Monday, July 4, 2011

"Put Your Balls Where Your Mouth Is" - Rant Week

About a year ago, the Director of Valken Sports posted on Milsim Empire that G.I. Sportz would soon have the “best paintballs in the industry” on the market, and that other paintball manufacturers should be afraid, very afraid.

Well wouldn’t you know it, these G.I. Sportz paintballs are now showing up pretty much everywhere in Eastern Ontario and Quebec. And from my experiences with them so far, other paintball manufacturers can rest easy.

G.I. Sportz manufactures their paintballs in Montreal, and as far as I know PBL (based in Montreal) distributes them in Canada, which would explain why they’re flooding the market in this area (Ottawa is the next city over from Montreal). I went to the 2011 D-Day event at Voodoo Paintball East of Montreal, and as luck would have it they were there too.

Naturally distribution costs are a huge chunk of the price of heavy cases of paintballs, and if you can buy them close to home you can get a much better price. Since fields are always looking to cut costs, it usually works out that they’ll buy the stuff made closest to home.

Now, printed on a box of G.I. Sportz Field balls is the phrase, “FORMULATED TO MINIMIZE ENVIROMENTAL IMPACT”. Given the performance of these balls however, they should’ve also printed “FORMULATED TO MINIMIZE IMPACT ON THE OPPOSING TEAM” on the box.

Allow me to explain: Shooting these paintballs is an extreme exercise in frustration. They fly nice and straight for about 50-60 feet, then seem to curve off in a different, random direction, as if they have a mind of their own. (Although my experience so far is only with the Field version, Grey Ops has had a report/comment of this being the case with their Winter Balls as well).

Then, assuming you actually hit what you’re aiming at, the odds of the ball breaking on it are pretty slim. This includes not only soft & fleshy opponents, but actual hard bunkers if the distance is great enough. I’ll give a couple of examples of this to illustrate:

At D-Day, it blew my mind when I made it to the top of the “Pointe-du-Hoc” hill and found hundreds of G.I. Sportz balls in a neat little row on the ground, outlining the entire façade of the fort/bunker on the top of the hill. The row was consistently about one foot from the wall of the bunker, meaning that these balls had sailed through the air at 280fps, struck the bunker, dumped their energy into the wood, then fell almost straight to the ground UNBROKEN. This was a bunker that had been coming under constant fire from players behind sand dunes no more than 80 feet away for most of the day. I really regret not returning with a camera after the game was over to take a picture of this collection of wasted paint, as it literally would be worth a thousand words to this post!

On another occasion I was prone and firing at a position about 50 feet away. The two players there managed to evade my fire and shot back full auto while they ducked for cover. Out of pure luck, a string of 3 balls hit the ground about 4 feet ahead of me at a mild angle, bounced, then hit me in the shoulder and arm. I was about to call myself out, when I looked down and noticed that nothing had broken, and that the 3 balls were just lying on the ground, intact. As I was crucially low on paint, I picked them up, made sure they were clean, and dumped them into my own hopper. I managed to empty that hopper a little later with no barrel breaks or chops, meaning that even though those 3 balls had suffered 2 impacts already, they were still intact enough to be fired from a marker with a blast of compressed air. It’s crap paint like this that encourages hosing down your opponents, bonus-balling to all hell just in case your 1st or 2nd or 3rd or 4th ball doesn’t break when you have that shot!

Recenty my home field this season, Tactik Paintball, adopted G.I. Sportz Field as their "member ball" (with non-members getting the better Diablo Formula 13 - go figure). After buying a case of these, I noticed the same problems with it out on the field. After I got home, pissed off with the paint that day and with this post in mind, I reached into an open bag and fished out a random ball, then took two photos of it using the macro setting on my camera. In this first shot, notice how the right side of the ball isn't round, and goes a little flat:

In this second shot, check out the horrible seam on the ball. It's got a slightly sharp edge to the touch too, and must catch air like crazy (which would explain the wild curves when it starts to lose forward momentum):

(If you have trouble seeing what I'm pointing out, double-click the photos to enlarge them).

I have to make very clear that I didn't go fishing for a bad ball in the bag - this was the first ball I picked out. Unfortunately it's the rule, not the exception! I inspected other balls in that bag and the other three, and it seemed as if EVERY single one I looked at suffered from one or both of those problems. This stuff belongs in a white box, and NOT as paintballs being sold for field use!

Up until recently, the main paintballs used in these same areas were by Draxxus (now DXS), particularly Draxxus Field and Draxxus Blaze. I found Blaze amazing for the woods (as of this year it’s no longer made), and their Field paintball was particularly good, all things considered (you definitely wouldn't find rampant quality control problems like the ones above in their product). Procaps makes DXS balls, and Procaps’ factory is also in Montreal, which explains why they were so popular in Eastern Canada. Why G.I. Sportz is suddenly flooding this market and replacing DXS I can’t say, but given that G.I. Sportz is a relatively new operation, they may be undercutting Procaps and taking a loss just to get themselves out there and established. (If there are any field owners reading this right now, I’d like to hear what you know about this, and if you’ve switched to G.I. Sportz’s product, if it was the price that prompted this).

Regardless of the reason, G.I. Sportz really needs to clean up their act. Having shot a lot of different varieties of rec-grade paintballs, I can honestly say that even Procaps Cryptic is a better ball for recreational play than the G.I. Field ones, and Cryptic sells for a mere 40 bucks a case retail at Canadian Tire. It’s nice for a new company to get a product placed at a lot of fields, because a lot of people will get exposed to it and use it at least once. But if the product is no good, then the net effect of this will be negative, in that no one will want to use the balls again, and they’ll get a one-time sale. Also, if field owners are going to be switching to G.I. Sportz Field and charging the same prices to customers as they did when they offered better-quality DXS paintballs, this is unfair to the players/customers, and needs to change. We expect a lot more from “the best paintballs in the industry”, and if one makes such claims, you really need to put your money where your mouth is.

Have you had a chance to try out G.I. Sportz paintballs? What were your experiences with them? Sound off in the comments section below!

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