Paintball on the Right Side of the Curve

Welcome to the Forty+ Paintball Players Page.



Paintball for the right side of the curve.

This is an experimental page for those like me who are over forty years old and play or are trying to get up the nerve to play paintball. It is a first attempt to let other older players know that they are not alone, and to give incentive to those who might feel intimidated by the younger crowd often seen at paintball fields. I want to see more people over forty play, if for no other reason then I wouldn't look quite so conspicuous. This is not a well developed page, but I hope to add to it.

Just how rare are 40+ players?
What do I mean by the "paintball for the right side of the curve"? Below is a breakdown of people who responded to an "annual" call for player's ages (I didn't initiate the thread).

The majority of players who read the newsgroup and responded are in the 11-30 age group. About 18 % were in the 40+ categories. Of course, the accuracy of such a poll is open to all sorts of questions. This number does seem high based on what I see at my local fields, I might have guessed that there were more players in the 20-25 year old category. So from this curve you can see that over 40 players are on the right side of the mean of paintball players. Now the point of this is not to intimidate you into not playing paintball. Just to show you roughly where you are.

I get the impression of two major classes of over forty players. One group is made up of those who started in the sport when it was really new about 15 years ago. Many of these are great players. They have become experts whose abilities on the field can still hold younger players in awe. A few of these serious players have even gone on to get into some aspect of the paintball business.

The second major group are those who have more recently been introduced to the sport through their children. This is what happened to me in 1997. My younger son, Neal, who is now 19 became interested in paintball through a couple of his friends. In late May of 1997, the social club where I work offered a chance for employees and their relatives to play paintball on a closed field. I signed up myself and my two sons. We had a great time! My younger son, Neal, was definitely hooked. As a graduation present he insisted he wanted a paintball marker. After considerable discussion and negotiation we decided to buy him one. That however was only phase one. Since he didn't drive, someone had to transport him to the fields, and I was elected. It didn't take me long to wonder why I should sit there and do nothing for four hours.

So I am relatively new to paintball. Moreover, I am obviously not your average paintball player. There is little doubt in my mind that if I can play paintball just about anyone can. I am fifty-five and could be in better shape. As I indicated above, I would guestimate the average age of paintball players is around twenty five. And as far as shape goes, I have seen my share of short +250 pound young players, so that doesn't intimidate me. Now, if you have some really serious physical aliments, I certainly would think twice about paintball. I don't want to give the impression that it is in the same class as knitting. If you are moderately active, you should be able to play without breaking, or overstraining something. (That said see the "My Tactics" section further on.)

Heck, the only real advantage I seem to have is that I am a fair shot. I also suspect I tend to sit back and analyze a situation more than some younger players.

I recommend that anyone wishing to try paintball just go out to a field and try it. If you don't have any kids of your own that you can use as an excuse to play, how about nieces and nephews or grandchildren? You don't need to spend a dime on buying equipment to play, but you do need the dime. Almost all fields have rental equipment. The field review pages that I have for my local area will give you some idea of the options for rental equipment. For those fathers who have trouble relating to things to do with their sons or even daughters, this sport can be a great way to put you both on the same level.

What can I Expect When I Go to a Field?
Once at the field there will be some choices you may have to make. I suggest that for your first excursion you rent a semi-automatic marker rather than the pump marker. These are usually a bit more expensive to rent, but will give you a little more confidence. Don't be apprehensive about what to do on the field. The field owners will definitely see that you are properly equipped, and will explain the field and safety rules in detail. Some even make you watch a film about safety and rules.

The type of gun you pick is important because it often sets the type of games that you can play in. Many fields will have several games, loosely based on skill level, going on at the same time. Often these are in the categories, Beginner - pump guns only; Intermediate - rental pump and rental semi-automatics; Advanced - rental guns of any type, and personal guns, whether pump or semi-automatic. For your first time, I would suggest you not join the Advanced game. However, you may find you do not have a choice. In the early morning, the fields around here often only offer an "open" or advanced game because there are too few players to have separate game levels. My recommendation is to first try the intermediate game. However, if you are playing with your kids, and they are very young, I would then recommend the pump game. In either case, you will most likely be playing with new players and players with only a few games to their credit. I suggest the intermediate game, because I think your overall experience will be a little closer to what an advanced game might be like. The main differences are less intimidating amounts of paint flying in all directions, and the field tactics are not as sophisticated. If you hate the pace of this skill level, or are overwhelmed by what is going on, then this is a good signal to stay out of an advanced game. By the way, I do not mean to suggest that pump games are not worth it. They can be very exciting as well, and they are usually a little slower paced. But I am trying to bring you up to speed on what paintball is as fast as possible.

I should mention that an advanced game is usually open to anyone who wants to play, beginners with pump guns up to serious amateur team players. I have seen advanced games made up almost entirely of new players, and others where half the players on each side were amateur team players. The problem for a beginner is that things do happen more quickly in the advanced game, and there is a lot more paint usually flying.

If after you have played a few lower level games and your nerves seem to be more or less under control, then maybe you should try one of the advanced games just to see how it goes. One thing to note: You will be quite tired by the end of the day. Not just from all the running and ducking, but from the adrenalin highs that develop during a game.

There are a number of types of games fields set up, but the most common are: capture the flag, center flag, and elimination. Capture the flag games require a "base" where each team has a flag. It is your job to get through the opponents lines, get the flag and bring it back to your own base. Center flag uses only one flag. Both teams try to get this flag and then go to the enemy base. In elimination games, the idea is too completely eliminate all the opponents.

To be honest, every time we go to a field I have a few pre-first-game jitters. This is despite the fact that I have been playing since 1997. Of course, this usually disappears when a game starts. There is little doubt that there is a lot of adrenalin pumping into my bloodstream.

How Dangerous is Paintball?
This is a common question for us older more cautious people? Before you can play you will be asked to sign waivers releasing the field from any liability. After reading the waivers, you will be convinced that you will die on the field. There certainly is more risk to paintball then sitting in a chair in your home or even walking down the street. However, if you follow the rules and use a little common sense about your physical abilities, you will survive, and hopefully enjoy yourself.

On all fields you must wear a mask. Again, the field usually rents these as part of the entrance fee. The type of mask is fairly specific, but there are some variations. If you have a choice, I suggest you take one that covers your ears as well. In case that is not available, I suggest you bring some kind of hat with ear flaps or bring a bandana that you can wrap over your ears. You don't want to take a shot on an exposed ear. The goggles on the rental masks can be pretty badly scratched so that you seem to be looking through a constant fog. If you decide to play more than a few times, you will definitely want to invest in your own mask, even if you still wish to rent a gun.

Clothing should be worn for protection and comfort, not fashion. You will not need camouflage clothing unless you really become a serious player, or happen to have the clothes lying around. Do bring dark colored clothes, such as black, gray or dark green. Since the paintballs definitely sting when you take a direct hit, cover as much skin as possible. The heavier the cloth you can stand, the less you will feel the sting. Of course, don't go to such extremes that you risk heat exhaustion. In late spring, early fall and early summer I wear a dark sweatshirt (often green) and jeans; in midsummer, a long sleeve camouflage shirt and dark green cargo jeans. Also, most masks don't do a real good job of protecting the throat. I recommend what my son Neal came up with. Take a thin scarf or bandana, place one or two thick socks in it diagonally and fold the bandana around the socks to make kind of a tube. Tie it moderately loosely around you neck. I have had more than one parent come up to us and comment how they thought the bandana was a good idea. As for shoes, suit yourself. No sandals, but you certainly don't need combat boots. Light weight, dark gloves (light duty work gloves for instance) with the fingers cut back can also add protection to your hands, but I would consider this secondary. A hat is also a good thing to wear. Many people will just wear a baseball type cap backwards. This has the advantage of protecting the back of your neck from sun and paintballs. Since I am nearly bald, a hat is a natural for me anyway!

What to Bring
Since you won't be bringing your own equipment, there is little else that you really need. I suggest you bring plenty of water, particularly if you play outdoors on a warm day. The water quenches thirst and can be used to clean masks and equipment. For the two of us, I bring a gallon of water with plenty of ice in it. Also, bring a supply of clean cotton rags. You may want to keep a rag with you on the field. One of the fields I play at, plays a round of two games each time the group goes out. This is because the fields are far apart, and you often have to walk several hundred yards just to get to a particular field. If you take a shot on your goggles, you need something to wipe off the paint so you can at least see for the next game. In summer bring insect repellent. Many fields are in the woods, and you will often hide yourself in tall weeds.

New Player Tactics
As a new player, the only tactic I would recommend for the first game is to stay in the background, and watch a few of the more experienced players. Pick a nice large tree or bunker that gives you plenty of room to move and good cover. Every game and field is a little different. Just keep you eyes open, watch and learn. However, do not just hunker down and hide. Not only won't you learn anything, but that will be no fun at all. If you have a choice of games with few players or many players, go with the crowd. The other players will take the heat off you and give you the opportunity to take in what is happening. Play can vary a lot, from frantic to boring, depending on the expertise of the other players. Usually, at the beginning of the game, everyone is taking tally of where their team and the opponents have landed after the first mad dash to gain space. (You usually start from your teams' flag position.) Thus, play is usually a little slower at the beginning.

As for getting shot, my first few games I took the most shots on my gun. On most fields this will also eliminate you from play as surely as a body shot. I suspect many new players are the same as I was. They tend to stick the marker out and leave it there, even when they move their body out of harms way. Keep the marker close to you.

My Tactics

From my current perspective being a rear action person has its advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, as a defensive man I usually last a lot longer in a game. Both my age and weight are not a disadvantage. If I keep my cool I can do a fair amount of damage.

On the down side, if my team gets wiped out, I am the single most sought after person on the field. Now if there is only a couple of opponents and they have not seen me, I may the advantage of surprise, and I might have a chance. With more opponents that edge is gone and, because I am slower, the end is usually near.

Check out the "Hunters" article for a good idea of where some of us older players may fit into the paintball scheme.

My tactics have changed a bit. In early July of 1997 while trying to dodge a barrage of paint I damaged my knee. The doctors said my paintball days were over for the 97 season. I did play in early 98 on an indoor field, but acted mostly as a defensive anchor because I still could not run well.

I still have to play a conservative game. I can fast walk or short sprint, but I must be careful. I wear an elastic knee brace to stabilize my knee. So far I have had no problems and as my experience increases, I find it easier to play an active game and do my own share to remove opposing team players. On most fields you still need to be able to stoop or kneel. I now can do this without any problem. Basically, I just have to take it a little slower, and when I do move, I must be sure I will have the extra time to get there. This is especially true on a speedball type of field, where you are more exposed, and everything is fast paced.

Of course, my more restrained tactics drive my out-in-front, in-their-face, teenage son, nuts. Actually, we do make a good pair. In quite a few games where we had limited players on each team his "attack" attitude compliments my "hold back" attitude. The opposing players are worrying more about him then me. ("The old guy will be easy.") This takes the pressure off me so that I have the time to work around them and take them out.

Update Dec. 2006: Well we seem to have moved on now. I have not played in more than a year and a half now. Neal has moved to Kansas City MO, and so I have lost my partner. Of course, I am a bit older too and the demands around me seem to have gotten more demanding.


Good Places for Paintball Information

I am not going to try and put up a complete list of paintball web pages. There are already some very good ones that serve that purpose: Here are links to some of the best:
One of the really big paintball sites on the web Great site, a personal favorite
Top 20 Paintball Sites A nice page which catalogs pages by hits. newsgroup

What I shoot

To be honest, I don't think throwing as much paint as possible in hopes of taking out an opponent makes the game interesting. Certainly there are times when the ability to provide a wall of paint is necessary. For example, when cornered or in a one-on-many situation, throwing lots of paint will forestall the end, and you may take out a few before the inevitable. Another case is when you are trying to keep heads down so your attack group can overwhelm the opponents position. However, the last case rarely happens on a walk on field. There is usually to little organization for that kind of coordinated play, especially early in the day.

A more mundane point for me is that paint is expensive! With two of us shooting, I could not afford to go out much if we were going through even a case of paint every day we play. Because of this, we place a loose restriction on ourselves to shoot no more than 1/2 case (900-1000 balls) in four to six games. That is roughly 500 balls apiece. However, I often find that I don't shoot as much paint as my son, and so he gets a little more. Usually in a series of capture-the-flag games we can hold this.

Thus, I do not feel the need for a high priced gun that can spew a nearly continuous stream of paint. Accuracy is important to me, but I am not convinced a higher price gun will ensure me of higher accuracy. From my paintball physics page, I believe the limiting factor, in many cases, is not the gun, but variations in the paintballs. However, there is the additional factor of reliable operation and low maintenance. I believe most intermediate priced guns meet my requirements. I use two guns. a Tippmann Prolite is my main gun, and I use Trracer pump gun as backup or just for kicks.

You should also keep in mind that many people, especially the younger crowd use their gun as a show stopper. The gun is often expensively decked out in fancy colors and gizmos. The gun certainly may look pretty and be intimidating, but that is all hype advertising. Always look behind the gun. Its the person using it that you need to size up.

My Markers

Tippmann Prolite
Dye SS 10" barrel
12 oz. CO2 Tank

This was my son Neal's gun. The Prolite is heavy but well made, and Tippmann has a very good reputation. Many people believe that the standard barrel that comes with the Prolite is not very accurate. Our impression is the same. The Sniper barrel seems to work okay, and may be better than the stock barrel. It would appear to be not much different than the TASO barrel (see below) in its accuracy.


PMI Trracer

Bottom Line Adapter
12 oz. CO2 Tank

This is a single shot pump type marker. This type of marker has the advantage of little kick when fired, so the accuracy is relatively high even with the stock barrel. The addition of the bottom line makes a big difference when aiming. The Trracer, like many pumps, positions the tank off the top of the gun. This makes it difficult to site down the barrel. Note that no one mentioned to me that the addition of the adapter would also mean that I would have to make dramatic changes in the Trracers internal springs to compensate for the longer line. I also opened up the rear inlet hole on the marker a bit to provide a better gas flow. This gun has been giving me a lot of trouble lately, and I have not had the time to figure out why. My shots are all over the place, as if the internals are not responding the same way from shot to shot. That is disappointing for a gun that is not used often.

What Marker Neal Shoots

My son Neal uses the following:
Tippmann Carbine 68
14 oz. CO2 tank
TASO S/S 12" barrel
ADCO red dot sight

This setup is indeed nice. The Carbine is much lighter than the Prolite. It is reasonably well made except for the design of the feeder elbow. The section that mounts to the gun is too flexible and can easily be stressed. The result is the hopper can fall off. As far as shooting, the TASO barrel seems to have made a significant difference. Initially, Neal had this on the Prolite, and also worked very well with it. The TASO barrel is very quiet compared to my sniper barrel. However, as with all barrels ported to reduce noise, it goes through a lot of CO2. With the addition of the sight, this gun is also effective for long ball/sniper shooting as well.

What We Look Like Fully Decked Out

Here are a couple of pictures of Neal and I taken just after a series of games:










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Last Update: December 28, 2006