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Vball Target Systems
While the sport of paintbll appeals to many, there are a lot of players who don't get as much on-field action as they would like, due to the cost of the game's main consumable – paintballs. While the quality of paint has improved and the per-paintball price has come drastically down from the twenty-five cent per ball field paint prices this author remembers from the mid-eighties, modern rates of fire have kept the balance, with a day of paintball costing about the same as it did back then.
Vballs have appeared as one of the reusable paintball alternatives on the market today. Vballs are a projectile and target system designed for paintball training and games without the mess, splatter or single-use cost of paintballs.
The V in Vballs may not officially stand for Velcro, but they use the same hook-and-loop technology as Velcro brand fasteners. Each Vball consists of a small ABS plastic bead, 0.47 inches in diameter. Wrapped over and glued to the bead is a starfish shaped piece of loop fastener material.
Vball targets, whether simple dart-board style, or part of the related Combatball brand vests, gloves, and masks, consist of hook fastener material, so when a Vball strikes it, with even the smallest amount of force, it sticks in place. Vballs are available in six florescent colors, which give them strong visible contrast from their targets, and make them easier to spot and recover if used out of doors.
Each assembled V-Ball has a diameter of approximately 0.66 inches at the outer edge of its soft exterior. The more dense core of the fabric loop base and bead is about 0.55 inches in diameter. This is a bit smaller than a .68 caliber paintball. Vballs Target Systems calls this size difference “Safety Gap Technology.” In essence, the extra airspace around a Vball when it sits in a paintgun barrel means that some gas can blow past it, and it won't reach the same velocity as a paintball, if the paintgun's velocity adjuster is unchanged. Since Vballs have a hard core, and don't break up to disburse impact energy like a paintball, this the reduces the amount of impact energy delivered.
Additionally, Vballs weigh less than paintballs. In comparison, 20 Vballs used for review weighed in at 0.7 ounces, or 0.035 ounces per ball, compared to 20 DraXxus Hellfire paintballs that weighed in at 2.2 ounces, or 0.11 ounces per ball. Since force equals mass times acceleration (F=MA) a Vball will deliver about 1/3 the force of a non-breaking paintball at the same velocity. That, combined with the lower velocity of the Vball, and its more rapid deceleration due to wind resistance means that Vballs don't hit so hard.
Some of the additional safety information included with Vballs, and available on the Vballs web site is somewhat contradictory. Although warnings recommend that Vballs users “Always wear proper eye, face and ear protection designed specifically to stop Vballs,” most of the promotional materials show players with paintball masks (which are not warranted by their manufacturers to protect against anything but .68 caliber paintballs) or worse – safety glasses that offer no protection around the sides of the lens. Vball Target Systems, Inc. does sell a mask under their Combatball brand name, specifically built for Vball use. Other warnings include not firing at targets from a distance of less than 30 feet and keeping Vballs away from children.
Vballs are available in a variety of configurations. The V40 target pack includes 40 Vballs and a smaller grey target – well sized to use multiple targets for snap-shooting drills, while the Target Game pack includes a seventeen-inch dartboard style target and a list of games based on the dartboard style scoring.
Before putting the Vballs to a proper test, it was quickly discovered that they lob slightly when tossed by hand, not too much unlike traditional throwing darts, and even without a paintgun, could be used in the back of the office, tossed dart style at their board.
According Vballs Target Systems, “The patented Vball has the same flight characteristics of a paintball up to 75 feet, which is more than enough for most training purposes.”
To put that claim to the test, Vballs were loaded into a VLocity hopper on a bench mounted Shocker SFT marker with its stock All American barrel. Firing DraXxus Hellfire paint, 10 shots over an optical ballistic chronograph yielded an average velocity of 284.2 feet per second, with a standard deviation of 4.0 – the high shot at 291.2fps and the lowest shot at 277.6fps. Replacing the paintballs with Vballs for another 10 shots, the average velocity dropped to 239.0 feet per second, with the standard deviation for the group increasing to 6.8. The fastest shot for the Vballs came in at 245.6 fps, and the low at 228.8 fps. Clearly the “Safety Gap Technology” under-bore projectile concept was effective at delivering a reduced velocity without any adjustment to the marker.
Interestingly, unlike the Hellfire paintballs, the Vballs were not detected by a Radarchron hand-held radar chronograph (the author envisions covering a car in Vballs as a stealth material to avoid police radar traps.)
Setting up a paper target for accuracy comparison at 75 feet, as is standard in WARPIG Ballistic Labs product testing, it was quickly discovered that Vball flight characteristics did not match paintballs at that distance. When fired at a 75 foot paper target from the hard-mounted marker in the same position that worked with paintballs, the Vballs fell to the ground approximately 10 feet short of the target.
Looking for a more appropriate range for target grouping comparison involved a little experimentation. In an effort to not loose the Vballs out of doors, they were fired at a hand-held (with paintball eye and face protection in place) Vballs target. This was not only effective for determining their practical range, but also entertaining in and of itself, becoming a game to move the target to catch the incoming Vballs. At 55 feet, the Vballs consistently reached their target, and did very well with the Vballs hook material target, but did not have enough impact energy to puncture a paper target for direct comparison to paintballs.
At 35 feet - 5 feet beyond their minimum safe range, the Vballs delivered enough impact to punch through a paper target for an accuracy comparison to paintballs. Even then, after shooting a 10-shot target grouping the flight characteristics of the Vballs were different enough from paintballs that the marker had to be re-set to a slightly lower angle to strike the same target for grouping size comparison.
The image above shows a comparison of the 10-shot groupings created by a bench-mounted marker firing both Vballs and paintballs. The individual target phots may be viewed here.
During initial testing, a few jams occurred with the Vballs in the VLocity loader, and later additional testing showed them to feed much more consistently with an agitating loader like a Revolution or Ricochet, rather than a forced-fed loader.
Although testing showed the Vballs were not exactly the same as paintballs in terms of flight characteristics, they do offer a workable alternative to paintballs for indoor target shooting, and at their minimum-to-target range, seemed quite practical for snap shooting practice without the cost or mess of paint. With other more unique activities – such as Vball catching – and simply hand throwing them like darts, they did deliver reusable entertainment.
It should also be noted that discharge of an airgun and or paintball marker is illegal in many cities, even on one's own property, so it is important to check local laws before putting a product like Vballs into use.
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