Although often overlooked, the hopper is one of the most important pieces of paintball gear you own. Having a top-end paintball marker ultimately means nothing if you can’t feed paintballs to it with the right amount of speed and reliability. There are two main types, gravity-feeding or electronic hoppers, and although electronic hoppers are more expensive than their simpler counterparts, they may not always be the better option. For more on that, check out the buying guide at the end of this review. For now, though, let’s get into my top 5 choices for each type of hopper.
In a Hurry? Here’s My Quick Take:
Best Gravity-Fed Paintball Hoppers
Most gravity hoppers use a cheap plastic lid to hold in their paintballs, but this one features something different. It has a set of rubberized fins designed to keep loose rounds inside while allowing you to rapidly dump in a tube of paint whenever you need to.
I’ll be honest and say that I’ve never liked these hoppers with speed loader openings that allow you to dump in paint without unlatching anything. Paintballs can sometimes fall out, especially if the hopper is well-used, and you have to worry about rain, dirt, and other things falling through the opening and screwing up your feed system. That said, if fast reloads are what you crave without breaking the bank, this might be the hopper for you.
Some electronic hoppers use this style to better effect, but since this hopper is more cheaply made, I’d recommend erring on the side of caution and only filling it up with 160-180 paintballs. Also, keep in mind that this hopper is designed specifically for .68 cal rounds and will not work with a .50 marker if you have one.
Simple, cheap, and functional are all excellent words to describe this hopper from Maddog. This is the hopper that most people get with their first paintball marker – it works fine, holds plenty of paint, and costs far less than a single load of ammo. It isn’t particularly durable, but if it ever breaks, buying a replacement won’t set you back more than a few dollars.
The shape is simple yet functional and works well with just about any marker that accepts a hopper. The rounded belly allows it to feed paint reliably even with only a few rounds left, and the latching plastic lid prevents your paintballs from falling loose even when you’re running around. It holds 200 rounds, which is very average for most gravity-fed hoppers.
I think most beginner players will be happy to have this hopper on their entry-level paintball guns. When you’re first starting out in this hobby, you don’t need to spend huge amounts of money on gear that represents a marginal upgrade. A cheap paintball hopper like this can get you out on the field having fun just the same as some of the far more expensive options on this list.
As time goes on, I’ve come to like small hoppers like these much more than large-capacity options. If you’re not laying down tons of fire at once, a slimmer 50-round hopper might be exactly what you need. It performs just the same as any other gravity-fed, but without being such a massive and bulbous weight on top of your marker. This is the low profile hopper I use on my new pump-action Empire Sniper since it helps to reduce weight and bulk while still holding a few dozen rounds.
Of all the small paintball hoppers I’ve seen, this is the only one that doesn’t have feeding issues. It manages to feed paint reliably even when full, and I haven’t had a jam yet on mine. The only problem with its construction is that it occasionally comes unlatched when jostled hard or hit against a surface, but to me, it doesn’t seem like a significant problem. If you really wanted, you could add a strip of tape or Velcro to make the lid stronger.
This loader from GOG is, to me, the perfect in-between of a small paintball hopper like the #3 entry on this list and a larger bulk storage option. One hundred rounds should be more than enough for most players even with a semiautomatic paintball gun, but with a more compact frame, this model holds some advantages over other gravity hoppers.
First of all, this GOG hopper is well-built, with durable plastic and an especially secure lid. This means that the risk of damage during play is minimal, as is the risk of the cover coming unlatched and spilling your paint. Plus, a wider mouth helps to prevent you from spilling paint on the ground during a fast reload out in the field. The main advantage this hopper has, to me, is its reliable feeding system. You won’t get jams or need to shake this hopper to feed your next round, even with a full or empty load. If the 100-round capacity is enough for you, I’d recommend this as a great general-purpose gravity fed hopper.
There’s really no other option for my pick as the best gravity paintball hopper around. Dye’s Proto Primo model gets used by almost everyone I know for the same reasons – it’s well built, highly reliable, high capacity, and looks great mounted on any gun. Sleek curves and polished parts are both stylish and functional on this gun, granting it reliable feeding and long-lasting durability.
This really is one of the best paintball loaders for its asking price. It’s two or three times more expensive than entry-level gravity hoppers but should save you more than that difference in the long run since it does not spill paint. It has a strong latching mechanism and a well-molded interior structure designed to relieve pressure off of paintballs that might otherwise break when under stress or impact. If you don’t want to make the jump to an electronic hopper but still want the best possible hopper for your gun, the Proto Primo is probably the best gravity hopper you can buy.
Best Electronic Hoppers
I feel bad for putting the Halo Too at only my number five spot since it’s such a great loader. This cheap electronic paintball hopper outperforms anything else at its price point and is often described as one of the best value loaders on the market. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of a more expensive hopper, but what it can do, it does well.
At just $70, you get a hopper that can feed most paint at around 20 balls per second (twice what can be achieved with the best gravity hoppers) and performs reliably even after firing thousands of shots. It has a reinforced shell to withstand direct hits and a battery indicator light to prevent you from getting caught out on the field with a dead hopper. Its capacity may be lower than most other electronic hoppers, but at such a low price point, I’d recommend this to anyone looking to get an electronic marker who needs a good hopper to match.
There are a few options at around $100 that I’d consider to be great hoppers, but the Valken Switch Loader (VSL) stands out for one very important reason – it can carry up to 250 rounds at a time. Most manufacturers gate their high capacity paintball hoppers behind high price points and tournament-grade feeding performance, but the VSL is a large loader at an enticing price tag. It shoots paint at approximately 20 balls per second and, honestly, mostly performs similar to the Halo Too while looking smoother and holding more rounds.
This hopper is designed to be simple, efficient, and relatively low-cost, but the lack of some features (like a battery indicator) leaves me hesitant to place it further on this list. Importantly, the VSL is also heavier than higher-priced options with the same capacity. Still, though, if you want to carry a lot of paint at once or need a hopper that can change between calibers quickly, the VSL might be for you.
The Virtue Spire is the hopper that everyone has. I have one, my friends have one, and at any given paintball field, I can bet that someone will have one. This hopper is, by now, a couple of generations old, but people keep buying and using it because it really is just that good.
So, why did I choose the Spire over other hoppers around this price? For me, the answer is weight. This is one of the best paintball hoppers for people like me who prefer to keep their gun weight as low as possible. Plus, its short neck means that the Spire is one of the most low profile paintball loaders on the market. Others praise it for its legendary reliability, surprising durability (given its lightweight frame), and versatility with a wide variety of paint. Even cheap paintballs go through this hopper without trouble. One potential drawback, however, is that top-end markers with minimal recoil may not function very well with this hopper – but that shouldn’t affect most people. If you want a reliable electronic loader that looks good, feels lightweight, and works well out of the box, try out the Spire.
HK Army is well-known for its focus on tournament grade paintball markers and accessories, and their second-generation TFX loader is no exception. Designed to be a well-rounded hopper that delivers top-notch feeding performance in any weather and after tens of thousands of rounds of use, this hopper would fit on any top-of-the-line marker out there. It feeds at a rate of over 22 balls per second but, unlike with many other hoppers that claim such high speeds, it can actually live up to that metric long-term.
The TFX 2 uses an advanced optical sensor system combined with some exceptionally advanced internal mechanisms that enable it to reliably feed 22 BPS regardless of the type or amount of paint in it. Combined with extra features such as a completely toolless maintenance process, a force-feed button, and water-resistant electronic components, the TFX 2 seems to accomplish in reality what many other competitors claim to do in fantasy.
Most electronic hoppers struggle to feed paint at a rate that can match top-of-the-line markers, but with the Dye R2, the opposite tends to hold true. Testing has shown that this hopper can reliably feed over 30 BPS thanks to its force-feed technology. Combined with features such as a low-ammo warning system, an automatic jam clearing system, and dozens of style options to choose from, it’s easy for me to name the Dye R2 as the best paintball hopper for tournament play.
One potential downside is that, given how many mechanical and electronic components go into a marker like this, you may require repairs more frequently than with a simpler electric loader such as the Spire. But that’s unavoidable if you want to push past 20 and even 30 balls per second fed into your paintball gun. If you’re going to go all-out on an expensive tournament-grade marker, then I highly recommend getting the Dye R2, the best paintball loader on the market today.
Paintball Hopper/Loader Buying Guide
Hoppers are tricky business because not everyone needs to spend big money for tournament-level models or even base-grade electronic hoppers. Simple gravity-fed loaders should work for most people with mechanical semiauto guns, and everyone with a pump gun.
Electronic hoppers are best used with electronic markers that can support higher fire rates, but some mechanical guns may be able to shoot fast enough to justify a more expensive loader. If you’re unsure, check out the manual or product page for your marker to see what the manufacturer says it is capable of. If you can fire at about 15 BPS or higher, you might want to get an electronic hopper for your gun.
When buying a gravity-fed hopper, I think the price is a bit less important than quality. The best gravity hoppers, like the Dye Proto Primo, will perform much better and last a lot longer than cheaper entry-grade loaders. Plus, you won’t have to deal with annoying problems like spilled paint and frequent jams that may come with less-expensive hoppers. If you’re using a pump gun, I’d recommend using a lower-capacity gravity hopper to help reduce weight and bulk on your marker.
Electronic hoppers should scale with the capabilities of your gun. If you have a high-end marker capable of shooting well over 30 BPS, you probably don’t want a less-expensive hopper that struggles to feed at 20 BPS. However, if you’re a more casual player just looking for a gear upgrade, you’ll probably be very happy with a hopper at or below the $100 price range. Just be careful not to get anything cheaper than the Halo Too from Empire – those loaders tend to be unreliable and poor performers out on the field.
The best paintball loaders, like the HK Army TFX 2.0 and the Dye R2, are overkill for most players. Unless you have an electronic paintball gun, you’re probably better off with a nice gravity-fed hopper like the Proto Primo. Even if you do have an electronic marker, there’s no shame in getting a mid-grade hopper that will surely meet your standards. But be careful not to go for the absolute cheapest options – you’re better off spending an extra $10 to stop jams and feed paint correctly.