Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: New York
Carbon Dioxide really that bad?
Is CO2 Really the Devil?
BY: MICHAEL "MEPH" MURPHY
Paintball has been one of the most highly advancing games on this planet. In such an extremely short life span, the technology and materials we use to play the game has drastically changed. Originating with simple 12-grams and Stock Class pump pistols. To today, electronic markers operating with fiber-wrapped tanks and solenoids, microchips, LCD screens, gizmos… it's evolved so much, so shortly. It's as if Inspector Gadget is making all the markers today.
But when is some of this technology just not really what you need? When you can use what people used back in the day and do just as good as if you bought something brand spanking new today. Well that's the topic of this little article. Old-school CO2 or New-age Compressed Air. Which one could be better for you?
For the past few years most everybody has been saying "Buy Compressed Air tanks." About how light fiber-wrapped tanks are, shots per fill of a 68/4500, it's cleaner, more consistent, et cetera. But in reality CO2 can actually be a good if not better choice for a lot more people out there. HPA tanks are not necessarily the Grande Superior choice, and are suggested much more often than necessary.
Quick example is a Tippmann 98Custom. Tippmann markers are built to last, they are tanks. With the CVX valve inside, it has such a large internal area with its overall unique design, and the airflow through the powertube adds to liquid expansion room. The CVX valve is almost an expansion chamber in itself, giving any liquid CO2 that gets in the valve much more ability to expand into a gas. And due to the quality of the Tippmann internals even with liquid CO2 cycling through, this marker will stand the test of time. Very durable and reliable, it's a marker actually built for CO2 usage. With proper maintenance of cleaning and proper lubing, CO2 use will not hurt or bother a Tippmann. I am using a Tippmann made back in 1986, my SMG-60 external line. And that's on pure liquid CO2. Maintenance is the key.
Now say you're more experienced, been playing for a few years. Entering tournaments, or just play pickup speedball at the local field. You want to buy, or already bought a "high-end" marker. Such as an Intimidator for example. Almost everybody you talk to is telling you that CO2 is going to ruin your Timmy, go HPA. Well, this is both true and false. You screw in the tank straight, then your proshop, friends, or guy you randomly asked on an internet forum are right. With their higher rate of fire liquid gets in much easier, and that could eat away at your seals. Also with the solenoid, if liquid CO2 gets in there and expands. The solenoid can over-pressurize and need to be replaced. Plus frozen CO2 chunks or even tiny debris from the 25lb. proshop tank that was used to fill. These could also eat away at the Timmy's insides, seals, and solenoid.
Well there are actually some aftermarket modifications you can do in order to make even these "high-end" electros work rather well with CO2.
First thing to get that is a must, an anti-siphon. This is a long metal tube (usually brass) fitted onto the CO2 tank valve. The valve alone (no tank) is screwed into the markers' ASA all the way, then the metal tube is bent upwards. Then the valve of course is properly installed to the CO2 tank. When the tank is screwed into the ASA this tube is actually above the liquid. Since CO2 tanks are filled around 65% liquid (which is why a scale at the fill station is very important!), when the tank is screwed into the ASA the upper section would be gas as the liquid CO2 settles down. So with this tube up above the liquid, almost all CO2 coming out of the tank from then on would be straight gas. This is the most important and beneficial upgrade you could get for CO2 use, and ironically enough it's also the cheapest!
Next item on the list, a regulator that's not only durable and known quality but also proven CO2 tolerant. A couple great examples are the Palmer Stabilizer and the Smart Parts Max-Flo. With secondary regulators that are CO2 tolerant, they do a great job keeping the valve consistent (much smaller velocity spikes). Especially when using an Anti-siphon, there's almost no liquid CO2 any ways. And because of the anti-siphon these regulators can make the CO2 very consistent while not freezing up, even at sustained higher rates of fire. Just because it's CO2 doesn't mean it can't be consistent. Main reason HPA systems are considered so consistent on the chronograph is because of the fact that is has one regulator on the tank already (mandatory), and usually a secondary regulator to yet again regulate the air-flow. No matter the pressure, CO2 can be regulated down. Low pressure is not for compressed air alone, the PSI of the marker does not care what gas source it is.
And to be extra cautious for some of the still paranoid, a filter. These are very handy, removing any chance of CO2 crystals or tank shavings or rust from entering the marker. For example, the low-pressure experts at AKA make a very nice filter adapter called "The Guardian." AKA says it is made for HPA tanks to fit onto the fill-nipple, but these come very much in handy with CO2 as well since they're certified up to 9000psi! You would want this as close to the tank as possible. A good setup would be right on the ASA 1/8" port. With a side-port ASA, a 90 degree fitting and the AKA Guardian would be fitted into place. Then just run the bottom line from secondary regulator to the Guardian. With the CO2 flow from ASA to Regulator, it must pass through the Guardian filter. Thus keeping your regulator and marker quite clean.
With that, what would it cost? All of these aftermarket necessities to make CO2 even compete, why not just buy an HPA tank off the bat and not worry? Well, because overall the price off all these parts + CO2 tank is about the same, if not actually LESS than the cost of a good screw-in compressed air tank. Let alone drastically less than some other air systems like the Flatline, Max-Flo, and Angel AIR.
So if you decide that you want to use this method, are there any benefits of using a CO2 tank over Compressed Air besides cost of the tank? Actually yes, there are. CO2 can actually be better than HPA for many people (not for all, though).
First reason being that CO2 is more readily available to a lot of paintballers. There's hundreds of proshops and fields in this country that still don't even have an HPA tank and fill station, let alone a compressor or booster. For thousands of people CO2 is really the only gas source that is available to them.
Second is the tanks' size. Ever see an 88ci compressed air tank? Or even the 114ci? They are massive! A simple 20-ounce CO2 tank, one of the largest CO2 tanks, is even slightly smaller than a 48ci HPA tank, one of the smallest HPA tanks. CO2 tanks are drastically smaller. Of course because of liquid CO2 fills rather than air being compressed into them. So for some that don't like a gigantic log hanging off their marker they won't be too worried. A 9oz or even 12oz are quite small, and will be fine for many people.
Another perk is the fact that CO2 tanks can take a ding and not have to worry about it as much as fiber-wrapped compressed air tanks. Neoprene covers for fiber-wrapped tanks aren't there for style. They're made because once those get scratched enough, you have yourself either a 250-dollar paperweight… or a bomb. Depends on the eyes of who you bring the tank to for a fill!
For one of the biggest benefits of CO2 is shots per tank compared to tank size. Again because of liquid expanding into a gas, especially when above accessories are taken into account. A 20-ounce will last around the same number of shots on a stock Impulse as a 68/4500 compressed air tank. (*note: 20-ounce is really only 18, CO2 tanks should be filled 1-2 ounces lighter than what the tank is labeled). 1100 to 1300 shots per tank fill. Depending on how well the CO2 or HPA tank was filled. That is around average for a stock Impulse. Not with custom modifications like a tapeworm, LPR, lighter valve spring, or what have you.
However, if you are to use an air system like the Smart Parts Max-Flo. These can come equipped with the anti-siphon already installed for better CO2 use. A 68ci tank can get over 3000 shots for a tank fill. That is over one and a half cases of paint for just one fill. For thousands of people, that's more shots than they would use in an entire days worth of play. And that's a stock Impulse!
Hopefully some myths and outright lies have been put to rest with this. This isn't a "forget HPA, buy only CO2 from now on" type of article. I don't make cylinders and I'm not trying to boost sales, though that would be convenient! Because there really are times when HPA is better than CO2. Such as winter play, or if it would void the markers' warranty to use CO2, or if you work at a field or shop that has a booster and compressed air tanks are free for you, et cetera. There are even some markers that just can't handle CO2 or don't have the right O-rings for it. CO2 isn't right for everybody by all means. Just trying to show people that CO2 is not as bad as most people today make it out to be. And that for some it can actually be a good, if not better choice.
copyright 2003 Meph Enterprises