Cold Weather Paintball


How to Thrive in Cold Weather Paintball

Every year the weather turns on us… and our paint starts to get ultra-brittle causing a messy and frustrating experience.

Well, the good news is I have been through this change of seasons and playing in & managing paintballs in the cold weather for over a decade now & have learned a few tricks over the years.

What Happens to Paintballs when they get (hot / cold)?

A paintball is a gelatin capsule that is filled with basically a food coloring to leave a mark when it breaks.

Like everything else, when this gelatin gets cold it will begin to contract. As it contracts the shell becomes harder, making it so the shell will crack more easily. Think of it like an egg shell.

As the seasons change and it starts to get hot the gelatin will start to expand. This makes the gelatin soft. With the soft shell the ball is less likely to break in your gun, but also less likely to break on target. This is one of the reasons you see more bounces on hot days. Think of those bouncy balls kids have that have the liquid and glitter in the middle. You can bounce them off the ground and they never… ok, rarely … break. It takes a ton to get them to break.

So, what do we get out of this? Paintballs become brittle when they get cold, and become bouncy when they get hot.

How YOU Can Use This To Your Advantage?

Well, now that we know what happens to a paintball as it gets hot or cold we can start optimizing our paint. The way we do this is by manipulating the temperature we store the paint at.

Before you start going AWOL on me here, we want to start by identifying if the paint is…

  • Perfect – it is breaking on target even on those long ball shots & not in your gun.
  • A little bouncy – it is breaking on the close shots, but not breaking on average distance or long ball shots.
  • A lot bouncy – it is bouncing off people even in most of the close range shots.
  • A little brittle – it is breaking in my gun every once in a while.
  • A lot brittle – it is breaking in my gun a lot.
  • WAY TOO BRITTLE – I cannot get a ball out of my gun…

So, lets breakdown what we can do in each of these scenarios.

Perfect Paint

The perfect paintball for me is when I might break one ball out of a box because the paint is brittle enough that it is going to break on those long ball shots. You know, the shots that your gun is pointed up in the air to get maximum range and the ball just drops in on the opponent. For me, I want those to break as there is a major reward in longballing someone.

One way I test my paint on a tournament field is from the start station I will shoot the sideline netting. If 50% or more of the paint breaks on the netting, which is usually about 75 feet away, then that paint is primo. It is going to break on the opponent even across the whole field.

How do you store perfect paint? I recommend storing it out of direct sunlight, somewhere that is about 70 degrees.

So, if you are in Washington in the winter time where it is 25-35 degrees, I highly suggest leaving your paint in your car. Make sure the heat is on, and that throughout the day you restart your car if needed so you can keep the temperature inside the car around 70 degrees.

For the paint I am carrying I use my body heat to keep it warm. I do this by keeping it in pods and in my pod pack. I will make sure to keep my pod pack on which helps me stay warm and my paint.

Between games I will put my paintball gun in the car so the gun and the paint in my hopper stay warm.

Paintballs That Are A Little Bouncy

Paintballs that are a little bouncy are going to bounce off your target when shooting across the field, about 150 feet. To get paint that breaks on target with shots beyond that you are going to want to take great care of your paint and ensure that you buy a higher end ball. Why? The higher end balls typically have a thinner shell thickness, so they break on target easier and are also easier to manipulate their brittleness level.

To deal with paintballs that are a little bouncy I recommend that you:

  • Keep them out of direct sunlight (this will make them more bouncy)
  • Store them somewhere that is cooler than 70 degrees.

In the summer time it is not a bad idea to bring a cooler to the field. You can throw a little ice in the cooler, and then put some cardboard or other material to create a barrier from the ice. You can then throw your case of paint in there. Keep in mind you want the bags to be closed up as you do not want the paintballs getting wet at all or they will be ruined.

You can put the paint in the cooler for ten or so minutes at a time, then recheck the brittleness. Once they are at the brittleness level you want store them somewhere that is out of direct sunlight, but not freezing cold!

Paintballs That Are A Lot Bouncy

For paintballs that are very bouncy I suggest that you access if you want to change paint grades. At DBS we will allow you to swap out any unopened bags for different grades of paint, you just pay the price difference. A lot of parks are like that.

If you are not willing to do that or have opened all your bags of paint, then you will want to use the cooler trick from above. Make sure you check the paint regularly, and once you hit that level of brittleness you are looking for you can remove the paint from the cooler and store it in a spot that is cool and out of direct sunlight.

Paintballs that Are A Little Brittle

If you start getting barrel breaks in your gun it is typically because the paintballs are getting too brittle. It is not uncommon at cold weather events that the paint will start of perfect for the event, then 30-minutes to an hour into the event your whole team is shredding paint… and I am here to tell you … THAT IS YOUR OWN FAULT.

The paint that was perfect in the morning was perfect for a reason. It is perfect because it was kept warm all night, at the ideal storage temperature. What happened was you bought the paint then likely took it to your outside, cold staging area and the paint started to get brittle.

Don’t be that guy, store your paint in your car where it should be warm from driving to the field and start your car as needed to keep it warm for your paint.

You can also use the cooler trick I talked about before, but rather than using ice in the cooler you can put those little hand warmers or other heat sources. Just make sure there a bit of a barrier between the heat and your paint. What you don’t want to do is put the paint on or in extreme temperatures because that can ruin your paint.

With brittle paint you want to warm it up a wee bit, then maintain it at that temperature. If it begins to get a little bouncy turn the heat down a little.

Paintballs That Are A Lot Brittle

With paintballs that are very brittle I suggest you start up your car, turn the heat on high, and close all the doors and windows. Let that thing get warm, and put your paint in the car.

Just like our other methods, you do not want the paint on direct heat or cold, so set the paint on the passenger seat or somewhere besides the dash with the defroster on!

What happens when you put the bag of paint on the dash with the defroster on (or any other way of putting the heat directly onto the bag) is that the side of the bag that is on the dash gets bouncy and the top side of the bag stays about the same. You end up with a bag of some brittle, some bouncy, and none of it is ideal.

You want all the paint to be cooked up evenly, just like your food.

Paintballs That Are WAY TOO BRITTLE

Alright, so from time to time we buy paintballs that are just too brittle to use, and even heating it up won’t save the paint. I recommend only trying this tactic as a last ditch effort to salvage bad paint. This method has been referred to as waterball.

What is waterball? Waterball is where you take a bag of paint and you add a little water to the bag.

Why would I add water to my paintballs?? Well, as we all know the paintballs are biodegradable. The water will cause shell to soften up, making them less brittle.


How much water should I add? I recommend getting your hand wet, like running it under some water from the sink, then shaking your hand off so there is only a little moisture on it. You can then open your bag of paint and move the paintballs around with it. The goal is to get the water onto the paintballs evenly, so move it around a bunch, cycling the paint through the bag. Wait 5 or so minutes and test the paint. If it is still too brittle try it again.

So Now Your Paint Is Perfect

Now that you know how to get and keep your paint perfect, it is time to practice. When you go to the field next pay attention to the brittleness level of your paint. If you think it is too brittle get it a little warmer or keep it in the sun for a little bit and see what happens. If it is too bouncy cool it down. Try the tips and techniques here, but go slow. What you don’t want to do is make the paintballs worse or ruin them, so be careful.

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written Danny Cort of DoodleBug Sportz. All rights reserved.