Posted on August 12 2019
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The technology in the paintball industry has increased a tremendous amount in the last decade. One of the products that paintball players see this great advance in technology is in paintball loaders.
Imagine its your your first time playing the game of paintball. You are at your local paintball field and are in the middle of your first paintball match. You’re advancing up a side after just shooting two of your friends that have come with you on your birthday party. You see your best friend and pull up your Tippmann 98 rental paintball gun to shoot him. POP! POP! POP! You shoot your paintball gun but no paintballs come out! Your confused look on the paintball referee shows that you don’t know what is happening. The paintball referee tells you nicely to shake your paintball marker. You shake the paintballs in your gravity fed paintball loader and retry your luck. Boom! You smile as you smoke your best friend right in his paintball mask! Then you ask the referee what is wrong with your marker and they explain to you that there’s nothing wrong with the Tippmann 98. It is simply that the paintballs got stuck in your cheap paintball rental. For this reason amongst others, electronic paintball loaders give a great advantage on the paintball field compared to the rental setups with gravity fed paintball hoppers.
This is a completely separate discussion however of whether it is worth spending the money for an electronic paintball hopper with your purchase of your first paintball marker setup. We are here to discuss what is the BEST mid-level electronic paintball loader. There are many paintball loaders out on the market, but there are two that stand out for their ability to feed paintballs quickly, gently, and reliably.
Virtue first became a competitor in the market when they released the Virtue Spire 200 and 260 editions quite a few years ago. It was a major improvement from some of the other electronic loaders of the day including the Empire Reloader B and Halo B hoppers. The original Dye Rotor had a very strong advantage before the Virtue Spire due to its robust contruction and basically indestructible shell. It also featured very easy disassembly and a feeding system that was instigated by tension instead of an eye system or sound. The Virtue Spire also has many similar features of the Dye Rotor but questionably did them better. Since the release of these two loaders which were evolutionary for the development of the paintball loader, both Dye Paintball and Virtue Paintball have re-released their latest versions of their high end paintball hoppers. Virtue released the Spire 3 and Dye now has the Dye R2 paintball loader. Both of these paintball loaders are undeniably great improvements from the original versions but have maintained a very high retail price of roughly $180-200.
When these improved loaders were introduced to the paintball industry, it left a gap in the paintball market that many paintball players fall in. Where is the more affordable paintball loader for the intermediate paintball player? The Virtue Spire IR and Dye LTR were the response to these players who desired a reliable and convenient hopper that did not break the bank. We are here to look at which paintball loader gets the ticket as the winner of the best mid-level paintball hopper.
Virtue Spire IR Paintball Hopper:
The Virtue Spire IR paintball loader is a great option at $100 retail price that comes from Virtue Paintball, one of the leading companies in making paintball hoppers. Starting at half the price of the Virtue Spire 3 or Dye R2, it gives a viable option to shooting paintballs consistently and quickly at a high rate of fire.
Dye LTR Paintball Loader
Dye Paintball was the first company to release a paintball loader that had many features that were superior to older loaders such as the Halo B Loader, Empire B hopper, or Vlocity. The Dye Rotor was a trendsetter for paintball loaders. The Dye LTR paintball loader is basically the same hopper as the original Dye Rotor but allows the intermediate paintball player the option to still compete with a high rate of fire in the woods or in speedball.
So, which is the better loader?
Both of these hoppers have a retail price at $99.95 which gives them an equal playing field on price. Dye Paintball and Virtue Paintball have been in the paintball industry for a very long period of time and offer great quality with the sub $100 price point.
Virtue decided to deviate from their G-force system that was introduced originally with the Virtue Spire 200/260. This system is still the feeding system of choice with the Spire 3. The Virtue Spire IR features infrared eye system that feeds paintballs dependent upon presence/motion of paintballs within the feed stack of the paintball loader. The Dye LTR Loader is dependent upon tension to determine when the paintball hopper stops feeding paintballs. It has been noted that the LTR loader seems to not be as gentle with feeding brittle paintballs as the Virtue Spire IR. This may be partially attributed to the sensing technique but also the presence of flexible rubber fingers in the Virtue Spire IR that feed paintballs into the paintball gun. The Dye LTR does not have flexible rubber fingers but instead has 2 counter-rotating plastic rings that is not as gentle on paintballs.
Another key thing to note between the two loader's feeding systems is that the Dye LT-R has an anti-jam finger that can be pulled to reverse the plastic rings to unjam paintballs that may be caught in the feeding tray. The Virtue Spire IR has this feature by using a button that does essentially the same thing. However, the Virtue Spire IR does not seem to be as successful in unjamming paintballs as the Dye LT-R hopper.
The weight of the Dye LTR is 1 pound 3 ounces while the Spire Ir weights in 3 ounces less at 15.8 ounces. The paintball loaders were weighed without batteries since they both utilize 3 AA batteries.
The Dye LTR and Spire Ir both feature the availability to add a speedfeed to the loader as an aftermarket part. The Virtue Spire IR speedfeed is easily installed and uninstalled by simply pressing a latch on the lid itself which allows you to quickly change the speedfeed at the paintball field. However, the speedfeeds for the Virtue Spire IR are more expensive at $44.95. The Dye LTR speed feeds are cheaper but are not nearly as easy to install. It requires to disassemble the Dye LTR into its two pieces of the shell and then use a screwdriver to remove three screws which holds the top plate onto the top of the loader. The Dye LTR speed feeds are also made out of rubber instead of the plastic fingers of the Virtue Spire Crown 2 speedfeed. The rubber of the Dye LTR speed feeds has been shown to wear over time which then allows paintballs to escape out of the paintball hopper. The plastic fingers with the Crown 2 speedfeed do not wear over time but can break off if shot directly. The nice part about the plastic fingers is that they can be replaced individually instead of having to replace the entire rubber ring as with the Dye LTR.
Outer shell and disassembly:
Another difference of these two paintball hoppers is the outer shell and how the loaders are disassembled. The Spire IR features a speedfeed that comes off that breaks the paintball shell into 2 pieces. The Dye LTR is similar in how it comes apart but the shell splits in half. The Dye LTR then has a plastic tray that comes out easily to access the mechanical parts of the drivetrain. This usually separates the paintballs from the parts. The Spire IR paintball loader is similar in the way that it is comprised but is slightly more simplistic in disassembly. Once the speedfeed has been removed, a tray which holds the motor, board, and eyes are all located. The plastic shell is all that remains once the tray has been removed. This makes the Spire IR much easier to clean as the shell can easily be dropped into warm soap water to make the loader look new!
Overall, Dye and Virtue have done a great job filling a gap inside the paintball industry with the mid-level paintball loader. These paintball loaders are a great price for the level of performance and reliability that they feature. Although they are both a great choice depending upon what you are searching for, the Virtue Spire IR wins the Punisher's PB choice. It is lighter, has better features, and is just as reliable as the Dye LTR. If you are interested in getting into a paintball hopper that has top level performance, we suggest that you heavily consider these two options!