About Paintball Safety

McGuire's paintball impact test device is used to determine how hard paintball impacts are.

This website provides numerous links to paintball safety resources, gleaned from my more than 20 years of experience in crafting ASTM paintball standards and establishing insurance program underwriting parameters. I have been retained many times as a defense expert in paintball-related litigation. The photo above shows my paintball impact test fixture, designed to demonstrate the differences between low impact and traditional paintball impacts, as well as impacts from new long range shaped projectiles which are sometimes used in special sniper paintball games.

Is Paintball Really Safe?

Paintball has been shown to be safe, when the games are ASTM compliant. Years ago, I co-authored a medical journal article with three prominent Ophthalmologists who worked with me on an ASTM subcommittee for sports eye-wear. We monitored and examined reported eye injuries for the two years following passage of the initial ASTM safety standards, and found that there were no reported eye injuries in millions of games that followed the ASTM F1777 Standard Practice for Paintball Field Operation, and used paintball goggles which were compliant with ASTM F1776 Standard Specification for Eye protective Devices for Paintball Sports.

As an expert witness, I have presented this article numerous times in cases where the general safety of paintball games has been questioned, and some medical doctors were arguing that the sport of paintball should be abolished. CLICK HERE to see “Paintball Eye Injuries: The Changing of an Industry”.

What is a Reasonable Standard of Care?

I started working on paintball related ASTM standards before there was an ASTM Paintball Subcommittee. Initially, our core group of paintball industry leaders identified some serious issues that needed standardization for safety or for facilitating parts interchangeability. I participated in paintball standards development from the beginning, and I spearheaded all of the ASTM safety standards which involved equipment designs and operating procedures for commercial fields. Over the years I have been deeply involved in CPSC product recalls, as well as litigation resulting from insurance claims.

The notion of “Standard of Care” that could reasonably be expected at pay-to-play paintball fields can be a delicate consideration. How safe is safe enough? It is unreasonable to guarantee 100% or 0% of anything. By example, today’s civil aviation is generally considered to be reasonably safe. However, global organizations still prepare estimated probabilities for occurrences that might be avoided by increasing the size of flight airways (defined by segments within a specific altitude block and corridor width). This can be boring stuff until the discussion turns to consideration of how many midair collisions might be accepted as “reasonably safe” by the traveling public.

Since 1994, I personally crafted the ASTM operating practices which define a reasonable standard of care for paintball game participants and spectators at commercial paintball play sites. CLICK HERE for Bob McGuire’s CV

Paintball Safety Issues Today

We need reasonable limits for paintball impacts experienced by game participants in three distinct types of games:

  • Low impact paintball games (defined by ASTM F3100),
  • Traditional paintball games (defined by ASTM F1777), and
  • New long range Sniper Games, which allow the use of shaped projectiles (presently undefined). We need a safe operating practice for this type of paintball.

I am the the technical contact person for an ASTM work group charged with developing a new test procedure to measure paintball impact magnitudes, and to establish impact limits for different forms of games. However, my requests to open a new ASTM work group for a new standard operating procedure for games that allow the use of shaped projectiles has been repeatedly denied by the paintball subcommittee chairman, who also is an employee of the principal distributor of the leading shaped projectile product. Until we define a new paintball game type, with separate safety requirements, there is no point in further work.

At this time, we need a reasonable ASTM standard operating practice for special “paintball” games, which allow the use of high powered shaped projectiles, such as First Strike Rounds. This new generation of shaped projectiles can hit harder and they have been shown to have twice the range of traditional paintballs. If these special projectiles are permitted in traditional paintball games, they can easily enter existing safety zones where people are not required to wear eye protection.

The paintball industry has historically failed to establish fair measures of impact, and potential new ASTM standards promise to impose unfair requirements on commercial field operators and insurance companies. Profit is important, but safety is paramount.

Bob McGuire, President

Paintball Training Institute

American Paintball League