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Can You Use a Gas Mask for Paintball?

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An intense adrenaline filled game of paintball has the tendency to quickly go south if you’re not wearing the proper gear. You might not realize it, but you can sustain life-threatening injuries when hit with paintball pellets. Hemorrhages, cataracts, bruises, and even detached retinas are a real possibility. So, should and can you use a gas mask for paintball?

No. Do Not wear a gas mask for paintball. Gas masks have thin fabric with weak lenses that are prone to cracking at the slightest of impacts with foreign objects. High velocity paintball pellets can break the visor and force glass splinters into the eye! The aesthetics of a gas mask are not worth the risk of eye-loss!

You are much better off wearing masks specifically designed for paintball masks. You may want to look for gear that complies with ASTM standards of safety. As a general rule, the mask should have a reasonably high shock absorbing capacity. A typical paintball mask can be tested by firing a paintball pellet from 12 feet away at 300 feet per second. If you see a scratch (or worse still, a crack) appear, the mask fails the test.

Why Gas Masks Are Not Suitable for Paintball

A cursory look at the construction of typical gas masks should reveal an obvious problem: gas masks are designed to protect wearers from noxious vapors, dirt, dust, and air pollutants. Some high-end masks may come with their own internal supply of fresh air or outfitted with special screens to filter specific contaminants. Not to mention those incredibly fragile and virtually transparent eye pieces do little to inspire any confidence!

Gas masks are great for use in environments with harmful chemicals running loose. They usually have a powerful filter cartridge that houses a filtration aid. Commonly use filtration aids use activated carbon to adsorb large quantities of organic gases, hydrogen cyanide, formaldehyde, and cyanogen chloride. Other harmful gases include sewage vapors such as hydrogen sulfide and chlorine.  

Some gas masks are designed to accept extra layers of filtration, while others may be connected to an external air supply.

Enthusiast-grade gas masks may feature ‘skirts’ (the face-covering piece), but their task is to provide a strong seal near and around the face. They are not designed to absorb high velocity impacts. In higher end gas mask models, your eye piece may be chemically resistant, fog resistant, and shatterproof. But the cost of such a mask would run into the thousands and is mostly utilized by manufacturers for assembly – not a game of paintball.

Major Safety Requirements of a Paintball Mask

Here are six major requirements of a paintball mask that would provide adequate safety in a typical paintball session.

1. Extent of Coverage

The paintball mask should cover all parts of the head. They should be the right fit for your face because loose or tight fitting will result in discomfort and leave you vulnerable to damage. It is not uncommon to see people wearing smaller facemasks that leave part of their chin hanging out. Now that is a potential accident just waiting to happen!

2. Field of Vision

A paintball mask should not reduce your range of visibility. For glasses wearers, they should be able to buy OTG (over the glasses) paintball masks that not only fir their face but comfortably accommodate their regular glasses. The paintball mask should ideally be fog resistant.

3. Shock Absorbing Capacity

The paintball mask should have a sufficiently high shock absorbing capacity. This can be tested by either dropping the helmet at a sufficiently high speed or distance to see if it cracks. Alternatively, you can shoot paintball pellets directly on the mask and lens from a reasonable distance and speed. No scratches should occur.

4. Resistance to Penetration  

When playing paintball, there is a risk of foreign objects such as sharp objects and branches penetrating the mask. The resistance to penetration can be tested similarly as point 3 above. The point is, no external objects from outside should breach the paintball mask.

5. Durability

After all the vigorous testing, the mask should not show any sign of damage that could cause additional damage to the wearer.

Paintball Mask with Gas Mask Design

The M04 and M50 series of paintball masks combine the cool aesthetics of gas masks with the durability of paintball masks. (Check out amazon for their pricing, click here.) What’s more, they can be worn over your glasses, making them ideal for glasses wearers. Any paintball mask exclusively designed for paintball will do just fine regardless of its aesthetics.

It is not advisable to buy a gas mask designed to offer protection against harmful gases for paintball. Similarly, don’t go barging in harmful environments wearing paintball masks that resemble gas masks! Know your gear.

The Importance of a Headband for Paintball

An average paintball measures 0.68 inches in diameter and flies at speeds of up to 280 feet per second. As the saying goes, speed kills, and paintball might not be so different. It can really sting if you’re not mentally prepared to take a shot to the face. And if you’re not wearing a headband, the fast hitting paintball will do more damage than you’d anticipate.

In most cases, you can make do with a do-rag, backward fitted baseball cap, winter hat, or even the hoodie that comes with your paintball jersey. You may still want to wear a paintball mask specifically designed for paintballs.

Padding with fabric on the inside and velcro in the back with mesh over the top not only looks cool but also provides the much needed protection for your head. You could wear a beanie, which is becoming increasingly popular, or a skullcap with moisture wicking fabric to prevent sweat from trickling down your forehead and into your paintball mask.

Normally, people would wear a headband, and then follow it up with a beanie over top. So, if you ever get shot directly on the top of your head, which is likely the case if you’re crawling or crouching, the beanie would absorb a little bit of the impact. Another reason why you would want to wear headbands is because it looks great aesthetically.

4 Tips to Choose Paintball Mask

Let’s take a closer look at a few tips to help you buy the perfect paintball mask for your face.

Tip 1: Good Ventilation

Good ventilation allows you to see, hear, and breathe while playing. The ideal paintball mask will provide good ventilation throughout the mask, and not just close to your mouth. Ventilation in the front provides space for deep breaths. You also need it in the back and side to prevent fogging up and enable good hearing.

Poorly ventilated paintball masks will ‘mask’ your hearing ability and make it difficult to tell your enemy’s position based on sound alone. A good mask should keep paint fragments out while allowing plenty of air in.

Tip 2: Space on the Inside

Some masks are roomy for maximum comfort while others are so compact that the lens sits really close to your face. The idea is to put some breathing space between your face and the lens. This is especially true if you wear glasses. You may want to test the mask several times on your face before committing to a purchase. Finally, the mask should be able to fit like a glove, because if it doesn’t, it becomes an unnecessary third wheel.  

Tip 3: How Much Coverage Do You Need?

Most gas and paintball masks are ‘full face’, that means they cover everything from your eyebrows to your ears, jaws, and the top of your head, in addition to the jaw, face, and neck. If you’re new to paintball, then you should definitely buy a paintball mask that covers as much as possible. Once you’re up to speed about the gameplay, you can go for customized equipment.

Tip 4: Find a Mask that Lets You Find Replacement Parts

A good mask is made of several pieces that will most likely break loose after repeated use. Advanced and premium face masks allow you to find replacement pieces instead of throwing it away and buying a new one. Simply replace the individual parts as they are gradually worn out. You may want to consult the manufacturer’s instruction manual to find compatible parts and an installation guide.

It’s an Investment That Pays for Itself

Safety is the name of the game when it comes to paintball, even if the sport itself is considered fairly low risk. There has been anecdotal evidence of people dying from a game of paintball simply because they were not prepared. Suffice to say, a single occurrence should give enough reason to players to invest in dedicated paintball gear, and at the top of your list should be a paintball mask.

It should have the right features while fitting your price range. A full face gas mask simply isn’t as robust as a specially designed paintball mask and will most likely hinder your movement during game-play, not to mention leave you vulnerable to high speed paintballs.  

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