For years, paintball has been one of the most fun, exhilarating outdoor activities around. Popular for groups of friends, team building, stag nights and parties, the possibilities are endless.
These days though, health, safety and legal concerns are coming to the fore when it comes to any activities and paintball is no different. Here are the pertinent points that you will need to know about the law in relation to paintballing.
Compressed air cylinders MUST be tested regularly in accordance with UKPSF guidelines. If your compressed air cylinder is fibre wrapped, it must be tested five years after manufacture. This also applies to CO2 bottles and indeed to all bottles that have a capacity of over half a litre. To find the date when the cylinder was manufactured, check the tank and the date will be etched into it. Refilling a bottle that is not within its test dates is illegal and you will not be allowed to do so by any reputable supplier. Accidents relating to bottles that have not been tested could also make your insurance invalid.
The section of the Firearms act relating to air weapons is used for regulation within the paintball industry. Accordingly, it is important to understand in what circumstances it is necessary to have a licence to use an air weapon. For a gun measuring more than 60cm long, in order to negate the need for a licence it must not be capable of being fired over twelve ft/lbs. For guns under that length, the key figure reduces to six ft/lbs. If air weapons hold greater strength than this then they will need to be licensed.
More specifically regarding paintball markers, they cannot discharge more than one paintball at a time or they are classed as automatic. They can only use paintballs that are approved and should be restricted to 300 fps max.
All tournament markers are restricted to a maximum velocity of 300fps, which equates to 9.9ft/lbs and site markers should be used at between 250-280fps to be safe for customers. This equates to 7ft/lbs-8.7ft/lbs.
Additional Safety Measures
Over in America, health and safety has gone one step further and it tends to be the case that we follow suit in the fullness of time. Across the pond, tournament organisers insist that players put full face and ear armour on to the paintball masks that they play in. They have to be those supplied by the same people that supplied the mask and they are not allowed to be modified in any way. Whilst this is not law within the UK yet, the UKPSF do quite rightly raise the fact that it is still essential owing to the minor matter of insurance. Any insurer of a UK paintball site will insist that all players wear face masks, goggles and ear armour at all times. The same thing applies to paintball marshals.
When it comes to tournaments, it is often the case that organisers insist on goggle systems that have not been modified since manufacture must be worn. Aside from the insurance issues and tournament restrictions, the use of protection is an essential safety consideration that should always be adhered to.
Antisocial Behaviour Act 2003
There are certain restrictions placed by this Act that are worth keeping in mind. Firstly, it is an offence to possess any firearm in a public place without a lawful authority to do so, or reasonable excuse for doing so. In this, the burden of proof is on the defendant. this includes air weapons, whether or not they are loaded.
Additionally, giving any air weapon or ammunition to someone under 17 years old is an offence. Under 17 year olds are not allowed to possess these items unless they are members of an approved and defined club or they are, with the landowner’s permission, on privately owned premises. For someone under 14 years old, they must be supervised in the latter situation by someone aged over 21.
There have been proposals to further tighten up the gun laws. A parliamentary committee recommended that air weapons should all be licensed even if they are low-powered. They also proposed restricting children from handling firearms until they are either 12 or 14 years old. There is a further suggestion of a computerised database listing everyone who holds a firearms licence. Licence holders would have to be able to show that they had a reason for possessing the weapon and somewhere safe to keep it and that they were suitable to possess such a weapon. These are merely proposals at this time with plenty of objections on both sides. It is unclear which, if any, of these measures will ultimately be introduced.