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Red Mode Test Data
While paintball players are presented with a wide array of options when it comes to choosing a high-end paintball marker, the field narrows considerably when it comes to high performance loaders. At the 2006 PSP Paintball World Cup, DraXxus unveiled its new offering – the DXS Pulse.
At first glance, the Pulse resembles other leading force-feed loaders. It has a general hopper shape with a battery compartment in the lower front, and utilizes a drive cone and raceway arrangement to sort paintballs into a column and deliver them through a feedneck, all controlled by a microcontroller and circuit board located in the back. On closer look, new features appear, including a removable modular drive system, and radio frequency activation link.
In describing the overall shape of the Pulse, it would be difficult to not draw comparisons with the HALO B loader, as the two products have very similar outlines, with the Pulse body coming down a little lower in the back.
The Pulse is built for strength. It's structural components are molded from polycarbonate, the same material that is used for paintball goggle lenses, and which has become standard for high-end loaders. The feedneck is 0.2 inches in wall thickness and short in length, giving it significant strength and making it a very snug fit in most paintguns where it was test fitted. Depending on the paintgun, sanding of the loader may be required for a proper fit.
Emphasizing this loader's strength at the 2006 PSP Paintball World Cup, DraXxus staged a demonstration in which Max Lundqvist of Joy Division drove a nail into a piece of wood, using a Pulse loader as a hammer, inflicting nothing but insignificant scratches on the loader.
With a clear Pulse loader areas of internal structural reinforcement are easily noticed. The internal deck which forms the bottom of the paint chamber in the front is a tenth of an inch thick, and the walls of the feedneck – arguably faced with the most stress of any part of the loader – are 0.18 inches thick. The drive cartridge design means that double walls of polycarbonate make up much of the loader's lower shape.
In three test-loads for review, the Pulse was filled to capacity with 179, 180 and 179 paintballs. However at this capacity it was packed and would not empty itself without manual unjamming. One hundred and sixty paintballs worked well as an operating capacity, filling the loader to nearly full, as is common with most hoppers.
Five stainless steel screws hold the two halves of the main Pulse body together. Each screw threads into a matching nut held in the right half shell, rather than into the the body itself. This eliminates the risk of screws stripping out the polycarbonate in a screw hole. While very unlikely, if the threads on one of the nuts are stripped out, they can be easily replaced.
Six “AA” batteries power the Pulse, delivering 9-volts to the loader. These batteries are loaded into a tray and stored in the front half of the loader. Opening the battery hatch requires the use of a Phillips screwdriver to remove its lock screw. The battery tray snaps into the Pulse wiring with a 9-volt snap style connection. DXS may release an adapter in the future to allow a pair of 9-volt batteries to be used in parallel, providing they can provide the amperage needed to run the Pulse at peak performance.
The lid of the Pulse is a flip top design, very common to paintball loaders. It is equipped with a single magnet, which attracts to a tiny magnet in the shell, to hold it closed. Additionally, with a bit of push, the lid snaps shut around the loader's mouth for an even more secure closure. A spring around the lid hinge pin holds the top open during loading.
The sample Pulse used for review was missing its lid magnets, as were a number delivered at World Cup. An e-mail to the technical support address on the DXS Pulse web site quickly produced a pair of magnets delivered by mail free of charge. These were easily installed, but seemed to make no difference in holding the lid closed, as it snapped around the mouth of the loader securely without them. Sanding or trimming the loader mouth could be done to leave closure entirely to the magnets.
On either side of the loader body is a triangular gem sticker bearing the word Pulse with the Pulse logo in silver text over a blue background. At 2.7inches wide by 1.2 inches tall, the sticker is well within the sticker size restrictions imposed by NPPL rules.
Then there is the feature that is a first for loaders – the removable drive module. On either side of the Pulse are a pair of push buttons. When these are pressed in, the entire drive assembly – all of the parts that push the paintballs out of the loader, can be removed as a single unit.
This has numerous benefits. First and foremost, the loader does not need to be disassembled at risk of loosing screws, magnets, or faulty-reassembly for cleaning. With the drive module removed all of its surfaces that would need cleaning in the event of an internal ball break can easily be reached, and the full interior space of the hopper can be reached with a paper towel.
Less obvious are the future possibilities. The Pulse loader does not depend on gravity, aside from settling paint from the open interior space of the hopper to its drive cone. Paintballs do not have to fall past infra-red eyes to activate the loader, and the motor provides enough force do drive paintballs uphill through a feed tube. The drive mechanism does not have to be located above the paintgun's breech.
The Pulse drive module could easily be plugged into hopper bodies of different designs. These could be hoppers with larger or smaller loading capacities, or even bodies designed to be used as a stock or an under-barrel loader, with a feed tube delivering paint to the marker's breech.
In testing for review, it was found that pulling the module out can be a bit tricky, the easiest method was that suggested by Spike of Procaps Europe – removing the loader from the marker, opening it's lid, pressing the latch buttons with one hand and slapping the loader with the palm of the other hand just above the circuit board. This dislodges the drive module about a quarter of an inch, making it easy to grip and remove. A power connector inside the shell separates the power lines from the battery to the drive module, and lines up to connect automatically when the module is reinstalled.
Inside the module are a drive motor, a drive train consisting of a band and gears as well as the drive cone, a power sub-board, main circuit board, radio receiver/decoder, main circuit board and reverser switch.
In the center of the drive module is a helical raceway, with the five-bladed drive cone able to rotate over its top. Unlike the HALO-B and VLocity loaders, the Pulse has no spring-tension system. It relies purely on motor operation to put pressure on the advancing line of paintballs, much like the original gear driven HALO, although the design leaves room in which aftermarket spring-tension drive cones could be employed.
Because of the Helical raceway, after-market drive cones meant for the HALO B would not be directly compatible with the Pulse. While the main axle of the Pulse extends to the bottom of its body making an attachment similar to a HALO Rip Drive possible, such a knob could only be used for unjamming the loader, as there is no tension spring to wind if the batteries were to fail.
The radio receiver is literally a “little black box.” It allows the Pulse loader to be activated by a radio signal from the paintgun to which it is attached.
The main circuit board contains the loader's status LED and power button. The power button is almost flush with the back face of the loader. Unlike some competing loaders there is no flexible dome sticker over the power button to seal this entrance point. In testing it was found that a simple strip of electrical or duct tape provided a waterproof seal around the button while still offering the flexibility needed to operate it.
The reverse switch is on the bottom face of the drive module, on the left hand side. This momentary push button simply reverses the direction of the electrical current being delivered to the motor, causing it to reverse directions is there is ever a need to unjam the loader. While this button functioned perfectly as intended during testing, it was never needed, as using fresh paintballs there were no jams.
This button is not sealed either, and would require a larger flexible cover of some sort to fully seal its opening. It should be noted however that the reverser switch and the power button are both in areas which don't take hits as often as the front of the loader.
The Pulse is turned on and off with its power push button. Pressing and holding the button for about two seconds will turn the loader on or off.
The loader turns on in Green mode – indicated by its power LED illuminating in – you guessed it – green. Proper operation in green mode requires the loader to be used with a paintgun that has a radio frequency (RF) transmitter installed. The RF transmitter is an optional component, that requires basic soldering skills for installation, though in a press conference at 2006 PSP Paintball World Cup, Procaps Direct employees stated that they expect some paintgun manufacturers to begin including this feature in their circuit boards.
By using the RF system, the Pulse loader is able to feed automatically each time the marker is fired.
However, since the RF transmitter is an optional item, it was not tested in this review. Instead the loader was tested in red mode. Red mode is selected by clicking the power button once while the loader is on. Red mode is indicated, predictably by a red glow of the power LED.
In red mode, the motor pulses several times per second. If there are not paintballs blocking the drive cone from spinning, it will spin continuously, feeding paintballs as fast as it can. When it encounters resistance from a stack of paintballs lined up to the marker's breech, the Pulse's circuit board detects the increase in electromagnetic resistance and stops delivering power to the motor. Fractions of a second later, it will apply power again, stopping if it detects resistance.
The result is that the Pulse loader pulses power to the drive cone causing it to twitch several times per second and feed a paintball the moment the opportunity arises. The twitch technology eliminates the need for infra-red eyes that can run into problems with dirt, sunlight interference or differing paint shell colors or clarity.
The downside of twitching in red mode is that the continuous activation of the motor requires the use of electricity, even when the loader is not feeding paint. Players using a Pulse without an RF transmitter in their marker would be well advised to turn the loader off between games in order to maximize battery life.
To see how the Pulse loader performed on-gun, it was run through the WARPIG Ballistic Labs standardized 10 shot burst test in red mode. The test, utilizing a Matrix LCD receiver, and decelerating ball catcher starts with 100 fresh paintballs in the loader. The marker body was cycled through 10-shot strings under microprocessor control. At each test rate, 3 strings were executed, with the loader reloaded after each. This test offers a standardized comparison with other loaders tested under the same criteria. It is important to note however that this test does not determine the maximum rate at which a loader can ever feed paintballs. Not only do marker configuration affect feed rates, but this test focuses on the ability to deliver 10 shots in a row at a sustained rate, instantly from a “dead stop” – a much harder task than delivering paint at a high average feed rate.
Also, it is important to note that this testing is of the stock Pulse loader operating in red mode. Look for green mode performance in a separate review of the Pulse loader RF Transmitter.
The Pulse fed flawlessly up to 16 bps. At 17 bps, one shot was skipped in the first trial, but the other two fed all ten. At 18 bps only one of the three trials fed all ten paintballs, the other two fed 9 each. This gave the Pulse a score of 18 bps, the highest achieved to date with a stock electronic loader in this test format. To give a further picture of the loader's capabilities, it was cycled through additional trials at rates up to 22 bps, in order to create the following graph.
The height of the line on the graph represents the percentage of shots which fed a paintball correctly at each rate.
To take another look at how the Pulse performs, it was also put through a newer test, one designed to better reflect real world paintball use. The ramping burst test was performed similar to the 10 shot burst test, except that for each test trial four shots were fired at 10 balls per second, followed by 10 shots at the test rate. This allows the loader a chance to rev up to speed much as it would have when a player begins shooting a string of shots in a ramping mode that kicks in after the first few shots. Also performed in the loader's red (no radio link) mode, this test showed flawless loading up through 20 balls per second. At 21 balls per second and 22 balls per second it delivered only 12 paintballs for each 10 shot trial.
The DXS Pulse stays within the bounds of what is generally accepted in terms of modern loader shape and operating concepts, but adds several new features such as its modular structure and radio link, while providing solid performance.
Continue to Pulse Transmitter Review
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