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Paintball is a fast and furious sport. It is played on both a social and serious level by over 16 million people around the world (Cooke,11). It is one of the fastest growing sports on the planet. Paintball's history, games, guns, and safety are all part of the fun.

In 1970, James Hale, an engineer, invented and patented the first commercially successful paintball gun. Paintball guns were first used by the National Forest Association to mark trees that would be cut down. Then, it was used to mark cattle by cowboys. One night while sitting around a campfire, one cowboy shot another and that is how the game of paintball got started. This "splotchmaker" can rightfully claim to be the grandfather of modern paintball guns (Peters, 73).

Over the next two decades, Daisy Manufacturing Co. Inc. of Airgun Frames manufactured these guns under contract for the Nelson Paint Co.

During this twenty year span, paintball evolved from a "survivalist" game into the wholesome, exciting, family game it is today.

In paintball, there are two teams equipped with paintball markers. These are basically low-powered airguns that fire small capsules of paint. It is not a dangerous sport. The only real danger is getting hit in the eye with a paintball. Wearing specific goggles made for paintball easily stops this danger. This rule is strictly enforced at all reputable playing fields worldwide. Obviously if a player is out of sight of the referee and takes off his mask, then he is looking for trouble. American Insurance statistics show that it is safer to play paintball than to play golf or go fishing (Pierce, 17). Getting hit by a paintball generally does not hurt. You may get an occasional bruise, but on the whole the game is not painful. The excitement certainly outweighs any momentary discomfort a player may feel. To lesson the chance of being bruised, long sleeved shirts and pants are highly recommended. To be on the safe side, more than one layer should be worn. Bright colors should be avoided, purely because the more visible you are, the more likely you are to be shot. Most people like to wear camouflage clothing. This helps them to blend into the environment and not be easily shot. Also, good quality hiking or trail boots with ankle support is a good idea to protect both feet and ankles.

There are many different leagues and tournaments you can participate in as a player. In a league setting, you usually play a round robin. Each week you play a different team in the league until you have played all of the teams. Then, whoever has the best record wins the league. In a tournament, it is usually single elimination. If your team loses, then they are done. If they win, then your team gets to keep moving on. When it is finally down to two teams, they play for the championship. Whoever wins is the champion and they get a prize. Sometimes, it is money (up to five thousand dollars), cases of paintballs, or free entry into the next tournament.

There is a wide range of paintball guns on the market today. There are also various price ranges to go along with the various types of guns. The first kind of gun is the pump-action. This is the least expensive of the three types of guns. It is made of hard plastic and very little metal. The pump-action gun costs between fifty to one hundred dollars and shoots about 100 to 150 feet. This is a good gun for beginners or younger player because it is inexpensive and easy to use. Do not expect to be able to compete in tournaments with this gun. The next and most popular type of gun is the semi-automatic. It will shoot as fast as you pull the trigger. These are good; reliable guns made mostly of metal and very little plastic. This gun costs between two hundred and one thousand dollars and is a lot more accurate than the pump-action gun. It shoots over 300 feet per shot. Most people use this gun when they play. To make this gun last as long as possible, it should be oiled after every one thousand shots. The third and most expensive type of gun is the fully automatic. It costs between one thousand two hundred dollars to over two thousand dollars and is made of lightweight metal and plastic. All you have to do is hold the trigger and it will shoot six to eight shots per second. Only professional players use these guns because most people cannot afford them. These guns shoot between 300 and 350 feet per shot and also should be oiled after every one thousand shots. Choosing the right paintball gun is one of the most important decisions before playing paintball.

CO2 tanks power most paintball guns but a few are powered by N2 tanks. You screw the tank into the back of the gun and this provides you with power. The tanks come in four different sizes: 7 ounce, 9 ounce, 12 ounce, and 20 ounce. You must remember the bigger the tank the more it will weigh.

There are thousands of different accessories for a paintball gun and the game of paintball. Here are a few that will improve your performance the most. First, you should get a better barrel. A longer, better made barrel is the best way to improve your gun. It will make the ball shoot farther and make it a lot more accurate. The next basic need for your gun is a hopper. This is what holds your paintballs on top of your gun. They come in three different sizes, the 45 round hopper, the 150 round hopper, and the 230 round hopper. The 230 round hopper is the most popular hopper in the game. The last accessory that most players need is a ball hauler or carrier. This is a nylon pouch that straps onto your back and carries your extra balls. You need this because you do not want to be in a game and run out of balls.

Safety equipment needs to be worn and rules must be followed to be safe. When playing paintball, never take off your masks. If you take off your mask, you are automatically disqualified from the game. A paintball mask is made of soft foam padding, rubber and plastic. It covers from forehead all the way down to the neck. There is a goggle system built into the mask that will not break if you get hit in the face. Although, you should never shoot within 10 feet of someone. If someone yells, "hit", do not continue to shoot at him or her. If you are hit, be a good sport and walk off the field.

The last and most fun part of paintball is the games. There are five basic games in paintball. The first and most popular game is capture the flag. You need at least five people per team, but the more the better. This game is best played in a wooded area. You must place a bright color flag at each end of the field. Once teams are at the opposite ends of the field, the game can begin. The object of the game is to capture the other teams flag and return it to your base. If you are shot while returning the flag, you must drop or hand it to another player. You can also win by eliminating the whole other team. A variation of this game is called spy versus spy. You first must gather teams at their respective flag stations. Then, each player must leave the group and walk past the referee, who at random picks the spy. The selection process must be done in such a way as to guarantee that no one will know who the spy is. Once everyone is regrouped at the flag station, the timer is started and the game is on. Each team has a spy who must work secretly to ensure his or her team will win. Game strategy dramatically increases. Not only are players trying to discover the spy, they are also trying to get the opposing teams flag. Each game is timed to ensure that the spy will begin to convert operations before it is too late to do so. A special emphasis must be placed on having the spy always use the courtesy of politely asking a player to surrender rather than giving him a painful shot at close quarters. Also, a player eliminated by a spy cannot in any way alert their team members to the existence of the spy. This means no cheating and yelling "traitor" after you have been eliminated. The spy, however, cannot abandon his mission and flee to his own side. His sole purpose is to work towards the capture of the flag from the inside.

The next game is called seek out and destroy. This game is played by at least six people (three to a team). On team must go and hide. Then, the other team will come in and try to find them. A time limit is set at thirty minutes. The object of the game is to eliminate the other team before time is up. There are two different stratagies in this game. The first is to keep your team together and try to outnumber them. The second is to split your team up and have each person try to take another person out. This is a very easy game to play for a beginner because there are not many rules.

A third game is every man for himself. This game is played the same as seek out and destroy except each person plays alone. The game begins by each person walking in a different direction. After a few minutes someone can blow a whistle and you can start looking for other players. The game ends when there is only one person left.

A fourth game is called relief force. Here is how the game is set up. One-third of the first team is allowed a head start (10 minutes) to place themselves in a defensive position within an area chosen by the referee. The players in this force are allowed only twenty paintballs apiece. Once in place, this unit is then surrounded by the entire opposing team, at a range chosen by the referee. The remaining two-thirds of the first team starts at the far end of the field from their encircled teammates. The teammates of the surrounded unit must break through and evacuate as many of their trapped buddies as possible. They may bring extra ammunition to resupply the trapped unit should they reach them in time. Surrounded players play on normally at all times until eliminated. A variation of this theme assumes the encircled troops have captured some item such as secret plans, represented by a briefcase or notebook. To win, the relief force must keep this item from falling into the hands of the surrounding team. If the surrounding team captures the item and returns it to their station, they win. Also, surrounding players alive at the end of the game can be assigned a point value to make their rescue even more important.

The last game is a continuous play game. The only extra items you need are a paper punch and a player card. This is a great game to play when you have a continuous stream of experienced players arriving on the field at different times. Each player is given a card to keep track of how many times he or she is eliminated. When eliminated, the player comes off the field, punches the card and returns to the game. The team loses points every time a team member is eliminated. The team gains points every time they bring back the opposing side's flag.

Paintball is a fun and serious game. It does not glorify war. It is an old paintball adage that the sport actually proves how easy it is to be shot. The supporters of paintball like to prefer the sport as a tactical game of skill. (Cooke, 93) You need to wear protection and play fair so everyone stays safe. Also, you can play the regular, basic games or make up your own. The most important thing is to have fun and play responsibly.