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Paintball player
Paintball team
File:Paintball 2 players.jpg
Two paintball players

Paintball is a sport in which participants use compressed-gas (either CO2, N2,air, and recently propane canisters) powered guns to shoot paintballs—marble-sized gelatin capsules containing a non-toxic, Vegetable based dye—at other players. Among the most common of the many variations of the sport is a version of capture the flag, in which two teams of players attempt to seize each others' banner without being eliminated (struck by a paintball). Another common variation is total elimination, in which one team wins when all members of the opposing team are eliminated by being struck by a paintball.

The first paintball game was played in New Hampshire in 1981 by Bob Gurnsey, Hayes Noel, and Charles Gaines, who used guns (also called "markers") built to tag cattle or trees. The first tournament with a cash prize was held in 1983.

The terms "paintball marker" and "paintball gun" are interchangeable. However, the term marker is generally preferred due to negative connotations attached to the word "gun." In addition to the paintball marker, paintball equipment includes various forms of protective gear.

Paintball games



Woodsball is the classic, oldest and most common style of paintball played. Most woodsball fields are large enough to hold dozens of players on each team and sometimes have some pre-made bunkers along with the natural cover. Woodsball games are generally longer in duration than other formats, and rely on entirely different tactics. Whereas speed and rate of fire are key elements in a speedball game, woodsball relies much more on strategy, teamwork, concealment, large-scale maneuvers, and patience. Many people also refer to "Woodsball" as "Bushball" or "Recball".


Speedball is played much faster than its brother woodsball. It is usually played on a much smaller field roughly the size of two tennis courts. Many speedball fields use inflatable bunkers and are generally sized for teams of three to ten. Since the opposing teams are much closer together, there is a lot of movement and a lot of "bunkering", or running up to an opposing player's bunker and eliminating them from a close distance. Also the markers are generally much faster, smaller, lighter and more expensive than woodsball markers.

Due to the team based rule enforced action, speedball is the perfect basis for tournaments, and many leagues exist. The three big national tournaments are the NPPL, PSP, and NXL, with many other local tournament series such as the CFOA or NEPL.


Scenario paintball games are often larger-scale re-enactments of historical battles involving hundreds of people, such as the Battle of Normandy, or modern day scenarios such as storming a building and rescuing hostages. Scenario games can last hours or sometimes days, and bigger games often have player re-insertions at set intervals. Many fields hold scenario games, and many promoters are now running scenario games at different fields. One well-known field for scenario games is Skirmish Paintball in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania which holds several scenario games every year, including The Battle of Stalingrad and the aforementioned Battle of Normandy (also called D-Day) which has been increasing in size every year and continues to be the largest scenario game in the world. There were more than 5,000 attendees in 2005 at D-day.


Gauntlet, like Duel, is one-on-one; however, it does not have the same restrictions on ammunition, and players generally start on opposing ends of the designated play area (similar to most team games). Gauntlet games have become more popular as a quick filler in larger play scenarios, for instance, between players awaiting re-insertion into a scenario game.



Tournament Paintball has been a part of paintball from nearly the beginning; however, the modern tournament has developed in earnest within the past 15 years. Tournaments, while once held in the traditional woodsball fields, have quickly made the transition to speedball fields, generally utilizing inflatable bunkers. The most widely-used bunkers are made by Sup'Air. These bunkers are easy to inflate, deflate, and move about the field in order to change field configurations between matches or tournament stages.


The most common tournament formats are with teams of either three, five, or seven players per team, with two teams per field per game. The object of the game is to pull and hang the flag (usually placed in the center of the field) on your opponent's starting bunker or base. Points are given per game: Eliminations are worth a certain amount, as is pulling the flag, and finally, hanging the flag. Depending on the format, a perfect score includes eliminating all opponents, pulling the flag from its original position and hanging the flag.

X-ball is a new format of paintball in as many rounds are played that can be fit into twenty minutes, the end of the round is determined by the hang of the flag a live player at the opposite team's base. Each team consists of 5 players and receives one point for each time they hang the flag. A match is separated into two 10 minute halves, and the clock is stopped each time the flag is hung, and restarted when the next game starts. Also different rules apply to this format. There is a different gun setting allowed which your marker can go into a "ramp" mode were you pull the trigger at least 3 ball/s and the gun ramps to 15 ball/s but has to be capped at 15 ball/s. Coaches are also allowed where somebody on the sidelines can tell you what to do which does not apply to a normal 7 man format.


Current professional and semi-professional leagues, such as the NXL (National X-Ball League), NPPL (National Professional Paintball League), PSP (Paintball Sports Promotions], NCPA (National Collegiate Paintball Association), CFOA (Carolina Field Owners Association) and the NEPL (New England Paintball League], regularly hold high-class, well-organized events. These aren't the only leagues, however, as most regions in both the USA and the globe have leagues. The Millennium Series, the former European X-Ball League, the Centurio Circuit, the XSPL, and many more leagues exist and draw large amounts of teams and fans. Tournament is played by the same rules as normal paintball, but in a competitive environment. There is a set number of people on each team (commonly three, five or seven), and modern tournament play is primarily speedball. Due to the competitive nature, most tournament players use high-end markers capable of higher rates of fire. The major leagues are National Professional Paintball League (NPPL), Paintball Sports Promotions™ (PSP), X-Ball and Millennium. The leagues consist of a whole circuit of paintball tournaments; however, smaller regional and locally-sponsored tournaments are very common.


X-Ball is a faster, more aggressive tournament format designed to give paintball an extreme turn. It was created by Richmond Italia and has its own sports league, the National X-Ball League (NXL). Teams of up to eighteen players field up to five players at a time, scoring a point each time they take the center flag to the opposing side of the field. The team with more points at the end of the match wins, with final scores like, 10-5, 20-18 or 15-2. Recently, the NXL world championships were broadcast nationally on ESPN2.


Capture the Flag

The classic schoolyard game, with a paintball twist. Teams start on opposing sides and attempt to acquire the opponents' flag while protecting their own. Victory is achieved by being the first team to hang the opponents' flag on the designated location at or near their own starting location.

In tournament play, a team successfully eliminating all opposing players, losing none of their own players and successfully hanging the opponents flag within the allotted game time is said to have "maxed" the other team (that is, they have achieved the maximum points possible in the game).

Center Flag

Similar to the above, except there is only one flag hung at the center of the field - both teams are trying to acquire the flag and hang it on the designated location at the opposing team's base.


Teams play until one team is entirely eliminated. note* in the case of a tie, the referee has the overall decision of who wins.

Types of players

Players usually fall into three categories of commitment: recreational, serious recreational, and competitive (tournament). Competitive players may invest in excess of one thousand U.S. dollars in paintball gear. They also attend tournaments in teams consisting of three to ten people. The most common tournament team game is "Capture the Flag" played on a speedball field, where players play on an enclosed field with one or more flags and take cover behind inflated obstacles known as bunkers. A top of the line paintball marker can cost anywhere from $700 to $1,500 or more (USD) brand-new. In comparison, an entry-level recreational marker can be purchased for US$80 to US$300.

Serious recreational participants generally invest in a slightly above entry-level marker and spend their money on upgrades and field play. They may participate in a few local tournaments. A serious recreational paintball player may play for a paintball field's house team.

There are a great many recreational players. Most recreational players participate in games located at commercially licensed and insured paintball fields. These playing fields are typically the most regulated, with specific safety rules and referees. Still other paintballers use private property to play. Permission to use private property is given by the property owner. Games on private property generally offer more freedom for players to develop their own rules and style of play. Liability can become a serious problem if proper safety precautions are not taken on private property.

Common rules of play

When playing at a field for the first time, be sure to check up on the field rules. Variations of the following rules are in effect at most fields. These are the most common regulations, and do not include tips for playing. For information on tactics, see paintball strategy.

How to know if you are marked/hit/tagged

Generally if you are marked (hit) anywhere on your body, or on anything you are carrying (marker, hopper, pods) and the paintball broke upon impact, you have been marked. If you believe the paintball broke before impact, or if you cannot see the area to confirm a hit, then you should call for a paint check (by yelling "paint check"). A referee will come over and make a judgment call. Usually, if there is any spot that isn't clearly a hit or larger than a quarter, it will not be considered a hit. Being checked by a referee does not make you invulnerable to still being marked, however.

The X foot/meter surrender rule

Some fields require that if you are within X feet (or meters) of an unaware opponent, you must demand their surrender (by yelling "Surrender!") before you may open fire. If your opponent complies (verbally, see above or by raising their hand or marker), they are considered marked and are out of the match. However, if they attempt any hostile action (such as turning to fire at you) then you may fire at will.

In almost all tournament play, there is no surrender rule. If you catch an opponent off guard, you are free to fire at him. Moves such as a 'run through', where a player sprints down the field shooting as many of the opposing team as he can, have developed over time and are now very important plays. Another popular move is "bunkering". This refers to running/charging up to the bunker or barricade that an opposing player is behind and tagging them at very close range. The idea is to get as close to the opponent as possible, as fast as you can, so that you can catch the other player off guard, giving them little to no time to react, and giving you little to no chance to miss due to the close range.


Safety is paramount while playing paintball and is strictly enforced. This means players must wear only paintball-specific goggles and facemasks at all times while playing, even if they are out. Under no circumstances should eye protection ever be removed on a live field.

If you find your mask is covered with paint, sweat, or dirt, and you cannot see well enough to safely get off the field, stand with both hands in the air and yell (usually "Fogged!") for assistance. A ref or another player will lead you to a safe area.

If your mask falls off during a game, drop to your knees and cover your eyes with your arm or hands while yelling for assistance repeatedly. Players or refs will come running to help. Do not be surprised if you are pushed down or otherwise covered by players and/or refs.

Paintball has proved to be an extremely safe sport and its good record comes from the uncompromising emphasis on safety.

Paintball-like alternatives

  • Airsoft is a sport similar to Paintball, but uses a different type of projectile and gun.
  • V ammo is not really a sport, but uses rubber bands to fire v-shaped, folded, paper projectiles (hence the name V ammo, also called hornets)
  • Nerf is a hobby/sport similar to paintball in that many of the game types are the same, however instead of using marker it uses moddified Nerf toys.

Common Misconceptions

Various common misconceptions are present both among players and people who have never even seen a paintball marker or field.


War and Violence

The greatest misconception is that paintball is a simulation of war. Many people believe that paintball is a game that encourages war and general violence. This is far from the truth. Paintball fields do not tolerate any form of physical violence, and even verbal abuse is not allowed. Most paintball games are played on a field that is laid out in specific designs with either large, and colorful inflatable "bunkers" or similar objects. Modern day paintball markers usually look absolutely nothing like a real firearm. Although there are some "scenario" paintball games that do re-enact historic wars and battles, such as D-Day in Oklahoma, they are usually for the sake of re-enacting history and they never encourage violence.

Injury and Danger

Another common misconception of paintball is that it is dangerous. Recent Statistics from various insurance companies have proven that paintball is actually safer than "traditional" sports, such as football. Paintball fields always require that anyone who is near the field wear a face mask. All fields also require that the paintball makers are shooting at a velocity of less than 300 or 280 feet per second. As long as the players follow the rules for safety, paintball is an entirely safe sport.

Quality of Equipment

Many players, usually new players, believe that more expensive and higher quality equipment determines how well a person plays. Although good equipment does not hurt, many teams still use "low end" equipment and are still very good. For example, the Spyder is known as a low end starter marker, but some professional teams such as "Bad Company" use them anyway. It is always the skill of the player that determines how well someone plays, not the quality of the equipment. A new player using a $1,000 marker will most likely lose to a skilled player using a $100 marker.

External links

Marker brands

Paintball Magazines

Owner Groups

  • Automag Owners' - One of the more popular Internet Paintball chat sites; AO was originally formed as the official forum for AirGun Designs, though it has expanded into much, much more.
  • A-5 Owners Den - An independent and informal web forum and archives for Tippmann owners
  • ICD-Owners - A user group for markers manufactured by Indian Creek Designs


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