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Beginners Guide to paintball

You've Never Played Paintball? Before Paintball 101

Lars HindsleyBy Lars Hindsley Fri 16 Aug 2013 12:29 AM EST | 5271 Views
(DL) – This article is the first in a series for beginner paintball players. Here we begin with the true first time paintball experience. We will begin with your first experience. Take what you learn here to your first game of paintball and return to read more when you know you have an interest in learning how to play paintball better.

Before we begin let me warn you. If you have not ever played paintball you are about to have the most memorable day of paintball in your paintball career. No future experience in the sport may ever be as fun as your first time at paintball.
Paintball Player with hit on maskPAINTBALL IS NOT AN EXCLUSIVE CLUB

Paintball is not a complicated sport. I've always maintained, it's not the gun - it's the shooter. You are going to find out quick in a hurry, you are not out-gunned on the paintball field. The ability to shoot lies in the hands of anyone. 


Tall, short, skinny, fat, young, old, male, female - no one can outrun a paintball. This should tell you that you are not going out on your first day to get trounced. 

So many of us are intimidated by what we see before we play.  Search Youtube and you'll find high-speed games, and well-equipped players talking in lingo that makes you feel like you could never belong. Don't expect to encounter these players on your first day of paintball.  Stay with me as I ease you into a world that you will not only be excited to be a part of, but you will find you do belong.

As a new paintball player you are thinking, "Look how they are dressed!" True story, I am a correspondent for Behind the Bunker TV.  One week I needed an interview with a female player. One strolls in through the staging area in full gear. She's got a beautiful Dye (brand) jersey on with pod pack and a paintball gear bag. I think to myself, "She'll be a good subject for my piece."  Turns out she was a brand new player and the boyfriend set her up with the look. It is common that new players dress up to look like a better paintball player. This form of over-compensating takes place a lot. Want to know the guy or girl to be worried about on the paintball field? You'll find out after the first game. They are often unassuming in the staging area, and let their gun do the talking for tmem in game. Things are often not what they seem on a paintball field. So many new players are concerned about how to be good, they are so afraid that they try to look the part before becoming an actual paintball player. 
Bachelor party at paintball
Another first time fear that players decide, "That other player has a better gun."  That may be true.  But it only ever takes one shot of broken paint to remove a player from the field.  Don't think you are below the satisfaction of watching the best player on the field walk off, no longer able to impact the game with their ability because they are now out of the game.  Every player experiences this.  Watch enough videos on Youtube and you'll see players like Oliver Lang walking off the field in the first 15 seconds of a game and he is regarded as the premier top name in speedball paintball.  It only takes one shot to remove a player. FYI, I've mentioned Youtube as a source of instruction.  If you are not already aware, my channel DangerManXX on Youtube has a legion (subscriber base) of thousands dedicated to learning better paintball through my instruction.  Use that resource when finished this article.

So how do you, the beginner paintballer avoid not only the pitfalls of a first time paintball player and immediately make yourself a better player before ever setting foot on a paintball field?

First, take comfort knowing you are not going out to play speedball. You are most likely going to a birthday party, company team building exercise, bachelor party, university fraternity outing, or maybe just a few friends going out to join up with existing paintball parties. You are what are known as  walk-ons.  Walk-on paintball players are usually intermediate players.  Ask them questions, they were beginner paintball players once, they'll be glad answer questions.

Paintball is divided into two major categories with types of play within those categories. Paintball is played either on a speedball field at an intense level with open shooting lanes and blindingly fast use of paint or it's played in the woods where contact with your opposition doesn't take place until you run out and take position. The pace is much slower and forgiving of common mistakes.  The woods are the great equalizer among all players. The field of play can be become so random that the most seasoned of players has little to no advantage over a complete beginner. Why? Because all you need is one shot to remove a player and unlike in speedball, the woods will hide a player and allow them to take free shots that simply do not exist in speedball.
What does this mean to you the beginner?  You need not fear being thrown into a wildly face paced environment where you are overwhelmed.  It's just not going to happen. You will play what is known as 'rec ball', which is paintball in the woods at a recreational level.  Advanced players may play with rec ball players but true speedball players rarely darken the doors of a woodsball field.  Let go of your fear that your first day of paintball be a place where you don't stand a chance.  Parties such as birthday and bachelor parties play in the woods.

Find a reliable advanced player that isn't looking to be the team captain but willing to offer sage advice. They will offer you information as you need it, they are true leaders in action, not bossy know-it-alls. If you can, get them to give you pre-game recon.  They'll tell you were on the field you should run to or play from.  They don't have to be the best players, they may only be field regulars that know how to play each game type. 
Advanced paintball player giving recon to beginner paintballers
Shadowing an advanced player is a good idea, but don't stay on top of them and never double-bunker with them. What is double-bunkering? It is when two or more players hold up in the same bunker, which can be a pallet, a drum, horizontally stacked trees or even a single fat tree.  In rec ball the rule of thumb is one player per bunker. You'll learn more about this in future articles but for now, just remember this rule.  


Many first time paintball players have a terrible fear of numbers. Don't worry, most first time outings result in no more than 30 players where you'll find yourself in a 15 on 15 battle. It's not uncommon to see a few as 8 on 8 or 5 on 5. Field operators find it hard to manage groups with over fifty players at once. It doesn't happen often but you should know, the more the merrier. If there is any concern over more players it may be that some knucklehead on your own team shoots you from behind by mistake. To combat this, it's wise to have all your teammates confirm they are looking at armbands before firing on anyone. Unlike military simulation games (mil sim) or scenario events, asking a player their team color must be answered with the correct color. You can't just lie and say you are red if you are blue. Another great tip is to call out the word "wiskey". Your team mates should respond with "tango".  Use any two names but make sure your team knows them and the other team is not using those same two words. 
Friendly fire in paintball is one thing you need to be most careful of


You need to set up the right mental model before you play paintball for the first time. It should be that you have respect your opponents but not fear.  You don't want to be afraid to move about the field of play. The wrong mental model is what will hold you back from not only enjoying your day – but also doing well at paintball if you fall into the trap of fear. Mild fear eats at us all.  After all, even yours truly has experienced the anxious moments and curious anticipation of the unknown before playing a new field location. What is important to wrap your head around is that we all play to our skill level.  We all take the minimum amount of risk based on the environment we enter.

Examples you ask? What do I mean? The first time you play paintball you see players. You see guns. You don't know the field layout. Everything is an unknown.  That creates fear and trepidation. It's natural.  Field owners want you to play more paintball. They instruct their employees and referees to balance the teams. Your team will have the same amount of 'advanced' players as the other team. And guess what? Remember my point that you will play to your level? They do too! Advanced paintball players will get out on point and take each other out. I speak from many many years of experience. If you play behind a stronger player you'll calmly come up with them or behind them and take more risks based on your ability.


Allow me to help you with this analogy of the swimming pool.

When you approach a pool for the first time, what do you do?  You stick your toe in the water. You are not sure if it is too cold, so you stick your foot in. It's cold!  You have just carefully examined what you can expect by taking very small risks.  But at some point you must take a bigger, risk.  To plunge into the pool of cold water knowing that as you move about, you'll get used to it and you'll enjoy yourself. 

Paintball is the very same. I've played paintball for over ten years and every week I witness someone new to paintball. I can tell you from years of experience, two things happen. Within a few games that players' skill becomes evident, they may make beginner paintball mistakes but they don't fear the game and it gets under a new paintball player's skin to play paintball with the best of them. They don't feel inferior. They just want to get as much playing time out of every game that they can get.  Nothing sucks more than having just started a paintball game and you are the first one out, sitting at the picnic tables waiting for your friends to come back and explain why you were shot out. Players quickly realize they want to play smarter and last the entire game. I'll reveal those secrets in future articles.

The other thing I witness is new players are not thinking about any of the things they thought about the previous night before they got to the paintball field.  They (you) stop thinking about better players or does it hurt to get hit (it varies - read future articles on this), or how you are dressed, all of those things vanish.  That guy with the nine hundred dollar rig is no more a threat than you are.  The question of fear in paintball is erased and replaced by a hunger for knowledge.


No. Well, some may but not so much that you are out-gunned. Let's take this in steps. When it comes to rentals, field operators can't survive on faulty equipment. They do themselves and you the player a huge service by stocking all the same guns.  Tippmann 98's, BT's, Valken SW-1's and there are others.  Whichever it is, they will all be the same.  And even if they are not, the velocity of which they all shoot must be the same. Generally that is at 280 feet per second which is about 190 mph if you are curious.  What you need to know is the walk-on player that brought that pretty shiny gun has no speed advantage over you.  The field operator will require all players to chrono before games start.
Rental Paintball GunsRentals are already set to shoot at 280 fps, you won't need to concern yourself with this pregame ritual. Why do players have shiny expensive guns?  In general they pay to have a versitile gun that allows them to play both woodsball (rec ball) and speedball (tournament level paintball). When they play with you in rec ball, they cannot shoot in any semi-auto mode. They must shoot like you, one ball at a time.  I said yes they do have an advantage. It is also true their gun can shoot at a faster rate with an electronic trigger and an electronically fed paintball loader (hopper). This is a slight advantage but nothing that should give them and unfair advantage. 


Still there are certain first time paintball player questions that are worth having answers to before you get to the paintball field. You want to be prepared. You want to know "What do I wear?"

Wear what you want in terms of comfort.  Leave the hoodie at home. Nothing says, "I'm afraid of being hit with a paintball" more than a hoodie. Sure if your neck is cold take it, but they are generally of no use.  What are the things you should wear? Head cover isn't a bad idea if you want paintballs to bounce off your head. After all you will be exposing your face a lot. If you are not hit in the mask, you may get plunked on the forehead. A knit beanie or took won't make you look silly unless it's summer. In which case, wrapping a bandana around itself and tying that across your forehead is an acceptable and fashionable solution. Gloves are not a bad idea.  I wear them, as I'm an aggressive forward player.  This means I'll get shot from close range on occasion and getting shot in the fingers from close range can be painful. Think of car door slamming on a finger. Yeah. That. Cleats are good too. Break out your soccer or baseball cleats for good traction.  Last, kneepads.  For me, they are a great answer for sliding.  If you like to throw your body around, they are a must. Why am I not talking more about body cover?  There is a great reason for this. You are playing woodsball. Your field owner will not allow bunkering, if they do tell them you want 'no bunkering'. This means you will not be shot from close range.  Paintballs from a distance don't hurt or sting.  Don't get wrapped up thinking you are going to get shot up. The only way that happens is because you want it to happen. You decide at some point you want to be more aggressive and you are willing to take a closer range shot because you have become more comfortable as a paintball player.
Keep it safe when playing paintball
You should be ready for your first day of paintball now.  Take a camera, save the memories and don't forget this golden rule, "If you are not getting shot at, you ain't having fun."

Want to read more as a beginner paintball player?  Read Lars Hindsley's Beginner's Guide to Paintball. 
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