While this is still the case in a lot of areas, the game’s become mainstream enough that fields are more common, and vendors who can supply paint and air are less difficult to come by. With that being said, how exactly DO you get started assuming you’ve never played before?
The answer to this depends on who you ask. I’ve played for well over a decade, and the best advice I can offer you is to find a field that is nearby, get a few friends together, and find out of the field has what is called a “Walk on Day” – which is open play for anyone who would like to get in on it. By going to a field you can get into the game by renting everything you need including the marker and goggles. This lets you get some exposure to the game and whatever it has to offer BEFORE you see what type of gear you really want to buy or need.
One of the greatest things about getting started is the wealth of equipment available for beginning players. Tippmann has a hand deep into the rental market with their 98 and 98 custom lines. These markers are solid, simple, and dependable. Some fields may rent things like ION, but many of the ones I’ve seen are Tippmann markers.
So you’ve survived the first day’s game with the rental marker. You’ve had adrenaline pour through your veins as an opponent tried like hell to color you like a Christmas tree...and you can’t wait to do it again. Congratulations--you’re in the club.
But where to start? What kind of gear should a beginning player look to pick up?
The options are numerous, and often mind boggling depending on the style of play you decide to adopt. Woodsball/MILSIM (Military Simulation), Speedball-type? There are markers that fit each niche of the game. One of my favorite recommendations to make to new players is to pick up a stock Tippmann, either of the A5/X7 line, or the old workhorse the 98 as their first marker purchase. There are a TON of other options, but these two serve the beginner VERY well in their simplicity and durability. The last thing you want to do as a new player is have to spend more time tinkering with your marker than actually playing. The aforementioned Tippmanns will serve you as long as you spend playing if you take the time to maintain it properly. I’ve had 98s working with bits of paintbrush handles to replace lost spring pins. These things just…..well, they just work. Plus, even if you decide to move on from it later on, they make dependable fall-back marker in the event that you have technical difficulties with another one.
As soon as you start up with your new marker, everyone who plays paintball will be making suggestions as to the modifications you should make to your marker. Everything from firepower upgrades to paint jobs. Plug your ears, and get into the field with that marker STOCK. Don’t change a thing yet.
When you come off the field, you’ll have a list of things in your head that you’d like to change. Every player is different, so what works for me and the people I know might not be what you’d like to have on your marker. Spec it to YOUR interests and needs. Many markers offer a wide range of available upgrades, allowing a marker to grow into the game with a player. Here again is where Tippmann shines. Cosmetic and functionality upgrades for their marker lines are impossibly numerous. Stocks, magazine attachments, response and e-triggers, barrels, grips, sights, new triggers….it's all there, for the bulk of their marker line. I know guys who have been playing longer than I have, and still run battered old Tippmanns, modified to keep up with just about anything else that they encounter on the field.
As for the rest of your gear, choose your mask wisely. You may be tempted to shy away from some of the higher priced masks that you can find out there, but remember, you can’t really put a price on safety. They’ve all got to be QA tested for safety, but some are more comfortable or vent better, both important factors for a wearer.
Air supply is a huge choice to make too. CO2 tanks are cheaper to get initially, but offer less shot consistency than other alternatives for a number of reasons. Do some research before plunging ahead here.
Of course, there are a multitude of places you can go to and get information on everything from your marker to your web belt to what kind of shoes you can wear. One of the best places I’ve seen is the “New Player” section of Tippmann’s own web forum. Users there have been around for ages, and have more information than I can ever hope to know about the game. They’re unbiased too. If they have an experience with one brand over another, they’ll tell you. If you’re a new player, there’s no such thing as a ‘dumb’ question. Every one of us in the sport wants to see more people joining, playing safely and having fun, and we’re eager to make sure this happens. (After all, more players means more targets!)
Visit the Tippmann forum at http://www.tippmann.com/forum/wwf77a/default.asp with any questions you might have in regards to gear, other player’s first time experiences, and generally a wealth of knowledge about the game and what it has to offer.