Not all outdoor activities are sedate - or peaceful! Paintballing is one of a growing number or high-adrenaline outdoor sports that's been growing in popularity - here's everything you need to know.
There's loads of paintball centres around the country - many of them are set in wooded areas, abandoned farms and similar, as these make for exciting venues. You can go along as a group, but you can go with just a couple of people, or on your own, although you will be expected to join a team. Most centres will supply the paintball marker (gun) plus ammunition, overalls, mask and goggles. You are often allowed to bring your own, but check in advance.
For the UK, a paintball marker is considered an airgun, so while you can own one with no problem, you can only use it on private land - this means no paintball games in the local park! Unless you are lucky enough to have access to a substantial area, an organised paintball centre is normally the best place to go.
If it's your first time to play the game, you may feel a little nervous! You normally begin with a briefing familiarising you with paintball gear and equipment then proceed to basic paintball rules, which are designed to keep the game fun and safe for all players. The biggest worry of new players is getting hurt, but with the right gear and appropriate rules this is minimal.
Paintballing is all about playing by the rules; for everyone's safety participants who are found breaking even minor rules are penalised and may well be removed from the game.
1. The objective of play
All players should know the goal of the specific game. Are you playing capture the flag or a simple elimination game? Be sure you understand the unique rules that come with the game. One of the most popular is the 'capture the flag' game where each team tries to capture the other teams flag and return it to their station without getting hit.
There is often a time limit set on the game as well. Paintballing is physically involving, hence the need to keep the game short; nobody likes playing a game that lasts for hours. Long games are not fun for beginners or players who get out right at the start.
2. Creating a Balanced Team
Some people may be new to the sport while others may have a little more experience. As such, a paintball team should have a fair number of both experienced and new players on each side. Large groups may require some coloured clothes or tapes to identify their team members, if the providers have not already supplied these. However, if there are just a few people on a team, it won't be too difficult to remember who is on the team.
3. Elimination (getting out)
Knowing who is 'out' is critical for the game to work well.
The basic rule is that a player is eliminated from the game when they are hit by a paintball that breaks and leaves a visible mark of paint. There are variations of paintball rules as some games may require multiple hits on other areas of the body like the arms for the player to be eliminated.
Other games, however, consider hits on clothing, parts of the body, gear, or other objects that the player is wearing as elimination. As such, hits that are made on a backpack, paintball markers, flag or pod lead to elimination. Rules on how big the paint mark should be also varying. For example, paint marks from a ball that breaks on another object before striking the player may not count in some games. If it's your first time playing, make sure to wear thick and protective paintball gear in order to reduce the chance of the paintball breaking on you. Most organised paintball centres will provide a coverall, but some padding underneath this is welcome!
Note that players may be eliminated from the game for other reasons like calling themselves out by shouting "I'm out!" or "I'm hit." In such scenarios, the player may have paint marks caused by paint grenades or mines or as a result of getting a penalty. Players found cheating, e.g., by removing the hit and continuing to play, which is commonly known as whipping, face severe penalties that include being banned from the centre. For pro tournaments, a three for one penalty is called where the player found cheating and three other players are eliminated from the game - it discourages cheating!
4. Calling out a 'paintcheck'
Sometimes, a player who has been hit on the back can't tell if the ball broke. In such a scenario, they should call out a 'paint check' for the closest player to inspect the hit. If you have been hit, you exit the battlefield while other players return to position and the play resumes as soon as the person who initiates the check shouts "game on."
The player who has been hit should raise their marker over their head and shout that they have been hit and go to the dead area. Keeping the marker over your head and shouting that you have been hit deters your opponents from shooting at you!
5. The Dead Zone
The dead zone is the area far off from the field where players go after they are eliminated. It's also where extra paint and gear are left. The dead zone is located far off from the field to avoid being hit by opponents.
This is a 'safe area' where you can get ready for the next game or compare notes with other eliminated players.
6. The Surrender option
Most rules provide the surrender option. It allows a player within a distance of 10-15 feet from an opponent to offer the other player a chance to surrender. If the player does not respond fast enough, you may shoot them. However, it does not permit you to make multiple shots or headshots.
It's there because being hit at close range with a paintball can hurt!
Always wear protective gear (top and trousers or a overall designed for paintball, plus a mask and goggles) and never remove them during the game. Gloves and sturdy shoes or boots are a good idea
Some parts of the play area may be out of bounds for safety reasons. Don't go in these areas
Play does not start until both teams confirm they are ready and an umpire or player shouts 'game on'
Play will be paused for 'paint check' or other reasons defined by the centre. Stop firing immediately.
Any player who is out should shout 'out', hold their marker over their head and go to the dead zone. You must not shoot at 'out' players.
Don’t fire if you or players around you are not wearing proper eye protection
Never use other ammunition than the standard paintball ammo
Use a barrel plug if available to prevent accidental shots
Do not drink alcohol before or during the game
Don't smoke on the paintball field - return to the dead zone or a safe area
Avoid shooting other players at close range
Avoid head shots - for many centres these won't count anyway
When playing paintball, do not leave the play area or shoot outside it - you must remain within the defined boundaries
Players are not allowed to enter the safety area carrying their paintball markers
During the game, avoid standing in the open space for too long
Store your paintball marker uncharged and unloaded
Paintball is a fun way to GetOutside. While the rules above are common, each site will tend to have it's own variations based on the game types, the play area and the players involved.
If you get good at paintball there are organised teams, and even national and international championships to join in with.
By Amanda Wilks
Amanda Wilks is an avid paintball player and a passionate writer. She has a keen interest in everything related to health, sports and adventure and she writes on these topics as often as possible. If you want to read more of Amanda’s work, visit her Twitter profile.