Paintballs are made by many different producers, each using similar, but not identical, formulas for the shell and paint. These differences create small variations in the size and shape. These small differences can make a huge difference in your shooting accuracy and the reliability of your marker. This is partially caused by the slight differences in the inside diameters of paintball gun barrels. With a less stringent manufacturing requirement than real guns, paintball gun equipment manufacturers may put out products that offer noticeable inside diameter variations in a barrel from one product line to the next and sometimes even in two similar models.
The best way to determine whether a particular brand of paintballs will work in your marker is to perform the following test. Unscrew the barrel from your paintball gun, drop a single paintball in it. If the paintball rolls through without any restriction from the barrel, the ball is probably not a good choice for your barrel because it is too small. It will “bounce” down the barrel during shooting due to the higher pressures and cause inaccurate results. If the ball doesn’t drop all the way through the barrel and you have to push it out, the ball is not a good choice because it is too large.
What’s “just right?” The paintball should fall completely through the barrel with a very small amount of resistance as it goes through. Remember, when shooting, there will be a large burst of air/CO2 behind the paintball, causing a great deal of pressure. A paintball that is not well-sized for your barrel will reduce the effectiveness of your shooting, either through accuracy or reduced range and power.
You also need to consider the quality of the paintballs you are buying. For example, recreational paintballs are much cheaper than those designed for tournament use, but they are much less consistent. This may be due to a cheap paint or lower quality shell. These paintballs are more geared for someone who is practicing or for players who don’t take many precision shots. Tournament-grade paintballs are the most expensive, but will give the most consistent performance in shooting. Some brands also offer a mid-grade, in addition to the recreational- and tournament-grade offerings. No matter what you select, choose the grade that best suits how you play. Most players use recreational paintballs the most, only using tournament-grade paintballs for competitions or precision shooting positions (such as the sniper).
Choosing the wrong type of paintball can create problems with your marker. For example, if you struggle with paintballs breaking before they leave the gun’s barrel, it could be a problem with the gun (too high pressure, hopper or magazine feed issue, etc.), or it could simply be that you’re using a paintball too soft-shelled for the gun you’re using.
Buying paintballs is likely the most expensive part of playing the sport. If you participate in regular practice, you should probably purchase your paintballs from a local source rather than through mail order. This is primarily due to shipping expenses. A box of 1,000 paintballs weighs roughly 7.5 pounds. This means you must add another $10+ to the overall cost of each order (much higher if you don’t use regular ground shipping).
Two of the most popular brands available (and on opposite ends of the quality and predictability spectrum) are Monster Balls and Karnage. Monster Balls are generally available at Walmart and cost about $26 (for 2,000). They are cheap and readily available, but they are disdained by most players because they have an extremely hard shell, which causes bruising and possible injury. For this reason, many commercial fields have banned Monster Balls for anything other than practice use.
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