Discovering Paintballs: All the Information You’ve Been Seeking

All the Information You've Been Seeking about Paintballs
Thinking of trying paintballing but need some guidance on paintballs types? No need to worry. In this article, I cover everything about paintballs.

From the basic of what are, how they are made, and how many types and sizes exist, to key points you absolutely need to know in order to have a thrilling paintball experience.

Let’s jump right into it.

What are paintballs?

Paintballs are small and round capsules with a thin and transparent coating and an interior filled with paint of different colors.

What Are Paintballs Made Of?

Paintballs are made of non-toxic and biodegradable materials on both inside and outside.

There are two types of paintballs: oil-based paintballs and water-based paintballs.

  • The water-based paintballs have an exterior made of food gelatin and other safe and non-toxic materials. The interior of these types of paintballs is obtained through a mix of polyethylene glycol and other water-soluble dyes. Polyethylene glycol is the main ingredient that prevents paintballs from freezing. It keeps the paintball freezing point at -15°F.
  • The oil-based paintballs have an exterior made of gelatin, just like water-based paintballs. However, the fill inside the paintball is different from the water-based ones. The interior of oil-based paintballs uses oil-based paint or dye rather than water-based ones. The interior of an oil-based paintball has a thicker and more viscous texture than that of a water-based paintball.

The ingredients of paintballs may differ from manufacturer to manufacturer.

How are paintballs made?

Paintballs are made using a process called encapsulation.

However, the production of paintballs begins with the preparation of the paint mix. At the same time, in another part of the factory, the ingredients necessary to create the gelatinous exterior are mixed.

After these two mixes are ready, they meet together in the next step called encapsulation.

The encapsulation process is done through an encapsulation machine. An encapsulation machine is similar to pharmaceutical machines used to manufacture gel-cap pills.

The encapsulation machine stretches the gelatinous substance on a cool drum. The gel is cured on the cool drum until the temperature allows it to be molded into capsules. After this step, the gel is pressed into another component of the encapsulation machine with circle pockets that give the shape of paintballs.

Once shaped, the machine injects an exact amount of paint and seals the two half circles together.

Paintballs are now made, but they are still soft. Therefore, the process continues with the placement of paintballs on another conveyor. They are transported to another machinery that dries them.

The drying step strengthens them and helps them keep their round shape. The drying time of paintballs differs depending on the manufacturer. Once completely dried, the process continues with their sorting and packaging as a final product.

Related video – Paintball encapsulation machine:

Types of Paintballs

As mentioned above, from the filling point of view, there are oil-based and water-based paintballs. However, paintballs can also be classified in terms of the paintball experience you look for.

Depending on the type of paintball, paintballs are divided into three categories:

1. Recreational Paintballs

Recreational paintballs are generally used in casual or recreational play and are the most common paintballs used. They are preferred by beginners but also by those who play tactical paintball.

These paintballs are available in different calibers and fit almost any kind of paintball gun. Recreational paintballs are the cheapest paintballs and are sold in bulk in different colors. You can find them in packs of 2000+ at sporting goods stores.

Keep in mind that recreational paintballs can have slight variations in size and shape.
2. Tournament Paintballs

As the name suggests, the tournament paintballs are made for tournaments and other competitions. They are the highest quality paintballs that you could ever use while playing paintball. Tournament paintballs have remarkable quality, no deviations in shape and size, and awesome accuracy.

Compared with recreational paintballs, the tournament ones are more expensive and have a thinner outer shell. The thin capsule makes them burst easily upon contact with the target.

They come in different colors but not neon colors. Neon colors are prohibited in official competitions.
3. Reusable Paintballs

Reusable paintballs are also known as reballs. These paintballs are made of rubber and do not contain paint. So, not a trace of dirt from the paint. Instead, they are heavier than the other two options above.

Reusable paintballs or reballs are more expensive than common paintballs with paint, but they have the advantage that you can wash and reuse them several times.

Characteristics of paintballs

Let’s continue and see how big paintballs are and what different sizes are there.

Paintballs come in several sizes that can vary from .40 caliber to .71 caliber.

But what does the caliber mean?

When you refer to the caliber of a paintball, you talk about its diameter. For example, a .40 caliber is a paintball that has a diameter of 4 inches.

The biggest paintball is one of .71 caliber, and the smallest paintball is one of .40 caliber.

The .40 caliber paintball weighs around 0.028 to 0.035 ounces. The .71 caliber paintball weighs 0.13 to 0.14 ounces.

The most common sizes for paintballs are .43, .50, and .68 calibers.

The paintballs with a caliber of .50 are also known as low-impact paintballs. These paintballs weigh 0.01 ounces, which makes them bigger than the .43 caliber and smaller than the .68 caliber paintballs.

The .68 caliber paintballs weigh between 0.11 to 0.12 ounces. They are bigger than .50 caliber paintballs.

Apart from caliber and weight, other characteristics of a paintball are its velocity and accuracy.

The speed of a paintball is influenced by its weight. A heavier paintball will not travel as fast as a lighter paintball due to air resistance. For example, a .50 caliber paintball is much faster than a .68 caliber.

The accuracy of the paintballs is defined by their roundness meaning that the paintballs must have a perfectly spherical shape.

Size and weight also contribute to the accuracy. The paintball must be consistent in size and weight and there should not be any variation.

Additionally, the thickness of the gel capsule must be thick enough to withstand the pressure, but not too thick to prevent it from bursting on impact.

However, I have to mention that the velocity and accuracy are not entirely affected by the weight of the paintball, but also by the paintball gun barrel.

What size paintballs should you get?

You should get the size of paintballs suitable for your paintball gun.

Most paintball guns can shoot .68 paintballs. This size of paintball is the most common. So, if you have a paintball gun that shoots .68 caliber or a standard paintball gun, you should get .68 caliber paintballs. If you have a paintball gun that shoots .50 caliber, then go for .50 caliber paintballs, and so on.

If you haven’t bought a gun yet but want to know what size paintball you should get, keep reading.

When buying a paintball gun, there are several things to consider, including the size of the paintball. You can also read my paintball gun buying guide for more guidance. Going back to the paintball size, you should think about what kind of paintball experience you want.

You can choose a paintball gun capable of firing a larger caliber such as .68 or a smaller caliber such as .50, also called low-impact paintball.

.68 caliber paintballs

Let me tell you what each entails .68 caliber paintballs suit all styles of paintball.

They have a high speed and a larger amount of paint when they hit the target.

The downsides are that they are heavier and don’t fit very well in the bunker, so you need to have supplies to feed the paintball gun. Also, being large, they are quite painful on impact.

.50 caliber paintballs

The low-impact paintballs or paintballs of .50 caliber have a smaller size and are lighter than those of .68 caliber. They will fit more in the hooper of the paintball gun and you can play more without refueling.

At the same time, their lower weight makes them less painful upon contact with the target. However, their velocity and speed are lower.

The low-impact paintballs or paintballs of .50 caliber are excellent for beginners in the world of paintball and who are afraid of pain at impact.

To sum up, it is important to use the correct size of paintballs for your paintball gun because the wrong size can ruin your entire experience and even the paintball gun.

How Long Do Paintballs Last?

Every paintball player, whether a beginner or not, has wondered at least once how long paintballs last or if paintballs have an expiration date. So, how long does paintball last? Do paintballs expire?

Believe it or not, paintballs do expire. According to the manufacturers, the paintballs last about 4 to 6 months from the date of manufacture. Paintball professionals say this period applies to all paintballs, regardless of materials and type of paint. However, the 4-6 month period only applies if the paintballs are stored properly. If the paintballs are not stored correctly, then they can degrade faster than 4 months.

You might ask: ok, but why do paintballs expire? Well, as I mentioned at the beginning, paintballs are made of non-toxic and biodegradable materials. Therefore, both the gelatin shell and the paint inside have an expiry date.

The manufacturer does not print the expiration date on the packaging but shows the production date. All you have to do is add the time since they were produced to see if they fall within the 4 to the 6-month range. If you no longer have the packaging, try to remember the last time you bought it, or if you bought it online, check your account.

What factors affect how long paintballs last?

Before telling you how to store them, you need to know what factors affect their longevity. Here are two factors that can ruin your paintballs:

1. Extreme temperatures

Very high or very low temperatures affect the shape of paintballs.

At low temperatures, paintballs become hard and brittle. When you aim with paintballs kept at low temperatures, you won’t see paint marks. Paintballs will bounce more than burst. Imagine how frustrating it is to have no proof that you hit someone on the paintball field.

Do not freeze your paintballs. You should not put paintballs in your freezer. It does not keep them fresh. Actually, it doesn’t help at all. By freezing them, you ruin them completely.

Hot temperatures are also a no-no. They cause the gelatin shell to deform. At the same time, the paint inside expands, putting more pressure on the shell. They can burst even at the slightest touch.

2. Moisture

Moisture can ruin your paintballs too. It can cause them to swell and deform. The gelatin capsule becomes very soft and changes its shape very easily.

How to keep paintballs fresh and properly store them for longevity?

To keep your paintballs fresh, you should store paintballs in the following conditions:

  • Temperature between 60°F to 85°F
  • Humidity between 40%-50%
  • Stored in a dry, sealed container or a paintball caddy
  • Do not expose the container to sunlight.

I keep them in an airtight container right under the bed and I recommend you do the same. You shouldn’t put them in the garage. During the summer, it is possible to keep the garage door open and the temperature will rise. In winter, if the garage is not heated, the temperature can drop a lot.

Extra: Tips to store your paintballs during a game

As you have already seen, extreme temperatures can damage your paintballs.

So, if you have a paintball day coming up but the temperatures are extreme, you can do the following things:

  • If the temperatures are lower than 60°F, try to keep the paintballs in the heated car or take something like a blanket or heat packs to keep them at a more optimal temperature above 60°F.
  • If the temperatures are above 85°F, then turn on the car’s air conditioner. You can also take some ice packs or freeze some water bottles and place them all in a cooler or in a place in the shade together with paintballs.

Checking if paintballs are bad or good for the game

It sometimes happens that you find an older bag of paintballs in the house that you forgot about, or after a long break, you want to go back to the paintball field.

So, can you use old paintballs?

Before using them, I recommend you check their condition.

The following signs may indicate that your paintballs are no longer good for the game:

  • Loss of spherical shape
  • Paintballs are oily. If paintballs are oily, it usually means that they are not fresh and have begun to break down.
  • Paintballs are wet. If paintballs are wet to the touch, it is a sign that they have been exposed to moisture and gone bad.
  • Paintballs are too soft or too hard
  • They were not stored in an airtight container
  • They were left in the sun
  • They have dimples

Even if none of the above signs are present, but you know that the paintballs are quite old, you should not put them in the paintball gun yet.

Try to do the drop test. For the drop test, you have to take a paintball, hold it at the level of your shoulder, and drop it down. If the paintball bursts on the first or second test, it means that they are still good, and you can use them.

Why you should not play paintball with old paintballs

  • Old paintballs can affect your performance. The speed and velocity of an old paintball are not as good as a fresh paintball.
  • Old paintballs can damage your paintball gun. Old paintballs can become brittle or soft and break easily. They can break apart in your gun barrel, affecting your paintball equipment.
  • Old paintballs do not have vibrant colors. They do not burst as they should and makes it harder to distinguish your hit or miss.
  • Old paintballs have a reduced accuracy. They become oily or wet and they do not fly straight anymore

How many paintballs do you need?

It can be challenging to figure out how many paintballs you should take with you when playing paintball. In general, you need 100 to 150 paintballs per hour in a paintball session.

This number is an average one. The number of paintballs you need for a paintball session depends on the following factors:

  • duration of the paintball session
  • playing position
  • shooting style
  • level of experience: beginner, experienced, aggressive player.
  • game type

How many paintballs do you need depending on the length of the game?

Each paintball game can have a different duration, and therefore, you may need a different number of paintballs depending on the duration of the paintball game.

If the game is longer, you need more paintballs. If the duration of the game is shorter, you can take fewer paintballs with you.

I recommend that you talk to your friends or those who organize the game to have a better idea of how long the paintball game will last. That way, you will always be prepared with the right number of paintballs.

Let’s go into more detail about how many paintballs you need.

How many paintballs do you need for 1 hour?
The average player uses about 100 to 150 balls per hour. So if you know you’re only going to play paintball for an hour, you can take around 100-150 balls.

How many paintballs do you need for 2 hours?
For a two-hour paintball game, you need 200-300 paintballs. Also, consider the position you play and your type of game. You can always bring a few extra paintballs to be on the safe side.

How many paintballs do you need for 3 hours?
If the paintball game lasts three hours, then take 300 to 450 paintballs with you. This number is based on the estimate of 100-150 paintballs per hour that the average player needs. Additionally, if you’re someone who likes to be cautious, you may want to consider bringing a small reserve of extra paintballs, say about 50 more, just in case you need them during the game.

How many paintballs do you need for a day?
You need about 450 to 550 paintballs for a day of paintball. This number is an average per day for an average paintball player.

As you can see, this number is no longer based on the average of 100-150 paintballs per hour. Why? Because in a day full of paintball, each player changes the strategy directly on the field, playing position, and also mood.

Of course, with the 450-550 paintballs, you can bring a backup supply to avoid running out of paintballs during the game.

How long will 100 paintballs last?
100 paintballs should last for 30 minutes to an hour. The factor that influences the length of time is your style of play and your mood.

If you want to have fun with your friends in a casual paintball game, 100 paintballs should be enough for 30 minutes to an hour. If you like to play more aggressively or you are a beginner and tenser, then 100 paintballs can be enough for 15 to 30 minutes.

If we are talking about a paintball tournament, then 100 paintballs should last for a typical game that lasts 5 to 10 minutes.

How long will 200 paintballs last?
200 paintballs can last up to 2 hours if you aim with maximum attention and caution. Take into account the other factors I mentioned such as the playing style and the game style.

How many paintballs do you need depending on the playing position?

Paintball is a strategic game and each team member has a specific role. Each position requires a certain shooting style, so some positions will need more paintballs, while others can handle fewer.

The position of frontman or forward is the one who leads the attacks and helps the team advance on the field. Being in the first line of defense, the frontman aims more often and aggressively and needs more paintballs. In a one-hour game, I would recommend that a frontman have 150 paintballs in addition to the 150 already required. So, as a frontman, a total of 300 paintballs per hour are enough.

Positions such as backman or defender, and sniper do very well with only 150 paintballs in an hour of play. These positions use their paintballs to shoot accurately and precisely the targets. They usually shoot from a stationary position.

If you play as a midfielder, I suggest you have 200-230 paintballs for an hour of play. As a midfielder, you don’t know if you have to offer more support in the front or back positions, and it is good to have extra paintballs on you.

How many paintballs do you need depending on the shooting style?

The number of paintballs you need depends on your shooting style and the techniques you want to use.

If you like to shoot aggressively or offensively, you will probably need more paintballs than the average player. Take an extra 100-150 paintballs with you. If you like to aim carefully at specific targets, then 150 balls per hour are enough.

However, keep in mind the technique you want to apply in the paintball game. You do not need extra paintballs for techniques like snap shooting, pop shooting, or ambush. But, if you prefer the stray and pray strategy where you continuously shoot in all directions, you need more paintballs.

How many paintballs do you need depending on the game type?

Woodsball, speedball, scenario game – what exactly will you play? It’s a question you have to answer when you think about how many paintballs to take with you.

For example, for speedball, you need 200-250 paintballs for one hour and 350-400 for two hours. You need more paintballs than average because speedball is played on smaller surfaces. You don’t run much but shoot more.

For woodsball, take 150-180 for one hour, and 300 for two hours. Unlike speedball, in woodsball, you run more and shoot less.

When it comes to scenario games, take with you 250 paintballs for an hour and 550-600 for a whole day.

My advice is to always bring extra balls to a game, just in case you need more than you anticipated. It’s better to have more than to run out of balls.

Good paintballs vs cheap paintballs

Is it worth investing money in buying good quality paintballs or is it good to play with some cheap paintballs?

The quality of the paintballs can significantly affect your performance. The paintballs you select can have a considerable effect on your accuracy on the paintball field.

Here are some pros and cons for good paintballs vs. cheap paintballs.

Table 1. Cheap Paintballs vs Expensive Paintballs
PRO – Cheap PaintballsPRO – Expensive Paintballs
Less expensiveMore consistent in size and shape
Widely availableHigher quality fill for better marking
Good for recreational useMore durable and less prone to breaks
CONS – Cheap PaintballsCONS – Expensive Paintballs
Inconsistent in size/shapeMore expensive
Thin paint fillMay require higher-end equipment
Prone to barrel breaksMay require more careful storage
Less accurate
May damage equipment

How much do paintballs cost?

Every time you want to play paintball, you need paintballs. Paintballs are the most apparent cost of playing paintball.

But how much do paintballs cost?

The cheap paintballs cost between $15 and $30. You can buy a box of 500 paintballs for $10, or a case with 2000 paintballs for $30.

More expensive paintballs reach somewhere around $70-$80 per case of 2000 paintballs.

It’s worth noting that some paintball fields require you to purchase their own paintballs, which may be priced differently. This is mostly the case in professional fields.


Can paintballs break glass?

To answer you briefly, yes, paintballs can break glass.

However, it also depends a lot on the type of glass, the shape, the angle, and the distance. If we talk about simple glass, yes paintballs, although fragile, can break the glass. Fired at a high velocity, paintballs can hit a piece of glass with enough force to break or shatter it.

If we are talking about double-ad triple-glass or car windows, then paintballs are not strong enough to break them. They are thicker and more resilient and cannot be shattered by paintballs.

As a tip, if you play in a zone with glass, it is best to avoid shooting toward it.

What are winter paintballs?

Winter paintballs are paintballs specially created to be used in colder weather such as winter months when temperatures drop considerably. Winter paintballs are also known as cold-weather paintballs. These paintballs are different from the usual ones and have a more durable capsule. This robust capsule withstands lower temperatures and does not let the paint inside become brittle. The paint of these winter paintballs is also made of a special mix that resists lower temperatures.

What happens when you eat paintballs?

When you eat paintballs, you may experience diarrhea, vomiting, ataxia, tremors, lethargy, and general weakness.

Although paintballs are classified as edible and non-toxic, they should not be eaten! They contain water, gelatin, polyethylene glycol, and of course paint. All these can cause adverse reactions in the human body. In particular, polyethylene glycol is generally used as a laxative and will cause extreme diarrhea.

All that being said, although they are not toxic for humans, do not try to eat paintballs.

Do all paintballs fit all guns?

No, not all paintballs fit all guns. Paintballs come in many sizes and diameters. The diameter of a paintball refers to the caliber of a paintball. A paintball’s caliber can vary from .40 caliber to .71 caliber. The most common size of paintball is .68 caliber, which is about 0.68 inches in diameter.

Just like paintballs, paintball guns also come in certain sizes. Some paintball guns are designed to shoot smaller paintballs like the ones of .50 caliber. Other paintball guns are created to shoot larger paintballs like the ones of .68 caliber. If a paintball gun is made to work with .50 caliber paintballs, you cannot use another size of paintball because you will destroy your paintball gun. When using paintballs of a different size than the one indicated, there is a risk that the paintballs will break inside the paintball gun, damaging it.

It’s important to use the correct size and type of paintballs to ensure the safe and optimal performance of the gun.

Are paintballs flammable?

No, paintballs are not flammable. I am talking here strictly about water-based paintballs. These types of paintballs are made of gelatin, water-based substances, and other non-toxic and biodegradable material. Neither of these materials is flammable.

Are paintballs toxic to dogs?

Yes, paintballs are toxic to dogs if ingested. Paintballs contain non-toxic, biodegradable elements, water-soluble dye, and other substances such as polyethylene glycol, which is used as a laxative.

Polyethylene glycol is very harmful to dogs if ingested. This ingredient can cause digestive issues or blockages if eaten by a dog. It can cause toxic complications like very high sodium levels or even death.

Among the symptoms of paintball ingestion are vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, and lethargy. If you suspect your dog has ingested paintballs and you see these symptoms, contact your veterinarian immediately.

To minimize the risk of your dog or any other pet ingesting paintballs, store them in a secure location that is completely inaccessible to pets.

Can you eat paintballs?

No, you cannot and should not eat paintballs. Although they are made with biodegradable and non-toxic ingredients for humans, you should not eat paintballs. Paintballs do not taste good and can cause problems in the human body. They can cause diarrhea, vomiting, tremors, weakness, and ataxia due to the polyethylene glycol ingredient.

Also, keep away from your pets. They are very dangerous if ingested by pets and can even cause death.

What paintballs hurt the most?

The paintballs of .68 caliber with harder shells or thicker fills hurt the most. These paintballs with this diameter are the most common and among the largest and most painful on impact. They are used frequently in recreational paintball.

How to make paintballs more accurate

You can make the paintballs more accurate if you store them in good conditions that do not cause damage to their shape, size, or consistency. Paintballs are made from gelatin capsules filled with a water-soluble mixture. They are extremely sensitive to heat, cold, and humidity. Extreme temperatures can cause them to expand, losing their accuracy.

To make the paintballs more accurate, you should store them in a climate-controlled room or an airtight container. In this way, the temperature and humidity level is kept constant. Your paintballs maintain their shape and size, which can lead to more accurate shots.

How many paintballs will a paintball hopper hold

The number of paintballs a paint hopper can hold depends on the size of the hopper. Smaller hoppers can hold 50 paintballs, while larger hoppers can hold 250 to 300 paintballs.

Paintball caliber can also affect the number of paintballs a paintball hopper can hold. If the paintballs have a smaller caliber, more can fit in the hopper. If they have a larger caliber, then the hopper can hold fewer paintballs.

A medium-sized paintball bunker can hold about 200 balls. 200 paintballs are enough for one hour of paintball.

Can paintballs break the skin?

Yes, paintballs can tear skin and cause serious injury, especially if fired at close range. The forceful impact of the paintballs can cause temporary damage to the skin and underlying tissue. Generally, this happens very rarely on the paintball field.

To avoid this type of injury, it is important to wear proper paintball protective gear, which includes: a paintball mask, paintball goggles, a thick layer of clothing, and gloves. Clothing covers your skin and reduces the likelihood of skin tears.

For your safety and everyone else’s, it’s good to follow the rules of the game, be properly equipped, and avoid shooting at close range or high velocity.

How fast do paintballs go (mph)?

Paintballs can go as fast as 200 mph, which is 300 fps. Many paintball fields only allow paintball guns that shoot 200 mph or below. This is considered to be the maximum speed of paintballs at which the game of paintball still remains safe for the players.

Do reusable paintballs weigh the same as regular paintballs

No, reusable paintballs do not weigh the same as regular paintballs. Reusable paintballs weigh more than common paintballs. Reusable paintballs or reballs are made of rubber or silicone and do not contain paint. Paintball players can re-use these paintballs several times on the field.

What do paintballs feel like?

Paintballs can feel like a quick, sharp sting or a flick. However, the level of pain depends on the size of the paintball, how fast the ball is flying, what part of the body it hits, and the distance from where it is shot.

For example, a paintball of .50 caliber causes less pain than one of a larger caliber than the .68. Also, a paintball hitting a more bony area of the body hurts more than when it hits a more fleshy area like the thigh.

Some people find that paintballs are not that painful, but others find them quite unpleasant. It all depends on one’s pain tolerance. The bottom line is that getting hit by a paintball is nothing dangerous.

What can I do with old paintballs?

No, paintballs should not be thrown in the regular garbage. They can damage the environment and can even be ingested by various animals, causing their death. Although biodegradable, paintballs must be disposed of properly.

You can consult the local waste management unit and see if they accept paintballs.

Another possibility to dispose of paintballs is by contacting various paintball fields. Some paintball fields have special disposal bins for used paintballs and accept old paintballs for a fee.

Alternatively, you can throw paintballs responsibly if you prepare them properly. You can do this by breaking paintballs. In a bucket with warm water, you can add the paintballs. The paintballs become soft and break. Use a sieve to remove the paintballs and break them into small pieces. Once they are broken down, throw them in the garbage.

Proper disposal of paintballs helps maintain and protect the environment.

About the author: Dave Grayson

I was always the kid who could not stay put for more than two consecutive seconds. So naturally, my parents decided to make everyone’s life easier by paying for all sorts of sports classes that could successfully burn my excess energy in a healthy way.

I’ve always enjoyed all sports and I cannot imagine my life without at least four days a week of physical activity. Keep reading...

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