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The Next Generation
By Bill Mills
Ever since its release in late 2001, the HALO from Odyssey Paintball has been appearing on more and more paintguns at major tournaments. For a look at WARPIG’s review of the original HALO, CLICK HERE.
Even while the first units were moving out the door, designer Chris Goddard was already working on a more advanced, next generation HALO model. While paint jams were a rarity with the original HALO, they did sometimes happen, and Goddard found that on vertical feed paintguns the HALO could not feed as fast as when it was installed on paintguns with a powerfeed. Both issues were addressed with the HALO B.
The B in HALO B stands for Belt Feed. Physically, that is one of the major changes to the HALO. Instead of three gears in the HALO B’s drive train, the first gear has been replaced by an o-ring that is used as a drive band. One of the immediate results of this design change was a reduction in noise. While the HALO was never loud when compared to the sound of a firing paintgun, players who heard it spin empty were sometimes put off by the sound.
The next major change was made in the drive cone. The HALO design uses a drive cone, a part that looks rather much like a small roulette wheel. It sits inside a catch cup, and as it spins, drives balls out into the loader’s feed neck. The new drive cone on the HALO B has two pieces, and an internal spring. The main problem the HALO, and most other hoppers had faced when installed on a vertical feed paintgun was ball-bobble. Either blowback gasses, or simply being bumped by the bolt of the paintgun as it closes, can cause the paintballs stacked in the feed tube to bounce upward back into the loader. This can mean that it will take longer for the balls to drop back into place, and then into the breech. If it takes too long, the bolt will be closing again, and end up chopping a ball.
The two pieces of the HALO B drive cone have a light spring coiled between them. This allows the bottom half to spin, about 315 degrees (nearly all the way around) winding up the spring, before the drive engages solidly. In normal operation, the HALO B drive cone has a soft, or mushy engagement. As the loader feeds, the top half of the drive cone will keep unwinding the spring, pushing paint into the feedneck, while the motor spins, winding the spring up again.
The new arrangement puts a constant pressure on the paintballs stacked in front of the breech. There is always a constant, but gentle pressure on the paint, waiting to literally drive it into the paintgun, no longer relying on gravity. The spring system also acts as a buffer, it prevents the HALO B from over-driving paintballs, breaking them with too much pressure. With the changes to the drive system, the latching ball detent has been eliminated from the HALO design.
To go along with the physical changes, the software that controls the HALO’s motor has also changed. The first noticeable difference is how it turns on. The original HALO required a double-tap in just the right pattern. The HALO B is activated by a single press. If the press is just a click, it is too short, and if it lasts longer than about a second it is too long. The reason for this is so that accidental button presses by equipment in a gear bag won’t turn on the HALO, draining the batteries. Turning the HALO off, is a matter of pressing the button in until the LED flashes red.
The way the software in the HALO B operates has also been changed. While there is still an infrared reflective sensor in the neck, that is only a part of the HALO’s activation system, and the HALO can even feed paint with the optical sensor removed or blocked. If the optical sensor does not detect a paintball in the neck, the motor will be pulsed slightly, at regular intervals. Feedback circuits both during the pulses, and normal loading operation measure the amperage drawn by the motor. If the motor hits resistance, the amperage will rise, and the control software responds by cutting power, as another way to prevent balls from being overdriven and broken.
Also changed in the HALO B are the anti-jam devices. In the first HALOs, a long slender spring and a strip of plastic extended out of the side of the catch cup to flick balls out of the drive cone if they had not fallen all the way to the bottom and into place. In the HALO B, the spring has been changed to a shorter, fatter spring. The plastic tab is still there, but threaded onto it are four plastic beads. The beads act as bearings. If the second anti-jam does encounter a ball, the beads spin around the tab, reducing the friction against the ball. When asked about the new anti-jam, designer Chris Goddard pulled out a beaded necklace from under his shirt collar and said with a grin, “Oh, it’s just an idea I had hanging around.”
Another very minor change was made to the HALO’s pushbutton assembly. In the original HALO, a rubber, water resistant push button nub on the back face pressed a dome microswitch on the internal circuit board when it was pushed. The set up is the same on the HALO B, except that there is a slight gap between the rubber nub and the top of the switch. This allows for much easier assembly of the HALO B after maintenance, without any alignment problems for the pushbutton.
More important than what the changes are, is how they work in the field. The changes were tested before the HALO B’s official release by Texas Storm, and became available to players in the Spring of 2002. WARPIG.com put two HALO B loaders on the field to see how they held up. Testing started with a pre-release HALO B which had the original style anti-jam devices. A couple of ball breaks happened during initial testing, and it was discovered that the spring between the two drive cone halves was not seated properly in place. After unscrewing its center screw, and lifting up the drive cone top, the spring reseated, and the HALO then fed flawlessly. Later testing with both the pre-release, and a production HALO in an Angel IR3, both with and without the Angel gated feed, and on an E Matrix, the loader kept up and fed without incident. Additionally, players who were loaned the test loader to try had no problems turning it on or off, which was not always the case with the original HALO that required a precisely timed double-tap sequence to activate.
Another option now available with the HALO are clear shells. Original HALO shells were black with clear lids. Shells are now available made of the same polycarbonate material in color choices ranging from completely clear to colored tints like blue and red.
The HALO B is now the standard production
model, and is easily identified from an original HALO both by the beads
on the second anti-jam device and the fact that it is turned on by a single
press of the power button. Further identification can be made by
opening the loader, and turning the drive cone clockwise. If it springs
back, counter-clockwise, the loader is a HALO B. For customers who
purchased the original HALO, an upgrade is available factory direct for