My man Patrick will be donning his goggles, taking up his gun, and heading to the field for his first battle. A work colleague has organized a paintball day. “This might just turn into a weekly outing with the guys,” Patrick said, “I need supplies.”

Joe Adkins, manager at Velocity Paintball LLC in Bonita (velocitypaintballpark.com; 619-470-3533), is here to help. “Paintball became a full-fledged sport in 1986,” he explained. “Before that it was used by the U.S. Forest Service to mark trees from a distance and cattle ranchers to mark cattle from a distance. It made their job a lot easier and that’s how it developed.”

Where do people play?

“A lot of people go out into canyons,” he continued, “though some are off limits, and the city usually marks that. But there is a lot of public land where you can play; you just have to use good common sense. Don’t go to a place where there are a lot of people that aren’t participating in the sport. But we always suggest going to an affiliated field because you’re insured if anything does happen.” Velocity Paintball LLC has a field in Ramona.

Is it a warfare game?

“Paintball is like an adult or bigger kids’ version of hide-and-go-seek. Most fields play ‘capture the flag’ or some scenario where there is an objective.” For capture the flag, “the objective is to eliminate your opponents, grab their flag, and bring their flag to your flag station. Whoever does that wins.”

The field has some rules as well. “You have to have goggles made for paintball. We sell and rent them at our field. You also need a long-sleeved shirt and long pants. We also recommend having shoes with good ankle support. There is a speed limit at our field — 280 feet per second — which all guns have to meet. Before you go on the field, we will make sure you’re underneath that speed. Most guns are capable of shooting faster because [the manufacturer doesn’t know] what climate it is going to be in. If you are in Denver, the gun will shoot faster than it will down here at sea level, so they make the guns adjustable.”

Does getting hit hurt?

“It stings like crazy, but it does go away,” Adkins says. “It’s like getting towel whipped, it stings and it hurts but it is not going to kill you, it’s just something that you don’t want.” A lot of the stinging depends on the quality of paintball. “There are different grades of paintball just like the different grades of gas. The more expensive the paintball, the more brittle they are and the easier they break on you so they don’t hurt as bad. Good quality paint, when it breaks, absorbs all the impact instead of you absorbing the impact before it breaks. So it breaks almost instantaneously, almost doesn’t even sting. The WPN Elixer, about $49 for a case of 2000, is roughly $20 more [than a cheaper box], but it’s a lot better ball, and it makes the experience a lot better. You don’t have to worry about getting a welt.”

Adkins says if you buy paintballs from a big-box store, it’s been sitting on their shelves for a month or two, so the paint continues to age, getting harder and harder. “A paintball store like us only keeps paint for a week.” The shelf life for paintballs is “usually about two weeks to a month. It’ll shoot after that, but it starts becoming real inaccurate.”

Adkins likens paintballs to scented bath beads. “It’s the same type of material but a better quality. They are rounder, and the shell is a bit more brittle so that it easily breaks. They come in a variety of fluorescent colors for visibility, so when you hit someone it marks them real well.”

We moved on to guns. “Tippmann is one of the big brands recommended at the entry level because it’s just so reliable [$69 up to $399]. It’s the type of paintball marker that if you don’t clean it or maintain it as well as other ones, it still works. Some other lower-end guns, if you don’t take care of them, they won’t work.

“Proto is a good middle-of-the-road gun, and they also carry some high-end stuff. Dye and Planet Eclipse are the two companies with the top-of-the-line paintball guns.” Adkins says middle-of-the-line guns can run from $240 to $740, and high-end stuff starts at $1200 and goes up to about $2000.

For goggles, “JT and Dye have been the leaders in protective goggles, basically full-face, eye, and ear protection. They also make a helmet version, which covers the top of the head, but most people don’t like that because it doesn’t vent as well. Most people wear a loosely knitted beanie, which usually is enough to not get injured; you can get a headache if you get shot in the head. Decent goggles range from $29 up to around $100.”

Cost for playing at the field in Ramona is $20 a day (does not include air or paintballs), $35 if you need to rent equipment.

Serop Isagolian, manager at Mr. Paintball USA in Escondido (mrpaintballusa.com; pro shop, 760-737-8870), says most people want to rent first to see if they enjoy the game. At Mr. Paintball USA’s field, “$45 includes 1000 paintballs, goggles, gun, entry to the field, supply of air all day, everything you need to play all day.” For those wanting to purchase supplies, Isagolian recommends a combo package. “Most companies put out a whole package. They usually include a gun, goggles, and an air tank, everything they need to begin [$150 to $200].”

Mr Paintball USA has a field near Lake Wohlford in Escondido nicknamed Hidden Valley Paintball Fields (760-751-2931).

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