The most important rule in paintball is that all players must wear a protective goggle system or mask at all times when they are playing or near other people who are playing. While paintballs will not cause permanent injury to most areas of the body, the eyes, and to a lesser extent the ears, are vulnerable to serious injury if hit by a paintball. Paintball masks are specifically designed for the sport, and the goggles are capable of withstanding a direct hit from a paintball traveling at well over 300 feet per second (90 m/s), the safety limit adopted by paintball marker manufacturers. The lenses of the goggles are composed of either single sheets of tough plastic, or thermal lenses, which cut down on fogging. Most masks have flaps that protect the ears, and some include a visor to shade the player from sunlight. Some players use masks that cover the entire head for maximum protection, while the majority of tournament-level players choose smaller masks that offer a wider field of view, better hearing, vocal communication and more venting. Recently, small timers were created to fit in the goggle, alerting the user to a certain time in the game.
BARREL COVERS, SOCKS, AND PLUGS
A safety device comprised of a cloth or neoprene pouch placed over the opening of the barrel and attached to the marker via a cord. These are usually required by commercial fields, to be used whenever the player is not on a field. They prevent an accidentally discharged paintball from leaving the barrel and causing injury. Forgetting to replace it after leaving a game and entering a safe zone will usually earn a warning. Repeated infractions will often result in ejection from the site. This is done for liability reasons and to lower possibility of unexpected injury to anyone around, especially important when involving eye safety.
Barrel socks are now preferred over barrel plugs because of the reduced possibility of discharging the safety equipment from the marker. When using a barrel plug, the first accidentally fired shot will shatter inside the barrel against the plug, pushing it at least partly out of the barrel. The second or third shot will likely dislodge the plug completely, meaning further shots pose a danger to surrounding players. With modern markers easily capable of firing five or more shots in a fraction of a second, barrel plugs simply do not provide an adequate guarrantee of protection. Furthermore, a discharging plug is a hazard in itself, as it can be fired with some speed out of the end of the barrel.
A barrel sock, by contrast, does not adhere rigidly to the end of the barrel but is instead attached with elastic. If a paintball is accidentally fired, it passes out the end of the barrel and is caught by the barrel sock. The momentum of the paintball is absorbed by the elastic, which then springs back into position, pushing the paintball harmlessly out the bottom of the sock. Repetitive firings therefore pose no threat to safety, and the paintball does not make a mess of the inside of the barrel.
To “blind fire” is to discharge a marker around a corner or over an object with your head still behind that object or corner, making you unable to see where you shoot. Blind firing is discouraged on many fields, for potential safety implications. As the shooter cannot see where their shots are landing, they could accidentally fire at somebody point blank, hit a referee, hit a person that had removed their mask (also a major safety violation), or otherwise cause damage or injury through indiscriminately firing paint at an unseen target, although many players use the arc of a paintball to shoot at someone they can’t see over low bunkers. This tactic is not advisable.