Originally Posted By Iram:
MANDATORY SAFETY EQUIPMENT
Everyone playing, or even near people who are playing, needs a good mask designed for paintball. Lenses need to be replaced annually, even if they aren't used the lexan will degrade. Spectators need masks too. These will run anywhere from $25 to $125. Fit guys without glasses can get away with cheap masks. The fat guys may want goggle-mounted fans to prevent fogging. If you wear glasses, the JT Spectre / Flex series (not the JT Walmart series) is the way to go.
Every gun needs a barrel bag. This is something that goes over the muzzle and keeps stray paintballs from coming out if a dumbass pulls the trigger. The only time anyone should have their mask off is when all of the paintball guns in the area have barrel bags. These will typically run $3 to $15, depending on color.
At least one person needs a chronograph, and everyone should use it. Paintball guns should be checked before play to make sure they are shooting at UNDER 300 fps, which is what all the masks are tested for. I've seen guys get paintballs firing over 800 fps, so you really want to check this. If you're playing all day, you should re-check the guns around noon, as temperatures affect velocity. Expect to pay $80-$100 for a handheld model.
THE FUN STUFF
Paintball guns, called "markers" are powered by either CO2 or compressed air. In general, the nicer guns require compressed air ($100-$200 air tanks), and the cheaper/older markers can run off CO2 ($20 tanks). Generally, all you'll find in walmart is CO2-friendly stuff.
Markers will commonly have two valve types, and two trigger types. Cheap markers are going to have heavy, long, mechanical triggers. Nice markers are going to have short, light, "mouse click" electronic triggers.
Spool valves operate by having a single moving piece that acts as both a bolt and as the valve. They tend to have horrible efficiency and are very fussy about their lubrication. They also tend to have a lot of big o-rings moving around, so in my experience spoolers tend to need o-ring replacements way too often. Mechanical spoolers don't exist anymore, but you can get electronic spool-valve guns starting at $200 (and going up to $1400). All spoolers are going to require compressed air. If you buy a spooler, make sure you get a spare o-ring kit.
Mechanical poppet valves rely on a hammer (rigged to the bolt) and spring to hit a valve. Generally they are more efficient than spoolers, and can run on CO2. The big names are Spyder and Tippmann. Tippmann advertises themselves as being ultra-durable "milsim", but in reality Tippman's aren't any more durable than other poppet guns. Expect to pay $100 to $200 for a mechanical poppet marker. Tippman makes lots of "milsim" guns that are designed to look like the love child of an AK47 and an M16, that got a sex change into an M249, for $800, but you're just buying looks (and adding weight) by going with that shit.
Electronic poppet markers rely on a solenoid-controlled rammer (rigged to the bolt) to hit a poppet valve. Generally these start at $500, are very reliable, and are very efficient. Planet Eclipse and Bob Long are the big names. These will require compressed air. If you plan to play regularly or competitively, go with an electronic poppet marker.
Tanks need to be re-tested every 3-5 years, so look for the date stamp on the tank you buy. I've been sold a tank that was 14 months old before when I ordered online.
If you've got a marker that will run on CO2, buy a 20oz CO2 tank and call it a day. Expect your velocity to vary wildly as the tank pressure changes. It's extremely temperature sensitive. General rule of thumb is you'll get 50 shots/oz on CO2, but the type of marker you have can change that up to 50%.
If you need compressed air, you can either buy a all-metal tank (47ci) rated for 3000psi that will be heavy but cheap, or a carbon fiber tank in various sizes (45ci to 104ci) rated at 3000psi or 4500psi but be much lighter. If you've got the money, I'd recommend getting a 68ci (common size) 4500psi tank. Given the price on these, you should probably also spend $15-$20 for a tank cover. General rule of thumb is you'll get 10 shots/ci on 3000 psi tanks, and 15 shots/ci on 4500psi tanks.
The cheap option is a plastic hopper with no feed mechanism other than gravity. These will jam, but will only cost you $5.
You can get gravity-feed hoppers with electronic un-jamming mechanisms. Generally I'd avoid these, as most of them have a motor that's constantly spinning.
The good stuff will use a spring-loaded feed cup that will push paintballs into your marker faster than gravity could (and with electronic markers, that's needed). Expect to spend $100 to $200 on a loader. The big names used to be Halo, Empire, and Dye. If you're playing in the woods, make sure the loader has some kind of sensor so that the motor isn't constantly making noise.
If you've got an electronic marker, you'll probably want a way to care spare ammo. Generally that means a pack loaded with 140-round pods.
My preference is a waist pack that will hold three pods, and only carry two (leave the center empty...don't like having hard stuff over my spine in case I fall). If you're shooting like crazy, you can get packs that hold 5 pods. Personally I've never used more than two pods (plus a hopper) outside of "big" (300+ people) games.
Generally any pack that's advertised as "+1" means "+1 tank". A 3+1 pack would hold three 140-round tubes of paintballs and one tank. I'd avoid these unless you have one of lovechild Tipman abominations.
You can also get "tactical vests", but generally those are more for looks than performance.
Paintballs get old, hard, rubbery, etc.. It's best to buy paintballs within a week of playing; older paintballs just tend to bounce off your targets.
Avoid walmart "it's been sitting on the shelf since 2011" paintballs. Some fields even ban walmart-brand paintballs.
If you're playing in sub-40 degree weather, get winterized paintballs. Standard stuff will get brittle and break in your gun, loader, etc., in the cold.
Scientific tests have shown paintball quality is the only major affect on accuracy. Unless you're dealing with scratched up shit, aftermarket barrels don't help accuracy, but quality paint will.
Depending on how aggressive you're playing or where you're playing, knee pads are a good idea. Soft kneepads are preferred, since paintballs might bounce (not break) on hits to your legs. Same with elbow pads. If you're someplace really rough, go with hard pads though.
Paintball-specific clothing exists, and it works. Paintball pants will generally have padded knees and a padded fly, along with a spandex stretch area under the fly and mesh venting down the legs. Paintball shirts frequently have non-slip shoulder pockets, padded forearms, and padded shoulders. Not all paintball clothing is the same, so look at what you're getting. BT and Proto used to be good "value" brands where you'd get good stuff for a good price. Dye and Eclipse also make good stuff, but usually at twice the price. With a little looking, you can find camo stuff.
Wash your paintball clothing immediately after you get home from the field. If you let it sit with paint in it, it will acquire the smell.
Always have hex wrenches with you, both English and Metric. It's crazy how many guys forget tools, and you'll need those for adjusting velocity and possibly repairs.
Always have spare o-rings for your marker.
Always have spare batteries for your loader and marker.
Always have appropriate lube. Generally thin Gold Cup oil for mechanical guns and Planet Eclipse poppets, Dow33 for spoolers, and Dow55 for Bob Long's poppets. There are plenty of "super lubes" on the market, so just get something appropriate.
Actual use of full-auto is banned at every field I've been to, and almost all organized tournaments. A quality electronic semi-auto, with a good loader and a good set of trigger fingers, can put out 8 to 12 balls per second with 15 balls per second not being unheard of. Full auto is for the lazy.
Pump guns exist, but they are mostly used by "look at me I have a pump" type nerds. They're no more accurate than semi's. "Stock class" is just really low capacity pumps for the ultra "look at me, I'm using something vintage" nerds.
Buying used is a crap shoot. Paintball technology isn't changing much anymore. If you know what you're doing, you can get 50% off or better on quality stuff that's a couple years old. If you don't know what you're doing, it's easy to get a lemon that some 14 year old dumbass fubarred and then you get to spend hundreds for repair parts.
Paintball is a dying sport. It was big decades ago, but it's been dropping off fast. If your friends want to play once or twice on their property, spend $200 on cheap stuff and have fun. Anything beyond that is probably a waste. Resale values are horrible, so don't expect to get any money back if you decide you don't like it. If you have the option, going to a field and renting gear for the day is going to be cheaper unless you really get into it.