Filling a PCP has never been easier thanks to the Omega AirCharger AC-1a compressor – but it’s going to put a bit of pressure on your wallet as well as your cylinder, as Mike Morton explains
Make: Omega Air Cylinders www.omegacompressor.co.uk
Model: Omega AirCharger AC-1a
UK distributor: Gilbert Distribution firstname.lastname@example.org
Output: 310 bar/4,500 psi
Fill time, air rifle (approximate): 3-4 minutes
Fill time, 3-litre cylinder top-up (approximate): 100 to 300 bar – 45 minutes
Venting system: Manual
Pre-charged pneumatic rifles are typically filled in one of two ways: using a pump or a cylinder. Pumps are cheaper and portable, but need a fair bit of physical effort to operate, while cylinders are dearer, heavier and need filling by a dive shop when their residual pressure falls too low. They also need testing every five years for a surface use-only cylinder, or every two years for a dive-capable cylinder. However, there is another way – the personal compressor.
The Omega SuperCharger, Gilbert Distribution’s existing compressor, has now been joined by a bare-bones offering, the Omega AirCharger. This unit is lighter in weight and cost terms than its sibling, but it’s also a bit lighter on features. The clearest distinction between the two is that the older compressor was shrouded, while the workings of the new AirCharger are exposed. While this doesn’t look as nice and means the unit will accumulate dust, it does cut down on weight and makes maintenance easier.
The compressor comes in a sturdy packing crate and the whole package is very heavy; but once the 26kg compressor’s been taken out of the crate, it’s much more manageable and can be carried one-handed – albeit slowly! The compressor has to be plugged in with the supplied cable, but the machine needs to be prepped before use, so don’t be tempted to just fire it up to see what happens.
The compressor is water- and air-cooled; the water tank must be filled with purified water, such as bottled water, rather than distilled water. A supplied mixture of coolant and antifreeze is then poured in the water tank. The motor needs to be lubricated with grease, but the grease port is plugged for shipping. You need to remove the shipping plug and add the grease head – a black and green cylinder filled with white grease – before the machine can be turned on. The front panel features three buttons – locate the reset/off switch and make sure it’s off. Look at the pressure gauge and set your desired pressure. The gauge is graduated in both bar and psi, and you just use the outer dial to move the needle to the pressure you want to fill to.
It’s finally time to fill your PCP with air. The compressor comes with a high-pressure hose with a Foster fitting, which is a direct connection to some rifles such as Daystates; others will need their specific adapter. Once the rifle’s been connected, make sure the black bleed valve has been closed – don’t overdo it – then flip the reset/off switch to reset. Now the cooling system starts and the water/coolant solution flows through the pipes.
When you push the green button, the compressor turns itself on and starts filling your rifle. Two things pleased me here: the air is delivered in gentle pulses and the operation is not too noisy. Fill time will vary depending on the size of the air reservoir on the gun, the residual pressure in the reservoir and the pressure you intend to fill to, but a typical rifle that’s not been run empty will be filled in a couple of minutes or so.
When the compressor has delivered the desired amount of air, the motor will switch itself off, but the cooling system will still be in operation. It’s necessary to keep this running for around five minutes after use to protect the unit, so leave the reset/off switch in the reset position for now. Vent the air in the hose by gently turning the bleed valve anti-clockwise, then release the hose/adapter from your rifle as normal. Job done!
The compressor is far from being a one-trick pony, however: it can be used to fill cylinders too, as long as you have a DIN/QD male connector, which screws into your cylinder for filling. The system here is similar to filling a rifle, but remember to ensure the bleed valve on your cylinder is closed, while the main valve is open. Again, fill times vary hugely depending on the size of the cylinder, residual pressure and fill pressure.
One thing you should do every few minutes is to open the bleed valve on the AirCharger to vent any moisture in the system. This is an automated feature on the Omega SuperCharger, but that machine will cost you an extra £300. One thing that is of vital importance is to remember to lower the fill pressure when switching back to filling a rifle. Always check the pressure gauge to ensure, for example, the 300 bar setting you used for your cylinder has been dialled down for your 200 bar rifle!
So the Omega AirCharger can fill rifles and cylinders – and can do both jobs well. The compressor can also be used two ways. Either run it every time you need to fill your rifle; or, if you already have a cylinder, fill the cylinder, fill your rifles from the cylinder, then top up the cylinder with the compressor when necessary. This would have the added benefit of extending the life of the compressor, although I suspect it would still be good practice to run it on a fairly regular basis to keep the lubricants flowing and ensuring everything is working smoothly.
There’s very little to find fault with the AirCharger itself, except perhaps the £1,299 price tag. Who would want one? A private individual prepared to pay the asking price would get the convenience of never needing to go to a dive shop for refills again. Depending on where someone lives in relation to their dive shop, and their physical ability to manhandle the cylinder there and back again, avoiding all this and buying a compressor could be a big help to some people. Alternatively, a gun club owning a compressor would be able to offer its PCP-shooting members air fills, either for free or a nominal fee; and a gun shop could do the same, potentially bringing more people through its doors as they turn up for their fills.
“The Omega AirCharger AC-1a offers total convenience for all your PCP-filling needs, although that convenience comes at a fairly hefty cost. But if you can afford it, you won’t be disappointed.”