All paintballs are the same, right?

Little spherical pellets that go “splat” when hitting a target. How many options can there be?

The truth is, when it comes to different types of paintballs, you do need to put some thought into what you’re putting in your gun.

After all, even the best paintball markers in the world are only as good as the ammo they’re loaded with.

In this article, we take a look at what that ammo is, to help you decide what’s right for you, your gun, and your gameplay.

Let’s fire in.

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Types of Paintball Ammo – Too Long, Didn’t Read

In the interest of keeping things to the point, there are three, main types of paintballs available on the market today.

They are:

  • Recreational paintballs.
  • Tournament paintballs.
  • Reusable paintballs.

There is, possibly, a fourth consideration – cheap paintballs. But that’s more of an overarching factor we’ll talk more about below.

Read on to discover more about each individual paintball type. Does paintball size matter? What about colors? Which option should you choose?

Let’s find out.

team of paintball players with marker guns and equipment

What Are Paintballs Made From?

Paintballs were first used in agriculture and forestry to mark trees and cattle. They were made of glass (ouch!) and contained oil-based paint – which is obviously toxic for ingestion.

Today, the ammo we use during paintball games is notably different.

Paintballs are spherical capsules made from gelatin. They contain polyethylene glycol – an organic, non-toxic compound. Other water-soluble substances are used, along with the dye that gives the paint its color.

In my very first game of paintball, when I was around 14-years-old, I took a direct hit to the mouth guard on my mask.

The yellow and green pellet broke, and some of the contents managed to get through the breathing/ventilation slots.

At first, I freaked out a little, but was surprised by how sweet the ball tasted, and that it was completely harmless.

However, they do function as something of a laxative, and I don’t recommend gobbling up your stash of paintballs like candy.

They should also be kept well out of the reach of children – because that’s exactly what they would do if given half the chance. Never, ever store your paintballs next to gobstoppers…

(And thank goodness for paintball masks, an essential item no matter the type of ammo you’re using. Head on over to that link to pick yours up.)

So, is there a difference in paintballs?

Yes, there certainly is.

Higher-grade paintballs will have a near-perfect spherical shell. This shell will be as thin as possible, in order to all but guarantee it will break upon hitting a target.

Top-quality pellets might also incorporate cornstarch and metallic flakes – so the hit is even more visible against almost any background or surface.

And the real, high-end stuff even has special “fins” incorporated on each ball that adds spin in flight, ensuring greater range and accuracy than ever before – similar to a hop-up in an airsoft gun.

Cheap, poor-quality paintballs can have a negative impact on your accuracy, as well as potentially damaging or blocking the inner workings of your gun.

They might not break so easily, either – which means the hit doesn’t count. I recall a deathmatch game where we all started in close quarters and scattered for cover when the whistle blew.

I was immediately hit on the ass by a paintball that didn’t break – and then went on to win the game.

The guy who shot me was furious – all as a result of inferior-quality paint.

Finally, there’s a difference in caliber, as well as the type of paintball used, depending on the gameplay.

Paintball Sizes/Calibers

Just like real firearms, you need to select the right caliber (size) of ammunition that will be compatible with your paintball marker.

In paintball, there are two, most common types of paint caliber – .68, and .50. The former is widely regarded as the “standard” paintball size.

Smaller calibers are available, but not nearly as popular.

In layman’s terms, the caliber refers to the diameter of the paintball. A .68 caliber pellet is .68 inches in diameter.

The industry standard is the largest and heaviest paintball available. This means that it’s going to hurt more – but that’s all part of the fun, right?

They also offer the best velocity, with highly accurate shots possible, and with greater range. Providing you’re using a quality paintball marker, of course. Take a look at that link for some suggestions.

However, the negative mark in the .68 caliber box means you can’t carry as many rounds. The larger paintball size is going to take up more room in the hopper – although for most players, this is negligible.

Lower caliber paintballs are preferable for low-impact games, and are the preferred option when introducing kids to the sport. For more information, explore this article on how old you have to be to play paintball.

0.50 paintballs are more cost-effective, too, as not only are they cheaper in general, but they won’t use as much Co2 or compressed air in order to fire them in the first place.

You’ll also be able to fit more into the hopper, ensuring less frequent re-loads.

Alas, while they offer decent advantages, they’re just not as satisfying as 0.68, with weaker, less-accurate shots and a dip in range. And the lower the caliber, the less likely they are to break upon impact.

Let’s take a look at paintball grades – which should further help you choose the type you need for your game.

paintball player in protective uniform and mask aiming sniper rifle

Recreational Paintballs

If you’ve ever played paintball at a local field or arena, then there’s a strong chance you’ve been using recreational-grade paintballs.

Designed for general play, practice, and target shooting, recreational paint is the cheapest option – but providing you don’t choose inferior “cheap” paint, it will still do the job and do it well.

Available in multiple colors, the shells are slightly thicker, and they make for a great option when buying in bulk.

Tournament Paintballs

For the best of the best in paintball quality, look no further than tournament-grade paint.

Designed and manufactured with strict protocols, they undergo extensive product testing to ensure they are suitable for the professionals.

With near-perfect, thin spherical shells, tournament paintballs offer the greatest range, the highest level of accuracy, and are pretty much guaranteed to break on impact.

But, as you might expect, such technology doesn’t come cheap, and tournament paintballs will set you back the most amount of coin – sometimes you might not get much change out of $100 for 2000 pellets.

Reusable Paintballs

There is a third option when it comes to paintball grades, and that’s the reusable paintball.

I’m not talking about unexploded pellets you’ve tried to pick up off the ground – that’s a huge rookie mistake.

No, these paintballs are not actually paintballs at all.

Often called “reballs,” they’re made from a special type of foam that doesn’t break upon impact. As such, you can use them over and over again – providing you locate them after each shot, of course.

Which means they’re best used for target practice, checking the fine-tuning of your gun, and indoor play – similar to that of airsoft pellets.

Playing woodsball with reballs isn’t advised, as you’ll have a nightmare of a time trying to find all your shots in the undergrowth again.

And as well as being pretty expensive, you need to use them at a lower velocity, and both accuracy and range is commonly not as satisfactory as regular paintballs as a result.

When playing in a competitive game, it becomes easier to cheat, as the airsoft “honor system” of calling your hits needs to be utilized with no paint splat to identify who’s been shot.

And, unfortunately, as we all know, not all combat sports players have such integrity.

You also need to wash your balls (stop it) after play with water – no soap or detergent is required, but this process can still be time-consuming.

paintball mask and goggle

Cheap Paint

Don’t. Just. Don’t.

Big box stores, gas stations, toy shops… they can all be guilty of selling inferior quality paintballs, guns, and gear.

And while the price might be tempting, the quality certainly is not.

Stay well away – you have been warned.

Storing Paintballs

Even the best quality paintballs can still be affected by moisture and temperature, which can significantly change the shape and performance of each ball.

Aside from that, paintballs that have sat unused for a long period of time will likely offer inferior results when it comes to accuracy and range.

Keep your balls (seriously?!) in a cool, dry place. Extremes of temperature and moisture will either cause them to be too brittle (cold) or too soft (hot).

Opened paintballs should be stored in airtight containers. Gently move them around once in a while to help keep their shape.

Stored properly, paintballs should still be usable for up to six months. If you plan on doing this, I recommend making a note of the purchase date – although the box should come with a use-by guide included.

Remember, unless you’re using reballs, standard paintballs are made of perishable components, and they will disintegrate over time.

Trying to save money by using out-of-date paint in your expensive gun is asking for trouble, both technically and competitively on the field.

Paintball Colors

Different types of paintball ammo come in different colors. And while this may or may not have any impact on performance, there are a few considerations you should be aware of.

It should be noted that the color of the shell does not necessarily correspond to the color of the dye inside a paintball.

Colors and designs can vary, and can include multicolored balls, bright, high-vis neon, and even glow-in-the-dark varieties – which are ideal for night games.

The color you play with will often depend simply on what your local field is running, and/or what they allow.

However, certain colors are banned from play (which might vary from country to country, state to state, and field to field), and you should be aware of this when purchasing your ammunition.

This might have something to do with staining – as some colors are more notorious than others (I’m looking at you, pink.)

While red is pretty much banned everywhere considering it can look like blood.

Paintball Brands – Do They Matter?

There are loads of top-quality paintball brands in the business today – and you can follow that link for some great examples.

But how much do they matter when it comes to paint?

The answer is – meh!

Some might be better than others, while certain players swear by certain balls – it does often come down to personal preference (and maybe who a player is sponsored by).

The video below is a terrific explanation on both paintball paint brands and the colors used in the pellets themselves.

A Word on Gun Barrels

It’s important that you size your paint to the bore of your gun barrel, as this can make a huge difference when it comes to accuracy, range, and overall paintball performance.

If using an incorrectly sized paintball to your barrel, you might get skewed shots and/or dip during every round, thanks to air escaping through the gaps when the paintballs are too small.

And you’ll experience problems of a different kind if the paintballs are too large.

Basically, a paintball should fit snugly in the barrel, without rolling right through, but you should be able to easily eject it by blowing air into one end.

Check out the video below which explains how to match the bore to the paint, and head on over to this article for the best paintball barrels in the market – if you need to upgrade.

The Verdict – Which Type of Paintball Should I Use?

So, when it comes down to it – what are you going to use?

It depends on the type of game you’re running. For most players, a decent recreational ball is going to be just fine.

For tournament players, only a tournament-grade ball is going to cut it.

Younger players should stick to low-caliber paintballs, at least until they can handle that brief sting.

Remember, regardless of the grade or quality of the paintball, there are so many factors in play of how it actually performs – including weather conditions, temperature, humidity, and the type and quality of the marker.

Plus, sometimes, even the best stuff on the market suffers from a bad batch, and they might not be the ideal choice compared to a less expensive option this time around.

My advice is to try a selection until you find something that consistently works for you and your setup – and don’t be afraid to ask at your local field/retail store to see what’s popular and successful.


Can I reuse fired paintballs?

Unless you’re using reball pellets, the answer is a firm no.

You should never reuse unbroken paint – as tempting as it is to try to save money when you see a bunch of it lying on the floor.

Or, in the horrific event of a stash being spilled as you’re attempting to get it into the hopper.

As tragic as that is, it’s gone, so let it go.

This is a common rookie mistake – so don’t fall for it.

How much does 2000 paintballs cost?

It depends on the grade/quality of the paintball, but you’re looking at around $40 for a box of decent, recreational paint with a 2000 count.

Valken Infinity is a great example at this level.

Empire Evil offers tournament-quality paintballs at around a whopping $80, so you get the idea.

But they’re just two popular examples, and you should shop around until you find the quality and quantity that’s right for you.

How long will 400 paintballs last?

It depends on how trigger-happy you are, as well as the type of paintball gun you’re using. A pump isn’t going to fire nearly as much as a semi-auto, for example.

In their beginners guide, my local field says that players will shoot around 500 rounds on average during 3-5 hours of gameplay.

Of course, if you’re accurate, and frugal, you could easily keep that number to a minimum, but I personally think that’s a pretty on-point approximation.

How bad do paintballs hurt?

It depends on a number of factors, including the caliber of paintball, the gun it’s fired from, the range, where it hits, the conditions on the day, and how much protection the target is wearing at the time.

To minimize the pain, check out this article on what to wear for paintball for the best clothing options, and read our airsoft vs paintball pain story for more general pain-related info.

Can you wash paintballs?

Wash – no, clean – yes. Unless, of course, they’re reballs which are designed to be washed with water and reused.

If you’re thinking of washing unbroken paint that has been on the floor – don’t bother.

But if you want to give your balls a clean (get your mind out of the gutter), then you can do so with a soft cloth. Just take your time and don’t be too aggressive – they will break under too much pressure.

And whatever you do, don’t use water. Paintballs are water-soluble, which means they will start to disintegrate if they come into contact with H20.

kids holding paintball guns


It’s important to understand the different types of paintballs in order to get the most out of your ammo and your marker.

I hope this article has been informative, and you know which grade to go for. Let me know your thoughts on the subject in the comments, below.

Stay safe out there, and happy paintballing!