What Is A CO2 Powered Air Rifle?

What Is A CO2 Powered Air Rifle?

A CO2 powered air rifle is a type of air gun that uses carbon dioxide (CO2) as its power source to propel pellets, as opposed to traditional Pre-Charged Pneumatic (PCP) air rifles that use compressed air. This distinct mechanism allows for rapid firing and a unique shooting experience.

This distinction not only affects their operation but also influences their performance, cost, and user experience.

How CO2 Air Rifles Work

At the heart of a CO2 air rifle is the CO2 capsule, commonly found in sizes like the 12-gram cartridge, with larger options such as the 88-gram cartridge also available.

These capsules are inserted into the rifle, where they release CO2 gas when the trigger is pulled. This gas then propels the pellet out of the barrel and towards the target.

The process is smooth and rapid, allowing for a quicker succession of shots compared to some other air gun mechanisms.

The Difference Between CO2 and PCP Air Rifles

While both CO2 and PCP rifles share the principle of using gas to propel pellets, the source and management of this gas significantly affect their performance.

The main difference lies in how temperature impacts CO2. The performance of CO2 air rifles can be greatly influenced by temperature changes, which can affect the density and pressure of CO2 gas.

This variance leads to fluctuations in shot velocity and, consequently, accuracy.

In contrast, PCP air rifles, which use compressed air stored at a constant pressure, tend to offer more consistent performance across different temperatures.

Air Rifle Pumps

CO2 air rifles use capsules, not pumps

Pros And Cons Of CO2 Air Rifles


  • Quick Reload
    The use of CO2 capsules allows for rapid reloading, making CO2 rifles an excellent choice for shooters who value speed and ease of use.
  • Ease of Use
    Generally, CO2 rifles are user-friendly, especially for beginners, due to their simple operation and maintenance.


  • Cost
    While the initial purchase price of a CO2 rifle might be attractive, the ongoing cost of CO2 capsules can add up, making them more expensive to operate in the long run compared to PCP rifles, which can be refilled with air using a pump or air tank.
  • Temperature Sensitivity
    As previously mentioned, the accuracy and performance of CO2 rifles can suffer in extreme temperatures due to the nature of CO2 gas. This makes them less reliable for precision shooting or in environments with significant temperature fluctuations.
  • Accuracy
    When it comes to precision, PCP air rifles generally have the upper hand. The inconsistency of CO2 pressure, especially as the capsule depletes, can lead to a decrease in accuracy over time.

Ideal Uses for CO2 Air Rifles

Despite the drawbacks, CO2 air rifles hold a significant place in the shooting world. They are particularly well-suited for casual target shooting, plinking, and in situations where rapid shot succession is more valuable than pinpoint accuracy.

Their ease of use also makes them an excellent choice for beginners looking to get into air gun shooting without the complexity and maintenance requirements of more advanced systems.

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