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By Bill Mills - November 2004
The Empire ReLoader started life as the ReLoad kit. This kit was offered by National Paintball Supply as an upgrade for ViewLoader Revolution loaders. While a ReLoad upgraded Revy was still an agitating loader, the ReLoad’s electronic board changed what activated the loader’s motor. Instead of waiting for a jam to happen, and detecting it by a lack of paintballs in the neck, the ReLoad electronics were pro-active. An on-board microphone detected the sound of the paintgun shooting, and activated the agitator, causing the paintballs to be stirred up in the loader every time a shot was fired.
The ReLoad kit soon found its way into a complete loader, and was made available as the ReLoader, which put the ReLoad electronics in a familiar kidney shaped loader body, available in clear, smoke or black. In the Fall of 2004 National released the next generation of the ReLoader, under the Empire brand name – the Reloader 2.
At first glance, the change in the ReLoader’s shape is obvious. While the basic kidney shape is there, it is now hidden under smooth curves. Every structural edge has been smoothed with fillets (a smooth interior corner shape.) From an engineering standpoint, this means that places where components come together, like the feedneck to the body, and the battery and motor housing to the body will have greater strength when made from the same materials as a similar design with squared off corners.
The ReLoader 2’s feed neck is rather thick, and will likely need sanding to fit into tighter paintgun feed necks or elbows. During testing for review, it even required a bit of twisting to fit into a Fireball Mountain clamping feed neck which was fully open.
The next immediate difference comes in the lid. Most paintball hoppers rely on two things for lid closure. One or two springs bias the lid to flip shut when released, and friction between parts of the lid and body help it stay snapped shut, or all the way open. While these design concepts have worked well for years, they do suffer a couple of disadvantages. The springs used are often small, and a bit tricky to keep aligned properly while assembling a loader. Also the lips and protrusions that cause the lid to snap onto the body, and snap into the open position can wear over time and use, becoming less effective.
From a manufacturing point of view, the snap fit lid can require a significant amount of time and expense to achieve. In order to take into account shrinkage of the material, the injection molds in which the loader is made, may need to be modified several times to get the lids and loaders they make to fit just right. National’s design team addressed these shortcomings by thinking outside the box. Instead of a spring, small powerful magnets were added to the lid and at key points inside the body. When the lid is closed, two pairs of magnets on either side near the back, keep it secure. When it is opened a magnet in its connecting neck grabs onto a magnet in the top of the loader body, holding it in place.
The lid and fill opening themselves are nearly perpendicular to the feed neck. This means that the loader can be open, and in the process of being reloaded while the paintgun is still up and firing.
Another, not quite as obvious design feature is the battery compartment door. The ReLoader 2 is powered by a pair of 9-volt batteries, and in testing for review, it fared well on both Energizer alkaline batteries and Powerex NiMH rechargeable batteries. The battery door is very familiar in shape to the Revolution door, but rather than sliding out of the body toward the back, it slides forward on a closed track. This set up greatly reduces the chance of a lost battery door stopping a day’s play.
The ReLoader 2’s power switch is a simple push button, complimented by a red light emitting diode (LED) used to indicate operation and a low battery condition. Pressing the button turns on the loader, an event which is signaled by a spin of the motor, and flash of the LED. Holding the button down for about a second and a half results in the LED activating, and staying on until the button is released. This is how the ReLoader 2 signals that it is being turned off. In a low battery situation, the LED flashes, but a small curved guard makes this difficult for an opponent to see from the front.
Since the ReLoader electronics are sound activated, the loader will not run itself until empty when not in use on a paintgun. Many players re-bag or pod spare paint by running their loader off-gun. In order to empty the loader, or to make sure there is not a ball jam without shooting, a quick press of the loader’s button while it is on activates the motor in a pulse lasting about one second.
On the inside, the ReLoader features a six-pronged semi-rigid agitator. While the loader body lacks a catch cup like most sorting loaders, paintballs have a tendency to fall between the arms of the agitator and be guided straight to the feed neck.
The big question with loaders is always,
“how fast will it feed?” To find the answer, the Reloader 2 was run
on the WARPIG Ballistic Labs hopper test stand. The ReLoader 2 was
loaded with 100 DraXxus Hellfire paintballs. A stand mounted Matrix
LCD was electronically triggered in 10 round bursts at selected rates of
fire, with the painballs fired without a barrel, into a catch box for counting,
and to confirm that they had fed without chopping. Three bursts of
10 shots were fired at each rate, with the rate of fire increasing until
the hopper failed to feed all 10 shots on at least two of the three tries.
Starting at a rate of 10 balls per second and increasing the rate by one ball per second after each set of three trials, the ReLoader 2 operated properly up through thirteen balls per second. At 14 balls per second only nine balls fed on one of the trials, while all 10 fed on the other two, skipping one ball out of 30. At 15 balls per second, the loader fed 7, 7, and then 6 balls, skipping a total of 10 shots out of thirty.
The ReLoader 2 combines the original
ReLoad sound activation technology with a new loader shape, innovative
hatches, and high speed agitating loader performance.
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