Don’t shoot! Why paintball’s outlawed in Scouting (and the one exception)

expertlogo1This is a rule so obvious it shouldn’t need to be said: Shooting at one another is an unauthorized activity in Scouting.

But what about paintball? Participants in that popular activity shoot at each other, but they do so using nonlethal capsules of colored dye. How do the BSA’s health and safety experts qualify this activity that seems to be in a gray area?

That’s what Bill B., a Scouter who emailed me earlier this week, wanted to know.

He writes, simply:

Does BSA have any guidelines on paintball competitions as a troop activity?



For the answer, I went to the BSA’s experts: Health and Safety head Richard Bourlon and Insurance and Risk Management leader Mark Dama.

Here’s what they said:

Paintball and Scouting

Shooting at each other is an unauthorized activity in Scouting. This includes paintball.

“Paintball has been evaluated on several occasions to see whether it might work as a program but to date has not been deemed appropriate,” Bourlon says.

The Guide to Safe Scouting

What’s the source? Check out the Guide to Safe Scouting’s list of unauthorized and restricted activities.

The lone exception

One time that paintball guns are authorized is during target shooting, much like what was seen at the 2013 National Jamboree (picture in the photo at the top of this post).

If you have approval from your council AND your Scouts are shooting at targets that are neither living nor human representations, paintball is allowed.

Here’s the reference from the Guide to Safe Scouting. The bold emphasis is mine:

1. Pointing any type of firearm or simulated firearm at any individual is unauthorized. Scout units may plan or participate in paintball, laser tag or similar events where participants shoot at targets that are neither living nor human representations. Units with council approval may participate in formally organized historical reenactment events, where firearms are used and intentionally aimed over the heads of the reenactment participants. The use of paintball guns, laser guns or similar devices may be utilized in target shooting events with council approval and following the Sweet 16 of BSA Safety. Council approval means the approval of the Scout Executive or his designee on a tour permit specifically outlining details of the event.

Why this rule is in place

“The policy was reviewed and affirmed by both the Health and Safety support Committee and the Risk Management Advisory Panel,” Dama says.

During the review, Dama and his team of volunteers and professionals learned of several instances of catastrophic eye injuries when paintballs were shot by youth at youth — not in Scouting, but involving Scout-age participants.

The rates indicate paintball injuries happen around 2.7 times for every 10,000 players, Bourlon says. That means if 500,000 youth played paintball, the team would predict up to 135 eye injuries.

“The rate is simply unacceptable as a risk at this time,” Bourlon says.


  1. Seems logical.

    And as always tell my local leaders, if Scouts and leaders want to do something that’s not allowed in the GtSS, it’s a free county and so you can do it … but DON’T go as Scout or Scouters, DON’T call it a Scouting event, DON’T wear your uniform and KNOW that BSA insurance will not cover you.

    • I can tell you the numbers are not that high. Of all injuries in paintball only about .01% of them need any kind of medical attention. This includes things like heatstroke, broken bones, and any thing else.

      On top of that I can speak from being in the sport for almost 15 years now (playing, coaching, and covering it as part of the media) and I can say in 15 years the worst injury I have seen is the infamous welts you get.

  2. Why is laser tag banned? There are no lasers involved and no chance of injury to eyes. Baden-Powell had games scouts could play that involved “killing” other scouts. See his game “bomb-laying” as an example.

    • Laser tag is banned, but flashlight tag is OK. So go to RadioShack, get some parts, break the laser part out into a non-gun black box, presto, flashlight tag with lasers, using the same parts, which is now completely fine and OK with the GTSS.

  3. >>Pointing any type of firearm or simulated firearm at any individual is unauthorized
    …water guns on a rafting trip included???

    • Good point! Our troop typically has a “water fight” meeting during the summer, where everyone is invited to bring their super-soakers, and we just have an hour of fun.

      The leaders always come out the worst 🙂

      It never occurred to me that it might be violating a policy to let the boys shoot water at each other.

      • Absolutely agree! Our troop did this a lot! Not just at camp. Our boys often found sticks in the woods and had mock sword fights with sticks. I guess I was terrible, because I let them do it as long as they did not hit EACH OTHER, and just hit the sticks.

    • You call them water guns … vendors call them soakers … I call them heat stroke abatement devices. 😉

  4. Those that were injured….where they wearing proper protection? As a family and with friends we do paintball. But we all wear the helmets that completely cover our faces. No way could we be injured that way.

    HOWEVER, if you are a wimp, you CAN get hurt, just not severely, and not anymore seriously than any other sport….aka, bruises.

    Those paintballs if shot within a certain range, can and DO HURT. Can leave minor bruising. But so can tripping on the trail and falling into a tree or a bunch of rocks…ok, I’m a klutz.

    Personally, I think there would be more complaints from mommas about ruined clothing!

  5. So, the “potential injury” argument seems to be your reasoning. But why then is laser tag still forbidden? I thought the “never point a weapon at another person” was the justification, but this blog post implies that this is NOT the reason paintball is forbidden.

  6. I understand that paintball shooting at each other as Scouting activities is unexceptable based on your statistics, but no statistics we’re mentioned for Laser Tag! Why is laser tag prohibited?

  7. What’s the rule on squirt-guns, water-cannons, water-balloons, laser-tag, flashlight-tag, and dodge-ball?

    • Good question. Maybe I was remiss in this, but I let the boys take marshmallow guns to camp and no one said a word, except that we had to make sure we picked up all the sticky mess and put it WAAAAYYY out in the woods! BTW: these were homemade ones out of PVC pipe the boys made themselves and they were not those CANONS that are commercially made. This was boy scouts, not cubs.

      What fun would water balloons or squirt guns be if we couldn’t throw them at each other. Yes, as someone said above, we can do it as a NON scouting event. But sometimes I think rules are carried too far.

      When teaching shooting sports (for more than 30 years – includes 4-H) one thing I always taught them as that you never aim a gun at anything you don’t intend to kill. But when I was teaching that I was referring to REAL guns, not water guns and balloons….which have no visible connection to a real gun.

    • What’s next? The finger gun will be forbidden next. Oh wait….it already is in school! A kindergartner was expelled from school for making that motion at another kid…..PLAYING, not in serious thought! Not talking about gang bangers making a THREAT.

      • And remember to be careful how you eat your Pop Tart; the pattern of bites could get you in trouble. Wait a minute, did National ban Pop Tarts?

  8. I would say that BSA is the perfect place to teach boys how to do this activity safely. Not to mention adding more coolness to scouting. It would have to be a ‘council camp only’ kind of thing, like we do for shooting sports.

      • This is “kind of” true

        The BSA National Shooting Sports Manual says “Boy Scout shooting sports can take place at any council approved property.”

        So granted, not limited to camps, but you cannot just go out and have a scout shooting program anywhere you want…

        • Yes, you can. You just have to have the range approved by council and have an NRA RSO and an NRA trained pistol/rifle/shotgun/archery instructor on hand. 2 separate people. We shoot at our local gun club range.

    • Ok, I’m gonna’ step back on this one. No I don’t want the boys to have blow darts, throwing stars or spears …. at least not unless it can be in a controlled environment.

      Those are WAY more dangerous than paintball ever could be….and not just to those who would be victims, but in accidents. I collect oriental weapons, antiquities, etc. I have many of those items.

      I have ‘stuck’ myself on more than one occasion just handling them. So, no, I would not want to see the boys using these. One other major reason is that accuracy in the use of these weapons (and yes, they are weapons) is extremely difficult. I don’t teach this nor do I claim to be a pro with them.

      I COLLECT THEM and they hang on my wall. But these are antiques, not the cheap knockoffs you buy at a gun show.

  9. When you state “The rates indicate paintball injuries happen around 2.7 times for every 10,000 players” – were the folks who were injured wearing eye protection? From what I’ve read, the injuries occur in uncontrolled settings to players who do not wear eye protection.

  10. Based on this type of analysis, Scouting should allow whacking at each other with toy swords but also outlaw writing implements of the ink and graphite types.

    It is estimated that around 748 ocular pen injuries and 892 ocular pencil injuries of undetermined severity occurred annually in the UK during the database surveillance period 2000–2002. No eye injuries from swords, including toy swords and fencing foils, were reported. From:

    • What was the value of insurance claims as a result of these injuries in the UK? That’s a large part of what’s driving this.

    • Raw numbers are fairly pointless here. What is the rate per 100,000 person-hours of use? Divided by the number of hours per day everyone fiddled with a pen/pencil in a two year period, those figures are pretty much near zero.

      • I don’t know, I wasn’t involved with this study… only searched it and thought it applied. I think there is more emotion and less logic to these arguments. As society changes, so shall Scouting. In our area of the country we feel that guns are a part of our lives and we feel safe and comfortable …but there are changes coming. I hear them “in the wind”. So; our troop has already done a paintball day at a commercial facility sans uniforms. The boys and parents thought it was silly but we conformed to the B.S.A. wishes and went as a group of friends. Best fun the boys said they had had in years! We’ll be doing it again, and again. Maybe we’re no better or worse protected insurance wise than anyone else (Thanks for the help there B.S.A.) but worst of all; we’re not enhancing the “individual’s responsibility” image of Scouting to the public and, not supporting Scouting as a “learning through fun” group to our boys and their non-Scout friends either.

  11. Seems to me they make PB specific headgear that protects the eyes. Wouldn’t that make more sense? Bike riding-head gear, sledding-head gear, Paintball-not allowed…

  12. This is a tough one. And, being in a profession where your job may potentially put you in a position to deliberately take another human’s life is a personal and internal debate that everyone who enters the military or law enforcement has with themselves at one time or another. I support not ever shooting or aiming anything that is, simulates, or can be construed as an anti-personnel weapon (yes there’s the “W” word) at another human being or likeness. It’s not the device per-se, but the act or simulation of the deployment of lethal force that I object to.

    And, I have no problem with the shooting sports regimen as it is currently practiced (though we should be able to use flintlocks). But the problem I have is with some of the adults. They seem to view it as either a military, or field preparatory course. It is not. It is a shooting sports program, and that is all, and should be left right there.

    How the kids choose to APPLY those skills .they learn from there is up to them.

  13. I started with shooting sports in the 80’s when my kids were in 4-H. That’s when I became a range officer and instructor and have been since, including with BSA.

    I have always been curious why 4-H, which is co-ed has ALWAYS allowed shooting. And not just at camps. They even have competitions annually…which in this area is MAJOR – hundreds of kids show up to shoot. And they can pretty much shoot anything – kind of like the Venturing crews. No, the young ones cannot – they are limited to BB’s. But the older ones can and do shoot large calibers.

    Why is scouting any different? Both groups teach civic responsibility, personal responsibility, honor, respect, etc. etc. etc.

    Just asking.

      • Haven’t been there. I’m a little confused then, because scouting clearly states that boy scouts can only shoot .22’s and shotguns, unless you are in a venturing crew – they can shoot anything except full auto (and 99.9% of the population do not have these). So how do they justify that?

        Personally I think the rules are too strict. There should be a minimum age – like at least 14 or 15 or maybe even 16 to shoot the larger calibers, but to not allow it at all I don’t understand, especially since Venturing crews can….at 14.

        What I’m seeing is more kids doing the crews if they offer shooting and leaving the troops and that’s not what was intended. The crews were supposed to give the boys (and girls) an extension of the scouting experience….not take from it.

  14. At Jamboree we were told about a game where scouts were hunted down as deer and shot at with blunted arrows. Scouts that were hit were admonished for getting caught. We also played a game where the scouts used batons to knock the other scout off a log. the scouts loved it and said we need more stuff like this. I dare to say in this day and age it might be considered bullying . My greatest fear is that scouting is being turned into social activism as its main goal. At this pace of bug juice and alcohol stoves being banned, will paintball outlive scouting?

    • As I recall, the game that Seton taught was where the boys moved a dear target to a certain location using shoes that had dear hooves on them. The boys then came back to camp. Another patrol stalked the dear and shot it with arrows. This would not be the same as playing a game where you are pretending you are a sniper and killing other people.

    • “My greatest fear is that scouting is being turned into social activism as its main goal.” Too late!

  15. so, now I am curious – what about Revolutionary War or Civil War re-enactments?

    I know a venture crew that does re-enacting and as it was explained to us at a district round table last Monday, they use real muzzle loaded guns and during battles are aiming at other people. They are shooting blanks, but the gent who gave the presentation said that they must undergo safety training because you can kill someone with a .75 caliber blank shot.

    • Blanks absolutely can kill. That’s a misnomer that most people don’t understand. But a lot of it has to do with the ‘distance’ between target and weapon.

    • oops, sorry. I have trouble not using the word ‘weapon’ since that’s the way I was raised plus I got beat over the head in the military (joking here) because I kept calling the weapons…guns. No violence intended in my statements….just a habit.

    • Josef, Here’s the policy that is applicable to your question:

      Pointing any type of firearm or simulated firearm at any individual is unauthorized. Scout units may plan or participate in paintball, laser tag or similar events where participants shoot at targets that are neither living nor human representations. Units with council approval may participate in formally organized historical reenactment events, where firearms are used and intentionally aimed over the heads of the reenactment participants. The use of paintball guns, laser guns or similar devices may be utilized in target shooting events with council approval and following the Sweet 16 of BSA Safety. Council approval means the approval of the Scout Executive or his designee on a tour permit specifically outlining details of the event. (However, law enforcement departments and agencies using firearms in standard officer/agent training may use their training agenda when accompanied with appropriate safety equipment in the Law Enforcement Exploring program.)

  16. Last year our council sponsored a marshmallow war as part of their Popcorn Kick-off with Scouts shooting marshmallows from “Marshmallow Blasters” that were given as prizes in the annual council popcorn sale. Was this event “illegal”?

  17. Ok, I understand the BSA wanting to outlaw paintball because of perceived dangers and the risk of potential injuries (whether there really are actual dangers or serious risks is up for debate).

    But why is laser tag outlawed? What’s the danger there? How is laser-tag any more or less risky than playing good ol’ fashioned regular tag (which is legal in the BSA)? Or the classic flash-light tag?

        • Jorma,
          Water guns really don’t look like weapons. The boys know the difference between squirting someone and stalking and killing them.

        • Thanks Jorma. That’s pretty funny. That laser tag gun looks like a product scanner at your local WalMart. Or maybe a stapler. Speaking of staplers, are staple guns banned, too?

        • I’m still unclear about water guns. We took a trip to the local water park and took our water guns. Was that illegal or not? OBviously, yes, we were soaking each other (already soaked – we were in the pool).

          but the water gun in Jorma’s example does not resemble any real gun I have ever used or even seen….dead give away (pun intended) is the big yellow blob on top. The laser tag gun would be scarier than the water gun, yet less lethal.

          Actually, it looks like some of the ‘over the counter’ tasers I have seen. I’m trained to use the real ones (aka sheriff trained ones), and even THEY are made to look different than the gun. For the obvious reasons. Don’t want a deputy pulling a REAL gun out when meaning to pull the taser.

          I’m throwing this back again to the comparison of 4-H to Scouting. They both have almost identical principles. Why is scouting stricter? Don’t get me wrong, 4-H has some of the highest safety records of any organization, so they are doing it right….but why is scouting different?

      • Bryan asked: how is it kind? It’s a game Bryan. Lasertag is a game. Like flashlight tag. Or capture the flag. Or neckerchief tag. Or steal the bacon.

      • Ever notice when someone from National is losing an argument they trot out some interpretation of the Scout Oath or Law to hide behind? Hey, we trusted National with our sons and now we have to keep a hawk’s eye on them because one of the last safe institutions in our society has been thrown wide open. I’ll answer your question with a question, Bryan. How is it Morally Straight to convince impressionable preteens and younger teenagers that homosexuality is normal, natural, and acceptable?

        • Bryan,

          Please ignore “Yesterday’s” question, it’s irrelevant to this conversation. I’m sure there are plenty of forums where we can continue to argue that issue.

        • Kevin, my question is relevant; it is your interjection that is not. I want to know why people from National always fall back on platitudes when they realize they are losing an argument based on logic. Some of the decisions they have made are not defensible except when viewed through the lens of finance.

  18. The key here likely lies in the job title: “Insurance and Risk Management leader Mark Dama”. Note that the first word in the job title is “Insurance”. Here’s what I think happens: the BSA’s policy underwriter reviews the activity, presents the BSA with insurance options, and the BSA does a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether the activity’s level of popularity and benefit to Scouts is worth the cost.

  19. “The rates indicate paintball injuries happen around 2.7 times for every 10,000 players, Bourlon says. That means if 500,000 youth played paintball, the team would predict up to 135 eye injuries.”

    The above statement is very misleading. First, it states that ‘paintball injuries happen around 2.7 times for every 10,00 players” What it DOESN’T state, is what type of injuries those are. I believe it is a HUGE leap to assume that every paintball injury is an eye injury. If I had to guess, I would say that the majority of paintball related injuries are due to slips, trips, and falls. Lots of sprained ankles and such. These are the sort of injuries you would see with any physical activity.

    • The BSA’s insurance underwriter has better access to statistics than we do. All commercial paintball ranges carry insurance, so injury claims data is available for their review.

      We on the outside can only speculate.

      • The statics quoted are very misleading. These statistics quoted are for all participants. This includes people playing in their back yards without proper safety. At a regulated field, referees are used and safety is enforced. I am in the paintball industry. I am a former boy scout and leader. My family will not participate in boy scouts while this rule is in place.

  20. Not sure why statistics even were brought into this. It is NOT a statistics-based issue in so much as it is simply a differentiation made that AT NO TIME can a Scouting Activity involve “Pointing any type of firearm or simulated firearm at any individual.”

    There are CLEARLY more dangerous things that Scouts do and will continue to do. (For example, the bike-riding stations at National Jamboree had a very high injury rate — BUT — the Scouts LOVED IT and actually wanted those stations to be MORE challenging in their reviews of the stations.)

    Agree or disagree with the policy, I just do not get why we as Scouts / Scouters cannot simply acknowledge that EVERY organization will have some guidelines that we do not PREFER but that we still beed to follow. Instructing our Youth to follow the “appropriate rules” for the “appropriate venue or time” is a part of Scouting. Nowhere does it say that Youth who are Scouts can NEVER go to an event that does things that are outside of the purview of Scouting. They just cannot do these things AS SCOUTS.

    There is nothing wrong “in life” with kicking a ball. HOWEVER, in Basketball, there is a RULE against kicking a ball. There may not be anything wrong in your mind with kids playing Laser-Tag (I did so for the first time last week, in fact). There is a RULE that as Scouts / Scouters we should honor when at Scouting activities and/or in Scouting uniforms.

    That is my view.

    • Nothing wrong with discussing something currently off limits and working within the system to changing it if you so desire.

      • Agree.

        But statistics has nothing to do with it. I highly doubt that there were “insurance and risk assessment statistics” involved when the BSA originally put in the Guide to Safe Scouting that Scouts should never point “any type of firearm or simulated firearm at any individual.”

        As an organization that is PERCEIVED to be a militaristic organization in the first place simply due to the structure and the uniforms, I agree that discussing the merits OR de-merits is fine, of course, but whether it be water, light, paint, or even air from the “two-finger gun” — there is no reason that of all of the possible youth activities we have to include one with Scouts pointing “guns” at other scouts (while in uniform at official activities).

  21. And you wonder why boys are not interested in scouting any more. It seem anything fun is no longer approved. I say this from the experience having to kids no and seeing involvement drop.

  22. The insurance and liability angle do not hold up once you put laser tag into the equation. Reading the policy in the most restrictive sense, the policy forbids marshmallow guns, water guns, Nerf guns or even fingers pointed like a gun are forbidden. Remember there have been cases where schools have suspended or expelled kids for “simulated firearms (guns)” being pointed at classmates where it was only two fingers pointed like a gun.

    Two of the main activities Cubs want to do more than anything is BB Gun and Archery. Scouts of all ages are interested in guns.

    This is Boy Scouts, we should be teaching them how to be responsible and that includes being able to play laser tag and even paintball RESPONSIBLY.

    Maybe we need to get the NRA to talk to the BSA? 🙂

    • I agree — except that — BSA has long ago determined that “Responsibly” includes using guns to point at targets and non-humans and never at other Scouts. Boys do like to use guns. No issue with that observation.

  23. So is paintball outlawed because it is dangerous/risky or is it because pointing a gun (of any kind) at another person is unScoutlike? Which is it?

    If it’s simply the first, then we can debate the dangers and risks of paintball (there are injuries that can occur playing paintball, and there are safety precautions that can be taken…we can analyze the risks and go back and forth here all day; everything Scouts do has risks and potential injuries involved…some much more dangerous than paintball). But if it’s deemed paintball is too dangerous, fine. But things like laser tag should certainly be allowed — there’s no physical projectiles there! And even water guns would probably be okay too.

    Now if it’s the second, then stop hiding behind insurance and risk management and just come out and say that pointing guns (real or pretend) at other peoples is against the ideals of Scouting and has no place in the program. However this would not only exclude the specified paintball and laser tag from Scouting, but would also have to extend to water guns, squirt guns, finger guns, marshmallow blasters, NERF guns, flashlight tag, pantomiming or toy props in campfire skits, rubber band guns, toy guns, or just pointing a stick or finger at someone and saying “bang bang.” One could even extend this to exclude water balloons battles, snowball fight, food fights, splashing in the pool, etc. (as things are being aimed at others). I know many councils and camps that hold epic water battles with squirt guns and water balloons and the like. Should these events be outlawed? Are SuperSoakers only allowed to be used at as Water Gun range for target shooting?

    So which is it, Bryan – (1) paintball is dangerous or (2) paintball is unScoutlike?

  24. So…. 2.5 out of 10,000 is too much risk? That is 0.00027%.

    That seems acceptable to me compared to drowning during aquatics activities which is the second largest cause of injury or death in children 1-14 (Scout age).

  25. I think “Paint Ball” should be for an event, held at a Scout Jamboree hosted by United States Military Academy at West Point. Well supervised, in a control setting. Scout units that have duel membership with the Civil Air Patrol, Sea and Army Cadets programs, would work for me also. Many Scouts look forward to having a military career… but … I do think we have to be careful with this one. It could get out of hand, and maybe project a “Rambo” image.

    • Lenny,
      OK, here is my thoughts on this: We are not a paramilitary organization. And whereas we teach Scoutcraft, we do not teach sniping.

      • But we used to teach snipe hunting.

        And one of the original merit badges was none other than Master at Arms! Requirements: Master 3 of the following combat skills: single stick, boxing, ju jitsu, wrestling, quarterstaff, and fencing.

        Chew on that a while.

  26. Weapon and Gun;
    In the military I joined back in the `70’s, all instruments capable of lethal force designed to be deployed in disabling the enemy in hostile actions were weapons.

    A gun was generally designed to be a crew served weapon. e.g, machine gun, field gun, (artillery), etc., but it was also a weapon. Since an individual’s personal weapons (rifles, pistols, etc.) were not designed to be crew served, they were not guns.
    As civilians, we do not deploy our personal firearms in hostile action against enemy forces, so we do not have weapons. We use them in legal sporting ways. They have to call them something, so by default, and for lack of anything else, we call them guns. I too have a hard time letting go of what was drilled in to me in the military, so cannot call my rifles and pistols guns. Instead, I now call them rifles and pistols, which was acceptable in the military too..

    • I was in that same military, 1971 – 1974. Now I am a civilian, so I no longer worry about the articles of the UCMJ or military acronyms or jargon. I teach a construction trades class in which a hammer is a tool until it is raised with the intent to harm another… it is then a weapon. Anything in the hand which is intended to harm another is a weapon. Anything in the hand which is intended to play with another is a toy. Weapons can be made harmless and toys can kill. (bat vs. head, ball vs. chest, electric train vs. fibrillation)

      We live in a world wherein we address the item in the hand far too much and address the hand in which the item lies far too little.

      IMHO, training and accountability makes or breaks all our activities.

      All that being said – shoot at each other is not the greatest idea. 🙂

      • Well, I think a line needs to be drawn. I do not see anything wrong with water balloons, water guns, etc. as long as they are not painted or in no way, shape or form truly LOOK LIKE a real gun.

    • I was in the Guard right before Desert Storm and my ‘job’ partially was maintaining the weapons, lol. That’s what I meant by beat over the head. I wanted to call them guns and they threatened to ‘punish’ me, lol, if I did. Now I find it hard NOT to call them weapons.

      But like someone else said…ANYTHING can be a weapon. A CAR is a weapon, your hand is a weapon (especially if you are trained in martial arts like a lot of us are).

      On the flip side, a foil (fencing) is never called a weapon because in the venue it is used now (sport event) it is NOT dangerous – there is a tip on the end that prevents any penetration and the foil bends on contact. But in the old days fencing was done with real weapons.

      It’s all about semantics, really.

  27. My two cents: not a big loss. The outdoor paintball ranges that I’ve seen don’t conform to the Leave No Trace Outdoor Ethic that we’re trying to instill.

    • all paint balls are Biodegradable, and used at a paintball range or field course that is designed to have them left to desolve is much the same as scouts digging a cathole for human waste! now if boys where shooting paint balls in the woods of a camp or forest i would agree with the leave no trace but not at a paint ball range we dont make the boys retrieve their bbs or shotgun shot at a shooting range!

      • Adam, that’s not entirely true. The majority of paintballs are biodegradable, and some more than others. Some of the ones that are oil based and used to mark trees don’t break down as easy…they’re designed to last. 99% of the commercial paintballs you get at fields are, and some degrade faster than others. (Monsterball being a notable exception.)

        • Just because the paint and balls are biodegradable doesn’t mean the activity leaves no trace and isn’t harmful to the environment Shooting a fire hose a forest doesn’t conform to the Leave No Trace Outdoor Ethic and that’s harmless water.

    • Paintballs are biodegradable. Since they are biodegradable the risk of damaging the environment is relatively small. The only damage I could see occurring is the paint from paintballs be left on trees, which I guess could lead to the dying of the tree. But relatively speaking we kill trees a lot quicker through other methods that are down right pointless. So, instead of worrying about trees dying due to paintballs, lets focus on the bigger issue here.

  28. I just find it funny that .00027% is unacceptable risk… sure wish everything that I did in life came with that level of nothingness for risk. Shoot (yes I get the pun) that’s nothing!

    Oh and to be clear… they didn’t use Paint Balls at the National Jamboree. It was a Powder Ball if anyone really wanted to be exact. Figure since we are worried about .00027% risk, we might as well be worrried about 100% accuracy.

  29. I guess it depends on the source of the statistics and how you interpret them to suit the easy way out… ban it! …..”paintball injuries happen around 2.7 times for every 10,000 players, Bourlon says. That means if 500,000 youth played paintball, the team would predict up to 135 eye injuries.”…..
    Why would 2.7 TOTAL injuries per 10,000 plays transform into 135 EYE INJURIES per 500,000?” Why did ALL injuries, no matter how small become ALL Eye injuries?
    My research…..
    “Research published by the Minnesota Paintball Association has argued that paintball is one of the statistically safest sports to participate in, with 20 injuries per 100,000 [less than 27], players annually, and these injuries tend to be incidental to outdoor physical activity (e.g. trips). A 2003 study of the 24 patients with modern sports eye injuries presenting to the eye emergency department of Porto S João Hospital between April 1992 and March 2002 included five paintball eye injuries. Furthermore, a one-year study undertaken by the Eye Emergency Department, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston has shown that most sports eye injuries are caused by basketball, baseball, hockey, and racquetball. Another analysis concluded that eye injuries incurred from paintball were in settings where protective equipment such as masks were not enforced, or were removed by the player. Eye injuries can occur when protective equipment is not properly used and such injuries often cause devastating visual loss. For safety, most regulated paintball fields strictly enforce a ‘masks-on’ policy, and most eject players who consistently disobey.

    The second most common question, though admittedly it is much less common, is how dangerous paintball is. I’ve typically referred people to the study by the National Injury Information Clearinghouse of the U. S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, it’s safer than bowling. After that, I would usually then proceed to share anecdotal stories that I had never seen a serious injury and that my most serious injury occurred when I was running into a bunker, tripped and slammed my elbow into a tree. In conclusion I would mention that generally, the only serious injuries that occur are when someone takes off their mask and gets hit in the eye.
    Now, though, there’s some more information available. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality is an agency of the United States government that studies, among other things healthcare usage. One of the things they track is Emergency Department (ED) usage including the diagnosis for each person who comes into the ED as part of the Hospital Cost and Utilization (H-CUP) project. Periodically analysts at AHRQ release reports on trends among ED usage and they recently released a statistical brief on the injuries arising from airguns – both BB guns and paintball guns. Conveniently, they then broke down the information by what type of gun caused the injury.

    The most recent data are from 2008 and paint an interesting picture of paintball: only 614 people ended up in EDs as a result of paintball injuries. Of those, only 12% (or approximately 74 people) were admitted to the hospital meaning that the vast majority were treated and released, implying that the injury wasn’t overly serious. To put the total number of ED visits in perspective, it’s estimated that over 10 million people play paintball in the United States each year, which means that if you play paintball, you have less than a one in 16,000 people who play paintball will end up in the ED and fewer than one in 135,000 will be admitted to a hospital. The odds of a serious injury, then, are astronomically low.

    This report, though, certainly only tells part of the story. Some people who are injured do not go to the ED and some people who go to the ED may not have actually been playing paintball, such as people who were hurt when they shoot themselves while working on a gun or were shot in a drive-by paintball assault.

    More importantly, the report does not tell the types of injury that player received. How many people went to the ED because of welts and bruises that are a part of paintball and how many went because of serious injuries? Of the serious injuries, how many were from players who had taken their mask off while on the field?

    The effect of the report doesn’t change my perception of the safety of paintball. I still feel that, as long as players wear their masks, it is a very safe game. There will be minor injuries (bruises and strains), but major injuries are simply not a part of the sport.

    Fortunately severe injuries are very rare in paintball. In the past few years the only severe injuries I am aware of have come as a result of players improperly removing their masks. Just like all other sports, minor injuries are part of playing, but, as long as players follow the safety rules, they shouldn’t worry about getting severely injured.

    Here are some interesting stats..

    Sports Injuries Report
    Yearly injuries per 1000 Participants

    Boxing 5.2
    Football-Tackle 3.8
    Snowboarding 3.8
    Ice Hockey 3.7
    Snow Skiing 3.0
    Soccer 2.4
    Softball 2.2
    Basketball 1.9
    Football-Touch 1.9
    Surfing 1.8
    Cheerleading 1.7
    Water Skiing 1.6
    Racquetball 1.5
    Martial Arts 1.5
    Wresting 1.4
    Baseball 1.4
    Volleyball 1.3
    Mountain Biking 1.2
    Tennis 1.1
    Ice Skating 1.1
    Horseback Riding 1.0
    Skateboarding 0.8
    Hunting 0.8
    Bicycling-BMX 0.8
    Running 0.6
    Paintball 0.2

    While designing the shooting facilities for the 2013 Jamboree I experienced numerous objections to shooting disciplines or equipment choice – (e.g. check the airsoft magazine is easy to get in and out so the scout doesn’t scratch his pinky — those 3-D archery targets look too much like Bambi, cancel them). I soon learned it was easier to ban something than take an infinitesimal risk or injury or upsetting the “PC” crowd.
    With modern Scouting, Lord Bayden Powell must be turning in his grave. In South Africa during the Second Boer War, Baden-Powell was besieged in the small town of Mafeking by a much larger Boer army (the Siege of Mafeking). The Mafeking Cadet Corps was a group of youths that supported the troops by carrying messages, which freed the men for military duties and kept the boys occupied during the long siege. The Cadet Corps performed well, helping in the defense of the town (1899–1900), and were one of the many factors that inspired Baden-Powell to form the Scouting movement. Each member received a badge that illustrated a combined compass point and spearhead. The badge’s logo was similar to the fleur-de-lis that Scouting later adopted as its international symbol.

    At one point in preparation for the Jamboree, I thought “Why don’t we cancel all the shooting and archery events and erect two large tents. We could then take the scouts 200 at a time and as they entered give them an English / Chinese dictionary. We could then teach them three phrases…. “I surrender!” “Don’t hurt me!” “I’ll tell you anything you want to know!”

    • Wow that was very very complete, and I concur with your assessment. I played paint ball for years and the worst injury that I saw was when I got hit in the neck at about twelve feet. It bled for a bit and looked really bad for about a week. (And I wouldn’t have been shot but I hit some kid in the leg at about the same distance and stopped to make sure he was okay.)

      I agree that I think this has more to do about fears of paramilitary similarity and our a fear of violence.

    • Thanks for sharing this. I’ve enjoyed paintball competitively and recreationally for a number of years. I’ve consistently wondered why the sport isn’t used as STEM jumping board into a pneumatic power based merit badge with a bit of physics.

      Just like many other scouting approved activities, paintball is a sport best enjoyed in a controlled environment, supervised by trained professionals. I think the risk analysts fear scouts viewing paintball as an activity that can be undertaken without any forethought. But, that’s why we have training.

    • Just for kicks and giggles lets see how many sports that are allowed could cause “catastrophic eye injuries”:
      Boxing- Not Allowed
      Football (Tackle)- Not Allowed
      Snowboarding- Allowed
      Ice Hockey- Allowed
      Snow Skiing- Allowed (Both Alpine and Cross-Country)
      Soccer- Allowed
      Softball- Allowed
      Basketball- Allowed
      Football (Touch)- Allowed
      Surfing- Allowed
      Cheerleading- Not Allowed
      Water-Skiing- Allowed (With certain restrictions)
      Racquetball- Allowed
      Martial Arts- Not Allowed (Except Judo, Tai Chi, Aikido)
      Wrestling- Not Allowed (Allowed within specific contexts)
      Baseball- Allowed
      Volleyball- Allowed (Court, Grass, Sand)
      Mountain Biking- Allowed
      Tennis- Allowed
      Ice-Skating- Allowed
      Horseback Riding- Allowed
      Skateboarding- Allowed
      Hunting- Allowed (With certain restrictions)
      Bicycling/BMX- Allowed
      Running- Allowed
      Paintball-Not Allowed (But allowed within specific contexts)
      Allowed: 21 Activities
      Not Allowed (Specific Ban): 2
      Not Allowed (W/O Specific Ban): 4

      [1] Lets worry about REAL safety concerns that actually cause SERIOUS problems for the BSA)!
      [2] Paintball does have a potential for injury but so does plenty of other activities that are allowed.
      [3] Paintball does have a potential for injury but in reality this has more to do with a philosophical issue than a health and safety issue.
      [4] BSA is trying to stay relevant but it still has a LONG way to go before it will stay “truly relevant” to this generation.
      [5] G2SS (Guide to Safe Scouting) is become more and more of a bureaucratic document.
      [6] Bureaucratic Documents tend to be ignored. If this document is ignored then their will be an increase in “accidents” from failure to follow the “reasonable” parts of the G2SS.

  30. One can be injured in any sport, despite the best safety training and precautions. My 14 year old daughter was playing soccer and broke her wrist and two fingers in a collision.
    I agree that paintball can be considered a “sport”, but the gist of this sport is to see if you can “kill” another participant with a very good copy of a “gun”. It is training to hurt people. Target shooting is a sport that tests one’s skill. I have no problem with the target shooting, but not with the human target shooting.
    Could we use rubber tipped arrows or paint tipped arrows and underpowered bows and do a “Hungergames” adventure? Would that be appropriate?
    Scoutson earned his Shotgun and Riflery MBs some time back. I wanted him to be knowledgeable about the power and skill involved in using firearms safely. He also has a half brother that served in the 10th Mountain Division. Brother speaks well of the folks he served with but not their mission (another story and time) . The need for firearms is , as has been implied above, is best addressed by tending to the hand, rather than to the weapon

  31. By Mark Dama’s standards of banning an activity based on an injury rate of 2.7 per 10,000, then I guess we’ll be banning travel by auto next as I’m sure that it has a much higher injury rate. Just banning an activity based on a given injury rate without any meaningful comparative yardstick is just plain asinine and it is an insult to the intelligence of every registered leader. If the reason for banning this activity is philosophical (it’s warlike) at least have the cahones to say so and not try and blow smoke up our anal orifice about it being a safety matter. If it’s not a safety matter, then why is it in the Guide to Safe Scouting?

  32. I play Paintball and Airsoft (replica firarms, made from plastic or metal, firing 6mm plastic BB’s at an average 350 fps) and I have traveled to games with 600+ people on the field and have witnessed 4 types of injuries (now I cant be everywhere with my powers of witnessing so): Dehydration, over heating, a sprained ankle, and a pocket knife cut. Those are also things I have seen as a member of camp staff at a BSA camp. Also most fields limit paintball FPS at 290. If Troops, Crews, Teams stick to official fields it is no different from going to an indoor climbing gym as an outing. Wear your goggles/masks safety equipment, follow field guidelines and few things go wrong.

    • As boys in the late 40s and early 1950s, we had creative ways to play war games. Sling shots firing dirt clods as mortars, ricoche BB gun shots, etc. No goggles…they didn’t exist. We had certain rules and were sort of careful. Squirt guns, cap guns…of course.
      Dangerous? Yes and our scout troop then would not be doing that. But boys still find ways to become warriors. It just will not be in a scout setting.

  33. Bryan –
    This seems to have stirred up some questions here. Clearly paintball and lazertag are against the rules, but can you give us a clear and official answer on the BSA policy on waterguns and water balloon fights?

    • To quote the G2SS:
      @Pointing any type of firearm or simulated firearm at any individual is unauthorized. Scout units may plan or participate in paintball laser tag or similar where participants shoot at targets that are neither living nor human representations.”

      The Top H&S Guy from BSA has concluded the following activities related to shooting sports are banned:
      [1] Nerf Guns
      [2] Water Guns
      [3] Spear Guns
      [4] Potato Guns
      [5] Blow Guns (Includes Marshmallow guns)
      [6] Bottle Rockets
      [7] Ballistas
      [8] Sling Shots (Except with projectiles softer than a Marshmallow)
      [9] Boomerangs

  34. As someone who has been an avid paintball player for more than 20 years, has worked at several fields, currently has sponsorship agreements in place, relationships with several industry associations and manufacturers, and a deep knowledge in and about the sport, I can unequivocally say that this quote is inaccurate.

    “The rates indicate paintball injuries happen around 2.7 times for every 10,000 players, Bourlon says. That means if 500,000 youth played paintball, the team would predict up to 135 eye injuries.”

    The majority of these 2.7 injuries, as evaluated by insurance estimates and emergency room visits, are from sprained ankles, broken bones (fingers, arms, legs, toes, ankles, etc.) due to falls and other injuries common with simple accidents such as when you run and trip. You’re more likely to go to the ER playing golf than paintball at a local field.

    If players are playing at a field with the appropriate insurance and oversight, you won’t have issues. These fields use goggles compliant with ASTM Standard F1776 which protects you to well in excess of 350+ feet per second, well over the 290-300fps allowed at most fields. All goggles and lenses are tested extensively by A2LA labs. Ironically, the vast majority of all catastrophic eye injuries from paintball are a result of people playing “outlaw” ball and not at insured fields. These injuries occur when people playing at home, in their backyard, etc. disregard safety rules regulating barrel covers, masks and propellants (HPA or CO2) and end up shooting themselves or another player without a mask on.

    Now, that being said, despite my love of the game, I don’t believe that paintball is appropriate as a Boy Scout outing. I firmly agree with the fact that scouts shouldn’t be shooting at each other as part of the program. I’d encourage them to play and participate as an outside activity but the BSA offers enough other activities that paintball doesn’t need to be something we endorse. But we should exclude it for the right reason…not for a reactionary aversion to metrics that are taken out of context.

  35. Those injury statistics include unofficial fields where safety is not enforced. Just as any sport BSA does, safety would be crucial and proper eye-wear would be used on an official field, and thus injuries would be SIGNIFICANTLY LOWER. Just call it as it is. BSA is scared to upset people who think anything like paintball to be violent. But I believe football, dodgeball, or tag is the same premise…aggression against one person or another in a violent matter. I have played paintball for over two decades, since its inception, and never seen a serious injury. Can’t say that for sports like soccer, football, etc…

  36. Ummm how do you get eye injuries from paintball the only time you get an eye injery is if you take off your mask. Now if the instructers let them do this than that is their falt not paintball. Every mask is tested according to astm standards which the lenses withstand a shot at 300 fps, all the fields usually don’t allow their guns to be coronoed above 290

  37. We all know the real reason paintball is banned is “PC” and every other reason given is just cover.

  38. The NRA works very close to the BSA. Rule #1 is “Always point your firearm in a safe direction”. To point a paint ball gun at another person and fire with the intent of hitting that person is sending mixed messages to the boys. All of the sports injuries listed above do not involve with purposely shooting at someone.

    I am a firearms instructor with the NRA and it goes against their training and instructions. I also have a degree in Criminal Justice. We were taught that you do not point and shoot a person unless you intend to end their life. That is the seriousness of what a person is doing. It is a total commitment and once the bullet leaves the barrel, there is no turning back. I have yet heard of a law enforcement officer that was not mentally affected after shooting someone and they can legally take a life as part of their job. God ordained government for our own good and for our protection.

    Having scouts shoot paint ball guns is crossing the line for me. There is too much death now a days with regards to our youth. There is also a great disregard for life and it is getting worse as time goes forward. The BSA does not need to send conflicting messages like this.

    When I was in Royal Rangers, they had paint guns as part of their Powwow activities. I voted against having it as part of the program. A boy ended up getting his eye put out and he was even wearing a mask. A teenager blind in one eye for the rest of his life! Others had other injuries as well. A person video taped the boys shooting it up and going through an obstacle course. It looked like an Al-Qaeda Training Film – a religious group running around and shooting. The Bible is pretty clear about not having the appearance of evil.

    Keep the paint ball guns out of the BSA.

    • “A boy ended up getting his eye put out and he was even wearing a mask.” – I don’t believe this is true. I have never seen a mask fail in such a manner.

      Where was this incident? Have information about the lawsuit I am sure had to follow such an obvious equipment failure?

      • JD,

        No idea about the incident after it happened. I got back into the BSA a short time after it happened and it was not a concern of mine other than “I told you so.” It wasn’t my son or one of my rangers. I have no idea if the mask was properly donned or not. Perhaps too big for the boy? It happened on one of the P-D District Powwows at Camp Honeygrove.

        There was an incident where they had the boys on a flatbed trailer which bounced after hitting a rock. One boy fell off and hit his head on a rock. He died later on. The following year, the boys dad was in the wrong place at the wrong time. A huge military generator was being unloaded off a trailer or a truck. The commander got squished between a tree and the generator. He survived though.

        Avoidable incidents though. Poor family.

        • Chad,

          Don’t twist my comments. Why didn’t you state that portable generators shouldn’t be used on camp outs. I stated I was promoting BSA field sports and firearm safety. I have also taught rappelling and other high risk activities. All of these activities promote scouting for the older boys to stay involved even up to the 18-21 year grouping. I want the boys to stay in scouts and grow up as men, leaders, fathers, etc. I also want the boys to stay alive to reach that age.

          Having side rails instead a flat-bed could have avoided a boys’ death. How much do side rails cost? How much is a boy’s life worth? How much is a boy’s sight worth?

          A troop I was involved in went to NJ to do a fishing trip. Right next to the scout camp was a paint ball center. We did not have the time to do the paintball activity and I am glad that it was not brought up to do it since I would have to say “no” as the committee chair. The troop did the activity a couple of years ago, but they did not do it as a BSA activity, but rather an activity that just happened to have scouts doing it. I am fine with this as long as they were not wearing ANY scout uniforms including class B t-shirts. I would not have participated though, nor my son.

          I pose this question – Has there ever been an intentional shooting in scouting? There has been in schools – many actually. Why is this? The main issue is the attitude of disregard for another persons life.

          In my own sportman’s club – if you are caught placing a human silhouette a zombie target, you get expelled from the club, The local law enforcement agencies use the club and they know that if they leave just one silhouette on the range or unburned in the ash can, they will lose shooting privileges for a very long time. Other than that, be safe, clean up after yourself, and happy shooting.

    • Thank you, I think your answer is something we need to remember. It’s about gun safety and a consistent message. There’s no question paintball guns are guns, whether they are lethal or not. The answer from BSA is they have a consistent ethic about projectile weapons or guns and this is what they want to teach.

      If there’s a problem with mixed messages, it’s with national getting sidelined and offering us other explanations which confuse the issue. No, Painball is not unsafe – but getting in the habit of using a gun in the wrong way is.

  39. Lets get back to the real point…the BSA does not promote shooting any type of weapon at another human being. That is the end of the argument.

  40. I think the rule is silly. The injury risks of mountain biking, baseball, skiing/snowboarding and ultimate frisbee (all BSA approved activities) exceed that of paintball. (And paintball’s risks are with eye injuries which could be mitigated by requiring the use of professionally run/certified facilities and eye protection.- like helmets for bicycling.) So the issue is clearly less about risk and safety then “someting else”.

    So what IS that “something else”?

    Ooh, maybe the pointing at someone and saying/doing/calling “bang”? Isn’t that what boys have done for generations? We call that tag, flashlight tag, capture the flag – all activities which BP himself approved. (OK, maybe not the flashlight tag. 🙂

    But paintball basically boils down to a technology aided game of tag. Calling it something else is just BS. Teenagers have a finely honed “hypocrisy meter”, and as parents we’ve all seen this. So calling this a health and safety is – let’s just admit it – BS.

    So let’s take this silly rule out of the Guide to Safe Scouting, and put it into the administrative rules with a open, honest and SCOUT-like explanation: We don’t want scouts playing war-like games.

    A scout is trustworthy…

  41. The only thing that bugs me in this debate is that some people use the term “kill”. I am Life Scout, and a National Ultimate Woodsball League player. I use a lot of what I learned in scouting to lead my team. I use 11 of the 12 points in the scout law (If it was up to me all my members would go to church, and I have a make shift service at fields on Sundays) to teach my new teammates how to act at events and practices. We “Mark” or “Eliminate” the opposing players. We never want someone to be killed playing paintball as it would bring holy hell down on the sport. Otherwise great debate and fact checking

  42. I quit BSA when I was 17 (I’m 29 now) and never regretted it– ever. One of the reasons was because there were few boys of my age at the time, and we were the ones doing all the work– the rest of the scouts in my Troop were 5th graders who wanted to play games and discuss Pokemon at every meeting, or didn’t want to pull their weight and do KP, or shake out the tents & clean up after a camping trip. I would even go so far as to say that my brother & I, and the two other scouts in the 15-18 age group, did more work than some of the Scoutmasters. It was garbage.

    The SECOND reason was because of stuff like this!!! It was always “safety this, safety that”… a lot of the same arguments mentioned on this thread come to mind– and they are VALID arguments. We were allowed football and soccer, or other sports with high rates of injury, but no paintball. We couldn’t do this, or that, or anything else, because it “wasn’t in accordance with policy”. I have an older (late 90’s) BSA handbook somewhere that detailed how to make alcohol stoves & the like.. apparently, you can’t even do that anymore. We hardly ever got to do anything with fire, or knives, or rappelling/climbing, or basically, anything semi-dangerous (which translates to FUN). Luckily I was able to knock out Archery, Shotgun Shooting & Rifle Shooting merit badges early in my Scouting experience. I only ever got ONE CORNER taken off my Totin’-Chip or Fireman’s Chit… we were, for the most part, RESPONSIBLE scouts who just wanted to have fun (the older scouts, that is).

    BSA was headed down the “politically-correct” road of protectionism and nanny-state regulations when I was 15-16, and I could see it then… probably helped my decision at the time. There are those on this thread who say scouting shouldn’t be paramilitary… scouting WAS paramilitary in origin, but it sure isn’t today. The Boy Scouts of 100 years ago was practically a militia. I concur with the sentiment that Lord Robert Baden-Powell is rolling in his grave. Scouting was founded in part due to many boys reading his books filled with war stories and showing interest in learning fieldcraft. That’s all I ever wanted– I didn’t care to discuss religious matters, as my parents shoved enough religion down my throat at home… and I didn’t join BSA to sit and marvel at some other kid’s coin or stamp collection. I didn’t want to do arts & crafts; I didn’t want to get on Ham radio & talk to some creepy old dude in parts unknown either. I wanted to learn survival skills. Shooting; Orienteering; Pioneering; First Aid; Lifesaving; etc.. those were the badges I wanted, and luckily got them. I would say that scouting needs to return to its’ paramilitary roots, and teach young men the basics of wilderness survival, fieldcraft, land navigation, and marksmanship, but we all know that BSA’s policies aren’t going to change anytime soon. If that’s the route you want to take, I’d say get together with other fathers & sons and do things on your own. It’s sad to see that scouting has turned out the way it has.

    By the way, someone else brought up the point of water guns, and I’m equally as curious as to how waterfights would fit in with these policies… can BSA even have waterfights anymore? The SuperSoakers we used during our Troop waterfight in 2002 were pretty powerful; might put an eye out with that kind of pressure… or is pointing a SuperSoaker at another person and pulling the trigger some sort of inappropriate “mental conditioning”?

      • Jeff,

        Keeping boys in the program past age 15 or 16 is always a problem. Part of it is the two “scents” of late High School: Perfume and Gasoline. But to what I perceive as your main point, that you were doing all of the work, and the youngest scouts just want to play, that’s a breakdown of leadership.

        I believe every troop has that problem, and how it’s dealt with is key to the success. We just had a camporee with 20 youth. Three were high schoolers, the rest in middle school. The older high schoolers (six or eight of them, Eagles and Life Scouts all) had AP exams the following week, SAT tests, driving classes, and track meets.

        The youngest guys are still shifting from Cub Scouts (“the adults will take care of everything”) to the realization that if they don’t cook, they don’t eat; and if they don’t clean up, they don’t get to activities.

        The older guys (in our case freshmen and sophomores) did an admirable job of leading by example. They showed great patience. During the activities, they earned the freedom to be off on their own. During the campfire, as OA members, they earned the right to participate in the fire lighting and tap-out (I always volunteer our troop to build and light the tap-out fire, because the older guys love the idea of getting to build a huge fire, and working with the adults to come up with unique ways of doing the lighting). At the closing and at the troop meeting debrief, they earned the public praise of the leaders and parents. One of our jobs as leaders is to make sure that the older scouts don’t need to show super-human patience with the younger scouts, by stepping in when necessary.

        As a Scoutmaster and Commissioner, I can assure you that in our Council we spend a lot of time and effort working on how to engage the older Scouts by keeping the program exciting for them. A lot of that focus has been on the primitive camping or treks. We had a wilderness outpost at this camporee. Our troop does wilderness canoeing trips. We’re constantly looking at the summer programs to make sure we have a reason to go to camp even if you think you’ve “done it all.” At the local level we have a Venture Crew that does a lot of shooting at a local national guard base, and scuba trips.

  43. So what was the injury rate for the BMX track at the Jamboree and how does it compare to the Paint Ball injury rate?

  44. If the BSA is banning paintball because it is too dangerous, then they should also ban BMX tracks and downhill skiing because (statistically) they are even more dangerous.

    If the BSA is banning paintball because it is a war-like game (and thus unScoutlike), then they should also ban water gun fights and games of Capture the Flag because they are also unScoutlike war-like games.

    If the BSA is going to allow ski trips and SuperSoakers battles in their program then they should allow paintball too.

  45. Just for clarity sake, does this apply to Laser Tag activities as well?

    I do agree with this rule completely, for we as an organization should not be teaching the art of warfare combat, even if the risk of injury is extremely low. Our youth are learning hand gun voilence through video games, internet, and television. I do not believe we need to argue this point any further, for the number of school shooting are on a steady rise.

    • And so your words and lack of dangerous, violent acts will protect us …as did Rodney King’s words; “Can’t we all just get along?” Or, perhaps you’ll write words on paper and call them law and thus save us from future harm?

      “Superstition is the belief in supernatural causality—that one event leads to the cause of another without any natural process linking the two events—such as astrology, religion, omens, witchcraft, prophecies, etc., that contradicts natural science.

      It [the word superstition] is also commonly applied to beliefs and practices surrounding luck, prophecy and spiritual beings, particularly the belief that future events can be foretold by specific (apparently) unrelated prior events.” (Excerpt from Wikipedia.)

      I really don’t want this to seem personal, Ken. Your post just happened to be the one with this view that came up on this issue, this morning. Be well.

      • Ken’s post is not “the one” with the view that there is NO reason for BSA to include activity in which Scouts “shoot” ANYTHING at ANYONE. There are clearly all varied opinions here so no need to single one post out as if it is the only post expressing this view.

        As for anyone that tries to convince me that the holy grail of improving membership numbers is to realize that Scouting would return to glory if we ALLOWED the stuff that BSA does not allow — REALLY? Because of the THOUSANDS of activities that BSA does allow, I find it unlikely that ANY unit has exhausted all of them. If it is ONLY about having fun then drop the Scouts off at the mall or Six Flags with $100. If Scouting is FUN with a PURPOSE then focus just a little bit on PURPOSE and not 100% on fun with no boundaries.

        A couple of posts actually pointed out that not allowing laser tag, paintball, water guns, etc. will be the demise of the BSA??? Interesting, last I checked the Soccer Team, Baseball Team, traveling Hockey, YMCA, debate team, band, etc. etc. did not do paintball either. (In fact, they don’t even do the THOUSANDS of activities that the BSA does do across the country/world.)

        Get a DAY PASS to the Summit (or a similar BSA facility in your region) and then ask yourself if the Scouts want to leave and go home because you didn’t allow them to bring their water gun???

  46. Groundless argument. Scouts grew into men who won WWII, they fought well in Korea and Vietnam, and the routed the Repulican Guard in Desert Storm….all before the advent of paintball or laser tag.

    So, too, most of today’s infantry in Iraq and Afghanistan have never seen the inside of a paintball range.

  47. I have no problem prohibiting paintball based solely on the idea of shooting at other people as an unacceptable behavior. However, to hide behind the injury rate is farcical. How many other Scouting activities to we limit to a 99.73% safety threshold? I suspect there is a higher injury rate on many authorized activities.

  48. Water guns vs paint ball:
    A hundred Cub Scouts in tee shirts and shorts, running around in a field at noon getting each other wet with super soakers and day glo orange water pistols.
    A Webelos Den “manning” a catapult with water filled balloons (small ones!) to “attack” another Webelos Den similarly equipped.
    A group of people “stalking” another group , all dressed in camo or black, thru the woods. Goal: one team desires to “kill” or “knock out” more of the other team by shooting them with paint capsules, projected from model weapons made to resemble AK47s and Thompsons . The more hits on a person, the more gravely “injured” and hence the higher the score. The first team that scores the most “outs” wins. Or, you can just play to shoot as many others as you can. “Gotcha!” is the word….
    A group of people (or individual people) “stalk” other people thru a artificially created urban scene. Their “goal” is to “attack” and hence eliminate other folks also “stalking ” thru this make believe cityscape by hitting them with a laser beam “shot” from a gun.
    The Laser hits on a person are registered by electronics in a vest worn by the participants. Too many hits in the wrong (or right) place and that person is “dead” and out of the game. The goal is to “kill” your opponents.
    In the same vein, how about a video game in which the goal is to rack up points by stealing high powered cars, running over slow pedestrians, pushing other cars over the guard rail, shooting and killing the other players, making deals with other players for which you do not get points UNLESS you doublecross them before they doublecross you.

    Which of these “games” is more Scout worthy than the others? It is a matter, I feel, of “intent”, “design” and “ultimate end”. What is it we, as Scouters, want to encourage in our Scouts?
    How does Messengers for Peace coincide with Hungergames?

    • @Jamesljr — Couldn’t agree more.

      I’m not opposed to my son or myself (or daughter or wife) doing ANY of the aforementioned activities ON OUR OWN.

      I DO AGREE that never do we “have to” have activities in which Scouts point any “gun” (real, paint, laser, water, whatever) at another Scout. There are thousands of other activities that Scouts can proudly do to have FUN WITH A PURPOSE.

      There is no relativity. There is no “risk assessment” in my view of the issue. There are plenty of Fun AND Risky activities in Scouting. Shooting each other simply doesn’t NEED to be one of them.

    • I think under controlled/trained environments most of those would be ok, but I understand the premise – I just don’t like the fact that are using bogus injury info (meaning other activities that ARE approved have higher injury rates – so using that is bogus).

      I do have a problem with water guns and balloons. I think that banning those is over the top. The idea is to SOAK another person, not kill them. Totally different plan and mindset, and those ‘guns’ look nothing like the real thing.

  49. First of all I would like to congratulate Bryan for this awesome site, and apologise because my English is not as well as it should.
    I follow you from Europe (Spain), where scouting has became so different from the beginning that it seems difficult to believe it has common roots with what I experienced in my young years (80’s). Maybe that’s the reason I’ve always admired the Boy Scouts of America.
    Nevertheless, I can see the whole world is turning to a sense of fear and political correctness which concerns also the BSA.
    Banning paint-ball activities is the answer to this increasing fear.
    The success of scouting all over the world is absolutely linked to his activities, excitement and adventure being the clue.
    Someone said that scouting was para-military in its origins but this is not true. Always was designed to create good citizens, as the original edition of “Scouting for boys” in 1908 indicates in the title (“a handbook in instruction in good citizenship”).
    But to be honest one of the main things which appealed the boys was the martial air of the game. Boys love war games, no matter the age when they were born (as hundreds of on-line war games demonstrate). That kind of games are in the DNA of every human being and we can neither deny nor ignore it. For thousands of years our ancestors were immersed in a life of hunting and stalking. Observing the nature, thinking about it and make right conclusions in order to achieve the success was the thing.
    We reproduce that kind of work in our scouting games, teaching basic skills to provide self-confidence and character.
    And I don’t think it could be dangerous at all.
    All animal cubs play pretending a fight. It’s the way to learn and with human beings is not different. They all know is a game and no harm is expected to happen, especially if we use our common sense and adopt safety measures.
    But forbid all that fun and educative power because someone argues an (at least) disputable and unlikely danger of physical or mental harm seems to me unsuitable.
    A game without significant risk, that allows fun in a controlled environment, helps to teach stalking and signalling skills, team work, camouflage rules, fair-play (as every other sport) don’t deserve this treatment.

  50. So what do we do if we want BSA to allow paintball and laser tag. Many troops already participate in these activities independently. These are activities that boys like. Understandably, the BSA does not want scouts shooting “guns” at each other, but part of our responsibility as rifle and archery range trainers is to teach safe firearms handling. Part of that training is teaching that a shotgun for example is to be pointed downrange at all times, should be cleared and checked when leaving the range, transferring hands, etc. Paintball markers on the other hand are used to play a variety of tag and capture the flag style games where participants, who always wear proper safety equipment. One hard and fast rule a firearms handling that I learned as a child was never to point/aim a firearm at a target that I did not intend to shoot. That can apply to paintball markers and to shotguns and rifles. The difference is in knowing the damage that each will inflict when fired. This is a policy that the BSA needs to reconsider. Local troops and charter orgs need to know what is best for their scouts and plan accordingly. Most troops put safety first. Just like you wear life jackets when boating, you should wear appropriate safety goggle when using paintball markers.

  51. As an avid hunter, Scouter, and military man, the safety of paintball is not relevant to me. We participate in plenty of activities with a measure of risk that we manage with safety equipment and procedures. What is relevant is the habit of proper handling of firearms. I’ve seen my own son’s loss of good firearm handling awareness (muzzle awareness, always pointing in safe direction), and I had to re-teach those habits after he has played Air Soft or Paintball. I played Air Soft once with him, and found it difficult to be around a group of people indescriminantly waving guns around during intermissions between fights. After a lifetime of hunting and handling firearms the right way (and this good habit saved a friend’s life years ago when I had an accidental discharge), it’s a natural reaction for me to feel aware and uncomfortable with even “toy” guns being pointed at me.

    The pretend war issue bothers me to some degree, although I don’t expect everyone to share the same perspective. There will always be times and places where war is a reality, and from some vantage point, a necessity. If I find myself in that position again, I’ll be ready to engage, again. But I don’t find pretend battle necessary or especially helpful in raising my boys to be good men. It’s not a field skill in and of itself, nor does it teach anything about good citizenship. I have great respect for the seriousness of combat, and those who have sacrificed on the battlefield. For this reason I don’t find the “fun” in paintball gaming, although I can understand it.

    This is what I believe:
    BSA is a paramilitary organization at it’s roots
    BSA should teach primarily field skills and good citizenship
    BSA should not teach potentially lethal bad gun handling habits
    BSA should not teach boys to try to “kill” each other

    I have no problem with the BSA prohibiting Paint Ball, and I’m quite sure my boys will still have a blast in Scouts, doing a thousand other Scouting activities. But I would implore the BSA to be honest about the reason for the paintball prohibition….and it’s not the safety issue. This discussion really boils down to “what do you really want to teach your boys?” And, is Paintball that important to you in the context of Boy Scouts?

  52. Interesting twist about “shooting at each other”. You’ll recall the Jamboree had a Powderball game, where foam targets were thrown in the air, similar to Sporting Clays, then shot with Powderballs from a paintball gun. These targets go up, sideways, along the ground and are shot just like Sporting Clays, but a great deal safer. (O.K. all shooting is safe is correctly overseen and controlled). But what is interesting is, in Europe they hold International paintball competitors and several teams are using these machines for practice at “moving targets”. With the tremendous interest at the Jamboree in this game, (approved by BSA), perhaps it would be a solution to the “want to play paintball” crowd – same skill set but no controversy. It would never replace the “essence” of Paintball – skirmish etc, but a new discipline?

  53. It’s a Great team building and leadership exercise and a good use of the squad-Patrol method. I say some of the older kids who have All the shooting merit badges should have at it and do Paint ball against other patrols/squads.

  54. I have a question that I read in an earlier post. Can we have Squirt gun ‘battles”? If not, what is the difference between squirt guns and dodge ball. Both are aimed at a person. For that matter, depending on where the thrower is standing, the ball can sting a little. If schools have allowed this activities for decades……

  55. 0.027% of half a million people being an unacceptable risk to take – surely you are more likely to be struck by lightning? It is a poor excuse to use to ban Scouts from an outdoor activity. I think the BSA need to follow in the footsteps of the UK Scout Association, you can’t stop children playing games that involve weapons (cops & robbers, water pistols, call of duty) – The Scout Association in the UK allows paintball as long as it is with an Governing Body approved provider such as Delta Force Paintball who are approved by the UKPBA, if there is parental consent and if the Scout group are given a private playing arena. Surely this minimises risks and gives the Scout group the option to tailor their event?

  56. Laser tag, Nerf guns and supersoakers and sticks and fingers pointed at one another or at a target ought to be permitted. Since the nerf gun does technically feature projectiles, scouts could implement head or eye protection requirements, but to give away marshmallow shooters as a primary door prize for popcorn sales but claim that nerf guns are somehow “unkind” or against scouting’s “leave no trace” values is hypocritical. Of course BSA’s standard response will be to now outlaw Marshmallow shooters as a door prize since we brought it up.

    The movement needs to grow thicker skin, realize that boys (and many girls) are rough and tumble and drawn to risky behavior whether they do it inside or outside of scouting. If we do not give them opportunities to do it in scouting in a supervised environment and in safe ways, they will find ways outside of scouting to take part in these activities and other more risky pursuits in an unsupervised, uncontrolled environment.

    So go on…keep softening the program in the name of “scout values” and other platitudes. We are already down to around 400000 members. Pretty soon that number will grow smaller yet again because we are no longer feeding their adventurous spirit.

    BTW, went to Philmont for the 4th time in my life. Another issue I see that is likely for very similar reasons of “safety” that hurts scouting is the high adventure restrictions to those 14 and above. The number ought to be 13 and above with more restrictive age height weight or fitness policies for specific activities at those high adventure camps where absolutely necessary. In my experience, many boys have already started to give up on scouting due to boredom By 14. But again, the insurers and finances rule. Add to that, the fact that such high adventure camps are high priced enough that many boys do not go simply when they turn 14. Their opportunity in a unit may only come around every other year. So if they miss the deadline by two months at age 13, they may actually be near age 16 before they get such opportunities.

  57. This crap is why I’m done with BSA. They have completely abandoned the principles Baden-Powell set out. I believe they would ban scouts from touching knives, axes, and saws and making fires if those weren’t so intrinsically associated with being a boy scout. B-P is rolling in his grave.

  58. I am an owner of an indoor paintball field and the data regarding paintball is inaccurate. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the injury rate of paintball is safer than tennis (0.2% per 1000). If participants are going to a legitimate field, we are extremely conscious of player safety. Paintball safety masks are required on at all times and you are removed from the field if you remove them. In addition, most chrono any paintball marker entering the field and ensure it is below the required 270f/sec range. Personally, I see a lot of birthday parties coming through each week and we have not seen an injury yet (aside from the typical red marks from paintballs).

    • With all this ‘talk’ about shooting at people or effigies of humans is against scout policy. Then is using a catapult to send a soaking wet sponge at scout leaders sit in the middle of the field also considered a ‘no-no’?

  59. Forbidding use of paintball guns in Scouting is not a proper solution. Scouts should be taught how they can stay safe while playing it by proper use of protection kits. If masks are worn then they can easily protect eyes and other parts from injuries. This game can only give small bruises that are not any severe. Apart from that it is a safe game.

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