What is Paintball?

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.


 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, 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 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.


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. Intellige


How Many Shots Can I Get Off My Tank?

The number of shots per tank is dependent upon two main factors: the gun itself and how fine tuned the air system is. Generally speaking, high performance guns such as Mags, Cockers and the new electronic guns will provide more shots per tank than the blow-back Tippmann's and Spyders. Shots per tank will even vary on the same type of gun depending upon how the gun is setup. The table below should be used as a general guide for determining shots per tank. Please remember - your mileage may vary.

CO2 HPA 3000 HPA 4500

Tank Size


Tank Size


Tank Size


7 Oz






9 Oz






12 Oz






20 Oz






What's the difference between C02, Nitrogen and HPA?

There are two main power sources used to propel a paintball out of a paintball gun - Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and Nitrogen/High Pressure Air (N2/HPA). Both are very common and each has its pros and cons.

Carbon Dioxide, more commonly know as CO2, is the most commonly used propellant due mainly to the fact that it has been around since the beginning of the sport and is fairly inexpensive. Its main disadvantage is its sensitivity to temperature. As a CO2 tank warms up or cools down the available pressure either rises or falls. For a paint gun, differences in pressure mean inconsistent velocities.

This sensitivity to temperature is due to the fact that CO2 is stored as a liquid. The gaseous form of CO2 used by the paint gun is formed when some it "boils off". The tank containing the gas is a fixed volume. Since there is a direct relationship between temperature and pressure, an increase in temperature causes a corresponding increase in pressure: The pressure increases because no more liquid can turn into a gas and a higher velocity results.

CO2 can also enter the gun in its liquid state under certain conditions like sustained rapid firing. On some guns, the subzero temperature of the liquid CO2 causes O-rings and air seals to freeze which disrupts normal operation. Equipment such as expansion chambers, anti-siphon tanks, and remotes help negate this effect.

Nitrogen and High Pressure Air systems, commonly called Nitro and HPA, are the most prevalent alternatives to CO2. While any inert gas (like Argon) will work, Nitrogen and HPA are the cheapest and most readily available. Since Nitrogen and HPA are stored in their natural gaseous state and not liquid, they are not susceptible to the thermal problems described above. A Nitrogen/HPA equipped paintball gun will perform consistently regardless of temperature and weather conditions. Nitrogen/HPA has almost completely eliminated velocity fluctuations. The only drawback is that Nitrogen systems costs more and some fields do not have the capability to refill the tanks.


What's The Difference Between Open And Closed Bolt Paintball Guns?

A closed bolt gun is one that is in the "ready to fire" position with the bolt closed. That is, the gun is ready to shoot when the front of the bolt is secured into the "chamber," or the breech end of the barrel. When the trigger is pulled, a valve is opened that allows a burst of CO2 through the bolt to propel the ball down the barrel. Closed bolt guns re-cock themselves (or are pumped, in the case of pump guns) by opening enough to allow another ball to fall into the chamber, then re-closing, ready to fire again. Autocockers and pump guns all use the closed bolt design.

An open bolt gun is one that is in the "ready to fire" position with the bolt in the open position, ready to slam closed when the trigger is pulled. With most open bolt guns, when the trigger is pulled, the bolt slams forward sealing the ball in the breech of the barrel. A burst of CO2 is then released that propels the ball down the barrel. A spring returns the bolt and re-cocks the bolt. Most, but not all, semi auto paintball guns are open bolt guns.


Doesn't It Hurt?

The short answer is: Heck Yes It Hurts! Getting hit by a fast moving pellet is part of the game. Fortunately, it isn't as bad as one thinks. Paintballs break upon impact dissipating most of the energy and causing very little pain. What pain is felt is comparable to being snapped by a towel and goes away after a few seconds. Of course, being shot at close range will tend to "accentuate" the sensation (read "hurt more") than a hit from further away.

Generally though, the thrill of the game will overshadow any pain that might be felt from a hit. A player can count on leaving the field with a few welts, but they make great visual aids when recounting paintball stories to your buddies.


Term Definition
12g 12 gram CO2 "powerlets" used for many years in pellet rifles. Powered the early paintball guns.
APG Action Pursuit Games--a paintball magazine
Anti-Siphon A special bulk CO2 tank designed to prevent the gun from sucking liquid.
Barrel Plug A plug that goes in the business end of the marker's muzzle. It prevents projectiles from accidentally leaving the gun.
Bottom Line Usually refers to the local of the CO2 tank on the bottom rear portion of the marker's pistol grip. Desired since it makes siting the gun with a mask on much easier.
Bunker (noun) An object or embankment on the field that a player uses for cover.
Bunker (verb) To charge a bunker and eliminate, a close range, any players hiding behind it.
CA Constant Air--allows marker to use bulk CO2 tanks rather than 12 gram.
Chronograph A device used to measure the velocity (speed) of a paintball coming out of a barrel. The safe maximum speed of a paintball is 300 feet per second.
CO2 Carbon Dioxide--compressed gas used to power markers.
Feeder A larger "hopper" which holds paintball pellets, feeding them into the gun through its bottom.
Feeder Agitator An electronic device which is located at the base of the feeder. The agitator insures that balls feed through the bottom of the feeder and do not "clog" up. Often used on very smooth firing guns like the AutoMag or AutoCocker since these guns "shake" very little. Can also obsolete a Power Feeder since it insures that a pellet will always be available to the gun.
FPS Feet per second. The measurement of speed at which the paintball travels. 300 fps is the maximum velocity a paintball may travel safely.
Harness or Fanny Pack Belt/harness system for carrying loaders of paint so that a player may reload their feeder/hopper on the field during play.
HPA or Compressed Air High pressure compressed air (3000 to 4500 psi) is usually used instead of CO2 in tournament paintball. The use of HPA requires specialized high pressure tanks and regulators which lower the output pressure to what the paintguns can handle.
IPPA International Paintball Players Association Although this organization has disbanded.
KotL The Keeper of the List. See the
PSI PSI stands for Pounds Per Square Inch and is a measurement of pressure.
Remote Hoses and fittings which allow the bulk CO2 tank to be detached from the manufacture's intended location on the gun, then located elsewhere (e.g. on the player's hip).
Siphon Bottle A special CO2 talk designed to suck liquid into the gun.
Speedball Speedball is a game played on small fields with little natural cover. Bunkers usually consist of wooden pallets, tires or other man-made barricades. Speedball fields are designed to allow spectators to see the action. The first speedball field was set up at SC Village in Corona, CA.
Squeegie A device used to clean paint from the barrel of a marker
Squid A new player, also known as a newbie, not a positive term.
Squid Basher A semi-experienced player who plays very agressively against new players to the point of ruining their first game.
TIP# Team Internet Paintball number. See Team Internet in the

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