Does Paintballing Hurt?

It’s a common question by those who’ve never set foot on the field, and probably the most common reason why people refuse to get out there and enjoy themselves.

The truth of the matter is somewhat subjective, but let’s take a look at the facts and you can come to your own conclusion.

Gregory, Author Paintimpact


The Facts of Impact

Paintballs are large projectiles, .68 caliber on average, and they’re usually moving at around 300fps. This makes for a substantial impact, but the nature of the plastic shell means it shatters on impact and spreads the gooey goodness that signifies a hit around so it’s not equivalent to getting hit with a rock or anything.

A hit on bare skin will generally leave you with a welt, especially at closer ranges. Actual bruising may happen with extremely short range hits, but this is pretty uncommon if you’re playing on a regulated field since the offender will undoubtedly be removed in short order.

Of course the angle of the hit, your distance from the enemy’s gun, and the area you take a ball in are all huge factors in how much it hurts.

An arced impact in the chest from across the field isn’t going to cause much pain, but a short range burst that peppers an unprotected hand and forearm will have you cursing and wondering why you picked up the sport in the first place.

Without protection there will definitely be a bit of impact and pain. The associated damage shouldn’t be heavy, you won’t be bleeding or anything from a regulated paintball hit, but it can leave some unsightly welts and bruising if you get shot up at close range.

The level of pain you feel subjectively will vary from person to person, some people have rather sensitive nerves and might find that they need a ton of extra protection to avoid having their day ruined. Others will be able to gleefully take multiple hits on unprotected areas of their body and run around the parking lot showing off their welts to others after the game is over.

Most of us are in the middle. It hurts enough you won’t like getting hit, but it’s definitely not enough to worry us during the match.


If you’ve ever watched paintballers, you’ve noticed the fact that they’re generally not just wearing a t-shirt and shorts while they’re playing. There’s a reason for this, and it’s not just so they look tacticool while they’re running around on the field.

Protection can minimize the impact of a marker’s fire quite substantially and if you’re playing against people with automatic guns it’s pretty much required. Getting covered head to toe in welts generally isn’t anyone’s favorite way to spend the weekend and an automatic marker with a high rate of fire can hit you repeatedly before you realize what’s happened.

Even if you can’t afford to gear yourself out like a SWAT team member, you might want to take some precautions. Among these the following are the most important:

  • Full Face Mask Do not play paintball without a mask. This can’t be emphasized enough and it’s pretty much common sense, but each year a person or two will get seriously injured being “tough” instead of “smart.” The heavy impact of a projectile can seriously damage the vital and relatively soft sensory apparatus attached to your face. By which we mean that you can get an eye shot out.
  • Gloves– Even if you’re planning on playing in casual clothing, gloves can come in handy. Your hands will often be exposed and they’re relatively hard structures without much fat to pad them. A hit on unprotected hands will hurt, and might keep you out of the game for the rest of the day.
  • Chest Protection– Even if you don’t want to make the investment in actual paintball armor, getting hit in the chest and stomach can be extremely painful and it’s going to happen in an open field. A thick sweatshirt is often enough protection to keep you from getting bruising at any but the closest range.

Some people will opt for more or less armor, depending on how comfortable they are with sacrificing mobility. Some players will don a SWAT team-esque ensemble as they step into the field, impervious to harm but with greatly limited mobility. Others will insist they’re fine in a long sleeved t-shirt and shorts with a mask.

It’s a personal decision, but you can get most of the benefits without spending a lot of money. Cheap protection will include a mask, a thick sweatshirt, denim pants, and a pair of gloves. This will keep you from the worst of it.

If you’re playing in a hotter area, look into buying a surplus BDU blouse. The thick canvas-like material will keep the impact off of you surprisingly well while still allowing your skin to breathe underneath.

Unregulated Play

All of the above applies mainly to normal fields. If you’re just playing with friends in the woods, then sometimes things can get a little bit crazy. It’s a good idea to make sure everyone keeps their markers shooting under 300fps and doesn’t just open up with an automatic on someone less than ten feet away.

Substantial amounts of injury can occur when people ignore the above guidelines. Most fields will limit their players to 280fps or so to avoid any serious risk of injury. Paintballing is fun, but without some safety precautions pain will be the last of your worries as actual injuries can occur.


Paintballing can be a painful sport, to be honest it’s part of the allure for a lot of people. Substantial protection can be had for quite cheap, however, and without sacrificing a lot of mobility in the field. You’ll find that serious injuries are unlikely to occur on a regulated field, and a bit of pain and impact is almost always worth it when you can get to do the same to the other guy.

Be safe and have fun, and don’t let the threat of a little bit of hurt scare you away from an exciting sport.