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Worry About Game Instead Of Your Gear

© Ravi Chopra, 1999

There have been plenty of articles written and tons of advice given on how to play in a tournament. Just about every month brings more advice from a pro or well-informed amateur on how to improve your game. How To Play Bunkers. How To Read A Field. How To Move. How To Eat. What To Drink. Which Hand To Scratch Your Hand With. All this has been covered. What hasn’t been covered is one of the most important issues: How To Get Through A Tournament Without Having To Worry About Your Gear.

Equipment reliability is one of the least-thought-about issues that brings down more players who are otherwise having a great tournament. I’ve seen entire tournament finishes completely changed based on unreliable equipment or gear that went sour at the worst possible moment.

Many players have a bizarre blind-spot when it comes to this issue. Either they pay no attention to their equipment or they spend entirely too much time fiddling around with it. The simple fact is, if you’re playing a tournement, you presumably want to win. To win, you must play your best. To play your best, you must think about your game, not your gear. To focus on your game, your gear must work reliably. Shooting faster won’t make you play better. Having a lighter trigger won’t make you play better. Having shinier parts won’t make you play better. Only having a paintgun that you know works and which you can put out of your mind for the duration of the tournament will allow you to focus on the game.

What I hope to convey to you here are some basics to make your tournament experience better. These are simple things that will help improve your odds of a trouble free tournament.

What to do before leaving for the tournament

The first thing that you’ve almost certainly heard of is to bring everything you’ll need to fix all your gear. The plan is to go through the tournament trouble-free. The best way to ensure that you’ll have problems is to go in unprepared to cope with them. All the tools you could need, all the seals that could blow out, every battery needed to run every part of your system, all the extra parts that could concievably fail in your paintgun, air system, or hopper must be included in your kit bag before departing. Bring them and you’ll never need them. Forget one, and that will be the first thing to break down 30 seconds before the starting horn of your most important game.

Clean and oil your paintgun. By this, I do NOT mean that you should tear it apart and clean it up inside and out. I mean that the easily accessable parts should be wiped clean and a few drops of oil (paintball specific oils or air-tool oil are the best, safest choices) run through the ’gun from the air inlet. Your barrels should all be cleaned and dried as well. Clean out your motorized loader and make sure it works properly.

Test-fire your paintgun. Most of the time, you should do this the last time you play before the tournament. Failing that, try to get it out somewhere safe where you can shoot it with paint. Dry firing it is not sufficient to ensure reliable function at the start of a tournament. For whatever reason, paintguns behave very differently when dry fired and when shot with paint. If possible, make sure it cycles, feeds, and fires reliably with 100-200 paintballs. Make sure you can run your hopper dry without feeding problems. If a chrono is convenient, set your velocity now so chronoing in will be quick and convenient on game day.

If something isn’t working right, repair it as conservatively as possible. This is not the appropriate time to try to shave down a new sear to where your old one was working before, or to reset your trigger to the ultra-short pull-length it was working at just last week. If you’re forced into fixing your own ’gun just before a tournament, use reliable stock parts and settings to ensure that your gear will at least work for the duration of the tournament.

Just before a tournament is NOT the right time to take a perfectly functioning paintgun and "improve" it. All too often I’ve seen players try out new equipment, do trigger-jobs, "tweak-out" their ’guns, and otherwise put themselves in a position where they have no real idea as to how their equipment is going to fare over the course of a game, much less an entire tournament. During your first game is not the best time to find out that your new regulator isn’t as consistent as everyone says, that you can’t get your velocity high enough with your new valve and spring combination, or that your cool new trigger job has turned your paintgun into a full-auto, paint-shredding, confetti-spewing mess. I love trying out new stuff myself so I know this fact as well as anyone. Save experimentation with new setups, new gear, and new parts for your recreational and practice days. Keep what you know works intact for tournaments.

Have backups. I know that this is very means-dependent, but if you’re serious about tournament play, you should seriously try to have basic, working backups of all of your vital gear. A backup ’gun and air-system can save your hide if something goes hideously wrong 5 minutes before you are due on the field. An extra lens for your goggles can not be forgotten. A backup motorized hopper is even more crucial.

Just about everyone who plays tournaments uses a motorized hopper of one kind or another (OK, lets face it, there’s really only one kind). When just about everyone uses the same piece of equipment, it should be pretty obvious that it is extremely important. Ironically, this vital piece of kit is, without question, the single most unreliable paintball product ever produced. Too much light can make some malfunction. They age and die as fast as fruit-flies. Moisture of any kind is their mortal enemy. Even an ugly look is, in my opinion, tempting fate. You MUST bring an extra motorized loader. If you can afford it, bring four (I have a buddy who owns four of these, only one of which currently functions). I hate to encourage people to give more money to a company that sells such a wonderful God-awful product (a true love-hate relationship), but it’s the only game in town. Buy an extra or suffer when your first one breaks.

What to do before walking onto the field

The first thing to do when you arrive at the game site is to assemble your ’gun, air up your system, load your hopper, double-check your velocity, and make sure everything is ready to go. This will ensure that you’ll have extra time to walk the field and plan plays while other teams are waiting in line for paint, air, and the chrono. If you have a backup ’gun and air system, air and chrono it as well. You’ll be ready to go at a moment’s notice if the worst occurrs to you or one of your teammates.

As important as it is before the tournament, it is even more vital to never ever ever ever EVER try to tweak your paintgun’s performance during a tournament. A more certain recipe for disaster has never been concocted. Make sure it works and leave it alone.

Alright. You’re ready to head out to the field to chrono in for your first game. What now? Double check your paint and air. These shouldn’t be issues too often, but many people have a bizarre tendency to shoot everything they have at the chrono and some ’guns have slow leaks. A quick peak at your gauges and hopper will ensure you don’t get burned when you walk on the field.

On the way to chronoing in, have the tools you need to adjust your velocity. Just like bringing extra parts and seals to the tournament, the first time you forget your velocity tool is the first time you’ll absolutely need it. Try to set your paintgun up so you only need one wrench to loosen your tournament locks and set the velocity so you only need to worry about one tool. If your team has an extra body, have him or her come to the chrono with an extra ’gun and tools in hand. They’ll feel like a gopher, but make everyone elses life easier.

What to do in the case of problems during the game


I know that sounds terrible, but if you have major ’gun problems on the field, you’re in bad shape. How you can make the best of a bad situation depends on the problem and the equipment you’re using.

Small leaks are usually not too big a deal. The game is only 5-20 minutes (depending on the format). A small leak is more irritating than performance degrading. You can live with it for the duration of the game. Forget about it, play on, and fix it between games. If it’s brisk enough to risk your running out of air, you may need to consider switching ’guns with a teammate if you are a back player who shoots 1500 paintballs every game.

A massive leak is a much bigger problem. The key here is staying valuable to your team and not accruing penalty points. If your ’gun is venting air fast, but is still usable, it may be an appropriate time to try a risky bunkering move or run down a tape-line to blow the game open while you still have air to be effective. If you can’t do that, don’t bow out. Carry your ’gun as usual and help your team out any way you can. You can spot for your front players, draw fire, put people in (you wouldn’t believe how many people duck and hide at the site of a barrel even if you aren’t shooting), give your teammates your extra paint, and make risky last-minute runs for the flag if points are a critical issue. An important thing NOT to do is turn off your air supply. I’ve never known a ref to penalize a player for being out of air at the end of a game. I have known them to get really panicky when people turn off their air before chronoing off. Don’t risk the points. Let your tank bleed out.

Jammed bolts are common, easily fixed problems. Bolts usually jam up when a piece of shell from a broken paintball wedges between the bolt and the inside of the paintgun body. The key to popping it loose is to basically pull or push it hard enough to break it free. Sometimes this takes a LOT of effort. With ’guns like the Autococker, you can just grab the back-block and haul away as hard as you can to try to pop it loose. With other paintguns, you don’t have quite as easy access. The key with other ’guns is to smack it loose from the front with a stick-squeegie. If you have the time, I strongly recommend taking off the barrel. If you have broken shell locking your bolt, chances are you have broken shell and paint in your barrel as well. The last thing you want to do is shove MORE of that crap back into the bolt. Once you’ve popped your bolt loose strip the bolt and squeegie your receiver and barrel out. In a pinch, you might be able to get away with shooting right away, but I’ve seen quite a few ’guns jam right back up. Squeegieing clears all the garbage out and helps ensure you won’t jam again.

If your bolt keeps jamming up despite squeegieing, it’s time to check your feed tube, elbow, and hopper. These are also the places to check if you are experiencing terrible accuracy despite a clean barrel. Chances are you broke a ball up in the hopper or chopped one and sprayed paint and shell up into your feed tube. It is at times like this that it pays to have either center-feed or an elbow with finger-adjustable screws so you can easily pop your hopper off and clear your feed or hopper neck with a finger or the swab-end of your squeegie. If you break a ball inside your hopper, you’re in even worse shape. Dump your paint out, call a ref over so he can see what you are doing, and clean it out as best you can with the edge of your jers ey and swab end of your squeegie.

Is your hopper spinning constantly? First try adjusting the position up or down. Sometimes it’s positioned just right for two paintballs to be meeting at the sensor such that they don’t block it. Twisting your hopper in or out will usually fix it. If it keeps spinning none the less, you may want to flip it off and just snap it on when you need to rapid fire.

Be innovative. Some gear problems have less off the ground will often do the job for the duration of the game. If a component of your Autococker’s autococking system blows out, you can always turn down your front-end reg and pump the ’gun manually.

What to do after the game/in between games

When you come off the field, first thing, fill your air. Air lines suck and they’re always at their longest or "don’t have enough pressure to fill to 4500" just before YOU need to be on the field. Save yourself the headache and be ahead of the game. Fill early.

Second, clean your barrel, bolt, and feed system. Obviously not a problem if you didn’t break paint during the previous game. A clean, dry barrel is the single most crucial requirement for accurate shooting. I recommend having a bottle of water big enough to get most of your barrel in and a few extra, clean squeegies to let you clean it out quickly and completely.

Wipe off your paintgun with a damp cloth or rag. Try to avoid huge amounts of water. Lots of water with a little dirt can turn into mud that can slip inside and screw up your paintgun’s inner workings.

Never EVER allow water near your motorized loader. Remember, moisture is it’s worst enemy. If you broke a lot of paint in your hopper, pull it apart, set the electronics aside and clean it out with a damp or dry rag. Make sure it is completely dry before reassembling.

If it is raining or wet and your hopper is experiencing the spin of death where it runs constantly, you are not necessarily completely screwed. I’ve found that you can sometimes salvage the thing if you quickly take it apart and blot the electronics completely dry. It doesn’t always work, but I’ve salvaged quite a few of my own hoppers this way. Of course, if you were smart, you brought an extra hopper and are good to go.

If your paintgun broke down during the last game, the rules are the same as if you arrive at the site with a non-functioning ’gun. Repair it conservatively so you can feel confident it will work reliably for the rest of the tournament. If a seal is leaking, first try running a little oil through the ’gun before engaging in major repairs. Sometimes your problem is just a dry O-ring.

What to do at the end of the tournament

Not much to do now. The excitement is over. Just wipe your gear down and dry it off to prevent corrosion. Save your major clean-up and fixes for when you get home.

All material at this site is © Ravi Chopra, 1999