CO2 and HPA Paintball Tanks
One of the most commonly asked questions we get in paintball is “What is the difference between CO2 and high pressure air (HPA) tanks and which is better?” Or “Do you fill CO2 or HPA tanks?“. Vintage Paintball does NOT fill CO2 tanks. In fact, CO2 tanks have not been used in paintball for almost a decade! To top that off there aren’t any paintball stores or paintball parks that currently fill CO2 near the Twin Cities, Minnesota or Wisconsin! Don’t let that Amazon package fool you! You need a high pressure paintball air tank to power your paintball gun and of course we fill those! We recommend looking at your local paintball store’s online store or stopping by your local paintball store during business hours to have an associate educate you! We always stock the latest and greatest high pressure paintball air tanks including: Tippmann, Ninja Paintball, and even Powerhouse!
What Is CO2?
When paintball first started, all paintball guns used CO2 as a propellant. CO2 is a gas at room temperature; however, when compressed & stored in a paintball tank, it becomes liquid and must expand into gas to fire the paintball through the paintball barrel. When liquid CO2 expands into a gaseous form, it creates pressure; this pressure is what shoots the paintball. The reason why CO2 was initially used for paintball was because of its density – CO2 is much denser than compressed air. This is the reason CO2 paintball tanks are only rated to 850 psi, while compressed air tanks are rated to either 3000 or 4500 psi – more air is needed to move the paintball at the required speed (280 fps). Therefore, a higher pressure tank is required to deliver the same number of shots. Paintball markers that use compressed air use a secondary regulator to drop the pressure down to the gun’s working pressure – CO2 does not need this. CO2 is typically used for lower-end mechanical paintball markers, as CO2 can cause electronic components to wear prematurely. You should refer to the owner’s manual for your paintball marker to check if it is CO2 compatible or requires the use of compressed air. If your marker uses a battery, it probably requires compressed air.
One issue with CO2 is that you can’t easily tell how much is left in the tank during a paintball game. With HPA you can tell when you’re running out of air using a pressure gauge, as the tank pressure will drop as the air runs out. As CO2 is liquid in the tank, the pressure will stay constant until all the liquid has gone. The weight of the CO2 in the tank will decrease as it runs out, but the effect is not significant enough to notice without removing and weighing the tank – obviously not ideal if you’re under heavy fire in the middle of a game!
Whether you use CO2 or HPA doesn’t affect your hopper; so if you have an paintball electric hopper, it will not be affected by which air system you choose.
Types Of Paintball CO2 Tanks
There are two types of paintball CO2 containers commonly used in paintball: 12-gram disposable (non-refillable) CO2 cartridges and refillable CO2 tanks or cylinders. Disposable cartridges are typically used in low-end paintball guns and paintball pistols or old school brass paintball guns. Refillable CO2 tanks are made of aluminum & are filled until they reach a prescribed weight (rather than a cut-off pressure). CO2 containers are available in various sizes, typically 9, 12, 16, 20, and 24oz (20oz being the most common size). The numerical values of a refillable CO2 tank tell you the liquid capacity of the tank (as the CO2 inside will be liquid). A 20oz tank offers a good balance between capacity and size/weight of the tank for most situations.
Pros of Paintball CO2 Tank
- Low initial cost
- Smaller & lighter than HPA for the same number of shots
- Works well with lower-end markers, suitable for beginners
Cons of Paintball CO2 Tank
- Difficult to find places to fill your paintball CO2 tank
- CO2 becomes very cold when it expands to a gas
- Liquid CO2 can escape into the marker, causing problems
- Inconsistent performance, particularly on cold days
- CO2 tanks can’t be partially refilled, so no in-game top-ups
- Can damage electronic components and marker seals
- No reliable in-game way to tell how much CO2 is left in the tank
What Is High Pressure Air (HPA)?
Compressed air is simply air from the atmosphere, compressed & forced into a container. The more the air is compressed, the more air can fit inside the container. HPA paintball tanks are pressurized up to the tank rating of 3000 psi or 4500 psi. The HPA regulator then brings down the pressure to the marker’s working pressure of either 800 psi or 550 psi. HPA remains in its gaseous state when compressed, avoiding many of the issues related to gas/liquid phase change. Most markers use the standard 800 psi output pressure. Which comes standard on Ninja Paintball Tanks.
Types Of HPA Air Tanks
HPA air tanks are available in two types: aluminum and fiber-wrapped.
- HPA aluminum paintball tanks are rated up to 3000 psi. They are smaller and less expensive but weigh much more than fiber-wrapped tanks.
- HPA Fiber-wrapped paintball tanks are rated to 4500 psi and cost more and have more volume, but are much lighter than aluminum paintball tanks.
HPA air tanks are described by their manufacturers as a size and a rating: for example, if the paintball tank rating is 48/3000, that means 48 cubic inches (ci), and safe to fill up to 3000 psi. The most common HPA paintball tank sizes are: Ninja 48/3000 for beginners or entry level markers. If your a regular player with mid to high end paintball guns and gear we recommend a Ninja 68/4500 HPA tank. If you are trying to play competitive paintball and are playing with pro level paintball gear we would recommend a Ninja SL2 PRO 77/4500! Keep in mind you get what you pay for with paintball air tanks. Ninja Paintball is the only air system made in America!
Pros Of Compressed Air
- Free air fills when you pay for your admission!
- Consistent pressure – rapid firing or cold weather barely make a difference
- Can be filled at the field between games
- No risk of liquid leaking into the marker
- Less damaging to marker seals & components
- Required by most high-end or electro-pneumatic markers
- You can check how much air you have left using a pressure gauge
Cons Of Compressed Air
- Initial cost
- Fill only at the Paintball Park
Which Is Best?
Short answer. HPA by a country mile. It is easier on the paintball gun internals and offers more reliability. It will also allow the paintball player to play in any weather and with any firing frequency. A HPA tank is an investment that can be transferred to any marker you upgrade to if you decide to swap your entry-level marker for a better performer. Note that some markers required compressed air – in general, most electronic paintball guns should use compressed air, and most mechanical guns can use either HPA or CO2.
Paintball Air Tank Frequently Asked Questions
Can you fill a paintball CO2 tank with compressed air?
Short answer: No. CO2 tanks are rated to a much lower pressure than compressed air tanks. If you fill a CO2 tank with HPA to the CO2 tank’s limit of 850psi, you won’t even have 1 hopper’s worth of propellant. If you attempt to fill a C02 tank to the pressure 3000psi or 4500 psi HPA tanks are filled you will likely be severely injured. Please do not try this.
Filling My Paintball Air Tank
All paintball air tanks, regardless of the type of system, must be shipped empty. If you are traveling to play paintball on a airplane you must remove your regulator for TSA. Please note this can only be done by a certified air smith.
CO2 tanks can only be filled by a qualified operator. The larger liquid CO2 tanks used to refill your tank are dangerous if mishandled. Also, it’s essential to empty your CO2 tank before refilling. Your CO2 tanks will be weighed before and after, to measure the amount a CO2 tank has been filled.
Filling a compressed air tank at the paintball field is quite safe and straightforward – just make sure the filling station you use is the correct one for your tank rating (3000 psi or 4500 psi). If you’re not sure what to do, just ask at the paintball park, there will always be someone to help.
Never fill a 3000psi compressed air tank above 3000 psi. Be sure to use the appropriate filling station when filling a 3000psi tank. It is clearly labeled at Vintage Paintball Park. We cannot speak for the other paintball parks in Minnesota or Wisconsin.
4500psi can be filled at the 3000 psi filling station, but the tank will not be fully pressurized.
All tanks must be regularly tested (check the hydro date stamped or printed on your tank). Most tanks need to be tested every five years. Contact Ninja Paintball for all your hydro testing needs.
Domestic or tire shop air compressors can’t deliver air at a high enough pressure to fill a 3000psi, or 4500 psi compressed air tank (typically they top out around 180psi). One popular way to get around this limitation is to use a scuba tank. You can buy a scuba tank adaptor for this purpose.