Compressed Air Tanks: A Beginner's Guide
Before you purchase a paintball gun, you’ll want to research and decide which type of air system you’ll use to power the gun. In addition to learning the two main air systems that paintball guns use, you’ll also want to consider cost, both short-term and in the long run, as well as durability and maintenance.
An Overview of Paintball Air Systems
Paintball air systems are either fueled by CO2 or compressed air.
Compressed Air VS CO2
For new players, using CO2 can be one of the easiest ways to get out on the field and start playing. You simply load the CO2 capsule, or cartridge, in and once it’s pierced, you can begin gameplay. There are many sizes of CO2 cartridges available, from small 12-gram cartridges used in many paintball pistols to the standard 24-ounce refillable tank.
Whereas CO2 paintball guns are cheaper to run, a paintball compressed air tank is often the preferred way to go for seasoned paintball players. The paintball compressed air tank stores compressed air to meter out via the regulator so that each shot can be consistent and less affected by temperature differences. At the same time, paintball compressed air tanks can wear a bit more on the internal components as they are under higher pressures.
Paintball compressed air tanks are typically either rated for 3,000 PSI or 4,500 PSI. These ratings describe the pressure capacity, meaning you can have a certain amount of air pressure for that rating. It does not describe how much air flows out of the regulator once the valve is activated.
Choosing a paintball gun that runs 3,000 PSI of compressed air should get you quite a few shots in terms of overall efficiency. However, the higher pressure of 4,500 PSI is really where efficiency spikes. At the same time, you should consider the compressed air tank size. Does the size allow you to put it on a backpack and carry it around, or are you having to heft it up onto your shoulder each time you play? Efficiency in terms of size and weight is crucial as well.
Regulators & Adaptors
Many paintball compressed air adapters are hidden within the grip for a better overall appearance. This can also help protect them during gameplay as well as in storage. The adapter itself allows for air to flow between the regulator and the air tank during filling, especially when those fill points are different. Regulators, on the other hand, act as a gauge to indicate how much pressure (PSI) sits within the paintball compressed air tank. As you use your paintball gun, the pressure will drop and so will the regulator needle.
Most paintball compressed air tanks are made from durable aluminum that is wrapped in carbon fiber, which helps the metal to stay firm and gives it an aesthetic flare.
Paintball Air Tank Maintenance
Because paintball compressed air tanks hold compressed air, proper maintenance is an issue of safety. Failure to safely maintain your compressed air bottle can cause destructive failure at any given moment. Most paintball compressed air tanks are filled with an air source adapter (ASA) fitting. External threads can be found on one end, while internal threads on the other are accompanied by an airproof rubber o-ring. These fittings allow the tank to be safely and quickly filled and emptied for maintenance purposes.
Refilling a tank can be done way before it reaches “0” on the regulator's face. In fact, topping off your paintball compressed air tank is often easier to do than draining it to empty and then refilling it.
To refill your paintball compressed air tank, simply connect the air source (such as a fill station) securely to your gun’s fill nipple. Activate the fill lever to allow flow between the fill source and your compressed air tank. Once the pressure has equalized, the actuator level should be shut off. The paintball compressed air tank can be disconnected, most often with a loud hiss.
Emptying your compressed air tank can, in some cases, be more dangerous than filling it. You won’t be able to unscrew the regulator from the bottle of compressed air (and you shouldn’t try).
Instead, you can simply actuate the trigger until all the compressed air has left the tank. If you no longer have it connected to a paintball gun, you can take the compressed air tank and carefully depress the fill nozzle. This will allow a small amount of air to escape, but it requires constant pressure to release. Don’t press too hard, or you could release way more air than you meant to. It could also potentially cause harm depending on how quickly you release the air.
Best 3 Paintball Air Tanks for Beginners
Our top three paintball compressed air tanks for beginners include the HK Army Aluminum Tank, the Ninja Lite Air Tank, and finally, the Empire Mega Lite Air Tank.
1. HK Army Aluminum 48/3000
For a small investment, you can use compressed air in your paintball gun, which is why we’ve chosen the HK Army Aluminum 48/3000 Air Tank. This air tank can be filled to 3,000 PSI, making it an entry-level option for those of you still new to paintball and/or compressed air.
This tank features a black air tank rated to an output of 800 PSI. This is plenty of power for most of your beginner paintball guns, especially when you consider you’re likely to get at least 10 shots per cubic inch from this tank. The tank also comes with a fill level gauge and fill nipple.
2. Ninja Lite Air Tanks
The Ninja brand is well known in the compressed air world, especially when it comes to customization. You can purchase any number of Ninja Lite air tanks in various colors, from a deep red in carbon fiber to a metallic blue aluminum finish.
Ninja paintball compressed air tanks are made in the USA and feature a carbon fiber finish that looks as good as it performs.
3. Empire Mega Lite Air Tank
You can also purchase the Empire Mega Lite Air Tank in many colors. This bottle reaches up to 4,500 PSI and has a 5-year retest cycle, meaning you’ll only have to get it hydrotested every 5 years. The aircraft-grade aluminum regulator puts out 800 PSI and is sure to be dependable for you for years to come.