Paintball Tips for Beginners and First Time Players

If you are new to paintball, welcome to the sport!  I have been playing paintball for almost two decades, but I still remember what it was like at the beginning. That excitement and uncertainty of stepping on to the field for the first time and feeling woefully unprepared compared to the other players on the field is felt by just about everyone, even players that have been playing longer than I have.

I wrote this guide to help prepare any new player looking to get into the sport and those who want to up their game a bit.  Game preparation extends beyond the paintball field itself, you have to make sure you bring adequate supplies for a day on the field.  Plus there are extra things you need to do in between games as well so you can quickly jump in to the next match.

What to Bring With You to the Paintball Field

Regardless if it is your first time or hundredth time, proper preparation for a day of paintball makes it that much more enjoyable!  If this is your first time going to a paintball field, you don’t need to buy or bring any paintball equipment.  The field you are going to will have the mask, gun, tank, and hopper available for rent as well as paintballs to purchase for their field.  Most fields are Field Paint Only (FPO) and don’t allow outside paint primarily for safety reasons as paint can go bad and get really hard.

At bare minimum, you will want to bring food and water to last you the duration of your stay.  If you are going to play the whole day, my usual rule is a gallon of water per person and a few snacks or a light meal or two.  If it is hot out, bring something with extra electrolytes and more water.

Sometimes fields have food and water available as well.  It is a good idea to call ahead to see what they can offer you.  Quite a few fields that I have gone to have a deal that if you book your group in advance, they will order a pizza or two for your group!

Make sure to wear appropriate clothing for the game, you want loose and comfortable clothing that you don’t mind getting dirty.  It would also be beneficial to bring a spare set of clothes for the trip home.  For extra details on what to wear, click here to see some of my suggested clothing choices for comfort and to reduce the sting of defeat.

If you have a large group and want to make sure everyone has a cool shady spot to sit you can also bring a canopy, folding table, folding/camping chairs, and a cooler to put your food and water in.  Many fields have a covered staging area with picnic tables available, so go ahead and check ahead of time if you need to bring the extra gear.

Sometimes you can save some money by getting group deals from for booking in advance!  Check both Groupon and the paintball fields website ahead of time to see what package deals are available.

What to Do Before Playing Your First Game

Before setting foot on the field you need to make sure your gear is ready for play!  Your friendly neighborhood Ref will let everyone know when, where, and how the next game will be played.  If you are uncertain of what is going to happen next, feel free to ask your Ref for details.  Also, make sure you yourself are physically and mentally ready to hit the field!

Listen to the Safety Speech

When you register and pick up your gear, the person at the desk will either give you a safety speech or direct you to your Ref who is to give you the information.  Listen carefully, even if you have played paintball before as this rules can differ from other fields you may have attended before.  They will also give you the layout of the field for refilling air, where to go if you are eliminated, and general rules for both on and off the field.

Paintball is quite safe when everyone is using the proper safety gear and following the rules of play. I have been playing for almost 20 years and the worst injury I have had was some scratches from the palmettos here in Florida.

Prep Your Gear Before Each Game

Before you hit the field, make sure your gear is ready to roll!  Doing this before everyone is sorted into teams helps the games start faster and everyone as a group can get more games in a day.

Make Sure Your Mask Fits

The most important thing you will want to do is make sure your mask fits snug and secure.  Ensuring a proper fit will make sure that the mask doesn’t slide around on the field and become a safety problem.  If you wear glasses, make sure you test fit the mask ahead of time so you can find one that fits around your glasses comfortably. If you can’t get the mask to fit correctly, contact a staff member to help you.

To tighten your mask, locate the two mask strap tabs on the back of the mask and pull them away from each other as shown below.  Doing this will tighten the mask up for a more secure fit.  I highly recommend testing the fit of your mask first before teams are picked, it is much easier to manipulate your mask with both hands and then picking up the rest of your gear.

Fill Your Tank

You can’t shoot any paint without air in the tank!  This is pretty straight forward and easy to do, plus the Refs and staff will be more than happy to show you how to do it.

To see if you are running low on air, look at the pressure gauge on your tank near the guns grip.  You will see a circular gauge with the numbers 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 on it and a needle pointing to the numbers as shown below.  The way you read the gauge is each number represents the pressure in 1000 psi increments, so the number 1 is 1000 psi, the number 2 is 2000 psi and so on.  Right now the gauge shown below is reading 1500 psi and needs to be filled.

If you are renting your gear or have your own steel tank, you should only fill to 3000 psi, do not use the 4500 psi fill station unless you have a tank that is rated for the pressure.  If you are uncertain, ask the staff what fill station you should use.

To fill your tank, follow these 4 easy steps:

  1. Locate the fill nipple on the tank and the hose from the correct fill station
  2. Pull the locking ring back on the hose as shown and slide the hose on to the fill nipple.
  3. Press the hose all the way on to the fill nipple and make sure the locking ring returns to its forward position.  I like to pull on the hose to make sure it is securely in place.
  4. Press the fill button or pull the fill lever until you have reached the desired tank pressure.  Disconnecting the hose is just the opposite of installing it.

Fill Your Hopper and Pods

One of the most common things new players do is forget to fill their hoppers with paint before each match.  There is nothing worse than hitting the field and find that your hopper has little to no paint left in it!

Filling your hopper is easier done with help from another person, something solid to lean your marker up against, or if you have paintball pods available.  If you attempt to fill your hopper without some sort of assistance, you run the risk of spilling your paint all over the ground!

Filling your hopper from the bag they came in can be tricky but can be done, especially with help.  The easiest way to fill your hopper this way is to have someone else hold your gun upright or lean it up against something solid, and then pore the paint from an opening in the bag into your hopper.  I usually like to support the opening with my hand as shown below.

For the purposes of the pictures, my paint is shown in a resealable bag.  This shouldn’t make any difference if you are using the bag that the paintballs came in.

An easier method for filling your hopper is to use a paintball pod to transfer the paintballs.  Most paintball fields or players will have extra pods that you can borrow.

The easiest way to fill your pod from the bag of paint is to insert the pod into the bag of paint and wrap the bag around the mouth of the pod.  This ensures you will not spill any paint when you are filling the pod.  Just make sure the pod is clean of any dirt before you do this so you don’t ruin the paint.

When filling your hopper, you want to make sure you don’t over fill it and cram it full of paint, otherwise the paint won’t freely move down the feedneck!  I like to fill my hoppers to about 90% – 95% capacity to prevent the paint from getting jammed.

If you are filling your pods for use on the field you want to make sure that they are filled correctly so paint doesn’t break inside of them when you are running around.

The best way to do this is to fill your pods like normal, cover the top with your hand and give it a few light shakes up and down.  Doing this will settle and organize the paint for a more compact fit and allow you to fit a few more paintballs in the pod to prevent them from breaking as you run.  You don’t want to cram paint in the pod or you will risk dimpling the paint or breaking them.

Don’t use Paint off the Ground!!

If you see paint on the ground or accidentally spill your paint, don’t use it! Doing this will put dirt and debris in your hopper and gun, causing jams, bad accuracy and advanced wear on the gear.

Prepair Yourself!


Before you hit the field, make sure you are hydrated plus your arms and legs stretched out. The last thing you need is to have your legs cramp up on you or dehydration slam into you in the middle of a firefight.

You want to make sure you are drinking some water before and after each game. You don’t need to chug a bunch all at once, doing this can actually make you nauseous on the field and you may get sick in the middle of a game (experience talking here). If you have a snack, make sure to drink something with it too.

Doing some quick stretches to the major leg and arm muscles will go a long way to preventing cramps while dashing to the next bunker. I have both seen other players and experienced first hand a cramps mid run causing me to stumble and fall down in the middle of the field. This could have been prevented with some quick stretches and being properly hydrated.

Find Out About the Next Game

Knowing when and where the next game will be can help you and the rest of the players properly prep for the next match. Know what kind of game you will be playing can help you prep for the next match both mentally and physically. Some games may require you to bring more paint with you (like unlimited life or attack and defend games)

If you don’t know, just ask your Ref to see what the plan is next. If you have a request, let them know! It’s always fun to change up the game style every now and then so changing the game type or requesting something unique is always a good idea.

Tips for Playing Your First Paintball Game

Now it’s time to hit the field! This is the most exciting and intimidating part of each match and the feeling doesn’t ever really go away. Even after almost 20 years of playing paintball, I still get the jitters at the beginning of each game that doesn’t go away until I walk off the field.

Here are some tips and things to keep in mind for any beginner that will help improve their game and keep them safe on the field.

Safety First!

Your Ref will emphasize this topic and so will I. Being a safe player will help you, your teammates, your opponents, and the field staff have a good and fun day of paintball.

Keep Your Mask on at all Times!

This is the most important and basic safety rule, keep your mask on at all times when you are on the field. If your mask starts fogging up or is coming loose, contact the closest Ref and walk off the field. There will be another game and risking injury to your eyes and face is not worth it.

Keep Your Barrel Cover on when off the Field!

For the same reasons why you should keep your mask on when on the field, keep your barrel covers on when you are off the field! This is for the safety of yourself and everyone else in the safe zones.

Every time I go out, someone accidentally shoots a paintball when off the field. Thankfully they have their barrel bags over the front of their barrel and the ball is caught and never hits anyone. This happens to both new and experienced players, I have done this myself plenty of times so don’t feel too bad if you accidentally do it yourself.

When you are walking around with your gun keep your booger hook off the bang stick (fingers off the trigger) so you don’t accidentally fire off a shot when walking around.

Follow the Fields Rules of Engagement

Each field will have their own rules for how close you can shoot each other and what to do if you are too close. The field staff will tell you about this in the safety beefing.

Usually fields have a rule where you can’t shoot each other within 10 feet. In the event that two players are this close there are options to eliminate each other like verbal eliminations (say “bang” or “take the hit”), bang your fist on the bunker, or even to back off to the next set of bunkers.

Practice Shooting

If this is your first time shooting paintballs you may not understand how far they can shoot, how to properly hold the marker, or how accurate your shots really are. I’m not saying you should shoot a full 200 round hopper or anywhere near that, just 5-10 shots at the chronograph station or when you are waiting for the game to start. Aim at a distant target or bunker and see both how far you can actually shoot a ball and how long it takes to get there. Pay attention to how the ball arcs and how long it will take to get to the target.

It is hard to gauge how far you can actually shoot if you have never shot at anything further than 20-30 feet, paintballs can easily fly 100 feet or more and with reasonable accuracy. Aiming at a distant target will actually show you what you are capable of than shooting at a bunker 10 feet away from you.

Shooting Paintballs at Another Player

There is one thing most new players (and experienced players) don’t consider; the feeling of pointing their paintball guns and shooting paintballs at another player and having other players pointing their paintball guns and shooting paintballs at you. This is such a new concept to most people playing a sport like paintball for the first time that it may cause them to hesitate or be frightened on the field.

I am here to tell you that in paintball it is completely and totally acceptable to raise your paintball gun and shoot it at an opposing player while on the paintball field. The name of the game is to eliminate opposing players or complete the objective, and to do this you must mark the opposing players with a paintball or achieve the goal before they do. You may have some initial conflictions on taking aim and shooting at another player in the beginning, and this is completely natural. Matter of fact, I hesitate myself from time to time as I naturally wouldn’t do such a thing off the field.

The same thing works in reverse, people are going to aim their paintball guns and shoot at you. That initial shock and rush of seeing someone point their barrel in your direction will be unnerving at first. Understand, because people are aiming in your direction, doesn’t mean you are stuck and can do nothing. Read on to the section below to see how you can quickly and easily retaliate if you are in this situation.

Take Aim when Looking Around Your Bunker

The most important and effective tip I can give any player is to take aim before you clear the bunker to shoot. Seriously, this is a key skill to get the upper hand on the other team.

I can’t tell you how many players I have watched waist valuable time bringing up their guns to shoot AFTER locating the opposing players. You will eat up a ton of time changing over to a shooting stance and bringing your gun up to shoot. By the time you do this the other players are already shooting paint at your location and you have to take cover before getting a shot off.

Taking aim behind your bunker before clearing it sounds easy enough, but there are some key things to keep in mind when doing this:

  • While aiming behind the bunker, your barrel should be able to freely move.
  • When looking around the field, do so with your gun at the ready so you can shoot in the direction you are looking.
  • Don’t rest your barrel on the bunker. This decreases mobility, and mobility is your friend.
  • Leave enough room between you and the bunker so you can quickly duck back in.

The key to doing this is not to hug your bunker. The closer you are to your bunker, the more time it will take to bring your marker up to shoot, take a step back, about arms length away, from the bunker and start from there.

Walk the Field

When walking the field, observe what bunkers are available and plan on how to use them before you get there.

Simply knowing how the field is set up will give you a major advantage when playing any match. Knowing what bunkers are ahead of you or what bunkers the other team can use will help you make quick decisions on where to look and how to move up.

Make sure to pay attention to how some of the bunkers are made. Some of these bunkers might have holes on the sides that can allow the other team to easily tag you or even require you to play laying flat to the ground. Knowing the characteristics of the available bunkers will give you the edge as you will know how to use the bunker when you get to it.

Field Awareness

If you don’t know what is going on around you during a game, it’s impossible to decide the best course of action to take next. Lack of field awareness is how you accidentally tag your own teammates in the back.

Pay attention to where your team is moving and have a general idea where the opposing players are. Doing so will help you decide if you should move up and where to shoot. If you don’t know where the other team is, look at where your own teammates are looking. Communicate with them ask them what they see. If nobody in a 5 man team sees the other team, it is most likely safe to move up.

Use Effective Communication

Without communication, a 5 man team is essentially just a bunch of 1 man teams playing for themselves.

Some good practices for communicating with your team is to let them know where you see the opposing players and if you eliminated any from the field. If you are playing in the woods, it may be a bit harder to accurately describe the tree the other players are hiding behind. But, simply giving your teammates a general direction and distance of where you saw the other team will help your teammates know where to aim.

Move Quickly to the Next Bunker

When playing pump paintball, don’t be afraid to move up to a better position. Picture courtesy of Jay Franko an Chris Dellinger

The two things causes me to get eliminated the most is lack of decisiveness and speed that I move to my next bunker. If I hesitate or don’t move fast enough to my next bunker I increase my chances of getting eliminated. If I don’t move up at all, I won’t help my team advance up the field and gain ground.

You don’t have to move directly to the next bunker in a linear pattern. You can move to the bunker to your right or left and then move forward. This is useful as you can use bunkers ahead and to the side of you to mask your movement instead of dashing out in the open.

A note for you younger players. Small targets are hard to hit! Younger players have the advantage over adults with their size and speed. You little whipper snappers are almost impossible to hit if you are moving fast to the next bunker, use that to your advantage.

Things to do Between Games

After each game, there are several things that should be done to help you prepare for the next game. Not doing so could slow you and everyone else down when the next game is about to start!

Clean up!

After each game, you will want to wipe off any hits, splatter on your mask lens, and clean off your marker if it got dirty.

Not wiping off old hits could cause the Ref to pull you from the next game as they think you got hit by a paintball. They are there to make sure the game is played safely and fairly, not wiping off your hits can make their jobs harder.

Make sure you wipe off any paint from your lens. Using a microfiber cloth is ideal, but napkins and soft paper towels will do the trick. If you have a spray bottle with water in it, that makes cleanup even easier! Keep in mind, you only want to use water. Using cleaners like Windex can damage paintball lenses and should be avoided.

I personally use the blue shop towels and always take a roll with me to the field. These are perfect for cleaning up as they are absorbent, won’t damage your lens, and durable. They can be picked up at most every hardware and automotive store, or picked up on amazon for a good price!
Pick up a roll on Amazon here! –

Refill and Reload

Just like preparing for your first game, you want to make sure your tank and hopper are topped off. Doing this right when you get back allows you to get prepped and ready for the next game quickly as you will already have your gear in hand and probably walking past the air refill station on your way back.

Filling up right when you get back gives you the time needed to relax and talk with your friends. Then when the next game is ready to go, all you have to do is grab your gear and go without wondering if you need to fill anything up.

Drink Water and Have a Snack

Taking care of your gear is one thing, but please what ever you do don’t forget to take care of yourself! Drink water and have a snack but don’t overdo it if you plan on playing the next game.

Water should be drank gradually throughout the day but not all at once. If you eat and/or drink a lot in one sitting to the point of stuffing yourself, you may start feeling sick and end up barfing on the field (experience talking here). What I like to do is take a drink before I reset my gear and sip at it throughout the break. This gives your body time to properly absorb the water without making yourself sick.

Watch Other Games

If you want to take a bit longer of a break or another group is hitting the field, I highly recommend watching those game. While watching, pay attention to any experienced players and how they move up the field, what bunkers they use, how they use them, and how they communicate with their team.

Experiencing the game first hand is one thing, but watching someone who has done this before while paying attention to how they operate can help boost your own level as a player. Sometimes you will see other experienced players watching the game as well, go ahead and walk up to them and ask them questions about what is going on to see if you can pick up some extra hints on how the field can be played. Most every player is willing to share their experience or tips on how to work a field to your advantage.

Follow the Rules and Respect the Field

The paintball field you are going to has two primary goals; to make sure you have fun and make sure everyone is safe. Whatever the situation may be, the field you play on has the final say and will do whatever is best for both the staff and everyone in attendance.

Adhere to the Fields Rules

Each field will have their own set of rules and will let you know what they are when you register. These aren’t just general guidelines of what they would like you to do, but what everyone is expected to do. These rules are both there for everyone safety and help promote a more enjoyable experience.

Here are a list of common rules that every field will have in their list. These rules are considered mandatory and are expected by not only the staff, but by the experienced players that frequent that field as well:

  • Masks shall be worn on the field at all times.
  • Barrel covers will be on when you are off the field at all times.
  • All paintball guns will be tested to shoot at or below the fields desired velocity (will vary between 260 to 300 feet per second)
  • All paintball guns will fire no faster than the fields desired rounds per second ( will vary between 10 to 15 balls per second)
  • All Referee calls are final

Some other rules that some fields will use on a case by case basis depending on the groups experience level and desired game format are shown below. These rules can change at the request of the players or the discretion of the Ref.

  • Do not shoot at players less than 10 feet from you.
  • Use verbal eliminations if you are within 10 feet from each other.
  • If two players are at the same bunker, one player may pound their fist on the bunker to eliminate the opposing player.

Listen to the Ref

Your Ref is there to not only keep the games flowing, but make sure everyone is playing fairly, safely, and having a good time. They need to be the person to have the final say on the field and direct everyone to what is going to happen next.

Please listen to and do what your Ref needs you to do. Having them as the authority on the field reduces any confusion and in the event of an emergency can quickly take control without any delays.

A Ref’s job is not the easiest, they have a responsibility to you the players to make sure you get a good days play, keep the field operating efficiently, keep you safe, and communicate with the field staff if anything comes up. They may seem like butts sometimes, but understand they are people too and have a job to do.

I myself have done my fair share of reffing and can tell you that organizing 20-30 players can be like herding cats. Everyone wants to do something different and half the players may be ready while the other half forgot to reload their gear. So please pay attention to your Ref and make sure you do your part to help keep the games flowing.

Treat the Field’s Equipment and Structures With Respect

Most of you players hitting the field for the first time will most likely be renting your gear from the field. If you think rental cars get used hard, try a rental gun that can get used by dozens of players in a month.

You may be paying to use the gear, but please don’t abuse them. The fleet of paintball gear is a major investment for any paintball field and can take a lot of time to maintain after a busy weekend. Here are a few things that you can do to help keep the gear you are borrowing in good condition:

  • Don’t use paintballs that you found off the ground.
  • Don’t use the gun as a cane to push yourself up with.
  • Keep track of your gear and don’t leave it abandoned.
  • Don’t throw the gun or mask.
  • Keep your mask off the ground.
  • Avoid placing your mask lens down on rough surfaces.

While you are on the field, do not disassemble bunkers or move structures around without staff permission. Not only can this damage the structures, but it could be dangerous to the players and staff.

At the end of the day, it is all about having fun! Hitting the field with your friends and chasing each other around all day can be a blast and will provide you with memories to talk about for years to come.

If you want some extra tips check out this post that I wrote about using a little bit of psychology to your advantage:

Thanks for reading folks, and I hope to see you on the field!


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

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