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Paintball Air Tanks - Choosing CO2 vs HPA

Posted by Will M. on 2/14/2014

Choosing the right air source for your paintball gun is important. Your two main choices are CO2 or High Pressure Air (HPA), also known as Compressed Air. In many cases, you will have no choice between the two air sources, because many electronically-triggered paintball guns require the use of HPA and will not work with CO2. Where a choice exists, primarily with mechanically-triggered paintball guns like the popular Tippmann A5, Sierra One, or Bravo One, the decision can be confusing for the new player, but read below to find the difference between the two air sources, and why HPA may be the best choice for you.

CO2, or Carbon Dioxide, is a common air source used to power some paintball guns. CO2 is compatible with blow-back style mechanical paintball guns, and is slowly falling out of favour as more paintball guns are becoming electronically-triggered, and are not designed to be compatible with CO2.

CO2 is an unregulated air source, and is filled in liquid form. An unregulated air source is one in which the pressure of the gas is not regulated using mechanical means. The pressure in your CO2 tank in determined by the amount of CO2 that is in the tank and the temperature of the tank and its contents. When your tank is full, there is ample pressure to fire your paintball gun, and when you shoot your gun from a full tank, you will notice your shots travel further. As you play, you will likely notice that your paintballs aren't flying quite as far as your first shots. This is due to the way CO2 expands from its liquid form to its gas form in an unregulated environment. Essentially, all other things being equal, the less CO2 in your tank, the less pressure you have to fire your paintball gun. 

The major difference between a CO2 tank and an HPA tank can be seen physically. Immediately, you can see that an HPA tank has a regulator with a gauge on it. The gauge will allow you to see how much air you have left in your tank, and the regulator controls the pressure of the air delivered to your paintball gun, giving you a consistent amount of air at the output pressure, resulting in superior accuracy and performance out of your gun.

Cold CO2 being shot through a paintball gun can cause unreliable velocity spikes, and even freeze-up the internals. Cold CO2 can also be seen as the plume of "smoke" at the tip of the barrel.
The weather in Canada often has a negative effect on the performance of CO2 powered guns. As it gets colder outside, the liquid CO2 in your tank is unable to expand into gas rapidly. This increases the risk of getting liquid CO2 into your paintball gun, which can cause your velocity to spike uncontrollably, and can in some cases, even damage your paintball gun's internal parts. Your paintball gun may also struggle to fire properly, leaving you woefully unable to shoot back at your opponents. HPA, on the other hand, remains unaffected by temperature fluctuations, because the pressure output from the tank is controlled by the tank's regulator, giving you better all-round performance.

When choosing a tank, it is also important to keep in mind the cost of re-filling your tank. The majority of paintball fields will always charge you for CO2 fills, since they have to purchase CO2 from an outside company. Many paintball fields have a powerful compressor on hand, allowing them to compress their own air. This often translates into free HPA fills for anyone who is playing at the field.

Which is the best for you? Badlands always recommends HPA to our customers. Initially, an HPA tank will be more expensive to purchase, but as you play paintball, the HPA tank will prove to be a much better investment. Check out the numbers below to see why:

20OZ CO2

48/3000 HPA Tank

Cost of Tank



Cost per Fill



Total after 5 Fills



Total After 10 Fills



Total After 15 Fills



 *Prices may vary from field to field. Please contact your field for their CO2 and HPA fill rates.

You can quickly see how cost of refilling a CO2 tank makes it the overall more expensive option. The HPA tank may be more expensive to initially purchase, but it quickly becomes the economical choice as you play.

To view all of our tank sizes and order your own tank, head over to our Paintball Air Tanks section here.

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