Tell me About Police Paint Guns

I went on a bit of a winding rabbit trail on the subject of the paint guns used by the American police. Would such a gun be a useful home-defense weapon?

The American police seem to use off-the-shelf paintball guns. (It seems the Tippmann A5) is in common use. They fire balls filled with an irritant or solid “riot balls.” I presume these are the ones that cause the nasty injuries I have seen online.

The pepperballs work by chemical action. Velocity does not matter. But what about the solid “riot balls?” Can 250FPS really provide enough energy to injure someone?

So I can buy the same setup as the actual police use? They do not have especially boosted muzzle velocities?

It’s been awhile but I have been shot with a handful of Tippman paintguns at various ranges, from 30 meters to point blank.

These were with standard paintballs, which are definitely not solid affairs. With a modest bit of hand strength, you can crush a paintball. You can easily crush one with your molars. It is trivial to stomp one and make it “pop” audibly and squirt paint some distance. So they’re not especially solid is what I’m trying to get at.

At moderate ranges, I was getting welts on exposed skin with these paint shots, and pretty livid bruises through thin summer clothes. You know when you’ve been shot if you don’t have thick clothes, I tell you what. At very close ranges, lots of swelling and some bleeding, enough energy to put a hole through thin cloth. At the back of the head at very close range (the shooter was a coward who never confessed) I was basically stunned and lay prostrate for a half-minute with a bleeding, swollen head wound. Not at all unconscious, but very acutely aware of how much the back of my head hurt.

These paint shots can easily put out an eye without adequate protection. A solid shot with that much energy runs the risk of being lethal I’d guess.

A solid shot at 250 feet per second is capable of, I’d guess, really serious injury.

When I got smarter, I started wearing an old longcoat as protection. (This was pre-Matrix, give me a break.) Loose-fitting, thick clothing can greatly reduce the effectiveness of paint shot. Looser, thicker clothing or (B)MX-style armour would probably work quite well against the solid stuff.

Editted to add: 250 feet per second is standard velocity, and you can find some places that go up to 300. So this is about as standard as it gets.

In a home defense scenario, your goal is reliably stop a perceived threat. This doesn’t appear able to do that.

It might depend on how determined they were. If they were unarmed and mistakenly thought they entered an empty house. Getting hit with paintballs might cause them to retreat. Granted, in that scenario, realizing there were people inside might also cause them to leave. OTOH, if they specifically targeted your house (or you) and knew what they were looking for, after realizing it’s not a real gun, they may continue to do what they were doing. And you probably don’t want them angry, in pain, covered in paint and still in your house.

I talked to some guys who worked a paintball arcade in a small town. they didn’t know what they were getting into, but apparently their job was to run from cover to cover while people tried to hit them with paintballs from 50 feet or more. (OK, not the easiest way to make money). They had standard paintball armour and head protection,whatever that was, and still had a lot of painful bruises.

I would suggest the guns would be useful if you were willing to aim at an invader’s face (or crotch?) but at short range, some bigger perps might find it more productive to charge you and grab the gun, since it’s not particularly injurious. How “ready to use” is one of these? Can you just pick it up and go, like a pistol, or is there a bit of prep to ensure the thing is primed for firing?

Then you have to consider - depends what the laws are in your area. I would assume that this could in Canada be considered a dangerous weapon based on its ability to cause injuries, even though it does not violate firearms laws.

You can buy enpty paintballs and fill them with glue or something else that hardens.
You can also buy .68 caliber rubber balls.

I’ve never been a burglar but if I was in a stranger’s house and heard bangs and shouting along with acute, fast onset pain, I’d run away as fast as I could.

The first time I went paintballing, I was tagged out and exiting the field as instructed. Cap on the muzzle and marker held in the air. A guy jumped up from behind something and shot me in the neck, right next to my Adam’s apple. Very painful but the bruise…The Bruise was spectacular for about two weeks after.

Back when I lived in the Midwest near the edge of suburbia, a local farmer farther out had a brilliant(!!) idea for a Halloween moneymaker.

It was a hayride where everyone was given paintball guns and the convoy of hay wagons was repeatedly attacked by zombie hordes that needed shootin’ while the convoy wended through the mostly harvested cornfields.

Being one of the zombies was a bad job. Or so I’m told by a teen who lived down the street from me and did it one season. Just one.

Or if they see you with a gun-like object and fear for their lives, they will attack and kill you.

Thank you all. Oddly, there are a number of videos of South Africans extolling the use of these things for home defense. Local laws, I suppose.

It is hard for a new technology like a paintball gun to match the very evolved real gun.

But it isn’t new tech, right? Paintball guns were originally used (I thought?) to mark cattle. Thicker skin, bigger animal, ok, bring the thunder…but for humans it can be more painful.

On the other hand if you forego riflings to make your shots more accurate because you’re on a horse a few feet away, yeah. It’s more primitive, prone to miss like a musket.

FTR OP I’m not sure how theoretical you’re talking, and I’m not a gun guy, but Mrs. L and I have long debated getting a gun for home protection and we struggle with it. My Facebook feed had some sort of gun (very big by handgun standards) that shot salt balls -or- same, but with like, pepper spray or something noxious inside. So you shoot, miss, but the ball explodes and they succumb to that while you jump out a window or something. Something like this:

I don’t think “non-lethal” = painless, unlikely to deter. One article says:

Uhmmmm… why do you know this? Was there a bet of some kind?

When you’re a youngish teenager prone to acting out, and surrounded by “cool” twenty-somethings who have a grudging respect for your abilities to take hits without complaint, it takes very little prompting to go something daft. Being half-crazed on adrenaline and endorphines may be additional factors.

It’s a gelatine capsule with water-soluble paint inside, which had to be reasonably non-toxic since people are going to be hit with it. It was not the stupidest thing I’ve done, and it was not the least-pleasant thing I’ve tasted, but they do rank up there in my personal scale of idiocy.

Going back to answer a question I missed: I’m not personally sure a paintball gun would make a great home defense weapon. I think my first choice would be a can of bear spray. Industrial-strength pepper spray, basically. Maybe with a nozzle to focus the spray a bit and get a bit of reach. It’s going to cause a lot more pain to an assailant, be more likely to debilitate them, cause much less permanent harm to your target, and have a vastly reduced risk of self-harm since you won’t have to contend with ricochets.

I would argue that a paintball gun would be just as much a deterrent to an intruder as would throwing baseballs or golf balls at them would be. Startling, causing some pain, but probably doing nothing more than pissing them off if they were at all determined. It’s not even close to debilitating unless you have perfect aim at a vulnerable spot, and even modest protection in the form of eye glasses or a light jacket would render it basically useless.

Certainly a single hit at a fair distance by a conventional paintball would not stop someone. The A5 (and I suppose others) can five solid “riot balls” and a rate of 15 per second. Further, it has a magazine capacity of 150 or so rounds.

Under ideal conditions, an person approaching your would be exposed to a storm of these nasty things whose energy increases as he approaches the muzzle. In a long hallway it ought to work great.

But of course a firearm would work better.

Further, it is not clear to me if one of these paintball guns would be usable quickly after sitting under my bed for a couple of years.

As I said, compared to firearms, the paintball gun still has many shortcomings.

More than a few jerkwads would do things like bring frozen paintballs to games, I have been hit by them a couple times. I could see them wrecking an unprotected eye and leaving some hellacious bruises but if the rubber ball rounds are anything like the impact of frozen balls, they wont break bone or anything, maybe tear skin a bit, but definitely not going to kill someone or knock them unconcious fireed from a paintball gun.

More likely things like this

I’d like to note that the term “Non-Lethal” has fallen out of favor, at least around where I live, in favor of the term “Less Lethal”.

Non Lethal left folks with the idea that it wouldn’t kill you under any circumstances which is incorrect.

Less Lethal means it won’t kill you in most cases.

There’s a pretty big terminal ballistics difference between “soft” vs. hard projectiles. I have no qualms getting shot at with arrows having slightly padded leather blunt heads (the original paintball game). It hurts and leaves two-week bruises, is all. Same bow, archer, draw and arrow mass, but a blunt head of hard material such as hardwood, bone or metal, and the arrow plows through several inches of (game animal) flesh.

I disagree, and I’m guessing anyone who has played paintball would, too. How hard, accurately, and quickly can you throw a baseball and how many do you have at your disposal? You might get one good shot throwing something, maybe two. Even a bottom-tier paintball gun like the one I had 20+ years ago is going to be semi-auto and have a hopper with at least 50 shots in it. A single hit might not be debilitating, but hit after hit, at an “inside the house” distance is going to hurt like hell and make you want to get out of Dodge, quick. It will break your glasses (lol) and will still hurt through a light jacket. You really don’t need perfect aim for a head shot and it’s pretty easy to trace shots with paintballs (but less so in the dark). Would it be a perfect/ideal weapon? No. But far better than you seem to think.

I’m surprised that no one has mentioned that 250 FPS is generally the limit on the field.

It is not the maximum speed that a marker can throw.

Most can go much higher than that just by adjusting the valve off the regulator. If you replace some of the plumbing, you can get some insane muzzle velocities.

Been nearly 20 years since I was into paintball, but I do remember one guy that was on a quest to break 500 FPS.


Used to be, a bit like Punkin’ Chunkin’, that the ultimate limit on muzzle velocity was that the paintballs’ skins would fail under the G-load or the airload and you’d be spraying paint, not paintballs.

Certainly they could now be making much stouter paintballs.