At our field, and in the paintball industry in general, CO2 is being phased out or already has been. This is because of several reasons:
1) CO2 is more expensive in the long run
While CO2 tanks themselves are cheaper initially, that is not the only cost you have to worry about. The bulk CO2 tanks that stores and fields use to fill consumer paintball tanks need to be transported to the field / store, the old used tanks picked up, and fittings all transferred over. Conversely, most reputable stores and fields purchase High-Pressure Compressors to compress and fill their own HPA tanks. This allows for a permanent air system that is stable and temperature resistant, require less day-to-day maintenance, and is easier to work with compared to liquid CO2. Air Stations can be regulated to different pressures, and are safe enough in most instances that end users can and do their own fills while at the park. As a result, most paintball fields offer free fills with entry purchase, something not possible when buying and reselling CO2. So with delivery costs, excess labor in switching fittings, and excess labor in filling the tank and the fact that a store / field has to buy and resell the CO2 compared to “making their own” HPA, an average CO2 fill costs more per fill. Further, a single tank provides about 800 shots (assuming it’s a 20 oz CO2 tank, the most common, and that the fill operator at the local beer store isn’t taking care to fill your CO2 tank properly… another common occurrence in our area).
2) CO2 fills are more time consuming
To properly fill a CO2 tank, first you need to make sure you have specialized fitting & other equipment compared to Compressed Air, which is a one-time install of the tanks, fittings and compressor. In addition to that, you need a trained employee who can fill a CO2 tank safely. This consists of draining any old CO2 still in the tank, then slowly filling a tank to the proper weight, and re-draining the lines to prevent any freezing. Of course, you have to tank the tank off the marker first too – another time consuming endeavor if there is still residual pressure in the tank or t he threads become damaged. This process can take a few minutes from start to finish. Doesn’t sound like much, but then imagine having to do 100 fills for players…several times a day!
Comparatively, a compressed air system has regulators, fill panels and fill whips with safety shutoffs – this makes it possible to simply attached a fill whip to a tank while still on the marker, depress the fill button, and remove when done about 10-15 seconds later. That makes it much faster to fill 80+ customers at once, several times per day.
3) Compressed Air performs more reliably
As we mentioned earlier, CO2 tanks actually hold liquid CO2. In order to propel the paintball down field, that liquid needs to expand into a Gas state. Sometimes, that process doesn’t occur easily – especially in colder weather, under high rates of fire, or on markers without proper volumizers. This results in inconsistent results, ranging from velocity issues to firing issues and in many cases even destroying internal parts if liquid CO2 permeates the system. Conversely, Compressed Air is usually already at an operational pressure, has no phase change, and is temperature resistant. The end result is that Compressed Air is more ‘stable’ for usage in paintball applications.