Paintball markers are relatively simple machines, but they do go wrong from time to time. Sometimes it’s just bad luck, but often it’s because a marker has not been maintained properly. If you have always rented equipment you may not have been aware of how much maintenance is involved in keeping a marker in good working order. It isn’t a particular burden to maintain a paintball marker, but when you buy your own equipment you owe it to yourself to do it right. The last thing you want is for your marker to fail at the worst possible time – ruining the match and at worst ruining your whole day.
These are some basic marker maintenance tips that will help you stay in the game.
You can cut down on maintenance time by taking some precautions during play and while your marker is stored. A lot of the preventative maintenance for paintball markers is actually the same as for a real firearm.
Your marker is an intricate system with moving mechanical parts which need to be free of obstruction and in good working order. The integrity of the systems are protected by seals as well as lubricants. You should check the condition of the seals and lubricate the marker according to the user manual. If you neglect either or both of these, performance will go down and permanent damage may even happen.
In addition to this, you want to keep your marker free of dust, water, mud, and other contaminants. The inside of the barrel and hopper are especially important. This is harder than it sounds, since you may find yourself crawling along the ground or playing in dusty conditions. Do your best to lift the barrel clear and keep the hopper lid closed. Likewise, don’t put into the hopper any paintballs that are dirty with sand or anything else. It’s a recipe for disaster.
When it comes to safe storage, the marker should go into a cool dry place. The safety should be on, the gas bottle removed, and the barrel plug inserted, not only for safety, but to stop things like roaches and dust from entering the barrel from the front.
Always Remove the Gas!
No matter what sort of maintenance you are doing, you should always disconnect the propellant tank from the marker. This makes it impossible for any sort of accidental firing to happen when you’re working on the machine. Paintball may be fun, but a pressurized tank is no toy and can result in injury or death if misused. Follow the removal instructions for your specific marker as detailed in the manual. Make sure to safely store the tank according to the documents that came with it.
Remove the Batteries!
If you use an electronic paintball marker, hopper, or anything else that uses batteries, you should take them all out both when working on your marker and before storing it. If you’re using alkaline batteries then you always run the risk of leaks when storing them. Lithium batteries can be stored long-term, but have special needs in this case; you’ll have to check their health every month or so.
The reason you need to take the batteries out while doing maintenance is largely to avoid a few accidents that can happen. For one, if you accidentally puncture a battery with something like a screwdriver, you run the risk of it exploding or causing chemical injuries. If the equipment you’re working on suddenly receives power, it could hurt you or break something. Yes, these issues aren’t likely to come up, but why risk it?
Don’t Take it Apart More Than Necessary
You don’t have to disassemble the whole paintball marker every time you do maintenance. Try to remove and service just the parts that absolutely need it. In general, a decent clean will involve removing the barrel, hopper, bolt, and hammer. Refer to your manual when it comes to removal or detachment of these parts.
Study the Schematic
There’s a good chance that your marker’s manual contains a schematic of the various parts that make up the machine. While most paintball markers have the same basic components, make sure you know the name, position, and function of your own marker’s parts. Learn the names of the various components in case you need to look them up online.
Use Your Smartphone Camera
This is a tip that applies to the stripping and rebuilding of just about anything. As you take your marker apart, take a photo of each phase so that you know how to put it all back together. Just about everyone has a smartphone camera or at least an old-school digital camera, so taking photos of the process isn’t hard at all.
YouTube is Your Friend
Chances are you weren’t the only one in the world to buy your model of marker. There are likely plenty of videos out there of people taking their markers apart, cleaning them, and then putting them back together again. Even if your exact model of marker hasn’t received any YouTube love, it’s still worth watching a few since the basic principle is the same.
Use Recommended Lubricants
All markers need lubrication to make sure that things work smoothly, literally. That doesn’t mean you can just shove any old oil in there. Your local paintball pro shop will have a range of approved lubes and the manual may specify a specific lube. Try to resist the temptation to use anything else.
Barrels of Fun
The barrel is pretty easy to clean, while also being one of the most important components. After all, this is the bit that guides the paintball to where it should go.
Cleaning your marker barrel isn’t hard at all. It’s a good idea to buy a proper barrel squeegee, designed specifically to clean paintball marker barrels. Use the squeegee as instructed. Wipe the barrel down with a soft, non-abrasive cloth. Pull the squeegee through the barrel to get any residue or other gunk out of there. Don’t use anything that cleans by abrasion, such as a pipe cleaner. Remember that paintball paint is water soluble, so don’t be afraid to use hot water to soften up stubborn substances.
When In Doubt, Pay Someone
This may seem like a bit of a cop-out, but if you aren’t confident you can pay someone to service your marker. The guys at the paintball pro shop will be happy to do it and the fee isn’t too crazy. You might even get them to let you watch, so that you can learn the ins and outs of your marker. I personally don’t think there’s anything wrong with getting a professional to do the job right if you can afford it. After all, most piano players don’t tune their own pianos either.
It’s Not Rocket Science
While it may seem a little scary to work on something complex and expensive, in time everyone learns at least some basic maintenance. Apart from pro shop people, you can also pick the brains of other players, your friends, and, of course, other players on the internet. Before you know it, you’ll be a maintenance whiz!