Paintball players are always asking the same question-What is the difference between using compressed air and CO2 tanks?

The difference between compressed air and CO2 is that CO2 is a liquid and compressed air is just air.

CO2 tanks are more affordable than compressed air tanks, but they don’t perform nearly as well as compressed air tanks do. Compressed air tanks are also lighter and can be easily filled. 

CO2 may be the original gas that was used in paintball guns, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the better option. Over the years, paintball equipment has evolved and compressed air has helped improve the game and marker maintenance.

There’s no doubt that both CO2 tanks and compressed air tanks for paintball guns have their advantages and disadvantages. In this guide, we are going to cover everything you need to know about both CO2 and compressed air for paintball guns.

Why Compressed Air Is Better

Compressed air, or HPA, is a better option than CO2 for many reasons. One of the main reasons is that the tanks are easier to fill. CO2 is too much of a hassle for some individuals, even those who are filling the tank.

All you need to do with an HPA tank is hook it up to the air source and wait until the gauge reaches your ideal pressure. CO2, on the other hand, includes filling it up partially, bleeding it, and filling it up more.

Additionally, you have to wait until the tank is empty to refill CO2. With compressed air, you can add air when you please.

Shot Monitoring

With CO2, there are no gauges that allow you to keep track of how much power you have left in the tank. You can only determine this based on how light or heavy the tank is.

Sometimes you may think you have more liquid in the tank than you do and then it suddenly empties. Running out of gas in the middle of a paintball match isn’t going to do you much good.

With compressed air, all you have to do is check the gauge to see how much air you have left.

It doesn’t tell you exactly how many shots are remaining, but after observing the tank for a little while, you will be able to tell how much may be in there and you won’t be surprised by a sudden empty tank.


Compressed air is much more accurate than CO2 pressure. CO2 pressure has a tendency to bounce all over the place due to the pressure, so it affects the velocity of your rounds coming from the chamber.

Since it’s more erratic with its velocity, you can’t correctly judge how far or short your paintballs will fly.

Compressed air, on the other hand, has a consistent operating pressure and velocity. If you set your marker to 250 feet per second, you know exactly what the speed will be on every shot and where your round is going to hit.


Compressed air is much lighter than CO2 gas. A CO2 tank weighs roughly 20 ounces whereas compressed air is essentially weightless.

Additionally, the tanks themselves are lighter than CO2 tanks. The CO2 tank itself weighs 20 ounces and then you get another 20 ounces of liquid in the tank, it becomes much heavier.

Consistency & Maintenance

CO2 has a sensitive temperature rating, which can have an effect on the operating pressure of the marker.

The temperature is so sensitive that it can vary from shade to sunlight. Compressed air tanks use a regulator to ensure the pressure is kept at a consistent level. Additionally, consistency helps with accuracy.

Moreso, maintenance is much easier when it comes to using compressed air. The compressed air won’t freeze the internal parts of your marker.

CO2 is a lot rougher on your paintball gun’s internal parts, specifically the o-rings because it causes constant expanding and contracting.

What Is Compressed Air?

Compressed air is simply air forced into a container. Unlike liquid CO2, compressed air is a mix of gases and doesn’t change the physical state for paintball use. The amount in the container increases as it’s forced into the smaller space in the tank and pressure builds as a result.

Some tanks contain regulators and can be adjusted to provide different pressures. Most regulators have a high output of around 850 psi. Some markets only require 450 psi to work properly.

If the pressure is too little, the markers may not launch the paintball very far. If you exceed the output more than the marker can handle, it can cause internal components to wear quicker than normal.

What Are Compressed Air Tanks

Compressed air tanks are measured by a ratio of cubic inches per pound of pressure per square inch. The general air efficiency standard is roughly 10 rounds per cubic inch at 3000 psi and 15 rounds per cubic inch at 4500 psi.

You can find tanks ranging from 13/3000 to 100/4500. This also includes a range of lengths and shape configurations to fit the needs of the user. The 3000 psi bottles are made from aluminum and the 4500 psi tanks are made with a supportive wrap made from carbon fiber.

Performance Tool W10005 Hi-viz 5-Gallon Horizontal Portable Air Tank With Tire Air Chuck

What Is CO2

CO2 is short for Carbon Dioxide. It is a liquid that ultimately turns into a gas to create pressure.

The pressure that comes from this tank is what fires the paintball. Under normal environmental conditions, CO2 is a gas. However, in order for it to be used for paintball, the CO2 has to be cooled and condensed into a liquid.

CO2 is most commonly used for paintball markers that have little to no electronic components within the gun. If the marker uses a battery, then it will most likely require compressed air.

What Are CO2 Tanks?

CO2 paintball tanks come in various sizes and are made from aluminum and steel. They can be found in 12-gram disposable cartridges for pistols and CO2 airguns all the way up to 9, 12, 16, 20, and 24 oz refillable tanks.

The larger the CO2 tank the more shots you can get out of it before you need to refill it. You should choose a tank that will be a comfortable fit for you.

You may find that the 20 oz tank offers the ideal balance of capacity versus tank size and weight is what works best for most people.

Paintball Air Tank Parts

If you’re new to the paintball game, you may be interested in learning about what parts make up your gun. It may also be important to know these parts if you ever have to change them out or convert your gun.


The threads are the CO2 tank attachment point of the marker. All of these tanks have to be removed from the marker to be refilled.

You will find an o-ring that acts as a seal between the tank and marker once the tank has been screwed in and the pin at the top and center of the tank is engaged with the marker, CO2 can flow into the marker.

Compressed air threads are attached to a regulator, pressure gauge, and fill nipple. The regulator has a fill nipple, which is the most sensitive part of the area and it needs protection. This allows the compressed air tank to be filled without having to unscrew it from the marker.

Can You Fill Your Own Tank?

When you purchase an air tank, they are shipped empty. An empty tank won’t engage with a paintball marker.

You will need to fill the tank. If you have a CO2 tank, you cannot fill it on your own. You will have to take them to be filled by a qualified technician.

These smaller containers are filled from large fill containers, which are susceptible to self-propulsion and explosion if they aren’t handled properly. Additionally, the tanks have to be empty before refilling.

When it comes to compressed air, you can refill those on your own since it only needs to be done via a compressed air tank. Some people try to fill compressed air tanks at a gas station.

When the fill hose is connected to the air tank through the fill nipple we talked about earlier, a lever at the fill station will be activated and will vent air under high pressure to the air tank until the containers are equalized to the same pressure.

When the fill lever is released, it prevents pressurized air from passing through the fill station to the tank. This allows for the simple removal of the compressed air from the fill station.

The Takeaway

Each user has their preferences, but we strongly suggest using compressed air over CO2 tanks for a variety of reasons. They are generally safer to use, easier to fill, lighter than CO2 tanks, and they can be filled by you and not a certified technician.

Some individuals prefer to keep CO2 tanks on their markers and carry multiple tanks for a simple swap if they run out. This is one of the only advantages. We hope that we have given you some insight into the differences between the CO2 tanks and compressed air tanks. If you are looking for paintball air compressors, check our other post.