When I say "pistol" I mean a small marker, with no stock, usually powered by 12 grams (or it can be powered by 3.5 oz tanks, or a remote system). It is fed by a small bulk loader, a stick feeder, a spring fed magazine or a limited capacity stockgun. The pistol can be a pump or a semi. I recommend a short (10 - 15 shot capacity) stick feeder for direct feed markers. (It's what I use.) Those who like to play with pistols will be referred to as "Pistoleros".
Playing with a pistol can be fun. I have a pump pistol and a semi pistol and I have always found it to be just as much fun as playing with a bulk-loading constant air marker. Maybe more fun.
However, you are going to have some . . .
The two greatest are range and accuracy. The other main disadvantage is that you have limited paint and air. Keep reading, I'll tell you how to get around your limitations.
But first . . .
A pistol is more manoeuvrable. With a short barrel, no stock and a small loader/paint capacity, the pistol is not encumbered by enclosed places.
Due to the fact that you will probably be using 12 grams and ten-shot paint tubes, your gear can be reduced to a belt and a pouch. You can even reduce this further by just stuffing all that gear in your pockets. (I go for a pouch and a belt, seeing how I have to wear a belt for the pistol's holster anyway.) Whatever your arrangement, you should have at least 100 paintballs and enough 12 grams to shoot that 100 paintballs. (I'll tell you how to find your CO2 consumption in a bit.) Personally, I find that a harness designed for stock class play is ideal for the Pistolero. Whatever you do, DO NOT put 12 grams loose in a pouch or pocket. Unless you like sounding like Santa's reindeer when you're trying to sneak up on somebody. Seeing how you are no longer a paintball pack mule, you will find that you can move quicker and easier. When you're carrying a half a case of paint, a big honking tank and other stuff, it can slow you down. I don't care how well your bulk harness is made: It bounces, it shifts, and (even WITH suspenders) it pulls your pants down. (Not an image I want to carry with me for the rest of my life, thank you.) Also, this stuff gets caught on bushes and things. You'd be surprised how "free" you feel with a just fist-full of twelve grams and ten tubes of paint.
You'll also make less noise when you move. Crawling is a lot easier too. (If you're into that.)
The Pistolero is very effective in built up areas, like forts and villages. Long barrelled, bulk loading markers become really ungainly in the confines of a fort or bunker. Buttpacks get hung up in doorways.
The Pistolero also has less available "target mass" than other players. They don't have loaders the size of whale livers sticking up by their heads. The marker is significantly smaller, too.
FINDING YOUR LIMITATIONS
You are limited by paint/air, accuracy and range. Here's how to find your limitations. Once you find them, you will be able to work within them.
Limited Paint and Air
The idea is to know EXACTLY how many shots you can get out of a 12 gram. The best way to know for sure is to shoot all your shots over the chrony. You should shoot at a rate of one shot every four seconds. (If you hose with a twelve gram, you'll get less shots out of it. The CO2 has to expand into the valve for it to be efficient. Besides, you have limited paint in your marker, hosing isn't the wisest thing to do.) When your velocity drops to 250 feet per second (fps), that's how many shots you'll have that will break on your opponent. Don't stop there. Keep shooting until you get to 230 fps. This will tell you the maximum amount of shots you will get out of a twelve gram. Read the following example, and you'll see what I mean.
Let's say you can get 15 shots before you hit 250 fps and you can get another five until you hit 230 fps. Those last five shots are for EMERGENCY SITUATIONS ONLY. Those last five shots better be hitting a loader, or other hard object, or THEY WILL NOT BREAK.
Once you know how many shots you get out of a twelve gram you can work on your. . .
Knowing how and where your pistol shoots when the 12 gram is full, half empty and almost empty will go a long way to improve your Pistolero skills. Accuracy is a product of the SHOOTER -- NOT the marker. Three words to remember for good accuracy are: Practice, practice, PRACTICE. If you can't remember all three, at least remember "practice". If you practice enough, no matter what kind of marker you use, you'll be able to hit your target with ease. Just remember: Today's left-over paint is tomorrow's target-practice paint. If you're not convinced that accuracy is important, consider this scenario. You have managed to outflank two opponents. You shoot; and MISS. THEY both have tricked out semis with 300 round hoppers, and they now know EXACTLY where you are. (Prepare to do some dancing, my friend, because if you HAD hit them, you'd be a hero: now you're just a target.)
Two words: GET CLOSER.
Now that you know your limitations, start working within them. Which leads us to . . .
In "big/scenario" games, you have lots of room to move. If you are alone (or by yourself) you have to think and act wisely. You really have to pick your targets and timing well. You have to make your first shots count and then get the heck out of there! Successfully evading your opponents is as important as sending a few to the holding pen. You must use the tactic called the CLOVER LEAF PATTERN. Instead of escaping directly away from your opposition; use a circular path. The reason for this is quite clear, once you think about it. If you circle, your pursuers (if any) will be usually be travelling in a straight line (it's human nature). If you circle to the left or right, you will eventually come up on their flanks. Hit them again, and clover leaf. It's and old sniper and guerilla tactic that has been used for decades. HOWEVER: It only works if you start your circle out of sight of your pursuers, otherwise they're simply going to follow you.
In "normal/everyday" games, you should team up with a Hoser. The Hoser is there to keep your opponent busy while you move in for the shot. (Teamwork just makes good tactical sense as well.) These days fields are getting smaller and smaller, so you want to team up with a Hoser, to make up for any lack of manoeuvring room you will have. I capitalized Hoser to stress a point, I'm not talking about just any player with a semi. You need somebody who shoots paint by the pound, who hoses first and asks questions later, who lets loose like he's trying to put out a brushfire, will gladly pour paint into whatever you point at and whose motto is "Hunker in a Bunker -- Spray and Pray". Get my meaning?
In any game, you are going to have to get closer to your opponent, depending on what type of pistol you're using. For a Pistolero, a head-to-head scenario will end badly for you. (In the Old West they had an expression -- "The definition of suicide is a man going up against a rifle, with a pistol".) You require ideal circumstances to survive a game as a Pistolero. (Don't worry, you can do it, it's easy.) Just hang back when the game starts. Pick and chose your battles. Look for weak points, and places where you can take advantage of flanking, cover and stealth. You are basically employing guerilla war tactics. Evade, attack, evade.
If they are legal in your area (check with local law enforcement, first) silencers are handy as well. It may lengthen the barrel somewhat, but you will have the desired trade off that your opponents will not know where the shots are coming from. If you decide to keep the silencer in your pocket and only use it on special occasions during the game; be sure and chrono with the silencer on, and off, your pistol. Silencers will change your velocity. No matter what, silencer off or on, you should always chrono well under the field safety limit. Safety first.
The main this is this: You must engage your opponents on YOUR terms, not THEIRS. You have to have the tactical advantage or it will be darned near impossible to get the better of them.
If you can't remember ANYTHING else I've written here, remember THIS. Keep your pistol full of paint and change 12 grams on a regular basis. Don't get caught short of ammo or air. All the skill in the world is not going to help you when your marker goes "clunk", instead of "bang". Not only will this get you eliminated but it's embarrassing as heck! (I know.)
Being a Pistolero myself, I had a hard time of it, when I first started going against bulk-loading, constant air markers. Be patient, things will come to you. Be prepared for disappointments, you may get eliminated more often than if you had stuck with your "big gun".
However, you can get hit a million times, and they will all fade to distant memory when you out-fox someone, with a "big gun" and take them out with ONE SHOT.
In time, I learned the code of the Paintball Pistolero; "Pick battles large enough to matter and small enough to win."
NOTE: A similar article appeared in another magazine. I still felt I had something to add. This article was written before the other was published, his just got to print first.
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