Is 50 Cal Paintball a Good Buy?

Pete 'Robbo' Robinson has been in this sport for well over 20 years now and in that time has played both for the All Americans and Aftershock and along the way, accumulated 2 World Cup winners medals, 2 world series medals, MVP in Aftershock's world cup winning squad of 96 as well as a myriad of other titles across the world of professional paintball.

He was voted world's best player in 96 and has added to these accolades with over 400 articles detailing all aspects of our game from the politics of paintball to the sophisticated understanding of paintball's techniques. He was US Editor of Paintball Games International and has worked in the paintball industry as a consultant for the past few years.

Robbo is one of the most respected, and trusted voices across the world of paintball and was recently asked what he thought of 50 cal after he had done a few tests.

50 Cal A Good Buy??

When something new comes into any marketplace, it might serve us all well to take a time out and cast our eyes over just who's behind it. The reason is, when you know who's pulling the strings, it gives you an idea as to whether or not the new product will possess any merit based upon what we know about the man behind it all.

The man behind this new venture is none other than Richmond Italia, the same guy who brought us the hugely successful Procaps paint company and the same man who launched XBall onto an unsuspecting world, unleashing the most exciting tournament format ever.

For some time now, paintball has been in need of something new, something to breathe life back into our jaded body after a difficult few years that have seen the industry's balance sheets decimated. A lot of people have been well aware of this need for some time now, but there's one thing knowing about it, quite another, doing something to improve the situation.

There's an old saying that goes something like, 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it', well, for the most part, that's true, and of course, you'd be hard pressed to make a case for having anything to do with changing the paint we have now, that of .68 caliber paint; And unless the 'ain't broke' part comes about, and with paintball being less than 50% of its peak of 2005, then something is most definitely 'broke', but please bear with me and suspend your judgement awhile. Some time ago, Richmond called me up and asked me to go see him in Montreal; I was somewhat sceptical, not least because, Canadians are a bit of a weird bunch for sure but I thought it must be important seeing as I park my ass in London, England.

Richmond eventually outlined his idea when I got there and I have to say, I had some nagging doubts when he first told me he was thinking about resurrecting 50 cal ... I knew from years ago, there were always problems with 50 cal not least because there was getting the damned stuff to break when it hit anybody ....

But, gnawing away at the back of my mind was, this guy had been hugely successful in whatever direction he had gone in paintball, if I wasn't agreeing with his vision, then there might well be something wrong with me. Luckily for me, the Lord God graced me with a brain the size of a Cadillac and after considered reflection, I was able to reason my problem through; my initial resistance began to crumble as I listened to his ideas unfold. The problem with getting 50 cal to break had always bedevilled the smaller caliber paint and pretty much paved the way for its fat-ass counterpart, the .68 ball, to go on to dominate, and rightfully so, after all, who wants a ball that doesn't break on some poor schmuck you just bunkered. Well, maybe an enterprising site owner may see the benefits for his fat-ass wallet but for the rest of us, we needed a 50 cal ball to break, but alas, none were about back then.

Over the past 4 years or so, our industry has been nose-diving toward oblivion and Richmond's not the sort of guy to stand by and watch; he would have been constantly thinking of ways to inject life back into our sport and then eventually, he began to focus upon the problem of shell formulation for 50 cal; he realised that if he could solve that, then it opened the door to a whole raft of new possibilities for our sport, in both its players and the industry.

After extensive work and testing, he finally managed to solve the problem and came up with a formulation that had the dual quality of not breaking in the marker but still managed to break on the target.

Now that was just the start of this particular Richmond journey, he then set out to manufacture and arrange all the other pieces of the 50 Cal jigsaw and this is where we are now...at the dawn of a new era, a whole new ball game is on offer here guys ...... or, is it all smoke and mirrors?

With any new launch, there will always be negative commentary, some of it is BS, some of it is speculation and the remainder, sometimes warranted. The trick is, to work out, what's what or in this case, to identify those people who have a vested interest in knocking it down. Of course, some people may say, the people with a vested interest in selling the new products could be equally disingenuous and therefore these have to be factored out as well but for the time being, bear with me, because I'll come back to them.

Our industry is absolutely littered with individuals who have no integrity and would feel no moral compromise whatsoever in decrying a product merely because it was in competition with their own. I think some of the people with connections to the established paint industry will bad mouth 50 Cal for obvious reasons; some of these will be subtle; others, about as subtle as an anvil but I think it's quite easy to spot them in this case because they will spout with no clout; in other words, they will criticise 50 cal but have zero substance to their opinions.

Now we come to the people who obviously have a profound vested interest in selling it and these are the people connected with 50 cal itself i.e. Richmond's mob. Not the Mafia as some people might have you believe; Richmond generally hand-picks individuals to work alongside him and these individuals are normally chosen for their astounding good looks, amazing charisma, and minds as sharp as titanium razors .. anyway, enough about me, let's get back to Richmond and 50 cal. Of course, the 50 cal people could indulge in BS when they go about their marketing but BS is always gonna be short-lived if not a little cheap and the 50 cal project is far from either, and come to think of it, Richmond ain't cheap either, far from it in fact.

First off, let's put a few things straight, the ball does not break in the breech or barrel any more than its .68 counterpart. I had Andy Piper bring up a marker, air and both types of paint to my mate's house a week or so ago and we turned his lovely green garden into what looked like Sesame Street after we had finished the paint tests; his wife was not amused but his kids loved it. In the tests I did, the 50 cal ball flew further, about the same as, and less than the .68 balls I was using when firing at similar velocities. I shot a few hundred balls, and none of my tests were strictly scientific, I realise that but they were practical and honest. I will only relate what happened, I won't BS, I won't exaggerate, I will just tell you guys what did what on the day.

Conclusions

Nothing conclusive in terms of determining which paint shot furthest I'm afraid other than it was generally speaking, comparable.

As for accuracy

Well, here we get a bit of a problem, well not so much a problem as a silver-lined cloud. In my humble opinion, it is more accurate but...... your eye has to retune itself, and by that I mean, the 50 caliber is obviously a smaller bore than the .68 and your eye has to consequently get used to the reduced diameter as it leaves the end of your marker. And here we start to flesh out what different sections of our sport might want.

The pro player will want a ball [irrespective of cost] that is more accurate and won't break in the breech or barrel. The scenario player will want a ball that doesn't break in the breech or barrel and is not expensive, to these guys, accuracy is somewhat secondary. The site owner basically wants a ball he can make absolutely disgusting amounts of money with. I'm not saying my tests were definitive because they weren't but what we can say is, you can trust my word on what happened when I shot both types of paint.

The tests I did, are the ones that primarily interested me as a player but there are other advantages to 50 cal and these are: - in an international context, there are countries where the playing of paintball inhabits a legal grey area.

50 cal offers these countries a door to legitimacy because of the decreased energy required to fire the ball at 300 fps. This is kinda cool for those ballers across the world who are nudging those edges of legitimacy and finally allows them to go and play, free from any thoughts of the Special Forces come crashing into their paintball game as happened in Germany recently. There is also an obvious advantage with 50 cal in that you can carry a damn site more paint, I think the figures run up something like this, in a normal 140 .68 cal pot, you can pour in 380 .50 cal balls ..... with a gravity fed loader you get 320 and a tourney loader, you can sack up with 440.

These are impressive figures in the volume orientated game we all play these days and a considerable advantage if you are up against the .68 guys anywhere near the OK Corral.

All in all, what have we got here...

A marketing sham or a product that has merit, and worth looking at?

I think one of the things we all agree on is the need for the paintball industry to get back on its feet. The only way we can achieve this is by refinancing cash flows, I'm not talking about one specific company here because 50 cal allows potential refinancing across many different industry boards and a lot of companies can get involved here.

But, this is all contingent upon one critical factor, is 50 cal worth buying?

For the player, there are many reasons why you might invest as has been pointed out and certainly for the site owner there are benefits.

In the end, it all comes down to the guy with the money in his hand and what he thinks is important about the products he wishes to buy.

I was asked to go shoot a couple hundred balls of 50 cal and compare them to .68, and then make my comments; I have done this with no bias whatsoever.

I realise I didn't have a tape measure to mark out distances etc but I had a chrono and a pair of eyes.

I have written what I have seen, nothing more, nothing less. And from what I have seen, 50 cal is definitely a good buy.