It was 2 weeks away from the big-game and while packing I discovered my 45/4500psi HPA tank I bought from Ninja Paintball was a week away from being due for hydro-testing.
If you don't know, on every tank there is a date of birth, and 5 years from that date that tank will be 'due' to be tested and certified as safe-to-fill. Finding that date of birth is pretty easy. This video does a good job showing you how.
These are DOT regulations. You won't get arrested for if you don't hydro-test it -BUT it is something you should do if you care about your safety and want to play at a real paintball field. Real fields will check your dates.
I knew that being a week past the hydro date wasn't that big of a deal, especially since the tank had been empty and only used a handful of times. I also knew that the fill stations there would be self-serve, so there wouldn't be anyone to turn me away... so why not save that $40-some bucks for paint at the big game??
Peace of mind is a powerful persuader. Filling my tank knowing it will be full of 4500 pounds per square inch of pressure was enough to get me to send it in to get re-certified. Plus it would have to be done sooner or later if I wanted my tank filled at the local field.
Picking a place to get it re-certified wasn't so easy. I kept coming across hydrotester.com, which was cheaper than the other services. I was close to sending my tank in, but after reading reviews of them, seeing that some were disgruntled about the customer service was enough to persuade me to keep things simple and use a sure thing.
Ninja paintball made my tank, they had a hydro service, they would likely know how to handle my tank -so they were a sure thing.
At the time of looking for a service I did not think to check Crossfire, a well known tank company, to see if they hydro. Turns out they do and it is cheaper than Ninja.
Now I'll say right away that I did not get my tank back in time for Oklahoma D-Day. The total time from shipping-out to receiving-back was 3 weeks. To me it felt like an eternity, and I was bummed I had to buy a new tank just to play at the event.
The good news is tanks are getting cheaper every year. Sure, the cheap ones aren't as light as the more expensive carbon-fiber ones, but they are awesome buys for those on a tight budget. I picked up a small Guerilla Air HPA tank for $50. I was surprised at the efficiency of the regulator. Not bad for $50! The con being it is heavy, but with my setup I found it balanced my marker nicely with a full hopper.
This was a learning experience. I'll go ahead and share some of what I learned.
- There are lots of services online ran by scuba shops, but sometimes the safe-bet is going through the manufacturer, even if it costs a little extra
- If you use an online service, expect to pay extra for removal and re-installation of the reg. Otherwise have some locktite and tools ready to do it yourself. Make sure you know what you are doing before you DIY. It's a little extra to have them do it, but it might be worth the price knowing it will be done right.
- As tanks get cheaper, paying $40 to get an older tank re-certified will make less and less sense. Hopefully the test price will go down in time as well.
- For online services, expect a 3-week turnaround time. I did read that some services took as long as 6 months -which is ridiculous! Shop around if that's the case.
Getting your tank done by Ninja Paintball is pretty simple.
- Print off their form, select which service you want, add payment details.
- Box up your tank, mail it out to them.
- They call saying it is done and they will be shipped out.
- Sign for the package from the UPS guy.
That last part was the hardest. Finding a time to be home when they came by was harder than it should have been. The best thing you can do is sign up for UPS MyChoice and give them a time to deliver, or enter your details online so you won't have to be there to sign for it. That allows them to drop it off.
Hopefully you now have some ideas of what to expect when it comes to getting your HPA tank hydroed online. Not everyone has the luxury of having a scuba shop nearby, so these online services are a definite help.
Do you have a favorite place to send your tank to? I know of Crossfire's and Ninja's.