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Paintzapper



Joined: 09 Oct 2008
Posts: 435
Location: Central Florida

PostPosted: Mon May 26, 2014 2:59 am    Post subject: A beginners guide to CO2 and HPA. Reply with quote

"What tank should I get for paintball?" "Should I use/get a CO2 tank or HPA tank?" "What is better, CO2 or HPA?" I have been asked these questions and many others like it, and my answer has always been , "It depends on your gear and your needs." So hopefully this will help you decide what you need. If you have any questions, please ask!

This little guide to paintball tanks is intended for the beginners wanting to purchase their own gear. This information will be based upon my current views from 14+ years of being in the sport, and what is currently available for purchase at the time this is posted (May 2014).

We all need a propellant in our paintball markers/guns so we can shoot paintballs. The propellant in this case is stored gas that is under high pressure. The two most common propellants are CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) and HPA (High Pressure Air or Compressed Air). Both have advantages and disadvantages in their uses and can be stored in various sized tanks.

This article will be posted as follows so you can quickly jump to a section that sparks your interest (Ctrl+F for PC or Command+F for Mac):

CO2 (Carbon Dioxide)

---What is CO2?
---What can use CO2?
---How much are CO2 tanks and how do I refill them?
---Where can I get CO2 tanks?
---Safety concerns with CO2.

HPA (High Pressure Air or Compressed Air)

---What is HPA?
---What can use HPA?
---How much are HPA tanks and how do I refill them?
---Where can I get HPA tanks?
---Safety concerns with HPA.

Conclusion and recap

CO2 (Carbon Dioxide)

---What is CO2?

In regards to paintball, CO2 is one of the two common propellants used in paintball. CO2 at room temperature is a non-breathable gas and stored under pressure as a liquid in a tank. When this gas is released from the tank, it immediately absorbs ambient heat from the marker and its surroundings, and turns into a gas. This usually causes the tank and marker to become cold and sometimes iced over under continuous firing.

In warmer temperatures the consistency of CO2 does not vary too much as there is enough heat to convert the liquid to a gas. The downside is that if it is too hot, the CO2 may expand in the tank and start pushing out at a higher pressure, causing your velocity to be high.

Unfortunately the opposite can be said to colder environments. Under high rates of fire/continuous shooting, the velocity and consistency will start to waver and drop. This is due to the lack of heat available to turn the liquid into a gas. The best ways to prevent this is to stop shooting and let your equipment warm back up, or install an expansion chamber on your marker.

---What can use CO2

Not all markers are able to use CO2 as almost all of the high end markers have the gas running through electronic solenoids. The gas can damage or destroy the internal electronics from unstable pressure, liquid CO2 and condensation buildup.

Fortunately, almost every entry level marker on the market, new and used, can use CO2. Major manufacturers that have markers that can use CO2 are:

Tippmann / US Army: 98 Custom, A5, X7, Alpha Black, Cronus, FT-12, Gryphon, Project Salvo, TCR and TPX
Spyder / Kingman: Hammer 7, MR Series, Aggressor, Fenix, Victor and Xtra
Azodin: ATS, Blitz and Kaos
BT / Empire: BT-4, Delta, Omega and Tracer
GoG / Smart Parts: Envy, G1, eNMEy and SP1
JT: E-Icon, E-Kast, Outkast, Raider and Tactical
Tiberius: 8.1, 9.1 and 4.1

---How much are CO2 tanks and how do I fill them?

CO2 tanks, when compared to HPA tanks, are much cheaper and priced for those just starting to play. You can find them as the small 12 gram cartridges you would normally see for a pellet gun or 24 oz CO2 tanks for paintball. Here are some of the common sizes you may run across with a price range:

12 gram (one time use) - 10 pack from $6 to $7, 25 pack from $14 to $16
90 gram (one time use) - 1 pack from $9 to $12, 2 pack from $19 to $21
9 oz (refillable) - From $15 to $18
12 oz (refillable) - From $17 to $20
20 oz (refillable) - From $20 to $23
24 oz (refillable) - From $23 to $26

I have refilled many CO2 tanks and I do not recommend that anyone who is inexperienced at filling high pressure tanks fill them without training. I have had training and still have had a couple scares of my hand sticking to the tank or a burst disk blowing and filling the vicinity with CO2. So needless to say, I will not show you, train you, or encourage you to fill your own CO2 tanks. So please bring them to someone who is trained to fill the tanks for you.

If you must know to fill a CO2 tank, find a staff member at a paintball field who fills CO2 tanks show you how. This way you know you are talking to someone who can show you how fill the tanks correctly, safely and answer your questions. I only say this as I have actually seen many people fill them wrong and create unsafe conditions for themselves and those around them.

---Where can I get CO2 tanks?

CO2 tanks are easily purchased both online and in many stores. Every store that sells paintball gear that I have been to sells at least one type of refillable CO2 tank.

Your best place to purchase a CO2 tank will be at your local field or pro shop. They will be able to place an empty tank on any marker you wish to purchase to see if the size of the tank will fit you correctly and fill them on the spot. Sporting goods stores like Bass Pro, Gander Mountain and Sports Authority will have a wide selection of CO2 tanks and may have the facility’s to fill them as well. Other Stores like Wal-mart have a much more limited selection but may not be able to fill the tanks.

You can also check out major paintball retail websites like www.ANSgear.com http://www.paintball-online.com http://www.paintball-discounters.com/ and http://www.zephyrpaintball.com for almost all of your paintball tank needs.

---Safety concerns with CO2

CO2 is inherently non-flammable, non-explosive and non-corrosive, however it is also unbreathable, can cause frostbite, and unstable under heat.

CO2 tanks have a safety device called a burst disk on the valve. They normally will rupture at around 3,000psi and vent the entire contents out of the tank. If this happens, do not touch the tank with bare skin, put any of your body in the stream of cold air, or breathe in the gas. The tank will chill very quickly and frost over while it is venting, touching the tank could cause your skin to fuse to the tank the same way your tongue will stick to a frozen metal pole in the winter. I can tell you that this is not a pleasant experience and the skin may have a slight case of frostbite afterwards.

Proper storage of CO2 tanks is essential. Do not store your tanks, while under pressure, in a hot place like your attic or your car. Try not to place your tank in direct sunlight when not using them on the field. And please if the tank does rupture the burst disk, do not touch the tank, just walk away from it.

Like all high pressure tanks, they have a hydrostatic test date on them (Hydro Test Date). This is the date when it was last tested to see if it is in functional order. The date usually reads MM ^ YY and is valid up to 5 years afterwards. I do not suggest hydro testing CO2 tanks as the cost to test them cost more than a new one, and if the tank fails you are out $25-$35.

If you ever want to purchase a used CO2 tank, always check what the hydro date is on it. All the times I purchased some gear and it came with a CO2 tank, it was expired and I just tossed them.

HPA (High Pressure Air or Compressed Air)

---What is HPA?

HPA is compressed breathable air, just like what you would find in a scuba tank. The air is stored under pressure and regulated by a regulator to a chosen psi. The common output for most tanks are at 850psi as this is the common requirement for most paintball markers. You can also find other tanks with a preset of 450psi and tanks with adjustable outputs from next to nothing to ~1200psi.
Because compressed air is stored as air, there is very little fluxuation due to temperature. This gives a reliable and consistent output of pressure, giving you better velocity consistency.

---What can use HPA?

Every marker on the market can use the compressed air tanks with the exception of the Tippmann C3 as it uses propane (the C3 is no longer sold) and any markers that can only use the 12 gram CO2 cartridges.

---How much are HPA tanks and how do I refill them?

HPA tanks come in three different versions and can fit most budgets. Each version is at a different price point and are made from steel and carbon fiber. When looking at different size tanks usually they are shown as volume size and max pressure. For example, a 48 cubic inch tank that can hold 3000psi is designated as a 48ci 3000psi tank. Other formats commonly used would be 48/3000 or 48/3k. Keep in mind the more volume and higher pressure will give you more shots per tank.

>>Steel tanks are just that, solid metal and no carbon fiber. These tanks have a max capacity of 3000 psi and are heavier than the carbon fiber counterparts. The different sizes and price ranges are as follows:

13/3000 - This is intended for pump markers, not recommended for semi/full auto $54 to $85
47/3000 and 48/3000 - $40 to $50

>>Carbon fiber tanks can be found in 4500psi and 3000psi, with 4500psi being the most common and desired pressure. The tanks come in different materials and different quality regulators. For the following price ranges, I will only give the basic versions of each tank:

45/4500 - $110 to $165
68/4500 - $115 to $170
90?4500 - $165 to $180

Filling HPA tanks is fast, easy and relatively safe. The only major concern is to make sure the max output of the fill station does not exceed your tanks max pressure. So never fill a 3000psi tank with a 4500psi fill station.

The fill process is simple, on the side of the tank regulator, there is a fill nipple that sticks out the side. The fill stations at the fields will normally have a hose to connect to your tank. They usually have a locking mechanism that you pull back, slide the hose connector over the fill nipple and release the locking mechanism. Make sure the hose is locked in place, then press the fill lever. Once you have reached the max pressure, release the fill lever and detach the hose. If this is your first time filling the tank, ask someone to give you assistance.

---Where can I get HPA tanks?

HPA tanks are easily purchased both online and in many stores. Every major store that sells paintball gear that I have been to at least sells the steel tanks.

Your best place to purchase a HPA tank will be at your local field or pro shop. They will be able to place an empty tank on any marker you wish to purchase to see if the size of the tank will fit you correctly and fill them on the spot. Sporting goods stores like Bass Pro, Gander Mountain and Sports Authority will have a small selection of HPA tanks but cannot fill them for you. Other Stores like Wal-mart may have the steel tanks depending on your location but will not be able to fill them.

You can also check out major paintball retail websites like www.ANSgear.com http://www.paintball-online.com http://www.paintball-discounters.com/ and http://www.zephyrpaintball.com for almost all of your paintball tank needs.

---Safety concerns with HPA.

These tanks are normally very safe, but you do have to keep in mind that the tanks are holding a tremendous amount of pressure. As long as you keep a tank cover on the tank during play and keep it within the hydro date you are good.

Like all high pressure tanks, they have a hydrostatic test date on them (Hydro Test Date). This is the date when it was last tested to see if it is in functional order. The date usually reads MM ^ YY and is valid up to 5 years afterwards. It is normal to hydro test HPA tanks as they cost more than the test and they have a higher chance to pass than CO2. Usually you can test the tanks up to 15 years after it was made before it has to be retired.

I have seen videos of people who have improperly replaced a regulator without any lock tight and the regulator comes flying out and hitting someone. I have also seen tanks after lots of abuse break at the tanks neck and come flying off. I have also heard of stories where someone has had a carbon wrapped tank start unraveling due to a deep gash in the tank and fail. These are very very very far and few in between and have never known anyone to have this happen to them. Under normal play you should have no problems.

Conclusion and recap

Basically, for any beginner that wants a cost effective tank and is using a standard blowback marker like a Tippmann or Spyder, CO2 will do the job and they will still have a great time. They just need to keep in mind the temperature can play a factor in how well their marker will operate. If it is too cold out, the marker will be less consistent and shoot at a lower velocity. If it is too hot, you have the chance of shooting to high and may cause the tank to rupture the burst disk and dump all the air in the tank.

For HPA, the tanks are more expensive, but the pressure will have a higher consistency at varying temperatures and is easier to fill.

Any questions go ahead and ask!

Special thanks to DaveA and Pigtech for some of their knowlage, as it helped create this post.
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