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S-4 Drive Cone Set
By Bill Mills - Dec 2005
From the days that paintball became a competitive sport, players have wanted to modify their gear to give themselves and edge, and designers and manufacturers have been on the look-out for upgrades they could produce. For years, it was the paintgun that was the focus of these accessories, and hoppers were often considered an add-on to the paintgun. In the new millennium however, as hoppers have evolved with higher performance, and higher price tags, they themselves have spawned a new market for upgrade parts.
The HALO-B from Odyssey and the Reloader-B from National Paintball supply, both using the same physical components with different controlling electronics, have become very popular on the tournament scene. Aftermarket drive cones have hit dealerís shelves for both of these loaders.
With the HALO design, paintballs roll loosely inside the loader body, until they fall into a ring shaped depression in the bottom called the catch cup. In the center of the catch cup is the drive cone Ė a nearly disk shaped part, with five paddle arms, and a sloping top. As the drive cone rotates, balls roll across its top and into the edge of the catch cup where the paddles push them in line out of an exit tunnel and into the paintgunís breech.
Beneath the drive cone, and hidden away (unless itís a clear cone) is the drive spring which links the cone to the gear and belt mechanisms driven by the loaderís motor. This spring is a key to the HALO/Reloader success. Even when the loader is not running, the drive cone spring puts pressure on the stack of paintballs, so that they will feed as soon as the breech is open and empty. The motor and drive train activate as needed to put more pressure on the spring, which allows the loader to deliver constant force.
Some players, looking to get better than the stock feed rates out of their HALO and Reloader loaders have taken to over-winding the drive cone spring. This puts a higher pressure load on the paintball stack. While this can increase feed rates, it can also over-burden the stock drive cone either snapping the tab that links it to the spring during heavy use, or snapping off one or more of the fins which push the paintballs. It can also increase the chance of breaking more brittle tournament grade paint.
Aftermarket drive cones have addressed both of these issues in a variety of ways. The use of other materials such as aluminum can add strength, as can filleting the edge between the fin and the cone (making it a curved rather than squared edge) or mounting a steel pin in a plastic or resin cone to grip the spring without a chance of breakage.
National Paintball Supply has addressed these three potential problem areas with the Empire S4 drive cone kit. The kit replaces not only the drive cone, but the drive wheel beneath the cone as well.
Molded from high impact plastics the S-4 cone is lightweight, similar to the stock cone. The first noticeable difference is that its five paddle vanes are all filleted to the cone. What is not so obvious is that these fillets are at nearly a .68 inch radius. With a curve that is nearly identical to that of a paintball, they donít just push at one point of contact. Instead, when pressing firmly against a ball, they cup nearly an eighth of the paintballís surface. Since the force applied to the surface of the ball is spread over a significantly wider area, the pressure applied is decreased. This feature is designed to not only reduce the risk of the fins breaking, but also decrease the risk of ball breakage by being more gentle on the paint.
On the underside of the cone is the second key feature. While no metal is used, both the drive wheel and the drive cone feature a reinforcing ramp behind their spring detents, giving them added strength against breakage.
Installing the sample cone for testing was more complex than simply swapping a drive cone, but not by much. The drive train did not need disassembly, and in fact the whole install was achieved with the loader halves still together. Removing the single Phillips head screw from the center of the drive cone allows it to be lifted out. The wheel and spring can be lifted out below it, to be replaced by the new components.
When installing, the wheel goes in first, followed by the spring. The cone is then set on top, and twisted, to put a wind on the spring, before pressing it down all the way, and reinstalling the screw.
Installed in a HALO-B with Victory board,
the S-4 performed properly, with no issues, breakage, or ball breakage,
even with an extra wind on the drive spring. The Empire S-4 drive
cone set is planned to ship in quantity before the end of 2005, and become
an included feature in select models of loaders from National Paintball
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