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Paintball: the true story

The sport of Paintball has actually been around for a while. Since it was introduced in the mid to late 80s the sport has only grown in popularity. According to American Sports Data Inc., paintball has recently moved ahead of snowboarding as the fourth largest alternative sport in the United States. But why is paintball so bad?

I have noticed, in my 5 years of paintball experience, that the general public doesn’t seem to like this sport, but why? Is it because of the guns? People beat cars and each other with baseball bats, so why isn’t baseball bad? This has certainly upset me. People only learn what they are told or experience themselves. I have done so, and I'd like to tell you. Paintball is not a dangerous sport when played by the standard rules.

When I read that the Associated Press (Chicago, IL) did a study and found that 21,000 Americans are injured each year from air rifles, paintball pistols and BB guns I was infuriated. “Nonpowder guns include powerful air rifles introduced in the 1970’s and paintball pistols used in war games.” –(AP).

First of all, yes, these were once "war games". “Friendly war games” which was the slogan of the skirmish, one of the oldest paintball fields in America. And let's not forget Worr Game Products one of the biggest names in paintball, then and now, that originated when we were still in the woods. No longer do we think of this sport as war though. These guns are markers firing their paint-filled capsules with compressed air or CO2. So yes, technically they are nonpowdered guns. But why say it like that? They are air markers, not guns.

So, 21,000 people get injured in a year's time. According too the American Sports Data inc. 8,700,000 people played paintball in 2002. That 21,000 isn’t looking so big anymore. And then you have to think, most of those kids hurt themselves with BB guns and air rifles. So lets divide that 21,000 by 3, and get 7,000. Now, out of the 8,700,000 people who played in 2002, how many got injured? Well, only about 1 person, out of about every 1,200. Paintball still looking like a bad guy?

Paintball is one of the safest sports out there today. Did you know more injuries are reported from basketball and baseball than from paintball? Not many people knew that, because they were always told paintball is dangerous. Ever since paintball began back in the mid 80s, safety was always the number one concern. We've always worn eye protection, although it consisted of safety glasses and ski masks . Nowadays, we wear masks specifically made for the sport and tested to high standards. Every manufactured paintball mask must be made to withstand a paintball traveling at least 300 feet per second (fps) or about 201 miles per hour. 

Paintball has regulated itself. We have developed rules and guidelines, and all paintball facilities in the world adhere to them strictly. We have never had to be regulated by any agency other than ourselves. That is a credit to the quality individuals and corporations that have made paintball what it is today.

Most of teh problems occur when people purchase paintball equipment and play in their backyards or an empty lot. This is dangerous. If you want to ensure everyone's safety with paintball, go to a regulated paintball field. The only time paintball gets media coverage is when something goes wrong. We all remember the media flury that happened when an air tank malfunctioned leading to a severe injury. But these are isolated incidents and extremely rare and can be avoided.

Players must keep their masks on at all times, even at the chronograph. Make sure your marker is shooting under the legal fps limit usually under 300. If you ever have a problem with your tank, never try to fix it yourself. Take it to the field operator or your local pro-shop. Make sure your equipment is in good shape and well maintained. 

Moms, the paint in paintball is washable. They are made of gelatin and food coloring. In fact paintballs are completely edible. There are paintball-eating contests all the time at tournaments and events. I don’t recommend it, cause they taste gross but they happen all teh time.

Paintball is one of the safest outdoor sports available. The paintballs do not cause injury, but falling down from tripping might. Personally, I have never seen anyone get hurt who was following all of the safety precautions.  Paintball is not just aimlessly running around with a marker and shooting your opponents. Oh no. This sport takes practice, determination, strategy, and a lot of money.

Paintball has come a long way, with no signs of stopping. And now that you know a little bit more about our sport, next time you see marker, maybe you will call it a marker and not a gun. Paintballs aren’t bullets, they are gel capsules. It's not a wound, it’s a mark. It's not a crime, it’s a sport. And he isn't just some bad kid, he’s an athlete.

Editor's Note: Robby Eichman plays for Team Odium.

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