Paintballs now come in multiple calibers – 6mm (airsoft), .40, .43, .50, .55, .60, .62, and the international standard – .68.
Several different sizes are shown below to provide some idea of the comparative size of these different calibers:
68 Caliber has been the defacto standard since the game was first created. It is therefore the most widely available, the best understood and the vast majority of paintball gear is made for use with 68 caliber paintballs.
Paintballs are usually offered (68 caliber again) in 500, 1000 and 2000 round “cases”. Price is highly dependent upon quantity purchased (the same paintballs purchased as a 500 round lot could be several cents per ball less expensive when purchased in 2000 round lots).
Proper storage and proper treatment are absolutely a must if paintballs are going to last and perform well. Paintballs over a couple of months old ought to be discarded or used for practice.
Paintballs are offered in a variety of “grades” or qualities. Everyone has different names for these grades, but in general the run something like this:
Tournament/High Grade Scenario
Prices will range anywhere from 1.5 cents per ball to ten cents per ball; by the case, anywhere from (a very low and rare ‘sale’ price of) $25 to $180 – which is quite a range difference, but reflects the vagaries of the market – from purchasing quantity from a dealer (multiple cases), sponsorship and support, all the way up to buying high-grade paints at an “event paint only” event.
When purchasing paintballs, it is a good idea to have a reliable and regular source (someone you can talk to and ask questions of) and that you purchase the correct grade for the paintball gun you will be using (or the one you will be using most frequently if you have several).
You should also think in terms of buying your paintballs based on the concept of “good enough to get the job done”; which is another way of saying, “as long as you are satisfied with the results, there’s no need to spend more”.
There’s really only one way to determine that, which is – ask for recommendations based on what you are shooting and then try some different paintballs.