Friday, October 16, 2009

Who has the Power?

The paintball industry is still in a buzz over the expected .50 caliber push by GIMilsim. It’s slowly dying down only because every possible scenario has been discussed over and over again and I believe people’s fingertips are sore from keystroking.

As far as I know, nothing .50 cal related has been officially released yet, at least not for sale to the general public. GIMilsim had a booth set up at World Cup where they apparently had a couple of markers and some .50 cal paintballs for people to shoot at a range with targets placed at about 20’ out. Almost all those who took part have come back with reviews that .50 cal shot not much unlike .68 at the booth. The markers had very little kick, which makes sense since the energy to move the bolt and shoot the ball would be lower than a traditional .68 cal marker with .50 cal only having approximately 40% of the mass of .68 cal.

Apparently there was some on field shooting of the .50 cal as well with more mixed reviews. Some reported that there were more bounces than there should have been. There was also at least one report that the marker was chronoed higher than 300 fps. One would have thought if they were going to do a demonstration, they would have made sure the marker was firing at allowable velocities. On the other hand, might there have been less likelihood of impressing the onlookers below 300 fps? If so, who are they kidding. Eventually .50 cal will be in the hands of anyone that wants it and if the product is found to be inferior at 300 fps or less, end of story.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe there is a market for smaller ammo that allows for smaller more realistic equipment by those that don’t mind a few more bounces. I mean airsoft pellets all bounce, don’t they? But in reality, I don’t think there will be much of a market for a hybrid of paintball and airsoft. If you are going to play paintball, you are going to want the paintballs to break on your target. If you are gong to play honour ball, why use paintballs at all? Am I wrong?

Anyway, I didn’t really start writing this with a review or discussion of the merits of .50 cal. I wanted to talk about change in paintball and who mandates or controls potential change. .50 cal was obviously started by one man, Richmond Italia, with an idea to manufacture and market a product that was not widely accepted at this time. One man, with obvious industry connections, has been able to create interest and a potential market in a fairly large industry by talking to a few industry stakeholders and getting them onside.

Through intelligent marketing (marketing that didn’t cost him very much), he’s got the industry in a buzz with at least some people claiming that the industry will totally convert to this new format and many others sitting on the fence and at least accepting that it might happen or that there might be a partial acceptance of the new format.

That’s really quite impressive when we think that almost no one has any real play experience with this new format. It’s even more impressive when we think that similar formats (.43 cal, .62 cal and even former .50 cal) have been widely discarded as being inferior. Yet here we are, thousands of people debating on hundreds of forums, how this new format is going to change paintball.

What does this mean to the average player and to field and store owners? Do we even have a choice? Are .50 cal paintballs going to show up on the doorstep of every paintball store and paintball field? Are players going to be forced to buy new .50 cal equipment to shoot the new standard sized balls?

I don’t know about other field owners, but at our field, my business partner and I decide what inventory to buy. We buy what we want to buy, assuming it’s available. We don’t buy stuff just because our wholesaler tells us we should. We buy what we want and that is mostly based on what we think our customers want. So Mr. Italia, with the help of his friends at Smart Parts and Procaps can manufacture as much .50 cal balls and equipment as they want, but that doesn’t mean that I or other store and field owners are required to buy them. And I can guarantee you that if .50 cal is not at least close to performing at the level .68 cal, there won’t be much .50 cal stock rolling out of Procaps doors, at least not to North American destinations.

Mr. Italia may have the power to get the industry into a buzz, but in the end, the power lies with the consumer. If the product marketed by GIMilsim does not meet consumers needs or desires, it will fail.


  1. What about the pain factor? Apparently, the .50 cal paintballs hurt far less than the .68 ones. That would be a benefit to the sport as a whole.

    But it's grown for one reason alone: The promise that paint will be FAR cheaper. If they has said, "Hey, here's a paintball that might hurt less, fly straighter due to less air resistance, but will cost the same", I don't think it would have even gotten off the ground.

    I haven't shot (or been hit by) .50 paintballs but the transitions costs have to be brutal for existing fields. But who knows, maybe (just like Mr. Gray said should happen) a company will come out with a marker specifically designed for renting.

    Wow, someone really should make one of those as the demand would be HUGE.

  2. Well, right at the moment, the demand for a .50 cal rental marker is about zero, as there are very few .50 cal balls available.

    At 100' out, the pain factor will definitely be less. At 2' from the muzzle, I'm not so sure. The amount of pressure/area would be at least the same, or higher if the ball ends up being denser. The total energy would be less, but not the pressure. They may hurt less up close as well, but common sense tells me different. I'm taking th ewait and see approach on that one ofr sure. I'm definitely going to accept the marketing hype at face value.

  3. Great stuff Reiner. Sockkers, I have some ideas about the "pain" factor over at my site. Take a look!