How Does Switching Barrels Affect Paintball Accuracy?
You have two choices in paintball: shoot and miss, or shoot and hit. Different barrels will give you advantages for different scenarios, and choosing the right one is key in gaining that all-important cutting edge in your game.
The length of your barrel is perhaps the most important factor in your accuracy. As a rule of thumb, the longer the barrel, the more accurate your shot. However, in close-range speedball or in small-space skirmishes, a longer barrel will make it more difficult to tuck and hide in tight spaces. Speedball players typically use 10- or 12-inch barrels, while woods players use 14- to 16-inch barrels. Shorter and longer sizes exist as well.
Paintballs are supposed to be exactly .68 inches, but due to manufacturing tolerances, this can vary. For this reason, paintball barrels are sold in a variety of calibers. Paintball brands are known to be of a smaller or larger caliber, so match your barrel to the type of paintballs you tend to use. Having a mismatched paintball/barrel combination has a noticeable effect on accuracy. Some manufacturers make barrel kits with inserts or ends that you can choose to match your paintball exactly. These kits can cost over $100, but they allow you to virtually throw out any disadvantage you might have due to paintballs that are a bit too large or small for your particular barrel.
Some barrels are sold with a rifled interior, meaning that very shallow, circular grooves are cut into the inside of the barrel to give the paintball a spinning motion while in flight. This will greatly increase your accuracy, and most higher-end barrels are rifled. If you’re shopping for a barrel, just look through the barrel into a light source, and you’ll be able to see if it’s been rifled.
One Piece or Two?
Some barrels are two-piece sets, meaning the tips are interchangeable, allowing you to always have on hand which length you want. Tips also vary in color, and sometimes even bore, allowing you to customize your barrel on-site to fit the game. Two-piece barrels are more expensive, though, and the tips can be pricey as well.
The little holes in the end of most paintball barrels are referred to as porting, and they act as a buffer zone for your paintball as it changes from the barrel environment to the outside environment. It lets the excess gas used to propel the paintball escape before negatively affecting the flight of the paintball. Most barrels have porting on the last 4 to 6 inches; differences in porting don’t have a profound effect on accuracy.
Cheaper barrels tend to be made from steel, which is heavier and harder to polish. More expensive barrels are made from aluminum (or even carbon fiber), are rifled, and are polished super smooth. When it comes to paintball barrels, the old adage is usually true: You get what you pay for. For most people, $50 is an average barrel price.