First Strike Rounds: What They are and How They Work

If you have been playing paintball for long enough, I’m sure you have heard of First Strike Rounds and the amazing advantage they give players. But what exactly are First Strike Rounds and how do they differ from regular paintballs?

First Strike Paintballs, more commonly called First Strike Rounds (FSR), are a shaped paintball projectiles made by First Strike. FSR are a designated paintball sniper round made of a photodegradable polystyrene material with a rounded front and a hollow cylindrical tail with fins.

The shape of FSRs with their fins allow them to stabilize in flight causing them to fly further and more accurately than a regular paintball ever could.

Difference Between FSR and Regular Paintballs

Before we go any further, lets go over the key differences between the regular paintballs that we have been using for several decades and FSR.

First Strike Rounds differs from regular paintballs in a few ways:

  • Paintballs are made from food grade gelatin while FSR are made from polystyrene.
  • Paintballs are spherical in shape while FSR have a rounded front and a hollow cylindrical tail with fins.
  • Paintballs can be loaded with a hopper while FSR need to be used on a magfed paintball gun for continuous feed.
  • Paintballs are affected by humidity and temperature while FSR are not affected at all.
  • When paintballs are fired out of your barrel, they have no way to stabalize and will freely spin in any direction. FSR have fins to impart a spin to the round, stabilizing it for more accuracy and range.

Do FSR Hurt More?

Because of the First Strike Rounds design, it is common for both players and field owners to question how much more these rounds hurt over regular paintballs.

Due to the First Strike Rounds ability to stabilize itself in flight, they can maintain its initial velocity for longer distances than a regular paintball with the same initial velocity. This alone makes it seem like FSR hurt more than a regular paintball, but if you are hit at the same velocity both will feel similar to one another.

The other concern is from the material that the FSR is made from. Upon impact, the FSRs rounded head will break into many small pieces of polystyrene and allow its contents to mark the target (or you).

These pieces of polystyrene can be kinda sharp and leave some jagged edges left on the fins that are less likely to break, increasing the chances of cuts and scrapes on bare skin. That being said, I have had regular paintball shells embedded into my skin with similar results to FSR.

My experiences with both paintball and FSR have been similar and are equally as safe. The only primary difference is that FSR holds its velocity for much longer than a paintball so it feels like it is hitting harder at a distance compared to a regular paintball.

Are FSR Biodegradable?

One of the major concerns that people have about First Strike Rounds are if they are biodegradable and will break down after being used on the field.

First Strike Rounds are photodegradable, not biodegradable. This means that in order for FSR to break down, it needs direct sunlight to decompose. Because they need direct sunlight, they will only break down if left uncovered and can take several months to years to fully break down.

Even then, there is no evidence that the polystyrene will ever fully decompose in a reasonable amount of time while left in an open environment. The plastic may not ever fully become compostable, thus requiring manual cleanup of the field in some extreme cases.

How Far Can FSR Accurately Shoot?

The primary benefits of using First Strike Rounds is the massive increase in range and accuracy. First Strike boasts that you can get twice the distance and up to 25 times the accuracy compared to paintballs.

The maximum effective range of First Strike Rounds is about 150 yards, or 450 feet, before the rounds decelerate to the point that they bounce off the target. However, due to most field layouts, most players will only be shooting FSR between 50 yards and 100 yards max.

I have found that knowing how far you can shoot FSR is a useful bit of knowledge, but actually knowing how far your can accurately place your shots through the environment is what really counts. Most fields that I play on here in Florida will only give me a maximum of 75 yards for a clear shot before I have to compensate for overhead cover and brush.

What You Need to Shoot FSR

In order to shoot First Strike Rounds effectively, you will want to use the right paintball gun. Using a setup designed to shoot FSR will save you the headaches of modifications and reliability issues.

The best way to shoot First Strike Rounds is by using a Magfed Paintball Gun designed to shoot FSR like the Planet Eclipse EMF100. This allows you to reliably shoot the shaped projectile without jams and breaks.

If you want a list of my favorite magfed setups, check out my post detailing the best magfed paintball guns on the market by clicking the link below:

Do You Need a Rifled Barrel for FSR?

Just like with regular paintballs, using the right barrels for your First Strike Rounds will give you the extra edge you need to place dead on accurate shots.

In order to get the most out of shooting First Strike Rounds, you will want to use a rifled paintball barrel specifically designed to shoot FSR. This will help impart the rotation needed to stabilize the round before it leaves the barrel.

You don’t have to have a rifled barrel to shoot First Strike Rounds, a regular smooth bore barrel will shoot FSR with decent accuracy as well. The only difference is that the round will start rotating and stabilizing after it leaves the barrel.

Best Barrels for FSR

There are several barrels on the market that are specifically designed to shoot First Strike Rounds, but I only recommend two of these barrels as they simply out perform the rest.

– Hammerhead OneShot Barrel

The barrel that I personally use and enjoy is the Hammerhead OneShot Barrel, specifically the 14″ version. These have an M22x1 threaded tip so you can install a wide variety of different cosmetic tips to complete the look you are going for.

OneShot Barrels are very well priced and can fit most any build budget. They do have a more aggressive thread than some of the other barrels and it may be a bit rough on brittle shelled round paintballs.

Accuracy is spot on and more than satisfies my needs for long distance shooting. The bore seems to be at just the right diameter to shoot any first strike round without worrying about the round being to small or too large.

You can pick up your own OneShot Barrel directly from (formerly RAP4) by clicking here.

If you want to pick up some tips for these barrels, I have them for a good price on my Ebay shop by clicking here.

– Carmatech Nemesis Barrels

Probably the most well known and talked about barrel for First Strike Rounds are the Carmatech Nemesis Barrel. These barrels are considered to be the best of the best when it comes to shooting FSR.

Nemesis Barrels are more expensive than other First Strike Barrels but are consistently more accurate than other FSR rifled barrels in all conditions.

The only issue with the Nemesis barrels that I have heard of is that there is some issue with A5/X7 threaded barrels. This issue seems to revolve around how the breach, bolt, and FSR interact with each other, causing variances in accuracy. Autococker threaded barrels seem to be uninfected and shoot straight.

The best place to buy these are directly from the Carmatech, they will have the best prices and are going to have the most selection to fit your paintball gun. Buy yours directly from Carmatech out by clicking here.

Are FSR Worth It?

There is no doubt that when you compare the statistical capabilities between First Strike Rounds to regular paintballs, FSRs are far superior. But, even with the advantages FSRs have over paintballs, are they worth the price?

First Strike Rounds are worth the extra cost if you are playing on an open field that you can easily spot your opponents in the distance and have the proper paintball gun for precise shooting. If you are playing in the woods or CQB, FSR won’t be worth it as regular paintballs will provide the same results over the shorter distances.

Average FSR Prices (with examples)

The cost of First strike rounds have dropped over the years, but they are still quite expensive. I have found that the best way to purchase them is in bulk as you can get them for as little as 30 cents each! Obviously this is still quite expensive compared to paintballs that cost 2 to 3 cents each, but keep in mind that FSR are a little more complicated in design.

Here are some examples of how much you can expect to pay for First Strike Rounds at different quantities:

Quantity *Total Price**Price Each FSR***
Prices accurate as April 2020.
* – Quantities as advertised on
** – Standard price on, not including sales, discounts, or shipping.
*** – Price of each round were total price divided by quantity, rounded to 2 decimal places.

How to Store FSR

I have played quite a few large scale scenario events and Magfed Only Games (MFOG), resulting in me purchasing large quantities of First Strike Rounds and having some left over after the event. Just like regular paintballs, you need to store your First Strike Rounds properly to prevent accuracy issues.

The best way that I have found to store First Strike Rounds is by storing them pointed downwards towards the ground in 10 round paintball tubes. This prevents the fill from settling on one side and causing a slight wobble when shot. Instead the fill will separate towards the tip for a more even weight distribution.

The effect on accuracy may only be minor, but it may be the difference between tagging a high value target or loosing the match.

Do FSR Go Bad?

Everyone knows that paintballs go bad (If you didn’t check out my article here) and this can severely impact how accurate your shots are if they have been sitting for a long time. Thankfully First Strike Rounds don’t suffer from the same problems, but can still go bad in their own way.

There are two ways that First Strike Rounds can go bad; fill separation and direct damage. After sitting for several weeks to a month, you will start to see the fill start to separate into a clear liquid and the pigment color, causing uneven weight distribution. Also, direct damage from impact, pressure, and light can cause chips and brittleness.

For an example of fill separation, look at the picture of the First Strike Round above. You will see how there is a clear spot on the left and a silvery color on the right. That is the separation of the pigment from the liquid inside the shell. This is easily fixed by alternating the direction the round faces when stored, or vigorous movement like running with them on the field.

Inspect Your FSR for Damage Before Use

Improper storage and rough handling of your First Strike Rounds can result in chipped fins or even cracked shells. This can cause some serious jams in your mag and breach if the damage is too great.

The best use for damaged First Strike Rounds are chronographing and testing, don’t use them on the field or you may have to clear a jam in the middle of a game. If the damage is too great (a large portion of the fin is missing for example) then don’t use it as it will jam and possibly chop in the breach.

Not All Fields Allow FSR

Before you get fully kitted out with a FSR capable paintball gun and all the accessories to go with it, check with your local fields and events to see if they are even allowed! This is the primary reason why I didn’t get the full setup many years ago as all of my local fields didn’t allow them.

Paintball fields have the right to ban First Strike Rounds from their fields, and for quite a few different reasons. Lots of players are still uncertain about playing against FSRs and the field should focus on keeping their current playerbase happy to stay in business. Plus, some of them may not want the rounds on their field for environmental or insurance coverage.

Even if the field has historically allowed FSR on their field, check beforehand to see if they require if it is field paint only or if the event is allowing the use for FSR.

If you are looking to build your first First Strike Round capable paintball gun, check out my 5 favorite choices by clicking the link below:


Florida based paintball player with 20 years of experience playing everything from recball to 24 hour scenario events.

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