If you have found this blog post, the chances are that you are not just a beginner in paintball, but you now need to know the science behind how a paintball performs within a barrel, and how you get better accuracy, range and efficiency. This won’t be a short article, but in the end, you will know everything there is to know about paintball barrels from someone who has been playing paintball since 1988. You may be surprised by what you learn because most people think a longer barrel makes the gun more accurate and gets better range. You couldn’t be further from the truth. Read on.
Understanding Paintball Barrels
The barrel is a crucial component of your paintball gun. It’s the part that guides the paintball out of the gun and towards your target. The right barrel can make a world of difference in your game, improving accuracy, range, and overall performance.
Paintball Barrel Length and Bore Size
When it comes to paintball barrels, size does matter. The length and bore size of your barrel can significantly impact your game.
Barrel length typically ranges from 8 to 20 inches. Shorter barrels (8-12 inches) are more compact and easier to manoeuvre, making them perfect for close-quarters combat. Longer barrels (14-20 inches) are supposed to provide better accuracy at longer distances but they don’t and can be more challenging to handle in tight spaces. However, there is a science to paintball barrels, so let’s first look at how the air source affects things.
Barrel Length v Air Pressure
Okay, here we go. Imagine if you had a 1″ barrel. That was the total length. You need to accelerate the paintball from 0fps to 300fps in a length of 1″. Whilst you wouldn’t need much air to achieve this, the g force on the paintball would be massive. The chances are the paintball would distort or break under such conditions, so clearly, a very short barrel is not ideal.
Now let’s look at a barrel length of 20″. You have 20″ to accelerate the paintball from 0fps to 300fps, so you would think that the paintball would experience a much lower g force, much less distortion, and a reduced possibility of paintball breaks in the barrel. Think again. Whilst the paintball should accelerate slower, the problem is that the pressure of the air behind the paintball reduces as it travels down the barrel.
So the initial burst of air that was enough to fire a paintball from a 1″ barrel may not even be enough to achieve 100fps in a 20″ barrel due to the pressure drop behind the ball. To solve this problem, you would need a bigger blast of air, causing additional stress on the paintball. So at the extremities, 1″ to 20″, you can see that any barrel of either size would be completely useless. And the reality is, they are.
So, there must be an ideal barrel length, mid-way between 1″ and 20″. I remember seeing this science on an AGD forum about 20 years ago. The great Tom Kaye had done some research and produced a bell curve. It turns out that the best effective barrel length for a paintball gun is 8″. That’s effective barrel length and not barrel length. There is a difference.
Effective barrel length
The effective length of a paintball barrel is the length of the barrel that accelerates the paintball, this is a precise bore size. Whilst a 12″ barrel may be 12″ long, it may have an effective barrel length of 8″, or more, or less, depending on how clued up the manufacturer was.
Now we are starting to get into the science of paintball barrels. It turns out that the barrel length is nowhere near as important as the barrel bore size. Over the last 35 years or so, paintballs have got smaller and smaller. I can only assume this is from paintball manufacturers reducing costs. Those who have played for years will know exactly what I am talking about. The paintballs used to be .68 cal. Now they are closer to .67 cal. and sometimes even smaller depending on the manufacturer.
So differing paintball sizes will affect how the paintball interacts with your barrel. Paintballs will also swell and contract depending on the temperature and humidity of the day. So, for example, if it’s pretty cool in the morning, then things warm up in the afternoon, your paintballs will get slightly larger as the day goes on. This will also affect accuracy, range and efficiency.
There will have been times when you play with a brand of paint, and it’s ball-on-ball accuracy, and you think, wow, I’m never using any other brand again. But then the next time you play, you couldn’t hit a barn door, and you don’t know why, well now you know. The chances are the temperature or humidity aren’t the same.
Barrel bore kits
Some time ago, Smart Parts (Now GoG) came out with bore kits. They were onto something, and the first thing you need to do if you are serious about accuracy, range and efficiency is to buy yourself a barrel bore kit and a barrel system that takes them. There is NO other way to improve your barrel.
The trouble was that these new barrel inserts were only 5″ long, and as we have seen above, the best effective barrel length is 8″. The insert becomes the effective barrel length. Luckily, now you can buy 8″ barrel inserts. A barrel kit with 8″ inserts is the best of the best. No matter what the brand.
If you have a mate who thinks his gun fitted with a 20″ barrel outranges everyone on the field, now you know he is talking rubbish. In fact, any player with a 20″ “Sniper” barrel doesn’t know what they are talking about, and you can just smile as they waffle on about how they took someone out at 500 yards away through a 10p sized gap in a barricade.
Remember to use different-sized barrel bores, you will also need to buy a barrel front and a back that accepts barrel bore inserts. Or, you can buy a full kit that includes inserts, a back and a front.
So how do you use a barrel kit with multiple inserts?
This is quite simple. But it takes a bit of time. Do this, though, and you will be staggered by the results.
- You will need a paintball chronograph.
- Take out all of your barrel inserts and set them on the table next to the chronograph
- Use each barrel insert, start with the smallest bore size, and fire three shots over the chronograph. Mark down the velocity results on a piece of paper.
- Continue until you have used all of your inserts.
- Choose the insert that gives the highest velocity results.
If you need to reduce your markers velocity, then do so. By reducing the velocity you are also making your marker more efficient. The insert that gives the highest velocity reading is the perfect size for the paintballs you are using. If you set up in the morning, repeat the process in the afternoon, especially if temperature increases or decreases. You will also need to do this if you change paint brands during the day, or even if you use the same brand and type of paintballs if the batch number is different. Make sure you check the label on the box of paintballs. If the batch number differs, you must repeat the above.
Congratulations, you now have a perfectly set up barrel for the paintballs you are using.
Don’t forget paintball quality.
It’s all well and good buying the perfect barrel and complete insert kit, but if you are going to buy cheap paintballs where the sizes are all over the place, then there wasn’t much point in buying the kit. I remember in the store, we regularly got players coming in and asking to buy the best marker, then the best air system and hopper, then asking what the cheapest paintballs we sold were. It was always a face-palm moment. Get the best quality paintballs you can find. It’s not really for us to say the best manufacturers out there, and remember, most brands are made in the same factories anyway. But over time, you will get to know what’s best just by using the above step-by-step guide.
Best paintball Barrel.
We have no allegiance to any manufacturer. But our recommendation for the best paintball barrel is without question, a barrel kit with multiple inserts. The inserts must be 8″ long. Look at this YouTube video from GoG Paintball which is pretty good and echoes the advice we have given above.
Upgrade Your Paintball Barrel
Upgrading your paintball barrel can significantly enhance your game. Here are a few reasons why you might consider an upgrade:
- Improved Accuracy: A high-quality barrel can improve your shot’s accuracy, giving you an edge in the game.
- Increased Range: Some barrels are designed to increase the range of your shots, allowing you to hit targets from further away.
- Reduced Noise: Certain barrels are designed to reduce the noise of your shots, helping you stay stealthy during games.
- Better Efficiency: A well-matched barrel and paintball can improve your gun’s air efficiency, allowing you to shoot more rounds per air tank fill.
Paintball Barrel Buyer’s Guide
When shopping for the best paintball barrel, consider the following factors:
- Material: Barrels are typically made from aluminium, stainless steel, or carbon fibre. Aluminium is lightweight and affordable, while stainless steel is durable but heavier. Carbon fibre barrels are lightweight and durable but can be more expensive.
- Length and Bore Size: As discussed earlier, consider your play style and the size of your paintballs when choosing the length and bore size.
- Brand: Some brands are known for their high-quality barrels. Do your research and read reviews before making a decision.
- Price: While you often get what you pay for, the most expensive barrel isn’t always the best. Consider your budget and the features you need.
Paintball Gun Maintenance & Upgrades
Proper maintenance is key to keeping your paintball gun (and barrel) in top shape. Here are some tips:
- Clean Your Barrel Regularly: After each game, clean your barrel to remove any paint residue. This will help maintain accuracy and prevent jams.
- Inspect Your Barrel: Inspect your barrel for any damage or wear before each game. If you notice any issues, it might be time for an upgrade.
- Upgrade Other Components: While the barrel is essential, other gun components can also impact performance. Consider upgrading your hopper, air tank, or trigger for a fully optimized setup.
In conclusion, the right paintball barrel can significantly impact your game. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro, understanding your barrel’s technical aspects can help you decide when it’s time to upgrade. Remember, the best paintball barrel is the one that fits the paintballs that you have on the day.
So, don’t wait! Use this paintball barrel buyer’s guide to find the perfect barrel for your next game. And remember, regular maintenance and upgrades are essential to keep your paintball gun performing at its best.