Nitrogen and HPA are two gasses that are used to fill paintball tanks. The paintball community is confused about the difference between Nitrogen and HPA, and for good reason. They both have the exact same function!
HPA is simply “compressed air,” which is another term thrown around by paintball players. Compressed air is what it sounds like, it is good ol’ natural breathing air, but condensed into a more pressurized state. The air we breath contains approximately 78.2% nitrogen, of course the amount of nitrogen varies depending on particular environments. But as a general rule, air with 78.2% nitrogen is what is used for HPA paintball tanks.
If a paintball player says that he is using 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 staple gas used for all professional paintballers, long before compressed air ever came onto the scene. In 1994, Phil Davies discovered that if air is condensed, it can be used in paintball guns, as efficiently as pure nitrogen gas. This was a major step for paintball tanks because pure nitrogen is expensive, and considerably more rare to find.
Why Many Paintball Players Say They Use Nitrogen?
There are two main reasons for the survival of “nitrogen” as a paintball term.
1- Old players never stopped referring to their paintball air as nitrogen, even when its not. Thus, keeping the word in the paintball community vocabulary. And because there is very little performance difference between HPA and nitrogen, many old players see no difference to change their terms.
2- Some people consider “nitrogen” a cooler word than “HPA.” This is especially the case when “nitrogen” is shortened to “nitro.” Many current paintball players are extremely frustrated by this, after all, High Pressure air is not too shabby of a name. The point is “nitrogen” is here to stay.
There is a slight performance difference, but not enough to be that noticeable. HPA is forced to waste over 20% of its content. This is not as big of a deal as it sounds. Pure nitrogen will enable you to have more paintball shots per refill, and will be very slightly, more consistent.
That being said, some paintball fields still offer nitrogen, instead of HPA, because some players adamantly believe that nitrogen is considerably better. If you have the opportunity to test out pure nitrogen in your paintball tank, give it a go! I could honestly not notice a difference whatsoever, but some people swear by it.
Is There a Difference Between a Nitrogen or HPA Paintball Tank?
There is not! 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 nitrogen and HPA paintball tank. When I say they are the exact same thing, I mean that they are, one and the same thing. A paintball tank that is compatible with nitrogen intake will be able to be filled with nitrogen gas, or compressed air. You can call the tank whatever you want, but it is simply a tank that is compatible with nitrogen.
There are only two types of paintball tanks, one is for Co2, the other is for nitrogen or HPA.
Nitrogen and HPA are used in the same way, for the very same paintball tanks. Some players claim that nitrogen is a superior gas, but most players do not notice a difference between the two. HPA is cheaper than nitrogen, and for that reason alone, HPA has taken over as the gas most commonly used at the paintball fields.
The word “nitrogen” remains in paintball terminology because of its history in our sport, and because some people still use it.