I cannot count the number of times that I have met some newbie on the field who has a great marker, awesome equipment, and the worst possible paintballs for the situation. No matter how much you spend on a competition-grade marker, shooting the wrong paintballs leads to poor accuracy, bounced rounds, and dirtier gun components. That said, expensive top-quality paint may not be your best choice. Most of what I buy falls under the budget category – with a few exceptions.
Types of Paint
Budget paintballs, which usually cost around 2 cents per round, should be sufficient for most of your paintball events. Most of my play involves a casual trip to the woods or arenas around the state, and without anything on the line, I don’t mind losing some consistency to save money. Of course, I would never use low-cost paintballs in a competitive environment.
Some of the best budget paint I have seen is the Empire Heat. Empire is a well-known and trusted company that honors its warranties, which may come in handy if you are unfortunate enough to receive a bad batch. The Heat usually comes with an orange fill color and can be found everywhere on store shelves and in online inventories.
Another budget-conscious paintball I have been buying more of is the Tippmann Combat series. Priced about the same as the Empire Heat, Tippmann paintballs have many more fill color choices and maintain effective ballistics. Picking up two cases in different colors is an easy way to get a neighborhood woodsball event running.
No matter what product you decide on, make sure you buy from a well-known brand. Off-brand paintball manufacturers may produce paintballs with toxic fillings, bad shells that either burst midair or bounce off of targets, and fills that can damage your marker if they break inside the chamber or barrel. Avoid the off-brand products and pay a bit extra for quality stuff from Tippmann and others.
Whether you’re a professional paintballer or entering into a locally-held tournament, competition-grade paint should be an automatic purchase for any competitive event. While much more expensive to shoot regularly than budget-oriented paintballs, these paints are not too much extra for the occasional time you use them. A case of a thousand competition rounds usually costs somewhere between $35 and $45.
My top choice in competition paint is none other than the Valken Graffiti. I can attest to the exceptional performance of these rounds out of every marker I own. They are used as tournament-provided paint for many of the top competitive leagues in the world. These are also some of the most widely-available tournament paintballs on the market; I find them at my local Wal-Mart.
For a slightly lower-cost option, check out the Empire Premium line. These rounds usually cost a bit less than the Graffiti. Like the Graffiti, the Empire Premium paintballs have better manufacturing standards to ensure better consistency on the field. In the past, they jammed up with one of my markers, so I stopped buying them. However, I know many people who purchase and use them in competitive events, so I doubt that many others share my bad experience.
No matter how expensive they are, paintballs that lack a temperature-resistant shell and fill composition end up performing poorly in cold weather. Below freezing, your paint can freeze, resulting in bruises rather than splats on your unfortunate friends. When conditions are cold, but above freezing, standard rounds may still come with some issues. Depending on the brand and product, they may crack, shrink, bounce off targets, or explode at the muzzle.
To avoid these issues, many companies make special winter paintballs that resist the effects of cold temperatures. My cold-weather paint of choice is the Valken Chill – while expensive, these paintballs offer excellent consistency even in extra-cold weather. They are slightly less accurate than tournament-grade paint but definitely beat standard offerings in a head-to-head comparison.
If you primarily enjoy backyard shooting at cans, bottles, and other targets, then a bag of rubber balls may be worth purchasing. Most markers can fire these with ease since the materials used have around the same density as a filled paintball. However, it would be best if you did not use these balls against people. They tend to hit much harder than paint. I bought a bag of these long ago for backyard target practice, but I have not used them in years, if I am honest.
Your fancy match-grade marker will lose to an entry-level one in a competitive match if you bring the wrong ammo. I have seen it before, and I will see it again. Use standard-grade paint for your standard play and high-quality stuff when it counts. And please, use winter paint when the weather grows colder. I am getting sick of being hit by frozen paintballs.