Title:
BALANCED, DISGUISED, NON-CLOGGING PAINTBALL GUN HOPPER WITH OPTIONAL LEVEL
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A paintball gun hopper disguised as a scope includes an outer shell in the shape of a scope. The shell, which defines an interior compartment for storing paintballs, includes at least one resealable lid adapted to allow access to the interior compartment, a front assembly operably attached to a front tube, a rear tube operably attached to a rear assembly, a coupling joining the front tube to the rear tube, and a dispensing tube extending downwardly from the coupling and adapted to engage a corresponding neck of a paintball gun. The hopper is adapted to achieve and maintain balance of the paintball gun.



Inventors:
Taylor, Ken (Jacksonville, FL, US)
Application Number:
11/866406
Publication Date:
04/03/2008
Filing Date:
10/02/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
F41A9/61
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
NICONOVICH, ALEXANDER R
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Mark Young, P.A. (JACKSONVILLE, FL, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A paintball hopper configured to engage a hopper inlet of a paintball gun, said paintball hopper comprising at least one reservoir, at least one inlet tube having a first end and a second end, and a dispensing tube, said at least one reservoir being coupled to the first end of said inlet tube, said dispensing tube being coupled to the second end of said at least one inlet tube, said reservoir comprising a chamber for holding a plurality of paintballs, said inlet tube comprising a conduit for guiding paintballs from said reservoir to said dispensing tube, said dispensing tube being adapted to engage the hopper inlet of the paintball gun.

2. A paintball hopper according to claim 1, said at least one inlet tube having an inlet diameter, and said at least one reservoir having a reservoir diameter, said reservoir diameter being larger than said inlet diameter, and said inlet diameter being larger than a paintball.

3. A paintball hopper according to claim 1, said at least one inlet tube having an inlet diameter, and said at least one reservoir having a reservoir diameter, said reservoir diameter being 1.5 to 10 times larger than said inlet diameter, and said inlet diameter being larger than a paintball.

4. A paintball hopper according to claim 1, said at least one inlet tube having an inlet diameter, and said reservoir having a reservoir diameter, said at least one reservoir diameter being 1.5 to 10 times larger than said inlet diameter, and said inlet diameter being 1.5 to 5 times larger than a paintball.

5. A paintball hopper according to claim 1, further comprising at least one conical coupling disposed between said at least one reservoir and at least one inlet tube and configured to provide a smooth transition from said at least one reservoir to said at least one inlet tube, said at least one inlet tube having an inlet diameter, and said at least one reservoir having a reservoir diameter, said reservoir diameter being larger than said inlet diameter, and said inlet diameter being larger than a paintball.

6. A paintball hopper according to claim 1, further comprising a conical coupling disposed between said at least one reservoir and at least one inlet tube and configured to provide a smooth transition from said at least one reservoir to said at least one inlet tube, each inlet tube having an inlet diameter, and each reservoir having a reservoir diameter, said reservoir diameter being larger than said inlet diameter, and said inlet diameter being larger than a paintball.

7. A paintball hopper according to claim 1, further comprising a conical coupling disposed between said at least one reservoir and at least one inlet tube and configured to provide a smooth transition from said at least one reservoir to said at least one inlet tube, each inlet tube having an inlet diameter, and each reservoir having a reservoir diameter, said reservoir diameter being larger than said inlet diameter, and said inlet diameter being larger than a paintball, said paintball hopper resembling a scope.

8. A paintball hopper according to claim 1, further comprising a conical coupling disposed between said at least one reservoir and at least one inlet tube and configured to provide a smooth transition from said at least one reservoir to said at least one inlet tube, each inlet tube having an inlet diameter, and each reservoir having a reservoir diameter, said reservoir diameter being larger than said inlet diameter, and said inlet diameter being larger than a paintball, said paintball gun having an anterior barrel, a posterior stock and a body disposed between said stock and muzzle, said paintball hopper being configured to maintain the center of mass of the paintball gun horizontally between said barrel and said stock.

9. A paintball hopper according to claim 1, further comprising a conical coupling disposed between said at least one reservoir and at least one inlet tube and configured to provide a smooth transition from said at least one reservoir to said at least one inlet tube, each inlet tube having an inlet diameter, and each reservoir having a reservoir diameter, said reservoir diameter being larger than said inlet diameter, and said inlet diameter being larger than a paintball, said paintball hopper resembling a scope, and said at least one reservoir including a removable closure, said removable closure providing access to the interior of the at least one reservoir.

10. A paintball hopper according to claim 1, further comprising a conical coupling disposed between said at least one reservoir and at least one inlet tube and configured to provide a smooth transition from said at least one reservoir to said at least one inlet tube, each inlet tube having an inlet diameter, and each reservoir having a reservoir diameter, said reservoir diameter being larger than said inlet diameter, and said inlet diameter being larger than a paintball, said paintball hopper resembling a scope, and said at least one reservoir including a removable closure, said removable closure being hingedly attached to said at least one reservoir and providing access to the interior of the at least one reservoir.

11. A paintball hopper according to claim 1, further comprising a conical coupling disposed between said at least one reservoir and at least one inlet tube and configured to provide a smooth transition from said at least one reservoir to said at least one inlet tube, each inlet tube having an inlet diameter, and each reservoir having a reservoir diameter, said reservoir diameter being larger than said inlet diameter, and said inlet diameter being larger than a paintball, and a dorsal access tube parallel to and aligned with the dispensing tube and configured to provide access to said dispensing tube.

12. A paintball hopper according to claim 1, said hopper comprising a material containing an functional additive from the group consisting of a thermochromic additive in an amount effective to cause the hopper to change color when temperature of the paintball hopper is at least a determined temperature, a photochromic additive a thermochromic additive in an amount effective to cause the hopper to change color when the paintball hopper is exposed to sunlight, and a phosphorescent polymer additive in an amount effective to cause the hopper to absorb light energy and continue to release that energy as visible light in darkness.

13. A paintball hopper according to claim 1, further comprising a transparent window adapted for viewing an interior compartment of the paintball hopper.

14. A paintball hopper according to claim 1, further comprising a transparent closure adapted for viewing an interior compartment of the paintball hopper.

15. A paintball hopper according to claim 1, further comprising at least one conical coupling disposed between said at least one reservoir and at least one inlet tube and configured to provide a smooth transition from said at least one reservoir to said at least one inlet tube, said at least one inlet tube having an inlet diameter, and said at least one reservoir having a reservoir diameter, said reservoir diameter being larger than said inlet diameter, and said inlet diameter being larger than a paintball, said conical coupling having acute conical angles between 5° and 30°.

16. A paintball hopper according to claim 1, further comprising a readily visible leveling device attached to said at least one reservoir.

17. A paintball hopper according to claim 1, further comprising a readily visible leveling device attached to said at least one reservoir, said readily visible leveling device comprising an angled spirit level configured to indicate the level of the hopper with indicia to designate if the hopper is level.

18. A paintball hopper according to claim 1, further comprising a readily visible leveling device attached to said at least one reservoir, said readily visible leveling device comprising an angled spirit level configured to indicate the level of the hopper with indicia to designate if the hopper is level, the angled spirit level being mounted askew by 11 to 10°.

19. A paintball hopper configured to engage a hopper inlet of a paintball gun, said paintball hopper comprising an anterior reservoir, at least one anterior inlet tube having a first end and a second end, a posterior reservoir, at least one posterior inlet tube having a first end and a second end, and a dispensing tube, said anterior reservoir being coupled to the first end of said anterior inlet tube, said posterior reservoir being coupled to the first end of said posterior inlet tube, said dispensing tube being coupled to the second end of said anterior inlet tube and to the second end of said posterior inlet tube, said reservoir comprising a chamber for holding a plurality of paintballs, said anterior inlet tube comprising a conduit for guiding paintballs from said anterior reservoir to said dispensing tube, said posterior inlet tube comprising a conduit for guiding paintballs from said posterior reservoir to said dispensing tube, said dispensing tube being adapted to engage the hopper inlet of the paintball gun, said anterior inlet and posterior inlet tubes each having an inlet diameter, and said anterior reservoir and said posterior reservoir each having a reservoir diameter, said reservoir diameter being 1.5 to 10 times larger than said inlet diameter, and said inlet diameter being 1.5 to 5 times larger than a paintball diameter, and an anterior conical coupling disposed between said anterior reservoir and said anterior inlet tube and configured to provide a smooth transition from said anterior reservoir to said anterior inlet tube, and a posterior conical coupling disposed between said posterior reservoir and said posterior inlet tube and configured to provide a smooth transition from said posterior reservoir to said posterior inlet tube.

20. A paintball hopper according to claim 19, further comprising a readily visible leveling device attached to said posterior reservoir, said readily visible leveling device comprising an angled spirit level configured to indicate the level of the hopper with indicia to designate if the hopper is level, the angled spirit level being mounted askew by 1° to 10° relative to the reservoir.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATION

This application claims the benefit of priority of U.S. provisional application 60/827,901, filed Oct. 3, 2006, the entire contents of which are incorporated herein by this reference.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention generally relates to paintball gun hoppers, and more particularly, to a balanced paintball gun hopper disguised as a gun scope.

BACKGROUND

A paintball gun uses a rapidly expanding gas (usually compressed CO2 or Air) to force a paintball through a barrel with a muzzle velocity of approximately 300 ft/s. This velocity is sufficient for most paintballs to break upon impact at a distance, but not fast enough to cause tissue damage beyond mild bruising.

During competition, success often hinges on having a reliable gun with an ample steady supply of paintballs. The objective of a paintball competition is to mark opposing players with paint.

Frequent reloading during competition is disadvantageous, as it takes time and leaves the player exposed to opponents. To minimize reloading and ensure an adequate supply of paintballs, hoppers (also known as loaders) have been devised to provide a reservoir of paintballs for shooting. The most common form of hopper, a gravity feed hopper, consists of a reservoir and a feed tube molded into the bottom. Paintballs roll from the reservoir into the tube. A removable lid is typically provided to facilitate refilling and clearing jams.

Unfortunately, conventional hoppers are well known and easily recognized by players. Opponents can readily estimate the time to reload or number of remaining shots upon encountering a player with a conventional hopper.

Another shortcoming of conventional hoppers is that they tend to be imbalanced. Depending upon whether the hopper is front heavy or rear heavy when loaded, it may shift the center of mass forward towards the muzzle or backward toward the stock. This shift in center mass can make a gun more difficult to aim.

Yet another shortcoming with conventional gravity-feed hoppers is a susceptibility to clogging. Lateral forces exerted by paintballs in a full or nearly full hopper can prevent paintballs from freely entering and traveling through the feed tube.

Still another shortcoming of conventional hoppers is lack of guidance in aiming. Conventional hoppers constitute prominent features, but provide no means to assess whether the gun is level and properly aimed.

Accordingly, a need exists for a balanced paintball gun hopper that is disguised, not susceptible to clogging and aids level aiming. The invention is directed to overcoming one or more of the problems and solving one or more of the needs as set forth above.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In one embodiment a paintball gun hopper disguised as a scope is provided. The hopper includes an outer shell in the shape of a scope. The shell, which defines an interior compartment for storing paintballs, includes at least one resealable lid adapted to allow access to the interior compartment, a front assembly operably attached to a front tube, a rear tube operably attached to a rear assembly, a coupling joining the front tube to the rear tube, and a dispensing tube extending downwardly from the coupling and adapted to engage a corresponding neck of a paintball gun. The hopper is adapted to achieve and maintain balance of the paintball gun.

In another embodiment, an exemplary paintball hopper configured to engage a hopper inlet of a paintball gun, includes at least one reservoir, at least one inlet tube has a first end and a second end, and a dispensing tube. The at least one reservoir is coupled to the first end of the inlet tube. The dispensing tube is coupled to the second end of the at least one inlet tube. The reservoir includes a chamber for holding a plurality of paintballs. The inlet tube includes a conduit for guiding paintballs from the reservoir to the dispensing tube. The dispensing tube is adapted to engage the hopper inlet of the paintball gun. The at least one inlet tube has an inlet diameter, and the at least one reservoir has a reservoir diameter. The reservoir diameter is larger than the inlet diameter, and the inlet diameter is larger than a paintball. The reservoir diameter may be 1.5 to 10 times larger than the inlet diameter, and the inlet diameter may be 1.5 to 5 times larger than a paintball. At least one conical coupling may be disposed between the at least one reservoir and at least one inlet tube. The conical coupling configured to provide a smooth concentric transition from the at least one reservoir to the at least one inlet tube. The conical coupling has acute conical angles between 5° and 30°. The paintball hopper may be configured to maintain the center of mass of the paintball gun horizontally between the barrel and the stock. A removable closure provides access to the interior of the at least one reservoir. The removable closure may be hingedly attached to the at least one reservoir and provide access to the interior of the at least one reservoir. An optional dorsal access tube parallel to and aligned with the dispensing tube provides access to the dispensing tube.

The material comprising the hopper may contain a functional additive from the group consisting of a thermochromic additive in an amount effective to cause the hopper to change color when temperature of the paintball hopper is at least a determined temperature, a photochromic additive a thermochromic additive in an amount effective to cause the hopper to change color when the paintball hopper is exposed to sunlight, and a phosphorescent polymer additive in an amount effective to cause the hopper to absorb light energy and continue to release that energy as visible light in darkness. A transparent window/closure adapted for viewing an interior compartment of the paintball hopper may be provided.

A readily visible leveling device may be attached to the at least one reservoir. The device may comprise an angled spirit level configured to indicate the level of the hopper with indicia to designate if the hopper is level. The angled spirit level is mounted askew by 1° to 10° relative to the hopper.

In another embodiment, an exemplary paintball hopper is configured to engage a hopper inlet of a paintball gun. The paintball hopper includes an anterior reservoir, at least one anterior inlet tube has a first end and a second end, a posterior reservoir, at least one posterior inlet tube has a first end and a second end, and a dispensing tube. The anterior reservoir is coupled to the first end of the anterior inlet tube. The posterior reservoir is coupled to the first end of the posterior inlet tube. The dispensing tube is coupled to the second end of the anterior inlet tube and to the second end of the posterior inlet tube. The reservoir includes a chamber for holding a plurality of paintballs. The anterior inlet tube includes a conduit for guiding paintballs from the anterior reservoir to the dispensing tube. The posterior inlet tube includes a conduit for guiding paintballs from the posterior reservoir to the dispensing tube. The dispensing tube is adapted to engage the hopper inlet of the paintball gun. The anterior inlet and posterior inlet tubes each has an inlet diameter. The anterior reservoir and the posterior reservoir each has a reservoir diameter. The reservoir diameter is 1.5 to 10 times larger than the inlet diameter. The inlet diameter is 1.5 to 5 times larger than a paintball diameter. An anterior conical coupling disposed between the anterior reservoir and the anterior inlet tube provides a smooth transition from the anterior reservoir to the anterior inlet tube. A posterior conical coupling disposed between the posterior reservoir and the posterior inlet tube provides a smooth transition from the posterior reservoir to the posterior inlet tube. A readily visible leveling device is attached to the posterior reservoir. The readily visible leveling device includes an angled spirit level configured to indicate the level of the hopper with indicia to designate if the hopper is level. The angled spirit level is mounted askew by 1° to 10°.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The foregoing and other aspects, objects, features and advantages of the invention will become better understood with reference to the following description, appended claims, and accompanying drawings, where:

FIG. 1 is a first perspective view of an exemplary paintball hopper in accordance with principles of the invention; and

FIG. 2 is a profile view of an exemplary paintball gun equipped with an exemplary paintball hopper in accordance with principles of the invention; and

FIG. 3 is a second perspective view of an exemplary paintball hopper in accordance with principles of the invention; and

FIG. 4 is a cutaway perspective view of an exemplary paintball hopper in accordance with principles of the invention; and

FIG. 5 is a top plan view of an exemplary paintball hopper in accordance with principles of the invention.

Those skilled in the art will appreciate that the invention is not limited to the exemplary embodiments depicted in the figures or the shapes, relative sizes, proportions or materials shown in the figures.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Referring to the Figures, in which like parts are indicated with the same reference numerals, various views of an exemplary paintball hopper 100 according to principles of the invention are conceptually shown. The exemplary hopper 100 generally includes a posterior reservoir 120 coupled to a posterior inlet 110 at a posterior end of the posterior inlet 110, and an anterior reservoir 150 coupled to an anterior inlet 160 at an anterior end of the anterior inlet 160. An anterior end of the posterior inlet 110 and a posterior end of the anterior inlet 160 converge at a ventral dispensing tube 140. The dispensing tube 140, configured to engage the hopper inlet of a paintball gun, is generally perpendicular to the posterior and anterior inlets 110, 160.

In the exemplary embodiment, a dorsal access tube 165 runs parallel to and generally aligned with the ventral dispensing tube 140. The dorsal end of the ventral dispensing tube 140 and ventral end of the dorsal access tube 165 converge at the anterior end of the posterior inlet 110 and posterior end of the anterior inlet 160. Thus, the dorsal access tube 165 is configured to provide convenient access to the dispensing tube. Such access facilitates maintenance, including inspection, cleaning and clearing jams.

The exemplary hopper 100 features a shape that resembles a scope. The posterior and anterior reservoirs 120, 150 comprise hollow container sections of the hopper 100. The posterior and anterior inlets 110, 160 comprise hollow tubular sections. The reservoirs 120, 150 have a larger diameter than the inlets 110, 160, giving the hopper 100 a shape that generally resembles a scope. By being disguised as a scope, the hopper may potentially deceive opponents. Paintballs contained within the hopper 100 flow from the reservoirs 120, 150 through the inlets 110, 160, through the ventral dispensing tube 140 and into the hopper inlet of a paintball gun. Filleted contours 415 facilitate a smooth continuous flow of paintballs into the ventral dispensing tube 140.

One or more resealable closures, such as resealable lids 105, 125 and 145, are provided to allow access to the interior of the hopper 100 through the anterior reservoir 150, posterior reservoir 120 and dorsal access tube 165. Such resealable closures provide access enables and facilitates refilling the hopper 100 and clearing jams. Illustratively, a dorsal lid 105 and/or a posterior lid 125 and/or an anterior lid 145 may be provided. Other closures may be provided in addition to or in lieu of the dorsal lid 105 and/or a posterior lid 125 and/or an anterior lid 145. The lids 105, 125 and 145 may be attached to the hopper 100 with hinges, tethers and/or other mechanical attachment means that allow removal. By way of example and not limitation, one or more of the closures may be threaded to engage a correspondingly threaded section of the hopper assembly 100. In a preferred embodiment, hinges 170, 175 and 180 are utilized to allow quick access without losing the lid. The hinges may include spring closure mechanism and/or mechanical locking features to secure the lid in a closed position.

The outer shell 135 generally in the shape of a scope. Additionally, as discussed below, the configuration of the hopper facilitates achieving a desirable balance. The shell defines an interior compartment for storing paintballs. Interior surfaces are angled downwardly towards the dispensing tube 140 to encourage paintballs to flow thereto.

Advantageously, a hopper 100 according to the principles of the invention may be configured to achieve and maintain balance of the paintball gun 200. Weight and balance are important factors for most firearms, including paintball guns. While individual tastes may vary (some prefer heavier guns, some lighter ones), the gun should preferably balance between the shooter's hands and should not feel barrel-heavy or stock-heavy. The paintball gun has an anterior barrel, a posterior stock and a body disposed between the stock and muzzle. Preferably, the paintball hopper is configured to maintain the center of mass of the paintball gun horizontally between the barrel and the stock, and vertically close to or in the body, when the hopper is full, partially full and empty. The center of mass is a specific point at which the system's mass behaves as if it were concentrated. The center of mass is a function of the positions and masses of the particles that comprise the system. As paintballs are expelled from the system, the center of mass will change and may not correspond to the position of any particular mass.

The reservoirs 120, 150 and/or tubes 110, 160 may be sized to locate the center of mass of the paintball gun equipped with the hopper 100 at a desired point. The hopper 100 may be provided with adjustable and/or replaceable tubes 110, 160 and/or adjustable and/or replaceable reservoirs 120, 150. Alternatively, the hopper 100 may be properly sized and configured for a particular paintball gun. By way of example and not limitation, in one embodiment the tubes 110, 160 may be cut to size for a particular paintball gun 200, and the reservoirs 120, 150 may then be attached to the properly cut tubes 110, 160. As another alternative, the hopper 100 may be provided with various sized components that can be selected and assembled for a particular paintball gun 200.

Advantageously, a hopper according to principles of the invention features a scope-like exposure which does not present a substantial target or obstacle. When installed, the hopper 100 is as close to the paintball gun 200 as possible. The hopper maintains a profile close to the gun and may extend substantially the length of the gun. Thus, contained paintballs are distributed along a substantial part of the length of the gun, providing a lower stack height of paintballs in the hopper. The lower stack height prevents jams and maintains a low center of mass, while the elongated configuration provides a large capacity.

In addition to storing substantial quantities of paintballs, a hopper according to principles of the invention does so in an embodiment disguised as a scope. The scope configuration introduces an element of surprise while enhancing the appearance of the gun, simulating assault rifles or other menacing firearms.

Capacity is important because current paintball guns fire a significant quantity of paintballs in a short time span. To accommodate a high rate of paintball consumption, a hopper according to principles of the invention preferably holds a substantial number of paintballs, such as 200 or 300 or more paintballs. While a large capacity hopper is particularly preferred, the invention is not limited to a hopper with any particular capacity.

The hopper may be comprised of various materials, such as metal and/or plastic. In an exemplary implementation, the hopper 100 is comprised of a rigid plastic or polymeric material, such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyethylene, polypropylene, polystyrene, acrylics, cellulosics, acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene terpolymers, urethanes, thermo-plastic resins, thermo-plastic elastomers (TPE), acetal resins, polyamides, polycarbonates and polyesters. While many other materials may be used alone or in combination with the aforementioned materials and/or other materials, without departing from the scope of the present invention, preferably the material is relatively inexpensive, easy to use in manufacturing operations and results in an aesthetically acceptable, durable, weather resistant product. The material may further include additives to provide desired properties such as desired colors, structural characteristics, glow-in-the dark properties and thermal reactivity (e.g., color changes according to heat).

By way of example and not limitation, the hopper 100 may optionally be formulated to change color when it reaches a predetermined or higher temperature. This can be accomplished by mixing a thermochromic additive to the base material in an amount that is sufficient to achieve a desired color changing range. As an example, a mixture of approximately 5% to 30% (pbw) of Matsui International Co., Inc.'s Chromicolor® concentrate may be introduced to the base material, to provide a plastic structure that visibly changes color at a determined elevated temperature, such as approximately 90 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

Alternatively, a photochromic additive may be added to the base material in an amount that is effective to achieve a desired color change when the hopper 100 is exposed to certain lighting conditions. As an example, a mixture of approximately 5% to 35% (pbw) of Matsui International Co., Inc.'s Photopia® additive may be introduced to the base material, to provide a plastic structure that visibly changes color in the presence of sunlight or ultraviolet light.

As another alternative, phosphorescent polymer additives, such as aluminate based phosphors, may be added to adsorb light energy and continue to release that energy as visible light after the energy source is removed. Advantageously, such an embodiment provides a base that is easy to locate in darkened conditions, making the vehicle easy to spot even at nighttime.

Optionally, the hopper 100 may be equipped with a window adapted for viewing the contents. The window may comprise an opening covered with a transparent material. The window may be positioned to allow a user to observe when the hopper 100 is empty or nearly empty. By way of example and not limitation, the window may comprise a transparent closure, such as a transparent lid 105, 125, and/or 145. Thus, a user may view the interior of the hopper 100 to detect jams and determine when to refill the hopper 100.

Components of the hopper 100 may be produced using any suitable manufacturing techniques known in the art for the chosen material, such as (for example) injection, compression, structural foam, blow, or transfer molding; polyurethane foam processing techniques; vacuum forming; and casting. Preferably, the manufacturing technique is suitable for mass production at relatively low cost per unit, and results in an aesthetically acceptable product with a consistent acceptable quality. The hopper 100 is preferably sufficiently strong and weather resistant such that it does not structurally fail from the stresses and environmental conditions encountered during use.

With reference to FIG. 2, a profile view of an exemplary paintball gun equipped with an exemplary paintball hopper 100 in accordance with principles of the invention is conceptually shown. The exemplary a paintball gun 200 generally includes four main components: a body 215, the hopper 100, a tank 230 and a barrel 205. Also included are a stock 255 or handle, trigger 220 and, in the exemplary embodiment, an optional forward handle 210. The body 215 houses loading, triggering and valve mechanisms and provides attachments for the trigger 220, hopper 100, tank 230, barrel 205 and stock 225. The tank 230 holds a compressed gas, usually CO2 or air, which is used to accelerate the paintballs through the gun barrel 205. The trigger 220 activates loading and valve mechanisms to propel a paint ball under the influence of a charge of compressed gas. The barrel 205 directs an accelerating paintball and controls the release of the compressed gas behind it. Several different bore sizes are available, to best fit different sizes of paintball, and there are many different lengths, with various ports (or vents), threaded attachments, and configurations. These elements are typically included in many paintball guns. Indeed, the aforementioned paintball gun 200 is intended to represent a broad category of paintball guns capable of receiving paintballs from a hopper 100 according to principles of the invention. Of course, the paintball gun 200 may include fewer, different and/or additional elements, provided it is capable of receiving paintballs from a hopper 100 according to principles of the invention, generating a charge of compressed gas and shooting the paintballs.

With reference now to FIG. 3, a second perspective view of an exemplary paintball hopper 100 in accordance with principles of the invention is conceptually shown. This view more clearly illustrates the location of exemplary hinges 175, 180 for the posterior and anterior lids 125, 145. Also illustrated is the ventral dispensing tube 140 and the corresponding dispensing port 185 defined by the tube 140, through which paintballs travel from the hopper 100 into the gun 200.

Now referring to FIG. 4, a cutaway perspective view of an exemplary paintball hopper 100 in accordance with principles of the invention is conceptually shown. This view illustrates the interior compartments and conduits of the hopper 100. Each reservoir 120, 150 includes a relatively large and generally cylindrical interior compartment 400, 430 having a diameter dr. The inlets 110, 160 also have generally cylindrical interior compartments 445, 450, each having a diameter di that is smaller than dr. In an exemplary embodiment, dr is 1.5 to 10 times di. Of course di is greater than the diameter of a paintball, and preferably several times greater than the diameter of a paintball, e.g., 1.5 to 5 times the diameter of a paintball. Tapering joints, referred to herein as conical couplings 115, 155, provide smooth and gradual transitions 405, 425 from each reservoir compartment 400, 430 to each inlet compartment 445, 450, with acute conical angles α. The angles α are preferably less than 45° and more preferably between 5° and 30°.

Advantageously, the conical couplings 115, 155 help prevent clogging without preventing paintballs from entering and flowing through the dispensing tube 140. In a conventional hopper nearly all lateral forces exerted by stored paintballs are transmitted to paintballs at or near the dispensing tube. In a conventional hopper, these lateral forces prevent the free flow of paintballs through the dispensing tube, thereby contributing to clogging and choking. However, the conical couplings 115, 155 of a hopper 100 in accordance with principles of the invention, absorb an appreciable portion of the lateral forces nearest the dispensing tube 140. The effect is a substantial reduction in the lateral forces transmitted to paintballs in vicinity of the dispensing tube 140. The lateral forces and tendency to clog are typically greatest when a hopper is full. By reducing these lateral forces, especially in vicinity of the dispensing tube 140, the risks of clogging and choking are substantially reduced. As the hopper 100 is emptied, the lateral forces and risk of clogging decrease. Concomitantly, paintballs become free to migrate and bounce around in the vacant space in the emptying hopper 100.

Another important feature of an exemplary paintball hopper 100 in accordance with principles of the invention is a readily visible leveling device to facilitate precise aiming 130. In one embodiment, an angled spirit level comprising a transparent vial containing a liquid (e.g., ethanol) and a bubble 135 is partially embedded in the side wall of the exterior surface of the posterior reservoir 120, on the side of the posterior reservoir 120 adjacent to the gun 200. The level may be configured to indicate the level of the hopper 100 between horizontal and vertical. Markings on the vial may designate where the bubble should be if the hopper 100 is level. As shown in the top view of FIG. 5, the level 130 is preferably mounted askew (θ>0), such that the markings of the vial designating a level orientation are visible from along the side of the hopper 100 while a user looks and aims downstream at a target. Thus, leveling does not detract from aiming. In a preferred embodiment the angle θ is between 1° and 10°, depending upon the diameter of the vial and the thickness of the wall of the hopper 100.

While an exemplary embodiment of the invention has been described, it should be apparent that modifications and variations thereto are possible, all of which fall within the true spirit and scope of the invention. With respect to the above description then, it is to be realized that the optimum relationships for the components of the invention, including variations in form, function and manner of operation, are deemed readily apparent and obvious to one skilled in the art, and all equivalent relationships to those illustrated in the drawings and described in the specification are intended to be encompassed by the present invention. The above description and drawings are illustrative of modifications that can be made without departing from the present invention, the scope of which is to be limited only by the following claims. Therefore, the foregoing is considered as illustrative only of the principles of the invention. Further, since numerous modifications and changes will readily occur to those skilled in the art, it is not desired to limit the invention to the exact construction and operation shown and described, and accordingly, all suitable modifications and equivalents are intended to fall within the scope of the invention as claimed.





 
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