Having the right equipment can make or break you on the paintball battlefield, especially when it comes to ammo. Depending on the type of paintball strategy you enjoy, you will need to take into consideration how the ammo is loading into your paintball gun.
A paintball loader, more commonly known as a hopper, attaches to your paintball guns, holding many rounds of balls that drop into the gun before firing. They enable to you to have many rounds available, allowing you to fire rounds quickly. But not all hoppers are created equal and when it comes to a battle, you need the best paintball hopper possible.
What To Consider When Choosing A Paintball Hopper
When you begin to shop for a paintball hopper, there are several factors that you need to look at in order to know it is the best one. You will need to consider your experience and skill level, the type of gun that you use, and the size and weight of the hopper.
What's Your Skill & Competition Level
How you play the game matters. If you are just getting into paintball, the best paintball hopper for you might not be the same as someone who has been playing for years. Beginners will have an easier time with a hopper that is not going to launch 20 paintballs at a time, but instead move them at a slower and more controllable speed. For players that have been around longer, a faster feed would be preferable. Having one that is easy to take apart and clean is ideal for any skill level. Hoppers can also stay with you as you change paintball guns, as long as they are compatible.
Is The Hopper Compatible With Your Paintball Gun
Beyond the speed and operation of the loader, a hopper needs to work with your best paintball gun. Most hoppers will attach to a paintball marker that allows for one. Hoppers work with mechanical or electronic markers, but the type of hopper you use will depend on the type of gun you use. A gravity feed marker works by dropping the balls as a mechanical gun shakes. Since an electronic marker does not have the same movement, you would need an agitating or force-feed paintball hopper to move the balls along. You will also need to make sure the hopper is not too big for your gun.
How Big Is The Paintball Hopper
One of the biggest drawbacks to a paintball hopper is that they can be large enough to impair your sighting, though they fire quickly enough that exact aim is not the goal. Regardless, the size of the loader does matter when choosing the best paintball hopper. The physical size of the hopper is usually based on the capacity. On average, a hopper is going to hold 200 rounds, but the amount can go slightly up for the biggest paintball hoppers. Your hopper needs to hold enough ammo to keep up with your firing speed.
What's The Hopper's Weight
The weight of your hopper can make your otherwise lightweight paintball marker heavier, causing you to move slower during battle. The weight of the hopper is affected by the capacity of the hopper. The more balls that you carry, the heavier the hopper. The best paintball hoppers are also made of a heavier material, keeping them from breaking on impact of paintballs, but weighing them down as well.
Best & Biggest Paintball Hoppers For 2018
1. Virtue Spire
2. Dye Rotor R2
3. Dye Precision
4. Virtue Spire III
5. Tippmann Cyclone
6. Dye LT-R
7. HK Army TFX
8. Proto Primo
1. Virtue Spire Electronic Paintball Hopper
Best Paintball Hopper Overall (Editor's Choice)
The Virtue Spire 200 hopper is our choice for the best paintball hopper that you can buy. With a 200 paintball capacity, the Spire 200 should get you through a battle without any trouble. Considering the compact design, its capacity is impressive. The Spire 200 uses a motor to feed the paintballs down into the gun and is battery-operated. The hopper will signal to you when the battery is low, so it should not stop on you unexpectedly. It also is efficient with battery use, so one battery will operate for quite a while. Standard mounting design, the Spire will easily fit on your marker’s rails.
Firepower & Accuracy:
You can also adjust the speed of the Spire 200, altering how many paintballs that it will shoot per second. If you need a slower hopper, having the ability to turn it down is going to save you a lot of trouble. It is also easy to disassemble and clean, all without the need of a special tool. Because of the adjustment abilities, both beginning and advanced players are able to use the Spire 200 without grief. To put it simply, the Spire 200 is lightweight, compact, easy to use, but still aggressive enough for the more serious paintball players.
2. Dye Paintball Loader Rotor R2
While the Dye R2 was not our first pick, it is still one of the best paintball hoppers that you can get. The capacity of the R2 is higher than the Spire 200, with the option to hold up to 260 paintballs. The loader itself has a 15 percent larger lid opening and rapid release system than the average hopper. It does alert you if you are getting low on paintballs, giving you a chance to reload or conserve as you need to during battle, but the alert can be distracting or give away your location if you were trying to conceal yourself. The alert can be disabled, but not easily.
Firepower & Accuracy:
The R2 has a tool-less disassembly ability just like the Spire 200, which allows you to take it apart for cleaning or unloading without trouble. The R2 is also lightweight, weighing 1.1 pounds and will easily mount on your paintball marker’s rails. The R2 operates using a rotor feed, allowing the paintballs to move into position with ease. The price of the R2 is also in the same price range as the Spire, but the R2 does not have the speed feeding ability that the Spire does.
3. Dye Precision Rotor Paintball Loader
The Dye brand itself is well-known in the paintball world, so it makes complete sense that they will offer more than one excellent hopper options for your paintball marker. The Rotor is a 200 capacity hopper, but it does not operate the same way that the R2 does. The Rotor instead is specifically designed to keep you low-profile, something that is not easy to achieve with a hopper. Its design pushes the paintballs straight down over a short distance, making it harder to determine where the shots are being fired from.
Firepower & Accuracy:
The Rotor is also built to be hardy and take a beating. The company itself boasts that it is made to withstand a drop from a three-story building. While we would hope you are not dropping your hopper from a building, it does mean the Rotor can be shot and not take damage. The Rotor is also a speed feeder, reaching a rate of up to 50 balls per second, making it one of the best paintball loaders that you can get that surpasses pro level firing requirements. The issue with firing that many paintballs at once is that you are going to drain your hopper in under a minute, burning through more balls than you might need to.
4. Virtue Spire III Electronic Paintball Hopper
The Virtue Spire III was the next generation in the Spire line of hoppers. It has a higher capacity than the Spire 200 does, with a 230 round capacity and a faster feed. It also has the jam proof feeder, to keep the balls moving as smoothly as possible. The Spire III has a reload alarm that is supposed to let you know when you are running low on paintballs, but could point out your position to your opponents. The Spire III is more technologically advanced than other hoppers on the market, giving you the ability to connect to your iPhone or Android devices. In fact, beyond all of the other perks that come with the Spire III, having the ability to program your hopper wirelessly is definitely one of the best ones.
Firepower & Accuracy:
The Spire III is also 2.5 mm smaller than the Spire 200, making it a little more compact, but still has a bigger capacity. Virtue has been consistent in providing hoppers that do not jam and the Spire III does not disappoint. Even brittle balls will not jam in the feeder, giving you the ability to fire smoothly without interruption.
5. Tippmann Cyclone Feeder System
Great Paintball Hopper For Tippmann Markers
Tippmann is known for its reliable markers, so it makes sense that they would also offer a reliable hopper. This hopper is designed to work with Tippmann markers, including the Custom 98, Alpha Black Elite, and Project Salvo markers. There is an adapter kit available to use it with other brands as well. The Cyclone Feeder also has a 200 round capacity and is designed to be low-profile, helping keep your position as concealed as possible. The biggest disadvantage of the Cyclone Feeder is that it will not work with all Tippmann models, including the Cronus, and it will not fit onto a 68 carbine. When used with the right marker, this loader is excellent, but you have to be sure your marker is compatible.
Firepower & Accuracy:
The Cyclone feeder is not going to spray as many balls as quickly as the other hoppers, with a speed of up to 15 balls per second. Because of the slower speed, the Cyclone is a good choice for beginners, but it might not work will all markers. The Cyclone runs off of your marker’s air power, either carbon or HPA, meaning you do not need any batteries to keep it working, but its design makes it fire faster than other gravity-fed hoppers. As you fire your marker, the paintballs will fall into position.
6. Dye LT-R Electronic Paintball Loader
The Dye LT-R is one of the best paintball loaders that you can buy on a tight budget, but the low cost does not mean that you are getting a lack of quality. The LT-R is efficient with battery use as well, with a reported 80,000 fired balls before you have to change them. It is also a versatile hopper and should work on most markers that come with the rails to mount a hopper on. It is also easy to disassemble in the event of a jam, needing no tools to clean it out.
Firepower & Accuracy:
The LT-R is a rotor force fed hopper and can reach up to 30 paintballs fired per second. It also has an anti-jam Sharkfin release trigger to ensure that it is not going to jam, regardless of the paint and the condition of the ball itself. With the standard 200 paintball capacity, the LT-R will use its constant feed system to keep you in the battle. You can add a speed feeder to it as well if you want to fire more than 30 balls per second. It is not the lightest hopper on the market, but if you want one that is effective and still inexpensive, the LT-R could work for you.
7. HK Army TFX Paintball Loader
The HK Army TFX Loader is a rotor powered hopper that can hold up to 200 paintballs. The HK is not as well-known as other paintball brands, but it will work with standard markers, including the Tippmann Cronus, which the Tippmann Cyclone won’t even work with. The loader itself has a wide lid that will ensure that you do not spill a lot of balls when you are filling it. It is also easy to disassemble and is lightweight to carry around. The TFX might not be as well-known as other hoppers out there, but it is versatile enough to work with many different brands and markers, allowing you to use it on more than one marker if you have more than one.
Firepower & Accuracy:
The TFX can fire more than 20 balls per second. The battery life is still pretty efficient, though not as efficient as other hoppers. It should last through about 20,000 rounds before it needs to be changed. It does not come with a speed feeder, but it can be purchased separately. If the speed is not as fast as you would like, you can alter it to be what you would like it to be.
8. Proto Primo Paintball Hopper / Loader
If you are a paintball player who is on a budget, the Proto Primo loader might be the best paintball hopper for you. The Primo loader will sort and funnel the balls down as you shoot, giving you a consistent vertical feed. It requires a little bit of agitation to move the balls around, so an electronic marker would not work with this kind of hopper since there would not be enough movement. The Primo has a 200 paintball capacity, just like the rotor-fed hoppers, but you will not need to worry about battery life or a battery indicator showing you that you are low on power. The Primo is also a heavier hopper than others available, but for the price, you are getting a reliable gravity-fed hopper.
Firepower & Accuracy:
The Primo cannot keep up with an electronic hopper, however, since it relies on your marker’s movements to move the paintballs down. A rotor-fed hopper is going to fire paintballs at a substantially higher rate, so this would not work for competitions. It does work well for beginners who are just learning control and how to aim and fire.
3 Different Paintball Hopper Levels
While all hoppers have the same basic function, they are not all the same. There are three primary paintball hopper levels: beginner, mid-range, and high-end hoppers. The hopper that would work best for your needs depends greatly on your experience level as well as where and how you are playing.
Beginner Level Paintball Hoppers
The best paintball hoppers for beginners are not going to be the same hoppers that a more experienced paintball player would use. Some hoppers have the ability to fire up to 50 balls per second, which would quickly drain your hopper and run the risk of you blindly using your rounds. Instead, you will need a hopper that you can control and that can help you master paintball skills on the battlefield.
Gravity-feed Beginner Hoppers: Gravity-feed hoppers do not rely on a rotor or batteries to move the paintballs along, but instead rely on the marker’s movement to shift the balls into place. This could require you to use a mechanical marker rather than an electronic marker since electronic markers do not have the same movements. These hoppers move slowly, giving you time to aim and position yourself, but not spraying paintballs uncontrollably.
Electronic Beginner Hoppers: When a beginner is looking for an electronic hopper it could be easy to get swept up in the options and wind up with a hopper that is not ideal. Beginner hoppers will not have quick fire ability, but instead fire no more than 20 balls per second. Having the ability to adjust the speed can help keep you in control as well and not burn through your paintballs in a few seconds.
Mid-range level Paintball Hoppers
For players who have been around for a while but are not competing at a pro level, you are going to want more than a simple gravity-feed hopper to keep you competitive and still let you have fun in the game. The three primary intermediate paintball hoppers are the sound, eye, and cyclone activated hoppers. While they each operate differently, they will require different skillsets to use correctly.
Sound Activated Hoppers: Sound activated hoppers work in a similar way to gravity-feed hoppers in that the agitation is what moves the paintballs along. When your marker fires and makes a noise, the next ball will move into position. They are not sensitive enough to respond to all other noises, but it is possible that another ball could be released before a previous one is fired, giving you the risk of jamming.
Eye Activated Hoppers: Eye activated hoppers are one of the best options out there to prevent your marker from jamming. The eyes within the hopper will detect a paintball moving down and then release another ball behind it. They have the same speed and consistency as a sound activated hopper, so it becomes a personal preference between which is better. The eyes are usually quieter than the sound hoppers, but rely on the IR sensor internally.
Cyclone Activated Hoppers: Cyclone activated hoppers work by using a cyclone feeder within the hopper to move the paintballs along. While this means they do not need any batteries to work, they do use the gas that your marker use, which could make you burn through it faster than you might otherwise do. Cyclones are also not able to be transferred to another marker once they have been installed, but do fire and operate well.
High-End level Paintball Hoppers
When it comes to more advanced paintball players who need the high level hoppers, you are not going to want to rely on sound or movement to move the balls along. The high-end hoppers are electronic with an internal rotor that moves the balls at a fast speed. Competitions will have requirements on how quickly the balls need to go, so having an adjustable speed is a perk and an added speed feeder might help.
Shopping for a reliable or biggest paintball hopper might feel overwhelming, but it really does not have to be. Gravity-fed hoppers might work well for beginners, but anyone who is more experienced is going to find them frustrating. If you are just getting into paintball, but believe you are going to be playing for years to come, it is best to just go with an electronic marker that has the ability to adjust the speed or allows you to add-on a speed feeder in the future.
Having a hopper fire too rapidly to keep up with is only going to cause you to burn through your paintballs before you have even started the battle, forcing you to reload and not have a solid control of your aim and fire power.
Think of the type of player you want to be, whether you would like to have control or just spray and pray you hit your opponent. That will ultimately determine the best paintball hopper for you.