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Paintball Air System Parts: Things you should know about air systems before you buy

 

Accuracy
Accuracy is determined by two things:  Air regulator, and good paint to barrel match. If the air rises or falls in pressure, the ball will go further or less far, and hit higher of lower. When you rapid fire, the air pressure will tend to drop if you don't have a regulator, causing the ball to hit lower. CO2 is a problem because of its dual liquid/gas nature; how much of each goes into your gun at any moment will vary the pressure and ball velocity. A good air regulator will maintain accuracy.

Bolt
The bolt is an internal part that takes a paintball entering the input feed port, and places it into the chamber end of the barrel to ready it for firing. There are two types of bolts: Blow back ("open bolt"), in which the bolt is in the backward/open position when it is cocked and ready to fire; and blow forward ("closed bolt"), in which the bolt is in the forward/closed position when cocked.

Closed bolt guns are more efficient and more expensive than the more common open bolt designs.

Bolts are made from metal, or delrin, a strong and light plastic.  Delrin is preferred because it does not scratch the insides of the gun, and it is light. Unlike metal, delrin should generally not be lubricated with oil because it will absorb the oil and expand.

Drop Forward
Also known as a "cradle", a drop forward is used to drop and move the air tank forward. This allows you to balance the weight of the air tank, and position its fit against your chest. Different versions are available that can drop or move forward different distances.

Regulator
This device takes the higher pressure from your tank, and drops the pressure to a constant regulated amount that does not vary, even though the tank pressure is changing. For this to work, the tank pressure must be greater than the pressure you want out of the regulator; it can only drop pressure. The regulator can be in the shape of a fore grip and used as a fore grip. High pressure air tanks also have a built in regulator on the tank, which may be adjustable or fixed.

Shoot-Down
Under high rates of fire, if the regulator does not do its job properly then "shoot-down" can occur. The FPS drops because the regulator can't maintain the gas pressure. The regulator is said to be unable to recharge quickly.

Expansion Chamber
This can be in the shape of a fore grip and used as a fore grip, or it can attach to your tank. The fore grip version is more effective because it uses the heat from your hands to expand the gas. Its purpose is to catch liquid CO2 and give it a chance to expand into a gas. It is designated by the number of internal chambers, from 1 to 20; more is not better. 6 seems to be the most effective. An expansion chamber is not as effective as a regulator.

Air
Because CO2 becomes a liquid when compressed, it needs to expand to a gas to be used by the paintball gun. This expansion causes the tank to cool as the liquid CO2 turns into gas. Eventually, under sustained fire, and especially in cold weather, the tank can become so cold that the liquid CO2 will not evaporate into gas, and liquid CO2 will enter the gun causing the gun to freeze. This can cause damage to internal seals and will also put the gun out of commission for a good 15 minutes while it warms back up.

When nitrogen is compressed, it remains a gas. When it expands, it also cools the tank, but at an unnoticeable rate because it does not have to transition from liquid to gas. Therefore it is viewed as a superior source of propulsion. However, because HPA (High Pressure Air) is stored at up to 4,500 lb/inČ while liquid CO2 is stored at 1,200 lb/inČ, tanks for HPA are more expensive. Nitrogen tanks can ether be filled with pure N2 or compressed air, which is 79% N2.

Nitrogen and air systems are more expensive, and are preferred to CO2. These air sources are primarily used by people who play often and have tournament-grade markers.

ASA (Air Source Adapter)
An ASA is an adapter that connects the marker to the tank. Most ASAs have a protruding portion that presses against the pin-valve of the tank to allow the gas to enter the marker. It can be a vertical adaptor, which attaches vertically to the inlet at the foregrip of the gun. It can be a bottom line adaptor (which can be a drop-forward to move the tank down and forward) that attaches to the bottom of the grip. It can be a back- bottle adaptor for those markers that have the gas coming in from the back of the gun.

Anti-Siphon Tube
An anti-siphon tube is a pipe inserted into your CO2 tank with a curve on the end. It's purpose is to prevent liquid CO2 from entering the pipe. The pipe is so placed that only gas can enter the tube, not liquid. The tube needs to be properly placed so that the curve at the end points up. If it points down, it will make your freezing problem worse. For this to work, the tank needs to remain horizontal.

Quality vs. Price
The higher end guns that actually shoot 20 balls per second (BPS) and above, never chop balls, have excellent accuracy and gas efficiency, cost anywhere from $800 to $1500.

No low-end blow-back marker can cycle itself faster than about 13 BPS without shaking itself to pieces. The electronic circuitry to cycle at 20 BPS is the easy part, but you have a heavy metal hammer hitting back and forth against your valve and springs, and if you are running at 700-800 PSI, a lot of force is being produced and no marker can survive that kind of punishment. Even the expensive Angels and Intimidators are made to operate at pressures below 150 PSI, and they have no internal springs.

Some of the gas that propels the ball forward is escaping into the feed port and up the hopper, pushing the incoming balls back out. If it delays the next paintball from falling into the breach, this will cause dry firing or chopping. High end markers that never chop balls have a sensor ("eye") that will not allow the gun to fire until the paintball is in its place.

Honing, or the finishing/polishing process of the barrel, determines the amount of friction.  More friction means the ball moves slower, and that may lead to more paintball breaks in the barrel.

For more information on air lines and fittings, see Otter Customs.

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