WHAT IS THE SPORT OF GEL BALL?

Sometimes also referred to as Gelsoft, Gel Ball is a sport similar to Paintball and Airsoft, however much safer and cheaper than Paintball. In Gel Ball, game participants compete against each other or towards set objectives and use gel blasters that shoot gel balls.

The gel balls shot by gel blasters are also commonly known as orbeez or silica beads. Gel balls range in size between 1-2 millimetres and are required to be placed in water to hydrate in order to reach their useful size of 7-8 millimetres. Once they reach their full size they weigh on average 0.2 grams, similar to Airsoft BBs and have different hardness levels, depending on the manufacturer. Due to their great water absorption and release capacity, gel balls of greater size are commonly used to water pot plants.

HISTORY OF THE SPORT OF GEL BALL

Gel Ball, as a sport, originated around 2015 in China as an alternative to Airsoft, which was not allowed. Gel Ball was permitted as the projectiles were soft and broke on impact, in comparison to plastic Airsoft BBs. The sport developed from the use of gel blasters, sold as children’s toys, into a competitive sport with numerous players attending organised events.

In Australia, Gel Ball only saw a real growth after 2017, following a court case in Queensland against the Australian Border Force for classifying gel blasters as firearms. The judge decided gel blasters are toys, regardless of a firearm appearance or not, based on the soft projectiles they shot not meeting the definition of a firearm.

The court case established the legality of Gel Ball in Queensland and the sport grew to an unprecedented scale with fields and vendors establishing businesses. As it were to be expected, Queensland vendors sold gel blaster outside of their State, to States and Territories with less permissive legal frameworks, thus promoting Gel Ball all over Australia.

GEL BLASTERS

Gel blasters, of firearm appearance or not, have generally copied the appearance and functioning of Airsoft devices. Most gel blasters are electric and use a a motor to wind back a piston against a spring, which when released pressurises air in a piston and later propels the gel ball down the barrel. A device called a “hop up” is commonly placed at the end of the barrel in order to provide backspin on the gel ball and thus travels further and more accurate.

Gel blaster pistols are also available which are either electric, powered by compressed gas or 12g CO2 cartridges.

The most common material of construction is nylon / plastic and in the case when metal external or internals are used, they are usually made of low quality aluminium or metal alloys. The possibility of converting a gel blaster to fire real ammunition is virtually nil as the effort required is grossly disproportionate to using plumbing components or similar to achieve the same result.

WHY WE ENJOY GEL BALL?

Mateship (our Australian pride)

We often hear stories and see hero and team based action movies portraying acts of valour and sacrifice, friendships beyond words, teamwork, suspense, courage and fear. We wish to experience all of these feelings in a safe environment and this is what Gel Ball re-enactments / skirmish games offer us.

Physical exercise

The sport of Gel Ball is a very enjoyable outdoor activity with friends, requiring good stamina and endurance. The sport provides for full body workout: running, crawling, kneeling, jumping, etc. The usual games go on for 3-4 hours and large events go on for several days. The weight of the average Gel Ball kit carried by a player is around 5-10 kilograms.

Stress relief

Complete detachment from reality and everyday worries coupled with outdoor physical activity surrounded by friends and family.

Safer, Cheaper and more Convenient than Paintball

  • Safer: the energy of a shooting gel ball is 10 times lower than a shooting paintball (average of 1.3 Joules). This is equivalent to dropping 5 x 50 cent coins from a height of 2 meters vs. dropping a metal bocce ball from the same height;
  • Cheaper: about 3.5-4 times cheaper, mostly due to the lower cost of gel balls;
  • More convenient: no attached air tank, no magazine on top, smaller size of gels, etc.

Cosplay, Escapism and LARP

  • Cosplay: the activity or practice of dressing up as a character from a work of fiction;
  • Escapism: habitual diversion of the mind to purely imaginative activity or entertainment as an escape from reality or routine;
  • LARP (live-action role-playing): a type of game where a group of people wear costumes representing a character they create to participate in an agreed fantasy world.

Tinkering

Gel Blasters are complex, encompassing mechanical, electrical, pneumatic and electronic components.

Repairing and tuning them can be challenging, rewarding and great fun.

WESTERN AUSTRALIAN LEGAL STATUS

WA Police does not classify gel blasters as firearms!

For a long time there has been anecdotal stories of WA Police stopping cars of gel ball players and after seeing the gel blasters, allowed them to proceed. On the other hand, the Minister for Police and the Firearms Branch of WA Police continued on classifying them as firearms and / or not classifying them as firearms.

In order to clarify the legal situation and allow the sport of Gel Ball to grow in Western Australia, the Club has contracted professional legal advice regarding gel blasters. The legal advice received can be downloaded here. In case of need, we encourage you to seek your own legal advice as your situation may differ. Furthermore, the summary presented below is an interpretation of the advice received and we recommend reading the advice received by the Club in full.

In summary we found out the following:

  1. Gel blasters are not classified as firearms under the Firearms Act 1973;
  2. Gel blasters are however classified as Controlled Weapons (i.e. imitation firearms) under the Weapons Act 1999, if they resemble in appearance a firearm (most of them do);
  3. A lawful excuse is required in order to legally own Controlled Weapons;
  4. In the case of a gel blasters, being a member of a club such as ours should satisfy the “lawful excuse” requirement in a court of law;
  5. Possession and sale of Gel Blasters to persons under the age of 18 represents an offence under the Weapons Act 1999;
  6. Persons under the age of 18 can however use gel blasters supplied to them during organised games;
  7. There are no further restrictions for retailers, game organisers and field owners, except for the sale and supply of gel blasters to persons below the age of 18, as presented above;

Regarding importation into Australia,

  1. Gel blasters are not classified as firearms under the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations 1956;
  2. Depending on appearance, gel blasters may be classified as imitation firearms and be controlled for importation. In this case a B709 importation application from WA Police would likely be required in order to import them;
  3. Gel blaster parts may be a controlled importation item, based on their cross-compatibility with Airsoft, however gel balls are not controlled importation items.

Offences under the Weapons Act 1999

The following actions carry an maximum offence penalty of imprisonment for 2 years and a fine of $24 000:

  1. Carrying or possessing a gel blaster without a “lawful excuse” (e.g. being a member of a gel ball club);
  2. Carrying or possessing a gel blaster in a manner that could reasonably be expected to cause someone — (a) to be injured or disabled; or (b) to fear that someone will be injured or disabled;
  3. Selling a gel blaster to a child under the age of 18;
  4. Supplying a a gel blaster to a child under the age of 18, with the following exemptions:
    • the child has a “lawful excuse”, as indicated in bullet 1; or
    • it is supplied to commit lawful acts in the course of a sporting or recreational activity.

Updated 29 November 2020