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Buying a Paintball Gun
A Typical Paintball Game
What to look for in buying your first Paintball Gun
So, you’re thinking of getting into paintball or perhaps you have a child who has been bugging you about it. Probably the first thing to remember is that while some continue to refer to it as a “gun” most of the sport refer to them as a “marker” in that you “mark” your target as being out. The paintball industry has tried for some time to try and separate themselves from actual firearms and in fact they should as the two are very different with very different purposes. So, now that that's out of the way, what to do first.
Step One: Go Play!
So the most common advice before buying a paintball marker is to go play a few games first, this will allow you to see what you like and what’s out there. Most all actual paintball fields/parks have rental markers and other equipment but while you are there playing you will also get a chance to see what others have and are using and you are likely to see something that catches your eye. This however brings up probably the first question you want to ask yourself when buying a Paintball marker; where am I going to play? Perhaps you don’t even have a paintball field near you and you just plan on playing in your backyard with friends.
Step Two: Where are you going to play?
There are really two basic types of paintball, Woodsball and Speedball. The first is the type most people probably know of. These are the people who just get together out in a field or some backwoods and shoot at each other, sort of capture the flag wearing camos. The other type is what the younger extreme sport generation may be aware of. Speedball is played on a more typical athletic type field about the size of a basketball court with blow up barriers. In this form of play people dress in bright flashy clothes with company logos. Speedball is typically played at most actual paintball fields although many will also have a “Woodsball” course, many however will not as Speedball has sort of taken over as the dominant form of the game. If you are near an Indoor field they are most likely also playing speedball just that it’s indoors.
A typical Speedball game or match is over in just a few minutes, they are fast, chaotic and noisy with lots paintballs being fired. A woodsball game on the other hand can go 10-30 minutes or even hours if it’s a scenario game (a game with set goals such as release the captured prisoners). Also, woodsball games are more likely to be cat and mouse type games with people hiding in wait or trying to sneak up on you. For that reason woodsball can be much less expensive to play.
A Typical Speedball Game
The Tippmann A5
Step Three: Picking the Marker for you
For this reason there are some fairly significant differences in the markers used in each type of game. Typically, in a woodsball game, markers are colored black or earth tones in an attempt to camouflage them. Also, in woodsball it’s not nearly as important to fire so many paintballs (although many people do) so rate of fire is not as important although still a factor. Many woodsballers are satisfied with a simple semi-automatic marker and choose not to have a fully automatic marker. Because woodsball games are longer carrying lots of paintballs becomes more problematic anyhow so people tend to shoot less.
Most companies make woodsball guns but Tippmann Sports dominates this field and makes some of the most common types of woodsball markers. These tend to look more like real guns (some purposely look like real guns for scenario players) are heavy but built well and are very reliable. Woodsball guns may also have stocks to rest on your shoulder again, like a real gun. The two most popular Tippmann markers are the Tippmann 98 and the Tippmann A5, in fact most places that rent markers will be renting you a Tippmann 98, they are probably one of the most common paintball markers in existence. The sort of upgrade to the ‘98 is the A5 which has several upgrades including Tippmann’s own cyclone feed system that uses excess air to automatically feed paintballs into the marker. Another fine choice is the BT-4 made by Empire Paintball, while cheaper than the Tippmann 98 it’s incorporates almost the exact same internal parts while also including some of the A5’s upgrades including its unmatched reliability and toughness. The BT-4 can be had for just over a hundred dollars while the Tippmann 98 will typically be a bit more than that and the A5 is generally close to 200.
If it looks like Speedball may be your game, you have a few more things to think about. Firstly, most speedball guns are going to run on High Pressure Air (HPA) rather than CO2 or at least run better on HPA due to their typically higher rate of fire. Color and design of the marker are up to the user of course but it’s not uncommon to see wild colors for speedball guns and under a high gloss as well. One can find an entry level speedball marker at big box stores such as Walmart that already incorporate an electronic trigger capable of full auto and burst shooting modes for under 200 dollars. Keep in mind however that with a fast shooting marker you will also need a fast feed system (the Hopper) so be prepared to shell out at least another 40 -50 dollars for a good electronic feed system to keep up with your marker. Kingman and Spyder are very common entry level markers in the Speedball area. Sometimes it’s possible to find an entire starter set with the marker mask (a mask is a must!) tank and Hopper for under 200 dollars.
Don't forget the used Market!
Whatever you pick as your first marker you can expect that you will want to upgrade before your first year of playing is out, it’s just the nature of the sport. Also don’t plan on getting a lot for your old marker if you try and sell it. Used entry level markers generally go for less than half their retail value, so, it’s a good idea to look into buying used for your first marker. Look into Craigslist, the local paper, friends who already play or your local field. Now, remember to be safe, wear your mask and get out and play!
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