There are two main types of paintball tanks, namely carbon dioxide (c02) tanks and compressed air tanks. Compressed air tanks are also known as HPA (High Pressure Air) tanks or nitro (nitrogen) tanks.
It is very important to note that you must not mix gases in tanks. Only use the gas which the tank is manufactured for! This means that if you are using a c02 tank, only fill it with carbon dioxide gas and nothing else.
Compressed air tanks can be filled with compressed air (from a compressor used to fill a scuba tank) or nitrogen gas. This is a little strange but true since the properties of compressed air and nitrogen are similar. The regulators on the compressed air tanks can handle both compressed air and/or nitrogen. Do note that It is always safer to empty the tank before you fill it with a different gas (this only applies to HPA tanks)
Back to carbon dioxide tanks. They are used in many fields throughout the world due to the fact that the tanks are cheap to purchase and carbon dioxide is cheap to buy. You do not need a compressor, fill panel and expensive hpa tanks. Of course there are benefits to using compressed air tanks but let us first discuss carbon dioxide tanks.
C02 tanks come in all sorts of sizes: 9oz, 12oz, 16oz and 20oz being the largest. Anything too big and it gets too heavy once it is filled and attached to the paintball gun. The tanks come with either a pin valve or an on/off valve. So the sizes of the tanks dictates the amount of c02 liquid that you can fill into the tank. This is important because c02 liquid and gas expands as temperatures get hotter. Too much c02 gas in the tank and the internal pressure will build up. Luckily there is a little nut on the side of the valve which is usually rated at 1800 psi and will blow if the pressure goes past that. This little nut is called a burst disk. This is imperative to safety otherwise the tank would explode due to too great a pressure and could result in death. How the burst disk works is that it has a copper plate which has been pressure tested to burst at a given pressure. If it does burst, all the gas will escape removing the build up of pressure so that the whole tank does not burst. All one needs to do is to change the burst disk and you are back in business.
The problem with using c02 tanks is that c02 gas and liquid eats up o-rings and the internals of the paintball gun as the gas is cold and liquid. The actual c02 gas and liquid goes through the marker. That is why you cannot use a c02 gas tank on a high-end electronic paintball marker as the c02 gas would destroy the electronic solenoid. There are a few electronic paintball guns that can use c02 gas such as all the Tippmanns, BTs, Kingman and Azodin guns. There is a whole different article to discuss the pressures and macro lines used for different paintball guns and tanks used.
So back to c02. Price is the major factor for fields to use c02 tanks. The tanks themselves are cheap to buy and the c02 gas is cheap to purchase as well. When there is a big field that has a lot of players to cater to, they want to try to keep equipment purchases low as well as recurring costs low. This can be achieved with c02.
Compressed or hpa tanks is the best tank to use on any paintball gun because compressed air or even nitrogen (a hpa tank can be filled with either gas safely) is an inert and stable gas. These gases do not harm the internals of the paintball gun and the velocity would not change as the gases do not expand in hot weather or rapid fire shooting.
HPA tanks are customizable in a sense that you can choose a low pressure output or a high pressure output regulator which is best suited to your paintball gun. Some guns require a low pressure output (Angel) while most work fine on high pressure output (which is 800psi output). HPA tanks also come in carbon fibre which are significantly lighter and you fill these tanks with a fill panel or direct from a scuba tank. HPA tanks are must easier to fill because there is a gauge on the regulator to show you how much gas is in the tank. Again this is attributed to the properties of the gas. Because it is a stable and inert gas which does not expand, a gauge can be put on. With c02 as it is not stable and will expand with heat and cool with rapid shooting, the gas is all over the place, thus a gauge would be fruitless as the it woud not be accurate at all.
HPA tanks that come in aluminium usually hold 3000psi pressure and the lighter carbon fibre tanks can hold up with 5000psi in pressure with the most common being 4500psi.
There are many fields today that choose to use hpa tanks instead of c02 tanks because it results in less maintenance, less wear and tear and also more shots can be fired, which means less time filling up. Just a quick comparison, a 12oz c02 tank can be used to fire around 800 rounds whilst a 46 cu 3000 psi hpa tank could easily fire 1800 shots.
Initial investment cost is higher with hpa tanks but pays off in the long run. So by now you should be able to understand some differences of the types of paintball tanks out there.
Check us out for more articles on paintball tanks and regulators soon!