What is a hopper in Paintball
The paintball game usually involves two teams who compete against each other by shooting at the opponent team with balls of paint that are shot from a paintball gun. Combat tactics and teamwork are great for a team to beat their opponent in a game of paintball but having the right equipment is the ultimate deciding factor that separates the winning team from the losing team.
A paintball hopper acts as the loading equipment for a paintball gun and holds the paintballs before they are loaded to the firing chamber of the gun. The type of hopper that you use on your gun determines how fast you shoot paintballs in addition to affecting the accuracy of your aim. Choosing the right sized hopper also reduces the number of times that you have to reload and reduces the distractions that you get when you are in a paintball game.
In this article, we explore the structure of a paintball hopper, review the different kinds of hoppers that are in the market, and discuss some of the features that you should look out for when purchasing a hopper.
Using a Paintball Hopper
The general structure of a paintball hopper features a large spherical loading area that holds a number of paintballs. The specific number of paintballs that can be loaded depends on the size of the hopper and could be anywhere between 45 balls for low-end hoppers to 250 balls for high-end paintball hoppers.
The bottom part of the hopper has a bottle-neck spout that fits over the paintball gun. The spout connects the loading area that holds the paintballs to the chamber of the paintball gun where the balls are fired from and allows the paintballs to drop in one ball at a time.
The spout for some paintball hoppers fits across many paintball guns while some are designed to only fit specific paintball gun models. It is important, therefore, to check out the spout's design when you are buying the hopper and see whether it fits on your paintball gun.
Some hoppers also have wide-open mouths at the top that can fit speed feed paintballing accessories that help in quick loading of paintballs into the hopper. Speed feed compatible hoppers can halve the time taken to load balls into the hopper, thus facilitating a seamless firing experience. Some speed feeds also come with protective covers that prevent raindrops from getting into the hopper.
Kinds of Paintball Hoppers in the Market
You will find five kinds of hoppers in the market. Each kind uses different mechanisms to drop the balls into the chamber. They are:
- Gravity fed paintball hoppers
- Electronic hoppers
- Sound activated paintball hoppers
- Cyclone activated hoppers
- Automag paintball hoppers
Gravity fed paintball hoppers
These hoppers rely solely on the force of gravity to load the balls into the firing chamber. The balls, which are spherical in shape, roll down to the bottleneck spout at the bottom of the hopper and drop down into the chamber below. A major problem with these hoppers is experienced when two balls roll down at the same time and cannot fit in the spout, which is designed to release only one ball at a time.
This causes obstruction, and you have to shake your paintball gun to unblock it. When doing this, your shooting is interrupted because you are likely to lose your composure. This means that you have to aim again. The time you use when shaking the gun also leaves you exposed and an opponent could exploit that short window to get you.
Gravity fed hoppers have a slow feed rate. The feed rate refers to the number of paintballs that a paintball hopper can load into the chamber at a given time. The rate is measured in balls per second, and the gravity-fed hoppers can load between four and eight balls per second at best.
Due to these impediments, gravity-fed paintball guns are used by armature and beginner paintballers. They are also cheap and made of lightweight materials. Moreover, they can only be used with mechanical markers and paintball guns. Loading and firing using a gravity-fed hopper and a mechanical paintball gun is quiet since there are no mechanical parts. This allows one to creep up on opponents without detection and fire at close range.
Electronic paintball hoppers
Electronic hoppers work by using battery-powered motors to load paintballs into the firing chamber. The motor continuously rotates the paintballs putting them in the chamber and as soon as the ball is fired, the motor places the next ball in. This mechanism does not have time lags in between firing two balls, something that enables the electronic hoppers to have a fast loading rate of up to 16 balls per second. The motor is also precise when loading the balls. As such, it prevents two balls from being in the chamber at the same time, thereby avoiding any possibility of obstruction. Electronic hoppers can be used with both manual and electronic paintball guns.
The motor on an electronic hopper can be noisy depending on the make and model. The battery that powers the motor also drains quickly on low-end electronic hoppers that lack energy-saving sensors. This makes their use limited since you cannot use the gun or hopper when the battery power drains out.
Higher-end electronic paintball hoppers, on the other hand, have a sensor that only moves the motor when necessary. This makes the battery on them to last longer. What's more, you experience less noise from the motor movement.
Electronic hoppers, however, are more expensive as compared to the gravity-fed hoppers. As such, they are used mostly by paintballers with a little bit of experience. Beginners who opt for electronic hoppers mostly go for the low-end electronic hoppers.
Sound activated paintball hoppers
Sound activated hoppers are the advancement of electric hoppers. The main addition is a microphone. The microphone detects the sound made when a paintball is fired and immediately loads the next ball into the chamber. This gives the sound-activated hoppers a faster loading rate that can go up to 20 balls per second. Only intermediate and experienced paintballers go for this kind of hoppers.
Cyclone activated paintball hoppers
Cyclone activated hoppers use compressed gas to load paintballs into the chamber of the paintball gun. They have a fast loading rate that can go up to 15 balls per second. They are also very quiet since there is no mechanical motor involved when loading paintballs.
Limitation of power running out that comes with using electric hoppers is also avoided since only the gas powers the hopper's loading mechanism.
A downside to using this kind is that they experience a quick depletion of the gas. Once the gas runs out, the hopper has no more use until the gas is refilled.
Automag hoppers also use gas that blows forward unlike the cyclone hoppers, which use gas that blows backward on the spring load to fire the paintball. The benefit of forwarding blowing gas is that paintballs are continually loaded into the chamber, which means that there is no need for cocking the gun before firing. However, the gas on automating hoppers depletes faster due to the continuous use.
What to Look for When Buying a Paintball Hopper
Shopping for a hopper can be confusing, especially for beginners. Online stores have many products from which you could pick, and each product has different features and is priced differently. Essentially, your experience level and the experience level of the people you will be shooting with, either as your teammates or opponents, will determine the hopper that you buy. Below are some of the other factors that you should consider when selecting a hopper for purchase.
The size of the hopper determines how many balls you can hold at a time before you have to reload. A beginner will still find small models that hold less than 100 balls ideal. One such small hopper is the spunky hopper that holds 45 balls and is perfect for beginner paintballers who are still learning. More experienced paintballers require larger hoppers like the Dye Pronto Primo that can hold 200 balls. The large hopper will give you more shooting time while your opponents have to reload.
Some hoppers come in a wide range of colors that give you different options to pick from when shopping. Although it will not affect how you shoot, your choice of color is great because it allows you to match the hopper with the color of your gun. Opposing teams can also have different colors that help identify them easily and reduce chances of shooting your teammate by mistake. The Dye Pronto Primo comes in color choices of red, blue, green, and black.
Compatibility with your paintball gun
One important factor to consider is whether the hopper you buy will fit your paintball gun. Many hoppers are universal, which means that you can use them with multiple guns. Some specific models of paintball guns, however, require only specific hoppers.
At the same time, it is also good to find out what works best since the hopper fitting over the gun does not necessarily mean it will give a good shooting experience.
It is good practice to synchronize the shooting speed of the gun with the loading speed of the hopper. A gun that shoots faster than the hopper loads the paintballs causes chopping of the paintballs and messes up the interior parts of the gun.
Hoppers are priced differently depending on the manufacturer and the features that they come loaded with. You also want a hopper that is within your price range and is easy to use. There is no point of a beginner paintballer buying an expensive hopper whose potential he will not exploit fully due to his or her lesser shooting skills.
The prices of hoppers vary, which means that you could buy a cheap hopper like the Empire Paintball Hopper or a more expensive model like the Dye LT-R Electronic Paintball Loader.
While at a shooting range, you want your team to beat the opponent team. The loading rate of the paintball hopper on your gun, therefore, should be higher than that of the opponent to enable you to shoot faster and with more accuracy. Note, however, that the lowly priced hoppers will have a lower loading rate while hoppers with higher loading rates are more expensive.
After reading this article, we are confident that you are now in a better position to choose a paintball hopper that is compatible with your paintballing shooting needs. Note that caring for your hopper and paintball gun requires regular cleaning, which takes care of any paint that might be smudged in the interior parts of the gun or the hopper.
Ensure that you also observe all safety requirements at the paintball shooting field to prevent accidents. Finally, be sure to clean up the paintball shooting field after use.