The Different Grades Of Paintballs
Are there different grades of paintball?
Yes! It might not seem immediately obvious, and it’s easy to imagine that a paintball is just a paintball, but there are a few different types available. The one you should choose depends on individual needs (and the type of game that you plan to play), but they all have different properties and will behave differently during a match. There’s a lot more to the humble paintball than many imagine!
A quick note about caliber before we begin. Each grade is available in a different caliber. There are quite a few to choose from, but .50 and .68 are the most common. Take a look at your gun and make sure that you’re buying the right caliber to match it. Regardless of what grade you choose, it’s also important to remember basic safety tips, including never using old paintballs where the paint may have dried and storing the balls away from heat and moisture, which causes them to swell.
These are the cheapest paintballs you’ll find, and they often come in bulk packs of up to 2,000. You'll want to divide these into more portable individual pods attached to a vest, like the Maddog Tactical Attack.
Since they’re the cheapest paintballs on the list, they do have some notable drawbacks. The most important of these is the recreational paintball's relative inaccuracy compared to more expensive ammunition. Recreational grade balls are not always uniform in size, which means that their path through the air isn’t as true, making them less accurate. This means that they're less suitable for tournaments, but they are often used in scenario matches. They also have a slightly thicker shell and break apart less easily on impact.
Recreational paintballs are the most common, and they’re used at paintball sites and parties, and they make great practice balls because they’re so cheap. They’re most people’s entry-level ball, especially if you’re just playing with friends and pinpoint accuracy is less of a concern.
These represent a big (and more expensive) step up. The main difference between tournament and recreational paintballs is the build quality. Tournament balls undergo rigorous quality control checks to ensure uniformity of shape and size. This means that they're much straighter through the air and offer far greater accuracy than their cheaper counterparts.
These are the balls of choice for serious paintballers. They pair nicely with premium tournament guns like the Azodin Blitz. Buying a top-of-the-range gun and then loading it with low-quality ammunition undermines the quality of the gun itself, which is why pros always choose tournament grade balls.
Another important component of a tournament-grade paintball is its much thinner shell. Recreational grade shells are far thicker and don’t break consistently, whereas tournament grade shells are extremely thin. They’ll shatter instantly and uniformly on impact, which is crucial during competitive events. Although extra bright neon paint is nearly universally banned in professional environments, these balls are often very bright.
Reusable paintballs are quite a new innovation and vastly different from their recreational and tournament counterparts. For a start, they don’t actually contain any paint! They’re known as reballs, and what began as a fairly niche type of ball has grown in popularity to the point where many paintball arenas now have specific reball areas.
Their main benefit, of course, is that they can be used more than once. A reball is the same size as a standard ball but it’s made from foam, so it won’t break apart on impact. After a match they can simply be cleaned and reused, so they have a great lifespan. You’ll often find these balls being used indoors since they don’t come with any of the accompanying paint splatter or require an extensive post-match cleaning job. They’re the most expensive balls of the three at point of purchase, but they work out to be much cheaper in the long run.
There are some downsides, however. Reballs fire at a slightly lower velocity, which might not go down well with purists, and they do make it somewhat easier to cheat. Since there’s no residual paint splatter to indicate a hit, there’s no definitive proof that somebody has been tagged. That’s one of the main reasons that reballs are unlikely to appear in professional tournaments any time soon.
Even though reballs don’t scatter paint, it’s still important to wear all the same protective clothing, including a high-quality mask like the Empire Helix. Paint or no paint, you still don't want to get hit in the eye!