What is a paintball hopper? What are the differences in paintball hoppers?
A paintball hopper is a device that attaches to your paintball gun. It is where you load the paintballs into so they can be fed into the paintgun. Paintball hoppers are generally broken down into two types: gravity or electronic. Some people prefer to call electronic models as 'motorized' or 'paintball loaders' but the terms are interchangeable. A gravity paintball hopper is a simple container with a chute for the balls to drop into the marker's feedneck. Gravity hoppers are simple, cheap and lightweight but they do not feed very fast and are prone to jamming. Some models such as the Proto Primo Hopper have an internal design to help prevent this but they still may need an occasional shake to unjam them.
An electronic paintball hopper has a motor driving internal parts to prevent jamming. A good motorized hopper keeps paintballs flowing to the breech for high rates of fire without chopping paint. Some loaders like the JT Revolution are agitating types that have a paddle to move the balls around to prevent stoppages. They are simple and reliable but do not feed fast enough for extreme rates of fire or full auto. The fastest paintball hoppers such as the Empire Z2, Virtue Spire or Dye Rotor are force feed loaders, meaning they not only move the paintballs around but also push them into the marker. These are heavier and more expensive but the fastest paintball loader will feed in excess of 30 balls per second, letting you shoot as fast as your gun possibly can.
The hopper motor is activated by several methods. A common method is what's called break beam eye activation. A laser beam is projected onto a sensor, like on an automatic door at the supermarket. As you shoot the paintballs move past the beam, turning the motor every time the beam is broken. A sound activated or vibration hopper has sensors that 'hear' or 'feels' certain frequencies when you shoot, so the motor turns on with every shot. A bend sensor activated hopper has a flexible strip in the loader feedneck to initiate the motor as paintballs move past. Other forcefeed loaders hold paintballs under tension, with a clutch engaging the motor as they begin to move.
What is a Cyclone Feed System?
The Cyclone Feed Hopper is a paintball loader specific to Tippmann paintball guns. It is a force feed paintball loader that transfers air from the valve to a piston connected to the hopper. When you pull the trigger a burst of air activates the piston, turning the paddles inside and force feeding every individual shot. The Cycle Feed loader feeds as fast as you can pull the trigger and is virtually impossible to chop paint. The hopper sits off to the right of the marker's body so you have an unobstructed view over the top. The Cyclone Feed comes standard on Tippmann A5 and Tippmann Phenom, and is an upgrade for the 98 Custom and US Army markers
If you're looking for a good but cheap electronic paintball hopper, take a look at the JT Classic Revolution Hopper.
If you're looking for the fastest paintball hopper, take a look at the Empire Z2, Dye Rotor, and Virtue Spire.