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Ricochet UV
by Bill Mills

WARPIG.com readers got an exclusive first look at the prototype of the Ricochet Loader in the summer of 2002.  During the fall of 2002, the Ricochet loader went from prototype to production product.  Here is a look at the final loader.

The Ricochet UV is designed to work in conjunction with Crypt-O-Nite paintballs from Wreched Seven.  Crypt-O-Night paint glows in the dark.  Simply charging it with light and carrying it out to the paintball field, however, one is faced with the serious limitation, that if not shot quickly, the glow will run out.  Charging with ultraviolet black lights is the most efficient method for charging the paintballs, but even that yields results that arenít that impressive if the paint is shot very long after it is charged.  Since most night play happens during scenario games, players are likely to be out on the field for an extended period of time.

The Ricochet UV, developed by Ricochet loader designer Ennis Rushton solves the problem by charging the paintballs while they are in the hopper.  The Ricochet UV is built out of a mirrorized Ricochet AK loader body.  The UV circuit board is of the same design as the Ricochet AK board, but labeled for the UV, and programmed with different software.  Mounted inside the Ricochet UV is a pair of additional circuit boards, each with an array of Ultraviolet LEDs.  These LEDs are the key, as the only previous technology to produce a decent amount of ultraviolet light from a compact battery power supply involved a high voltage drive circuit and tube lamp fixture.  In comparison to the LEDs, that old technology was more complex, more expensive, and more fragile.  The UV LEDs in contrast, are sealed, waterproof solid-state semiconductor technology capable of taking a lot of abuse, and needing relatively little power to operate.

The two LED arrays plug into the UV circuit board in the same plugs that an AK board uses for its bend sensor, and agitating motor.  With itís own unique software, the UV board simply provides power to these LEDs when turned on, and not when it is off.  A pushbutton on the rear of the loader turns it on and off, and a small green LED lights when it is on.  Like the AK, the UV is powered by a single 9 volt battery.  This is much more convenient than the prototype model which required both the 9 volt, and a pair of AA batteries in a tray below it.

One of the LED arrays is mounted in the top of the loader, aimed down at the paintballs, while the other fits alongside the neck of the loader, giving the paintballs a final strong charge on its way out of the loader.  According to Rushton, the choice of the mirrored finish is to make the most of the UV light emitted from the LEDs.  Light that doesnít hit a paintball bounces off the sides, back to the paint, rather than being absorbed by the loader plastic. 

Field testing the loader, it was found to still be a good idea to charge up the paintballs with ultraviolet light before heading out on the field.  This, combined with the Ricochet UV would maximize their brightness.  At a minimum, it was helpful to keep the Ricochet UV turned on between games, in the staging area, and occasionally jostle it, to keep the paint stirred, so more paintballs were directly exposed to the top LEDs.

Under the starlight of a clear sky, the paint was not brilliant, but definitely bright enough to use as a tracer to walk a stream of paint onto a target.  On the receiving end, paint could be seen coming in, and splattering when it hit surrounding trees and terrain, but it was difficult to use it to pinpoint the exact position of the shooter.  Oddly enough the paint appeared to get brighter if the ball bounced off of something, or broke open.  This is because it would be slowed down by the impact, and was then visible as more than just a streak through the air.  Neither the green LED on the back of the loader or the glowing paint inside were visible enough to give away the shooterís position.

There were two main downsides to the loader.  First, the lower UV LED array , meaning that the paint sitting in the breech of the paintgun, and the feed neck did not get a fresh charge.  The first few shots after a period of waiting would not be nearly as bright as the following shots.  This is an area where pre-charging the paint before taking to the field helped.  The other drawback is that the Ricochet UV is not an agitating loader, and is subject to jamming if it is used on a paintgun that does not shake much during use.  In testing on a Palmerís Blazer, CCM J2 pump and Angel IR3, the pump was no problem, but with the semiautos, it was necessary to shake the loader and paintgun after every burst of five to six shots.  Once this became a habit, it was not a problem.  Ricochet Development is considering the development of a future model which will include both the Ricochet agitating system, and the ultraviolet LED arrays.  Keeping the loader about half full rather than completely full helped significantly to reduce ball jam problems, as well as to allow the paintballs to pick up more light from the top array.

Both the Ricochet UV and Crypt-O-Nite paintballs are available from paintball dealers, and from assorted paintball scenario game operators.

 


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