How to Play Paintball – What you MUST know before you Start!

If you are new to paintball, or this is your first time playing you will want to know what to expect. Here are the basics to get you started on your expedition of learning how to play paintball.

Where to play

Paintball can be played in a wide variety of wooded, desert, urban and rocky terrains, but the most common place to start playing is on a commercial paintball field. This can be indoor or outdoor, but truthfully, most are outdoor.

Playing in an outdoor commercial field is a great place to start because these fields have plenty of other players, they rent equipment, usually sell food, water, extra ammo and refill canisters. They will have just about everything you need to play.

What to wear

If you have no paintball gear, the best thing to wear is a pair of denim jeans or cargo pants, sturdy shoes like hiking shoes or old sneakers with good tread, a long sleeve shirt and a baseball cap.

You can rent all the other gear, protective equipment, paintballs, marker and mask at the field.

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At a commercial field, you don’t need to bring any equipment or gear, but if you have it, that’s cool too.

Besides the items mentioned in what to wear, you will need the following items to play:

Your Gun- Learning to use your gun is one of the most important aspects of learning how to play paintball. If you are renting a gun, or bring your own there are a few things you might want to know before you begin using it.
  • Most guns operate using canisters, also called tanks, of compressed air. The compressed air propels paint balls out the barrel one at a time.
  • Paint balls can break in the barrel. This is undesirable because it mucks up the next shots. Many players carry a ‘swab’ with them, which looks like an overgrown pipe cleaner or a miniature dusting wand. You might carry one of those with you to clean the barrel if, or when, a paintball breaks in your barrel.
  • You must take the safety off (disengage the safety lock) before you start shooting. If your gun is not firing, this is the first thing to check.
  • If your gun jams during play, yell “JAM!” so other players know not to shoot you.
  • Don’t turn the gun upside down. Gravity is a cruel master and will take your paintballs from you. Plus this causes the gun to jam.

pintball mask with goggles

Rules, Regulations, Standards and Protective Equipment

The rules and regulations vary from field to field, and place to place, so read the rules posted before you start. There are however a few universal paintball SAFETY rules you should know about.

  • ALWAYS wear your mask. The only place you do no have to wear the mask is the neutral zone, where people are not playing. Paintball has caused some serious eye injury and in all cases, the injury would have been prevented by wearing a mask. Even if the game is over, or you think it’s over, keep the mask on when you are on the field.
  • Paintball markers must be set at 280 Feet Per Second. This is a safety rule. Some guns can be set higher, but usually a safety marshal or similar will check gun settings before play.
  • If you are hit, QUICKLY leave the field. Don’t lollygag, you risk getting hit again. Raise your hand above your head and yell “HIT!”
You are considered hit when a paintball hits you and breaks open. If the paintball bounces without breaking you are free to play.
  • Do not shoot players at point blank range. Different fields have different procedures, some you can walk up to a player and say “bang bang, you are hit” while others ask you to offer surrender or point at the feet. Find out what the custom is for the field you are playing.


  • Paint balls are slow and fall quickly. Because of this it is best to aim over your target so the ball can hit the target. The farther you are, the more pronounce this effect is. Refining your shooting technique is part of improving your game and will happen with practice.
  • Since paintballs are relatively slow, if your target is moving it is also a good idea to shoot ahead of your target for a better chance of them running into the path of the ball.
  • Don’t be machine gun sally. Shooting a bazillion balls at once may make you feel like Rambo for a moment, but that feeling quickly fades when you run out of balls and end up feeling more like you are re-acting a scene of “The Walking Dead”.


  • Possible hit– If you are not sure if you have been hit yell “Paint Check” and a member of your team or a marshal will check.
  • Certain Hit– Yell “HIT” and run off the field with your hands up.
  • Surrender– If you need to surrender for any reason, like you are about to be shot up close, yell surrender and exit the field.
  • Whistle– The whistle signifies the beginning and the end of the game. Note: Just because the whistle is blown, does not mean it is OK to remove your mask. You must not remove the mask until you are in the neutral zone. Most player eye injuries happen because the player thought the game was over and removed the mask.


Tournament play is done using teams of anywhere from 3 to 7 players for each team. Similar to other sports, the teams play in tournaments. Each player is ranked based on skill level, and then the entire team is given a division based on the rankings of team members.

Teams play in a round robin format with the best teams moving to the next level.

This is only a quick overview of how to play paintball. Once you get out there the nuances and details will become more apparent. Remember, stay safe and keep your mask on!

Last update on 2024-04-19 at 02:05 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API