Nitrogen vs. HPA
Nitrogen and HPA are two gases that are used to fill paintball tanks. The paintball community is confused about the difference between nitrogen and HPA, and for good reason. Both have the same function!
HPA is simply “compressed air”, which is another term used by paintball players. Compressed air is what it sounds like, it’s good old natural breathing air but condensed into a higher pressure state. The air we breathe contains approximately 78.2% nitrogen, of course, the amount of nitrogen varies depending on the specific environment. But as a general rule, 78.2% nitrogen air is what is used for HPA paintball tanks.
If a paintball player says he uses nitrogen in his paintball tank, he is probably using HPA, which contains nitrogen. But some players use pure nitrogen in their paintball tank. In fact, nitrogen was the main gas used for all professional paintball players long before compressed air came on the scene. In 1994, Phil Davis discovered that if air were condensed, it could be used in paintball guns just as effectively as pure nitrogen gas. This was an important step for paintball tanks, as pure nitrogen is expensive and considerably rarer.
Why do many paintball players say they use nitrogen?
There are two main reasons for the survival of “nitrogen” as a paintball term.
1- The old players never stopped calling their paintball air nitrogen even when it wasn’t. Thus, keeping the word in the vocabulary of the paintball community. And since there is very little difference in performance between HPA and nitrous, many old players see no difference to change their conditions.
2- Some people think “nitrogen” is a cooler word than “HPA”. This is especially the case when “nitrogen” is shortened to “nitro”. Many current paintball players are extremely disappointed with this, after all high pressure air is not too shabby a name. The point is, “nitrogen” is here to stay.
There is a slight difference in performance, but not enough to be that noticeable. HPA is forced to lose over 20% of its content. It’s not as big a deal as it sounds. Pure nitrogen will allow you to have more paintball shots per charge and will be very little, more consistent.
That being said, some paintball courts still offer Nitrogen instead of HPA because some players strongly believe that Nitrogen is significantly better. If you have the opportunity to test pure nitrogen in your paintball tank, give it a try! Honestly, I didn’t notice any difference, but some people swear by it.
Is there a difference between a nitrogen paintball tank and an HPA?
There is no! Some players have told me that one is better than the other. But guys! These are not two separate entities. There is no such thing as a paintball tank with nitrogen and HPA. When I say they are the exact same thing, I mean they are the same thing. A nitrogen compatible paintball tank will be able to be filled with nitrogen gas or compressed air. You can call the tank whatever you want, but it’s just a tank that’s nitrogen compatible.
There are only two types of paintball tanks, one is for CO2, the other is for nitrogen or HPA.
Nitrogen and HPA are used the same way, for the same paintball tanks. Some players claim that nitrogen is a superior gas, but most players don’t notice a difference between the two. HPA is cheaper than nitrogen, and for that reason alone, HPA has become the most commonly used gas on paintball courts.
The word “nitrogen” remains in paintball terminology because of its history in our sport and because some people still use it.