Paintball gear comes in many different shapes, styles, and degrees of quality. The sport can be relatively cheap to get into with starter kits and initial gearing considerations, but many avid players spend thousands of dollars on top-of-the-line items and accessories. However, to get out on the field with an accurate marker and gear of reasonable quality may not cost as much as you think. These basic items should be all you need to get playing and build your skills.
Essential Paintball Gears
The most important (and probably most expensive) item to get for paintballing is a marker. Paintball markers, also known as paintball guns, are the only way to shoot paint unless you want to pull back a slingshot for each round. Competition-level paintball markers can sell for $500 or more even from secondhand sources, but good guns from quality manufacturers can be had for $100 or less. My first paintball marker was a Tippmann Cronus, which can sell for around $100 new in most major stores. It was an excellent paintball marker for beginners because it did all of the things below relatively well.
The most important element to look for in a paintball marker is accuracy. Cheaper markers from off-brand manufacturers may not be as accurate as more expensive options or products from companies with better quality control. There’s nothing worse than the feeling of watching your shots miss when your cone of fire is centered on your target. No matter what your budget is, you should make sure that the marker you get is accurate.
Beyond accuracy, you should look for a marker that is reliable and inexpensive. Reliability is critical, as less reliable guns may cost more in the long run as they require repairs and replacement parts. Picking something cheap allows you to gather experience and learn the ropes without investing too much initially. Used paintball markers can be a great value, as well – I sold my Cronus in perfect working order, and the buyer got into paintball with a nice gun for a low price.
Choosing a paintball mask can be tough, especially when under budget constraints. I’ve gone through two or three paintball masks without finding the perfect choice for comfort and durability. In general, more expensive masks tend to be made from better materials and have more effective padding. But, because each person’s facial structure may be different, I think that the best way to find the ideal mask for you is to visit a local pro shop and try on some of their offerings.
Cheap paintball masks offer enough protection for any kind of play, but there are a few things you should look out for that may indicate a better or worse choice. For example, all paintball masks include holes to breathe through in their bottom halves, but some masks may have special designs that help to prevent paint splatters from reaching through and coating your face. All paintball masks should use some form of impact-resistant transparent material in their upper half, but whether this is cheap plastic or higher-grade materials with tinting and better durability can vary significantly even in the same price bracket.
You might also want to keep your other headgear in mind when choosing a mask. If you’re going to wear a baseball cap, bandana, helmet, or any other type of headwear over your mask, you need to make sure it fits. Some masks (especially cheaper ones) are bulky and may interfere with these items. Again, I think the best way to avoid problems like these is to visit a pro shop and try things out in person.
CO2 or Compressed Air Systems
Most paintball markers rely on tanks of compressed carbon dioxide (CO2) gas or compressed normal air. These tanks provide the pressure needed to launch paintballs and, with higher quality tanks and higher gas psi, can mean the difference between close, inaccurate shots and long-distance and accurate shooting. Which type of tank you get should depend on your local facilities – if the nearest pro shop or field to you offers CO2 refills, then you might want to go with a CO2 tank, since a single refill can last much longer. However, compressed air tends to be much more reliable than CO2, especially in very hot or icy weather, so if your local ranges have paintball-specific air compressors to use, you might also want to get one of these tanks. The facilities near me tend to use CO2 refill stations, so I use a single tank that I refill before going out for the day.
The container atop your marker that holds paintballs is called a hopper. The only functions of this device are to store paintballs and to feed them into the marker one by one. Most hoppers are simple enough and very inexpensive, but high-end hoppers designed to resist malfunctions can get very expensive. I recently upgraded to a more expensive hopper, but it’s not much of an improvement over my old, cheap one. If you’re fine with having to shake the gun every now and again to clear up a jam, then you should be happy to use a simple plastic hopper.
Choosing your paint depends mostly on the weather conditions and range you’ll be visiting. Extreme heat or cold may call for weather-specific paintballs to avoid malfunctions and to make sure they splatter correctly. For normal play, you don’t have to spend a fortune on high-grade competition level paint, but you also should not go with bargain bin options, either. I spend a little bit extra to get paintballs with thicker shells to ensure that they do not explode midair as thinner shells sometimes do.
You can get started playing paintball for as little as $100, but spending a bit extra can get you extra comfort and durability out of your gear. But, before you spend anything, make sure to visit some paintball facilities that offer rental gear so you can get an understanding of each piece of equipment and figure out what you might need. Then, once you know what you want, you can build the perfect kit for your needs.