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Air or Co2 Which is Best

As a rule, compressed air is usually better for paintball guns, but it can highlight certain problems in worn paintball guns. Before we can go into why, we need to look into the difference between compressed air and co2. Want to know more, then read on...
Have a quick watch of this video that we made a few years ago, then read on.

Ok, still here, then lets go. Which is better Co2 or compressed air for Paintball.

Co2 and air are both gases but behave very differently under pressure. Co2, when compressed turns to liquid, where air just compresses. This means that air and co2 work very differently in a paintball bottle.

You fill a Co2 bottle by decanting liquid Co2 from a large donor bottle into your paintball bottle via a fill rig. This is done by chilling the paintball bottle down to a point where the pressure in the paintball bottle is lower than the donor bottle and as long as there is a dip tube fitted into the donor bottle, then liquid co2 will flow. Chilling the paintball bottle down is easy, you pressurise the paintball bottle with the donor bottle, shut off the donor bottle, then allow the paintball bottle to vent. As the co2 vents, the bottle chills down due to the venturi effect. As the bottle gets colder, the pressure inside the bottle drops allowing liquid from the larger donor bottle to flow into the smaller paintball bottle simply from the warmer co2 pressure above the liquid forcing the liquid co2 up the dip tube in the larger donor bottle.
Once you reach the required weight, you disconnect the larger bottle. This is why co2 bottles are sold in 7oz, 9oz, 12oz and 20oz sizes. The oz refers to the amount of co2 that should be decanted into your paintball bottle.
The pressure of the co2 vapour inside your paintball bottle at ambient temperature and at sea level will be around 800psi. As you fire your gun, vapour is used to propel the paintball. As the vapour is used, liquid co2 is allowed to change into vapour and the process continues. A very practical and efficient way of doing things you would think. And it is if you were shooting 1 shot per minute but co2 has a huge down side.
As you remove the vapour that shoots the paintball, liquid co2 does indeed change to a vapour and replaces that which was used. But the liquid co2 needs energy to do this, and it takes this energy from the metal in the bottle (ie heat). As you shoot your paintball gun, the bottle starts to chill down, quite often icing up if you are really rinsing the opposition. As the bottle gets colder, the pressure of the co2 vapour decreases giving you steadily whole and lower powered shots. The pressure difference is aprox 11psi per 1 degree. So if you start at 15 degrees and shoot until the vapour in the bottle reaches -10 degrees (and it will go colder), you will loose 11 x 15 psi (165psi), about 20 %. Taking your shots down from 300 fps to around 240 fps. Clearly there is a problem.

Another downside of co2 is the fact that it does expand (Which is how it changes from a liquid to a vapour), this expansion is around 18X. So imagine you have a delicate solenoid in your electronic paintball gun and you get a drop of co2 into it, that then expands by 18 times. Boom goes the delicate solenoid and probably over £100 of your hard earned cash.

This isn't a problem with mechanical guns and it's why you will still see beginners gun packages coming with co2 bottles.

So how is compressed air different. Well, air can be compressed to an very high pressure, the pressure just gets higher and higher for our practical purposes. So where in a co2 bottle the pressure is around 800psi, you can compress air in a paintball bottle up to 4500psi. Clearly dumping 4500psi straight into your paintball gun would be a disaster, so a regulator is fitted that takes whatever the pressure is in your air bottle down to your chosen output pressure. This is usually 800psi (Paintball guns were designed to run on co2 originally so it made sense to have the output pressure of an air bottle set to 800psi). This output pressure is very constant and is not effected by temperature like co2 is. So no matter how fast you pull the trigger, you get the same velocity.

Easy, that's why most paintball guns now run on compressed air rather than co2. It should be noted that even though mechanical paintball guns can run on co2 without problem, you should not use co2 in an electronic paintball gun.
As a rule, everything can run on compressed air, but only mechanical paintball guns can run on air or co2.

If you have any questions whatsoever about air or co2, just give us a call in the shop on 01757 707701 

 

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