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Things I Wish I’d Known Then – Part 1

Posted by Eric on 16.11.09

Welcome New Players!

People like to share hobbies with friends and paintball is no different. One friend brings another along for a game and suddenly a new player is hooked. But let’s admit it, paintball is an obscure sport. Unlike more traditional activities like basketball, baseball, or soccer, most people don’t get much, if any, exposure to paintball as they grow up. So unlike more traditional sports you probably will be starting from scratch in learning this game. You may not know what questions to ask about this game or where to get answers. It’s to these new players, and perhaps some veterans who have forgotten a few things themselves, that I direct this article. I don’t claim to have all the answers but I can at least share a few things I’ve picked up over the last nine years. Over the next week or two I’ll share a few things to help you out. Whether you’ve hit a few games already or are interested in trying the great sport of paintball for the first time, here is what I wish I’d known when I started playing.

Just What Is It?

In essence, paintball is a game of tag. Basically Player A shoots gelatin pellets at Player B in an attempt to tag Player B out. Yes, it’s played with guns. Yes, you shoot at other players. Yes, some people dress up in camouflage. Yes, some players modify their paintball guns to look like real firearms. But regardless of what popular media may portray, it’s not a violent or war-glorifying game. It is not a warfare simulation game, though it can and has been used for training purposed by military and law enforcement agencies. In all, I’ve been injured less in paintball than I have been in recreational basketball, football, or soccer games. I’ve also seen sportsmanship on the paintball field to be at least on par with, or in some instances better than, some church athletics games. All together, it’s a great hobby not much different from golf, bowling, or skiing. And like those other fine activities, paintball requires specialized equipment. So unless you want to stick with rental equipment you’ll need to get your own gear. Let’s start with a few points about what you’ll need.

One Size Does Not Fit All

The first thing you need to understand is that paintball doesn’t have any “official size and weight” standards for the most part. As such there really is no “best” gear available. Think instead of what works best for you, your play style, and your budget. That means you need to do some research of your own on gear, fields, play styles, and other aspects of the sport.

Where do you start with this? You’ve made one step in visiting this site. Talk to any friends or family you have that may play. Find the local pro shops and fields then talk with the employees and players there. Everyone started somewhere and any respectable player can understand your position so they won’t snub your questions. Go online to search for equipment reviews and browse through paintball forums. Ignore recommendations that say, “Get this, it ROCKS!” or that just state what’s already listed on the packaging. Pay attention to reviews that give detailed information on a product as well as why it works so well. Find out what you can but take everything with a grain of salt. Everyone will have their own opinions and biases and it’s very difficult to be completely objective when giving a review.

A Good Mask is THE Priority

Safety should be your number one concern in any sport. The most important piece of equipment you will need is a good mask, period. I’m continually amazed at people who drop hundreds or even thousands of dollars on everything else but settle for the cheapest mask they see. You’ve only got one head, one face, and one set of eyes so protect them well.

When shopping for a mask, it’s usually best to go to a store where you can try it on. You will wear it for hours at a time so it needs to be comfortable. Some masks are made with soft, flexible material, some are more rigid. Generally softer material is more comfortable since it can flex around your head easier. Next make sure the mask fits securely as it’s usually a bad thing to have it fall off in the middle of a game. Tighten the strap, shake your head around, and try to slap it off. Make sure it won’t come off unless deliberately pulled.

Lenses are an important part of any mask as they not only protect your eyes but also determine how well you can see. Some masks restrict peripheral vision more than others; this may or may not be a big deal to you. A big problem with most lenses comes from fogging. Water vapor from your breath, humidity in the air, and even sweat evaporating off your face can condensate on the inside of a lens making it difficult to see. Double pane lenses, thermal lenses, or special anti-fog coatings will resist this. Other masks have small fans to better vent the air around the inside of the lens. You can buy a small bottle of anti-fog treatment for under $10 to help with this. To test a lens, simply exhale directly on the inside of it to see how well it resists fogging.

If you’re satisfied with the fit and lens, check how well the mask covers your face. Some masks are designed for fuller coverage while some are meant to be smaller and sleeker. Depending on the size of your head, you may have a limited selection. The latest trend in paintball has been has led to slimmer, smaller masks so it’s especially important to try on masks if you’ve got a bigger noggin. Which one feels right to you is simply personal preference. Just because a mask is more expensive doesn’t always mean its better.

After finding a mask that satisfies you, don’t think about the price, just get it. Can you really put a price tag on proper safety? You can get that $10 Wally World special, but are you willing to stake your vision for the rest of your life on it? A good mask is a one-time purchase that will last for years with proper care. If you’re on a tight budget cruise some online stores or check used gear sales from other players to find the best deals. Don’t sacrifice proper protection to save a couple bucks now.

Jaron’s Recommendation

I can’t stress it enough, fit and comfort are completely individual things so what’s comfortable for me may not be for you.  That said, if you’re still unsure, I highly recommend a V-Force mask.  I don’t know anyone that finds them uncomfortable and their thermal treated lenses do not fog on me and are very easy to swap out.  Their Morph and Shield models have excellent coverage over your whole jaw line and ears and have the best peripheral vision range of any mask I’ve tried.  The Profiler is a little sleeker but uses the same lens so visibility is the same.  All three are fairly old models so if you can find them you can get some good deals on them.  Currently I use the V-Force Grill.  It’s coverage is a little less than my old Morph, but it fits much tighter around my head which means it’s a smaller target.  The visibility is just a hair less than the Morph as well, but nothing you’d notice if you weren’t looking for it.  The big advantage of the Grill is that the inner foam is replaceable instead of glued in so you can swap it out when it’s worn instead of having to get a whole new mask.  The Grill is also available in neutral colors like olive and tan that blends better in the outdoors ( trust me, black sticks out a lot. )

What’s to Come?

The next few installments I’ll cover some basics on about other equipment, primarily the gun (marker,) hopper, and gas source.


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