One of the first things anyone gets asked about paintball is “Does it hurt?” or “Is it safe?” which of course, the answer is … well, as with most things.. it depends. Here is the Asylum guide to safe paintballing.
We don’t have access to New Zealand statistics, but according to SocialPaintball.com the United States has 0.2 injuries per 100,000 exposures for paintball a year.
That compares to:
- 3.8 injuries per 100,000 exposures for Tackle Football and Downhill Skiing a year
- 3.7 injuries per 100,000 exposures for Ice Hockey a year
- 2.8 injuries per 100,000 exposures for Soccer a year
- 2.8 injuries per 100,000 exposures for Baseball a year
Even then most paintball related injuries either occur in “renegade” type paintball situations in back yard, farms or other areas that aren’t official paintball fields with basic safety standards. Of these injuries most are grazes from sliding, or sprains from running the wrong way, and of course the odd bruise or welt from the paintballs themselves. These are the same types injuries you might get playing rugby, netball, cricket or soccer. Eye injuries are very rare, and simply do not happen if people are following proper safety procedures.
In this article we will give you a no-nonsense look at paintball safety, and what it means for players, and their guardians.
Goggles are the most important part of paintball safety, and must be worn at all times when you are around a paintball marker. Paintball goggles are made specifically for the sport of paintball, undergo rigourous safety testing to American insurance requirements (which are very, very high) including close range shots from what is effectively a shotgun firing ball bearings. Suffice to say paintball goggles exceed the requirements for paintball safety in every way possible.
A good set of paintball goggles should fit well, have anti fog lenses (or thermal lenses if you can afford them), cover the full face and ears, have straps in good condition and fit tight without being uncomfortable. Home made, ski goggles, shooting goggles, tactical/military goggles or airsoft equipment are not suitable, and do not provide the coverage or protection.
Regardless of what marketers and paintball fields might say, there is no “best” goggle for rentals or tournament players, different systems suit different applications, but as a rule anything from reputable companies such as JT, DYE, Virtue, HK Army, Proto, V-Force etc it suitable and will do the job. Lenses should be replaced every season, or if they have been damaged.
Players who removed their masks on the field or in goggles on areas will find themselves removed from the field and potentially not allowed to play. Fields take a zero tolerance approach to goggle safety, so don’t be offended if someone yells at you for lifting goggles – we value our customers health and safety.
For the last twenty years the paintball industry has worked on a voluntary standard of velocity for a .68 calibre paintball to be that of 300FPS and under. At this speed it is considered safe and unable to do any permanant damage to the person hit (providing they are wearing goggles). The speed is enforced by radar chronographs, which are handheld and desk mounted devices that measure the speed of each paintball. Often markers are tested in game to ensure complaince.
A rate of fire cap is often enforced to prevent overshooting as well, especially in paintball tournaments. We usually suggest one of 12.5BPS which is again, an international best practise. Many makers also have a mechanical safety, which while useful, is not visable to our staff, so we require the use of a barrel blocking device, often referred to as a barrel condom to be used at all times when a marker is not on the field, regardless of whether it is loaded or not.
In the past what was called a “barrel plug” was sufficient, but now we require what is known as a barrel condom type design as a bare minimum. While barrel plugs can be shot out with an electronic marker, the condoms have a piece of elastic to hold them on. Newer designs are made of high strength rubber, which are impossible to shoot through and we recommend parents choose these for their child’s marker. The best currently are made by HK Army and Exalt.
Paintball markers also have what is known as firing modes, such as ramping or full auto. The law in New Zealand has recently changed to allow the importation of markers with such modes, and these are safe if used by experienced players. For new players we require straight semi auto (one shot one pull) to prevent runaway guns.
Another important piece of safety equipment is the netting used in paintball fields. This must be strong enough to stop a paintball from passing through and be high enough so paintballs cannot fly over the top. This is a physical barrier between spectators without masks and paintballers and is a requirement for any safe paintball field. Netting should be regularly inspected for holes and damage.
Clothing, Footwear & Padding:
Padding isn’t a requirement for paintball, but for regular players is a good investment, though its use isn’t as obvious as you might think. You can purchase slide shorts, knee pads and elbow pads as well as chest protectors, and while these provide protection against paintballs, their main use is to bounce paint in tournaments, and to protect against knocks and grazes when sliding and diving on the ground as well as provide support to the wrists.
Instead of padding, new and recreational players should wear comfortable loose fitting clothing, such as a hoodie and cargo pants. We do recommend gloves, with half gloves being the best (so you can feel the trigger when you are shooting) to prevent painful finger shots. Footwear is also important and depends on the playing surface. If you are playing on a sports field, plastic cleats or studs (not metal) are the best for traction and speed, if you are playing indoors or CQB we recommend boots with ankle support, but trainers are just as good – remember, leave the jandals at home!
It goes without saying, booze and guns don’t mix. Fields do not allow anyone to drink alcohol before playing paintball, safe the drinks for relaxing after the match. Not only does it impair your judgement, but it also makes you sweat which increases the likely hood of your goggles fogging up.
Do you have any questions about paintball safety? Either email us or post below in the comments and we will do our best to answer your question.