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October 02, 2006

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The Dealer’s Take: Why I Don’t Sell Paintball Gear

Fellow gun nuts: We hear from each other, from gun writers, and from manufacturers, but gun dealers give us a perspective that we don’t get elsewhere. Scott Moss, who is the third generation of that family (all of whom have taken lots of money from me) to sell firearms, has agreed to come on the blog from time to time and tell us what’s on his mind, good or bad, about the guns he handles. If you’re interested in buying from him or selling to him on consignment, you can call Forest & Field in Norwalk, Conn. at 203-847-4008.—Dave Petzal

A few years ago, I decided to put a paintball department in my store. The reasoning was simple. Paintball was a natural way for kids to develop an affinity for more grown-up guns, plus a means to expand my market. After all, I thought, there’s even a paintball section at the SHOT Show, so I must be on to something, right?

Wrong! My logic was flawed, and here’s why. Most of my clients were (notice the past tense) middle-school-aged kids who came to the store with their parents. Too many of these kids were spoiled little miscreants whose parents were both oblivious to their bad manners and overtly unhappy in the presence of real guns. So much for the transition.

I began to wonder about the irony of these Million Mom Marchers whose children were becoming desensitized to the dangers of real guns as they pelted other kids with .68-caliber paintballs that traveled at 275 feet per second. Maybe paintball wasn’t such a good introduction after all.

Then there were the guns. Many paintball guns are very expensive, with some running close to $2,000. Most of them are also very finicky and require professional servicing. So what does little Johnny do as soon as he gets a new paintball gun for his birthday? He tinkers with it. It breaks. Mom is ticked off and has to take time out from her busy schedule to return the “defective” paintball gun. We can’t repair it, since that would invalidate the warranty, so it has to go back to the manufacturer. Johnny is whining. Mom is even more ticked off. I’m wishing parents were allowed to eat their young. We get a chargeback from her credit card company.

Meanwhile, the largest distributor sells at retail on the Internet at below my cost and I’m getting my brains beat in. The hype changes daily and yesterday’s “gottahaveit” gun is today’s old news. And the high school kid I hired to relate to the kids that come in? He got off with probation as a youthful offender after ripping me off and selling the stuff on his own at school.

Finally, perhaps the best argument for not having paintball in a gun store is that the gun customers don’t like it, or the clientele, either. Like my dad always told me, "Stick with what you know."

No problem.


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JA Demko

Crimoney, your additions to this blog are mistitled. A more accurate heading would be "The Whiney Crybaby's Take." If you're so miserable dealing with the general public, sell the damn gunstore and get yourself a job doing something that doesn't require you to deal with John Q., his wife, or his kids. I know you feel underappreciated for the fine job you do plugging up the Scott Moss-shaped hole at the center of the universe, but really dude, get over it or get another job.


I have played paintball for years and while I enjoy it greatly (though not nearly as much as real guns), I have to agree with a lot of what was said. The people I play with have been doing it for years and are very professional about it. However, very often some youngsters should up and at the end of the day all you can say to yourself is "Thank God their parents didn't get them real guns!" Paintballs sting quite a bit which makes them more than a mere toy. They are a good way to get kids used to the notion that guns are NOT toys. However, in the wrong hands they are a mistake waiting to happen.

P.S. I think anyone who spends $2,000 for a paintball gun needs to have their screws tightened. Mine cost one tenth that and I regularly beat players with far more expensive and sexy-looking gear than mine.


JA Demko, you are my new hero.

craig j. curtis

expanding your market eh? howd that work for you ? let me break it down for you theirs toys are us and theirs gun stores kapich, i dont think you"ll find any sympathy here my freind because we the customers have to deal with the bone heads that clutter your store now too ! bb. and pellet guns worked fine for what 80 years stick with the tryed and true and we will come !

mike shickele

I love playing paintball with my friends, but it surly isn't a good introduction to firearms.
Your shooting at other people, and they aren't dying; this is no better than a video game.
In real life, you don't have 3 lives, you can't stay in the action if you've only been hit in the hand, and I'm sure that it isn't fun.
As responsible gun owners, we should actually be disgusted at what paintball teaches the kids.

But I still find it fun w3hen I play with my friends.


Mike Shickele makes a good point.

Paintball, along with certain video games in which the players put other people in their gun sights, is an incredibly de-sensitizing exercise that works to remove the hesitancy that normal people ordinarily feel when they point a weapon at another person and pull the trigger.

That's why the military is beginning to use video game technology as a training tool. And why police increasingly use Airsoft gun exercises.

When I was a young boy, I played with cap pistols and pointed them at other people. "Bang, bang, you're dead." But when I signed up for my junior rifle marksmanship program, the instructor said it was time to grow up, get rid of those cap pistols and never run around pointing toy guns at people again.

Learning to shoot firearms is a such a great way to teach responsibility to a kid – simply because you're continually demonstrating that your actions have consequences. And now, with paintball, we're teaching just the opposite.


While Paintball inventory management and customer service is time consuming, frustrating and ultimatly expensive. I wonder - is the margin achieved by selling paintball gear higher than firearms and related gear?

Bottom line is cashflow and in store foot traffic. While I don't play the game, I can understand why some dealers carry both, since the margins on firearms proper are very tight. My firearms dealer (small shop in VA) won't carry any paintball gear since he doesn't have the room - but from a P&L standpoint he wishes his store was larger and he could accomodate this strange sport.

I agree with El-Wazir in theory, but it's safe, legal and potentially profitable.

Ralph the Rifleman

Our store carries paintball guns and the gadgets that go with them, and I am sure it is a profit/customer traffic item that validates having it in the store.For the most part, our experience is similar with store returns and I agree the product is a pain in the rear,as well.I think it also serves a poor example of gun handling since most people handle them with finger on trigger, implying well-it's only a paintball gun. Not good gun handing ethics here, which I correct on the spot regardless it be a paintball, soft air, BB/Pellet or real firearm.


Paintball is an awesome game to play once in a while, but it's no "introduction" to real firearms. There is no way to learn the power of a shotgun by throwing paint around.

mike shickele


Amen brother! Death is not a game.

Mike Shickele

Mike Diehl

"And now, with paintball, we're teaching just the opposite."

For once I'm going to disagree with Mike Shikele and El Wazir. First, in the hands of any child almost anything can be used irresponsibly. The duty is on the parents to teach responsible use of equipment whether it be a tool or a recreational item or a firearm. Part of that lesson includes etiquette, safety and recognition that contexts vary.

What do I mean by the latter? We teach children that it is perfectly acceptable to drive automobiles at ridiculous speeds for a car (NASCAR -- not making a moral judgement here) and we have the good sense to make it clear that responsible people don't drive their Corollas or Mustangs or Cobras that way on the streets. Context matters. By El-Wazir's logic we should object to NASCAR or other forms of auto-racing because we risk blurring the distinction between saftey and entertainment, and between what "real" cars or for rather than the expensive toys used on racetracks.

Each to his own I say. If someone thinks paintball or air-soft are good ways to introduce children to firearms safety and etiquette I can see some merit in the idea of NOT immediately putting a lethal weapon in a child's hands; the consequences of making a serious safety mistake are greatly reduced. It's not my cup of coffee, but I see no reason to look my nose at someone else's instruction techniques or recreational activities.


I have to boys, 8 and 10. My hunting partners also have young children that hunt with us. We believe that it is hard to teach children the proper way to handle firearms, while at the same time telling them it is o.k. to point fake guns, whether paint ball, cap guns or anything else, at people and pull the trigger.

In 1984, Eric, a very bright 10 year old, killed himself while he and one of his friends were playing with his father's pistol. Too many children die from accidentally shooting themselves or from being shot accidentally by one of their friend while playing with daddy's gun. I know this opens the door to a different question, that is, how did the child access the loaded gun in the first place.
Nonetheless, I firmly believe that the only way to teach a child how to properly handle a firearm is in absolutes.

Guns don't make good toys. Find something else for you children to play with, especially if you keep firearms in your home.


Actually, paintball is a great way to teach kids what a gun is and can do. Paintball is not like lazar tag or video games. In those, all you have to do when you are shot is hit the reset button. When you get hit by a paintball, THEY HURT! They may not kill you, but they do teach you that getting shot is NOT a plesant experience. I have played lazar games with people who act like little Rambos. They don't care if they get shot out or not because the worst that happens to them is a little beeping on their electro-vests. But take these same people and put them on a paintball field... HUGE difference in how they play. As soon as they get shot for the first time, their caution levels skyrocket. Oh, and where I play, every game begins with a lengthy safety talk.


I’ve read and then reread these blog’s on what is really a version of Capture-The-Flag with expensive toys. After sitting back to mull matters, I still fail to see where this game has any direct bearing on guns, hunting, or anything that’s really profound.

I may be thick, but I see this rant in comparison to a population segment in the 60’s saying rock music was a bad influence. Correct me, but I don’t see many people living in Flower Power Communes nowadays.

Mike Diehl

Toy guns make fine toys. Real guns don't. Toy cars make fine toys. Real cars don't. Which one kills more people each year, real guns or real cars?

Parents have to do some heads up things like teach a child the difference between a toy and firarm, and store firearms safely. Show me a child old who shoots a person accidently while "playing" with a toy and I'll show you the child's parent(s) who had no business owning a firearm.

Mike Diehl

Should be: show me a child old who shoots a person accidently while "playing" with a firearm and I'll show you the child's parent(s) who had no business owning a firearm. But you all get the idea.

Mark W.

I agree with Mike Diehl...it is ultimately the parents responsibility to teach gun safety to their kids, especially if they have guns in the house. I started teaching mine gun safety when my youngest was 4 and his sister was 7. I let them touch and feel any firearm they wanted to as long as I was there to make sure it was safe. I tested them one Saturday morning by leaving an unloaded revolver on the couch in the living room. I had my two youngest rousting me out of bed at 6:30 on Saturday morning telling me I had left a gun out and to come put it up. Nothing like getting told off by a 4 year old and a 7 year old about gun safety!!! I loved it! And they did not touch the gun...I had it marked so I could tell and it wasn't moved! Now the youngest is almost 15 and he outshoots me!

Richard A. Smith

Paintball, like any sport that throws a small projectile at any speed higher than the speed at which the human arm can throw it, is not for kids. It's a big boy game, and, as such, has no place in the moral and ethical realms of real firearms, which do not involve any kind of games at all. (Recreation, yes, games, no.)


I have no experience with paintball, but I did read an interesting article awhile back about an African "paintball safari" - in which guides were offering clients the opportunity to get close to an animal and shoot it with a paintball gun to score a "kill." This "service" was offered at a greatly reduced rate, and no tags or permits were required since no animal was actually killed. However, one outfitter did note that, "the elephants are getting annoyed." I think annoying an elephant would not be wise.

mike shickele

A matter of clarification:
I love playing paintball with my friends. I love the fact that I can feel the time that I spent in the tower for a week after.

But, I don't think that children should be introduced to guns via paintball. Paintball should be an adult sport; played by people that already know a gun should never be pointed at something that you don't intend to kill.

I don't have kids, but if I did, I don't think that in all good conscience, I could let them play paintball.

Fritz Krueger

I have a leupold vari-x III 2.5-8 on my Winchester 300 wsm that I use for whitetail hunting. This scope is 10 years old. If you had to recommend a new scope, which manufacturer and what size would you recommend. Most of my hunting is for deer and takes place in Wisconsin. Thanks, Fritz

Ralph the Rifleman

Just in case anyone is reading this late post, I agree with Mike S., for the most part, paintball is an adult game which should clearly imply they are NOT safe REAL GUN handling practices.
Just had a customer the other day ask me if I knew much about them, said I didn't and won't study them; for the sake of argument I told him I wish the store didn't carry them since I believe they send the wrong safety message to kids. He still purchased the two guns, of course($169.99 X 2)which is great for sales, and as I have said before; I get no commission for sales and only want the customer to be happy with the purchase!Doesn't mean I am required to like the product sold!

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