How to choose the right air source for PCP air rifle

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Choosing the right air source for your PCP gun can be tricky.

There are several ways to fill your PCP gun and each will have their advantages and disadvantages.

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It’s best to take a step back to consider your options so that you end up with the best method for you.

In order to help you navigate this, we will take a look at the three most popular ways to fill your gun:

  • The hand pump
  • Scuba tank
  • And carbon fiber tank. 

Hand pump

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A hand pump is generally the same as a bicycle pump.

Instead of pumping bike tires, a hand pump will connect to the air reservoir of a PCP gun.

A modern hand pump can get to 3,000 psi (pounds per square inch).

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When you start to pump, the beginning is easy and you can even pump with one hand to get to 1,000 psi.

However, you’ll most likely encounter more resistance once you hit 2,500 psi.

At this point it’s best to leverage your body weight to pump the remainder.

It’s recommended that you do not pump for more than five minutes

And to let the pump cool down 15 minutes between pumping sessions to prevent overheating.

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  • Small and easy to store
  • Doesn’t need any technical testing
  • Cheaper price compared to carbon fiber tanks
  • No need to refill so it doesn’t cost any money on the refilling process like air tank
  • Does not break easily, hand pump is generally durable and can last for years
  • Never run out of air power
  • Can be repaired and serviced easily
  • Hand pump is highly cost effective. You buy it once and there is little money to spend for its maintenance
  • Gives you ultimate control over the pressure level. You can pump the gun and stop at any pressure point that you want. This characteristic alone makes some air gun experts prefer a hand pump over air tanks for their PCP rifles
  • Takes some physical strength and effort to use the pump though it could be your work out for that day
  • Not fast in term of filling speed
  • Requires understanding of a hand pump to operate it successfully
  • Some pumps don’t have the moisture filter so they might put water into the gun and cause damage in the long run. This issue can be handled by using the pump in a climate controlled environment where the moisture level is low

Scuba tank

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Scuba tanks are also called diving cylinders.

They are usually made of steel or aluminum and often have a pressure of 3,000 psi.

It’s required to perform hydrostatic testing on scuba tanks every five years.

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  • Take very little effort to use
  • Fast filling speed: scuba tank will fill your PCP gun in seconds
  • Filled with filtered and dried air. Therefore, it won’t put any moisture into your gun and doesn’t cause any rusting problem.
  • Needs to be tested every 5 years
  • Costs money to refill
  • Takes significant space to store
  • Hard to stop exactly where you want because the pressure rises so fast.
  • Finding a place to refill a scuba tank could be a problem
  • Hard to fill completely to over 3000 psi PCP gun

Carbon fiber tank

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A carbon fiber tank has the same look as a scuba tank but it is much smaller.

It uses a carbon fiber so the tank material is much lighter than a scuba tank.

A carbon fiber tank can get up to a pressure of 4,500 psi and gets more fills than both a hand pump and scuba tank.

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  • Fills the gun in seconds
  • Available in different sizes
  • Compact and smaller than a diving cylinder
  • High pressure level, up to 4500 psi
  • Compact ,smaller and lighter than a scuba tank
  • Convenient to carry along to travel or to the shooting range
  • More expensive than a scuba tank or hand pump
  • Finding a place to refill the tank could be a problem
  • Costs money to refill the tank when it drops out in pressure

Air gun compressor

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The final method is with a specialized 3,000+PSI compressor.

Disadvantages – they can be loud and expensive, although prices have come down a bit in the last couple of years.

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Tyler, a Pyramyd Air expert, shows us how to fill your PCP airgun using the most popular methods here:


Of the four air sources reviewed here, it’s easy to see how one air source may be more convenient than another.

So far, we have seen that a hand pump, scuba tank and carbon fiber tank each have their merits. 

If you want a more effective method of filling your rifle, then you might want to consider a scuba tank or a carbon fiber tank.

Depending on the level of preparation you are able to provide, like if you are able to go into a store to fill your scuba or carbon fiber tank, then you might have to choose an option that is simpler.

If you’re willing to spend more money to save time on the fill up, then choosing a scuba tank or carbon fiber tank will be best. 

Make sure to research if there are scuba tank or carbon fiber tank refill locations in your area before purchasing either of these items.

If there aren’t, this may limit when you would be able to refill your tanks. 

If you’d rather your air source be filled automatically or without manual effort, then a scuba tank or carbon fiber tank is a great way to go.

If you are a regular member of a local shooting range, a carbon fiber tank could be your best friend because of its light weight and portability. 

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Therefore, you should think about your specific situation before making a buying decision.

If you are an occasional shooter and you don’t mind some extra work, then a hand pump will give you total control over the power of your PCP gun.

=> For more on the best PCP air rifles on the market, see this post

Since hand pumps are affordable, you could always purchase one as a backup in case you cannot get it filled at a local station. 

With each of these options you cannot go wrong!

Hopefully this review helped to narrow down the pros and cons of each so you can choose the air source that’s suitable for you. 

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.


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