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Paintball - Rules of the Field

Updated on February 23, 2012
Paintball safety sign.
Paintball safety sign. | Source

Safety Smackdown

Because of the nature of the sport, paintball has a buffet of safety rules associated with it. So much so, that the resulting reports make paintball statistically one of the safest sports in the world.

There are still injuries, and i don't mean the welts & bruises from paintball hits. Stuff like sprained ankles and other such ailments associated from physical activity. The occasional shot to the face while someone was not wearing a mask, which rarely ends well. A couple times compressed air tanks have exploded (user error).

Very few casualties are associated with paintball, only three i can think of in the 30+ years of its history: two involved full co2 tank bottles coming unscrewed from their valves and flying off from the pressure to hit a person in the head, and someone dying from heat stroke/dehydration. Preventable with the proper precautions.

This sign I found online covers the basics, which i'll go over. And then some.

Few masks of me & my crew.
Few masks of me & my crew.

Not the face!

First rule of paintball: GOGGLES ON.

Second rule of paintball: see first rule.

There's only one piece of equipment absolutely required to play paintball, and it's not the marker - it's the mask. Or goggles, as they are often referred, due to the original eye protection being simple shop glasses or goggles. But over time, and with the aid of the American Society of Testing & Materials (ASTM), these goggles have become full-fledged masks, covering pretty much the entire face and ears, and a few covering the whole head.

Thanks to the ASTM, there are specific guidelines as to the durability of the masks, so always wear ASTM-certified masks. That may seem like common sense but there have been instances where people try to make their own, or purchase so-called "safe for paintball" masks online from sketchy sellers.

Whenever at a paintball field, you are required to wear a mask at all times when beyond the safety netting, whether you're playing or not. Paintballs fly every which way during a game, no one can ensure your safety unless you either have a mask or ASTM-certified netting protecting your face.

Velocity adjustment knob on a spyder.
Velocity adjustment knob on a spyder.

Mind your speed

Majority of paintball markers have adjustable velocities. Heck, with the right know-how, any marker can be adjusted. But safety first! The law in the United States dictates that a marker cannot be adjusted beyond 300 feet per second (fps), which translates roughly to 200 mph, for reference. Anything beyond that can be harmful, not only to other people, but to the marker itself.

But many fields limit velocities to 285 fps or less, primarily for co2 use, as co2 can cause velocity spikes. Also, a paintball hitting you at less velocities is a relatively nicer experience.

Fields use chronographs, devices that can measure velocity, to ensure everyone is shooting within safe levels. Everyone is required to chrono before each game.

Couple barrel covers.
Couple barrel covers.

Keep it covered

When off the field, when masks are no longer required, marker safety is still a concern. Markers have safety mechanisms, either a mechanical safety button or simply being turned off (for electronic markers).

But we can't always rely on those safety mechanisms, especially if people don't always remember to use them but especially since other players and referees can't always tell just by looking. So everyone is required to use a barrel-blocking device.

Barrel plugs often come with lower end markers and were used a lot in the past, but they've been discovered to be rather unsafe because the plugs can be shot off. So now barrel covers are used - reinforced ballistic nylon pouches with heavy duty bunjee cords to secure them to the markers. Very effective. Very necessary. Also known as barrel socks or barrel condoms.

Old teammate, with an obvious hit.
Old teammate, with an obvious hit.

When you're out, you're out

Eliminations in paintball are seemingly straight-forward - you get hit, you're out. But sometimes you can't tell, or don't know what counts.

  • Any hit the size of a quarter or larger counts.
  • Any hit on any part of you, and/or your gear (mask, marker, hopper, pack, etc), counts.
  • If you think you got hit but can't tell, signal a ref to check.
  • If you got hit and you can tell, or it's obvious to anyone else, you're out.

Some people don't know what to do after they get hit. Here's the steps to getting out.

  • Say you're out, loud enough for everyone to hear.
  • Raise your marker up. Refs don't tell you how high, but i always raise it just enough to cover my mask, with my elbow tucked to my chest, with my other arm in the same position. You'll see why.
  • Swiftly walk directly to the nearest sidelines. I say swiftly because there's a chance you can still get hit again, usually when you need to walk through crossfire to leave. That's why I always hold my arms as previously mentioned, so I don't take hits to the pits or ribs.

We'd see a lot of hares at my home field. All animals are friends of the ballers: remember that!
We'd see a lot of hares at my home field. All animals are friends of the ballers: remember that! | Source

Be responsible

Pretty broad, pretty general. But there are some specifics in regards to marker safety:

  • No firing at "dead" players. And no firing by "dead" players. "Dead" refers to players shot out of the game or spectating.
  • No firing at wildlife. Paintball is a game. It's for fun, not for cruelty.
  • No blind-firing, where you shoot without looking. If you can't see your target, then you'll be shooting the wrong people.
  • No firing around people not wearing masks. Mainly for the staging areas, the safe zones, but also if someone happens to lose their mask in a game. Any player that sees this (if the ref does not) must yell "Blind Man" until everyone has put their markers down and the hapless player has put his/her mask back on.
  • No overshooting, which means to shoot someone way more than necessary. Once a ball breaks on a person, they're out - they don't need more than 2 shots to make it obvious.

There are also rules in regards to the environment, like bunkers & anything else used for cover:

  • Hide behind them, not on them. Paintball fields don't allow climbing on obstacles, trees, etc, it's just not very safe. Falls hurt more than paintball hits.
  • Leave them where they lay. Can't move bunkers. Not so much as a safety concern (which it can be), but technically anything you carry counts as a piece of gear, and a hit on any piece of gear counts, so you gain no edge from doing so.


These are some rules of etiquette, and one particularly odd, unwritten rule.

  • No cheating! Only one way of cheating, and that's playing on. When you get a hit but continue to play, that's cheating. When you get a hit and wipe it off to hide it, that's cheating.
  • Stay calm! Paintball hits don't feel great, and sometimes tempers can flare when you take more than a couple at once. Try your best to keep your cool, it's just a game.
  • Respect the refs! Referees are there to do a job, so let them do it. Sometimes they gotta yell at players to be heard over the noise, don't take it personal.

This is the odd one. And it's about pods. Players often drop pods in a game, and they're easily lost. So what to do? Grab any pod similar to your own. There is an unwritten pod rule, where a player owns the value of his/her pods, but not the pods themselves. That's why many seasoned players opt for cheaper pods, because there's no telling where they'll end up. Sounds a little messed up, especially for owners of expensive pods like Dye Locklids, but either you keep track of them better, or accept the Pod Rule.


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      Liam Walker 5 years ago

      Hey You have answered a lot of paintball questions I have had on Yahoo Answers and I just wanted to thank you for all of your help. Also I have just read all your blogs and they were all really helpful. Thank you


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