Using Radios on the Paintball Field
When the little voice in your head starts telling you to lay down fire on the third tree at your eleven, you’ll start shooting. You’re not nuts; you’re just doing what your partner is telling you from 50 feet away crawling up on a stronghold. He’s not shouting giving up his hard earned position, he’s whispering over the radio laughing a little because he’s about to go doggy style on their tape man.
There are plenty of players who disdain using radios, but anyone with half a brain knows that having a partner with a radio is like having two sets of eyes, two sets of ears, two sets of guns and the other half a brain. In the world of paintball, radio usage is becoming huge. Though they can’t be used during a tourney, they’re being used as a training tool by some teams, and for walk-ons and rec ballers, the drop in prices has been the greatest boon.
Best of all the new radios aren’t anything like the old ones. The old ones had something like a 1/4 mile of range and even trees would affect your reception. The newest models on Family Radio Service (FRS) and General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) have considerably more wattage with from two to five miles of range, a multitude of channels, AND all at a fraction of the cost.
Out of the Woods
Radios aren’t just a woods thing. In the arena, communication is vital to good playing. Shouted instructions, warnings, and positional updates are great if everyone is paying attention, but most of the time you’re concentrating on your gunfight and barely hearing much of the shouted information that’s flying around. Timing a coordinated assault by shout is pretty much retarded, since it can also forewarn the opposition to both intent and position. With radios you can send clear messages to the intended players. These other sets of eyes can warn or inform you of situations that they see coming up. This means you can move up at just the right moment when the enemy is shooting off the other side of his cover and not paying attention to you.
Two (and more) Heads are Better than One.
To be a really effective Radio Freak you need to start in a fire-team of two. More than that is okay once you’re ALL able to do it. A common mistake among players is to think that everything is as easy to do as thinking it. The reality is you have to train and develop teamwork if you want any tool like radio to become really effective.
For beginning tourney players, radios can be the stepping-stone for your team to get past the awkward stage where teamwork hasn’t yet developed into second nature. Most real teams in most sports have a coach that has an overview of the development of the team, and can guide it and help it develop. Paintball teams are rarely set up like that, so any tricks you can use to help the team develop are going to speed things up. With a Coach/player you can work on timing assaults and directing cover-fire in real time using radios instead of later on after the action. It doesn’t preclude using shouted communications, but if you’re working the cover and not paying attention to your team’s shouted communications, your coach can tell you on the radio and you’re immediately back on the page with the rest of the team.
Radio Basics: Kit and Caboodle
Scenario and real woods players will want at least a 2watt GRMS radios. The added wattage is well worth the money for the extra range and clarity of transmissions. The combo GRMS/FRS are good for scenario play, since they give you access to players with FRS radios, but the combos have only a few GRMS channels, meaning you have more chance of running into a lot of voice traffic. On speedball fields you can get away with a low end FRS radio, because range and interference are minimal. On any field Check with the refs to make sure you don’t interfere with their administrative channels.
You can get an inexpensive PAIR of radios from many sources for as little as $25 for a set of FRS/GRMS. Good reliable systems feature loaded models will cost around $50 a piece, so weigh out your needs before buying. Many features don’t mean much for real paintball use, but things like Key Lock are good. Accessories aren’t cheap so you might want to look for sets with package deals including holsters or ear mikes. CB’s and VHF radios are more powerful and less likely to be used by other players so you won’t have a lot of radio traffic. But they are a lot more expensive and are bulkier to carry.
Rechargeable batteries are great, but make sure you can change them out. A full day of play can eat up the juice, and you may find yourself needing to swap out the set before the day is over. In a 24hour scenario you better to plan on having a couple spare sets of batteries available.
Ear buds with mikes are good, they fit right into your ear and the mike hangs about at your mouth. You can rig them into place with twist ties or let it dangle. Dangling is dangerous since the mike could end up anywhere, which could screw up your outgoing messages. Earphones with boom mikes have better audio qualities and for long-term continuous use the headsets are more comfortable than the ear bud.
JT has two new products out for radio users. The universal Comm set, which is made up of 2 clip on speakers mount directly on your goggle system over your ears and a small mike that you can clip in right by your mouth. The Proteus system is a Comm set built right into a Proteus goggle system.
VOX is always off. Voice Activation is okay for goofing off in your house, but on the fields of paint VOX will deafen yourself and your partner with the noise of shooting, heavy breathing, running, coughing, and any other sounds. You will curse any and all who have their radios stuck on VOX. Some newer models boast of an improved VOX system that filters out certain sounds.
Where you carry your radio is important. Since you’re not going VOX, you need to be able to engage the push to talk (PTT) button. Some headsets have a PTT button inline with the wires, and you can position that in a good spot, usually right under your facemask on the left side so you can just reach up and yack. Otherwise place your radio in a holster off your shoulder, or in a front chest pocket. If you’re a crawler, you want to consider to. Controls need to be protected so they don’t get changed mid crawl.
Since anything you carry onto the fields of paint is in danger of being lost, you need to clearly label your radio kit so that it can be easily identified. I also place a flag of brightly colored tape on the antenna so that if I do drop it in the woods it’s much easier to spot.
If you’re psyched up to use radios, you will want to try out a few things before you even get onto the field.
All good communication skills require clear and practiced messages. Get together with your partner and make up a list of messages you would want to send to each other. Keep the messages basic, this is to get used to the idea of direct communications. Your messages need to be clear and convey the information you both need to destroy the opposition. Codes are okay for some ideas, but aren’t necessary unless you’re working the tourney angle where you’ll be shouting as well.
Some of the ideas you’d want to convey are; when you make contact or spot an enemy; when you’re taking fire from an unknown position; when you have spotted an enemy; when you’re suspicious that there’s someone ahead of you; when you see danger coming (usually in the form of a mugging or takedown). The idea is that you know what messages you may need to send to each other so sending or receiving messages is easier. Obviously the messages are dependant on the situation, but if you say Mugger your partner should react immediately to the fact that you see someone coming in to take you down. Practice using the radios and sending messages, so that you feel comfortable doing it.
You can break the field into zones if you know it well enough or use the clock method in which your teams start point is 6 o’clock and theirs is 12. This way your reference points never change and you can then give information based on more static directions. An example is “He’s at the 10 o’clock inner bunker,” means a bunker around their 30 that’s not on the tape.
On the field, break into a pattern of front man and back up. These positions should be interchangeable so that depending on who is where; you have the ability to use positional tactics to destroy the other guys. Paintball is very much about positional play so don’t ever get bogged down in static roles. Often enough your back guy will swing a flank and you’ll work in unison on busting a stronghold by coordinating cover fire to distract and engage the enemy until one of you can get into a position that either forces them into the other’s line of fire or does the backdoor boogie.
Radios won’t save you from getting shot out nor will they magically make you into a hot team, but radios are a tool that can make you a force to be reckoned with on any field.
SIDEBOX OF SAMPLE MESSAGES:
1. “No enemy in sight, moving up.” This means that the back guy has to keep his eyes open in case the front guy runs into trouble.
2. “Lay down some Cover on XXX. And I’ll move up.” With radios you can give more precise info on where you want cover fire laid down and for what duration. You can give a visual using the old Bob Long advice of shooting high to mark the tree or bunker that you need cover fire place on.
3. “Incoming!” If someone is rushing your partner, you need to warn him fast. Sometimes you’ll be in position that you can take down the rusher before you could ever warn someone, but the speed of paint is not instantaneous. Better that your partner’s gun is up and shooting.