What Is a Co2 Gun?

Written by james rada, jr.
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What Is a Co2 Gun?
(This CO2 pistol fires BBs and holds the CO2 cartridge in the grip. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

CO2 guns can be a lot of fun, as long as you always remember that despite the fact that they don't fire bullets, they are not toys. The compressed air used to power a CO2 gun gives it a greater muzzle velocity than a typical BB gun.

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Definition

CO2 guns are air guns. They are in the same class as a BB gun or a paintball gun. The key difference is that most CO2 guns get their air from a powerlet, which is a small, disposable cylinder filled with 12 grams of liquid carbon dioxide (CO2). Once the cylinder is punctured, the liquid becomes a pressurised gas that fills the chamber of the CO2 gun. Each shot will deplete some of the air pressure until the powerlet needs to be replaced.

Ammunition

CO2 guns generally fire BBs or pellets, which are small flathead projectiles not much bigger than a BB. The pellet is made from lead and is hollow. The firepower behind a CO2 gun is around 805 to 1000 psi. The velocity behind such power is about 480 feet per second. BBs are small globes of steel coated in zinc or copper.

Operating Precautions

Besides following standard safety precations that are used with regular firearms, CO2 guns and powerlets should not be stored near heat sources or in direct sunlight. If the temperatures in the powerlet reach 48.9 degrees C, the pressure begins to increase, which can cause a failure of the powerlet. Failure means the seal on the powerlet will rupture, releasing the case.

Advantages

This basic concept makes the design of an CO2 gun simpler than many other types of air guns. The use of powerlets allows power to be stored for repeated shots, so a CO2 gun can be designed as a revolver or a semi-automatic pistol. However, the guns themselves are relatively inexpensive. Even where firearm possession is tightly controlled, it is still possible to own a CO2 gun.

Disadvantages

Air guns that are powered by hand pumping air into the gun are inexpensive to operate. The more you use a CO2 gun, the more you need to have powerlets around and those costs can add up. Another disadvantage is that CO2 guns have about one-third of the power of the pre-charged pneumatic air guns which use an air reservoir charged with compressed air.

Experimental CO2 Guns

Police have experimented with CO2 guns as a non-lethal way to stop someone. Of course, the muzzle velocity has been increased and instead of pellets, these guns launch bean bags. Don't expect to find these types of CO2 guns in your local sporting goods store any time soon.

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