Hit the link to drop by Blast Radius Woodsball Podcast. Their latest is an interview of Richmond and Tom hosted by Wayne. Wayne does a solid job and even takes a stab or two at some tougher questions though it's clear he found it a bit uncomfortable. Overall it's interesting, informative and long. Check it out. (H/T to a VFTD correspondent for the head's up.) For the rest of you lazy slackers here's a link to the podcast. [ http://cdn2.libsyn.com/brwp/BRWP132.mp3?nvb=20091214012442&nva=20091215013442&t=08c455c0bec811fe4de5a ] (Don't include the brackets, doh!) Given that competitive ballers are barely 1% of paintball (Is that retail or wholesale?) I guess the Blast Radius kids won't notice a tiny blip of extra visitors so you can probably slip in and slip out on the down low. Just don't tell any of your friends. Not that there's anything wrong with woodsball.
With apologies to Tom most of my comments will focus on things Richmond said during the podcast. Tom was repping Kingman which will also be making a substantial move (like GI Milsim) into the 50 cal arena in 2010. However, the impetus and much of the controversy has revolved around GI Milsim's introduction of 50 caliber paint and Richmond's remarks addressed a number of hotly debated issues. Given the length of the interview I'm just picking out a few of the highlights.
Richmond is glib, engaging and, I suspect, used to getting people to see things his way and I'm going to try hard (and perhaps fail) to avoid too much nit-picking but there were a few having his cake and eating it too moments. Like being a manufacturer of hammers so that every problem looks like a nail. Like intimating issues in the paint industry are all the responsibility of forces from the "Orient." (I didn't know anyone used that word anymore but I kinda liked it. Score one for Richmond for not being PC.) Like decrying the detrimental pricing policies (and paint wars as it were) without taking any responsibility for his time at Procaps. Playing the white knight returned to save paintball from the forces of fear and propaganda (while basically accusing anyone with questions or concerns about 50 cal of some ulterior motive.) And, remembering his venue thought it was about time the minuscule portion of paintball that plays competitively (The One Percenters) should stop telling everybody else how to play and with what equipment. [Not exactly Henry V but if there were stage directions that's the place everyone would murmur and shake their torches and pitchforks.] Okay, enough, you get the idea, I'm sure.
Up first is cost of play. Clearly, cost of play--predominantly the paint cost--is killing paintball and 50 cal will be cheaper. At least 30% cheaper according to Richmond. (More later on this point.) But as it turns out other things are killing paintball, too. Like the pain--or should we say discomfort? 50 cal addresses that issue too. Cheaper and less painful. It's a no brainer being opposed primarily by other (backward) paint producers who know they can't compete in the modern world what with new-fangled computerized gizmos up against chains and pulleys and the grunt of slave labor. (I added the colorful bits.)
Given that economizing is a 50 cal claim Wayne asked about related gear expenses and specifically conversion kits. Spyder is planning on leaving that to aftermarket producers by and large while Richmond suggested it was a decent transitional option. Not as good as a made for 50 cal marker which will be more internally air efficient. (Besides, conversion kits don't really fit the marketing scheme or the future GI Milsim bottom line. Just saying.)
A more difficult topic was performance where Richmond focused on breaking consistency relative to similar grades of 68 cal and travel distance. Generally however he insisted real world performance was so close that most players wouldn't notice a difference. He was also only ballpark when it came to demonstrating knowledge of the numbers and ratios involved. (Pay no attention to the science, if you haven't shot a 50 cal paintball for yourself you can't know what the result will be --and if you have and disagree you're an agent of fear & propaganda. He didn't actually say that--this particular time but the implication remains. And I like saying agent of fear and propaganda.) Tom's comment about performance equivalency went something like "a seven foot drop difference over 200 feet is negligible compared to all the benefits of 50 cal paint." [An admitted paraphrase but it's close.] Elsewhere Richmond did admit that tourney grade paint still needed improvement but that rec and field paint were ready to go.
There is no intention on GI Milsim's part to raise the allowed FPS above 300 as one of the advantages is the lesser sting of impact. Besides, there's no need since performance is so close already.
When asked if he expected 50 cal to eventually dominate the market the way 68 does now Richmond didn't want to say that as it would reinforce the whole Pinky & the Brain world domination meme but, hey, if it's better in every way it doesn't seem unreasonable to assume it just might, you know, replace 68 at some point. So, yes, he expects it will but it's not a nefarious plot.
When asked about specific pricing Richmond couldn't give any actual prices yet but suggested that when it does hit the market widely it should be around 30% cheaper or else you're being ripped off. From comments throughout Richmond seemed to imply that regular players and local fields should both see the reward of cheaper paint though exactly how that would be accomplished he wasn't asked.
Fairly early on, around the time of the introduction of dark forces from the Orient, Richmond discussed, in some detail, elements of paint manufacturing. This was in relation to cost, to a lesser degree, and the functionality of the 50 cal paintball now when compared to the past. The claim was the dark forces wouldn't be able to compete and see similar cost savings at their end due to obsolete outdated equipment they didn't want to have to replace. With respect to the 50 cal ball itself current technology allows more control over shell thickness than in the past which answers concerns about the smaller sphere, breakability, etc. and even materiel costs in part. I have no objection to any of this and it could be absolutely correct for all I know--but that's why I consult my paint guy on stuff like this. His take was that the Chinese are by and large all using the same equipment used by the big boys here though he couldn't vouch for India. Further, he suggested the drying process is as important to breakability characteristics as any variant of shell thickness the current equipment can manage. I don't have an opinion on this one, I'm just putting it out there.
And finally we come to safety issues. Initially Richmond played the energy card. 50 cal is way safer 'cus there's way less energy involved so not to worry. Safe as can be. Wayne followed up and asked about the weave in some commercial netting--since the safety issue isn't about energy, it's about scale and it turns out that in particular the lighter weight weave the PSP uses for netting above 12 feet doesn't contain the 50 cal paintball. However, Richmond didn't think many local fields used that netting and besides, Cossio has discontinued making that grade available but it is something responsible field owners ought to check. Fair enough.
That's way more than enough but hey, don't take my word for it (as I'm apparently an agent of fear and propaganda--I wonder if I can put that on a business card?) listen for yourself. As I said, it's informative and worth the listen if you're interested in the subject. (I skipped the tail end listener call-in Q&A and there may be some good stuff there, too.) While you do that I'm gonna check my bank accounts for any recent, unexplained deposits. Here's hoping. Fingers crossed.