Note: This article does not constitute legal advice, and is for informational purposes only. It is recommended that you conduct your own inquiries into the legality of any issue contained in this article.

Many people wonder about non-lethal alternative methods of self defense. Some people morally object to taking a life, no matter the situation. Others feel uncomfortable carrying around a lethal weapon everywhere they go. There is an abundance of non lethal methods of self defense available on the market, for these individuals.

Sometimes I’ll play the “what if” game with my buddies. We are all avid firearms enthusiast, so we always speculate on what our preferred method of self defense would be if we didn’t have access to a firearm. A friend suggested a paintball gun as a potential candidate. After arguing over whether a paintball gun was considered a firearm, we arrived at the true question.

Is a paintball gun good for self defense? The answer is, no, not even a little bit. First, paintball guns are inconsistent at best, when it comes to accuracy. Second, while a paintball is non lethal, it also does little to deter a would be attacker. Finally, unless there is a home invasion, you’ll be hard pressed to safely carry a paintball gun effectively.

Accuracy Is A Must

For anyone who has ever played paintball, you know that the weapons they provide you at the field are sub-par when it comes to accuracy. Time and time again, I get dealt with by some guy willing to invest hundreds of dollars into his weapon setup. While I pump a hundred paintballs at my enemy, I’m lucky if half of them are in the general vicinity of my intended target. This is particularly true with any kind of increased distance between myself and my target. Paintballs do not follow a set flight pattern, and often hook or slice away from where you actually aim your weapon.

Why Are Paintball Guns So Inaccurate?

The reason a paintball deviates from its intended flight pattern is three fold.

First, while each paintball seems symmetrically round, there are bumps and divots that are unrecognizable to the human eye. As the paintball passes through the air, those small imperfections cause the air traveling around the paintball to pass unevenly.

Second, the imperfections not only cause an uneven disturbance in the airflow, but also contribute to weight distribution being off. A paintball is not exactly heavy, but if you add to the fact that some of the paint may be off center at the time of firing, you get another reason for an untrue flight pattern.

The third problem with a paintball gun is the barrel. While some barrels are rifled, to provide a certain rotation pattern, not all of them are. Should your barrel be rifled, we still have issues because of the imperfections within each paintball. The bullet in a firearm has little room to deviate. A paintball can actually “bounce” down the barrel rather than pass uninterrupted.

In a survival situation, whether I’m facing down a rabid dog, or an assailant, the last thing I want is an inaccurate weapon. Each “round” fired out of the barrel can result in any number of outcomes where a piece of the machine breaks down. By the very nature of the ammo you are using, quantity over quality is your best bet for hitting your target.

Would Alternate Ammo Work?

So this hypothetical came up because I was wondering if marbles would be a good substitute in a paintball gun during the zombie apocalypse. I highly recommend against any form of alternate ammo. For starters, marbles while appearing perfectly round likely have imperfections as well. Another concern is weight distribution, which can alter flight pattern. Because both of these issue exist with a paintball, the same effects will apply when fired.

However, the biggest concern with using something like marbles in lieu of paint is the potential for injury to the user. If you have ever played paintball with any kind of frequency or duration, eventually you will have chopped a ball in your barrel. To continue play, you’ll need to squeegee the barrel to remove any debris. Only then will you be able to continue to firing.

Imagine a marble is half loaded when you press the trigger. Physics states that the energy has to go somewhere. This is a recipe for disaster. At best, the gun ceases to function. At worst, the gun explodes and you are left with one or more mangled hands and no means to defend yourself. Alternate ammo is not worth it!

Means for Carrying

paintball size comparison almost full arm length

Now lets get down to practicality. We’ve established that the best way to ensure you hit your target with a paintball gun is quantity. For this reason, many paintball rifles come equipped with a hopper. Hoppers can generally hold 200 rounds of paint. They are also incredibly bulky. Add that to an elongated barrel to help increase accuracy. Furthermore, paintball guns use CO2 as their primary propellant.  Because tanks are intended to last multiple matches of firing hundreds of rounds, they aren’t exactly compact. Good luck trying to conceal that thing.

However, there are smaller weapons that you could conceivably carry. These tend to have limited ammo, and run on a cartridge of CO2 rather than a tank. While these are much more conducive to conceal carry, I still do not recommend using a paintball gun.

I have seen, all too often, these weapons fail mechanically. Everything from chopped paintballs, failure to feed from electronic hoppers, to broken seals due to O-ring failure. Actual firearms also experience mechanical failure. However, the parts are much more fragile and susceptible to failure in a paintball gun.

Home Defense

paintball gun and tank

Lets ignore the whole concealed carry aspect for a second. You could keep a fully loaded hopper, on a ready and available paintball gun. However, you’ll notice guys unscrew their tanks at the end of matches. The O-ring creates a seal between gun and tank. Over time, these little rubber guys can break down.

So, you leave your CO2 tank attached to your gun. When the time comes, best hope that your O-ring doesn’t fail. Or worse, hasn’t failed while you neglected your gun and now you don’t have any CO2 in your tank. I don’t like to gamble with my life, but it’s your call.

Even if all of this goes according to plan, I can name several pieces of furniture that every person has in their home that a paintball won’t penetrate. How’s this for irony, the guy grabs a pillow off the sofa and charges you. Now you’re disarmed, he’s got a few bruises, and if you’re lucky you’ll spend a few days in the hospital wondering why you didn’t just get a real gun. No thanks.

There’s No Stopping Power

Whether lethal or non lethal force is used, the desired outcome of any personal defense weapon is to stop an aggressor. A paintball gun just doesn’t have this effect. I’ve seen countless people charge head down into a hail of paintball fire to take an objective. Sometimes these folks are wearing multiple layers to prevent welts. And of course you’re required to wear headgear. Nevertheless, these regular guys charged headlong into oncoming fire.

Now I want you to imagine a mugger high on PCP or the like. Do you really expect him to do little more than flinch when getting hit by a paintball? There have been multiple accounts by law enforcement of perps getting slammed by actual live rounds, only to keep advancing. Even cranking up the psi on your gun likely won’t be enough to save you.

Sure, you can hope and pray you hit a soft target like the eyes to prevent the onslaught. This assumes your gun will not malfunction, your aim is impeccable, and you have no small amount of luck. More than likely you’re just going to make the guy mad.

You could of course hope that the threat of a firearm (assuming you have paintball gun that looks like an actual pistol) will deter the crime. No one wants to get shot, but if your assailant has a knife, you just brought a toy gun to a knife fight. A far better option would be to have an actual gun.

Parting Shots

Alright, I think I’ve covered the “why nots” of using a paintball gun for self defense. While mechanical issues are common among paintball guns, this is not the primary reason you shouldn’t use it for personal defense. Paintball guns are meant for entertainment. Their lack of accuracy, and stopping power mean that by using one for self defense, you’re essentially rolling the dice with your life. Because of the essential components of a paintball gun, they are not conducive to concealed carry. In short, I can’t think of a logical reason why you would carry or use this toy for self defense. To be honest, you’re better off grabbing a brick!