A paintball hopper (this may also be referred to as a loader) is a device that attaches to your paintball gun. This will store your paint before loading the paint into the firing chamber. Here, we break down the things you need to know about a paintball hopper.
This is the speed which the hopper can feed the balls into the firing chamber and is measured in balls per second (bps). The feed rate in loaders can vary dependant on the loading mechanism, this can be anything from 4bps to 40bps. During the arms race of the first decade of the 2000s, the feed rate was THE key feature of a loader. As fire rates got faster and faster, the loaders had to keep up. Since 2010 we've seen fire rates drop and drop, to a point where the standard 10.5bps required for tournaments doesn't need a loader that can feed at a ridiculous rate any more.
Mechanisms – The Difference
There are three basic types of loading mechanism in a hopper, gravity fed, agitated and force fed.
Gravity fed hoppers rely solely on gravity to draw the ball into the firing chamber resulting in a low feed rate. These are the loaders typically found on a rental setup. A low feed rate often causes paint to jam inside the hopper, although this is easily resolved (shake the hopper to dislodge the paint) it takes time, time which could have been spent firing or aiming. These loaders are designed to be used on mechanical markers and should not be used with an electronic marker (for information on the difference between electronic and mechanical markers check out our "Electronic vs Mechanical Markers" blog post). Electronic markers have a higher firing rate which typically will exceed the feed rate of a gravity fed hopper. When the firing rate exceeds feed rate this can cause paint to chop. These hoppers are cheap, lightweight and quiet – perfect for beginners. Examples would be 200 Round Gravity Loader or the Proto Primo which as a slightly more advanced shelf design insed to assist with faster feeding.
These are typically electronic hoppers that use battery powered motors which spin to feed paintballs into the breach. They normally have a sensor in the feed neck to determine when to spin paddles which will agitate the balls around the feedneck, helping it to feed faster. These agitating type setups are normally found in cheaper electronic loaders, and can be a bit heavy on battery usage. Examples of this design would be the Tippmann SSL or the JT Revolution
Force Fed designs are normally found in the more expensive loaders. Again, these will use sensors, but in a more proactive way with a feeding mechanism so paintballs are pushed or forced into the breach of the marker, offering a more consistent and faster feed rate. These newer design hoppers tend to be easier to strip for celaning or maintenance too. Examples would be the DYE Rotors or Virtue Spire Loaders