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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

What's All That Stuff on your Marker?

Military simulation modifications are practical as well as cool looking …
By Bruce 'Charon' Johnston

originally published in the March 2007 issue of Paintball Sports Magazine
"Wow, what's all that stuff on your marker?"

I have heard that question more times than I care to count. When you play with speedball with Tippmanns carrying military simulation modifications (milsim mods), players tend to notice your marker. But even on the woodsball field, the appearance of a modded-out marker can be impressive and very intimidating--especially to new players, who are usually the ones asking about my marker.

Due to the recent resurgence in popularity of woods paintball, and thanks to companies like Special Ops Paintball, OpsGear, and Rap4 and others, every week more and more players arrive at fields around North America with paintball markers that look like real military firearms. Some players like the look and feel of a mil-sim marker and create a marker that fits their personality with an amalgam of parts based on real firearms, while others really want to simulate being a member of the armed forces and will select a more accurate-looking mod package.

The reasons for turning a paintball marker into a mil-sim monster can vary as much as the mods themselves. In some cases, the mods are so extensive that the only resemblance mil-sim makers have to speedball markers is a trigger and barrel. Perhaps looking different and standing out from the speedball crowd is also part of the appeal. Once curious players finish staring at all the "stuff" on your marker, they have another question: "Is it just for show or does any of it really help you play better?" There is no simple answer to that question. It depends.

One of the main mods that make a paintball marker look real is the addition of a stock. To add a stock and use it effectively, you will also have to remove your air source from the back of your marker, which means you'll need to run a remote line. Most mil-sim players carry their tank in a vest or harness using a remote line to connect the tank to the marker. Adding a stock to the marker after removing the tank helps give the marker the proper center of gravity, more like a real gun; it makes the marker easier to maneuver and aim without the barrel wanting to always dip toward the ground. The second performance enhancement benefit of a stock is that it allows the shooter to pull up the marker and have it automatically stop in the correct shooting position, aimed at the target. This makes snap shooting during a chance contact much easier.

A very popular and easily recognizable modification on many paintball markers is a magazine. The two most common types of magazines are based on the kind found on popular rifles. The MP5 magazine is long and narrow, and the M4 is short and wide. Both are usually made of metal. Most people mistakenly believe that the mag is only for show and serves no real purpose. That is not the case at all. A metal M4 style mag serves as protection for the air line that runs from the ASA to the marker.
You never know what you are going to encounter when you are taking fire from opponents, trudging through rough terrain or crashing into bunkers--man-made and otherwise. There may be a rock, a stump or some other object sticking out of the ground that you cannot see until it is too late. It is preferable to have your mag take the initial impact and break from hitting a hidden rock than it is to rip your braided macro line from the marker causing extreme--possibly irreparable--damage to your marker. People who play the Dagger position (way up front in the middle of the action) must always try to make the smallest target possible because of the amount of paint coming in their direction. These players try to touch the longer MP5 mag with their forearm as a reminder to tuck in their elbow. If they cannot feel the mag, then their elbow is out too far. A magazine of any type can be used for quick access storage of items you may need on the field, too. O-rings, Allen keys and a pull-through are just a few of the items that can be stored in these neat little portable tool boxes. Magazines can also discretely house and protect an expansion chamber or stabilizer when crawling through the brush or shooting from a prone position.

The foregrip is another very common mod that can enhance your performance on the field. Woodsball players shoot from the prone position more often than players do on an airball field. When shooting from the prone position, you need your elbows wide, creating a triangle to make a stable shooting platform. Using a SpecOps F.O.G. grip or another foregrip puts your arms in the perfect triangular position while shooting prone. The SpecOps A5A2 grip is another popular grip with Dagger players. The A5A2 grip is closer to the frame of the marker, so the player has to keep his hands tight together to make a smaller target.

Scopes and Sights
Many players use scopes or red dot sights attached to a rail on top of the marker. The usual response to seeing a sight unit is, "What's that thing suppose to do? A paintball gun doesn't shoot far enough to need a scope and they aren't accurate enough to use a red dot." When sight units are used as for their originally designed purpose, the above statement is correct. However, paintballers are creative and can enhance their game play by improvising uses for items. A paintball marker does not have the range of a real firearm, but paintballers can use a scope to scout ahead and look for opposing players at a great distance. When a real firearm equipped with a Red Dot sight is zeroed in, every pull of the trigger will send the projectile to the exact spot to which the dot is aiming. Paintballs, due to their shape and weight and velocity, are not nearly this accurate. However, in woodsball, you will frequently have the opportunity to take your time and line up a shot, undetected by the opponent. Using a Red Dot can increase the chances of a first shot hit by up to 75 percent. Even though the paintball will probably not go to the dot, exactly, as long as the ball stays within the sight picture (and it usually will), can be the difference between an elimination and a miss.

Do mil-sim upgrades help the performance of a paintball marker? Mil-sim upgrades will generally not make your marker more accurate, gas efficient, or quiet. Can mil-sim upgrades help your overall performance on the field? Depending on how you use them and what your expectations are, definitely. When you're in the market for milsim mods, don't just think about what the upgrade will do for the performance of the marker. Consider, too, what the upgrade will do for you, as a player. Take into account your personal style preferences as well as the specific type of game you play. Think about what will help you most on the field. Some mods are just for show, but most military simulation modifications are also practical. If you're interested in taking your woodsball game to the next level, milsim mods can improve your game and make you look cooler at the same time.

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