Understanding C02 Cartridges For Your Air Rifle

Understanding C02 Cartridges For Your Air Rifle

If you own an air powered pellet gun it’s important to understand CO2 cartridges for your air rifle. Carbon dioxide cartridges are a common power source for many types of air rifles and they have come a long way since their invention.

Understanding how these devices work can help you maximize their use and also stay safe when installing them.

We’ll outline how they are made so you can understand which brands are the best for your particular rifle.

You will also learn the basics of how long they last and how to store them so you can get the most out of your investment.

Where To Buy CO2 Cartridges

CO2 cartridges can be purchased at many major retailers and sporting goods stores. They are relatively inexpensive and are a very efficient way to power an air rifle. Shooters can typically get 100 to 200 rounds out of a cartridge before needing to change it.

Here are some other common questions about CO2 cartridges.

How Do C02 Cartridges Work?

CO2 cartridges for air rifles are compressed CO2 gas in a stainless steel container. They are small, cylindrical cartridges that are about 4-5 inches long and about an inch and a half in diameter.

At one end, the bottom of the cartridge is rounded off. At the top end where CO2 is dispensed the metal comes together to form a thin neck.

When the cartridge is installed in a rifle, they are typically placed in a chamber with a seal and puncture nipple at one end and a screw at the other. The screw is used to push the cartridge against the nipple, puncturing it.

There is a thin skin of metal on the neck of the CO2 cartridge that when broken, releases the CO2 gas into the chamber of the rifle, prepping it for firing.

A seal around the cartridge prevents gas from escaping.

Umarex High-Grade CO2 Cartridges for Pellet Guns, BB Guns and Airsoft Guns, 12 Gram (Pack of 12)

How Are They Made?

The process for manufacturing CO2 cartridges starts with raw steel unrolled from huge sheets. The sheets are run through a machine that stamps out metal discs using hundreds of pounds of force.

The disks are then shaped into small pieces of metal that look like little cups. These small cups then go through a process called re-drawing where they are constantly moved in and out of a series of punches that lengthens them. In the end of this process, the cups look more like long tubes.

The tubes then move to the next part of the process where the open end of the tube gets heated by an induction coil. This makes the steel malleable. Another machine then goes to work pinching and shaping the end of the tubes until it becomes very narrow. At this point they look like little bottles.

Next the necks of the tubes are shaved by a lathe and a lip is created. They are then washed and dried before heading to a filling station. Keep in mind that the whole process is automated. A filling head pumps liquid CO2 into the filling cartridges and then caps them.

The last step in the process is a quality control check before the cartridges are packaged and shipped to retailers.

Do C02 Cartridges Expire?

Some manufacturers may have recommended use by dates however these cartridges are manufactured to hold in the liquid CO2 pretty well. As long as the seal holds, cartridges should remain good for many years if not decades.

Of course external factors can always cause that shelf life to shorten. For example if cartridges are stored in high heat, very low cold, in corrosion prone environments or if they are damaged in any way; this could cause the cartridge to fail prematurely.

Manufacturer defects are another potential cause of short shelf life. As a best practice you should always try and use cartridges in a timely manner to avoid losing them to one of these external factors.

How Should I Store My Unused C02 Cartridges

Make sure you follow all manufacturer specifications for storage of your CO2. Here are some other general storage instructions.

Store in a temperate area: any cartridge under extreme pressure does not do well with extreme temperatures. Avoid storing your cartridges in very high heat or very low cold. These can cause the seal to crack and even break.

Avoid corrosion prone environments: Do not store cartridges in areas where there is an excessive amount of moisture or salt. These minerals can cause rust to form on the outside of the cartridge and eventually weaken the seal.

Keep out of reach of children: You definitely want to store your cartridges in a place where children cannot get a hold of them by mistake. Children playing with cartridges may inadvertently break the seal and cause the cartridge to erupt.

Avoid shocks and bumps: Try not to frequently store your cartridges in areas that experience shocks, shifting, bumping, or other jarring. For example storing in vehicles, boats, or other conveyances can increase the possibility that a seal could get punctured inadvertently.

Crosman 12-Gram CO2 Powerlet Cartridges For Use With Air Rifles And Air Pistols


If you understand C02 cartridges for your air rifle, you can be better equipped to know what to buy, how to care for them, and how to use them appropriately. CO2 cartridges have come a long way thanks to sophisticated manufacturing processes. They are an incredibly reliable power source for your air rifle and have a pretty long shelf life.

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