Fellow ballas -

You may not be aware of it, but busybodies from the AMA, certain manufacturers who find their market share threatened by the latest advances, and tournament league representatives (traditionally phobic of change) have banded together to manipulate the ASTM to reject full-auto and multi-mode paintball markers from the governing safety specification, thereby effectively banning them. Very shortly you will not be able to purchase or even use fully-automatic and multi-mode markers unless they are stopped.

Supposedly this is for safety, but we all know this flies in the face of well known statistics. Take a gander at the attached forwarded article.

Some people prefer semi-only play. Fine (some people prefer pumps). But some of us like the advanced new markers. Regardless of your preference, do you really want these guys deciding for you what equipment you should and should not be allowed to use without any basis in fact?

Signing this petition to re-instate full-auto and multi-mode markers to the standard is a good start to telling these meddlers to go home, but please consider contacting the ASTM board directly to voice your disapproval of this lame action. Here's the link:


"To those who want to save the world from fully-automatic paintball guns:

There's a bridge crossing the San Francisco Bay. You may have heard of it. 1013 people have intentionally leapt to their deaths from this bridge since its opening 66 years ago. Proposed solution - build insurmountable barriers along both sides of the bridge. Hey, its only 4,200 feet long. Oh wait, there's just one small problem. It's stupid. Not to worry, though - history teaches us that someone in government (probably well connected in the construction business) won't be stopped by a detail like that. By the way, there really are advocates who expect to deface the Golden Gate Bridge with multi-million dollar suicide barriers. I'm serious. There are.

And, unbeknownst to most of the playing population, yes, some time ago members of the AMA sent a letter (and more recently sat on subcommittee F08.24, the ASTM group in charge of paintball related standards) which prompted the ASTM to reject fully-automatic and multi-mode (F/A & MM) markers in the latest revision of standard F2272 03 "Standard Specification for Paintball Markers (Limited Modes)". But has anyone any actual data that even suggests that (F/A & MM) markers are any less safe than semi's? The answer is no, we are simply supposed to bow to their medical authority…but, what exactly in a medical degree constitutes any expertise at all on the safety of any aspect of paintball, anyway? Apparently AMA ophthalmologists have discovered that a paintball has an excellent chance of doing serious damage if it should strike a naked eye. Think so? Lucky we have these guys on the job. Anyway, since no one in the AMA can be troubled to do any homework before meddling in ASTM standards, just for the record here are some statistics this author was able to find in a couple hours of net surfing:

Only about 4% of all blindings in the United States are the result of injury of any kind, the large remainder primarily resulting from disease. About 2.4 million eye injuries do occur each year, and according to the U.S. Eye Injury Registry, almost half (43%) of these occur within the home, with another third at work, while only 4% of all injuries are sports related (about 100,000 per year). Regarding injuries specific to paintball, in a web-based summary of a recently completed comprehensive sports participation study, SGMA INTERNATIONAL (www.sgma.com) reports:

'While membership in the Extreme Sports category implies a whiff of danger, only paintball is handicapped by a huge injury taboo, one that exists in the public mind, but not in the statistics. The industry has long maintained that the rare (but highly publicized) eye injury almost always occurs in an unsupervised, unprotected, often illegal setting; and that paintball is a very safe activity, a claim substantiated by the current research, as the sport reflected only 0.2 injuries per 1,000 exposures, the lowest injury rate of any Extreme Sport. Put another way, the average player will suffer a paintball injury about once every 500 years.'

The above statistic encompasses all types of paintball injuries, most of which are sprains, broken bones, etc. The Consumer Products Safety Commission estimates that 2000 paintball-related eye injuries were treated in emergency rooms from 1997 through 1999. Normalizing by the playing population at that time, one may estimate that annually just a little over 1 in 10,000 players received an eye injury. Of course, this begs the question "How severe is the average paintball-related eye injury?" Naturally, this varies, and it is difficult to find data published in a form allowing a reasonable statistical estimate. (Most medical studies hand pick the cases evaluated, so they do not represent a random sample.) This author was able to find one survey, however, of the eleven cases presented to the University of Iowa Hospital between 1994 and 1999 which provides a small but unbiased sampling that provides a rough basis of estimate. Nine of these cases recovered 20/30 or better vision, while only two recovered 20/200 or less. (Incidentally, 20/200 is about 2.2 diopters - many people with vision in this range wear glasses only for driving.) This statistic should not be interpreted to downplay the potential severity of damage inflicted by a paintball striking the eye, but rather probably is more sensibly interpreted as an indication that medical technology is up to the task. This is a limited statistical sample, but suggests that only about 20% of all paintball eye injuries serious enough to seek medical attention result in significant permanent visual impairment and one may combine these statistics to estimate the chances of significant permanent visual impairment to a paintball player are on the order of 1 in 50,000 per year. To put this into perspective, the average paintball player is 50% more likely to be killed by a drunk driver and three times more likely to be the victim of murder in a given year than have significantly impaired vision resulting from a paintball accident in the U.S.

Now, the demagogues of the world have made a great issue lately of the idea of a potential "double blindness", but let's again take a quick look at some facts (always a good idea before giving advice, n'est pas?) We're talking about something that this author was unable to find any evidence to have actually ever occurred. Not that it's impossible, but the fact that it apparently hasn't actually happened does allow a probability estimate. Let's see - the typical argument goes that since marker firing rates are increasing, the chances of a double blindness must also be increasing. Fine, since F/A & MM markers have only been around for a few years, we'll just consider recent history, and estimate roughly 2700 injuries in the last three years (by scaling the 1997-99 per capita injury rate by the increase in the playing population). Given no reported double eye injuries, this allows us to statistically estimate with 99.99% confidence that in a single paintball-related ocular trauma incident, the odds of both eyes receiving injury are less than 0.34%. Putting it all together, the average paintball player will happen upon an accident rendering significant permanent vision impairment to both eyes once every 86 million years. (He or she is 2500 times more likely to be killed by a drunk driver than to receive a significant double eye injury.)

Still not satisfied with those odds? Keep your mask on. Whereas about 10% of all eye injuries are not preventable with reasonable protective equipment, 100% of all paintball-related eye injuries are. Not one eye has ever been injured while protected by an ASTM certified paintball mask. Not from any kind of marker. Never. Even when masks have cracked in service due to manufacturing defects (resulting in product recalls by manufacturers who have been outstandingly proactive with respect to safety), none has ever failed to protect the wearer.

Get the point? Maybe the term "double blindness" would better be used to refer to the blind leading the blind (something that seems to happen much more often than paintball accidents). Of course, those involved are only a tiny group of kneejerk meddlers within the AMA, but I am embarrassed for them. And exactly who are the AMA? Of course, they claim to be the voice of doctors in the United States, but a very official sounding acronym doesn't make that true. One doctor I interviewed described a self-appointed organization of M.D.'s turned politician, champions of the HMO, who solicit high dues paying membership by furthering the financial interests of doctors over the needs of their patients. Apparently most doctors agree, as 7 out of 10, to their credit, abstain from membership. So, if most doctors reject the AMA, why is the ASTM so easily influenced by their propaganda in the face of so many readily available facts and reports by both medical and sports organizations?

Moving along, let's list the common fallacies (starting with and re-iterating safety for completeness) which comprise the ongoing "debate" on F/A & MM markers:

Fallacy #1. Fully automatic and multi-mode markers are less safe than semi's.

Nonsense. As illustrated above the data illustrates quite the contrary. People (and the ASTM, insurance companies, etc.) are making rules for all of us, shouldn't there be a little more behind it than ego posturing, superstition, and paranoia.

Fallacy #2. F/A & MM markers will lead to more overshooting.

F/A& MM markers are typically design limited to shoot at lower rates of fire than the average person can achieve with an electro-triggered semi. What does it matter if the marker is full-auto or semi? If it's capable of 15 shots/second, who cares if the operator's finger is twitching or not? Max rate of fire rules may be a good idea, but fully-automatic and multi-mode markers make it easier, not harder to regulate firing rate…and I quote a very insightful review of an electro by one contributor to pbreview.com identifying himself as "DrEvil" (hope that's a pseudonym): "As far as the different firing modes go, if you can shoot fast, you might as well leave the gun on semi-auto since the full-auto mode is only 8-12 bps."

Fallacy #3.F/A & MM markers will take over the game.

Again, F/A & MM markers shoot no faster than good semis, and anyway, are pumps forced to play against semi's in tournaments? Shouldn't it be obvious that different hardware can be isolated to different forums (for instance, stock markers have their own competition class)? I haven't heard anyone suggest that players who want to play semi-only should be obligated to take on full-auto and multi-mode employing opponents. But just because some people don't want to play with the more advanced technology, isn't it a little mean spirited that they should try to dictate that no one gets to?

Fallacy #4. F/A & MM markers encourage "spray and pray" tactics.

Again, F/A & MM markers shoot no faster than good semis (anyone picking up a theme). The only way in which full-auto and multi-modes encourage spraying is that holding down the trigger does deliver kind of a thrill whereas having to work a trigger as fast as you can is a little annoying. But, since when is a little fun bad? Some people say that spray and pray is what we have now; others disagree. Rulemakers of tournaments and paintball fields should sit down and really think about what they are trying to say, and then say that. If we don't want guys doing the spray and pray thing (which most people don't, including people who like the newer technologies), the most direct approach is ammo limits per game (and, of course, there are tournament categories now with 200 rnd limits), and that takes care of it. But there's nothing wrong with those who want to carry 1000+ rnds onto the field, it's just a different game. Play the game you want; let others play the game they want.

Fallacy #5. F/A & MM markers should be eliminated because they are illegal in some other countries.

Most sports (and even games such as Scrabble) have had to adopt different rules for national vs. international events. Foreign players can still come here and compete in semi-auto events, and vice versa. Also, keep in mind that despite all efforts to the contrary, the United States is unique in all the world in that its government is based on freedom. Do you really want to accept rules from every guy in the world who gets to wear a funny hat?

Fallacy #6. FF/A & MM markers take skill out of the game.

First off, the core skills of the game are teamwork, strategy, and accuracy. Sure it takes skill to pull a trigger fast, but making that an axis of competition seems kind of silly and arbitrary to this author. At paintball's inception, rate of fire was a non-issue, because the markers were all single shot per load. Then someone invented a bolt action, then a pump, then semi-auto. All of these advancements proceeded under the understanding that a higher rate of fire improved one's capability compared to the next guy. And every time these new technologies were introduced, people complained that something was lost from the game (and every time they tried to make them illegal). But nothing was ever lost. People can still play the pump game; they can still play the semi game; and letting people play the full-auto game won't change that. Would we all want to be running around with those old Nelsplats that you practically had to disassemble to re-load? There are people who think yes, and there's nothing stopping them. The advent of full-auto and multi-mode markers can actually decrease our fixation on rate of fire, since they can simply be set to a regulation max rate of fire (be that 8 or 15 balls per second). Anyone can pick one of these up and get exactly the same performance. As long as everyone has access to comparable equipment (and that's true now more than ever because inexpensive sear trippers give you nearly the performance of a Timmy at very low cost), the only remaining factors are teamwork, strategy, and accuracy.

But this is just stating the obvious. In short, wouldn't we be better off focusing on keeping the sport safe with the new advancements (which are fun, at least for many), rather than once again trying to artificially stem the tide of progress? There is a crusade against personal responsibility in our country, and all this is just one more brick in the wall.

The bridge? Think. Those who choose the bridge do so for style and/or statement. If people so inclined can't get to the side of the bridge, they'll just find a tall building (maybe we should make those illegal?). This author suggests a diving board near the center. That way, to do it right, people will feel they have to use the board, and will end up having to think things over for at least the 20 minutes it takes to walk out to it. In such a preoccupied state, they may even walk out on the wrong side, and have to go all the way back around. With any luck, 20-40 extra minutes of reflection will change their mind.

Please feel welcome to reproduce and distribute this article freely,


We say, Re-instate Full-Auto and Multi-Mode Paintball Markers to F2272 03 "Standard Specification for Paintball Markers (Limited Modes)

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The Stop the ban on F/A and Multi-Mode Paintball Markers petition to ASTM was written by John Jacobs and is in the category Sports at GoPetition.