Without a commercial paintball field, backyard woodsball players are often faced with the dilemma of where to refill their air tanks. Although paintball guns are powered by portable CO2 or compressed air tanks, these must be refilled frequently to continue playing. Depending on how close you live to the nearest air tank refill station, your ability to play as often as you like can be extremely limited. Caught up in the excitement of the game, most players don’t think to check tank reload availability until after they’ve purchased their gear, only to find that they won’t be able to use it as much as they’d like.
Fortunately, with a little ingenuity and a creative thought process, the question of how to refill your paintball gun’s air tanks can be less daunting. If you find that there are no filling stations for your portable CO2 or compressed air tanks in your area, you can always buy your own refilling equipment, however this is the most expensive route. Before you do this, check a few non-paintball related sources for potential tank refills that may be in your area, waiting to be discovered.
Whether you purchased your paintball equipment from a local store or from an online store, paintball gun air tanks come empty and need to be filled. The first places to look to fill your paintball air tanks are established refill stations in/near your community. Walmart used to offer a CO2 refill/change program and this was very convenient (as almost everyone seems to live near a Walmart somewhere), however they stopped offering this several years ago.
Other popular establishments that fill portable CO2 or compressed air tanks for paintball guns include Dick’s Sporting Goods and large hunting supply stores such as Cabella’s and Bass Pro Shop. If you live near a commercial paintball field that rents out guns and supplies, these establishments often have crews that can also refill paintball air tanks. Companies like these charge nominal fees for this service (usually less than $5 per tank) and this is the easiest and cheapest way to refill CO2 or compressed air tanks.
If you don’t have a commercial paintball field in your town or live close enough to one of the big game or sporting goods stores, there are a few other places to check out. Find a paintball supply store first to see if they offer a tank refill service or at least know where to go. Unfortunately, these stores are even harder to find than commercial fields since most paintball equipment is purchased online, however it is worth checking out. Sometimes local gun shops offer portable air tank refills as they may also sell paintball or airsoft equipment. They may also know where to go if they don’t offer the service.
If these sources are sterile there are other places to look, however it may require a small investment of your own refill station equipment. Whether you use CO2 or compressed air, you’ll need a bulk tank and cylinder refill station kit. Refill Station Kits include the necessary airline, fittings and valves to transfer air from a larger tank to a smaller portable tank. Please note, however, that CO2 tanks and refill kits are different than compressed air tanks and refill kits and generally cannot be mixed or matched.
Remember, if you’re going to set up your own paintball air tank refill station, you’ll also need to find refills for your oversized tanks, however this is usually easier than finding refills for the small, portable cylinders used directly on your bookmark. If you choose bulk size tanks and equipment to refill portable CO2 cylinders, the smallest size bulk CO2 tanks range from 20 lbs. and up to 35 pounds; These tanks look like scuba tanks and can be purchased online at paintball stores that sell commercial field equipment.
Another great source for bulk CO2 tanks are companies that sell welding supplies. These pools are also often the first place to look to refill large CO2 tanks. Sometimes welding supply companies also offer bulk CO2 tank rentals and many times this is even cheaper and better than actual ownership. As the owner of a full-size air tank, you are responsible for its expiration date and subsequent costs to hydro-test and re-seal it. If the tank you own gets damaged, you can be left with a tank that no one will fill; however, rental tanks can be exchanged for new ones with up-to-date hydraulic test safety ratings.
Refilling a portable CO2 cylinder from a large tank is fairly easy and requires a refill station kit and tank scale. Tank scales are small electronic scales that will weigh your portable CO2 cylinder so you can see when it fills up. These can be purchased at most paintball stores, however they are not paintball specific and any digital scale can be used; CO2 tank scales are best because you can hang the portable tank from the scale for easy use. A pair of safety glasses should also be worn when transferring air from the bulk tank to the smaller cylinder.
With all ASA nozzles and adapters in the “off” position, connect the refill station kit lines to both the bulk tank and the portable cylinder to be filled. Open the ASA adapter on the portable CO2 tank and hang it on the tank scale. First record the weight of the empty CO2 tank, then tare the scale to zero. Open the valve on the bulk CO2 tank so you can hear the gas rushing into the portable cylinder; fill until the tank weighs the correct number of ounces (corresponding to the ounce size of the tank; either 9, 12, 16, or 20 oz.). For best measurements, only fill portable CO2 tanks up to 1 oz. less than maximum capacity; this leaves room for gas expansion due to temperature changes during storage or travel etc.
Setting up your own compressed air refill station is similar to setting up CO2, however refilling the portable tanks for your paintball gun is even easier. Like the CO2 refill station kit, you will need a full size high pressure air tank and refill station kit. Scuba tanks are excellent bulk compressed air tanks and are commonly available from 30 cubic feet to 100 and 3000 psi. You can buy scuba tanks in this size online or at any dive shop for under $300, depending on what size you want. You can also buy huge, industrial-sized bulk compressed air tanks; however, these can cost upwards of $1000 and (just like commercial size CO2 bulk tanks) are probably more profitable to rent.
Bulk compressed air tank filling is often offered by commercial air tank and welding supply companies, however it can be done with any commercial size air compressor. Keep in mind, however, that the size of air compressor needed to refill full-size high-pressure air tanks is not the $250 model used to pressure wash your home. The size of air compressor required to refill air tanks typically costs between $4,000 and $13,000; generally the cost is prohibitive for the recreational user. Commercial size air compressors can sometimes be found with medium to large construction companies that may also be willing to help refill your air tanks for a nominal fee.
Transferring air from oversized compressed air tanks to smaller portable high pressure air tanks that fit in your paintball gun is even easier than the CO2 refilling process. Because compressed air tanks have a pressure gauge, you don’t need a scale to weigh them and know when they’re full. Simply connect the hoses from the refill kit or scuba fill station to both tanks, open the valves and watch the gauges. As high pressure air tanks are not subject to pressure changes with temperature, no adjustments need to be made to account for this (as is done when refilling portable CO2 tanks).
Before you buy an expensive paintball gear allowance, check your location to see how easy (or difficult) it will be to refill your paintball gun’s air tanks. Depending on availability, choose CO2 or high pressure air depending on what you find. Despite the fact that compressed air is generally better for paintball guns, it’s best to choose which air source to use based on its ability to refill tanks for more consistent play. However, with the right equipment and information, it can be very affordable to become your own air tank refill station for paintball guns.