Title:
PAINTBALL QUICK CHANGE HOPPER
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A quick change hopper for paintballs or other ball shooting guns, which allows a hopper top full of balls to be attached to the hopper base connected to the paintball gun and refill the gun with balls, without pouring balls from one container to another, and which may be done with one hand.



Inventors:
Handel, Brandon (VISALIA, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/467077
Publication Date:
02/28/2008
Filing Date:
08/24/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
F41B11/02
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
RICCI, JOHN A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
SHAVER & SWANSON, LLP (BOISE, ID, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A quick change hopper for use on a paintball gun, comprising: a hopper configured to attach to a paintball gun, said hopper comprised of two units, a hopper base with a hopper base top surface with a left and a right hopper base guide configured for interlocking engagement with corresponding rails of a hopper top body; the second unit of the hopper comprising a hopper top body, with a bottom surface configured to fit against the top surface of the hopper base, and further comprising a left and right hopper guide for interlocking engagement with said left and right gun body guides, and with said hopper top body further including; a feed opening in said bottom surface of said hopper top body, configured for alignment with a feed chamber of said hopper base when said hopper top body is seated on said hopper base, with said feed opening including a closure panel which is configured to move to a sealed position when said hopper body is unseated from said gun body, and which is configured to move to an open position when said hopper body is seated to said gun body; wherein said door closure panel of said hopper is configured to close when removed from said hopper base, and to open when seated on said hopper base, and thus to allow paint balls to flow by gravity into said hopper base to refill said paintball gun without opening a lid to pour.

2. The quick change hopper of claim 1 in which said hopper base guides are comprised of rails which interfit with corresponding hopper top body rails.

3. The quick change hopper of claim 1 in which said closure panel is a biased panel which slides between an open and closed position on said hopper top body.

4. The quick change hopper of claim 3 which further includes one or more projections on said hopper base configured to open said closure panel on said hopper top body.

5. The quick change hopper of claim 4 in which said closure panel is biased to return to a closed position unless forced open by contact with said one or more projections.

6. The quick change hopper of claim 1 in which said closure panel is a biased panel which is hinged on one side to swing open, exposing said feed opening.

7. The quick change hopper of claim 1 in which said hopper base guides and said hopper top body guides are comprised of a male and corresponding female profile for interfitting engagement.

8. The quick change hopper of claim 1 in which said hopper base guides and said hopper top body guides are comprised of angle shaped rails for interfitting engagement.

9. The quick change hopper of claim 1 in which said hopper base guides and said hopper top body guides are comprised of a male L shape rail on one surface that corresponds to a female L shape rail on a corresponding surface.

10. The quick change hopper of claim 1 in which said hopper base guides and said hopper top body guides are comprised of a male T shape rail on one surface that corresponds to a female T shaped groove on a corresponding surface.

11. The quick change hopper of claim 1 in which said hopper base guides and said hopper top body guides are comprised of a male tab on one surface that corresponds to a female corresponding shaped groove on a corresponding surface

12. A quick change hopper for use on a paintball gun, comprising: a hopper configured to attach to a paintball gun, said hopper comprised of two units, a hopper base with a hopper base top surface with a left and a right hopper base guide configured for interlocking engagement with corresponding rails of a hopper top body, with said hopper base configured to include a motor for feeding paint balls, and a battery pack for powering said motor; the second unit of the hopper comprising a hopper top body, with a bottom surface configured to fit against the top surface of the hopper base, and further comprising a left and right hopper guide for interlocking engagement with said left and right gun body guides, and with said hopper top body further including; a feed opening in said bottom surface of said hopper top body, configured for alignment with a feed chamber of said hopper base when said hopper top body is seated on said hopper base, with said feed opening including a closure panel which is configured to move to a sealed position when said hopper body is unseated from said gun body, and which is configured to move to an open position when said hopper body is seated to said gun body; wherein said door closure panel of said hopper is configured to close when removed from said hopper base, and to open when seated on said hopper base, and thus to allow paint balls to flow by gravity into said hopper base to refill said paintball gun without opening a lid to pour.

13. The quick change hopper of claim 12 in which said hopper base guides are comprised of rails which interfit with corresponding hopper top body rails.

14. The quick change hopper of claim 12 in which said closure panel is a biased panel which slides between an open and closed position on said hopper top body.

15. The quick change hopper of claim 14 which further includes one or more projections on said hopper base configured to open said closure panel on said hopper top body.

16. The quick change hopper of claim 15 in which said closure panel is biased to return to a closed position unless forced open by contact with said one or more projections.

17. The quick change hopper of claim 12 in which said closure panel is a biased panel which is hinged on one side to swing open, exposing said feed opening.

18. The quick change hopper of claim 12 in which said hopper base guides and said hopper top body guides are comprised of a male and corresponding female profile for interfitting engagement.

19. The quick change hopper of claim 12 in which said hopper base guides and said hopper top body guides are comprised of angle shaped rails for interfitting engagement.

20. The quick change hopper of claim 12 in which said hopper base guides and said hopper top body guides are comprised of a male L shape rail on one surface that corresponds to a female L shape rail on a corresponding surface.

21. The quick change hopper of claim 12 in which said hopper base guides and said hopper top body guides are comprised of a male T shape rail on one surface that corresponds to a female T shaped groove on a corresponding surface.

22. The quick change hopper of claim 12 in which said hopper base guides and said hopper top body guides are comprised of a male tab on one surface that corresponds to a female corresponding shaped groove on a corresponding surface.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention generally relates to hoppers for paintball guns, and more particularly to quick loading slide on hoppers for refilling paintballs to a paintball gun.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The invention applies to guns which shoot a ball, and the most common type of this gun is a paintball gun. However it is to be understood that the description of the device as it applies to paintball guns also applies to other guns which utilize similar technology and which fire balls. This could include guns which fire balls filled with pepper, airsoft guns, or other types of guns which fire balls.

Paintball sports have become very popular in recent years. These involve the use of a paintball gun in various contests, competitions and activities. A paintball gun holds a number of paintballs that are filled with liquid paint. When the paintballs hit a target, whether the target is a person or an object, the paintballs rupture and paint splatters the target. The paintballs are held in a container on the paintball gun, and are fed into the firing chamber of the paintball gun. The container holding paintballs is known as a hopper, and is mounted on the side of the gun or above the paintball gun. The hopper feeds the paintballs into the paintball gun by gravity, vacuum, pneumatic (air pressure) and most commonly by a motorized feed, into the chamber of the paintball gun. Paintball hoppers come in many different sizes and shapes. They can hold a very minimal to extremely large capacity of paintballs ranging to upwards of 300 plus paintballs. Hoppers are typically loaded through a lid opening at the top of the hopper. Some hoppers have electronic boards similar to a computer installed to tell how many balls have been fired and what rate they are fired at.

Most gun makers have incorporated paintball guns with electronics which allow these guns to shoot up to 35 balls per second. The silicone boards can be changed or controlled to shoot at many different ball speeds. With the types of guns and the new technology constantly growing, semi-automatic and automatic guns most commonly used in paintball games can expend a large capacity hopper in a matter of a few minutes.

Whether it is a paintball woodsball scenario or x-ball street games, once the hopper is empty, players refill or reload their hopper using a pod which is a cylindrical storage tube full of paintballs. Most common pods hold an additional 140-200 paintball/pepper balls. Often while refilling their paintball gun the user is under fire and scrambling to grab a pod and reload the hopper before they are hit. Pods are carried on a player's back and readily accessible by reaching around and pulling the long tube out of a holster. Once the pod is pulled out, players open the lid on the pod and pour the balls by gravity into the hopper through the hoppers lid. The pod is usually disposed of by leaving on the field till the game is over.

While the player is under pressure to reload the hopper, paintballs are often spilled in the transfer. This is due to players having to access and open the pod with one hand, while also holding the paintball gun and opening the cap of the hopper. This task of refilling the paintball gun takes time during the game and costs quite a bit when paintballs are spilled.

Another problem in refilling hoppers from pods is that the pods can come open in the process and spill paint balls. Not only does this happen with pods but it also happens with the different types of hopper lids.

What is needed is a device which makes the refilling of the paintball gun hopper faster and less cumbersome, which eliminates the need to open and close the lids or caps of the pods or hoppers, and which makes reloading a paintball gun a one handed operation.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The quick loading hopper of the invention includes a hopper base in which may be located a motor drive, or which may be gravity fed, or which may include other ball transport mechanisms. These include pneumatic, belt drive, propeller drive, and other ball transport mechanisms. In one configuration of the invention a motor drive is not present, and the balls pass through the motor base by gravity. The hopper base includes a top surface with a left hopper base guide and a right hopper base guide located on the top surface. The hopper of the invention includes a hopper top body. This body has a bottom surface, which is configured to fit against the top surface of the hopper base. It also has a left and a right hopper guide for interlocking engagement with the corresponding rails of the hopper base. These guides can be configured in a number of configurations such as in the form of parallel rails. The rails can be I shaped or T shaped or other shapes, and fit into a corresponding shape in the opposite unit. They can also be shaped like and I beam or J shaped, and fit into the corresponding rails which would generally be u shaped with tabs for interlocking on the top member of the I-rail. In short, the guides could take a number of different shapes, which are conventionally used in similar interlocking pieces for joining one piece to another.

The hopper top body also includes a feed opening in its lower surface. The feed opening is positioned so that balls, such as paint balls, fall through the feed opening by gravity, and into the hopper motor drive feed chamber on the hopper motor base or non-motor base. The hopper top body includes a hopper deck which is angled, and causes the paintballs enclosed in the hopper to fall towards the feed opening. The hopper top body has a closure panel, which covers the feed opening in the bottom surface of the hopper top body. The closure panel is configured to automatically move to a closed position when the hopper top body is removed from the hopper base. The closure panel is also configured to automatically move to an open position when the hopper top body is seated onto the hopper motor base. The automatic opening and closure of this closure panel results in the hopper top body being capable of use as a quick change paintball reservoir. A number of hopper top bodies can be filled with paintballs and carried until they are needed for use. The hopper base will be mounted on the top of a paintball gun. When the gun is to be loaded and used, a hopper top body full of paintballs would be slid into position on the hopper base. When the hopper top body is seated in place, the closure panel between the two units would automatically be opened, and balls would fall into the hopper base where they would be conveyed to the paintball gun either by gravity or by the motors described above. When all the paintballs in the hopper top body had been utilized, the hopper top body could be slid off and replaced by another hopper top body which is full of paintballs thus the combination of the hopper base and the hopper top body provide a quick change paintball hopper which can be utilized as a retrofit adaptation to existing paintball guns.

In one version of the device, the closure panel is biased by a spring, which causes the closure panel to move into the closed position as a default position. Thus when the hopper top body is removed from the hopper motor base, the closure door slides to the default closed position, and seals the feed opening in the bottom surface of the hopper top body. This would prevent paintballs from falling through the feed opening and being lost.

The device is also configured so that when the hopper top body is seated on the hopper motor base the closure panel is automatically moved to an open position, and the feed opening is uncovered, so that paintballs can fall by gravity from the hopper top body into the motor drive feed chamber of the hopper motor base.

The closure panel is configured in one embodiment of the invention to be a biased panel, which remains generally unchanged in angle, and merely slides open when the hopper top body is seated on the hopper motor base. In another configuration of the device, the closure panel is hinged, and swings open like a trap door to expose the feed opening, and allow balls to move from the hopper top body into the hopper motor base.

The purpose of the foregoing Abstract is to enable the public, and especially the scientists, engineers, and practitioners in the art who are not familiar with patent or legal terms or phraseology, to determine quickly from a cursory inspection, the nature and essence of the technical disclosure of the application. The Abstract is neither intended to define the invention of the application, which is measured by the claims, nor is it intended to be limiting as to the scope of the invention in any way.

Still other features and advantages of the present invention will become readily apparent to those skilled in this art from the following detailed description describing preferred embodiments of the invention, simply by way of illustration of the best mode contemplated by carrying out my invention. As will be realized, the invention is capable of modification in various obvious respects all without departing from the invention. Accordingly, the drawings and description of the preferred embodiments are to be regarded as illustrative in nature, and not as restrictive in nature.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a side view showing the hopper top body partially removed from the hopper base.

FIG. 2 is a side view of the quick change hopper of the invention.

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of one embodiment of the quick change hopper of the invention.

FIG. 4 is an exploded side view of one embodiment of the quick change hopper of the invention.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

FIG. 1 shows the quick change hopper of the invention, which is designated as 10 throughout the figures. FIG. 1 shows the two major portions that make up the quick change hopper which is the hopper motor base 12, and the hopper top body 22, with the hopper top body 22 partially removed from the hopper motor base 12. The hopper top body 22 slides into engagement with the hopper motor base 12. The hopper motor base 12 may include a motor drive 14 which is situated in a motor well 46. The motor drive 14 advances paintballs 40 into the feed tube 48 from which the paintballs are directed into the firing chamber of the paintball gun (not shown). However, a motor drive is not required, and FIG. 4 shows a configuration of the device which does not use a motor. The hopper motor base includes a top surface 16 which is configured to interface with a hopper top body bottom surface 28. When the two are fully engaged the hopper motor base 12 and the hopper top body 22 define a chamber which has a feed opening 30 through which paintballs 40 may pass into the motor drive 14.

The feed opening 30 is closed by a closure panel 34, which is attached to the hopper top body 22, and is biased to close over the feed opening 30. As the hopper top body 22 is slid into engagement on the hopper base the projections 60 on the hopper motor base 12 engage the closure panel 34 and push it open, so that when the hopper top body 22 is fully engaged as shown in FIG. 2, the paintballs 40 may falls freely by gravity into the motor drive 14. There is no storage capacity of paintballs in the motor area, and the entire storage capacity of the quick change hopper 10 is in the hopper top body 22.

FIG. 2 shows the hopper top body 22 fully engaged with the hopper motor base 12, and in this position the paintballs may flow by gravity into the hopper base 12. The hopper top body 22 includes a left rail 24 and right rail 26. It also includes a closure panel 34. The closure 34 may be a panel which slides open in one plane, or it may be hinged like a trap door and open and close. It moves from an open position to a closed position and when the hopper top body 22 is disengaged from the hopper motor base 12, the closure panel 34 automatically moves to a closed position and in the closed position paintballs are trapped within the hopper top body 22 and cannot be lost. When the hopper top body 22 is slid into place on the hopper motor base 12 the closure panel 34 automatically is moved to an open position, and in that position paintballs may fall by gravity from the hopper top body 22 into the motor drive 14.

The hopper motor base 12 includes a left and right guide 18 and 20 which interface with the left and right guide 24 and 26 of the hopper top body. An open position 38 is shown in FIG. 2.

The interface between the motor base 12 and the hopper top body 22 can take a number of configurations. The guides 18 and 20 and the rails 24 and 26 can be configured so that one is a ridge and the other is a groove, and they can also be configured in various kinds of interlocking rail combinations such as a projecting I beam, a J-shaped beam, a T-shaped beam, an L beam, or other configurations which are conducive to a sliding engagement of one piece onto another. The hopper top body 22 includes a panel 50 which forms a floor of the unit, and causes paintballs to flow into the feed opening 30.

FIG. 1, 2, and FIG. 3 show the closure panel 34 as being a sliding panel which moves to one side to open or close the feed opening 30. A pair of raised catch pieces 60 can be attached to the copper motor base 12 and engage the closure panel 34 as the hopper top body is slid into place. Obviously other physical mechanisms for opening and closing the closure panel 34 are also possible. One possible mechanism is for the hopper top body to snap into place on the motor base, and when snapped into place the closure panel would be opened either as a result of being fully engaged, or by an activation step of the user, such as by moving a tab, of pulling or pushing a tab to open the closure panel.

FIG. 4 shows an embodiment of the invention in which the hopper base 12 does not use a motor, but allows paintballs to fall by gravity. This type of unit has a larger ball magazine 62, which fits with a larger feed tube 48. Other features of the hopper top body 22 are similar to other embodiments.

While the invention is susceptible of various modifications and alternative constructions, certain illustrated embodiments thereof have been shown in the drawings and will be described below in detail. It should be understood, however, that there is no intention to limit the invention to the specific form disclosed, but, on the contrary, the invention is to cover all modifications, alternative constructions, and equivalents falling within the spirit and scope of the invention as defined in the claims.

In the following description and in the figures, like elements are identified with like reference numerals. The use of “or” indicates a non-exclusive alternative without limitation unless otherwise noted. The use of “including” means “including, but not limited to,” unless otherwise noted.

While there is shown and described the present preferred embodiment of the invention, it is to be distinctly understood that this invention is not limited thereto, but may be variously embodied to practice within the scope of the following claims. From the foregoing description, it will be apparent that various changes may be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the following claims.