Paintball is a survival game where two teams try to eliminate each other by marking the opposition players with a dye capsule that is shot from a specially modified air gun (marker). Once a player is marked with paint they are removed from the game until one team is victorious. The first organized games of paintball occurred in 1981 and the popularity of this military style game grew enormously. The dye filled capsules fired from the air guns are known as paintballs, or simply paint. Let’s find out what they are made of and how they work.
What are paintballs made from?
The outer capsule of the paintball is made from a substance known as gelatin, which is a brittle material made from collagen. This capsule is designed to break easily on impact so that the target is marked with the dye. The inner portion of the paintball is made of polyethylene glycol, various water-soluble materials and the dye itself. High quality paintballs use cornstarch, to thicken the paint splat, and metallic paint to ensure that any hit with the paint is obvious. Paintballs are listed as .68 caliber (17.3 mm), but these dimensions can vary. Furthermore they are not perfectly round, but high quality paintballs are of a more consistent shape which leads to more accurate shooting.
Oil-based paints were traditionally used in paintballs, but water-soluble varieties are now preferred because they are environmentally friendly. Today, almost all paintballs are made from food grade, non-toxic materials which means that they can be ingested without causing problems. However, they have an intolerable taste and will dry out the mouth. The polyethylene glycol is a laxative and cause gastrointestinal distress when a number of paintballs are eaten.
Did you know?
A dropped paintball, known as loose paint, should never be used in a paintball gun. It may pick up condensation or groundwater from the ground, which causes the paintball to swell. This may then rupture or jam inside the gun. This is also the reason that paintballs must be correctly stored when not in use.