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Ultimate Guide to Paintball Tanks
From its origins as the result of an argument between two businessmen about how well a city dweller would survive in the wild, paintball has become one of the most popular sporting pastimes in the U.S.
From casual players and local amateur leagues to professionals, it permeates American society. If you’re thinking about taking it up - or you already play and you want to graduate from casual to serious - you need to think carefully about the equipment you’ll need.
HPA or CO2?
Everybody thinks about the gun - or the marker, as it’s actually called - as well as the mask and the outfit. But what you need to remember is the importance of the tank. There are all kinds of issues to consider - size, comfort, and performance, and there is a vast selection of both CO2 and compressed air (HPA) tanks available. Modern markers are much more commonly designed for use with HPA tanks such as the HK Army Aluminium Compressed Air Tank, and HPA is generally dominant in the sport, so we’ll focus on that first.
Size is important not just in physical dimensions but also in the number of shots the tank can hold. It’s advisable to balance comfort with sufficient firepower. If the tank is large and unwieldy, it will affect your performance and undermine your accuracy. The best configuration of marker and tank is to have the butt of the tank on your shoulder when you fire, but if it’s too small, you’ll have very little leverage to work with.
The ideal tank size is related to the individual’s height and build - the taller you are, the longer your reach will be, so a large tank won’t present any problems. If you’re shorter, keep it smaller.
A tank’s size is partly determined by its volume but also by its pressure rating. For example, a 68/4500 tank has a 68 cubic inch capacity and a pressure level of 4500 pounds per square inch (psi). The higher both numbers are, the greater the number of shots it can hold. Sizes range from 13 to 90 cubic inches and more, but a decent size would be in the range of 50 to 70.
The pressure rating is not directly related to volume but to the strength of the material the tank is made from. The most common tanks are aluminum, carbon fiber and ultra-light carbon fiber. Aluminum is the cheapest but also the heaviest and can only manage a 3000 psi rating, whereas carbon fiber models can manage up to 4500 psi. Check out the Empire range, which includes this High Pressure Carbon Fiber Tank.
Stronger tanks can accommodate higher pressure and therefore more compressed air than an identically sized tank made of flimsier stuff. As a general rule, a pressure rating of 3000 is pretty decent, and an aluminum tank will do fine for beginners and casual players. For the more committed enthusiast, it’s worth paying extra for the lightness, compactness and greater pressure rating of carbon fiber. At the top of the line is the ultra-light carbon fiber tank. You can get the same pressure rating, but they tend to be smaller and they’re lighter by up to a pound than the average 2.5-pound ordinary carbon fiber models.
The bottom finish is important, too. Tanks usually have rounded or flat bottoms. This isn’t just an aesthetic question; it’s about comfort and ergonomics. A convex bottom is going to sit much more comfortably on your shoulder than a pretty unforgiving flat version and will be much easier to manipulate when you’re moving into and out of firing positions.
It’s worth talking briefly about CO2 tanks like the Maddog 20 oz. These perform perfectly well with the right markers. They are a reliable, entry-level tank that is ideal for beginners and more occasional paintballers. They also have the advantage of being relatively cheap. They actually store the CO2 in liquid form and convert it into gas to power the marker. You should be aware that this process can be hampered in cold weather. Also, the more quickly the marker is fired, the faster the change from liquid to gas, which results in a loss of pressure. Old-style mechanical guns won’t suffer too much, but with modern electronic markers, you’ll find your fire power may be impaired.
The choice is a personal one, but if you bear these factors in mind, seek some expert advice and get a feel for the equipment in store, you can make an informed decision and get started on the serious business of paintballing.