Firstly, let me apologise for this thread: I am a massive fan and I make no excuses for my enthusiasm in regards to this activity. So, if you feel I am a little crazy about it, do please forgive me, I am afterall, only human!
Right, with that out of the way let us get to grips with the real meat of the subject: paintballing! For those who have never been or have never heard of it, it generally involves getting dressed up in some camouflage gear, running around some woods and shooting the other team with your guns, with “kills” being identified by those who have been shot by the medium of exploding balls of paint. Thus, being suddenly turned luminous green or bright pink when you “die”, it makes cheating kind of impossible!
I first started paintballing when I was still at school and needless to say, a testosterone fuelled youth with a gun is a dangerous thing. Believing that we were a reincarnated Rambo, me and my friends ran about the woods like mad men and got shot a lot while achieving very little (other than providing moving target practise for the other team)! With our enthusiasm tempered by utter defeat, we still enjoyed the day and vowed to not end the day a completely different colour in future battles!
Needless to say, the more we practiced the better we got and before long we were a elite paintball team, sowing discord throughout the enemy and achieving our strategic goals with considerable skill. That was of course when we did not come across professional paintball teams who made very short work of everything and left us with rather more bruises than we would of liked!
Since the first time I got dressed up in my camouflage gear and put the safety mask on I was officially hooked and so much so that when I grew older and got myself a properly paid job, I started to embark upon paintballing weekends.
Normally starting on a Friday afternoon and lasting up until Sunday evening, these weekends involve everything that the truly adventurous individual would want: highly competitive games, BBQ’s, beer and a chemical toilet in the corner! The real benefit of these games are the longevity – most paintballing “battles” last little more than 45 minutes, yet over the course of a weekend, three to four hour battles are not uncommon. Added on top of this fighting at night (a unique experience that normally involves you shooting your team mates by accident) and utter fatigue by Sunday afternoon, makes these weekends a wholly different experience from the regular: give me a gun and let’s go crazy joy of one day events.
Such events also allow people to really get to grips with what they enjoy: some people live to sneak about and eliminate the other team with pin point accuracy, others enjoy storming the front lines in a mad attempt to recreate the carnage of trench warfare while others still embrace the true spirit of the Russian Commissar and enjoy shooting their own team-mates in the back for cowardice! All is generally taken in good humour and nothing is quite so cheery as shooting the other guy who is otherwise boasting how invincible he is beforehand!
There are few drawbacks with these weekends. Depending on your self control they can be relatively cheap but this is highly dependant on how much ammo you use. Personally I like to use a fair amount and this can quickly wrack the cost up but not everyone takes this point of view. Fitness is generally important – although you don’t need to be super-military fit, you will struggle with games over large areas and will definitely feel the strain on the second or third day if you are wholly unfit. Most of the ones I have visited also have age policies for legal reasons, some are 18+, other are 16+ though many will allow minor’s to play during the day if they are with adults.
I actually chose one of these weekends over a visit to Prague for my stag weekend (about which my wife was infinitely happier!).
On a final note I think it is worth noting about safety gear. Paintballs do hurt and they can give you a nasty bruise, so a thick jumper and pair of jog bottoms under your camouflage gear can take the majority of the impact (though the best defence is experience and not getting shot), on top of that a woolly hat is essential to protect the top and back of your head. More painful is the number of cuts you will get on your hands by crawling through woods and brambles (depending on where you play) and so investing in some leather gloves is essential! I personally use leather weight lifting gloves which protect my hands but leave my finger tips free for operating the gun/undoing pockets etc.