What are CO2 Air Rifles?

Co2 powered air rifles and pistols use pressurized canisters of carbon dioxide gas to propel pellets or BBs. Co2 is also a popular platform for replicas of well-known historic guns and usually shoot BB rather than pellets.

Why choose a CO2 Air rifle

Like pre-charged pneumatic air rifles and pistols, Co2 airguns have little to no recoil which makes them easy to shoot. Some also have multi-shot magazines which makes them easier and quicker to shoot. Unlike pre-charged pneumatic rifles, there is no need to maintain a compressed air source such as a compressor or air tank. As long as you have a stock of Co2 canisters you can keep shooting.

Why choose a CO2 Air rifle

Main CO2 air rifle brands

Co2 is commonly used in air pistols and, to a lesser extent, in rifles. Crosman and Umarex are leading manufacturers, the latter makes a number of Co2 replicas of well-known pistol brands.

Main CO2 air rifle brands

History of CO2 air rifles and first CO2 air rifle

Once technology was developed to capture Co2 in small canisters under pressure, it was only a matter of time before the gas was used in air rifles and pistols. It is generally believed they were developed at around the same time as the first PCP air rifles in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

How do CO2 air rifles work

Unlike pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) rifles, which used a refillable reservoir of compressed air, or spring powered rifles that rely on a spring to compress air in a chamber, Co2 guns use disposable 12g or 88g Co2 canisters. Some rifles use two 12g canisters at the same time. The canisters are inserted into a chamber. When closed, the canisters are pieced, releasing the still pressurized gas into the chamber. From there, the firing mechanism is similar to that of a PCP in that a measured amount of Co2 is released via a valve each time the trigger is pulled to propel the pellet down the barrel.

How to fill a CO2 air rifle

co2 cartidge

Co2 rifles usually have a chamber which is opened by unscrewing a cap. Once the canister, or canisters, are inserted, the cap is screwed back into place and pierces the canisters to release the pressurized gas. On most rifles the chamber is located on the main body of the rifle between the trigger and the barrel. On some, the canisters are located in the butt or pistol grip. On Co2 pistols, usually a smaller 12g canister is most often located in a cavity in the handle. The action of returning the handle pierces the canister.

Most Co2 rifles take either one or two 12g canisters (left) or larger 88g canisters

Replacement parts for CO2 air rifles

Replacement parts for Co2 rifles are as readily available as parts for other types of air rifle either via manufacturers or retailers.

Maintaining CO2 air rifles vs other air rifles

Although they generally operate at lower pressure than PCP air rifles, pressurized gas should still be considered dangerous and handled with care. As with PCP rifles, servicing and maintaining is best left to professional gunsmiths.

Best CO2 air rifles in 2020

Always a contentious subject of course, however, here at Alpha Militaria we like many of the rifles in the Crosman range, especially the legendary 2250 Ratcatcher series. The Umarex 850 is also a superb rifle and often comes with several accessories including a scope, silencer and bipod. Another Co2 rifle we like is the pump action Umarex RP5.

Best CO2 air rifles in 2020

Pump action Umarex RP5 is an addictive gun when it comes to plinking

Best CO2 air rifles for hunting in 2020

Co2 rifles are not generally considered optimal for hunting as they are generally lower powered than PCP or spring rifles. However, for short range pest control, the aptly named Crosman Ratcatcher is more than competent, as is the Umarex 850. Co2 rifles that shoot BBs as opposed to pellets should not be used for hunting.

Crosman Ratcatcher 2250 XL

The Crosman Ratcatcher is one of the best Co2 rifles available and capable of small vermin control.

Best CO2 cartridges / capsules in 2020

In truth, there’s very little to choose between different Co2 canisters as they are essentially very basic and cheap to produce.

CO2 air rifle FAQs

What are CO2 air rifles?

C02 air rifles use pressurized Co2 from self-contained canisters to propel pellets or BBs as opposed to compressed air. 

How does a CO2 air rifle work?

Pressurized Co2 canisters – either 12g or 88g – are inserted into the rifle. The gas is released into a chamber to propel pellets or BBs..

How to fill a CO2 air rifle?

Co2 canisters are usually placed into a chamber which is accessed by unscrewing a cap. When the cap is screwed back on, the canister or canisters are punctured, releasing the still pressurized gas into the chamber.

Are CO2 air rifles the best?

Co2 is affected by temperature. As a result, a rifle will be slightly more powerful in warm weather and return more shots than in the cold. Consequently, consistent accuracy is more difficult to attain than in a PCP or spring-powered rifle.

How many shots do you get per CO2 cartridge?

Shot count will vary for different rifles and in addition, Co2 rifles will return fewer shots in the cold than in warmer weather, and at less power. Generally though, you should expect at least 40 shots from a single 12g canister.