[ The Money Side of Lifeā„¢ ]

Shoots and Splatter: The Extreme Sport of Paintball

By Justin Powlison on July 31st, 2004 •

Mud splashes on your goggles as you dive into the trench. You hear the distinct sound of paintballs whizzing above your head. You hit the deck and roll to keep your weapon off the ground, knowing your paintball gun is your life. Ducking low, you hustle through the ditch, making a sharp left when the path branches. Having circumnavigated your enemy's position, you jump up triumphantly to take him out, only to hear a quick succession of "pops" from behind. You feel a sharp stinging sensation on your right thigh. Rubbing mud from your goggles, you see green splotches on your pants. A hidden sniper was guarding the flag. You were a sitting duck.

Getting Started

For starters, you'll need a lot of paintballs! You can purchase a case of 2,000 paintballs for about $50. These, like most paintball equipment, can be purchased at big stores such as Target or Wal-Mart, sporting goods stores, or a variety of online paintball supply websites. If you go the online route, keep in mind that you will likely pay a shipping fee and that returning a damaged product can be a hassle. Paintballs may also be purchased at a paintball field, at generally higher prices. Some fields are "field paint only," meaning you have to buy their paint. Keep that in mind when you're researching fields.

Cost-cutting boils down to your status: are you a recreational or pro player? If terms like Spyder or Diablo are foreign to you, you probably fit in the recreational category. Pros will have their own equipment, often spending more than $1,500 on their paintball guns and another $400 - $1,000 on various upgrades - not to mention the bulk reserves of paintballs at their home.

A Package Deal

You can get a solid paintball package, including mask, hopper, and CO2 bottle, for $250 - $300. The most important thing to remember when buying a paintball gun: try before you buy. Paintball gun quality varies drastically and you'll have to find a compromise between money and performance. It pays to shop around.

If you are an occasional recreational player, you will likely be at the mercy of the field rental office. Depending on the field, you can bring your own paintballs and you can always bring your own food. But, unless you are willing to invest in a nice
piece of hardware and actually use it on a regular basis, you'll have to rent.

You'll usually have several options when renting a paintball gun, such as semi-automatic, pump, or pistol. These can usually be rented for around $20 a day. When renting a gun your focus should be getting on an even playing field with everyone else. Get the type of paintball gun that the majority of the other players are using. Your mask is usually included as part of the gun rental fee, as it's a required piece of safety equipment. For another $5 you can refill the CO2 canister that makes your paintball gun shoot, but for $10 you can refill it all day. Admission for non-regulars will generally be another $15.

Clothing Matters

There went 50 big ones, not counting the paintballs, food, or clothing. That's right; clothing matters. It hurts to get shot with a paintball. You could have welts or bruises for days afterwards. If you get shot at close range, it can break the bare skin. Now you see where the adrenaline rush comes from. A rule of thumb is layers as opposed to thickness when it comes to clothing. A big thick jacket won't help as much as a T-shirt, an over-shirt and a long-sleeve button-up on top.

So, how do you reduce the gargantuan sum it takes to play paintball? The prices listed were average, but most fields worth their juice will have a website. You can check the individual prices offered at different locations - while keeping in mind that the quality of the fields might differ.

Malls, and other crowded areas where indoor paintball is available, will often have vendors who will offer you special paintball packages for outrageously low prices like $5. Be wary! Usually these packages exclude any paintballs and only include the initial CO2 and a pistol for rent.

Get a Group Rate

The single best way to save money is to get a group rate. If you are a college student, check around for paintball clubs and events. Colleges, businesses and other organizations frequently can purchase paintballing packages for far less. Or just get a group of 10 or more friends together and you could have everything you need for a measly $20 a person. Not a bad deal! Fields also offer various promotions and sales, depending on the time of year or holidays. Investigate your options thoroughly so that the next time the enemy team sneaks behind your position, your wallet will have enough left in it to soften the blow.

The Bottom Line

If you love seeing your paintball splatter across someone's face mask as much as we do, maybe it's time to take up a new extra-curricular activity and invest in some new hardware. Quality guns can be had for as little as $200 - $300 and if you play frequently, the savings can be significant.