As a teenager, Richard Shepler loved to play paintball in the woods near his Bel Air home.
The game, where players fire balls of paint from compressed-air guns to eliminate opponents, is a “pure adrenaline rush,” Shepler says.
“The draw is you get to shoot somebody and not go to jail,” Shepler says. “And it’s a great team-building sport. If you don’t work together, you usually don’t win.”
As his experience level and passion for the hobby grew, so did his equipment: Paintball guns, paint capsules, loaders to store the capsules, goggles, jerseys and masks.
That’s why in 2011, Shepler, a former Department of Defense contractor, and his wife, Maggie, decided to open their own paintball supply and service store.
Pandemic Outfitters, formerly known as Paintball Pandemic, in Bel Air sells everything beginner and experienced paintball enthusiasts need to play the competitive game.
Essential items, including the gun, loader, air source and mask, can cost anywhere from $150 to $2,500.
“It can be very expensive if you can’t resist the urge to buy something fancy,” says Shepler, who now lives in Aberdeen. “But it can (also) be affordable.”
In addition to being a paintball supplier, Shepler is a certified “Master Airsmith” from the Tennessee-based Paintball Training Institute, meaning he can repair the paintball guns he sells if needed.
“Our goal is to get more people in paintball and support the customers that already exist,” he says.
Most of Shepler’s paintball customers are boys and men between the ages of 10 and 40. While his customers are loyal, Shepler says he needed to expand the business to survive. This year, he added camping and survival equipment, such as knives, tarps and cooking ware, and parts and accessories for firearms to the shop’s inventory.