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Paintball Hoppers - What You Need To Know
Paintball hoppers (or loaders, as they’re sometimes known) hold your paintballs ready to fire and feed them into your marker gun as each shot is made. If they jam up or smash a paintball in their mechanism, you could suddenly find yourself unable to fire and a sitting duck, so it’s important to make sure you understand exactly what different types there are, how they work and which type of marker guns they suit best so you can choose the ideal one for your game.
The mechanism types
Hoppers come in a wide range of styles, shapes and price ranges that can be broken down into two essential types.
Passive Type - Gravity Fed
A gravity fed paintball hopper is a simple yet effective way of loading paintballs as it relies solely on the force of gravity to pull the ball into the firing chamber. This makes them inexpensive, lightweight and quiet, so they are well-suited to beginners and are often found on rental marker guns.
Because of their low feed rate, they should not be used with electronic trigger markers, which have a higher firing rate that typically exceeds that of a gravity fed hopper and can lead to paintballs being chopped inside the marker. This lower feed rate also puts them at a slightly higher risk of a paintball jam in the hopper itself. Although this is usually easily resolved by a quick shake, it takes up time that could better be spent firing at the opposing team.
Nevertheless, when it comes to entry-level players or those looking for an inexpensive gift for a paintball fan, gravity-fed hoppers can be the perfect choice.
Active Electronic Types
Electronic hoppers use battery-powered motors that drive either spinning paddles and fins or a feed tray that feeds paintballs into marker guns much faster than gravity ever could. This enables players to shoot 15 or even 20 paintballs per second compared to the average 10 to 12 paintballs per second of gravity-fed hoppers.
Electronic hoppers generally come in two types, and their names are almost as self-explanatory as the gravity-fed hoppers.
These hoppers actively supply the paintballs into the marker’s breach (or opening) using battery-powered motors that spin paddles at varying speeds to feed the paintballs through as quickly as possible. The setup usually makes use of sensors around the feed neck to work out how high the firing rate is. These sensors then send signals to the motors to spin the paddles as needed, agitating the balls and getting them into the marker faster.
Agitating motor types can drain batteries quite rapidly and have become more common in entry-level priced electronic hoppers, whereas the newer, high-end models are more likely to use force-fed technology. However, agitating hoppers are still very good at what they do and deliver speed loading when needed.
This technology is usually found in the higher-priced end of electronic hoppers. They use their sensors in a more proactive way by actually forcing the paintballs on demand through the feed neck rather than simply agitating them to speed up movement. This provides a significantly faster and, importantly, a more consistent feed rate when you need it the most.
Force fed systems tend to be easier to maintain and clean as it is simpler to take them apart and reassemble them. Plus, with fewer moving parts, these force-fed systems go easier on battery consumption and are far less likely to jam. The need for fewer batteries means they are lighter in weight, too, like this Dye LT-R Loader .68 Cal Electronic, which needs only three AA batteries to feed an average of 80,000+ paintballs. This hopper can also be fitted with a Dye's Quick Feed System 6.0.
Quick Feed Systems
Your hopper can only hold a finite number of paintballs, and in a big game, you’re going to need to refill. To save precious time and avoid being an easy target, consider adding a quick feed system to your hopper. Most come with rain covers and allow quick access to empty a pod or two of extra paintballs easily while keeping your eye on the game. Plus, with the variety of colors available, they’re a great way to personalize your gear.
There really is much more to hoppers than you would expect, so it pays to give some thought to which one to use and pick wisely.