Without a commercial paintball field, back yard woodsball players are often faced with the dilemma of where to get their air tanks refilled. While paintball guns are powered by portable CO2 or compressed air tanks, these must be refilled often for continued play. Depending on how close you live to the nearest air tank refill station, your ability to play as often as you want may be extremely limited. Caught up with the excitement of the game, most players don’t think to check tank refill availability until after they’ve already bought their equipment – only to find out they won’t be able to use it as much as they want.
Fortunately, with a little ingenuity and creative thought process, the question of how to refill your paintball gun air tanks can be less daunting. If you find there are no filling stations for your portable CO2 or compressed air tanks in your area, you can always buy your own refill equipment, however this is the most expensive route. Before doing this, check a few non-paintball related sources for potential tank refills that may be in your area, just waiting to be discovered.
Whether you bought your paintball equipment from a local establishment or an online store, the paintball gun air tanks come empty and must be filled. The first places to look for filling up your paintball air tanks are established refill stations in/near your community. Walmart used to offer a CO2 tank refill/exchange program and this was very convenient (as it seems nearly everyone lives somewhat close to a Walmart somewhere), however they stopped offering this several years ago.
Other known establishments that fill portable CO2 or compressed air tanks for paintball guns are Dick’s Sporting Goods and large hunting gear stores, such as Cabella’s and Bass Pro Shop. If you live close to a commercial paintball field that rents out guns and supplies, often these establishments have equipment that can refill paintball air tanks as well. Companies such as these charge nominal fees for this service (usually less than $5/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 large hunting or sports gear stores, there are a few other places to check. First look for a paintball supplies store to see if they offer a tank refill service or at least know where to go. Unfortunately, these shops are even harder to find than commercial fields as most paintball equipment is bought online, however it’s worth checking. Sometimes local gun shops will offer portable air tank refills as they may also sell paintball or airsoft equipment. They may also know of where to go if they don’t offer the service.
If these sources are barren, there are other places to look however may require a small investment of your own refill station equipment. Whether you use CO2 or compressed air, you will need a bulk tank and a cylinder refill station kit. Refill station kits include the air line, fittings and valves needed to transfer air from a larger tank to a smaller portable tank. Keep in mind however, CO2 tanks and refill kits are different than compressed air tanks and refill kits and generally cannot be mixed and matched.
Remember, if you’re going to set up your own paintball air tank refill station, you will still have to find refills for your bulk size tanks as well, however this is generally easier than finding refills for the small, portable cylinders used directly on your marker. 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 lbs.; these tanks look like scuba tanks and can be bought online at paintball shops that sell equipment for commercial fields.
Another great source of bulk CO2 tanks are companies that sell welding supplies. These groups are also usually the first place to look for refilling bulk size CO2 tanks. Sometimes welding supply companies will also offer bulk CO2 tank rentals and many times this is even cheaper and better than actual ownership. As an owner of a bulk size air tank, you are responsible for its expiration date and subsequent costs for getting it safety hydro-tested and re-stamped. If the tank you own becomes damaged, you can be stuck with a tank that no one will fill; however rental tanks can be exchanged for new ones with updated hydro-testing safety ratings.
Refilling a portable CO2 cylinder from a bulk size tank is fairly easy and requires a refill station kit and a tank scale. Tank scales are small, electronic scales that will weigh your portable CO2 cylinder so you can see when it gets full. These can be bought at most paintball stores however are not specific to paintball and any digital scale can be used; CO2 tank scales are best because you can hang the portable tank from the scale for easier use. A pair of safety goggles should also be worn when transferring air from the bulk tank into the smaller cylinder.
With all nozzles and ASA adaptors in the ‘off’ position, attach the refill station kit lines to both the bulk tank and portable cylinder to be filled. Open the ASA adaptor on the portable CO2 tank and hang it from 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 20oz.’s). For best measures, only fill portable CO2 tanks up to 1oz. less than max capacity; this leaves room for gas expansion due to temperature changes in storage or travel, etc.
Setting up your own refill station for compressed air is a similar set up as CO2, however refilling the portable tanks for your paintball gun is even easier. Just like the CO2 refill station equipment, you will need a bulk size high pressure air tank and refill station kit. Scuba tanks make excellent bulk size compressed air tanks and are commonly available from 30 cubic feet up to 100 and 3000psi. You can buy scuba tanks of this size online or at any dive shop for under $300 depending on the size you want. You can also purchase huge, industrial size bulk compressed air tanks however these can cost upwards of $1000 and (just like commercial size CO2 bulk tanks) are probably most cost effective to rent.
Filling bulk size compressed air tanks is often offered at welding supply and commercial air tank companies, however can be done with any commercial size air compressor. Keep in mind however the size air compressor needed to refill bulk size high pressure air tanks are not the $250 model used to pressure wash your house. The size air compressor required to refill air tanks generally cost between $4000 and $13,000; generally cost prohibitive for the recreational user. Commercial size air compressors can sometimes be found with middle to large size construction companies who may also be willing to help refill your air tanks for a nominal fee.
Transferring air from bulk size compressed air tanks to smaller, portable high pressure air tanks that fit on your paintball gun is even easier than the CO2 refill process. Because compressed air tanks have a pressure gauge, you do not need a scale to weigh them to tell when they become full. Simply attaching the refill kit hoses or scuba fill station to both tanks, opening the valves and watching the pressure gauges will suffice. As high pressure air tanks are not subject to pressure changes with temperature, you do not have to make any adjustments to account for this (like you do when refilling portable CO2 tanks).
Before purchasing an expensive allotment of paintball gear, check your location to see how easy (or difficult) it will be to refill your paintball gun air tanks. Depending on availability, make the choice of CO2 or high pressure air based on what you find. Despite the fact that compressed air is generally better for paintball guns, it’s best to choose which air source you use based on your ability to get your tanks refilled for the most consistent play. With the right equipment and information however, it can be very affordable to become your own paintball gun air tank refill station!