If you are like most paintballers, you've gone a couple times and your hooked. It's time to take a step up from the rentals and buy your own gear. There is only one problem - where to start? Although most new players would think it best to start with the gun, this is not actually true! You should arrange your budget accordingly:

1. Mask

This is usually where most players cheap out. You can get a basic mask for $20 at your local Wal-Mart, and it will work just as good as any other mask, right? Not in the least! A cheap mask will be uncomfortable and hard to breathe in, not to mention the lens is very likely to fog on humid or rainy days. Don't trust your eyes with this cheap protection.

If you are on a tight budget, I recommend the JT proflex. It is one of the most comfortable goggles on the market, with a wide range of vision and anti-fog mask. The soft ears are comfortable and keep your ears safe without hindering your hearing. If you like standing out in the crowd, you can customize your proflexes with all sorts of different colored parts, ears, straps, and lenses for a little more money. Regular proflexes cost around $60.

If you don't care how much you spend, you should look into the Dye i4 goggle. The i4 has a small, sleek profile and is also very comfortable. It's range of vision is slightly better than the proflexes and the breath-ability is also a little improved. Dye 'invision' 4s retail at about $100.

Remember, once you have taken 5+ direct hits to the lens, change it! It's a $20 cost - but your safety is worth it!

2. Loader/Hopper

Once again, many new players skip this step and buy a $10 gravity fed loader. Although cost effective, a gravity fed hopper will not be able to keep up if you plan on using high rates of fire. Also, if your marker does not have eyes, the bolt may chop the paintball inside the marker, and it will be a pain to clean. For this reason I always recommend an electronic hopper.

If you use a mechanical marker or pump gun, you do not need super-fast feeding rates. I would recommend the Proto Primo for pump players and the Invert Reloader 2 for mechanical guns. The primo is similar to a gravity fed in that it is not fed electronically, but has a slightly quicker feed rate. The reloader 2 is a simple sound-activated hopper that will feed about 10-13 balls per second.

If you have an electronic marker, I recommend the Empire Invert Too. This is also a sound-activated hopper but is much more durable and faster than the reloader 2. The Too sells for about $70

When you get into the high end loaders, it becomes personal preference between the Dye Rotor, Empire Prophecy, and Pinokio. They all sell from $100-$200. Out of the three, I would purchase the Rotor. It is durable, sleek, and reliable. The rotor sells at about $160

3. Air Tank

Most electronic markers will not work with CO2, and even if you own a mechanical marker I still recommend purchasing a High Pressure Air (HPA) Tank. HPA will be easier on your markers internals and is more reliable the CO2.

If you are on a tight budget you will need a steel HPA tank. Ninja or Guerrilla Air are the best brands for steel tanks. They are generally $60 or so.

If you have money to spare, consider purchasing a carbon fiber air tank. They are lighter and hold more air than steel tanks, not to mention better regulation of the air. Ninja is the best company for carbon fiber tanks, and they generally go for $150

4. Marker/Gun

Well, you have your mask, loader and tank. You are ready to buy your gun, also called a marker. If you play woodsball (paintball in the woods), you may be looking at milsim markers - guns that look like real firearms - such as the tippmann 98 or A5. Do not in any circumstance buy a milsim marker. They are heavier than 'speedball' markers and generally use more air, and some don't even have regulators. A speedball marker will generally have a softer trigger pull, more consistent airflow, quieter shot, and faster rates of fire. As always the better the marker the higher the price tag.

If you have a low budget, I recommend the Spyder Electra with eye. It costs around $100-$150

If you have a medium budget, purchase an DP G4, Invert mini, or Etek. These cost $300-$500

If you have a large budget, look into an ego, DM, DLX luxe, or G6R. These cost $850-$1500


Once you have the essentials, you can also invest in:

- podpack: used to carry more paint on to the field with you so you don't run out

- paintball pants: have knee protection, great for sliding and bounces

- jersey: Also good for sliding and bounces

- knee and elbow pads: Keep your joints protected so you don't ache so much when your older!

Remember, don't cheap out on the mask, loader, and tank so you can spend more money on the marker, and always wear proper safety equipment when on the field. Happy Ballin'!