In paintball, pressure regulators matter since controlling the air pressure results in more accuracy while you play. However, there is more than one choice in operating pressure for your paintball gun, and there are many things to consider when you decide to purchase a regulator. Understanding how paintball regulators work will help you improve your equipment’s performance.
Paintball regulators work by using a valve that cuts off the air after pressure inside your paintball gun reaches a certain level within the regulator. Regulators allow your gun’s air pressure to remain constant. Ultimately, controlling the air pressure results in more accuracy while shooting.
Throughout the rest of this article, you will learn about how paintball regulators work, why you need a regulator, the benefits of a regulator, the best system for your playing style, and what to consider when purchasing a paintball regulator for your paintball gun.
Paintball Pressure Regulators: A Basic Overview
Almost all experienced paintball enthusiasts use pressure regulators in their paintball guns. One of the first regulators in the market was the Automag AIR valve introduced in 1990. The valve system of the Automag incorporated a regulator into the marker of the paintball gun.
All markers require a specific volume amount of air at a certain pressure to propel a paintball at a given velocity out of the barrel.
The paintball’s speed can be increased by higher pressure or a higher amount of gas used when shooting.
The longer the valve remains open, the more air flows through the bolt to launch the paintball, and therefore, the velocity increases to shoot faster.
Regulators consist of two chambers: the input chamber and a controlled, regulated chamber. These two different chambers can be closed off with a stopper or plunger as a single path connects these chambers. The plunger is attached to the top of the controlled chamber to a piston on a spring. This spring mechanism is modified to raise or decrease pressure against the piston.
The pressure in the controlled, regulated chamber is marginally lower than the pressure the spring exerts. So, the piston moves down to allow gas to flow from the higher pressure chamber to the lower pressure by opening the piston.
Once the pressure from one chamber is equal to the spring pushing down, the piston moves back up and closes the plunger. This moving base type regulator reduces the pressure to a lower one to equalize both chambers.
Benefits of Using a Regulator
There are many different benefits from having a regulator, including:
- Air supply: A regulator will deliver air and make the pressure predictable, making each paintball leave the barrel of your gun at a consistent velocity.
- Pressure buffer: If you are not operating on full pressure, you can have a buffer that helps reduce the shoot down effect in which insufficient air causes shots to lose range slowly.
- Accuracy: If you plan on setting up your paintball system with two regulators, while it will not be cheap, the regulator can reduce your velocity variance and give you extra consistency per shot.
Carbon Dioxide in Paintball Explained
In paintball, carbon dioxide (CO2) has two different forms. The first is a condensed liquid that is in your paintball tanks. The second is a gas that is used to shoot the paintball.
The condensed CO2 in liquid form expands into the usable gas form. The carbon dioxide changing from a liquid to a gas is done in two different ways. The first is from an increase of an area, and the other way is by heat.
When a paintball tank is filled, it will leave a bit of a gap to allow the liquid to become a gas. For example, if you have a CO2 tank that is 25 oz (739 ml), they will only fill it to 23 oz (680 ml) or even less to allow space for the liquid to change into a gas. Some CO2 tanks are even equipped with anti-siphoning equipment that reduces the potential for liquid CO2 to enter the marker.
The anti-siphon equipment is a tube that is installed in the valve of the tank that makes a turn towards the gas bubble when the CO2 container is mounted on the marker. This is because the CO2 tank is mounted horizontally on top of the markers. Additionally, heat can also play a big part in the transition of CO2 as a liquid to a gas form.
If you have 23 oz (680 ml) of liquid carbon dioxide and approximately 50 °F (10 °C) outside, and the pressure is at approximately 900 psi, then that is our baseline.
However, suppose the temperature starts to rise in the afternoon to approximately 70 °F (21 °C). In that case, the rise in temperature will start to affect the liquid carbon dioxide in your tank. As it becomes hotter, the liquid will transform into a gas.
The gas takes up more room than liquid carbon dioxide, so the pressure in the tank can increase even higher to more than 1200 psi. Due to the potential of increased pressure, there are burst disks in the tanks, so if the pressure gets to a certain point, the burst disk will rupture as a failsafe and save the carbon dioxide tank without exploding.
Regulators can take this gas under high pressure and work to reduce the high levels of pressure to a lower one.
Do You Need a Regulator?
It is important to note that low-pressure paintball guns can require you to have paintball regulators. The carbon dioxide can quickly produce a minimum of 850 psi, and the regulator can decrease the gas pressure. Many paintball players choose two different regulators or have a two-regulator system for better performance.
The first pressure regulator might decrease only half the pressure, and the second regulator can lower the pressure again for proper operation of the paintball gun.
However, having more than two regulators is not beneficial because more than two regulators can affect your paintball gun’s airflow. It will not fire the gun as fast as you would like, so have two regulators be the maximum for your setup. Generally, the regulator you choose and the setup for your equipment comes down to personal preference.
Technically, the only paintball players who need a regulator shoot paintball markers that cannot work under high pressure. Additionally, some markers have a regulator on them already. If you use high-pressure air (HPA) tanks rather than carbon dioxide, the HPA is stored as a gas, so the pressure remains constant because there is no energy taking place as the liquid converts into usable gas in your tank.
HPA tanks already have regulators in place on tanks, from fixed high pressure, low pressure, and adjustable pressure, which gives you the customization to set the pressure to where you would like.
Decide if you will be running a carbon dioxide or HPA setup as it will determine which paintball regulator will suit your system.
Besides the regulator you choose, it is highly recommended to invest in a pressure gauge just if you need to take a quick look to troubleshoot or assess your system. Also, less expensive paintball gun regulators might not be able to shoot fast enough for your preference, so invest wisely.
Regulators are a great addition to your paintball equipment to improve your performance. Players often choose more than one regulator, but it depends on personal preference. It is crucial to understand why you need a regulator and what will work best for your system, as it depends on your setup.