Paintball is fun for many reasons, but the most important thing is that you get to shoot at other players legally without hurting them. There’s the fun of teamwork, of thwarting the opposing team, but ultimately you need an accurate marker. So why are paintball guns inaccurate?
Paintball guns are inaccurate due to how the paintballs, barrels, and air source interact with the laws of physics. Because paintballs are not consistent in size and shape, paintball guns cannot fire accurately. Luckily, there are steps you can take to increase your accuracy.
The first step to fixing a problem is understanding the cause. Then you will know not only what steps to take to correct the problem, but why. If you want to increase your aim, this post is your guide for doing just that.
Why Paintball Guns Are Inaccurate
Paintballs are inaccurate due to forces you can control and forces you cannot. Understanding those that you can’t will help you with those you can.
So let’s start with those out of your control.
What Can’t You Control About Accuracy?
Simply put, you cannot control the laws of physics, including gravity, inertia, and acceleration.
Gravity will pull a paintball down to the ground at a consistent rate. Drag causes the paintball to slow down, while lift can counteract gravity. Aerodynamics can help us to overcome gravity, drag, and lift. However, there are limits to what we can control.
The laws of motion are also not in our control. An object at rest will stay at rest until acted upon, and how much an object accelerates is related to the force and its mass. Again, we can make adjustments to try and counteract these laws, but not the laws themselves.
What Can You Control?
You can control the equipment that you use. This includes everything from your bore, the quality of the paintballs, and the air you use. You can also control your shooting and playing techniques. Lastly, you can control your attitude and expectations. This starts with defining accuracy.
There are two definitions of accuracy. One is a subjective definition—comparing a paintball’s accuracy to another weapon, say a rifle. It is an unfair comparison, but we often make it anyway. But if we expect a paintball to be as accurate as a rifle, we will be disappointed.
The other definition is an objective one—accuracy is a combination of how far a person can effectively shoot a paintball and the probability that will happen.
If you use the objective definition, you will have measurable criteria.
At what range can we get an 85% accuracy range? Let’s say 50 feet (15.2 m)? So if 85% of your shots at that range hit the target and explode, your accuracy is good. At 100 feet (30.5 m), you should be able to hit 70% of the time. A 200-foot (70-m) shot will have 50-50 odds, and at 300 feet (91.4 m), a hit will be a matter of luck.
Variables That Affect Accuracy
Two variables significantly affect the accuracy of paintballs. In a perfect world, we could consistently control these variables so that our aim would become more accurate with enough practice.
- The first variable is velocity. If we could control the speed with which the paintball leaves the barrel, then the consistent velocity would let us improve our aim. But since paintballs are not uniform in size and shape, they don’t leave the barrel at the same speed.
- The second important variable important to accuracy is aerodynamics. As the ball travels, gravity pulls it earthward. An object’s aerodynamics can improve how much the object can overcome gravity’s pull. When compared to a real bullet, paintballs are not very aerodynamic. Their shape increases the amount of drag on paintballs.
The physics involved in paintball is far more complicated. We haven’t even begun to discuss the Magnus Effect or the von Karman vortices. And although that information can be fascinating for some, you might be reading this to find out how to improve the accuracy of your paintball guns.
How Can I Make Paintball Markers More Accurate?
Keep Your Marker Clean
A clean marker is an accurate marker or at least a more accurate one.
Cleaning a marker is more than using a squeegee to clean the barrel. To thoroughly clean your marker, you will need some paintball oil, paper towels, and soapy water. Having some O-rings on hand will be helpful if you need to replace the air tank’s O-rings. Beginners often have their manuals handy.
- Remove the air tank and inspect the O-rings. If they are cracked, you need to replace them. Lubricating your O-rings regularly will make them last longer. This applies to all rings on your marker.
- Use a squeegee to wash the barrel. A gun solution or soapy water will work. Afterward, let the barrel dry.
- Clean dirt, grease, and paint from the hammer using a damp towel.
- Thoroughly clean the grip frame. This part of your marker will have a lot of excess paint when you finish playing, and it needs to be cleaned thoroughly. Do not rush this part of the cleaning job.
At the end of a game, it can be tempting to save cleaning your paintball marker for another day. Try to avoid the temptation. At a minimum, wipe down the outside to remove paint before it dries.
Use a Clean Squeegee
If you realized that cleaning a barrel with a dirty squeegee, congratulations. Too many people forget to clean theirs after using it. Cleaning a barrel with a dirty squeegee is like mopping with a dirty mop.
Unless you want the dirt on your squeegee in the barrel, start with a clean one. That way, if you’re in a woodball or scenario game, you can clean your barrel several times.
Inspect Your Hopper
Whatever you put into your hopper winds up into the marker. Dirt, broken shells, and oil will eventually make their way to the barrel.
If it’s dirty, you’ll need to clean it.
Inspect Your Paintballs
You could have the best marker on the market, but your accuracy will go down dramatically if you use poorly constructed paintballs.
These three factors are probably the most important when talking about paintballs—size, roundness, and smoothness.
The ideal paintball fits just right into the barrel. A paintball that is too small will let the gas go past it, and if the paintball is too large, it creates friction as it leaves the barrel. If the paintball fits exactly right, it creates a seal against the barrel, meaning all the energy in the air charge is used.
How do you make sure your paintball is the right size? The simple answer is to test it by pointing your barrel down and placing a ball in it. Blow gently into the barrel. A ball that is too small will roll out, and one that is too large will get stuck.
For some players, this test is adequate. However, if you are not happy with your accuracy, do a size range test. Use a ball sizer to measure the ball that passed the test and then test a sampling of the balls from the case to get the balls’ average size in that case.
If your bore size is .690 and the average of the balls is .685, your shots will not be as accurate as if the average is .689.
Although few paintballs will be perfectly round, inconsistent cases will reduce your accuracy. That is because balls that are not round won’t make a perfect seal. Not only will this affect the air charge, but the ball’s flight pattern will be erratic.
You can use a ball sizer to get an idea of the roundness of the balls in a case. When you put the balls through the ball sizer, rotate them. Balls that stick are not round and won’t shoot as well. If most of the balls in the case are round, you will have more consistent accuracy using them.
Smooth balls shoot more accurately. Balls with large seams catch the air that causes them to fly off course. Some high-quality paintballs have such shallow seams that you can’t feel them. The more pronounced the seams, the less accurate the balls will be.
Balls with flat spaces, also known as dimples, are even less predictable. Dimples are caused when balls are not rotated. The weight from the balls on top presses down on the balls at the bottom. Do not buy cases with dimpled balls.
Do Not Use Too Much Lubrication
As you know, some parts of your marker need a little lubrication, both for maintenance and to increase your performance. However, some people use too much lubrication. Doing so means that some of the lubricants end up in the barrel.
Lubrication in the barrel will decrease the accuracy of your shots.
How much is too much lubrication in your paintball marker? We can’t tell you. Trial and error will let you know when you are using enough to lubricate your marker without contaminating the barrel.
If You Haven’t Already, Switch to an HPA Tank
If you are still using CO² in your tank, it’s time for an upgrade. HPA (High-Pressure Air) provides more consistency than CO², and consistency is essential. The temperature of CO² does not remain consistent, so if you fire 100 paintballs, the operating pressure and volume used to fire the 100th paintball will be different.
And if the pressure and volume of the gas vary, so will your accuracy.
Warning: If your marker is old, check that it can handle the higher pressures of HPA. Every few years your paintball tanks will need to get re–hydrotested!
Your paintball guns are not inaccurate because you’re a poor shot. Instead, the paintballs are not consistent in size or shape, making it hard to be consistent. However, with proper maintenance of your paintball gun and superior paintballs, you can improve your accuracy.