Paintball Buyers' Guide 2
Hoppers vs. Loaders - A hopper refers to the non-electric plastic paintball storage bin that mounts on top of a marker. Hoppers feed balls into markers via gravity. Most hoppers can store an average of 200 rounds. A hopper is the right choice for non-electric markers and electric markers with a low to mid range ROF. Mounting a hopper on a marker with a high ROF will cause more balls to break inside the marker. This is because the hopper cannot supply the marker with paintballs as fast as the marker is firing.
A loader is a battery powered hopper that will shuttle balls into the marker at a higher rate than a traditional hopper. The battery operated paddle or agitator found inside a loader not only shuttles balls at a high rate but lowers the instances of ball jamming. Loaders are a must for high ROF markers and/or serious tournament players.
Remotes - A remote is a plastic or steel line that connects the marker to it's air supply. A remote allows the use of an air supply that is not directly mounted onto the marker. This makes the marker lighter and more compact. A remote is great for younger players or beginners that find the traditional tank-mounted marker too heavy or awkward. Remotes are also essential for team positions that require quick and constant movement. Also, a remote is of benefit to players who require a large tank with a higher shot capacity yet don't want the weight added to their marker.
Harnesses - A harness is a belt-like device that stores paintball pods or tubes. Some harnesses will also allow a tank to be carried for the player using a remote or to carry a backup air supply. Harnesses are named by the way they are configured to hold accessories. For instance, a 4+1 harness will hold 4 pods or tubes with one pocket to hold a tank. Some configurations can get as specific as 5H/2V/150. This means that the harness can carry 5-150 round pods horizontally and 2-150 round pods vertically. There is a configuration offered to suit just about every preference and team position. If you're a beginner or a consistent rec player, a 4+1 or 6+1 harness is a good starting point.
Pods or Tubes - Tubes are plastic containers that store additional paintballs. They are designed to be carried in a harness allowing for quick reloading of a hopper or electric loader during play. Tubes come in a variety of sizes and colors. The size refers to the number of rounds a tube can carry. For instance, 100 round tubes can carry 100 paintballs. Make sure the harness you'll be using can easily accommodate the size of the tubes you purchase.
Squeegees - A squeegee is used to clean a marker's body and barrel after ball breakage. Most squeegees are made of cable, plastic or wood with neoprene disks and/or cotton swabs on the ends. This can be an invaluable tool during play. Ball breakage can significantly alter the performance of any marker. Squeegees are relatively inexpensive and it's recommended that you purchase one regardless of skill level. Squeegee holders are also available for quick access during play.
Barrel Plugs - Barrels plugs or barrel condoms prevent injuries caused by accidental shots. They insert into or cover over the end of a barrel therefore preventing a fired paintball from escaping. Most guns come with a barrel plug from the manufacturer. You must have one if you plan to play at a commercial field.
Goggles - Goggles are mandatory protective equipment. There are typically two types of goggles: single or thermal. Single goggles have a single paned lens and thermal goggles have a double paned lens. The difference in temperature between the inside of the goggles and outside air can be extreme. This temperature difference can cause moisture to condense on the lens in single goggles therefore obstructing vision. The double paned lens uses a concept similar to a double paned window. They resist fogging due to the pocket of air that exists between the lens halves. This pocket of air helps to buffer the temperature difference and limit condensation. Other companies use a thermal curing technique that bakes a material into the lens to resist fogging. Regardless of whether you choose a single or thermal goggle, always buy goggles specific for paintball. Paintball goggles are designed to resist impact from paintballs and protect the forehead, eyes, ears and jaw.
Gloves - Gloves also offer valuable protection. Hits on the hands can hurt. Gloves will help absorb some of a paintball impact and also provide better grip on your marker during hot days.
Pads and Chest Protectors - The use of pads and chest protectors are a matter of personal preference. Neck, elbow, knee and shin pads are all available on the market today. There are also chest protectors made of lightweight padding that offer added protection. Some protect the chest only, others include the back. Generally speaking, the more that's covered the greater the protection and safety. You may want to take into consideration the climate and the terrain where you'll be playing when considering pads and chest protectors.
Paintballs - Paintballs are composed of a gelatin coating with a non-toxic, water-based paint fill. They come in many sizes although .68 is the standard. You can typically purchase paintballs in quantities of 500, 1000 or 2000 round cases. If you play at a commercial field you'll probably be required to buy your paintballs at the field in order to play for the day. Like anything else, you get what you pay for. Higher quality paintballs carry a higher price. Why are some paintballs higher in price? Production and quality control to name two reasons. Higher priced paintballs are more consistent in caliber size and as close to a perfect spherical shape as you're going to find. Another reason is the quality of dye found in the balls. Higher quality of dye, although still washable, is much harder to wipe off. Regardless of what you buy, make sure you store paintballs at room temperature (around 72˚F) and below 65% relative humidity to maintain quality. Remember the two biggest enemies of paintballs are water and extremes in temperature.