There is a common complaint among many in our sport about the realism of the weaponry used – it just isn’t very realistic. Even some of the best tactical markers are still missing the mark in realism, leaving players still hungry for a more authentic experience. In most cases, it’s fairly easy to spot a paintball marker because of the large hopper that sits on top to hold it’s ammo. This is problematic for at least two reasons: 1) it takes away some of the realism of your gun, and 2) the hopper can easily give away your position on the field if you are trying to hide behind cover – this piece sticks up! This can defeat the purpose of “low-profile play”, which means stealthy and subtle styles of movement during the game, sometimes consisting of a complete non-exposure of the player and his position on the field.
Thankfully, there is a viable solution to this problem in both realism and profile – magazine-fed markers. Just like in a real rifle, magazine-fed paintball guns are fitted with a functional magazine which holds paintballs and uses spring-loaded pressure to feed them into the marker. This makes the gun look and function much more like “the real thing,” adding more realism and excitement to the sport of scenario paintball. These new markers provide a much-desired change to the traditional hopper fed paintball gun. While there is some cost associated with upgrading to this type of marker, many players are proudly making the switch. Best brands of mag fed guns include the Rap4 468 and MK5 series, Honorcore, Tiberius Arms, Spyder and even Tippmann is offering a new version.
There are many benefits to owning a good magazine fed paintball marker. The most obvious is that it looks completely real. To many players, this is a huge factor. Some of the best brands of magazine fed tactical paintball guns are virtually indistinguishable from the real thing. Removing the hopper also makes for much better low-profile play, making your weapon smaller and much easier to wield. A large, fully loaded hopper on top of your marker gives it a different balance making it trickier to be more accurate as compared with a good mag fed system. Once you pop in the clip, your gun is a closed system that won’t spill paintballs everywhere. It’s common for a hopper to come loose during play or lose ammo when taking it off. Compared to the sleek profile of the new magazine fed paintball guns, hopper fed systems are clumsy, bulky and make your marker look like a toy.
Mag fed markers are not without their critics however. Opponents of the magazine-fed movement make a few valid claims against this change. The biggest of these is that a magazine can’t hold nearly as much ammo as a traditional hopper. For lengthy scenarios that may require lots of shooting, you need to go in with as much ammo as possible. With the standard hopper holding at least 200 rounds, it will take at least ten 18 or 20 round magazines to match the same capacity; this is a lot to carry. Fortunately, there are other realistic accessories that offer ways to carry these accessories such as tactical vests. Much like their real life counterpart, a tactical paintball vest outfitted with several magazine pouches are a great way to pack numerous loaded magazines in a very balanced manner, close to the body. Not only does a good vest offer terrific help in carrying your mags, but it also brings a cool look to your scenario outfit and adds extra protection against incoming bullets.
Another valid complaint about magazine fed paintball guns is the magazine clips themselves. Most magazines for tactical markers rely on a spring and mechanical actions to feed the ammo, thus creating a larger probability the marker will jam, misfire, or break altogether. While this was more of a problem in the beginning, most magazine fed paintball guns have been out long enough for these errors to have been ironed out, however some brands are definitely better than others. Rap4’s Dmags are some of the most user friendly in both durability, function and price. While most paintball gun magazines run between $25-$40, Dmags cost about $10 and even less if bought in a package deal. The best paintball gun magazines are also compatible with shaped projectiles like First Strike ammo; Dmags will also work with this precision paintball bullet.
If you are just beginning into the sport, be aware that a hopper-based system will be your cheapest, easiest and most common route. If you have been in the sport for a while and are considering the switch to a magazine fed system, weigh out the pros and cons before the commitment. Do play a position where you need lots of ammo quickly? Will you have time to reload if you run out? Is stealth critical in your scenario? Do you long for a realistic scenario but feel you’re using a “toy”? These are all valid considerations. So, the debate continues – and likely will from now on. Players have made it clear that they want options and want to step up the reality factor in their game. Manufacturers have heard this request loud and clear and magazine-fed markers are definitely moving in the right direction toward becoming the main choice in paintball.