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Mach 404 Loader
by Bill Mills
Before the product had appeared at major tournaments, the internet was abuzz with questions and speculations about the Mach 404 loader from Zap Paintballs. It appeared in advertising in the summer of 2001, and made its debut at the International Amateur Open. The loader was introduced by Aldo Perrone. Perrone founded Brass Eagle, producing the Nightmare, Cobra, Barracuda, and original Stingray paintguns before selling the company to Daisy Airguns.
What is substantially different about the Mach 404, compared to other agitating loaders is the way it unjams the balls. "Shaken, not stirred" is the line used in the ad copy.
The Mach 404 has a very traditional loader shape, though the compartments for its single 9 volt battery and electronics are on the front side of the feed neck, rather than the back. The lower half is wider than the top, with a pair of rails on the side, demarking the edge between the upper and lower portions. The edges, and front and back are all graced with smooth curves, and the interior is capable of holding 230 paintballs, though feeding is not consistant of packed to capacity. 210 is a more realistic "working" capacity.
The battery is installed from the front. There are no markings for battery polarity, so the player must remember that the negative terminal is aligned with the right side of the loader (or the left if looking at it from the front.)
In the center of the loader, suspended from its ceiling is a pendulum on a flexible but stiff mount. Extending from the bottom of the pendulum are three flexible fingers that are positioned in a ring above the opening to the feed neck.
Inside the pendulum is an electric motor with an off-center weight. When the motor spins, it causes the pendulum to vibrate, or wobble on its mount. When it is surrounded by paintballs they are moved and bounced around so that they do not jam. Balls fall between the fingers of the pendulum and into the feed neck.
While it may be accurate to describe the Mach 404 as using vibration, the reality is that the pendulum moves quickly and far enough with its swing to adequately agitate the paintballs for proper feeding. Where it seems to have trouble is with the last few (3 or 4) paintballs in the hopper. The agitation is strong enough that they often bounce to one end of the hopper before settling down to the feed neck.
Rather than using an optical sensor in the neck, the Mach 404 again turns to vibration. The control circuitry, located just forward of the feed neck is activated by a downward facing slide switch. A green LED indicates that the Mach 404 is turned on, and the agitator pendulum will run for about 2 seconds when it is first powered up. The LED is visible through the translucent smoke colored loader body.
Each time the paintgun is fired, vibration from the paintgun is carried to the loader and to a sensor on the control circuit and the motor is activated again for another two seconds. In this sense, it is akin to Intellifeed, agitating with each shot, rather than only during jams, but without wires to the paintgun. The circuitry is sensitive enough that closing the lid, or lightly tapping a pencil on the loader body will activate it.
The motor inside the agitating pendulum spins faster when the shock received by the sensor is stronger. The rational behind this is that it will agitate more agressively when needed more. Unfortunately, paintguns do not recoil significantly more when they fire without a paintball in the barrel. The real world translation of this is that if the loader jams, tapping hard on its lid will activate the motor at full strength. Fortunately through testing, no jams occured.
The vibration of the loader in operation can be felt in the paintgun, but is not significant enough to throw off one's aim.
While its method of operation is unique
and unconventional, the Mach 404 loader provides on-gun performance that
is comparable to its competition. For performance data, see the WARPIG
Ballistic Labs Loader Speed Comparison. While not earshattering,
it would be fair to describe the Mach 404 as a loud loader when it is operating,
the volume increasing as the number of balls inside decreases.
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