What Hopper Should I Buy?

  • Updated September 3rd, 2023

The paintball hopper, also known as the loader, plays a critical role in the performance and efficiency of your paintball marker. It is responsible for feeding paintballs into the firing chamber, ensuring a consistent and reliable feed rate. With a wide range of paintball hoppers available on the market, choosing the right one can be a daunting task. Factors such as capacity, feeding mechanism, speed, and compatibility with your marker all come into play when selecting the ideal hopper.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the various types of paintball hoppers, their features, and considerations to help you make an informed decision on what hopper to buy for your paintball setup.

What Hopper Should I Buy?


Understanding Paintball Hopper Types

Before we dive into the factors to consider when buying a paintball hopper, let’s first understand the different types of hoppers available:

1. Gravity-Fed Hoppers

Gravity-fed hoppers are the most basic type of paintball loaders. They rely on the force of gravity to feed paintballs into the marker’s firing chamber. As you tilt the marker, paintballs naturally roll down the feedneck and into the marker.


  • Simple and reliable design
  • Lower cost compared to other types of hoppers
  • Ideal for beginner players and recreational play


  • Limited feed rate, making them unsuitable for rapid firing or high rates of fire
  • Prone to jamming, especially during aggressive play
  • Best suited for markers with low firing rates and recreational play

2. Agitating Hoppers

Agitating hoppers use a motorized agitator or paddle to move and agitate the paintballs inside the hopper. This agitation prevents jams and ensures a more consistent feed rate compared to gravity-fed hoppers.


  • Improved feed rate and reliability compared to gravity-fed hoppers
  • Suitable for mid-level markers with moderate firing rates
  • More affordable than high-end electronic hoppers


  • Still not ideal for high rates of fire and tournament-level play
  • May not keep up with extremely fast markers or high-capacity paintball pods

3. Electronic Hoppers

Electronic hoppers, also known as force-fed or motorized hoppers, use a battery-powered motor to actively force paintballs into the marker’s firing chamber. They offer the highest feed rates and are designed to keep up with rapid-firing paintball markers, making them ideal for competitive and tournament play.


  • High feed rates, capable of keeping up with even the fastest markers
  • Reliable feeding, minimizing the risk of jams and misfires
  • Programmable settings for adjusting feed rate and optimizing performance


  • Higher cost compared to gravity-fed and agitating hoppers
  • Battery-dependent, requiring regular maintenance and spare batteries during gameplay


Factors to Consider When Buying a Paintball Hopper

Now that we have an overview of the different hopper types, let’s delve into the essential factors to consider when purchasing a paintball hopper:

1. Capacity

The capacity of the hopper refers to the number of paintballs it can hold at a time. Hopper capacities typically range from 50 to 250+ paintballs.

  • Low Capacity Hoppers (50-100 Paintballs): Low-capacity hoppers are often used in pump-action and stock-class markers, as well as for players who prefer a lightweight setup. They are also common in scenario games and tactical scenarios, where players value the realism of limited ammunition.
  • Mid Capacity Hoppers (100-200 Paintballs): Mid-capacity hoppers strike a balance between capacity and weight. They are suitable for players who prefer a more compact setup but still need enough paintballs for extended gameplay.
  • High Capacity Hoppers (200+ Paintballs): High-capacity hoppers are ideal for players who engage in rapid-fire gameplay, such as speedball and tournament play. They provide ample paintball storage, minimizing the need for frequent reloading during intense battles.

The choice of hopper capacity depends on your playing style and the specific scenarios you participate in. If you value mobility and realism, a low or mid-capacity hopper may be the better choice. For competitive and high-rate-of-fire play, a high-capacity hopper can significantly enhance your gameplay experience.

2. Feed Rate and Speed

The feed rate of a hopper refers to how quickly it can deliver paintballs into the marker’s firing chamber. It is measured in balls per second (bps) and determines how effectively the hopper can keep up with the firing rate of your marker.

  • Gravity-Fed Hoppers: Gravity-fed hoppers have the slowest feed rate, typically ranging from 6-8 bps. They are suitable for markers with lower firing rates and recreational play.
  • Agitating Hoppers: Agitating hoppers have an improved feed rate compared to gravity-fed hoppers, usually ranging from 8-12 bps. They can handle mid-level markers with moderate firing rates.
  • Electronic Hoppers: Electronic hoppers offer the highest feed rates, capable of achieving 20+ bps. They are designed to keep up with the fastest and most aggressive markers used in competitive play.

For speedball and tournament play, where rapid firing is common, an electronic hopper with a high feed rate is essential to avoid paintball jams and misfeeds. For recreational play or markers with lower firing rates, gravity-fed or agitating hoppers may be sufficient.

3. Feeding Mechanism

The feeding mechanism of a hopper determines how the paintballs are delivered from the hopper into the marker. The three main feeding mechanisms are:

  • Stacked Tube: Stacked tube hoppers have a vertical tube design, where paintballs stack on top of each other inside the hopper. As the marker fires, a spring-loaded mechanism pushes the paintballs down the feedneck and into the marker.
  • Paddle/Agitator: Hoppers with paddle or agitating mechanisms use a motorized paddle to move and agitate the paintballs. This prevents jams and ensures a consistent feed rate.
  • Force-Feed: Force-feed hoppers use a motorized mechanism to actively force paintballs into the marker’s firing chamber. They offer the highest feed rates and are the preferred choice for high-rate-of-fire markers.

For most recreational play and mid-level markers, both paddle/agitator and force-feed mechanisms offer sufficient feeding performance. However, for speedball and tournament play, where rapid firing is common, a force-feed hopper is highly recommended for its superior feed rate and reliability.

4. Weight and Size

The weight and size of the hopper can impact your overall setup and playing comfort. If you value mobility and agility, a lightweight and compact hopper will complement your playing style.

  • Gravity-Fed Hoppers: Gravity-fed hoppers are often the lightest and most compact, making them suitable for players seeking a minimalist setup.
  • Agitating Hoppers: Agitating hoppers are slightly heavier than gravity-fed hoppers due to the motorized paddle mechanism. However, they are still relatively lightweight and manageable.
  • Electronic Hoppers: Electronic hoppers can be heavier than gravity-fed and agitating hoppers due to the additional motor and electronics. However, advancements in materials have resulted in lighter electronic hoppers.

Consider how the hopper’s weight and size affect your overall setup. If you prioritize maneuverability and quick movements, a lightweight hopper may be a better fit.

5. Compatibility with Your Marker

Before purchasing a hopper, ensure that it is compatible with your paintball marker. Some markers may have specific feedneck sizes or configurations that require compatible hoppers.

  • Standard Feedneck: Many paintball markers have a standard feedneck size (e.g., feedneck). These markers can accommodate most hoppers on the market without any compatibility issues.
  • Cocker Thread Feedneck: Some older or custom markers may feature a cocker thread feedneck (e.g., feedneck). If your marker has this type of feedneck, make sure to choose a hopper with the corresponding thread to ensure a secure fit.
  • Autococker Thread Feedneck: Another less common thread type is the autococker thread feedneck (e.g., feedneck). If your marker has this thread type, select a hopper with the correct thread size.

Double-check your marker’s feedneck size and thread type before purchasing a hopper to avoid compatibility issues.

6. Ease of Disassembly and Cleaning

Regular maintenance and cleaning are crucial for the proper functioning of your hopper. Consider how easy it is to disassemble and clean the hopper when selecting a paintball loader.

  • Tool-Less Disassembly: Some hoppers feature tool-less disassembly, allowing you to take apart the hopper for cleaning without the need for additional tools. This simplifies maintenance and ensures that you can keep your hopper in optimal condition.
  • Easy Access to Internals: Look for hoppers with easy access to the internals for quick and hassle-free cleaning. A hopper with accessible internals makes it easier to remove paintball debris and dirt that may accumulate during gameplay.

7. Battery Life

If you opt for an electronic hopper, consider the battery life and power consumption of the hopper’s motor and electronic components. Longer battery life allows for extended gameplay without the need for frequent battery changes or recharging.

  • Battery Type: Check the type of battery required for the hopper (e.g., 9-volt, AA, AAA) and ensure that it is readily available and easy to replace.
  • Low Battery Indicator: Some hoppers feature a low battery indicator, notifying you when the battery is running low. This feature prevents unexpected battery depletion during gameplay.

8. Anti-Jam Features

Paintball hoppers, especially gravity-fed and agitating hoppers, are susceptible to jams, especially during intense and aggressive play. Look for hoppers with anti-jam features to minimize the risk of paintball blockages and misfeeds.

  • Anti-Jam Paddle: Some agitating hoppers have anti-jam paddles that prevent paintballs from getting stuck or lodged inside the hopper.
  • Spring-Loaded Feedneck: Hoppers with a spring-loaded feedneck can help dislodge any paintballs that may become stuck at the feedneck entrance.
  • Ramp and Shake Technology: Some electronic hoppers feature ramp and shake technology, which detects and resolves paintball jams automatically.

Anti-jam features ensure a smoother and more reliable feeding process, particularly during high-intensity gameplay.


Top Recommended Paintball Hoppers

To help you get started in your search for the perfect paintball hopper, we have compiled a list of top recommended hoppers in each category:

Best Gravity-Fed Hopper: Proto Primo Paintball Loader

The Proto Primo is a popular gravity-fed hopper that combines simplicity and reliability. With a 200-round capacity, it provides ample paintball storage for recreational play and mid-level markers. The positive feed shelf prevents jams and ensures consistent feeding.

Best Agitating Hopper: Dye LTR Paintball Loader

The Dye LTR is an excellent choice for players seeking an agitating hopper. It offers a 200-round capacity and a feed rate of up to 30 bps. The patented quick-release lid allows for easy cleaning and maintenance, while the anti-jam paddle prevents blockages during play.

Best Electronic Hopper: Virtue Spire III Electronic Paintball Loader

The Virtue Spire III is a top-of-the-line electronic hopper that delivers exceptional performance and reliability. With a 220-round capacity and a feed rate of up to 30+ bps, it can keep up with the most demanding markers in speedball and tournament play. The Spire III’s anti-jam technology and tool-less disassembly make it a popular choice among competitive players.


Finding the Perfect Paintball Hopper

Choosing the right paintball hopper is crucial for optimal performance and gameplay enjoyment. Consider factors such as capacity, feed rate, feeding mechanism, compatibility with your marker, weight, ease of maintenance, battery life, and anti-jam features when making your decision.

For casual and recreational play, a gravity-fed or agitating hopper may be sufficient. If you are serious about speedball or tournament play, an electronic hopper with a high feed rate and anti-jam technology is the ideal choice.

Remember that the hopper is an essential component of your paintball setup, and investing in a quality hopper can significantly impact your performance on the field. With the right paintball hopper, you can focus on the game and unleash your full potential as a paintball player.