In paintball, there are two main types of propellants that you can use to power your marker – CO2 and HPA (high pressure air). While CO2 may cheap and widely available, HPA is definitely the better choice if you want to play at the top of your game.
This is because compressed air (another name for HPA) has a far more consistent output pressure than CO2. While CO2 can dramatically drop in pressure every time you play in cold weather or fire at a rapid rate, compressed air will remain virtually unaffected. HPA is also lighter, easier to refill, and even better for the internals of your marker.
Unfortunately, buying the best HPA tank for your marker isn’t always the easiest task. Besides having to decide on the right size, brand and style of tank, you also need to know whether your marker requires a high or low input pressure.
While all of these options may seem a little overwhelming at first, there’s no need for you to worry. This guide has everything you need to know to ensure you find the best HPA tank to fit you and your marker.
Best HPA Tanks
|Ninja||3,000||13, 35, 48, 62||$$|
|Ninja||4,500||48, 50, 68, 77, 90||$$$$|
|Ninja SL||4,500||50, 68, 77, 90||$$$$$|
|First Strike||3,000||13, 26, 30.5, 48, 62||$$|
|First Strike Hero||4,500||48, 68, 77, 88, 100||$$$$|
|Empire Ultra||4,500||68, 80||$$$$|
Aluminum or Carbon Fiber
The first decision you need to make when buying an HPA tank is whether you want an aluminum or carbon fiber tank. While aluminum air tanks (commonly referred to as steelies) may be a lot cheaper than carbon fiber, they can only hold up to 3000 PSI. On the other hand, a carbon fiber air tank can hold up to 4500 PSI.
If you’re not familiar with the term PSI, it stands for pounds per square inch, or pound-force per square inch to be more exact. In simpler terms, the PSI of the tank essentially determines the amount of pressure per square inch that can fit into the tank. And the more pressure inside the tank, the more shots you can fire.
A good rule of thumb is to expect around 10 shots per cubic inch at 3000psi, and around 15 shots per cubic inch at 4500psi (depending on marker and regulator). This usually equals out to around 50% more shots in total when comparing a 4500 tank to a 3000 tank of the same size. To find the size of the tank in cubic inches, just look at the number listed before the PSI: such as 68/4500.
Besides being able to hold a lot more air, carbon fiber tanks also benefit from being much lighter in weight. While the weight of the tank may not always bother you, it can definitely wear you down when playing longer games.
Choosing the Right Size
A big mistake a lot of beginners make is buying an HPA tank based solely on how many shots they want to be able to fire. The problem with this approach is that you may end up with a tank that’s too long or short for you to comfortably handle.
In order to get the best tank size possible, you want to make sure the tank you’re buying stops at the crease of your elbow when holding the paintball gun in your hand. If there’s no pro shop in your area then this may be hard for you to do, but you can always look up the tanks measurements online and take an educated guess.
For a person of average height, this would normally be a 48/3000 or 68/4500 sized tank. If you’re a little more on the shorter side though then something along the lines of the 38/3000 or 48/4500 may be more your style. On the other hand, if you’re extremely tall or plan on carrying your tank on your back, then you may want to consider a tank such as the 90/4500 or 100/4500.
Peanut (50/4500) tanks are also very popular as well, but unless you’re fairly short you may not be able to get enough leverage. Of course, every player is different so there really is no such thing as the perfect sized tank. While some players just want to get the biggest tank size possible, others could care less and are more interested in reducing their markers overall weight.
High Pressure vs Low Pressure
If you’re new to using HPA, then you may be confused at the difference between high and low pressure tanks. To be clear, all air tanks are filled with high pressure air, but the actual output pressure coming from the regulator on the tank is much lower. While most paintball guns are fine using a high pressure (HP) tank set at 850 PSI, some electronic markers do demand a low pressure (LP) tank set at 450 PSI or lower.
If you can’t seem to find out what type of tank you need, then your best bet is to check and see if you can find out the operating pressure of your marker online. The operating pressure is the minimum input pressure required for your marker to function. As long as your marker has no internal (inline) regulator, then anything over this pressure should be fine.
If your marker does come with an internal regulator though, then you’ll want to make sure your input pressure is around 300-500 PSI more than the operating pressure of your gun. Any lower and you risk your inline regulator not being able to recharge fast enough (resulting in shootdown), and any higher may lead to unnecessary wear and tear over time.
This means that unless your marker has an operating pressure of 150 PSI or lower, you should probably avoid buying a LP tank. You can, however, still use a HP tank on the majority of paintball guns with a low operating pressure, just make sure to do your research beforehand. Some electronic markers such as the Bob Long Victory and G6R simply can’t handle the high input pressure.
Now, if you really want to get the best input pressure for your marker (and future markers to come), then you should probably buy an HPA tank with an adjustable regulator. This way you can always adjust your output pressure to the perfect PSI to match your marker. And if your marker happens to run better off an extremely high or low input pressure, then you may want to look into getting a regulator that can deliver that PSI.
While markers such as the Bob Long Victory and G6R work perfect with a SLP regulator set at 300 PSI, my Automag RT ULE loves a SHP regulator set at 1100 PSI.
So Which Brand Has the Best HPA Tank?
While buying an HPA tank from one of the less popular brands may save you a little money, just remember that in the end you get what you pay for. Personally, I would only recommend buying a tank from brands such as Ninja, First Strike, or Empire, as they simply have the best HPA tanks and overall customer service.
Now as far as to which brand is best, I would have to recommend either First Strike or Ninja Paintball. Normally, I wouldn’t even compare First Strike to Ninja, but after using their new Hero line of tanks I can finally say that the Ninja SL has a true rival.
While both the FS Hero and Ninja SL are shorter and 30% lighter than normal carbon fiber tanks of the same size, that’s about as far as the similarities go. In order to make things simple, I’ve listed the main differences between the Ninja SL and First Strike Hero below. This way you can easily decide for yourself which HPA tank has the best features for you.
- Choice of 5 different regulators (Standard, Ultralite, Pro V2, Pro V2 SLP, Pro V2 SHP)
- The standard and UL regulator can be adjusted to 500, 650 or 800psi
- The Pro V2 regulator can be adjusted to 450, 550, 700 or 800psi
- The Pro V2 SLP comes set at 300 PSI, and the Pro V2 SHP can be adjusted to either 950 or 1000psi
- Available in 4 sizes – 50, 68, 77, and 90 CI
- DOT TC certified
- Tank has to be thrown away after 15 years
- The Pro V2 is the only fully rotational regulator from Ninja (requires tools)
- Regulator can’t be rotated until system is degassed
- Ninja SL with Pro V2 is slightly more expensive
- Completely Made in the USA
First Strike Hero
- All First Strike Hero tanks come with the same regulator
- You need to buy a regulator pressure kit (priced under $10) to change the output pressure
- A regulator pressure kit can be bought to change the output pressure to SLP or SHP
- Available in 5 sizes – 48, 68, 77, 88, and 100 CI
- Tri-Label UN ISO certified
- Tank will last forever (still requires hydro testing every 5 years)
- Tool-less 360⁰ fully rotational regulator
- Regulator can be rotated with air in the tank
- FS Hero tanks are around the same price as the Ninja SL with a standard or UL regulator
- Not sure where First Strike tanks and regulators are made
Another air tank you may want to consider is the Empire Ultra, but honestly I don’t see any reason to choose this tank over the Ninja SL. Both Ninja and Empire do buy their tanks from the same place though, so you could always buy the Empire Ultra used and later upgrade to a Ninja regulator if the opportunity ever comes available.
Now, if you aren’t buying one of the more expensive tanks that are 30% lighter than normal, then I would definitely consider buying your tank from Ninja. Their regulators simply outperform 99% of the other regulators on the market, and they have an amazing customer service team to match. Of course, if you’re on a tight budget then either a First Strike or Empire tank will still suit you well.