So, You Want To Play
By Larry “Oldest Sage” Strack
Minnesota winters sure ruin a good
paintball season. It’s cold, snowing and you get tired of indoor
paintball. What are you to do? I have been pondering this
question for the past few years. I’ve heard of a group of
Canadians that played right through winter and I’ve seen articles on
Doc’s web site of how to play in colder weather; fill your tanks half
full, keep CO2 bottles warm between games, shoot slower and use cold
weather paintballs. Yup, I read it all. However, I just
couldn’t get a group together to try it and I wasn’t sure if it would be
more trouble than it was worth.
Last fall the Farm Land Paintball
Club Pump Contingent and Minnesota Militia discussed setting up a winter
game. The Militia had some experience with winter ops and wanted
to play. In January about 40 of us got together for a day of play
in the cold. There wasn’t a lot of snow on the ground and it was
about 25 degrees Fahrenheit. Pumps were selected as the marker of
choice because of a slower rate of fire and less barrel breaks.
About half of the FLPB Pump Contingent used HPA as propellant; some used
12 grams and the rest CO2 in various sized bottles. While most
used Polar Ice paintballs, I tried Marbilizers for the first few games.
I was able to get off a lot of shots without a barrel break, but the
Polar Ice worked much better and shot straighter. After a full day
of play, I was ready for the next winter ball game.
I saw and learned many things during
these games. Layer your clothes because you’ll get pretty warm
after a bit of running around. Between games you’ll want to layer
back up to avoid chills. Good socks and boots are a premium in the
cold. Wear a pair of wicking socks under a good pair of wool ones
to keep your feet warm. A stocking hat and headband are good to
regulate your heat while keeping your ears warm. But, if you get
to warm you’ll start fogging up your mask rapidly. Speaking of
mask, make sure your lens is in good shape (no cracks, etc…) and some
sort of defog solution and/or fan to keep those lenses clear.
As I mentioned above, paintballs
designed for cold weather use are a must unless you really like to be at
one with your squeegee. If you have the cash, spring for an HPA
tank and you’ll never go back. HPA isn’t affected much by
temperature, doesn’t make that white puff of snow each time you shoot
and is easier to recharge when needed. HPA is, however, more
expensive. CO2, on the other hand, is cheap and lasts longer per
tank. It’s downfall comes from it’s inability to change from a
liquid to a gas in cold weather. Without going deep into physics,
CO2 is stored in your tank as a liquid. At some temperature, about
30 degrees F, it has some difficulty changing to a gaseous form and it
produces a much lower pressure. Most markers will only
operate on gas while a few will accept liquid CO2. No matter what,
plan on using more CO2 in the cold than on a warm day. To
effectively use CO2, only fill the bottle half full and which allows
more room for the liquid to turn to gas or borrow an old school trick of
switching tanks between games. Fill a small cooler with 2-3 inches
of “warm” water to store your second tank while you’re playing.
This will keep the tank somewhat warmer and give you better performance.
DO NOT use hot water! You will only find a damaged burst disk when
you return to use the tank. Last of all, keep your rate of fire
very low. 12 gram cylinders are easily kept warm in a pocket but
expect to get fewer shots than a warm day. You can use a semi
effectively if you can control you trigger finger. A semi,
however, will use much more CO2 because it uses the gas to re-cock the
marker after each shot. Pumps are much more suited for this type
of play and are usually more forgiving of brittle paintball shells than
a semi are.
The last thing I learned was that
just because Old Man Winter is knocking on the door, your addiction
doesn’t have to fad by playing in small, dark, converted warehouses.
If you’re a woods ball connoisseur, you don’t have to be forced to play
speedball. Gather up your warm clothes, adapt your equipment and
find some friends that will play in the cold. This may be a good
time to look into getting a pump marker. They work well in the
cold and when you may be a little short on cash. A typical day
playing pump requires no more than 500 balls and some CO2. You may
find, like I did, you won’t want to go back. The hardest challenge
may be to find a few friends that will play on those cold, snowy winter
days. If you’re ever in Minnesota look us up for a game or two.
Good luck, play hard, stay safe and stay warm.
MNpig.com - Feb 16, 2004