I once surprised a player from another team coming around a corner and was rewarded with what felt like 15 paintballs hitting my chest at a rather uncomfortable range. This was one of my first games ever and little did I know how much punch even one paintball would pack. All we were given was essentially an overall, with female players getting a sponge insert to protect the sensitive areas on their chests.
For me there wasn’t even this meager protection, which meant big welts and broken skin that took a long time to fully heal. There’s no shame in wanting to deal with paintball strikes in a more constructive way. After all, the mark is there. Why have excessive pain? So I’d heartily recommend a chest protector. They only cost a few bucks and your nipples will thank you!
Maddog Padded Paintball & Airsoft Chest Protector
This affordable chest protector from Maddog basically follows the design used by real bulletproof vests, which this should not be mistaken for! It can go over your clothes, under an overall, or, I guess, you could wear this naked. Don’t, though.
In terms of design the protector is pretty generic. It has a sort of pseudo-six pack, which would look pretty good over my beer belly. Well, it would look better in any case. It’s labeled as “one size fits most”, which is the best you can hope for given how much girth some people have (raises hand).
You obviously only get protection for your front and back, with the sides, arms, and neck exposed. Still, people report that they did not feel impact and had no bruising. For the price, that’s pretty much the best endorsement you’ll get. You’ll also note that Maddog sells this for both paintball and Airsoft, so if you like playing both then this is officially meant for everything.
Maddog Sports Pro Padded Chest Protector
Here’s another chest protector from Maddog, but this time it’s a little more substantial than the vest we just looked at. In addition to the protection that a vest would give you, this shirt-like piece of protection covers so much more. The upper arms, lower torso, sides, and pretty much every other area covered by a t-shirt are protected.
Looking at the protector, I get the idea it may get you a little hot and sweaty after you’ve been running around for a few minutes. Never fear, however, since Maddog has already thought of this niggle. The material is breathable, which should provide some measure of relief.
The proof is in the pudding though. People who have played paintball (and off-label sports as well, apparently) are pretty happy with the protection this shirt affords. Most importantly, it really is flexible and doesn’t hinder movement at all. Finally, the price is very reasonable, so players on a budget should definitely look into some expanded protection.
Tippmann Padded Chest Protector
This padded vest is from Tippmann, possibly the most famous and well-respected name in paintball. Tippmann paintball markers have been dealing out pain for decades, so it’s only right they also make something to dull that somewhat.
Even more so than the Maddog vest, this sexy little number from Tippmann really looks like a real-life bulletproof vest, which makes it perfect for paintball or Airsoft players who want to do scenario matches. My theory seems to be supported by the fact that the most common item bought along with this vest is a “pretend play” police badge. This vest is specifically designed to shield you from those shots we’re told not to make – close quarters shots; the sort where you’re supposed to give your opponent a chance to surrender first.
The verdict in terms of performance is that, while the padding is relatively thin it takes almost all the sting out of paintball hits. So, mission accomplished! Also perfect for Halloween.
Dye Precision Performance Padded Paintball Top
The design of this paintball top from Dye Precision is rather curious. It looks like those form-fitting sport shirts you see in some athletic activities these days. It looks very modern and sleek, although I guess you need the athletic build to go with it, or you may end up looking a little silly. Actually, it reminds me a little more of those muscle suits people wear when they play superheroes at costume parties.
In any event, given that you can squeeze yourself into this top, what are you getting for the somewhat premium price? First of all, the material itself is some sort of breathable mesh that wicks away moisture. That’s one big potential problem nipped in the bud. The top is said to keep you “welt free”, which doesn’t mean it will remove all the sting but that it just won’t leave a mark.
In general the top does the job but, predictably, people complain that the fit is too tight. So order a size or two larger if you’ve eaten any carbs in your life.
Trinity Paintball Gear Black
This is pretty much as cheap and basic as it can get. Modern protectors use thin, flexible compression padding to help de-fang those paintballs, but this is a different approach with harder nylon armor. This means that you shouldn’t feel much as the paintballs splatter on your firm armor. The downside is that this probably doesn’t match soft padding in terms of movement and flexibility.
The other plus point is that this is a very, very cheap. Personally I’m not a fan of how it looks or the idea of a stiffer pad, but the Trinity seems rather popular, so it must be doing something right.
Zephyr Sports Padded Chest Protector
The Zephyr Sports is yet another vest-style chest protector. The design is suspiciously similar to the one offered by Maddog. That is, it’s got the elastic shoulder straps and big waist strap. Yes, I know there are only so many ways to make a protective vest, but if you put the pictures of the Maddog vest next to the Zephyr, they are identical. So, if this is just a rebrand, what, if anything, do you get? The price is basically the same. The performance is presumably the same. The camo print differs between the two and the Maddog model makes no mention of being reversible, whereas this one can be turned inside out to show either the black or camo print. For all I know you can do the same with the Maddog, except the Maddog is sold as two different products – one with camo and one without. So the Zephyr gets the edge for being a 2-in-1 product.
Valken Impact Chest Protector
The Valken protector is made in the same style as the top from Dye Precision, but comes in at a significantly lower price point. In terms of looks, it’s certainly not as handsome, but it still looks pretty good. The main materials in this protector’s construction include perforated EVA foam and a stretch mesh material. That means air and sweat should have no issue in moving between your skin and the outside world.
In terms of performance, people who have bought the Valken are pretty happy with this. The main complaint is that this shirt doesn’t have padding to protect your flanks, in which case you may as well have thrown a vest over a regular shirt. The downside of vests is, of course, how they don’t really stick to your body properly. So I’d say this protector is still a better overall choice than just a vest, from that point of view.
The other major complaint has to do with the sizing. For American customers the stated sizes seem to run a little small. So if you are usually someone who wears a large, you’ll have to go for an XL model. Overall, it seems like a good mid-range choice.
Maddog Sports Tactical Paintball Harness Vest
One thing the Airsoft guys have that can make one a little jealous are those tactical vests with all the pockets. Well, Maddog has stepped up to the plate and provided a tactical vest for paintball players too.
This vest is meant to be a protector as well, but it also provides pockets for paintball pods, a tank pouch, and more. The inside is padded so that it’s comfortable to wear over your other clothes, and there’s a neat belt loop system so you can secure it to your belt and make all your gear move in a more cohesive way. The vest also comes in a camo option, but even the black vest is going to be great for woodsball and other non-arena, far-from-civilization type games. Now paintball players can be just as nerdy as their Airsoft cousins!
Taking the Pain out of Paintball
When I started playing paintball, chest protectors were frankly seen as an optional extra. Maybe it was our low budgets or a little bit of masochism, but wearing one wasn’t common. These days I might go as far as to say this should be part of your minimum equipment, unless you actively like the pain and welts. Protectors are cheap enough so that everyone can have one. So what’s your excuse?