You know, the one heralding the 50 caliber revolution. Yeah, that bandwagon. Now before you start accusing me of being an ignorant hater let me say I'm not opposed to the idea. I get the potential advantages. Heck, I'm sold on price alone--all other things being equal. The key words here being--potential and equal. Thing is I'm not good at wishing will make it so or blindly following the latest marketing sleight of hand. My problem is I've got a brain and it works--most of the time.
For the sake of argument let's grant the 50 cal flies as straight as a 68 and breaks as well as a 68. Even if true there are still more than a few issues to resolve. Like actual retail pricing. Marking ability. Distance traveled and/or velocity. And impact. For starters. Beginning with pricing all manner of savings, mostly as a percentage of current prices, have been floated and they seem reasonable (if still hypothetical) based on the relative size and weight differences and manufacturing efficiencies from one to the other. However, real numbers seem in short supply. (Or nonexistent.) And here is where the rub begins. (Is it a hit or an attempt to wipe?) It seems to me that various of the desired properties of the 50 cal paintball are in conflict with each other.
What makes a top tourney grade shell? It's brittleness. And the fill? It's opaque marking ability and viscosity. And what is the other principle characteristic of top tourney grade paint? It's price. If, because of its nature, 50 cal requires a more expensive manufacturing baseline some percentage of the proposed savings disappear. Or else all the qualities to be found in the current unfinished 50 cal paint will be eroded in cheaper grades. At which point questions about marking ability and impact arise.
Simple physics insist the smaller shell has superior tensile strength--all things otherwise being equal--compared to a 68 hence the need for the thin shell. Less surface area means the impact is spread over a smaller patch. Mitigating this is the fact a 50 cal paintball has roughly only 40% of the fill capacity of a 68. The current incarnations of the 50 cal paintball also weighs in at roughly 40% of a 68 cal paintball so with respect to actual impact the question becomes what is the surface area of impact ratio? While the principle variable is velocity on impact.
And here is where things start to go at cross purposes to each other. The smaller, lighter ball will not travel the same distances when propelled at the same muzzle velocity. The gains made in reduced surface area do not overcome the weight disadvantages. (For more detailed data check out the 50 Cal Forum at PBN.) The only way to modify this outcome is to add weight or increase velocity. Adding much weight is difficult because of dimensional limitations--small ball--and material restrictions (stuff like non-toxic and biodegradable, retaining fluid characteristics, etc.) and a significant velocity increase will have safety restrictions and flight characteristic degradation at some point. And, oh yeah, a heavier or faster ball carries more energy and will increase the impact. (And come closer perhaps to violating more restrictive firearms laws in Canada and Europe.) Throw in the rumor that in order to get a "good" mark the fill can't be too thick and you end up with different desired outcomes tugging this way and that.
On top of the present uncertainties where are the ASTM (or similar) certified testing results? I might have missed them but so far haven't seen any. I'm told at least one major league is concerned that the current netting will be insufficiently safe for 50 cal use. And how do current goggles hold up? If the final product ends up being heavier and shot faster? Will this effect the insurance premiums at local fields?
One other thing concerns me with respect to competitive paintball and that is the prospect of a radically shorter time to distance for the 50 cal ball if the velocity has to be dialled up in order to achieve other similar to 68 cal results. In the past high velocity was (and is) primarily a safety issue but in a competitive situation it is also a potential playability issue as well. The time it takes a paintball to go from A to B will alter the nature of the game we play. How much I don't know.
At a minimum there remains lots of unanswered questions with respect to the actual utility of a 50 caliber paintball and until there are real answers I suspect there will be lots of room on that particular bandwagon.