CO2 Vs PCP Airguns

C02 and PCP airguns share many similarities. But which one is the best performer? Let’s look at each type’s pros and cons to find out.

PCP And C02 Air Gun Similarities

PCP and C02 airguns work in very similar ways. They use air pressure or C02 held in a reservoir or cartridge attached internally or externally to the gun stock or barrel area. The pressure is then released when the trigger is pulled through a hammer and valve system, entering the chamber and sending the pellet or bb out of the barrel.

Both PCP and C02 airguns can use multi-shot magazines and operate with a bolt or side lever action. They both also eventually lose pressure as they are fired and need to either be refilled or replaced with a new reservoir or cartridge.

PCP And CO2 Air Gun Differences

The main difference between PCP and C02 airguns is the type of gas used to supply energy. C02 air guns use carbon dioxide cartridges while PCPs use compressed air.

PCP airguns also hold air pressure at much higher levels than C02 airguns. C02 gas is stored at 800 PSI while PCP can be up to 3000 PSI in some models. This is what makes PCP airguns so much more powerful and accurate, allowing them to be used for longer target shots and hunting bigger game.

CO2 airguns are generally more affordable and easier to use, while PCP airguns provide higher power and accuracy. It’s important to research and compare different models and features before making a decision on which type of airgun to purchase.

For related information, see our post How Do Air Pistols Work?

PCP Vs C02 Air Gun Range

PCP and C02 airguns provide shooters with the ability to hit targets in a wide range of distances. However, PCP will have a longer range overall.

PCP Airgun Range

PCP airguns are accurate typically within 30-50 yards. At longer distances, some PCP airguns can still maintain good accuracy, with effective ranges of up to 100 yards or more.

C02 Airgun Range

CO2 airguns, however, are only capable of shooting accurately at moderate ranges, with effective ranges of up to 10-20 yards for consistent accuracy, and up to 50 yards for some models under ideal conditions.

PCP airguns are also not affected by changes in temperature like CO2 airguns. However, they can be more expensive and require more maintenance than CO2 airguns.


If you are looking for an air gun to shoot targets at longer ranges, then a PCP is the better option. If you want an air gun for plinking and general target shooting, then a C02 will work just fine.

PCP Vs C02 Air Gun Power

Overall, PCP usually provides much more power than C02 airguns. This is because the air is stored at much higher pressures than C02.

As mentioned earlier, PCP airguns store air at 2000-3000 PSI, while C02 airguns store gas at around 800 PSI.

PCP Air Gun Muzzle Velocity

Since air can be charged to a much higher pressure than CO2 gas, PCP air guns have higher muzzle velocities and more energy at the point of impact. The power of a PCP airgun can vary depending on the specific model and caliber, but they can typically generate muzzle velocities of 800 to 1100 feet per second (fps) or higher, which can translate to muzzle energies of 20 to 40 foot-pounds (ft-lbs) or more.

Some high-end PCP airguns can even generate muzzle energies of over 100 ft-lbs, which makes them suitable for larger game hunting.

C02 Air Gun Muzzle Velocity

CO2 airguns, on the other hand, are generally less powerful than PCP airguns. This is because the power of a CO2 airgun is limited by the amount of CO2 gas that can be contained in the cartridge, as well as the temperature of the gas.

CO2 airguns can typically generate muzzle velocities of 400 to 700 fps, which can translate to muzzle energies of 5 to 12 ft-lbs or more. Some high-end CO2 airguns can generate muzzle energies of up to 30 ft-lbs, but this is not common.


So, if your looking for an airgun with more power, consider choosing a PCP airgun.

PCP Vs C02 Air Gun Number of Shots

PCP and C02 airguns can shoot a similar number of shots during a single period. This depends on the size of the tank or cartridge and the magazine.

Magazine sizes for PCP and C02 airguns range between 5-12 rounds for rotary magazines and 10-30 rounds for larger belt magazines.

PCP air tanks range from 13 to 100 cubic inches of compressed air. C02 cartridges range in size from 12 to 90 grams.

The larger the tank or cartridge, the more shots the gun can fire before running out of power. This means the shot magazine will likely need refilling before the tank does. For example, a single 12g C02 cartridge can supply power for 50-200 shots, and the same goes for PCP air tanks.

However, as the tank runs out of air or C02, the power of the airgun will noticeably diminish. When purchasing an airgun, make sure to check the shot capacity of the magazine and the maximum number of shots per tank.

C02 Vs PCP In Cold Or Hot Temperatures

Cold weather really affects C02 airguns more than PCP. PCP airguns are largely immune from the effects of hot or cold temperatures unless they are very extreme.

C02 Airguns in Hot or Cold Temperatures

The best temperature to operate a C02 airgun is between 60-100 degrees Fahrenheit. This may mean having to wait until the weather gets warmer before going out to shoot.

If the temperature drops below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, a C02 airgun will suffer big performance drops. This is because the pressure of carbon dioxide depends on the temperature. C02 airguns perform better when the weather warms up because C02 acts as a coolant. The C02 air pressure also increases in warm weather which can add velocity to the shots. However, the opposite happens in very high temperatures.

PCP Airguns in Hot or Cold Temperatures

PCP, however, is not as affected by temperature changes. This makes PCP airgun performance more stable. PCP airguns are also constructed of higher quality materials and can include performance regulators.

However, in extremely cold temperatures (0-20 F), the resulting changes in air density can affect the PSI in a PCP airgun. Using an airgun in snowy conditions can also harm it if the snow melts or freezes inside, which can lock up critical parts such as the firing pin.


PCP airguns perform better overall when temperature changes occur. However, very extreme temperatures will affect the performance of both types of airguns

Can CO2 Be Used In A PCP Air Gun?

No, C02 cannot be used in a PCP airgun. C02 air guns and PCP airguns have specially made valves and seals that are designed to only work with either PCP or C02 at specific pressures. Even though PCP airguns can handle much higher pressures than what C02 canisters provide, using C02 will most likely not work.

One might be tempted to try and use C02 in a PCP airgun because C02 is easier to find and less expensive. Carbon dioxide is in fact found in most household items, but PCP airguns require specially filled air tanks.

Which Is Best CO2 Or PCP Airguns?

The pros and cons of each can be summarized below:

PCP Pros:

  • Less recoil
  • Less noise
  • Provides extra power for hunting medium or large game.
  • Uses multi-shot magazines.
  • Supports an optional sound suppressor.

PCP Cons:

  • Recharging requires extra equipment.
  • Special repair steps are needed.
  • Overall higher cost
  • Multiple air bottles may be required for longer outings.
  • Performance suffers in extreme weather conditions.
  • Internal seals can wear out and require replacement.

C02 Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to use for beginners
  • Great for target shooting and hunting rodents.
  • Can use 12g to 90g capsules
  • Very low recoil
  • Less noisy
  • Available in semi-automatic

C02 Cons

  • More affected by temperature swings.
  • Less power than PCP
  • Power drops as C02 runs out.
  • Limited shot quantity
  • Less accurate at longer distances.


If you are looking for an airgun that is easy to use and good for close-range target shooting, then a C02 airgun may be right for you. However, if you want a more powerful, longer-range airgun, then a PCP airgun will be better.

For more information about PCP airguns, see Spring Vs PCP Airguns.

To Close

Both PCP and C02 airguns utilize stored gas or pressurized air to provide power. They work in similar ways and are effective at certain ranges. Which one you prefer ultimately depends on your personal preferences and the shooting environment you will be in.

Lawrence the Airgun Ranger