The 7 Best Paintball Tanks
This wiki has been updated 23 times since it was first published in June of 2015. When you're in the heat of battle -- the fun, imitation kind, that is -- the last thing you need is for your gun to give out on you because you've run out of power. Stay locked and loaded at all times with one of these paintball tanks, which come in different sizes and styles and will ensure you have plenty of pressure to last you through the game. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. Skip to the best paintball tank on Amazon.
The History Of The Paintball Marker
Today, paintballers have a vast range of gear from which to assemble their kits, with myriad markers crowding the market.
A group of survival and combat evasion enthusiasts gathered together to play a Capture The Flag style of game in a New England forest.
Today, the game of paintball is played in dozens of countries all around the globe, with millions of amateur and professional enthusiasts alike participating in recreational games, regional competitions, and even in international tournaments. Yet for all its popularity, paintball is a relatively young sport. The first recognized game of paintball was played in a small New Hampshire town in 1981, and it has grown steadily in popularity since then. Before that time, it was simply referred to as the paintball marker.
The paintball marker -- usually referred to simply as "marker" -- looks and functions for all intents and purposes like a gun, and it is classified and regulated as a weapon in many countries and territories. But in fact the term marker does make more sense than the word gun based on the origins of the tool.
The paintball marker was first developed decades before its recreational use. A partnership between the Nelson Paint Company, which developed paint-filled gelatin coated spheres, and the Crossman airgun manufacturer led to the creation of a CO2 powered pistol. This was the first paintball marker, and it had been created for loggers needing to mark trees slated for felling.
The paintball marker enabled the loggers to tag trees from a distance, or from across barriers like streams or gorges, thus saving time and preserving safety as they planned later logging activities. The paintball marker was soon also being used by cattle ranchers to mark cows that had strayed from the herd so that ownership confusion would not arise prior to the recovery of the errant animals.
Throughout the late 1960s and the 1970s, paintball markers indeed saw use only for marking purposes. On June 7th, 1981, everything changed. A group of survival and combat evasion enthusiasts gathered together to play a Capture The Flag style of game in a New England forest. A subsequent write up describing the game in an October 1981 issue of Sports Illustrated magazine spread the news of this nascent new sport, and the rest of the story is now history.
Today, paintballers have a vast range of gear from which to assemble their kits, with myriad markers crowding the market. However, when it comes down to a propulsion system, there is just one primary choice to be made, CO2 or nitrogen. Then you have to choose the tank that best suits your preference.
Choosing The Right Paintball Tank
Some paintball markers are designed to work only with CO2 tanks, while others work only with Compressed Air, which in the language of the sport is also referred to as High Pressure Air (HPA), Nitrogen, Nitro, or just as N2. For our purpose, we will use the simplest term, N2, but note that few if any paintball markers you will buy today use pure compressed nitrogen as a paintball propulsion system.
CO2 tanks, on the other hand, are susceptible to a dip in pressure output when the tank is very cold.
CO2 was the original pressure source for the earliest markers, and the only source for many years. N2 became increasingly popular in the 1990s, and there are several reasons for which it is arguably a better choice for the paintballer. N2 pressure systems can provide constant pressure, allowing your marker to achieve consistent muzzle velocity even as the actual amount of compressed air in the tank is quite high and as it is depleted with each shot. Their reliable regulator valves can easily allow for a standard 850 PSI (pounds per square inch) of pressure even when the tank is loaded up to 4500 PSI, for example. N2 systems also tend to allow for consistent performance regardless of the ambient temperature.
CO2 tanks, on the other hand, are susceptible to a dip in pressure output when the tank is very cold. This coldness can be caused by chilly exterior temperatures, or by the natural cooling liquid carbon dioxide experiences during expansion, a phenomenon caused by repetitive shots depleting the store of CO2 in the tank. Or, in other words, the more rapid shots you take with a CO2 tank on your marker, the less and less power each shot will have until the tank can rest and warm up again.
Still, N2 is not the obviously superior choice for one primary reason: cost. N2 tanks tend to cost as much as three times more than a CO2 tank, thus except for dedicate players, they may be cost prohibitive. It can also be harder to find a location that can refill an N2 tank, another potential drawback.
Paintball Gear Safety
As with any activity with even the potential for injury, safety is always the primary concern with paintball play. That means use of goggles or a full face mask at all times while you are near active paintball play. Eye protection is also a wise idea while servicing your paintball marker, as residual gas or a cocked spring may be lurking inside the unit.
Damage to the tank could result in an explosion, and a compromised valve can lead to rapid and violent off gassing.
The gear you choose for safety during play can include a helmet, knee and elbow pads, gloves, and thick clothing to keep you protected against cuts, scratches, and the impact of paintballs themselves. When working on your marker or other related gear, consider work gloves and, again, eyewear.
When it is time to have your paintball tank refilled, or when you are cleaning the tank or replacing an o-ring, make sure you know exactly what you are doing before you do it: that means getting professional training and assistance with tank refills and maintenance before the first time you ever attempt such procedures on your own.
While inherently safe and stable when handled properly, that CO2 or N2 tank you're servicing is after all loaded with gas or air at thousands of pounds of pressure per square inch. Damage to the tank could result in an explosion, and a compromised valve can lead to rapid and violent off gassing. When in doubt, let a trained and experienced professional service your gear for you.
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