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Brass Eagle's eVLution Loader
by Bill Mills August 2000
For years "state of the art" in paintball loaders has meant View Loader. Early paintguns held 10 to 20 paintballs in the paintgun, in a cylinder parallel to the barrel. In the quest for dominant firepower players began modifying them to "quick load" tubes that held 10 balls at a time. Mounting "stick feeds" meant that PVC pipes held 20 or so balls in a tube sticking up at an angle out of the feed port for fast feeding. Then some plastic oil cans were stuck on top of the pipes to hold an unheard of 100 to 200 paintballs.
Worr Games Products, came out with the first mass produced hopper, the WGP 40 round feed box, which was quickly copied by others. Eventually, the modern hopper designs like the VL-200, APP, and Indian Springs hoppers came about.
And then there were semi-autos. With a pump paintgun, the low rate of fire, and jostling from pumping meant that the paintballs had little problem getting into the breech as fast as the paintgun is firing. Semi-autos stepped up the rate of fire, and as the semi-auto advanced from heavy blowbacks with a lot of kick to slick smooth acting paintguns like the Autococker, and Automag, feed speed became an issue. Ball jams meant a player would crank out a series of shots, dry fire, and then have to stop and shake the paintgun.
Dave Bell of Viewloader changed things with the VL-2000. This new loader used a 9 volt battery to drive a radio control servo motor attached to paddles inside the loader. A pair of optical sensors in the neck detected the empty space when there was a loader jam, and stirred things up with the motor. Patent protecting this technology put Viewloader in a position to dominate the tournament paintball scene.
The VL-2000 was followed by the VL-2000 Shredder which used a pair of 9 volt batteries to drive the 12 volt motor (which had been under powered at 9v) at 18 volts. The greater power was more effective at clearing jams fast, but burned often burned out the motor.
The NEED for FEED SPEED
Then came the Revolution - a voltage regulator limited the 18 volts from the battery to 12 volts to power an improved motor, and it quickly became THE loader dominating tournament paintball, and even prominent in recreational paintball, in the US.
With loaders keeping up with the paintguns, the paintguns kept getting faster. Light, electronic triggers on paintguns like the Angel, Bushmaster and others left players able to out shoot their loaders, causing ball breakage and dry firing problems. In the Angel LCD, WDP even designed an adjustable "ball drop" delay so that the paintgun would be restricted in its rate of fire in order to avoid out shooting the loader.
In the summer of 2000, Viewloader unveiled the eVLution, their next generation design. Originally conceived and patented by Dave Bell, the eVLution's was brought into reality by ViewLoader after the company was purchased by Brass Eagle.
Instead of agitating the paintballs to prevent a jam, the eVLution uses an impeller to actively force paintballs into the feed area of the neck. Like the Revolution, the eVLution uses optical sensors and activates, when there are no balls in its neck. This means that the paintgun still relies on gravity to feed the ball down into the paintgun, unlike a force feed design.
In discussions online people often cite 12 or 13 balls per second as being the maximum rate at which gravity can feed balls into a paintgun. According to Dave Bell, during a rate of fire industry meeting at the Zap International Masters in 1998, the Revolution could reach 13 balls per second in short bursts, but could not feed that fast continuously.
How fast is FAST?
As a simple test of how fast gravity can deliver paintballs, WARPIG.com placed 35 paintballs in a vertical PVC pipe, and timed how long it took for them to fall out. The average time was 0.56 seconds, which equates to 62.5 balls per second. While that number shouldn't be considered extremely accurate, due to errors in hand timing the drop, it does at least indicate that paintballs can fall at a rate much higher than 12-13 per second, the real limiting factor is not how fast the balls fall, but how fast they get from a loose jumble in a hopper into a vertical feed tube.
How fast is the eVLution?
So how fast does the eVLution feed?
According to Brass Eagle, it can feed at up to 13 balls per second.
We decided to compare the eVLution directly to the Revolution. We
ran 150 paintballs through each, and timed them as they emptied.
Through 5 trials with each loader, we came up with an average time for
each to empty.
More importantly than average overall
speed, Brass Eagle says, the eVLution can feed one ball every 13th of a
second. Because paintballs can fall so quickly, the Revolution, and
other agitating designs tend to feed paintballs in "spurts." They
will feed several balls at onceat a very high rate, pause creating a slow
rate, and then feed several balls very fast. Even though the average
may be a certain value, the loader is really restricted to sustained fire
at the rate of the slow gaps between spurts, or to firing in bursts shorter
than the number of balls stacked in the feed neck.
The styling: Eggolution
The eVLution is not shaped the same as the Revolution, or other loaders. Its overall shape is like an egg, or football, which earned it the nickname Eggolution very shortly after its debut. The feed neck is not in the center, but rather in the front, and the loader sits at a forward tipped angle, sitting a little bit higher than a Revolution does.
The entire design has rounded surfaces, and the plastic molding of the first bodies is clear, while black and gem colored bodies are expected shortly. Hanging under the main body of the loader, like the control car under a blimp is the pod which holds the motor, control electronics, impeller, and batteries. The interior is also larger than the Revolution, the eVLution can hold 220 paintballs, and unlike the Rev, it will feed when completely full to capacity (stuffing the Rev often results in a jam.)
The Revolution's toggle style power switch is replaced with a push button on the eVLution. A single push of the button tells the onboard microprocessor to activate the loader. The microprocessor then blinks the "low battery" LED once in response. If the loader is filled with paint and sitting on a paintgun, the impeller will spin, until the feed neck, and elbow are full of paintballs, and then stop until a shot is fired, at which point it will spin again. Pressing the button again, the LED blinks 3 times to signify "OFF." Anyone who's ever lost the battery door on their Revolution will appreciate the fact that the eVLution's battery door is hinged. Gadget freaks developing circuits for features like Intellifeed (the Angel's system of activating the loader when the trigger is pulled) will be pleased with the extra "dead space" in the power pod on the bottom of the hopper. Don't be surprised if there are aftermarket boards like this which will allow the loader to force balls uphill to place the hopper under the top of a paintgun.
To the left of the LED is an adjustable trimmer pot that can be used to adjust the force applied to the impeller. According to Brass Eagle, the user may want to back off the power when using older or more brittle paint, or a slower paintgun, to help prevent accidental ball breaks.
A new door
Another unusual feature of the eVLution is the loading door, and player reactions to it are mixed. Instead of a flip top that rotates forward like other Viewloaders, and most other brands of loaders, the eVLution has a hatch that rotates rearward, opening like a fish mouth. A slap with the palm of the hand will open the eVLution for loading, but some players who have looked at it worry that they will accidentally open it while walking through dense brush.
The Weak Points
As with any product, there are some weak spots, or at least things to look out for. With the eVLution, if everything works right, it is the fastest hopper on the market today. So what can go wrong? In testing, we had a ball jam, only once in all of our testing, and it was with some older paint, which had become somewhat flexible. The ball wedged on the corner of the feed neck and the impeller stopping the impeller from turning. This ball jam was an exception to otherwise flawless operation, and we could not get it to repeat, but it should be kept in mind if using older paint (the real lesson is buy and shoot good quality paint). The other concern is that the batteries be fresh. With the Revolution, if the batteries die, the player can shake the loader to clear any jams, and it will feed like an unpowered loader. With the eVLution, if there is no power, the loader simply will not feed.
Overall, performance wise, the eVLution impresses, if not with its speed, then with its ability to consistently keep its feedneck stacked with paintballs ready to go, and the reliability of a feed system that drives paintballs to the feed neck instead of simply jumbling them when they are jammed.
[Editor's note: The eVLution has developed a reputation for jamming, and not become more popular than the Revolution it was designed to replace.]