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How to Play Paintball – Beginner to Pro Guide +Tips

Hi. I’m Freddy, and I have been playing paintball for over a decade. Welcome to my guide on how to play paintball.

There is a lot of lousy paintball advice on the web, so I decided to write this article series on how to go from beginner to pro in paintball.

What is paintball?

Paintball is a fast-paced combat sport where players can compete to eliminate the other team by shooting them with paintballs from a paintball marker. Once a player is “marked” with paint from the paintball bullets, they are eliminated from the game.

This sport is thrilling and fun but is often an activity for bachelor parties, team building exercises for companies, or birthday parties.

What’s needed for paintball

The first step to playing paintball is to adopt the right mindset for the game.

Don’t be afraid to get hit.

One thing that is certain in paintball is: You will get hit.

You can not avoid paintball shots no matter where you curl up and hide. You may fear that getting hit by a paintball pellet will hurt, and it does hurt, but the adrenaline rush during a game reduces the pain you feel. The bruises on the skin will be sore and take a few days to heal, but it is the fact that there are consequences that make it so exciting and thrilling.

Wearing protective gear such as a vest, padded clothing, a full-head coverage helmet, gloves, a neck strap, and a groin guard can protect you against the most painful shots and lessen your fear so you can enjoy the game.

If you follow all safety precautions, paintball is safer than many other sports, and the injury rate is lower than in many other sports. Always wear a mask and follow strict safety measures to reduce the risk of injuries.

Paintball Gear

To play paintball, you need the right equipment. The minimum required gear for playing are:

  • a complete paintball gun (includes a marker/gun, hopper, and air tank)
  • a paintball mask
  • lots of paintballs

Renting paintball gear

For a first-timer to the game, renting gear at a paintball venue is the best way to go about it—no need to buy expensive equipment at this point. Try the game to see if you like it first.

Paintball fields will often include essential equipment in the price. They usually charge per player or a package price and give you a paintball marker, a hopper, a mask, some number of paintballs, and free refills of HPA or CO2.

Buying your equipment

If you invest in paintball equipment, we have many buying guides on choosing the right gun and mask without breaking the bank. The first things you need to buy are:

  • A paintball gun
  • Paintball mask
  • A hopper and air tank
  • Proper clothing
  • 1000+ paintballs

I recommend beginners buy a complete second-hand mechanical paintball set from a seller on online marketplaces to save money. You can often get 50-60% discounts on used equipment compared to buying new ones, which are often as good as new ones. A set is more straightforward and often cheaper than purchasing individual items from different sellers. A complete set should set you back about $100-$200, including a mask, and $50 for bulk paintballs on Amazon, and you’re good to go.

Paintball gun

A good beginner paintball gun is mechanical, lightweight, easy to operate, accurate, reliable, comfortable, and easy to maintain and clean. It should not break the bank.

A few good alternatives are Tippmann Cronus, Tippmann 98 Custom, EMEK 100, and Planet Eclipse GTEK 170R. All are budget-friendly with a comfortable grip.

Once you get intermediate or pro, you can upgrade to a high-end electronic paintball marker like CS2 PRO or DLX Luxe X. They are more advanced and will give an advantage in tournaments as their firing rate is much higher. The gun is more reliable, but they are expensive.

A quality paintball mask

The most critical safety equipment is the paintball mask. Do not compromise on safety when choosing a paintball goggle.

At the least, it must protect your face, including the jaw, cheeks, nose, eyes, temples, and ears. Some good brands are Dye, Virtue, Valken, and JT. They all make good masks; you should try a few to see how they fit and how comfortable you are wearing them. Consider ventilation and check if it fogs up. If a mask fogs up during a game, it will make it very difficult to see, and you should never remove your goggles during a game because the risk of severe eye injuries is high. Weight is also a factor when wearing it for extended periods, making you tired or uncomfortable.

Alternatively, you can opt for a full-head paintball helmet that protects the head’s top, side, and back.

A good paintball mask has the following qualities:

  • Anti-fog thermal/dual-pane lens
  • 360-degrees coverage
  • Spacious enough to wear glasses inside the goggles
  • Proper ventilation to stay cool and prevent fogging
  • Durability
  • A lightweight frame
  • Comfortable foam and padding
  • Protects against UV rays

A direct hit in the face can be brutal and dangerous. A good quality paintball mask is more important than you think.

A hopper and an air tank

The hopper acts like a magazine for your marker. It holds many paintballs, often up to 200, and loads them one by one into the chamber and barrel when you fire the gun.

A quality hopper never jams, has a fast feeding rate, and is easy to clean.

I advise beginners to start with a cheap gravity hopper, like Proto Primo.

Once you are more advanced, you can upgrade to electronic hoppers such as Virtue Spire IV Electronic, Bunkerkings CTRL Electronic, or Empire Paintball Halo Too, but they are expensive.

I recommend an HPA (high pressured air) tank rather than a CO2 tank for the air tank since it has more consistent pressure while shooting the gun. If you are a beginner, a CO2 tank is fine, but once you are intermediate, you will most likely prefer compressed air.

Proper clothing

If it is your first time playing paintball, there’s no need to buy fancy clothes or try to look cool. Expect your clothes to get stained and dirty. Find some old clothes that you don’t have to worry about staining. Pants and a long-sleeve shirt are sufficient. Wear shoes with support and traction. You can wear a protective vest or jersey over your clothes.

Other clothing to consider:

  • A sweatshirt can cover any exposed skin and absorb some of the impact paintball shots.
  • A paintball jersey can provide extra protection and have good ventilation.
  • A protective vest. It will not only protect your upper body, but you can use the pockets to carry extra pods of paint.
  • Pants, sweatpants, or jeans. You will be crawling, squatting, and kneeling a lot, so thick flexible pants will help to protect your legs. Old jeans may work, but make sure they are not too tight or stiff but allow you to move unrestricted.
  • Wear a groin/exalt cup at all times. Trust me. You don’t want to get shot in the balls as it can cause excruciating pain.
  • Pads for knees, shins, and elbows help when you are crawling, sliding, rolling, and falling, and they protect your joints from the impact of this rough game.
  • Wear gloves too. Paintball shots between the fingers can severely cut the fingers. It also protects your knuckles.
  • Proper shoes. Avoid sandals, thin running shoes, open toes, or flip flops. Good shoes protect your feet, support your arches and ankles, and have good traction.

How to play paintball – a complete guide

When you walk on the field for the first time, you should always follow these points

Safety

  • Wear a mask and use a barrel sock on the gun, which are the two most important safety measures.
  • Do not remove the paintball mask during a game, even if it fogs up. Call the referee to stop the game if you need to remove it or need help with it.
  • Use a barrel cover on the gun when you are not playing, as it protects you and other players from the gun accidentally firing when it shouldn’t.
  • Don’t point or aim the marker toward anyone when you are not playing. If you don’t know how to carry the paintball gun, ask the instructor or referee to show you how to do it.
  • Turn on your gun’s safety. Black means safety is ON, and red means safety is OFF.
  • Take your fingers off the trigger when you are not playing.

Paint check

  • If you call yourself out of the game, you are eliminated from the match, and you can’t regret the decision later.
  • If you have any questions or trouble, you can call on the referee.
  • If you doubt you have been eliminated, you can yell “paint check!” to have the referee make a judgment and decide.

Paint and Co2

  • A typical hopper will hold about 180-200 paintballs, and you can shoot approximately 2-3.
  • When you hear the flutter, it means you are running low on Co2. In most paintball fields, the general rule is to leave the match if you run out of paint or co2.
  • Fill the gas tank between games or when it is less than 50% full.
  • Use compressed air instead of co2 if possible.
  • Don’t grab paint from the ground. Most fields prohibit you from using it. Even if you drop pellets on the ground, they should stay there. Paintballs that fall on the ground get dirty and will get stuck in the hopper, chamber, or barrel and cause your gun to jam.

Blind firing

  • Blind firing, or “Firing blind,” is shooting from behind a bunker without knowing where you are aiming or shooting. It is against the rules because of safety concerns.
  • Blind firing could cause you to shoot a teammate at the back of their head, the referee, or someone outside the game area.
  • Always look at where you are shooting.

Pro-tip: After filling the paint on the loader, shut the lid properly and press it until you hear a snap sound. A common beginner mistake is to spill paintballs all over the ground because they didn’t completely close the lid. [/su_note]

Types of paintball games

There are several types of paintball games that you can enjoy. Although you don’t need to do anything crazy as a beginner, it is good to try a few variations.

Woodsball

Woodsball is the original paintball format where you play in a natural forest or open woods area. There may be artificial and constructed bunkers and obstacles placed across the field. It is often played with capture the flag objective or a scenario game like a rescue operation.

Capture the Flag

One of my favorite types is capture the flag, as different strategies are involved in this type of game. You can move in stealth mode or storm the front head-on.

The objective is to capture the flag in your opponent team’s area and return it to your side. You also have to guard your team’s flag in the process. Another way to win is to eliminate all players of the opposing team.

Elimination game

The elimination game’s objective is straightforward: eliminate all opposing team members, and you win. You can also play it individually in a free-for-all version without teams, and everyone is out to eliminate each other, and the last man standing wins the game.

Scenario game mode

Things get a bit serious in this military simulation. You can set up many types of scenarios. One example is a hostage situation where one team attempts to rescue the hostages while the other tries to stop them. Another example is to have your team escort and protect a person who plays the role of a VIP to an endpoint, while the opposite team will try their best to eliminate the VIP.

Speedball mode

Speedball is a chaotic and fast-paced game where you don’t have much time to think and act. Speedball games can be indoors or outdoors, and the field is smaller and contains obstacles and bunkers to hide behind. Teams are 6-10 players, and the game is highly technical, strategic, and intuitive.

There are also other types of play, but these are the most common.

Paintball tactics for beginners

How to play paintball
paintball tactics

Never stop moving

Paintball sport is all about agility and rapid movement. If you hide behind a bunker, you can wait for opportunities. But if you are out in the open, you are exposed to enemy fire, so you should be on the move to seek cover.

Communication

Communication is essential to good teamwork. Make a plan with your team and use code words, signs, or vocals to communicate. Working in a synchronized group is much more efficient than each player individually working toward their objectives. Don’t be a lone ranger.

Use of cover

Always hide behind a tree, bush, obstacle, or bunker to have cover from enemy fire, and advance on the opposite team in steps. Your team should also cover each other, meaning that one player moves from one spot to the next while another shoot at the enemy team, forcing the opponents to duck. Once your team member reaches their new spot, you switch turns, and they cover you while you move forward on the field.

Broader vision

If you only focus on the one opponent in front of you, you may not be aware that other players are surrounding you. Keep your attention focused and broad.

Be alert for movements and sounds, and communicate with your mates. 

Use camouflage

The best way to avoid being seen is to wear clothing with the same color and patterns as the environment you are playing in, to camouflage yourself from the opposite team, and make it harder for them to see you. If you are wearing a camo and fear getting spotted, keep quiet and restrict your movements.

Work in pairs or groups

Dividing the team into pairs or groups of 2-3 people is an effective strategy to advance on the field, as several groups can attack different fronts. Since each group has multiple players, they can cover each other when moving forward.

Check if you are out.

When you get hit, check if there is a paint mark on your body. If the paintball bounced off without breaking and painting you, you might be able to claim you weren’t hit and continue the game. If in doubt, you can call on the referee to judge for you.

Play on the sides of the field

Beginners often crowd together in the middle for a shootout; the problem is that they get exposed to enemy fire from all directions. Moving along one field side is smarter since there are fewer possible directions from which you can meet opponents.

Cover fire to confuse the opposing team.

Provide cover fire by shooting at the other team and force their attention on you so your teammate can sneak closer to the enemy team without them realizing it. Your mate can get in a better position and quickly eliminate the other team.

Run away or retreat

Suppose the other team outnumbers you; You can retreat or run away. Even in retreat, it is best to go spot by spot and take turns providing cover fire while each player withdraws. If the enemy team gets too eager and follows your retreat too quickly, they may spread too thin and too close to your team’s defense and risk getting eliminated.

Conclusion

Paintball is an exhilarating sport filled with unlimited adrenaline rushes. If you are a newbie, follow all rules and never compromise safety.

Listen to the field marshal, referee, and instructor.

Also, remember to play with good sportsmanship and respect your opponents.

Read other articles in this series about how to paintball:

Paintball Tactics & Strategies

How To Fill A Paintball Tank

How Far Can a Paintball Gun Shoot?

Airsoft vs Paintball

How much does paintball cost

Indoor Paintball vs Outdoor Paintball

Complete Paintball History

What To Wear For Paintball

How old do you have to be to play paintball?

How to Clean a Paintball Gun

Woodsball Paintball Gameplay Rules

Speedball Vs Woodsball

Can you play paintball in the rain?

Old-school paintballer for more than a decade. I'm an energy engineer and a volunteer social worker. I love the thrill of paintball and testing and reviewing new equipment and technology.

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