not only will you expose your skin to paintballs, but you’ll be crawling, sliding, and kneeling. Unless you want to leave some of your skin behind on the field, wear clothes that cover it.
  • Wearing too many layers.  You want to stay warm in the cold, but you will probably get overheated if you have too many layers. It’s better to bring along an extra shirt than to try to take one off in the middle of a battle.

Footwear

There are three considerations with footwear—tread, support, and weight:

  • Tread. Running shoes or trail runners will provide the grip you want.  
  • Support.  If you have shoes with ankle support, wear those.
  • Weight.  Combat boots might add some realism, but they also add weight. We don’t recommend them for first time players.

Break-in new shoes before you wear them and don’t even think about wearing sandals.

Clothes You Might Want to Buy

You might want to buy a pair of gloves to protect your hands, not just from the sting of a paintball but also from splinters, thorns, and rub burns. Don’t buy bulky winter or gardening gloves because they will make it harder to pull the trigger. Instead, use thinner gloves. Some players prefer fingerless gloves.

You might want to buy extra protection for sensitive areas—cups for men or chest protectors for women.

If you have knee/shin or elbow pads, go ahead and take them along. But don’t buy them for your first game because they will be uncomfortable and just weigh you down.

Want a review of these suggestions? Then check out this Getting into Paintball video:

Have Basic Knowledge of Paintball Strategy

Experienced players can talk paintball strategy all day, but I’m going to start you off with some basics.  

  • Paintball is a team sport. Come up with a plan. It does not have to be complicated—simply deciding to split up players to spread out more experienced players.  
  • Once the game begins, spread out. New players tend to huddle together, which allows the opposing teams to advance. Don’t make it easy for your opponents to get in position behind you.
  • Communication is essential. Newbies learn how little they will see when playing. Much of the time, their heads will be behind a bunker or other cover. Let your team know what you see, if someone is in trouble, if the enemy is advancing, and anything else to help your team.
  • Don’t just start shooting when the game begins. Players are usually too far away to be hit right away. Also, you give away your position by doing so. Watch where the opposing players are going and shoot when they are in range.
  • Don’t be too timid. New players often huddle together and hang back. If your team advances, do the same. You do not want to be so far back that you cannot effectively help your team.
  • Run zigzag between obstacles. This makes it harder for other players to hit you. And if you are behind cover, do a head check. Stick your head out first, and then tuck it back in. When you come from behind the cover, you will know where to aim.

Bottom Line

If you are new to the paintball world, welcome. As you can see, most of the preparation for your first games is mental, not weapons and gear. Know what to expect, the rules of the game, and basic paintball strategy. Show up with clothes that will protect you, plenty of water, and a positive attitude, and you will have fun.

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