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Paintball - Making CO2 Work For You

Updated on February 9, 2012
Not as bad as you think!
Not as bad as you think!

CO2 Woes Got You Down?

Probably the most popular gas propellant in paintball is CO2. Most players start with it, some even continue to use it, and many pump players use it. And yet, so many players will tell you, "co2 sucks!" or "compressed air is better!" or "co2 will destroy your marker!" yada yada.

So does it suck? Will it destroy your marker? Is compressed air better? The answer to all those is yes...

... and no.

Yes... AND No?

Co2 tank fills are mostly liquid co2, measured in ounces. It's how airsmiths know when co2 tanks are full, by weighing them. The liquid converts to gas, and the gas is what operates the paintball marker's pneumatic parts, and the pressure created by the gas also propels the paintball.

But sometimes, this liquid doesn't stay put. Doesn't wait to convert to gas. That's when things go haywire. Liquid co2 seeps into the gun, gives o-rings frostbite, makes the gun all cold, spikes pressures which then spike velocities which can break paintballs inside the gun, and makes your gun look like a snowmaker every time you shoot.

There are ways to prevent this, thank jinkee.

My best drawing of an anti-siphoned co2 tank.
My best drawing of an anti-siphoned co2 tank.

Gas Only, Please!

There are two ways that greatly aid in keeping that pesky juvenile liquid where it belongs, until it's mature enough to enter the marker as gas. These two ways are an either/or thing, it is extremely bad to do both, and you'll see why.

  • Anti-Siphon: anti-siphoning a tank means installing a curved brass tube on the inside of the tank, attached to the tank valve (installed by a certified airsmith, of course). It acts like a snorkel, basically. Very effective, and i recommend this to a lot of players. Now there is one drawback - the install job must be done for specific asa's (air source adaptors), the part of the gun the tank screws into. The reason is, when the tank screws in, the curved end of the anti-siphon tube must be oriented facing upward, or else the tube will end up acting like a straw (or siphon) instead, sucking up only liquid.
  • Remote Line: or coil. Some players don't like their tank attached to the gun; either it's too heavy or it's in the way. So they do something about it - run a hose from the gun to the tank, and place the tank vertically in a pouch or pocket. The tank sitting vertically means all the liquid stays at the bottom with the help of gravity, so just gas travels up and through the remote line. Notice that i mentioned the tank sits vertically? Exactly the reason why anti-siphoned tanks cannot be used with remote lines - the tank sitting upright is gonna turn the anti-siphon tube into a straw.

Many of you may notice that the foregrip on some markers is referred to as an "expansion chamber." Those particular foregrips are hollow, providing an empty space. That empty space provides a second chance for any mischievous liquid co2 to convert to gas, before entering the marker. I'm not a firm believer of expansion chambers (also called x-chambers), as there isn't a whole lot of space to do what is advertised, and an anti-siphoned tank really does do its job well enough to not need those. There are aftermarket x-chambers, but it seems that less & less manufacturers are making them, and thank goodness. On a side note, remote lines act like x-chambers, too, as those long hoses also give any liquid co2 the time it needs to convert.

Don't Hate - Regulate

Now that you've discovered a solution to the liquid co2 problem, let's talk about the consistency & efficiency of co2 - or it's lack of both.

Co2 is kind of volatile, kind of unpredictable. It has certain pressure variants, but ambient temperature can affect it (hot days can make it expand too fast, cold days can make it expand too slow), how fast you shoot can affect it (may not convert or expand fast enough for you, you speedy-fingered devil), etc. So the solution to this is simple - regulate!

Regulators (or regs) do just as their name implies - regulate the use of a gas. Their internal assemblies are adjustable, usually via an external screw or knob, to only allow a specific amount of gas pressure to enter the marker. This provides for a very consistent, and thus efficient, use of gas. Probably one of the most highly recommended upgrades for any marker that doesn't already have one.

There are quite a lot available, but not all can handle co2 (primarily, their ability to tolerate liquid co2 & the pressure fluctuations co2 experiences). WGP (Worr Game Products) makes regs that can (since they've been making markers since co2 was the only gas source), but probably the most famous regulator for co2 use is the Stabilizer, made by PPS (Palmer's Pursuit Shop). Not the cheapest regulator, but if you want or need to run co2, that is the best you can get.


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