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Thursday, December 1, 2005

Surviving the Night

Night Paintball - What every player should know

originally published in the December 2005 issue of Paintball Sports Magazine

Night paintball has been around for over a decade, but only within the past year or two has the popularity of the sport experienced such dramatic change. Scenario paintballers are swarming to evening games like second graders charging the playground at recess. Big events such as Oklahoma D-Day and Nightmare City dedicate at least one evening for night paintball, and woodsball™ fields are increasingly giving players an opportunity to showcase their nocturnal combat abilities.

But the experience is still unfamiliar to a lot of young players - usually because mom and dad aren't too thrilled about little Johnny running around in the moonlight with something that appears to be an AK-47, coupled with the misperception that night play is more dangerous than day play. There is no evidence to support the increased risk of injury for nighttime players, and scenario event organizers want to keep it that way. Well-known scenario producers such as MXS have established a standard 'safety' policy of adjusting marker velocity down to 250 for night games.

A driving force behind the surging popularity of night paintball is the recent introduction of relatively affordable night vision equipment. Prices of low-end (Gen 1) scopes start at roughly $200, which puts night vision devices (NVD) within reach for a lot of us, but it's still somewhat impractical for most. (See The Three Generations of Night Vision at the end of this article for more information.)

Justifying that kind of expenditure for a piece of equipment that will only be used occasionally is no easy task. (To date, I haven't yet heard an argument for night vision equipment that could hold up to the scrutiny of a prudent wife or girlfriend.)

On the other hand, if a female paintballer wants to buy night vision gear, you can bet your sweet buttstock that the boyfriend or hubby is going to approve with a resounding, "Hell yeah!" After all, he knows darn well that he's going to get more use out of it than she will. (I.e., "Honey, I found out whose dog keeps pooping on our front lawn at night.")

We might be men, but we're still boys at heart; the only difference is the price of our toys. Our tastes have simply graduated from the 49-cent Cracker Jacks prize to state-of-the-art, $6800 night vision binoculars. (Regardless of an item's price, if it's cool technology, most guys will eventually find a way to justify ownership.)

Like anything else, owning night vision gear boils down to economics and priorities. The majority of paintballers are not yet able, or willing, to fork out $200 or more for NVD, yet for other players, the decision is a no-brainer. For these night game junkies, night vision is worth every cent.

Having vision on a darkened scenario field that is crawling with herds of "sightless" paintballers is too appealing for some to pass up. Heck, night vision is paintball's equivalent to having super powers. If you have a NVD and a decent marker in a big evening game, you'll be Lord of the Night, and one of paintball's all-powerful X-men. Teammates will revere you (and follow you around), and your opponents will despise you.

Yet, night vision is not the all-inclusive 'Holy Grail of invincibility' in regards to nighttime play. Owning night vision gear doesn't mean that you own the field; it only means that you have a distinct visual advantage. Some players are no enamored with their new "powers of sight" that they carry a false sense of security when they play under the stars, forgetting to apply the basic paintball skills they learned over the years. Ultimately, smart thinking and skilled play need to be included with night vision in order to win out in the end.

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