Don Caswell clears the air on refilling PCP airguns
Those of us who shoot PCP air rifles have the additional need for a source of highly-compressed air. That can be resolved with a manual pump, or one of the newer powered versions. However, the most convenient way to obtain assured dry high-quality air is to use a scuba tank. Over the past few years that exercise of having the scuba bottle filled became more difficult for me, until I finally worked out the correct approach.
The filling of scuba tanks is, quite rightly, a highly regulated procedure. Diver safety requires that the scuba bottle is structurally sound and the air filling station delivers clean dry air suitable for breathing. The scuba tank must be certified on an annual basis in order to be filled by a registered scuba air provider. That is a small extra cost, and of varying inconvenience, depending on where you happen to live. For me, in a rural area to the south-west of Cairns, that requires a trip to town and the hope it can all be done that day.
Similarly, the filling of the scuba tank. I initially bought my scuba tank secondhand from one of the Cairns dive shops. The fellow who sold it to me understood that I was not using the air for breathing but only for my air rifle and was happy to recharge it for me. However, in time, he moved on and the young staff who took his place were insistent that I have a divers’ card, which I do not. I tried a variety of local and distant diver shops and kept meeting the same roadblock.
During that process, my tank certification expired. The dive shops said they could send it off to be checked and recertified, but they still wanted me to have a divers’ card. It was becoming frustrating until I had the sense to ask the dive shop who did their scuba tank maintenance and certification. For me, that happened to be Cairns Scuba Air. A short conversation with the staff there solved my problem quickly and neatly. They were familiar with the need for ‘shop air’.
After the scuba tank was checked and certified, my scuba bottle was stamped ‘not for scuba use’. With a scuba bottle devoted to shop air only, the certification process dropped from annual to five-yearly. The top-up in pressure costs about $7 and the re-certification $34. PCP users need a bottle with 120-220 bar pressure, as we do not empty the bottle like a diver would.
My scuba bottle recharging has become easy and cost-effective. I should also be able to buy another scuba tank secondhand privately which is out of certification for under $100. That way, I will always have a minimum of one fully charged bottle on hand.
So, for PCP shooters, seek out the company that provides scuba tank servicing and certification for your local dive shops. Unlike the dive shop staff, they should be totally familiar with shop air as opposed to scuba air and able to provide a five-year certification on that basis.