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Old 02-02-2013, 04:50 PM   #1 (permalink)
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The ultimate new player guide to markers, masks tanks and more!!!

So I am not around these parts super often, I typically stick to paintballforum but I created this about a year ago with some updates since then and figured, more than one site can benefit from it. This is not intended to be a 100% all questions answered guide but just something with a lot of info packed into a brief(ish) format to help new players get on their feet when it comes to new gear and to see a lot of the options out there. Yes, there are a few spots where I am a little bias but I have done my best to explain why I feel that way, you do not have to agree with me, that is fine. But over the last year or so it has already helped many new players find some basics in the sport and get up and running with a first setup. If you feel this is sticky worthy that is great, if not, that is fine as well. enjoy! (hopefully all the encoding will work...)

Alright so we get a lot of new player questions on here asking which marker to look into or which this and which that to get for new players so I figured I would put together something to answer some of the basic questions. This is not an all questions answered guide but should at least get you going in the right direction if you are new to the sport and looking for equipment.

The first thing a new player looks for in paintball is the marker (gun) but it is actually more important to find a few other things first. If you already have a tank and mask then skip down to the markers. If you do not I highly suggest you read over this very important information first. You may be temped to find a package deal that has everything you need in it, and while these do exist they have some major drawbacks. In my years of paintball I have only found a few of these packages that actually have good gear in them. What they tend to do is give you the marker you want, and then the rest of the equipment is bottom of the barrel crap that you will eventually replace. So for the most part, avoid them and put together your own package. You will spend less money in the long run and not have to deal with crap equipment.

The mask, it is by far and large, the MOST IMPORTANT PIECE OF EQUIPMENT you can buy. Not only is it keeping your eyes intact and protected but a crappy one will ruin your day of play. There are two basic categories of masks and they both refer to the lens. There are single pane lenses and there are double pane lenses (called a ďthermal lensĒ ) To make a long story short letís just say single pane lenses are crappy and will fog on you, it does not matter if they have a anti-fog coating, they will still never be as good as a thermal lens. You want to find a thermal lens mask, these are very hard to fog up and will just make your day of play better overall. That said the other important factor to consider is the fit. Since my face is a different shape than your face, a mask that fits me correctly may not work for you the same way.
The best way to shop for a mask is at a local shop, try on everything with a thermal lens and buy the one that fits you best. If you try a mask on and you cannot tighten it down enough to the point that when you shake your head around very hard it can stay on, then the mask does not fit you properly. If there are gaps between your face and the foam padding, then it does not fit you properly. Basically you want a mask that can tighten down on your face enough that it will not move around and will give you enough protection (the neck is where a lot of masks will not cover enough of if they are too small or short for you)

So if trying on in person is not an option and you must order a mask online or if youíre just looking at whats out there here are a few options

First, a family of masks (side note: the e-vents, avatar and helix are sometimes all referred to as the "Vents" but they are different masks! know which one you are looking at!)

Empire E-flex, BASE $110
(I have yet to talk to anyone who has this mask, if you do PLEASE PM me!)This is an old idea with a new twist. The old JT pro-flex (which are still available and further down in this list) had a lasting reputation as a very customizable mask, you could take them apart and swap out parts depending on your needs. well empire decided to take this idea into the new age of masks and has come out with the E-flex. Essentially it is the e-vents with removable and changeable parts as you can see in the photo you are able to swap around colors as much as you would like, this also enables you to modify sections of your mask (like the lower sections for a certain look or to fit your body better) and be able to have different lower sections for different occasions. One of the other factors that made the pro-flex masks so popular is right in the name, the flex of the lower section of the mask enables more bounces than a harder mask. now i dont know this for sure but i am ASSUMING that this was kept in the design of the e-flex based on how they crated the lower section of the mask. Also, i am ASSUMING they are still using the dual layer foam on the inside based on the same lens is being used in the empire masks. Thats right folks, if you have a e-vents, avatar or helix thermal that same lens can be used in the e-flex making that collection of colors you already have still useful Overall i think this is a fantastic idea and am planning on getting one for myself. Another great idea for all you pro-flex owners out there, the lower sections are changeable with the original proflex lowers! the e-flex loweres are reportedly a smaller and thinner profile than the original proflex lowers so if you have a larger face you can also pick up a set of proflex lowers that have a bit more space in them. the price makes them not super friendly on a new budget but if you get one of the other empire masks then the e-flex will always be an upgrade option since you can use the same lenses

Empire e-vents, BASE $99 duel layer foam (very comfy) and all the bells and whistles including removable ear guards I own 2 pairs of these and have loved them, been very durable for me and parts are easy to find

Invert Avatar
, BASE $83 same great lens as the e-vents but the shell has been made with a budget in mind. This is one of the most recommended masks to new players because of its features you are getting for the price.

Invert helix thermal
BASE $30 (do NOT get the non-thermal version of this mask) again, this mask uses the same lens as the e-vents and avatar so your field of vision will not be compromised at all. This mask uses an even cheaper frame and the foam is very durable but not very comfortable. For this reason if your budget allows I suggest going with the avatar. However, because this mask uses the same lens, if you use it for a while, buy a few different lenses and then decide to upgrade to the avatar or e-vents, all the lenses can be used on those masks as well.

Proto Switch FS Thermal
BASE $50 (DO NOT GET THE NON-THERMAL VERSION OF THIS MASK) a little large and heavy and field of vision is a little narrow but for the price they are a great starting mask

Proto Axis Pro
BASE $80 essentially the bigger brother to the switch FS, just a better overall mask

JT proflex BASE $52 (DO NOT GET THE NON-THERMAL VERSION OF THIS MASK) this is one of the most widely known, and customizable masks in the industry, you can buy pieces of this mask and put it all together yourself, mix and match colors and customize the mask as you see fit. I personally do not have any experience with this mask but I know people who swear up down and sideways by it

Dye I3 pro BASE $90 I donít know how much longer these will be available but they are a good high end mask, thermal lens, comfortable and a good field of vision

Dye I4 BASE $109 I own one of these, I love them, easy to change lens, easy to adjust, easy to clean. Very comfortable to wear all day long. These do have a short lower section so more of your neck is left exposed. Itís up to you if this is an issue or not
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Old 02-02-2013, 04:50 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Save Phace masks BASE $55-$80 these masks are more about the look than anything. They do however all come with at least 1 thermal lens (some with 2) for the money there are more comfortable and usable masks out there but if the look is super important to you, take a look at what they have

Sly profit BASE $90. Rather new and from what I’ve understood they have been a good mask to those who have bought them, slightly low on the forhead which leaves more of your head exposed but the lens gives good vision and is easy to change, these have 2 straps on them, 1 goes higher on your head, 1 goes lower which offers a better hold than a single strap, one complaint a lot of people seem to have with these is it is harder to hear and yell with them on other a lot of other masks out there.

NOTE ON V FORCE MASKS: All V-force masks have a single pane lens, in every model except for the armor this is a thermo-cured lens, and while it is not quite as good as a true duel pane thermal lens, they do a pretty good job at keeping the mask from fogging. V-force has recently released true duel pane thermal lenses for their masks that can be purchased for the masks separately for around $25-$35 depending on what you want

Special thanks to TLMiller for putting the V-force section together.

V-Force Armor

~$20. The low end. Comes normally with non-thermal lenses. There are now dual-pane thermal lenses available for them. To be avoided unless you have a small head, and the thermal lenses are heavily suggested.

V-Force Vantage

~$50. Based on the Armor but softer and more comfortable. Comes with the thermo-cured lenses by deafult, uses the same dual-pane lenses as the Armor.

V-force Profiler

~$70. Comes with thermo-cured lenses default, dual-pane lenses are now available. Great field of vision, and fits well.

V-Force Grill

~$80. Comes with thermo-cured lenses by default, dual-pane lenses are now available. Designed to last longer. Has quick change foam, easy out lenses, very comfortable. Good field of vision.
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Old 02-02-2013, 04:51 PM   #3 (permalink)
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it is important to know if you will be using HPA or CO2 before you decide on a marker, about half of the markers produced today are HPA only markers. Meaning, without modification these markers are not safe to use CO2 on as it will damage them.

There are no markers currently made that require the use of CO2

So, your probably wondering what the difference is between HPA and CO2, there is another sticky in the new player section that explains that in better detail so I will not go into it but here are the basic highs and lows of each

+tanks are cheaper
+typically easier to find a place that can fill the tank
+more shots per volume than HPA (if you have an HPA tank and a CO2 tank that are the exact same size, the co2 tank will last longer)
+some tanks never need to be hydro tested (refer to hydro testing section on HPA tanks below)
- can not be used on all markers
- harder on o rings, you will have to replace o rings more often
- can not always be used in cold weather, cold effects how co2 tanks function and if it is cold enough (35 F or below) the tank will not be producing enough pressure to fire your marker

+ more consistent output pressure, means your shots will be coming out at closer to the same speed
+ no “spikes” in pressure like co2 can give you
+ can be used on any marker
+better for the life of o rings
+can be used in any weather
+arguably more accurate
-a comparable tank is usually 5x the cost of a co2 tank
-fills are harder to come by (no your compressor in the garage at home can not fill these tanks)
-tanks must be hydro tested every 3 or 5 years (most tanks are 5 year hydros now)

Hydro testing- your probably wondering what this is, well in a nutshell to ensure your tank is safe and will not blow up in your face it needs to be tested every once in a while. If I have a 4500 psi HPA tank that needs to be tested, I find somewhere that can do it (paintball shops usually send them out, scuba shops sometimes do and sometimes do them in house) they will charge me around $30-$35 and it will be about a week until I see my tank again. What happens is the regulator is taken off of the tank and they fill the tank with water then put 150% of its normal pressure in it (6000psi for my 4500 tank) after this they measure how much the tank has expanded and if it is still safe, put a new hydro date on it and send it back to me. If it is not safe they drill a hole in the side of it and throw it away.

So in the long run (and even short run) a HPA tank is going to do better for you but in order to get a good one new you are looking at about $130 minimum. While you can get tanks for as little as $50 they are just not worth it because they will be heavier and carry very very few shots compared to their larger cosines

Unless the only places around you that can fill can only fill to 3000psi, a 3k tank should be avoided. This may sound strange because they are typically cheaper but you are paying a lot of money for a tank and the 4500psi tanks will be lighter and carry 20% more air than their 3k counterparts. 4500psi tanks have to be fiber wrapped to hold the pressure whereas 3000psi tanks can be made of aluminum. Aluminum is a lot cheaper but also a lot heavier than the fiber wrap. I cannot tell you the number of people who have ignored my advise on this, bought a 3000psi tank and then 2 months later are on here saying “I should have listened to Trbo and gotten a 4500psi tank”

So finding a tank comes down to your budget more than anything. A 20oz co2 tank will run you around $20-$25 ($35 for a super nice one with a fill meter on the side) and on most entry level markers will get you around 1200-1400 shots. This is a great way to get into the sport on a budget and get your setup running.

Want to make your CO2 tank better?
Sometimes its cold and co2 does not want to work, or your marker can fire fast enough that you are sucking liquid co2 into your marker (bad news) one of the ways to help prevent this is to have whats called an anti-siphon tube (AS tube) installed by your local shop ($20-$25 usually) DO NOT EVER INSTALL THESE ON YOUR OWN, BOTH OF THE DEATHS IN OUR SPORT CAME FROM WHEN SOMEONE INSTALLED THESE THEMSELVES AND DID IT WRONG you can not buy a tank that has a AS tube already in it as they must be installed so the tank is matched to the marker. Once installed the tube will prevent a lot of liquid co2 from entering your marker. They are not a 100% falesafe against it which is why you still can not use co2 on a lot of markers but they do help.

But what if you have a little more money?

Well your probably looking at HPA tanks then. One thing I have to mention about HPA tanks. It is possible to buy a tank that will not work with your marker. The vast majority of entry level markers will require a high pressure input (around 750-900 psi, same as CO2) but HPA tanks, since they have regulators can be bought with other output pressures on them to be used on markers that may run better, or require a lower input pressure. Low pressure HPA tanks are rare but they are out there. Know before buying.

Well as for hpa tanks, a 68ci/4500psi tank can typically be found used with at least a few years of hydro left on it for around $100. The 68/45 is seen as a standard size tank in the industry, if you are ever in question about which size HPA tank to get, find a 68/45.

Don’t want used you say? This is where your options really open up but you will need around $140-$170
There are LOTS of well made tanks to choose from, since prices are very similar I suggest buying a made in the USA tank (if you are in the US that is) brands that make tanks in the USA are

CP (custom products)

Ninja air


Out of which I own a ninja tank and can tell you from experience they are EXTREMELY well made. For the same price as other companies want you get a longer warranty and can get a tank with an adjustable regulator (tank can be adjusted to 4 different pre-set output pressures) but any one of the above brands makes excellent products. Take your pick, shop around
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Old 02-02-2013, 04:52 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Alright, the section you have been waiting for

Ok, a few things every new player needs to understand first. There are markers made that look good, and there are markers that perform well. There are some crossovers but they are generally really expensive.

A lot of new players get caught up looking into buying a used high end marker and while you can get a lot of performance for a cheaper price doing this, it is generally a bad idea for a new player. High end markers take some know how to keep them running right, know how that is based on learning off of an entry level marker. Also high end markers often only have a parts production run of a few years, so while I can go find a DM5 for $200, it is a bad idea because if anything ever breaks, I now have a $200 paperweight that can’t be fixed

For a new player or even one that is still finding their way into the sport, I highly, HIGHLY suggest finding a marker that is based on performance and value rather than the look. Here is the reason why

Short side story, I used to play backwoods ball with a group of friends, we all got into paintball around the same time but we took two very different routs, I went for performance first and did not care what the marker looked like, my friend matt along with a handful of others fell into the trap of wanting a marker that looks good and wanting to dress up the marker with scopes and slings (while there is nothing wrong with this if you know what your doing, a new player rarely does as far as paintball is concerned) long story short, Matt ended up spending around $600 trying to make a Tippmann A-5 better and in the end, when he finally realized that it will always be an entry level marker he got out of the sport because he felt like he had just wasted a lot of money (and he did) on a marker that he could only really make marginally better. The handful of friends that did the same thing also got out of the sport, meanwhile I had not felt the same $600 that I had spent had gone to waste, rather I got good value for my money, here we are 5 years later, im still playing with that same marker that I bought back then

So if you like the milsim look that’s fine, I just really suggest waiting until your second or third marker to get into it. Get something that will be better at giving you the basics of the sport now instead of a specific look

A few brands to avoid at all costs! (as far as markers are concerned)

JT, Brass eagle, extreme range, viewloader and I suggest staying away from PMI but they are not as bad as the others on this list.

to make a long story short each of these above brands will only reliably work for about a weekend. After that you will probably encounter many problems due to poor build quality.

Alright here is how the marker section will work, I am going to go through brands, give an overall statement for the brand, then into specific markers


You have probably heard people saying that Tippmanns are indestructible and will run forever, well, truth be told that is not entirely accurate anymore. At one point Tippmann was known for producing the longest lasting markers in the industry. Back in 2004 however the company changed hands and a few key parts were changed to make them cheaper to produce. Since then the markers have not been the tanks that they used to be. They are by no means repair buckets now but they just don’t live up to the reputation that the company was based on either. They are simple and straight forward but are more designed to be dressed up for a certain look than be a great value like they used to.

The 98 custom BASE $140
Probably the most recognized marker in the entire sport, if my memory is correct on this it is also the marker that has the longest running production run as well. It is a basic inline blowback design that was first marketed…..well, it was a REALLY long time ago as far as paintball is concerned. It has no frills but will shoot paint

The gryphon
BASE $70

Really it’s a 98c that has been stripped down to its bare essentials, it is not customizable at all and uses a double clamshell body that is rather annoying to take apart. Even still, its $70 and gets you into the sport

The carver one
BASE $100
Like the gryphon the idea was to strip down the 98, this one however still keeps the customizability of the 98 just in a cheaper package, it does have a few drawbacks over the 98 such as, if you want to use a double trigger on it, you must replace the whole trigger frame and not just the trigger and guard as the stock trigger guard is one piece with the trigger frame. that aside it does a pretty good job of giving you a basic 98 for less than a 98.

The FT-12 (flip top) BASE $130

So it only took Tippmann the better part of 3 DECADES to realize that the 98 is not all that fun to take apart. essentially you have to split the whole marker in half down the middle with a decent amount of screws to take out in the process. So they finally cured that with the fliptop, first it was released as a rental for fields and now to the general public. The guts are still an old 98 just in a different shell. I am not certain that this one will retain as much of the customizability as the 98 has but if you are just looking for a simpler and straight forward marker the FT is not only cheaper than the 98 but is much much easier to work on as well

The A-5 BASE $180
It’s a 98c with a cyclone feeder on the side and a slightly larger and heavier body. While the cyclone does succeed at being a purely mechanical loader, it is really not that great of a loader compared to the feeders that are made in the industry today. It also means that when you move onto another marker you also have to buy a loader as you can not take the cyclone off of the a-5 and put it onto anything else. For this reason it is typically a better idea to get a 98 and a standard feeder

The X7 phenom mechanical
BASE $300

While this marker is a departure from Tippmanns never ending use of the inline blowback it is by no means new technology. The core of the marker is based around a AGD design that was in use since the early 90s, other than that it still uses the cyclone feeder and is much larger and heavier than the AGD design however this also means that the maintenance required is a little more in depth. It is nothing crazy hard but taking the marker apart and troubleshooting any problems is not a walk in the park either. This is technically a mid range marker though because of the design

the x7 phenom BASE $400

take the mechanical x7 and add an e-grip, the only outstanding feature is that you can use both the electronic trigger and switch it to a mechanical mode as well.

the Crossover BASE $430

Tippmann it seems has come around to the idea that many of their customers are not only playing woodsball but also speedball. A while back when they introduced the A5 they tried to aim it as a marker that could compete on the speedball field but with the cyclone on the side it has never been able to do as much as a standard setup as the cyclone makes a rather large target sticking out the side of a bunker. So now they are coming out with the crossover, in essence it is the same AGD design that is in the phenoms just in a lighter and smaller shell. they have added eyes into a marker for the first time ever (good job tippmann!) and it comes with a double trigger stock. they have taken the cyclone off of the marker in favor of a vertical center feed design (good job tippmann!) so they took a bunch of metal off of it, took the cyclone off, added eyes and a double trigger and jacked the price up $50, personally I feel they should have been able to decrease the price considering what is on it but alas I do not have control over prices. They have kept the mechanical/electronic operation of the phenom with a select switch above the trigger. The regulator was moved to the ASA which can be traded out with a traditional asa and hose setup to run a vertical forgrip regulator if you want. Tippmann states it is HPA only but is compatible with CO2 however in order to run CO2 tippmann states you need to use a remote line. A AS tube will also serve the same function to keep liquid co2 out of it. For what it is I feel it is very overpriced when looking at what else is out there but it is a good idea from tippmann so I congratulate them on trying new things

US army markers
Us army is a division of tippmann that just has a different look to it. Basically all US army markers are just a tippmann 98 in a dress. They are just made to look a certain way but on the inside they are all the same 98
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Old 02-02-2013, 04:52 PM   #5 (permalink)
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(battle tested)

BT came about when tippmann changed hands, long story short Ben Tippmann was forced out by some stories, left of his own accord by others, at any rate he then created BT and continued producing the 98 custom under a different name. Today, he still produces the 98 in the majority of the markers. the TM-7 and TM-15 are the notable exceptions but they are covered later on in the mid range marker section. Everything that BT produces except for those two markers and a pistol or two, is like the US army markers, a 98 in a dress. The great part however is that they are typically cheaper than what tippmann wants for the same marker, so if you were looking at a 98, check out the BT-4 as well

The BT-4 BASE $115

its a 98, nuff said

The slice BASE $130

BT took the same idea tippmann had behind the FT-12 and incorporated it into a BT-4. There are a few differences in that the slice appears to have kept more of the original BT-4 in its design. the trigger frame appears to be untouched and while I can not say for sure if this means the e-frames and RTs will work with the slice or not sofar it does look promising that they will. Personally, I would go slice over FT-12 from what I have seen from both sofar

Kingman / spyder (same company)

Like tippmann, spyder uses a blowback design and always has, but that is about where the differences stop. Spyder uses a stacked tube blowback (STBB) design that makes the markers more compact, lighter and much easier to work on. Typically the bolts and hammers will come out with no tools needed and to get to the valve of the marker only 4 screws need to come off. Around 06 spyder really started turning up the heat on the entry level market by introducing more features for a lower price. They managed to introduce a marker with everything a new player could want at $100 and while the prices have gone up a bit from then, the value and “bang for your buck” is most certainly still there.

The victor (or victor II if you find those) BASE $60 / with E-frame $85
Probably the most basic of markers this has no frills, it is a mechanical double finger frame with no extras on the marker. If you are on a very tight budget this may be an option for you. I can tell you from experience these things are a lot of fun. Friend of mine had one he picked up used and he always kept an eye out for used parts, a year later he had probably spent $100 on the thing total and had an e-frame, clamping feedneck and a on/off asa. Thing was a hoot and a great value

The Sonix BASE $70 / with e-frame $110
Take the victor, put a clamping feedneck and an aluminum forgrip on it. Worth an extra $10 if you ask me

The Xtra
BASE $90 / with e-frame $125
It is basically a victor with different milling and a forgrip, for 2012 spyder is putting a different valve in them so they will get slightly better efficiency

The Fenix BASE $150
Probably one of the top contenders for the bang for your buck category. This marker has everything a new player could want and more. Eframe and eyes, clamping feedneck, adjustable double trigger, and a forgrip regulator. Take a tippmann 98 and put all that on it and the marker + extras will end up costing you around $400 and still be larger, heavier, harder to work on and can never have eyes so you can see why I am such a large fan when spyder does something like this marker. About the only 2 things I would add to this marker if I bought it would be a on/off asa and like any other entry level marker, a decent barrel, but neither are needed out of the box. This is one marker however that if you are using CO2 with I would highly recommend you also have a AS tube installed in your tank (refer to AS tubes in the tank section above)

Spyder MR series
These are the spyders that have been dressed up a little for the milsim crowd, they are all based around the same STBB design that spyder always uses and many are new for 2012 so I am adding a disclaimer that I know very little about a few of these but as they are based around the classic design and markers above I feel my assessment of them will be fairly accurate

The MR100
BASE $100 /with e-frame $140
For 2012 spyder is replacing the MR1 with the MR100. It is basically a sonix with a slightly different body and a side mounted Picatinny rail. For 2012 they also have changed these over to a center feed design with a clamping feedneck as opposed to the side feed that the mr series used to be. The mr-100 looses the small drop forward that the mr1 had but keeps the angled asa. A angled asa helps keep liquid co2 from entering the marker

The MR4
BASE $130 / with e-frame $170
At heart this is a larger MR100 that is meant to look more like am m-16 so you can start to see just how much a certain look will cost you, even still if it is worth it to you go for it. It does come with a clamping feedneck but is missing both the double trigger and angled ASA that the MR100 has. Has more rails and a carry handle on top though

BASE $170
A mag fed spyder WHAT!? Yes that’s right, spyder has broken into the world of mag feeds it seems with quite a revolutionary design. The MRX is basically a MR4 with an adjustable stock and a very special feed. It seems they designed this marker to work on both a mag feed and a standard hopper setup. Whats more is you can change between the two during a game. The mag is nothing special as it is only an 11-round mag but I would be surprised if someone does not make a larger aftermarket one at some point.
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Old 02-02-2013, 04:53 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Azodin is a rather young company but has been creating some well priced and well equipped markers for a while. They got their start in the world of pumps but decided to also help out the entry level with designs that almost mirror the spyders. Most of their markers (not all) feature an autococker threaded barrel. This is great because after the entry level the percentage of markers in the mid and high end that use autococker threads are around 75-90%. Which means if you have a cocker threaded marker from the start, you can buy a really nice barrel or barrel kit and chances are it will be able to work on your next marker as well.

The Kaos BASE $90
This marker is very similar to spyder sonix. It is a basic STBB design, comes with a clamping feedneck, double trigger and an angled ASA to help prevent liquid co2 from getting in

The Blitz
BASE $170
Azodins answer to the fenix, it is the same STBB design with a clamping feedneck, e-frame and eyes and a regulator. Still autococker threaded barrel and keeps the angled asa from the kaos
SAFETY NOTE ON THIS MARKER! A lot of blitzs come with macro line to connect the ASA to the regulator, if you are using CO2 this is NOT SAFE. You will need to replace it with steel braided hose in order to avoid the macro from breaking while using CO2. so if you are using CO2 add about $10 to the cost to have that replaced

The Kaos Deluxe BASE $180

It’s a kaos with a different valve, not worth $180
SAFETY NOTE ON THIS MARKER! A lot of kaos-Ds come with macro line to connect the ASA to the regulator, if you are using CO2 this is NOT SAFE. You will need to replace it with steel braided hose in order to avoid the macro from breaking while using CO2. so if you are using CO2 add about $10 to the cost to have that replaced

The Zenith BASE $250
Basically it is a blitz with different milling and an on/off asa, nothing worth $250
SAFETY NOTE ON THIS MARKER! A lot of zeniths come with macro line to connect the ASA to the regulator, if you are using CO2 this is NOT SAFE. You will need to replace it with steel braided hose in order to avoid the macro from breaking while using CO2. so if you are using CO2 add about $10 to the cost to have that replaced

Azodin milsim markers
Yes even azodin has started producing milsim and like their other creations they essentially mirror the spyder MR series

The ATS BASE $80
Almost a direct copy of the MR100, there really are almost no differences besides a $20 price difference

The ATS+
BASE $120
All they really did here is dress up the ATS, its a ATS with a forgrip and a longer barrel with rails on it. Also has an adjustable stock. It seems some of these come with clamping feednecks and some do not so I really can not say what yours will have if you get one.
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Old 02-02-2013, 04:54 PM   #7 (permalink)
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What? That’s not enough markers you say? Ok ok! Here is a few more if you are rather adventurous or have some experience in the sport already

The following is a list of MID RANGE markers that some players have started with. While I am putting these markers on here if you are new to the sport I highly suggest you find something from the list above for reasons I am about to go into. This does mean however that


So what makes a marker in the mid range different from a entry level marker? Well its simple really, it is the way the marker functions. While there are some grey areas in paintball as to exactly where some markers fall (like autocockers) the vast majority of experienced players list a entry level marker as a marker that uses a sear and hammer to open some form of poppet valve. It does not matter if the marker is mechanical or electric, what matters is how the pneumatics of the marker function. Likewise a mid range marker is more often than not seen as a marker that does not need a sear or hammer and in 99% of cases whose operation is controlled by a pneumatic solenoid, meaning these markers, in 99% of situations must be electric.
So why not start with a mid range marker? Well in a nutshell the mid range markers just take a little more know how to do maintenance on and solve problems with so they are typically not suited to a new player who does not have that. Also because they function differently the parts involved are a little more expensive, so if you happen to break something while working on it, the replacement parts will be more expensive and it is best to get this experience on something that has cheaper parts. To make a long story short, unless you have some experience it is better to wait until you are looking for a second marker to look into any of these. However if you do have that experience or just want to see what is out there, here are some of the more well known mid range markers


Dye is one of the big names in paintball. they have been producing high end markers for years and are largely responsible for many of the steps taken to improve the spool valve through the years. They used to have a sister company named proto but it seems they have finally closed the doors on proto and absorbed the few markers proto was producing into the dye lineup. the rail has been a staple in paintball for years and finally a few years back they split it into two markers to make the customer happy. many customers wanted more features on the rail while others wanted a less expensive marker. Now everyone can be happy.

The Rail BASE $300

You may be thinking that the rail and SLG are fairly close because the prices are similar, well they actually are not. The rail uses a true unbalanced spool design in a budget package. Over the majority of entry level markers it will kick less, be quieter and get better efficiency. Overall it is a pretty good value of a marker.

The reflex rail
BASE $500

Really it’s a rail with a few more bells and whistles. Different trigger, on/off asa and some better milling on the body but at least to me, nothing that screams an extra $200. Even still for some people the extras are worth it.

(they work together for the most part)
Invert got their start a few years back by creating a small enough marker that it got everyone talking. They used a design that while it had been used before, never quite like this.

The Mini BASE $325
This marker broke from tradition and used a single tube air rammed poppet design incorporating an internally plumbed grip. While none of these pieces were new, putting them together like this was. I used to own one of these and sold it for a number of reasons but the highlights are thus, the marker uses custom sized o-rings, the entire rest of paintball uses standard sizes which means the chances that your local shop or field having mini o-rings is lessened because they are not standard sized. Always carry o-rings on you. It also uses an integrated regulator with a ASA, this is a problem for a few reasons, first, you can not relocate the ASA at all and second, without buying a new $80 regulator from Invert, there is no way to mount an on/off asa on it. The regulator itself can not be serviced by the owner. Big issue for me because I do all my own maintenance. Overall though, it will be slightly more efficient than the rail or PRR but will be louder and kick a little more. It does shoot good but is often a little too small for some people.

The Axe
BASE $460

Really it is a invert mini that is slightly longer, heavier, has rounded corners and a tool-less bolt removal along with the new regulator that has an on/off integrated into it. It does weigh slightly more which is a mixed blessing. while its more to carry around this also means it will shoot slightly smoother as well. It is a lot of extra money for the same base design as the mini but it is up to you if the extras are worth it or not

The TM-7 and TM-15 below are marketed under BT, not empire or invert just for reference

The TM-7 BASE $375

Yes it seems the trend today is to take a marker that sells well and put it in a milsim package. Well that’s all the TM-7 is. On the inside it is an invert mini wrapped in a different shell. Unlike the majority of milsim markers however this is a step above the entry level markers that have milsim shells around them. It uses a single trigger with select fire and has the typical slue of rails. Comes with a built in forgrip and adjustable stock. Empire also felt the need to use a magnesium body on this, as to why, nobody knows, its heavier and more expensive than aluminum

The TM-15 BASE $460
Its just a TM-7 in a larger shell. Everything else is the same

Dangerous power

DP has been around making mid range markers for a while. Every once in a while they will release something that does a good job of balancing features and price. Also, every once in a while they release something that is not a very good balance of that.

The E1 BASE $200
Esentually this is a version of the g4 that is stripped down to its bare essentials. It is currently the lowest priced mid range marker in the industry. Almost everything on it has no frills. The ASA is integrated into the composite grip frame so it can never be moved but at least they do give you an on/off ASA. The body is very simply milled and it comes with a standard feedneck. No frills, but a true mid range marker for a budget.

The G4
BASE $300
It is a fairly typical unbalanced spool at a decent price. The only outstanding feature it has over other unbalanced spools it is typically lighter (if only by an ounce or two) Unfortunately for DP, both the g3 and g4 have had some teething issues when they were released. Lots of factory QC issues meant lots of markers were delivered already needing work but my understanding is that this has all been sorted out. Bearing in mind the price the g4 is often compared to the proto rail and in that fight the rail wins. For the same price the rail will be quieter, kick a little less and get better efficiency. However both markers are a good design and personal opinion and comfort does play a roll. If you can I would hold both markers before buying to get a feel for each yourself.


The Aura BASE - $300

Description contributed my TL_Miller

A small Canadian manufacturer, most well known for their older STBB also called the Aura. This model is NOT a STBB. This is a true unbalanced spool valve (like a PMR or an Ion), however, it uses a clapper noid to directly actuate a valve instead of using a pneumatic solenoid to cycle. While this has some disadvantages, it has a single major advantage. Unlike a PMR, or an Ion, If you overpressure an Aura, you won’t blow the noid. This makes it so that it is compatible with co2 (and that there is no macroline). It is internally plumbed like the Mini, Luxe, G6R. The drive is a very simplistic version of a spool valve, with the bolt itself being oringless, made of delrin, and in total only being a couple dynamic orings. In fact, in the entire engine, there are only (I believe) 8 orings fewer orings = fewer points of failure. The marker has a clamping feedneck (does require tools) and an on/off stock.


The Proton BASE - $300

Really this is an Mokal Aura in a slightly different shell. The milling is different, there is a different trigger, different feedneck and the back cap is slightly easier to remove. Some people like the different trigger and feedneck, some do not, either way if you are considering an aura defiantly check out the proton as well

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Old 02-02-2013, 04:54 PM   #8 (permalink)
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So now that you have a mask, tank and marker, you need something to feed this beast that you have created. There are a few simple things to know before just going out with $30 and finding what you can on that.

There are 3 basic types of hoppers
1) Gravity feed – these are the most basic of hoppers, essentially they are a funnel with a cap on top of your marker. As the name suggests they rely on gravity to get paintballs into the marker and nothing more. They are the cheapest hoppers but also the most limiting because they will not reliably feed paint. You often have to shake them to get them to work which is why they are often referred to as a “shake and bake”

2) Agitating hoppers – These are essentially a gravity hopper that have an agitation arm on the inside so paint will not get jammed at the top of the feedstack. These hoppers still rely on gravity to get the paint into your marker but they make sure there is always paint above the feedneck ready to fall in

3) Force feed hoppers – As the name implies these hoppers force paint all the way into the marker and do not rely on gravity to do anything except get paint into the drive portion of the hopper itself. Most of these hoppers maintain a constant tension on the ball stack (the line of paintballs from the hopper into your marker) so once a paintball is fired, a new one immediately takes its place. These are the most reliable way to make sure there is a paintball ready to fire under any conditions.

Among the e-hoppers, they all need a way to “sense” when they need to feed and when they need to stop or else they will constantly be trying to feed (there are a few of those) and there are 3 basic types of sensors used in hoppers today.
First, sight, like eyes in a marker, eyes in a hopper see if paint is moving down into the marker or not, if it is then the hopper knows it needs to feed more. The main problem with eyes is if a paintball breaks in the hopper, your eyes can go “blind” and not be able to tell if the hopper needs to feed or not. They are also the slowest sensing system (which really isn’t a large concern to be honest) as they need to wait until paint has already moved past them to start the hopper feeding.
Second there are ears. Ears “hear” when the marker fires and then feed paint based on that. This is the fastest sensing system as the ball stack does not even need to move for the hopper to know it needs to start feeding. Unlike eyes, if a paintball breaks in the hopper, the hopper will continue to feed as there are no eyes to go blind. A few years back when ears were still in their early stages there were a few issues with some markers being too quiet for the hopper to hear it effectively or in some cases picking up background noise and trying to feed even though you have not actually fired the marker. However from what I have heard these issues have all been sorted out in the last few years and I have heard none of the above issues from any of the current hoppers.
Finally there is “touch”. Touch sensors rely on the tension of the ball stack to know if the marker has been fired or not. Like all good hoppers they keep a constant tension on the ball stack and if that tension is decreased they feed. Touch sensors are slightly slower than ears but faster than eyes and cannot go blind or get confused with too much or too little noise. I really can not think of any complaints I have heard about touch sensors in hoppers (granted there are not too many hoppers that use touch sensors right now)

On to the hoppers!

Basic gravity feeds (shake and bakes) BASE - $4-$8
Lots of brands make these so I am not going to list individual hoppers since they are all the same, they are just a funnel with a lid

The Proto Primo BASE - $15
Basically proto added a shelf in the standard gravity hopper. This shelf makes it so the top of the ball stack does not have pressure on it resulting in a lot less jamming out of a shake and bake hopper. Basically put, they made a shake and bake that feeds better and does not need to be shaken.

Tippmann AL-200 & SL-200 BASE - $25 and $40
The AL-200 is a constantly agitating hopper, meaning that once you turn it on, it is constantly driving and making noise, this gets VERY annoying trust me, along with the fastest way to drain a battery. My understanding of the SL-200 is that it is based around the same design but has an on/off touch sensor, so unlike the AL, if you are not shooting the SL will not be feeding. However unlike my description of touch sensors above, these sensors function more like eyes in that they must have paint pass them in order to tell if they need to feed, for this reason it is a rather slow reaction time and then is still only an agitator. Even still I would not recommend either of these hoppers, Tippmann has never been known for great hoppers and if anything ever happens to these replacement parts are going to be harder to come by than most other hoppers

Spyder fasta series (9v, 18v LED, 18v LCD) BASE - $49, $69, $79 respectively

While I do not have any first hand experience with these (if you do PLEASE send me a PM) everything I have read on them points to them essentially being the same as the old ricochet series hoppers that ironically also had 3 variations with a few tweeks in the shells that should help them feed slightly better and hold a reported 230 paintballs. These hoppers have managed to find a strange place in between agitators and force feeders. While the feed system is designed to be a force feeder they also DO NOT maintain constant tension on the ball stack while the hopper is at rest. What this means is the hopper must wait for the first shot to be fired and then for the ball stack to start moving due to gravity. Once the ball stack moves and the hopper senses it using the same sort of touch sensor that the tippmann hoppers do, it will start driving more paint towards the marker. So while it is moving, it is “force feeding” but while at rest there is no tension on the ball stack. The 9v operates off of one 9v battery and only has a single on off button with a single 2 color light to indicate battery function. The 18v led is essentially the same hopper as the 9v just with an extra slot for a second battery. The extra battery also helps it feed faster. The 18v LCD essentially adds a LCD readout screen and a game timer with pre-set alarms built in. Lots of people do not like a hopper that does not keep constant tension on the ball stack but weather or not this is an issue is up to you but considering the price of some of the too come hoppers, you may want to read on to see other choices in the same price range.

Viewloader eye force / evolution 4 BASE - $40
Really these are now the same hopper in a different shell. They both use eyes and a spring loaded drive paddle system to keep constant tension on the ball stack (true force feeds). Both use two 9v batteries for power and will get around 8-10 cases of paint through them on those. The evolution (often called the “egg” because of its shape) breaks into 2 pieces with removal of a few pins (no tools) for easy cleaning and battery replacement. But has a smaller mouth and is fairly back heavy so without a good clamping feedneck it has been known to spin on top of markers. The eye force has a larger mouth and is more balanced so it will not spin nearly as easy, it is taller however and you need a screwdriver to get into the hopper (3 screws). So there are ups and downs to both but either way they have served many a new player well.

Halo B v-35 BASE - $95

I know what your thinking “holy crap Trbo, that’s a huge price jump between your last hopper!” Yes it is but I felt I should explain the halo here as a few hoppers later down will rely on this
When first introduced the Halo B was a huge milestone, at the time manufactures were competing to try and get the highest BPS (balls per second) numbers out of their markers but no hopper could keep up. The halo B was faster than anything else at the time and had a lot of features most other hoppers did not. With the addition of a rip drive kit even if the hopper stopped feeding for any reason you could manually wind it to continue playing. After a few years they came out with the v-35 which again was faster than anything before it. The halo design uses eyes and a spring wound drive cone so even before the eyes sense the paint moving the drive cone is pushing paint into the breach. Holds 188 paintballs (counted by Schnelly611) There is not too much to complain about with these hoppers but the most aggravations typically come from the shell design (not weak but not super strong either)and the use of eyes. Power is supplied by 4 or 6 AA batteries (to get up to the 35bps you need to have 6) and battery life is nothing to brag about but not terrible either. I would expect somewhere in the range of 10-12 cases

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Old 02-02-2013, 04:55 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Invert halo TOO BASE - $74

After the introduction of the halo B empire used the same exact design (literally, parts can be swapped between the two) except instead of eyes they incorporated ears into the hopper to make it sound activated. A stock empire reloader B would outpace a stock halo B and some argue this was the reason halo introduced the V-35 board in the first place. Whatever the reason though the empire clone worked fantastically. They tweeked the basic design a few times through the years and today it lives as the invert halo too. It is an empire reloader B at heart with better ears that do not have any of the problems the early attempts did (that I have heard at least) but the best thing they did is they used a much more resilient shell material. The early halo and empire hoppers had a fairly run of the mill plastic that was prone to cracking with hard impacts. The halo too on the other hand has plastic that is much more durable and able to flex a bit meaning it can take some good abuse and keep kicking. It runs on 4 AA batteries and will get roughly 10-12 cases of paint on those.Holds 180 (count supplied by Martix_agent) Weather it is your first, third or miller’s 33rd marker, the halo too will be able to keep pace making it a great investment for the long run. I, along with many others around here consider this hopper the best bang for your buck hopper currently on the market.


There are always arguments in paintball as to what is “best” truth be told though, rarely can ANYTHING ever be labeled as “The Best”. Some people like features that others don’t. By and large though the next three hoppers are the heavyweight contenders for the “best” hoppers currently made in paintball

The Pinokio BASE - $125

This hopper sure stirred things up when it first came out. The feed system is quite simple, it almost mirrors the spyder fasta series in that it does not maintain constant tension on the ball stack but will force feed when the ball stack starts moving. It is capable of greater speeds than the fasta series however. The large advantage was the enormous capacity that it is capable of. Without the extended nose the hopper can hold 230 and with the extended nose that number jumps to 360 (counts supplied my martix_agent) This hopper was more intended for the back players of a speedball match so they do not need to reload nearly as often and when they did they can fit 2 whole pods in the hopper at once. Even without the nose the hopper has quite a large capacity.

The Empire prophecy z2
BASE - $170The prophecy is a descendant of the halo B, once the empire reloader came out and sound activation started being used empire started making upgrades to the reloader base, soon they came out with the prophecy that was in essence a reloader that came stock with all of the upgrades and a few new ones. The hopper boasts tooless disassembly and it is true, you can take it apart without tools but it is often like a jigsaw puzzle to get the whole thing apart however the Z2 is slightly better at this than the original was. That aside it is rare that while at the field you would need to tear the hopper ALL the way down. If you need to clean the internals while at the field those parts will come off with relative ease for cleaning. The hopper runs on 4 AA batteries and like the original prophecy I would expect around 12-15 cases off that. It is still a sound activated force feeder that keeps constant tension on the ball stack through the use of a drive cone at the rear of the hopper. One of the big differences between the prophecy and z2 is the shell material. The z2 took after the halo TOO and to the best of my knowledge uses the same material. It is more durable than the original plastic so the hopper should be able to take a good beating. The feedneck was changed since the original as well, it was a 2 piece design that had an inner and an outer sleeve, now it is all integrated into one piece. One of the features the z2 has that I personally wish was in more hoppers today is the magnetic lid. Unlike a traditional snap lid, which must be securely closed each and every time, with a magnetic lid even if you don’t push it all the way down, the magnets take over and close the lid the rest of the way which also allows for some room for the lid to jump up and down and still remain closed unlike a snap lid that, if it pops open, must be closed manually again. From what I have read it does seem one thing is missing from the z2 that was included in the proph, the magnetic clutch system for the drive cone is not mentioned and it is believed sofar that it has been taken out but nobody seems to know what was put in in its place.

The Dye Rotor
BASE - $180

Gosh where to start

The hopper races were off and most people were huddling around the v-35 or the reloader B, dye came along and announced they were entering the hopper race with a revolutionary design. First was the shell material, I still do not understand it completely but it is some form of a nylon composite plastic which came about when most hoppers were being made of fairly run of the mill plastic given the same force that would crack the run of the mill plastics the nylon composite would just flex and return to its original shape. The next big thing was the tooless disassembly in a time when a few screwdrivers and some pliers were needed to take apart most hoppers dye claimed a 30-second tear down time and while for most people it takes slightly longer than this, without problems the hopper can easily be torn completely apart to its base parts in under 60 seconds. Dye claimed 50+ bps and in a time of people battling to have the fastest hopper the rotor put an end to any debates about who had the fastest hopper. While you will never need 50bps it is pretty easy to tell when the hoppers batteries are getting low based on the sound of the motor. If you have a hopper that is only rated to lets say 15bps and you are shooting at 15bps, as soon as the batteries start fading your hopper is no longer able to feed at 15, meanwhile if the hopper is, at its fastest something over 15 you know you have some room to play while the batteries are still fading and if at full speed that is 50fps you have a lot of cushion before you will be under 15bps. Speaking of batteries the rotor runs off of 3 AAs and dye claims 25 cases off of those 3 batteries. Under normal use I have estimated my batteries have lasted around 18-20 cases but honestly it is hard to keep track when you have had the hopper for about 4 years and have only ever replaced the batteries twice. The drive cone of the hopper is quite unique and rather hard to describe, if you are interested I suggest looking up a video on youtube of it. For now lets suffice it to say that the drive cone is a true forcefeed design that maintains constant tension on the ball stack and senses paint movement based on the tension on the ball stack, if the tension lessons the hopper knows to feed and never leaves the ball stack without tension. You can adjust the amount of tension the hopper places on the ball stack with an allen key on the back of the gear box (no tools needed to get to it, just to adjust it) Dye claims 200 can fit in it, I have counted the capacity at 190, some claim 185 but for what it holds the profile is VERY small. If a larger capacity is wanted dye also offers a 250 top which holds a reported 240 which also makes the hopper heavier in comparison. If you do end up getting one I have one suggestion, if you get a speed feed do not get one like the virtue crown that sits higher than the hopper, the shape of the hopper promotes bounces and it works quite well but if you have a speed feed sticking up those bounces off the hopper just turn into breaks on the speed feed.

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Specialty hoppers

These are feeding systems that are integrated into a few markers out there or are otherwise different from a traditional setup.

Q-loader BASE $90 (basic setup with 2 pods) additional pods around $20 each

The Q-loader is essentially a clip feed system that can be bolted onto any marker. Instead of traditional below mounted rectangular clips it uses clips that are shaped like pods and the mount can be placed almost anywhere as long as the feed tube can reach the feedneck of the marker. The pods each have a spring in them to drive paint into the marker which must be wound when reloading the pods. Each pod is larger than an average pod so they do not always fit in all pod packs and each pod only holds 100 paintballs so you do not have the capacity of a standard setup. While it is a purely mechanical system it has some rather nasty downfalls because of that, when reloading the system it is rather easy to skip a slot for a paintball, if this happens, once the feed stack advances to that open slot it will freespin and slam into the next paintball, not surprisingly this is an easy way to break paint. To avoid this some people have purchased a e-loader just to load the q-loader pods to make sure no slots are skipped over. If you need a e-hopper to load your hopper it seems a rather expensive way to avoid using batteries on the field but to each his own

The Cyclone BASE - $60 (tippmann 98 and most clone markers only)

This is the stock feeder that comes on the A-5 but is also made to mount to the 98 and most of the clone 98 markers out there. In essence it takes the air from the marker that would be vented out into the atmosphere to power a drive cone. There is no need for a sensing system as the feed system only functions when the marker is fired but because of the use of pneumatics to advance the ratchet drive system, the movement itself is quite rough on paint even with soft paddles installed in the hopper. Because the hopper uses air from the marker you will also see a decrease in efficiency after installing one on your marker. Tippmann will try to convince you otherwise but the energy comes from somewhere and because you are taking air from the marker and slowing the hammer’s travel the only way to overcome that and to get the marker to re-cock like normal is to use more air. Tippmann says it can keep up with anything but truth be told i would not trust it much over about 10-12bps, once the hopper gets about half empty it has issues getting new paint into the drive cone of the system and can very easily chop a paintball in half. For the price it is often better to find a standard hopper that can be transferred onto another marker later on but the cyclone is out there as a purely mechanical option

Rip clip BASE - $75

In essence this feed system is a reloader B in a different shell. Really that is all there is to it. Over a standard reloader B there are no advantages. Like the cyclone system the rip clip can not be transferred onto another marker if you ever move on. Different mounting plates are needed for the marker you want to mount it on but again like the cyclone this system is almost only used on the 98 and clone markers.

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