You want to know what makes me angry?
Walking around a sports shop, full of knives and air rifles and paintball guns and other toys, and seeing some nervous looking couple staring at the “self defense” paintball guns.
I watched this play out just the other weekend. An elderly couple was in the same shop as me, and they were deep in conversation with a salesman. And the conversation seemed centered around a paintball gun that came with “pepper balls” (those paintballs filled with irritant).
By now the script is old. Couple is worried about “crime” (don’t ask them to name specifics, it’s usually an undefined uneasiness). They want to “protect themselves” (again, don’t ask them to give exact details – that might actually allow them to come up with usable countermeasures). The poor couple is scared of crime, but also of having to be violent. So when they hear about these non-lethal paintball guns that can save them, they jump at the comfort provided by owning one of these “weapons”.
It doesn’t count
Paintball guns don’t count (at least not the way everybody wants them to).
This poor deluded fellow, tried to hold four men at gunpoint … using a paintball gun.
If you read the story you’ll see that the BG’s only found out it was a paintball gun after they’d taken it away from him. So was the problem:
A – He needed more effective ammo?
B – The paintball gun being used outside of its niche role?
While it’s possible that using nylon balls, or irritant balls, would have made a difference, it’s highly unlikely. Paintball rounds can hurt – but is that enough to stop someone? Boiling it down, paintball guns fall into the category of pain compliance. Because let’s face it – they don’t cause structural damage to a person.
How can you tell if a paintball gun is right for you?
Paintball guns can sting. They can even leave bruises (nasty ones at that). But that’s about all they can do – cause a bit of pain and discomfort. So ask yourself, would you consider pinching someone’s ear as a self defense tool? What about if you pinch it really hard? What about a purple nurple (pinching and twisting the guy’s nipple)? Because, unfortunately, that’s about the equivalent of what a paintball gun can do.
So if pain compliance (causing enough pain to make the other guy want to stop) is a valid tool for your circumstances, then great, a paintball gun could work for you.
An attacker that’s not very dedicated. A drunken uncle at a family gathering. A house breaker who hasn’t gotten into your house yet. Maybe even crowd control (if they’re not too pissed off yet). All possibilities or people who might give up easily based on 20 rounds of paint hitting him. Maybe.
What about pepper balls
Well would your problems be solved by pepper spray? What about pepper spray that also gives you a bruise?
Maybe. Maybe not.
Keep in mind that these guys weren’t adrenalised. They weren’t dedicated. They weren’t on drugs. And they had no real incentive to keep trying to attack you.
Symptom of a bigger problem
The reason why I don’t recommend paintball guns for “self defense” is the mental aspect.
Largely, people aren’t buying them because they need a pain compliance tool (even a distance one). The old couple I saw in the store, browsing the paintball guns, weren’t looking to do riot control on a crowd of unruly 80 year old ladies with flaming blue hair when the home owners association meeting turns to shit. They are worried about violent home invasions. They wanted it for home defence (because nobody can conceal a paintball gun to use for EDC).
These things are being sold because people are uncomfortable enough about crime to want to “protect themselves”. But they’re not willing to admit to themselves just what that means, or what it involves. It’s Talisman thinking. Allowing yourself to feel like everything’s going to be OK because now you own a certain possession. This is just a new version of the guy who buys a gun and now thinks he’s “safe” because he has a gun. No mention of how to use it. Or training. Or when to use it. He has it, so now he’s safe.
Speaking in terms of the 4 x D’s of Home Defense, paintball guns can be considered part of Deterrence. They’re an active form of deterrence (barbed wire on the walls being passive deterrence), but the delivery of pain can only deter an attacker. It certainly can’t stop an attacker. (Well, it can’t be counted on to stop an attacker.***)
The problem is that people are buying these things because it helps them avoid having to confront the 3rd D of home defence – Deadly force. And unfortunately for them, there’s no pleasant way around that one. Any pleasant, comfortable-feeling, solution to the need for Deadly force is a lie and a trap.
If you’re looking for a way to keep your family safe in a shitty situation, and you find an easy way to do so, it’s a lie. Partly because the solution is almost guaranteed to be BS and not work. But more importantly because of you. A comfortable solution to an inherently uncomfortable problem is a trap because you are still looking for a comfortable solution. That’s where the biggest trap is.
So, do you need a paintball gun?
So if you run across any folks looking at paintball guns (and they’re not actual paintballers – basically if the shop attendant is helping them) then ask them why they’re looking at paintball guns. The only person who should be buying paintball guns as a tool/weapon is someone who can articulate that they’re buying it to fill a niche role.
If the guy answers “self defense”, or “home defense”, or anything equally generic, then press harder. What role do they see the paintball gun filling? If they can’t answer something along the lines of “deterrence of an attacker not yet inside the house”, then they’re getting it for the wrong reasons.
Would you be willing to take a paintball gun against an attacker’s 9mm or machete?
*** – Yes, I know, guns don’t physically stop someone either. I know about “psychological stops” and that. MY response is twofold. Firstly, guns cause a crap load more of a psychological stop than a paintball gun could ever hope to. Secondly, the guy was talking about one shot stops. Multiple hits can cause a physiological stop. Same as CNS (brainstem) shots. Also, we haven’t even mentioned what knives can do … Nor centerfire rifles …