December 8, 2011 - Proposed standard ASTM WK34588, Practice for Operation of Low Impact Paintball Game Fields, enables those in paintball industry to create low-impact games for potential players who might like to try paintball but are initially intimidated by its intensity. According to Paintball Training Institute president Bob McGuire, standard outlines game organization, management, and safety protocols that slow down the game and limit shooting proximity to increase enjoyment for inexperienced players.
Would the 50 cal paintball be part of this in the future?
The short answer is: could be. But it isn't yet and the proposed standard isn't about 50 cal, it's much bigger than that.
Too cryptic? Re-read the statement. It means what it says and that means 50 cal might be part of that process. The concept is about expanding the boundaries of what it means to play paintball—and at the core of that is something called the “welt factor” and pre-existing ASTM standards with respect to age. Those standards are the reason that 10 years old is the current age minimum that insurers won't underwrite below. But what if paintball could be played by 8 year olds in a more compact environment without the existing “welt factor” (and pain) as part of the equation? Does a broader definition of what paintball is make it more inclusive, potentially more popular? Does a new and expanded demographic create more future, long term paintball players? Does paintball finally get the girls to join in if the “welt factor” is substantially reduced?
See what I mean about bigger than 50 cal alone. The fact is however that a small(er) ball could easily be part of the equation—and low impact paintball isn't a new idea. The initial industry interest seems to pre-date the PMI merger and may have influenced their purchase of RP Scherer but was cut short by the economic necessities that drove the merger with National Paintball Sports. And it's unclear (at least right now though Mr. C is on the case) how much if any of PMI's interest carried over but it appears there is still some measure of industry interest. I might even be inclined to suggest it's quite a lot of interest but I only have that feeling based on what sources wouldn't talk about. I mean if it was a non-issue everybody would say so, right? (Okay, the good liars will say anything, and do, but even though we's talking paintball, not everyone is a good liar.)
I know what your thinking. GI Sportz, d'oh! Hold on. Yes, GI tried to make a big 50 cal push a couple years ago (how time flies) but their focus (apparently) was less about low impact and more about competing with and replacing 68. Seems to me there's some overlap there but rumor has it the low impact community—yes, there seems to be one—wasn't universally on board with that effort. It seems there are some major paintball interests that see low impact paintball as a viable gateway to general paintball play. And, no, I don't know what the ins & outs of that are/were? be but it's intriguing, isn't it? It also seems 50 cal isn't universally viewed as the ideal small ball size from the low impact side of the equation but that the economic advantages held sway. (And now all the major manufacturers have the dies to convert to 50 cal if it comes up again.)
Does HydroTec's paintball fit into the low impact equation? The answer appears to be not at this time. It seemed to me that a paintball that was mostly water with a shell thickness that could be very precisely controlled might be ideal for this kind of application but it seems HydroTec hasn't made any overtures to the ASTM. Yet. (Although my ASTM contact is reticent to discuss any matter other than what they are working on—like the obvious tie-ins to various industries that might have an interest in the outcome of their efforts.) But that got me thinking—and call me crazy (I'm used to it)--but look at some of the, I hate to call them trends, that VFTD and others have reported and/or commented on in the past. Industry conferences aimed at paintball field owners including Airsoft & laser tag. Tippmann introducing a laser tag variant using their paintball-based equipment. And toy giant Hasbro with their expanding universe of Nerf stuff that both mimics paintball but is also safe enough to play virtually anywhere. How much more low impact can you get?
And the ultimate question—for today anyway—is low impact paintball a counter to all these other shooting and tag games? Or are they all best seen as potential gateways to future paintball play?