An paintballer takes aim.
The original paintball guns were pistols with barrels that were 4 to 6 inches long. One of the first common modifications were barrel extensions that added length. As paintball gun designs evolved, interchangeable barrels quickly became standard. This led to experiments with lengths and designs, looking for the best compromise of accuracy, efficiency, and maneuverability. After 30 years, there is still no “best” standard, but players can decide what works best for them based on several criteria.
Paintball gun barrels are typically offered in even lengths, with the common mass-produced lengths being 8-inch, 10-inch, 12-inch, 14-inch, and 16-inch. This is based on raw materials length and minimizing unusable leftovers. 11-inch and 13-inch barrels have been produced and sold but those are uncommon, as are barrels that are 18 inches or longer.
This player takes aim on an X-ball field.
The biggest reason most players change paintball gun barrels is to improve accuracy. A common notion is that longer barrels shoot straighter. This is partly a myth. Tests show that accuracy is not determined by the barrel length. Accuracy is a product of consistency, using good-quality paint that snugly fits the inside of the barrel. However, a longer barrel may help a player aim more precisely due to increased sight radius, or the distance between the back of the gun and the tip of the barrel. This leads to the perception that a longer barrel is more accurate.
A 12-inch ported barrel is a good choice for efficiency.
Tests by Airgun Designs and Palmers Pursuit Shop indicate that for best efficiency (shots per a given volume of propellant), 8- to 10-inch nonported barrels are ideal. Paintball guns shooting carbon dioxide benefit from slightly longer barrels than ones shooting compressed air.
A good barrel won’t slow you down!
When handling a paintball gun, the longer the barrel, the more careful you must be about bumping it into obstacles or sticking it in the ground. Also, a long barrel made of a heavier metal, such as steel or brass, can make your paintball gun front-heavy and slower to aim, which can be a disadvantage in a fast-moving game. However, in games with lots of brush or with inflatable bunkers, you can use a longer barrel to avoid exposing yourself to opponents.
For most mass-produced barrels, there is not a notable cost difference based on length. An 8-inch aluminum barrel costs approximately the same as a 14-inch aluminum barrel from the same manufacturer. However, differences in cost and materials do come into play with 16-inch and longer barrels. For example, aluminum typically costs less than stainless steel, which costs less than carbon fiber.