Which air system you choose for your paintball field will have a huge impact on the outcome of your business. Which equipment you choose for your initial inventory will have a direct effect on the size of the initial loan you acquire. Obviously, starting out with a large monthly bill will put considerably more stress on your business, so it makes sense to be as conservative as possible with spending at first. Besides the initial start up costs, you also have to consider other factors like how durable the equipment is/how long it will last and the overall convenience of it. A higher initial cost for better supplies to start out with may be worth it if it saves you money, hassle and time later. Even if the air system was cheap to begin with, it may end up costing you more in the long run with ongoing costs of air refills, maintenance and replacements of paintball guns and cheap air tanks.
A CO2 tank refill system is the cheapest way to go initially however comes with a few headaches. Your system will consist of a bulk size CO2 tank, refill equipment (hoses, gauges & scale), and portable CO2 tanks that attach to the rental paintball guns. Before air can be transferred from the bulk tank to the portable tanks, bulk CO2 tanks must be filled by a commercial gas company and you will be reliant on this source as long as you use them. This means your paintball field must be located within a driving distance away from a commercial gas company. If you’re going to use CO2 at your field, it would be wise to check for a location of a commercial gas company before even starting your business. If there is a no source to fill your air tanks, your paintball guns will not work and you do not have a business. Fortunately, companies that refill bulk CO2 cylinders are not hard to find in most cities however if you live in a rural area, sources may be too far away and CO2 would not be the best choice for your business. Refilling your bulk tanks will be an on-going expense, tedious task and of the reasons to consider using a different air source other than CO2. Some gas companies offer a convenient trade-in program like they do for propane tanks and this can help save money.
Another important point to consider when deciding on CO2 as your field’s air source is how hard this gas is on your other most expensive and important initial start up cost – the paintball guns. When CO2 is trapped in the bottle under high pressure, it’s stored as a liquid. As it’s released into the air (or a paintball marker), it converts to a gas. When it does this very rapidly (like when a paintball gun is fired repeatedly), it’s temperature drops and can cause the air tank + the inside of the marker to freeze. This causes the gun to sputter, malfunction and misfire until it warms back up again making for a dangerous lapse in action on the field. Besides being less fun, freezing the inside of a paintball gun over and over again causes o-rings to break and many maintenance issues that will soon to lead to replacement. If you’re dead set on using a CO2 air tank refill system at your field, you should consider purchasing regulators for your paintball guns. A regulator is an accessory part that will ‘regulate’ the air temperature and warm it up before it goes into the gun, preventing freezing. These cost $10-$30 a piece and do not come stock on most rental paintball markers.
With all of this trouble, it seems few would venture into a CO2 air tank refill system for their business. However comparatively, the initial prices are what makes them the most popular. For a bulk size CO2 tank, expect to pay $1-$2K. Depending on the air tank refill kit you choose and how sophisticated you want to get, prices will range from $200-$900. Most fields start off with at least 10 paintball guns, meaning you will also need at least 10 portable CO2 tanks. These will cost $20-$30 each depending on the size of the tank you choose. This makes the total cost of a CO2 air refill system roughly $1500-$3500. While this may seem like a lot, it’s very small comparing to a compressed air system, the other choice besides CO2.
Choosing a compressed air system as the refill source for your paintball field may cost more up front however will save you much money and trouble in the future. This kit will consist of a bulk size compressed air tank, commercial size air compressor to fill it with, refill equipment, and portable high pressure air tanks that attach to the rental paintball markers. Of this amount of gear, the air compressor houses the largest cost, however will make you independent of any outside sources. High pressure air is also the easiest on paintball guns. It maintains the same temperature and does not wreak the same kind of havoc on markers that CO2 does. This means your paintball guns will last longer and have less maintenance issues when you run compressed air. The constant temperature of compressed air also allows paintball gun better consistency and more accurate shooting for an easier (and more fun) time on the field.
For a high pressure air tank refill system, a bulk scuba tank or something larger can be used to cost around $3-$400. The commercial air compressor will cost $4-7000 depending on the size and type. Sometimes you can find cheaper prices by looking for a used one, however beware of the quality. The most cost effective hpa portable tanks are aluminum (not carbon fiber) and will cost $50-$75 each. For a field renting out 10 paintball guns, a compressed air refill system will cost roughly $5-$8000, significantly more than a CO2 system. While it may cost more up front, the most efficient air systems for paintball fields remain to be compressed air, yet more fields tend to opt for the cheaper, more troublesome CO2.