There’s a storm approaching. It started with a slight breath of air aimed at the right ears, but like all big storms, it has gained strength and even though it may have gone undetected by most for a while, eventually it cannot help but create a disturbance where it touches down.
This is a man-made storm that will affect the paintball industry, or so the initial whisperer hopes. I first heard about the rumors on VFTD (http://viewfromthedeadbox.blogspot.com/). At that time it was just that. Rumors. Then people started speculating that the return of Richmond Italia and his new partnering with the Gardner Brothers to form G.I. Milsim, may have something to do with this. After all, Richmond was broadcasting to the world “that something monumental is wrong with our industry and the time is right to introduce new concepts”. The new concepts were kept secret and, according to Richmond, were being tested in disguise across North America. Richmond called it Paintball 2.0; paintball’s second generation.
On noon on Tuesday, those speculations were confirmed with a press release by first time poster, GIMilsim on Pgi online (http://www.p8ntballer-forums.com/vb/showthread.php?p=1233136#post1233136). Paintball 2.0 (already come to be known as Paintball .50) was officially launched. The man who once headed Procaps and gave us X-Ball, after a short hiatus from the paintball industry, has come back to revolutionize the game with .50 caliber paintballs.
We all knew the paintball industry was suffering, but why did the rest of us not clue in to the fact that smaller calibre paintballs was what is needed to pull us out of the rut and revitalize the game and the industry? According to Richmond, he headed up a think tank that has engineered “a paintball that’s inexpensive, accurate, flies further and breaks on contact.” Now some of these claims may be hard to swallow and might even seem that they go against the laws of Physics, but who am I to judge? As of now, only a few players in disguise across North America have actually fired these new paintballs. Apparently, they’ve been ordered to keep the whole thing under wraps.
So how will Paintball 2.0 (Paintball .50) affect us? Well, time will tell. Should the .50 calibre revolution actually catch on, at fields like ours, which are FPO (Field Paint Only), individual field owners will have to decide if they want to stock both .68 and .50 calibre paintballs. If they decide to carry both, they will have to decide if they are going to allow both types of paintballs on the same field (in the same games). Why wouldn’t they? That will depend on what happens with the velocity issue. A .50 calibre paintball shot at the same velocity will not travel nearly as far as a .68 calibre paintball (at leas t not on our planet) unless it ends up having the same mass. The problem with a smaller paintball with the same mass means that it will have the same kinetic energy when it hits something, like a player’s neck for instance, but spread over a smaller area. In our example, a player’s skin, that equates to deeper penetration. There is also the math of physics that tells us that smaller spheres are inherently stronger, but we are told that this problem has been overcome by marvels of modern engineering.
If the engineers have not developed the new .50 calibre paintballs to be the same mass as current .68 calibre paintballs, they will not fly as far, all other things being the same. Therefore, one choice is to raise the velocity to the point that the .50 calibre paintballs fly similar distances to the .68 calibre balls. I’m not a physicist and I’m not going to try to do the math, but I do know that .50 calibre paintballs need to be shot considerably faster to achieve the same distance. How will that affect things, if that is the route that will be taken? Compare a close contact .68 calibre paintball shot at 300 fps to a close contact .50 calibre paintball shot at a much higher velocity (not sure what that velocity would need to be, but probably approaching somewhere near 500 fps – if someone wants to do the math, please enlighten me). We’ve all seen some of the nasty bruises caused by a .68 calibre shot at 300 fps. Now imagine that same wound shot at somewhere around 500 fps spread over a smaller area of flesh. Would this possibly require surgical removal of shell fragments? I don’t know, and to be honest, I don’t even want to go there.
So what’s the allure of .50 calibre paintball? First, there is the opportunity to have smaller, lighter equipment. Markers and loaders (assuming the same number of balls are carried) can be engineered to be smaller. If players want to carry more paintballs, they can, without a size and weight penalty. And the big thing….cost. Richmond is hinting that a case will hold roughly twice as many of the new smaller paintballs but cost only a dollar or two more. So the cost of paintballs will be cut roughly in half. That’s the highlight of how Paintball 2.0 is going to save the industry. Players will save a pile of money and this will attract new participants to the paintball field. Or at least that's the theory.
If Paintball 2.0 (Paintball .50) catches on, there will be fields that will cater to it, obviously. If the market wants it, there will be people who will be willing to supply it. That’s only natural. How they will deal with the two differing calibers has yet to be sorted out. I’m sure G.I. Milsim is hoping the .50 calibre become so popular, we will all be recycling our .68 gear and switching over to the new norm. For a while though (a long while) we will have two calibres, assuming there is enough demand for .50.
New players will no doubt eat this up. The first time paintball marker purchaser going to his local paintball store will be shown both markers (.68 and .50). The new .50 marker will be smaller and as an added benefit, will shoot paintballs that cost only half as much. Which do you think they will choose?
But what will new players face on the next generation (Paintball 2.0) fields? Will these fields present a friendlier atmosphere? Will the paintballs hurt less? Will the fact that players will be shooting considerably more paint (you didn’t think players were going to shoot the same amount and only spend half as much for it, did you?) make the game more fun for the new player? How will that affect the industry’s future?
Does Richmond Italia care? He tells us he is going to revolutionize the game, make it more affordable and attract new players to revitalize the declining player base. Is that what is going to happen? Is Richmond Italia going to be paintball’s savoir? You decide. Oh wait! You don’t get to decide. You can choose to take part in the revolution or you can choose to stand on the sidelines and watch what happens. But as individuals, we have very little say in this matter.
Richmond Italia will, if this catches on, make a fistful of money, I’m sure. He’ll leave the industry again one day and retire a very wealthy man. And he’ll leave behind an industry that he helped shape. What shape will he leave it in though? What kind of storm is approaching?