So you've bought your own paintball mask and you've even got your own paintball marker. Surely there's more to this than that? You've been on paintball sites and there's loads of different bits that attach to the paintball marker / gun not only to make it work but to make it look the business too! Well the next bit of equipment you need to purchase is the air or Co2 system. This screws onto the back of the marker and propels the paintball. There's a lot to consider when working out whether you want to purchase a Co2 bottle or an air system, including where you're going to get the bottle filled up when you run out. As this is such a big topic, there's a separate blog post all about it here.
Choosing between compressed air and Co2
Once you've picked a bottle, you'll need the final piece of kit - the paintball hopper
. This goes on the top of the paintball marker and holds the paintballs
; you can't play without it. Luckily this is the last piece of equipment you'll need to get started - everything else is just a bonus once you've got the essentials covered. The hopper you buy largely depends on what kind of marker you have. If you've got a beginner marker which is manual - ie. it doesn't have an electronic trigger - then you can go for a 'gravity fed' hopper. This means the balls feed themselves into your marker. This is great as gravity fed loaders are less than £10 to purchase and will work absolutely fine on the majority of non-electronic paintball guns.
As soon as you get a marker that is electronic you'll find the speed you can fire the paintballs is a lot faster than a gravity fed hopper can feed into the marker. You may find you start 'chopping' paintballs as the marker is trying to fire a ball when there is no ball there, or the ball has only half dropped into the marker. This can create a bit of a mess and also means you'll be getting frustrated out on the game field as you keep missing your opponent or firing soup out the end of your barrel. The hoppers that are available at the moment come in a range of 'speeds' so you can select a loader that will keep up with your marker without necessarily having to buy the absolute ultimate top of the range model.
is a high quality loader but completely gravity fed. It doesn't need batteries so nothing can go wrong with it - but it won't feed as fast as you can fire if you start firing more than 4-5 balls per second. Many beginner paintball packages come with the VL200 loader as standard with the option to upgrade to an electronic loader if required.
The Proto Primo
loader has a 200 round capacity and an enhancement to the standard gravity-feed system by incorporating a "feed shelf" which helps agitate the balls into your marker as you move. The loader allows you to achieve faster rates of fire than with a standard gravity feed hopper and comes with a clear lid so you can see at a glance exactly how many paintballs you have left. The Proto Primo is a good upgrade choice if you're using a standard non-electronic marker but don't yet want to splash out on an electronic loader.
Once you progress into electronic paintball markers you'll find you need to upgrade your loader in order to keep up with the firing rate of the paintball gun. This doesn't have to mean getting the most expensive paintball loader on the market as there are a range of intermediate level loaders which perform really well and don't break the £100 mark.
The Spire IR
is one of the most popular loaders at the moment. It's small and light so doesn't add considerably to the weight of your setup and is proving itself to be one of the most reliable hoppers available. It has an "intelligent proactive feeding" system which uses a drive system rather than pulsing so it's more consistent and also quieter. The infrared (IR) sensors work with your firing to ensure a constant flow of paintballs, rather than feeding on an 'as needed' basis, which creates a much smoother and consistent flow rate.
The Halo Too
has been around for many years and has a solid reputation. At less than £80 the Halo Too offers great value for money and has the same levels of consistent feeding as many top end loaders. The Halo Too won't feed as fast as some of the more expensive hoppers with a feed rate of up to 20 balls per second but if you're playing in a tournament or scenario event you might find your fire rate is restricted by the rules anyway. The Halo Too can hold 180 paintballs and will turn itself off after an hour if it's not being used which is really handy for battery consumption!
The Valken VSL
is a fairly new release from Valken but it comes as standard with added extras which make it even better value for money. You can change the hopper from feeding 0.68cal to 0.50cal and there's also an 'extender' which gives you the ability to increase the ball capacity of the hopper. As standard the VSL can hold 185 paintballs - or 235 with the extender kit installed - and has a firing rate of approximately 22 balls per second. The loader is available in a range of colours and has been styled to offer a lower profile hopper to keep you in the game longer.
Top End Loaders
If you're looking at getting something top end then the Virtue Spire III
is the popular choice and for very good reasons. The Spire 3 is built on tried and tested technology and is a high performing and reliable piece of kit. With wireless programming and an alarmed reload indicator this hopper offers a high-tech solution to the industry and really is top of its game.
The Spire 3 is available in a range of colours, has loads of accessories such as speed feeds and colour kits, so is a popular choice with players as it matches up well to clothing and marker colour choices. Another key selling point for the Spire 3 is the toolless disassembly which makes cleaning and servicing the hopper far easier! Of course you are paying over £150 for this piece of equipment, and the accessories aren't cheap, so it's not for everyone but it does out-perform most other loaders on the market.
If you don't like the angular look of the Virtue Spire III and fancy something a little smoother round the edges, then the Dye R2
is in the same price bracket and offers a similar level of performance. The loader has a massive 260 ball capacity thanks to its innovative multi-capacity shell (it moves up and down) and it's quick release lid is 15% larger than previously to allow for faster reloading on and off the field.
Like the Spire, the R2 loader has a reload alert system and toolless disassembly for ease of use, and is also available in a wide range of bright colours and camo effects. The R2 has been released for some time now so is tried and tested technology and comes off the back of its predecessor, the Rotor loader, which was one of the most popular electronic loaders some years ago. The Rotor has now been re-released as the Dye LT-R
and is competing well in the mid-range market.
If you're still unsure about anything related to paintball equipment or paintballing itself feel free to give us a quick call or why not visit our Facebook group
where you can chat with other paintballers and post up with any questions you might have.