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Can You Use Oxygen for Paintball?

If you own a paintball gun, chances are you’ve experienced running out of gas in your tank at least once.

Whether you’re planning to DIY your refill or visit a shop to buy a new tank, you must know which type of gas you’re going to use.

cannot use pure oxygen for paintball

All paintball guns use CO2 or compressed air as propellants for paint. You cannot use highly reactive elements such as pure oxygen for paintball.

In this article, you’ll learn about the following:

  • Why oxygen is dangerous for paintball
  • What types of gas are used for paintball
  • How to refill a CO2 paintball tank
  • How to refill a compressed air tank
A family playing laser tag

Why Isn’t Oxygen Used for Paintball?

oxygen tanksAs mentioned earlier, oxygen is highly reactive. High concentrates of oxygen—such as when found in cylinders or tanks—can become explosive.

Notice how hospitals exercise extreme care when handling pure oxygen tanks. A significant rise in temperature or tank breakage can cause serious accidents.

If we were to include purely concentrated oxygen into the mechanics of paintball, oxygen can react violently to the oils and grease used for paintball gun maintenance—possibly causing an explosion that can hurt you.

What Propellants Are Used for Paintball?

In the world of paintball, a propellant is compressed gas that’s used to shoot out paint from your gun. The pressure built from the compressed gas can propel the paint in high velocity, hence the term propellant.

There are two types of propellants for paintball: CO2 and compressed air. Each has its pros and cons and we’ll be listing some of the common ones below.

CO2

Maddog 20 Oz Refillable Aluminum CO2 Paintball Tank Bottle
Click the image for more info

Carbon dioxide, or CO2, is a highly inert gas, meaning it’s not as reactive as oxygen. This makes CO2 relatively safe to use for paintball because it won’t potentially react to any substances involved in paintball.

The oldest types of paintball guns would all accommodate CO2, which was the standard for years until compressed air came along.

One of the biggest drawbacks of carbon dioxide is its inconsistency with firing shots.

The main characteristic separating CO2 from compressed air is that CO2 transitions from liquid to gas when you pull your trigger. And the more you shoot, the more the temperature drops. Once the temperature drops, your shots become inaccurate.

So, if you fire too fast, the CO2 would have to catch up with your rate of fire due to the temperature drops, resulting in fluctuating pressure with your shots.

The temperature fluctuation can also cause dry ice to form around the muzzle of your gun. This means you may have to double down on equipment maintenance as well.

The redeeming factor of CO2 is its initial price tag—making it a friendly option for beginners who want to try out paintball.

Compressed Air

HK Army Paintball 48/3000 Aluminum Compressed Air HPA Paintball Tank
Click the image for more info

Compressed air—also called high-pressure air (HPA), nitro, nitrogen, or N2—is the air pulled from our atmosphere. It is the air that we breathe.

Note that many mistake the atmosphere for being pure oxygen only, when in fact, this is not the case. As mentioned earlier, nitrogen is what makes up most of our atmosphere. Oxygen only takes up the small remaining percentage of that.

Most paintballers these days, especially pros, prefer HPA over CO2 because of its stable pressure, meaning you won’t have to worry about inconsistent shots over extended periods. Fewer worries, more fun!

Having stable pressure also means lesser wear on your paintball gun, requiring not much maintenance for your gun and making HPA a more economical choice in the long run.

The downside is that HPA’s initial cost is expensive. However, if you would consider the costs in the long term, investing in HPA is always the better option because of its relatively stable nature compared to CO2.

How to Refill a CO2 Paintball Tank?

to refill a CO2 paintball tank

The beauty of CO2 tanks is that you can find many refilling stations for them. If you prefer someone else to do the work for you, here are some local shops that might offer CO2 refill services:

  • Paintball stores and fields
  • Welding supply stores
  • Homebrew shops
  • Sporting goods stores

If you want to DIY your CO2 tank refills, you must invest in your CO2 fill station. You can check out this tutorial video below for instructions:

Since CO2 tanks still pose safety risks if you keep them at home, CO2 refills should be done by a professional as much as possible.

How to Refill an Hpa Paintball Tank?

to refill a HPA paintball tank

One drawback with HPA tanks is that refill stations are not as accessible compared to CO2. Once your HPA has gone out, you only really have paintball stores that can provide a refilling service for you.

The plus side is that you have a few options when DIY-ing HPA tank refills. You have three options:

  • Refilling your HPA tank with a large scuba tank
  • Via hand-pumps or foot pumps
  • Via electric air pumps

Each option has advantages and disadvantages.

The most convenient option out of the three is to refill your HPA tanks via electric air pumps, but it’s also the most expensive.

Manual pumps are cheap and the safest option, but they can be extremely physically intensive.

Refilling with a larger scuba tank is plain redundant because now, you have two tanks to worry about when you have to refill. Plus, you have an extra tank that needs to be hydro-tested. Nevertheless, it’s still an option.

For a detailed tutorial on how to refill your HPA tank with an electric air compressor, check out this easy-to-follow video below:

Summary

Paintball can easily become an extremely hazardous sport if you include oxygen in the mix. Therefore, using oxygen as a paintball propeller is a definite no-no.

It’s safe to go with the most commonly used propellants for paintball—CO2 or HPA. They have proven to be highly reliable over the years, and they pose significantly lesser risks than extremely volatile gasses like oxygen.

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