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Product Testing performed with DraXxus Paintballs provided by Procaps Direct

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Empire Prophecy Loader
by Bill Mills - Photos by Dawn Mills - July 09

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For players who have followed the development of the HALO loader, to the HALO B, to its being folded into National Paintball Supply (now KEE Action Sports) and morphing into the Reloader series and the Magna Loader, the Empire Prophecy can bee seen as the next iteration in the progression of that one particular loader's design. With a new body, and for the first time since the original gear drive HALO, a redesigned raceway and drive assembly, the Prophecy is packed with changes.

HALO and ProphecyThe Magna loader introduced a a shifting of component layout compared to the earlier HALO and Reloader models, but moving the feedneck to the front of the loader and batteries to the back. The Prophecy returns to a general shape that is much closer to the original HALO, with the feedneck near the middle and batteries in front.

Magna and ProphecyWhile it may look similar to the earlier loaders on the outside, the construction is entirely different. The clamshell design held together with screws, that has been a standard in powered loaders since the days of the VL 2000 is gone. Instead the Prophecy is built of interlocking components. Flexible tabs and latches hold together the entire loader, even down to the interior of the drive train, there are no screws to be found within any of the internal components.

PaintballThe body of the Prophecy is comprised of five primary components – the lid, the front, the two sides of the rear, and the back. This design has more benefits than just easy disassembly. The modular nature of the components means that the front section can be exchanged for a larger piece, increasing the loader's capacity for back players, while the rear panel can be exchanged to allow for future interface and control upgrades.

Although the spring loaded lock buttons allow the loader to be disassembled quickly, paintball hits in testing for review did not manage do dislodge any components.

paintballLike the Magna Drive loader, the lid of the Prophecy uses a pair of magnets at the back that attract to a matched pair in the body to secure it in the closed position. Another magnet near its hinge attracts to a magnet in the body that holds the lid open during reloading.

 

paintballThe controls for the Prophecy are located at the bottom of its back panel. The power switch is a toggle, protected by a tab extending from the polycarbonate body. Next to the power switch are a pair of buttons. The mode select button switches between sound and radio frequency activation, while the motor advance button manually triggers the circuitry to spin the loader's motor. The two are used in concert for programming the loader.

paintballThe back cover also serves as a lock, holding the two body side sections together. Squeezing the latch at its lower edge allows the back cover to be unlocked and removed.

 

 

paintballAlthough the loader's batteries are secure inside, no screwdriver or battery hatch is needed to access them. Instead, pressing tabs on the top and bottom of the loader at the same time releases the loader front. Pulling it away reveals the internal flexible floor covering the battery carrier.

The Prophecy is powered by four “AA” sized batteries, compared to six on the Magna, HALO and Reloaders. This arrangement delivers 6 volts to the loader's electronics, which is more than enough, considering that the use pulse width modulation to step the voltage down to 3 volts at the motor.

While it was not uncommon for players to adapt HALO loaders to use 9volt transistor radio batteries instead of AA cells, the AA format provides a significant power density advantage. A bundle of four AA alkaline batteries has more than double the watt-hour capacity of a pair of 9-volts (based in independent discharge testing of Duracell Coppertops reported at Powerstream.com) with the same chemistry, yet takes approximately the same amount of space.

paintballThe Prophecy feedneck consists of more than just the sections of the loader body that make up its outer surface. A rigid cyclindrical insert with a flange at the top forms the interior of the feedneck, and this piece can be removed easily when the body front is off.

paintballUnderneath the Prophecy, a pair of spring loaded buttons keep the two body side sections locked to the feed system inside. Holding the loader upside down and pressing both buttons with both thumbs releases the body sides.

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paintballThe floor is secured to the drive train by three tabs, pressing just the front tab allows enough room for the battery carrier to be lifted out. Pressing all three releases the entire floor.

 

paintballWhen the floor is removed the diverter, a tube section with a flexible anti-jam flap, can be lifted out. This piece is what directs paintballs forward and down to the feedneck as the carousel drives them around the raceway.

 

paintball rip driveUnderneath the loader is a feature common to many products in the HALO/Reloader line, a Rip Drive. The Rip Drive wheel allows for easy manual rotation of the drive axle. It can be used in a pinch to advance paint into the marker if batteries are dead, or to relieve tension from the drive cone while unloading or removing the hopper from a marker.

Arguably the biggest performance affecting differences between the Prophecy and its predecessors are the size of the drive system and its internal clutch system.

The feed carousel in the HALO and Prophecy loaders is large enough to hold 10 paintballs. Its counterpart in the Prophecy is of a larger diameter and can hold 15. This larger size, at least in theory, provides a significant loading advantage. If the wheels in the two loaders are rotating at the same speeds, each paintball position in the Prophecy wheel will be exposed to the mass of paintballs in the loader 1.5 times as long as those in a HALO or Magna, increasing the odds that a paintball will have fallen into place by the time it reaches the feedneck, for improved reliability.

Looking at the size change from another aspect, considering that the force of gravity is a limiting factor at dropping paintballs in to the raceway and carousel, the Prophecy's carousel could be spun at 1 and a half times the speed of that in a Magna Drive loader, while still providing an equal amount of time for paintballs to fall in each position. In this respect, bigger should be better, though the larger the wheel assembly becomes, the larger the loader must become, so the Prophecy design team needed to balance performance with practicality.

The magnetic clutch system introduced in the Magna Loader is taken a step further with the addition of a magnetic tension system. The original HALO loader had a drive cone powered by direct gear linkage from an electric motor. This system had its limitations in the time needed to start and stop the drive cone. If it started too late, a ball would not be fed, and if it started too early or stopped too late it could smash paint.

The next generation, the HALO-B added a belt drive (leading to the B in the name) and a spring. Instead of driving the cone directly, the motor, belt and gears wound a spring. With the drive cone under constant spring tension it would constantly press gently on the paint, feeding it the moment the breech opened. Small amounts of overrun by the motor would simply result in the spring winding a little more. In theory, large amounts of overrun by the motor would result in the belt slipping (this being the primary reason for the belt) rather than breaking paint.

With the Magna Drive, a magnetic slip clutch was introduced to the design so that if the motor did over-drive past the point that the spring was fully wound, the clutch would slip, allowing the spring to unwind, rather than pushing too hard on the paint. This set-up allowed more driving force to be applied for faster loading speeds, while reducing the chance of paint breakage from overdriving.

paintballNow with the Prophecy, the drive system spring has been replaced with magnets. While the spring system allowed for about 350 degrees (nearly a full turn) of tension, the tension magnet system in the Prophecy only allows for approximately 90 degrees (¼ turn). Less play in the system provides the opportunity for more responsive electronic control. The tension magnet system also acts as an additional magnetic clutch. When there is no tension on the drive system, the tension magnets are held close, attracted to one another. After enough tension is applied they separate and are able to rotate until they begin repelling against the opposing set of magnets.

The actual magnetic clutch operates as that in the Magna Drive loader, slipping if the motor drives longer than is needed.

paintballLike the Magna Drive clutch, the clutch in the Prohpecy is adjustable by changing the number and position of magnets within a drive carrier. Their position relative to the star shaped steel clutch plate determines how hard of a pull they exert, as well as when that pull will break. A harder clutch setting can be used for a stronger feeding force for maximum speed, while a softer setting can be used to be more gentle with brittle paint.

Continue to Page 2.

 

 

 


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