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This year the hot topic for discussion was firepower. What is good for the growth of paintball? Should full autos be allowed? Should there be limits on the rates of firepower? The first panelist to speak was Jack Whithers, a field owner from Texas. He voiced concerns over problems with young players being overshot. He cited cases currently being litigated in Texas where adults have been charged with shooting minors on the paintball field, as Texas child abuse laws make it a fellony offense for an adult to bruise a minor.
Next to speak was Bill Gardner of Smart Parts. Smart Parts has a major interest in this topic, as there are presently disputes of whether the Shocker 4x4 turbo model is actually a full auto or a semi-auto, and whether it should be legal in tournament play. Bill based his comments on his experiences as a pro player, field owner, tournament promoter, and manufacturer. "I want to caution anyone about limiting technology," he said. "Matching advanced recreational players with very fast firing guns against new players with rentals is a mistake. There are a number of paintguns out there that shoot fast, and players that love them. We are competing with every other sport out there, and if we stunt the technological growth, many players may find something else to do. We have to find a comprimise that is comfortable where we get the level of firepower that the customers demand, but we remain safe."
Bud Orr owner of Worr Games Products "When the semis came out I fought that because I thouht it ruined the game. I enjoyed the technology of sneaking around in the woods. I put myself on the receiving end of all the equipment I develop and manufacture." Bud made his position clear that there should be limits placed on firepower for player safety and comfort when he said "I got shot once 10 or 12 times, I didn't like it, I wanted to kick the guys a--." Orr went on to say "My son's developed guns that will compete with the Gardners but I don't like them and I won't allow them."
Next to speak was John Rice from WDP, manufacturers of the Angel. "WDP feels that technology shouldn't be limited, but we believe in safety" said Rice. "It's dificult when people talk about banning this or restricting that. This market developed over a relatively short time, do you want to stifle that?"
Of the Group, Tom Kaye had the most to say. "The most miserable product failure we ever had was the pump kit for the Automag. We thought there might be a renewal of the old days of paintball. Those days are gone now and so is my pump kit because the players don't want it. I am interested in safety and I advocate limiting firepower but I am worried about my customers. I don't know anyone that has a paintgun for more than a year without modifications on it, and those modifications are for one thing - to shoot faster." Kaye pointed out that the driving factor in the paintball arms race for faster rates of fire is the customer.
After the conference, the key high end paintgun manufacturers, Bill Gardner, Bud Orr, Tom Kaye, and John Rice got together to privately discuss the issues that the dealers and field owners had a chance to comment on in the meeting. The results of their meeting were a decision that certain paintguns such as the Shocker 4x4 with the Turbo chip installed, the Automag RT, and the Angel would be considered "Super Semis" rather than simply semi-automatics due the greater rates of fire cabable with electronic triggers or pneumatic/mechanically assisted triggers. They felt the super semi category was more descriptive than calling them full automatics as they do not cycle continuously while the trigger is pulled and held. They also agreed that for player safety the maximum rate of fire that paintguns should be capable of firing is 13 shots per second, and are working to get this limit adopted industry wide.
The Xtreme Media Group awarded two new lifetime achievement awards for paintball.
The first went to Jerry Dobbins. Dobbins developed the Bushmaster pump paintgun, which became the standard by which other tournament level pumps were judged in the late 1980s. Today he owns and operates Indian Creek Designs along with 25 employees and the support of several family members who are involved in the business. In addition to making paintguns like the new low pressure Desert Fox, Dobbins also manufactures parts for aircraft like the Boeing 767.
The second award went to Bob McGuire. McGuire runs the American Paintball League, one of the leading insurers for the sport of paintball, and has been active in the definition of standards for player safety. One of the reasons cited by Xtreme Media for choosing Bob was that under his direction, the APL was the firs insurance company to allow players as young as 10 years of age. With the largest growth in paintball being in the teen market, helped start a major growth trend in the sport. When accepting the award, McGuire said "I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for Bob Gurnsey. Thank you Bob Gurnsey." (Bob Gurnsey is the individual credited with inventing the sport of paintball).