A paintball marker without a hopper is like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without the bread.
You can eat peanut butter and jelly together, just like you can technically use a paintball marker without a hopper even though it also means you have to use it without ammunition, too.
However, peanut butter and jelly being eaten with a spoon is not nearly as satisfying as a sandwich would be. Playing paintball without ammunition is equally unfulfilling.
So how do you pick a paintball hopper? Some paintball markers come with one, but not all do. Picking the right one can be a bit challenging. However, this is why I’m here.
Today we will discuss the types of paintball hoppers, the pros and cons of each of those types, and how to pick the one that is right for your marker.
After that, we will review the best options on the market, so that you know exactly what choices there are.
Best Paintball Hoppers Compared
|Proto Primo Paintball Hopper / Loader||from $14.95||Buy on Amazon|
|Virtue Spire 200 Electronic Paintball Loaders / Hoppers||from $99.95||Buy on Amazon|
|Dye Precision Rotor Paintball Loader||from $146.90||Buy on Amazon|
|Empire Paintball Empire Halo Too Loader, (Matte Black)||$73.95||Buy on Amazon|
What is a Paintball Hopper?
At its most basic, a paintball hopper is a container you load paintballs in so that they can then drop into your marker to be fired.
However, not all of these devices are created equally, and each type has its pros and cons.
For simplicity, there are two basic types of hoppers, gravity-fed and electronic. Gravity-fed hoppers are simply containers with chutes.
Gravity pulls the paintballs into the feed neck of the paintball marker. The advantage of this type of hopper is that they are lightweight and inexpensive.
Since they have neither batteries or a motor, they also are the quietest hoppers on the market.
There are several disadvantages to using this type of hopper, however. Firstly, they tend to jam easily. You will need to gently shake them to unjam the lodged paintballs.
Some gravity-fed hoppers have designs that make jamming less likely. However, it still will occasionally occur.
Another disadvantage of allowing gravity to load your marker is the slow feed rate. Since it is only gravity loading the marker, these tend to have the slowest feed rate.
They manage about eight balls per second. However, as a beginner, these are a good place to start.
If you are going to use a gravity-feed hopper, it is important to use a mechanical paintball marker.
Electric markers have firing rates that exceed the feed rate of the hopper, leading balls to get stuck between the bolt and the feed neck.
This causes the balls to be chopped and makes a mess.
Electronic hoppers, on the other hand, are motorized. They have motors that drive internal components to prevent the jamming of paintballs. A good motorized hopper will keep paintballs flowing right up to the
A good motorized hopper will keep paintballs flowing right up to the breach, which gives you a high rate of fire without chopping paint.
Some electronic hoppers are agitation types. They feature a paddle that stirs the paintballs around like potatoes in a pot of soup to prevent stoppages. These types are simple and reliable. However, they do not feed fast enough to allow you to get an extreme rate of fire or full auto.
These types are simple and reliable. However, they do not feed fast enough to allow you to get an extreme rate of fire or full auto.
The fastest type of electronic paintball hoppers is force-feeding models. Models like these, such as the Empire Z2 or Virtue Spire not just stir the paintballs around.
Instead, they also push them into the marker, leading to a feed rate fast enough for even fully automatic firing.
The disadvantage of these models is that they are heavier. They are also more expensive. However, the fastest paintball loader will feed paintballs into your gun at a rate of over thirty balls per second.
Hopper Motor Activation Methods
If you have read the last section, you now know that electronic paintball hoppers have motors inside that feed the paintballs into the marker.
However, how are these motors activated and what are the advantages and disadvantages of each type?
Keep reading to find out.
If you have ever gone to a supermarket with automatic doors, you are familiar with this method of motor activation. Just like at a supermarket, a laser beam is shined onto a sensor inside the hopper.
As you shoot the marker, the balls roll past, breaking the beam. Every time the beam is broken, the motor turns. When the feed tube is full, the motor shuts off, saving battery.
The advantage of this system is its reliability. It doesn’t require sound from your marker in order to fire. It also turns off between firings, allowing it to drain less battery.
However, this type of system can be more expensive than some methods.
Sound Activation Method
These hoppers are slightly more advanced than the ones using the beam break eye method. They feature basic internal microphones.
These microphones “hear” certain frequencies as the paintball marker is shot, thereby activating the motor.
The advantages of the sound-activated system are much the same as the ones for the Eye method. However, there are disadvantages, especially with the sound-activated models.
These hoppers were first created when markers were quite loud. For that reason, on some newer markers, there may not be enough noise to activate the microphone and turn the motor
If you want the efficiency of a sound-activated system, but own a marker that is very quiet, a vibration-activated hopper might be perfect for you.
These hoppers work much like the sound-activated ones mentioned above. However, they feature internal sensors instead.
The sensors “feel” the vibration as the marker is fired and activate the motor that way.
Sound and Eye Activated Hoppers
Some hoppers are more than just sound activated or eye activated. These hoppers have both features in one device.
This means that the hopper has both an internal microphone and a beam of light that is shined onto an eye sensor.
The eye works as a failsafe, just in case the microphone somehow doesn’t pick up the sound of the marker fire.
Bend Sensor Method
If you have a hopper using this method, a thin, flexible strip can be found inside the loader feedneck. As paintballs move past, they bend this flexible strip, thus activating the motor.
Much like the beam method hoppers, these tend to be on the higher end of the price scale. For that reason, they may not be what you want to use if you are just starting out.
Another very common method which paintball hoppers use is the tension method. In this method, the paintballs are held under tension by a clutch. The clutch is depressed as the paintballs start to move. This then activates the motor.
The clutch is depressed as the paintballs start to move. This then activates the motor. These hoppers have the advantage of being the ones with the highest feedrate. However, paintballs kept in this type of hopper for a long period of time could
However, paintballs kept in this type of hopper for a long period of time could become deformed from the tension and jam.
Cyclone Feeding System
Tippmann, a leader in paintball supplies, has come up with yet another feed mechanism that is entirely different from anything we’ve seen before.
Instead of requiring batteries or a power source, this hopper’s feed motor is activated by the gas your paintball marker expels when you fire.
The reason that is so impressive is that it is an ingenious design. Using this system, your hopper and marker work in tandem.
Every time you fire, without fail, the hopper will activate, sending paintballs down the feed tube.
Buying a Paintball Hopper
Now that you know what the various types of hoppers are, it is time to discuss buying one.
After all, some hoppers work better than others and which hopper you choose will depend on what you need, how much you want to spend for it, and other factors.
Why would you want to buy a paintball hopper? I mean, you can usually find them for rent at your local paintball field.
You might be tempted to simply rent a hopper and save yourself some much-needed money. However, if you do this, you will regret it.
The paintball hoppers generally found at these places are quite bad as far as quality. They are the type of hopper that will chop paint, break paintballs and create a mess inside your marker.
If you buy your own hopper, you don’t have to worry about this, as you will buy one of a high enough quality to not chop paint.
This means that you will be much more accurate when firing than if you were using the cheapest possible hopper.
However, buying a hopper or loader is not as easy as just snagging one from your paintball supply shop of choice.
In fact, there are actually several factors you need to consider before making this important purchase.
The first consideration you must make when buying a hopper is the feed rate. This is just as simple as it sounds.
A hopper’s feed rate is the rate at which it feeds paintballs into the firing chamber, and there is no fancy math to do to figure this out.
Feed rate is measured in balls per second or BPS.
As you might imagine, the feed rate varies drastically from one paintball hopper to the next.
The most basic gravity-feed hoppers can manage about 8 BPS. The most advanced can drop fifty per second.
Cost and Quality
Though there are plenty of good-quality beginner hoppers out there, eventually, if you stay in the sport long enough, you will want a better hopper.
For this reason, it’s important to pay attention to where you are before you buy any equipment, but especially your hoppers.
Beginner hoppers usually don’t have a feed rate high enough to handle an electronic or nematic marker. They are only good to handle mechanical markers.
As you increase in complexity and price, your hopper can handle more and more complex markers.
Mid-range loaders like the sound or eye activated ones can handle all mechanical markers and most electronic models. They generally have a feed rate of somewhere around fifteen balls per second.
As you get into really serious, high-end loaders like the type activated by tension, you get into the true rates of fire.
For these, you need a higher-rate marker, something that can handle the fire rate of a number of paintballs rolling into the tube.
When it comes down to it, you need to know what type of marker you have and what your preferences are before you buy your hopper.
Best Paintball Hoppers Reviewed
Now that we have discussed what a paintball loader is, how the various types work and what you need to know before you buy one, it is time to discuss the best paintball loaders on the market today.
There should be something in this list for everyone, no matter what your level of expertise is.
Proto Primo Paintball Hopper / Loader
The Proto Primo paintball loader is an excellent purchase. It has a 200-ball capacity and can sort and funnel the paintballs as you fire. This means you have a consistent vertical feed at all times.
To relieve the pressure on the paintballs, this loader features a positive shelf design. Less pressure means there is less chance of the paintballs becoming deformed and jamming. The lack of pressure also increases the feed rate for this gravity-feed hopper.
If you want a hopper that is easy to reload, this is the perfect one. The lid is clear, and spring-loaded. The whole thing is powered by minimal agitation of the gun, so it is very quiet.
Virtue Spire 200 Electronic Paintball Loaders / Hoppers
Paintball jams are annoying. They also cause you to waste precious seconds shaking the hopper when you could be firing on opponents.
If shaking your hopper isn’t the way you would like to spend your next game of paintball, then the Virtue Spire has you covered.
Unlike most other paintball hoppers, this one features a spring-loaded anti-jam drive. This drive slides under the paintballs, stopping jams before they start.
Need to disassemble your hopper in a hurry? The Spire features a quick release button. Simply press the lever and slide the hopper off.
The capacity on this hopper is 200 paintballs. The balls are agitated by the flex cycle paddle. This paddle allows the hopper to take even the most brittle paint.
It even comes with a quick-change speed feed that turns into a lid.
Despite holding 200 paintballs, this hopper is smaller and lighter than much of the competition. It is activated using internal G-force technology.
Dye Precision Rotor Paintball Loader
Do you want a paintball loader that works at above professional feed requirements?
The Dye Precision Paintball loader fires balls at a rate of over fifty balls per second, meaning that this hopper will be just as ready for the fight of a lifetime as you are.
To feed the balls, this paintball loader employs a center-feed rotor. The distance the balls must travel is much shorter than your typical loader and is straight down.
If you need to clean your loader, never fear! It can be broken down with just the push of a button, saving you valuable time.
To check your paint levels, there is a clear viewing window. Reload paint quickly and easily and rest assured that your loader is secure with the spring locking lid.
This loader has a 200-ball capacity. It weighs 1.5 pounds so is super light. Also, it runs on just three AA batteries.
The one disadvantage is that the speed feed is not included. You’ll have to buy that separately, but it is worth getting.
Empire Paintball Empire Halo Too
Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a good game of paintball, only to have your loader’s batteries die? If so you know frustrating that can be.
Thankfully, the Halo Too loader has a low-battery indicator. That way, you’ll always know when your batteries are running out.
Further, it has a feed rate of 20 BPS. Though this isn’t the fastest rate available, it is good enough for all mechanical and most electronic markers.
However, the battery warning isn’t the only thing this loader has going for it. When you are on a paintball field, your loader is going to take a lot of hits.
That is why the polycarbonate shell is an amazing thing to have. It will take any hit and survive.
The only disadvantage of this loader is that it only holds 180 paintballs, instead of 200 so you will have to refill the hopper a little sooner.
Paintball is a lot of fun. However, to truly enjoy it, you will need an amazing hopper.
There are hoppers out there for everyone, no matter what your skill level and price range.
Now that you have read this article, you know everything you need to buy a paintball hopper of your own.
The next time you play, you won’t have to worry about renting a horrible, low-quality hopper that is likely to chop paint or jam every five seconds.
With a hopper of your own, you will certainly have more fun.