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Unit provided for testing by PMI
by Bill Mills
The Ricochet 2K loader holds the distinction of being the first non ViewLoader active loader to be mass marketed in the United States (for years Europeans have had access to the AutoFeed twin agitating loader).
The Ricochet packs 180 paintballs, an agitation system, game timer functions, and ball counter functions in a sleek faceted shape that is designed to decrease the chance of a ball breaking on the hopper. Its narrow diamond like shape means that many shots from the front will be at slight angles to the surface, and more likely to bounce than a perpendicular hit.
The Ricochet's lid is flat on the top, slightly changing the angle at which a paintgun is held while reloading. A single 9 volt battery in a bottom, rear compartment provides power. The battery compartment is not labeled, so the user must remember that the positive terminal on the battery goes against the right side spring clip.
Unlike the Revolution loader which only activates when there is a gap in the stack of balls in the feed neck, the Ricochet activates each time a ball is fed. A small flexible plastic printed circuit switch extends into the feed neck. Each time a ball moves past, it activates the switch, and the electronics go into action, spinning the agitator arms for roughly two seconds.
The agitator arms themselves are sections of stiff monofilament (0.080" ribbed weed trimmer line). These arms are stiff enough to stir up the paintballs, breaking up jams, but flexible enough to bend rather than breaking balls that are piled up with too much resistance. Due in part to this flexibility, the Ricochet can still agitate when completely full.
On the back of the loader is a multifunction LCD display in a position that is very easy to read while playing (if you've ever been shot while twisting your paintgun around to read a display in the grip you can appreciate this). On the left hand side of the loader is a three digit ball counter, while the right has a countdown timer broken into 2 digits for minutes, and two for seconds. The drawback to this "agitate with every shot" aproach compared to agitating when a sensor detects no balls in the feedneck is that if the loader does experience a jam after agitation stops, it will not automatically clear the jam. However, such a condition was not noticed in testing and evaluation - the Ricochet provided jam-free operation.
Four rubber coated pushbuttons below the LCD allow for control of the loader and timer. All four are labeled in the LCD display, and the power button (the only one that needs to be used when the power is off) is labeled with raised letters in its rubber cover.
On power up (pressing the power button) the LCD display comes on, and a tone is emitted from the internal speaker. If the battery is low, the display will flash for five seconds right at power up, and each time the loader activates. At that point, according to the manufacturer, there should be enough battery life for about 1,500 shots use.
By default, the game timer will come on at 10:00. Pressing the minute button cycles it upward, one minute at a time to 20 minutes at which point it rolls over to one minute. Similarly, the seconds button cycles the seconds from 00 on up through 59. While game times are usually in even minutes, it can be handy to set the timer to take into account the 10 or 30 second pre-game warning so that the player doesn't have to be thinking about the timer when the game whistle blows.
Pressing the reset button resets the ball counter to zero and starts the countdown timer ticking. At one minute to 0:00, and at 30 seconds to 0:00, the timer will emit a series of short warning beeps. A long beep indicates that time has run out. Once the time has expired, pressing reset will return the clock to its last setting. Pressing reset before the clock has stopped will reset it to that time. After the timer has been started, pressing the seconds button activates silent mode (no beeps as the time runs out) which is signaled by a single beep. Pressing it again, turns off silent mode which is signaled by a double beep. In silent mode the warnings will not be heard, but the long beep will still be emitted at 0:00.
The three digit ball counter starts at zero, and increases its count each time a single ball drops from the feeder. It is important to not that is each time a single ball drops. If the loader is allowed to free fall into a bag or pod, the count will not be accurate. The balls must be dropped out one at a time, as they do in a paintgun (start and stop feeding as each ball is chambered and fired) to count properly.
When the counter reaches a multiple of 155 (155, 310, 465, etc.) a short series of beeps is issued as a reload alarm (unless in silent mode). While a nice feature, this alarm is only really accurate if 140 round tubes are used for loading, and will ring at inappropriate times if the loader is "topped off" during play.
In actual use, the counter is better described as giving an approximation of the number of balls fired, rather than an exact count. The accuracy of the counting can be improved by changing counting modes - which alters the time requirements the software looks for in the signal from the ball sensor. This is done through an escape mode, pressing the power button and seconds buttons simultaneously, and the new setting will remain until the unit is powered off. Even with adjustments to this setting, the the count is off after firing at varying rates. The manufacturer states that when properly set the counter should be accurate to within 5 balls per hundred.
In testing, it was found that the ball counter maintains a count close to the number of balls fired in typical use (single shots, and short bursts). Long, sustained rapid firing (such as typical to a back player in an Amateur A or Pro tournament) was most likely to throw off the count the most.
The feed neck of the Ricochet 2K is a bit thick, too thick for some newer elbows and vertical feed paintguns. This is to account for the varying "standards" in feed necks over the recent years. Instructions included with the loader suggest sanding it for a custom fit to the end user's paintgun.
The Ricochet 2K was initially manufactured in black, but made available in August of 2001 in clear, transparent blue, transparent red, and chromed finishes. At the time of this writing, a lower cost version of the Ricochet is planned with a single power button and single LED to indicate operational status.
The agitation and feeding of the Ricochet
2L works very effectively, and even when the loader is filled to capacity,
the agitator still functions properly. With less than a year since
its launch, the Ricochet 2K has gained popularity quickly, being put into
use by a number of amateur teams, and ecen pro teams including Aftershock.
To see how the Ricochet 2K stacks up against other loaders, see the WARPIG
Ballistic Labs' Loader Speed Comparison.
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