Bob McGuire (PTI & APL) Paintball industry Blog, for Paintball Fields and Manufacturers. Problems and Opportunities, ASTM updates, LOW IMPACT PAINTBALL.


This is the first in a series of posts about a delicate topic in our industry. I wish to apologize to the PC police. There is no way to discuss paintball impact without discussing pain. There are many different forms of paintball, including “Low Impact”, in which some players experience little or no pain. At the other end of the spectrum, high impact “Traditional” paintball game participants may enjoy the enhanced firepower and ballistic performance. Some people even get an adrenaline high from potential paintball pain, and may not even be aware of it during games. Over the past decade, commercial play sites have identified a major market for low impact paintball, where parents, youth ministers, and other potential private groups are looking for answers about safety and impact paintball pain.

Impact has many definitions. I have never seen a technically complete and accurate theoretical calculation of paintball impact, nor am I capable of presenting one. However, paintball terminal ballistics can be examined and comparisons made between various projectiles and conditions. I enjoy calm discussions with objective people, about basic considerations, such as: “Does paintball hurt more than airsoft?” Although the generality of this question makes any absolute answer indefensible, the considerations are usually enlightening.

There is little agreement about the exact contributing factors or accurate measurement of paintball pain. Most serious testing usually leads to impressive instrumentation or welting. Impact pain reported by inexperienced players actually provided most of my early empirical data. Comments from recreational players and referees sometimes raised questions about why our early attempts at “Low Impact Paintball” sometimes refuted our theoretical expectations. We quickly identified some common misconceptions about paintball impact pain.

For starters, one of the most important factors affecting paintball “impact” is also the greatest variable. Over the years, the paintball industry has based definitions and standards for paintball impact on kinetic energy (KE). Experienced players usually agree that all paintballs do not hurt the same. Some projectiles are tougher than others. The ultimate tough paintball is solid (frozen), but the purposeful use of frozen paintballs must be prohibited and may be criminal. Yet, the KE of frozen paintballs is the same as paintballs having the same weight and velocity that easily break upon impact. Obviously, kinetic energy is not the correct measure of impact. Unfortunately, since most people are after a single theoretical solution for calculating and limiting paintball impact, it has been difficult to define low impact paintball marker performance and design.

I sometimes receive hate mail from people who disagree with my opinions. My theories are published targets, so stray shots are normal. Some experienced paintballers have reportedly interviewed professional engineers (PE) who have contrary opinions. It would help if technical or experienced individuals would publish their opinions or theories alongside mine, on an open forum where we might learn together. I welcome any comments here. I plan to follow up with technical considerations (theoretical calculations or empirical data) regarding:

• Why do paintballs having the same velocity and mass (weight) not all hurt the same?
• Why do some people experience more pain than others who are subject to the “same” pain?
• Can a .68 caliber paintball be used in low impact paintball games?
• Can a .68 caliber paintball shot at a reasonable velocity hurt less than a .50 caliber paintball?
• What factors affect how easily a paintball breaks?
• What are all of the different definitions of kinetic energy density?

For the past five years I have enjoyed participating in the development of a new ASTM proposed standard that finally appeared on the August 2014 ballot. It features a kinetic energy density calculation for projectiles which may be ideal for the determination of allowable impacts for paintball and airsoft. More details will be forthcoming.

I encourage you to post comments.

Low Impact Paintball Safety Rules and equipment are much different than traditional paintball.

Paintball Pain is minimized in Low Impact games by using special Paintball equipment and game safety rules. Players in low impact games are handed their markers and their goggle straps are checked, while enroute to the field.

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