Paintballs: General Information, Storage, and Quality Levels

Paintballs are a key component of paintball markers, with their size and quality significantly impacting performance. While standard paintballs are typically .68 caliber, it's crucial to note that the optimal size for a .68 caliber ball is actually .689 caliber. Ideally, paintballs should be slightly smaller than the inner diameter of the barrel to prevent barrel breaks. However, due to variations in size and roundness, a barrel slightly larger than .689 is often recommended to accommodate different paintball qualities.

Most stock barrels are around .691 (+/-), ensuring compatibility with various paintball sizes. Investing in a quality aftermarket barrel can enhance accuracy, particularly when paired with high-grade paintballs. Paintballs may also fluctuate in size due to temperature, humidity, and altitude changes. Additionally, alternative sizes such as .50 caliber (for low-impact games) and proprietary sizes by different brands exist. Paintballs typically come in cases containing 2,000 rounds, divided into four 500-round bags.

Paintball Storage is critical for maintaining paintball quality. Paintballs are sensitive to humidity and temperature changes, which can cause the shells to stretch over time, resulting in shape distortion. Storing open bags of paintballs is not advisable, as exposure to fluctuating temperatures accelerates the aging process. Whether stored at 55 or 80 degrees Fahrenheit, consistent temperature is preferable to drastic fluctuations. Paintball stores and parks often store paintballs in climate-controlled environments and receive shipments in climate-controlled trucks to preserve quality. For optimal storage, keep paintballs unopened in a central closet at home. When stored properly, paintballs can maintain quality for up to 9 months.

Paintballs are classified into five quality levels, each with distinct characteristics:

  1. Level 1: Typically the most economical option, Level 1 paintballs may lack climate control during storage, resulting in thinner paint fills. Shell quality varies, with colors often derived from previous batches. These paintballs are commonly found in big box stores.

  2. Level 2: A step up from Level 1, Level 2 paintballs are freshly made and not aged upon purchase. While still featuring thin fills, they offer better quality than Level 1, with fewer barrel breaks. Notably, GI 1-Star paintballs and Formula 13 Paintballs fall into this category when purchased from reputable paintball outlets due to their short storage time.

  3. Level 3: Considered "standard grade," Level 3 paintballs boast quality shells and fills. These paintballs use first-run gelatin and colored shells, providing consistent performance. Examples include Empire Premium paintballs.

  4. Level 4: Offering thicker and brighter fills, Level 4 paintballs are designed for enhanced durability, making them suitable for wooded environments. While Empire Marballizer Paintballs are a notable example, it's essential to note that some Level 4 paintballs sold in mass merchant stores may not adhere to proper storage procedures.

  5. Level 5: Branded as "tournament" grade, Level 5 paintballs feature thicker fills and thin shells for increased accuracy and breakability. However, caution is advised, as the term "tournament" may be misleading, with some lower-quality paintballs using it in their branding. These paintballs are best used when fresh and have a shorter shelf life compared to other grades.

Understanding these quality levels allows players to make informed decisions based on their preferences and gameplay requirements, ensuring an optimal paintball experience.