How Many Shots Can I Get from a CO2 Cartridge?

Video how many shots from a 12g co2 cartridge

The most common question people tend to ask when they first experience a CO2 air gun, is how many shots they can get from one cylinder. I would like to be as specific as I possibly can drawing my experience from the use of air guns. However, there is no single answer to this question. It varies depending on the air gun and the size of the CO2 cartridge you are using.

There are also so many other reasons that may lead to a long-winded answer. In this article, we will highlight everything you need to know about CO2 cartridges so that we can understand how CO2 air guns work and how to get the most from a single cartridge.

How Many Shots Can I Get from a CO2 Vessel?

The number of shots one expects from a CO2 vessel ultimately depends on the amount of gas used to create the velocity in each shot. The general rule that follows is that a CO2 canister powered pistol will give anywhere between 50 to 100 if all parts are functioning at top levels. However, you should expect far fewer shots when using a CO2 powered rifle as it takes more power hence more CO2 to give greater velocity and range. A rifle powered with CO2 gas will deliver between 40 to 50 shots per canister.

When considering CO2 powered air guns, you should note that it is a refrigerant gas and will therefore cool as it expands. What this implies is that when you fire your air gun in quick succession the canister will become cooler and hence lose velocity on subsequent shots. The gas in the cylinder loses its pressure as it becomes cooler.

As a rule, air gunners avoid rapid shooting when using CO2 powered air guns. Once pressure decreases and velocity falls it becomes more challenging to hit the same targets at the same distances which make target training almost impossible.

However, when using CO2 powered air guns, the ability for it to get back to its normal temperature is not long. Some take between 11-15 seconds while others may take an even shorter time if the temperature is ambient enough. But do not let temperature dissuade you from getting a CO2 powered rifle. Besides these minor setbacks, CO2 powered air guns have consistent velocities if you can keep the CO2 in its liquid state.

How Long Will my 12-gram CO2 Cartridge Last?

Again, the answer varies and you will see why later in the article. But the answer is not a fixed number and one 12-gram CO2 cartridge can, therefore, deliver around 30 to 200 shots from an air gun. The reason there is so much variation has everything to do with the nature of the CO2 gas and how other factors influence the outcome of your shots.


Factors That Determine How Much Co2 Used While Shooting a Co2 Air Gun.


Temperature affects the number of shots a Co2 canister can deliver. The reason is simple, for Co2 gas to expand, there must be heat. Therefore, the more heat there is available the more shots you will get from your air gun. The reverse is also true. When shooting your air gun in extremely cold weather there are chances that the CO2 will freeze up and your air gun fails to fire.

The warm temperature will give you more power and also probably more shots from your CO2 canister. Therefore, it is advisable to consider the area you live in before investing in a CO2 air gun.

CO2 Canister Size:

When using a CO2 air gun, the more shots you take consistently the cooler the canister and the CO2 inside the canister become. As already discussed, each time you fire your CO2 powered air gun the canister becomes cooler as it gets used up.

What this implies is that when you have a smaller canister it will cool much faster than that with a higher capacity. So, when using a smaller canister like the 12-gram CO2 cartridge, always take rest between shots to make the air gun more efficient and achieve consistent velocities. A 12-gram CO2 cartridge may only give you between 20-30 good shots before you must let it warm up a bit and then take other shots.

Some CO2 air guns in the market can deliver more shots and probably take longer to cool down. An example is the 88-90-gram CO2 tanks that allow users to enjoy a rapid-fire in target shooting before having to wait for it to warm up again. Some manufacturers still maintain the 12-gram size tanks but offer a dual canister. The result is that you will fire better and probably more than a single 12-gram cartridge would. Also, there will be more shots between each warm-up time because of the dual capacity.

Semi and Full Auto

The market has both semi and full auto CO2 powered air guns. It sometimes beats logic as one might wonder how effective a full-auto CO2 powered air gun would be if rapid-fire affects the velocity leading to poor performance.

It is tempting to shoot fast anytime you have a semi or full auto air gun and this is a great dilemma for rapid shooters. One reason that makes full auto air guns ineffective is when they use CO2 to power the shots. It gets worse if you consider a full auto air gun that uses a 12-gram Co2 canister to power its shots.


For instance, let’s consider the KWC Mini UZI that can fire both in the semi-auto and full-auto mode yet it uses only a single 12-gram CO2 canister. When using the KWC Mini Uzi in semi-auto mode, you should expect at least two rounds of 25 shots only if you allow it to warm up between reloads.

The same KWC Mini Uzi when shooting in full auto mode you should only expect one magazine of shots before it cools down. After the reload then you should consider switching back to semi-auto mode. Well, this is if only you want to get half a magazine of shots before the canister becomes depleted.

Shooting Pace

When shooting in semi-auto or full auto mode, you can decide to take time and fire single shots to become more precise. The more pace you have in between shots the lesser shots you will get from a single canister.

You should take time between shots if you want more power from your air gun. The only way to avoid getting fewer shots is to also avoid the temptation of blasting shots regardless of the air gun you are using. An alternative is enjoying your blast from your semi or full auto air gun but stocking up more CO2 cartridges.

CO2 Valve Settings

On almost all CO2 air guns there must be a valve that regulates how much CO2 will be used. The valve setup is a simple one that opens up once the hammer is dropped for only a brief period to allow CO2 to escape the canister and into the barrel and breech area. What follows is that the gun propels the air pellet, BB, or Airsoft round in the chamber.

The power of the shot is determined by how long the valve stays open and the amount of CO2 used. The higher the CO2 the valve releases, the higher the velocity but also fewer shots from a single cartridge.

How Exactly Does the CO2 Work?

Understanding CO2 Cartridge Pressure

There are many air gun enthusiasts that feel the pressure concerning how a CO2 powered rifle works. Even though many understand that they need pressure some do not think beyond loading the cartridge and taking shots.

Now that we already know how to maximize your CO2 cartridge to get more shots, we must understand how the process begins.

When CO2 gas is compressed in a canister it can power an air gun to fire pellets at significant velocities. CO2 is a gas that can turn to liquid when mechanically compressed. Because of this unique nature, the CO2 gas can achieve higher pressure of up to 852.8 psi especially if it combines with an ideal temperature of about 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

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If you have an air gun, the ideal pressure should be a minimum of 850 to 900 psi. Therefore, the CO2 powered air gun can reach these pressures comfortably. The pressure is also affected by temperature and the state of the CO2 when fired. You will get higher pressures from your cartridge if the CO2 is mostly liquid compared to gas when you fire.

CO2 is a complex substance that can form solid to a gas without necessarily passing through the liquid state. What this means is that the pressure inside the canister is a result of the temperature of the gas. Therefore, when you mechanically compress the CO2 in its gas state it turns to liquid when the right pressure is attained. It explains why the pressure will remain constant in the canister until all the liquid is finished. Hence no CO2 air gun will lose its velocity because there is little liquid CO2 left in the canister.

CO2, Pressure, and Temperature

The general principle of CO2 and temperature is that when it reaches around 70 degrees Fahrenheit the gas will obtain a pressure equivalent to 852.8 psi and this can be contained in a vessel. If the canister still has more CO2 it is converted into a liquid state.

Hence inside the canister is a pressurized gas that sits above the liquid when at room temperature. The process that follows each shot means that some gas is released and immediately converts the remaining liquid into gas for subsequent shots. All this time, ensuring that the pressure is equalized for the right temperature.

What this means, is that pressure inside a CO2 canister is directly dependent on the temperature. Warmer temperatures are the best, and cooler temperatures affect velocity as well.

Understanding CO2 and Velocity

As mentioned at the beginning of the article, velocity and CO2 are related. You can see this as you reach near the end of your CO2 in the canister. You will notice that the pressure slightly drops and the velocity becomes compromised as well.

To adjust the velocity of your CO2 air gun when it is almost finished, consider taking shots in warmer temperatures. As a general rule, never fire your CO2 air gun below 60 degrees Fahrenheit as this jams the projectile.


CO2 is among the simplest ways you can power your air gun. It requires little expertise to operate, and enjoy lots of years of target shooting with fewer hassle in between.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>