Safety in Paintball is the Responsibility of Everyone

When I was a young man, I was a member of the Civil Air Patrol, the Air Force’s civilian auxiliary. I knew a man there who enjoyed taking some of the cadets to the paintball arenas. They enjoyed participating in various scenario paint ball games, in which they would reenact historical battles through paintball warfare. I use “reenact” lightly here. The games were often set up so that the beginning conditions were similar to the original battles being recreated, but then it was a free-for-all after that. Sometimes it went to the historical victor’s side, sometimes not. But, I digress.

This man was at one of the arena’s reloading depots in between games. He was working on pouring paintballs both into his main marker chamber, as well as some additional docking clips he used. While he had his mask on—most arenas have a “Mask on” rule in which the players must all have their masks on, whether or not there is a game in progress—he decided to remove his goggles so he could better focus closely on what he was doing. He had done this countless times before, and only a few other people were at the reloading depot as well. Goggles, however, are usually included in the mask rule, and for good reason.

While he was carefully loading his marker, another person two tables away was also loading his marker. However, this young man was breaking another big arena rule: the “disconnect” rule. Unless players are in the midst of a game, it was arena policy to ensure that a gun’s gas source was disconnected from the firing mechanism, so a paintball could not be accidentally discharged outside of combat. Players can also choose to use a stopper on the barrel of the marker to prevent a fired paintball from exiting the barrel at all. This player was using neither method, and while reloading, his marker fired a single shot which ended up in the eye of the man I knew.

Safety is everyone’s responsibility in paintball. Too often those who think they “know better” ignore or bypass safety rules, creating a modern tragedy of the commons: where no one small infraction seems to hurt anyone, but when multiple people all choose to ignore one simple rule, the combination of such causes problems for everyone. This example is like that. Had the man I knew kept his goggles on, or the other player disconnected his power source, then the man I knew would still have his eye.