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Publication numberUS20070256676 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/608,194
Publication dateNov 8, 2007
Filing dateDec 7, 2006
Priority dateDec 7, 2005
Publication number11608194, 608194, US 2007/0256676 A1, US 2007/256676 A1, US 20070256676 A1, US 20070256676A1, US 2007256676 A1, US 2007256676A1, US-A1-20070256676, US-A1-2007256676, US2007/0256676A1, US2007/256676A1, US20070256676 A1, US20070256676A1, US2007256676 A1, US2007256676A1
InventorsJared Orvis, Boris Tarnawiecki, Lincoln Jolley, Joshua MacLee
Original AssigneeOrvis Jared R, Boris Tarnawiecki, Lincoln Jolley, Maclee Joshua S
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Paintball delivery system
US 20070256676 A1
Abstract
A paintball delivery system which includes a container configured to receive, hold and facilitate delivery of paintballs to a paintball marker, and a drive system at least partially housed within the container. The container includes a first chamber configured to hold paintballs, and a second chamber which includes a cavity facilitating advancement of a paintball to a paintball marker along a predefined path. The drive system includes an auger which has an axle and a helical blade, the helical blade defining multiple pockets along the longitudinal length of the auger. The auger is positioned proximate to the second chamber and the cavity therein to facilitate advancement of paintballs to the paintball marker. The drive system also includes a motor configured to selectively operate the auger, and actuation means for selectively operating the motor to in turn operate the auger.
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Claims(37)
1. A paintball delivery system comprising:
a container; and
a drive system acting in concert with said container, said drive system further comprising:
an auger having a plurality of pockets along its longitudinal length, said pockets being configured to receive and advance a paintball;
an elongate delivery cavity about parallel to said auger and acting in concert with said plurality of pockets, wherein said auger is configured to advance a paintball along said delivery cavity to a paintball marker.
2. A paintball delivery system as recited in claim 1, wherein said drive system is at least partially housed within said container.
3. A paintball delivery system as recited in claim 1, wherein said auger comprises a helical blade and an axle.
4. A paintball delivery system as recited in claim 3, wherein said elongate delivery cavity is about parallel to said axle, and wherein said helical blade is configured to define said plurality of pockets which advance a paintball along said delivery cavity toward said paintball marker.
5. A paintball delivery system as recited in claim 1, wherein said container has a chamber configured to receive a capacity of paintballs, and wherein said auger has pockets sufficient to receive and advance less than all of said capacity of paintballs toward said paintball marker at a particular time.
6. A paintball delivery system as recited in claim 5, wherein said container is configured to gravity feed said paintballs into said delivery cavity for advancement by said auger to a paintball marker.
7. A paintball delivery system as recited in claim 1, wherein said pockets partially overlap said delivery cavity.
8. A paintball delivery system as recited in claim 1, further comprising:
actuation means for rotating said auger so as to advance said paintballs to said paintball marker.
9. A paintball delivery system as recited in claim 8, wherein said actuation means comprises:
a motor; and
a selective actuation device coupled to said motor and configured to selectively operate said motor.
10. A paintball delivery system as recited in claim 9, wherein said selective actuation device comprises at least one of a group consisting of: a sound activated actuator, a mechanical toggle, a magnetic actuator, an electrical contact, a break-beam mechanism, and a reflector.
11. A paintball delivery system as recited in claim 9, wherein said container is configured to mount to a barrel of said paintball marker.
12. A paintball delivery system as recited in claim 11, said container being contoured to receive said barrel of said paintball marker.
13. A paintball delivery system as recited in claim 11, further comprising a barrel shroud connected to said container.
14. A paintball delivery system comprising:
a container configured to hold and facilitate delivery of a plurality of paintballs to a firing mechanism of paintball marker; said container comprising:
a chamber; and
a delivery cavity, said delivery cavity being configured to hold, at a particular time, less than all of said plurality of paintballs from said chamber for advancement to said firing mechanism; and
a drive system at least partially housed within said container, said drive system comprising:
an auger positioned proximate said delivery cavity, wherein said auger is configured to advance paintballs along said delivery cavity to said firing mechanism; and
a power system for turning said auger to advance paintballs along said delivery cavity.
15. A paintball delivery system as recited in claim 14, wherein said container has an elongate configuration, and wherein said delivery cavity is a single elongate delivery cavity oriented to correspond to the elongate configuration of said container.
16. A paintball delivery system as recited in claim 14, wherein said power system comprises a motor.
17. A paintball delivery system as recited in claim 16, wherein said power system further comprises an actuator for selectively operating said motor.
18. A paintball delivery system as recited in claim 17, wherein said actuator comprises a sound activated member.
19. A paintball delivery system as recited in claim 17, wherein said actuator comprises an electrical contact.
20. A paintball delivery system as recited in claim 17, wherein said actuator comprises a break-beam device.
21. A paintball delivery system as recited in claim 17, wherein said actuator comprises a reflector.
22. A paintball delivery system as recited in claim 14, wherein said container further comprises:
an inlet through which paintballs can be received into said chamber; and
an outlet port through which said paintballs are delivered to said firing mechanism, wherein said outlet port is aligned with said delivery cavity.
23. A paintball marker system comprising:
a paintball marker having a firing mechanism;
a hopper, wherein said hopper comprises:
a chamber having an inlet for receiving one or more paintballs and an outlet for delivering said one or more paintballs to said firing mechanism of said paintball marker;
a delivery cavity configured to receive said one or more paintballs received within said chamber; and
an auger at least partially disposed within said chamber, wherein said auger is about parallel to said delivery cavity and configured to advance said one or more paintballs along said delivery cavity to said outlet.
24. A paintball marker system as recited in claim 23, wherein said paintball marker system further comprises:
a drive system configured to turn said auger.
25. A paintball marker system as recited in claim 24, said drive system comprising a motor and an actuator electrically coupled to said motor, said actuator being configured to cause said motor to selectively operate said motor.
26. A paintball marker system as recited in claim 24, wherein said drive system is at least partially contained within said hopper.
27. A paintball marker system as recited in claim 23, further comprising:
a feed tube disposed between said outlet and said firing mechanism.
28. A paintball marker system as recited in claim 23, wherein said hopper has an elongate configuration and is mounted to said paintball marker about parallel to a barrel of said paintball marker.
29. A paintball marker system as recited in claim 28, wherein said auger and said delivery cavity are oriented along said elongate configuration of said hopper.
30. A paintball marker system as recited in claim 29, wherein said one or more paintballs are gravity fed from said chamber to said delivery cavity.
31. A paintball marker system as recited in claim 30, wherein said one or more paintballs are force fed from said delivery cavity to said outlet.
32. A paintball marker system as recited in claim 23, wherein said delivery cavity and said auger are configured to advance said one or more paintballs in a single row to said paintball marker.
33. A paintball marker system as recited in claim 23, wherein said hopper is mounted to said paintball marker, said hopper being mounted below a barrel of said paintball marker.
34. A paintball marker system as recited in claim 23, wherein said hopper is mounted to said paintball marker, said hopper being top-mounted above a barrel of said paintball marker.
35. A paintball marker system as recited in claim 23, wherein a butt-stock is mounted to said paintball marker, and wherein said hopper is at least partially contained within said butt-stock.
36. A paintball marker system as recited in claim 23, wherein said hopper is a backpack.
37. A paintball marker system as recited in claim 23, said hopper being a hand grip configured to allow a user to stabilize said paintball marker.
Description
CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims priority to, and the benefit of, U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/748,038, filed on Dec. 7, 2005, and entitled “PAINTBALL DELIVERY SYSTEM,” the disclosure of which is incorporated herein, in its entirety, by this reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. The Field of the Invention

The present invention generally relates to sporting equipment and, more particularly, to paintball systems.

2. The Relevant Technology

Over the last decade, paintball games and competitions have become very popular. In conventional paintball games and competitions, the object is to hit your opponent with a paintball and have the paintball break upon impact, thereby marking the opponent and removing them from the game. Such games and competitions can be played in any of a variety of locations, both indoors and outdoors, and in locations which are dedicated or not dedicated to such activities. Moreover, persons may participate in paintball activities as individuals or as members of a team. Further, civilians can play paintball as a game, for recreation or sport, or now even as a profession. Military personnel may further play paintball games as part of their training.

Conventional paintballs are generally spherical and typically include a shell that encapsulates a marking substance. The marking substance (typically referred to as “paint”) may include any of a variety of substances configured to leave a mark on the target which it hits. One exemplary marking substance comprises vegetable oil, water and a coloring agent. Conventional shells are typically relatively thin and configured to break upon impact, allowing the marking substance to mark an opponent.

Conventional paintball systems may include a gun (or marker) configured to fire paintballs at, for example, a target or an opponent. Conventional paintball systems may also include a hopper connected to the marker. The hoppers are typically mounted on an upper portion of the marker. Typically, conventional hoppers are configured to load paintballs into the marker by using a gravity feed. Other conventional hoppers are configured to load paintballs into the marker using a mechanical pump and/or gravity.

When selecting a hopper, a player typically must take into account a variety of factors, including the hopper size and its capacity. Advantageously, a smaller hopper which is mounted on top of the marker presents a smaller potential target for opponents to hit, as compared to a larger hopper, and may be less obstructive to a player's view. A smaller hopper may, however, also have a smaller capacity, thereby requiring that the player repeatedly refill the small hopper. To refill the hopper, a player generally must divert at least part of his or her attention to filling the hopper, thereby making the player a more vulnerable target. In contrast to the smaller hoppers, the larger hoppers may have larger paintball capacities, advantageously reducing the number of times players must refill their hoppers. Unfortunately, however, a larger hopper may present an even larger potential target for opponents to hit and may be more obstructive to a player's view.

Players typically prefer markers with higher firing rates in order to shoot more paintballs in less time, which may increase their chances of hitting a target such as an opponent. In fact, marker firing rate can be a very important factor in a marker purchase. Consequently, many marker manufacturers tout their marker's firing rate, which is often their marker's “dry” firing rate (that is, the firing rate without any paintballs actually being loaded into the marker).

However, to fire a paintball in practice, the marker typically must wait for the paintball to be loaded into the marker (sometimes called “drop time”) and for the paintball to settle in the marker (sometimes called “paintball debounce time”). In particular, if the marker is fired before the paintball is properly loaded and settled, a bolt of the marker could break the paintball. This breakage could create a mess within the marker, thereby requiring substantial cleaning before the marker could properly function (or even function at all). During a competitive paintball game, players may not have sufficient time to clean up such a mess. And, even if the players had sufficient time, the players would be more vulnerable targets while cleaning their systems. Consequently, this paintball breakage would leave players with two poor alternatives: playing with an improperly functioning (or non-functioning) paintball system or cleaning their paintball systems with a higher risk of being hit by an opponent.

Waiting for the drop time and/or the bounce time associated with a particular hopper or other loading system may disadvantageously reduce a marker's effective firing rate. Unfortunately, the drop times and/or the debounce times associated with some conventional hoppers may be relatively long. Further, because the drop times for some conventional hoppers may vary significantly, a marker may have to wait for a drop time that accommodates all or most of those varied drop times in order to eliminate or reduce the risk of unintentional paintball breakage.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to paintball markers and, more specifically, delivery systems used to feed paintballs to a paintball gun. As noted above, hoppers which deliver paintballs by using gravity alone can, in some cases, result in a paintball not being available to a user of a paintball marker when the user desires to fire the marker. These problems are overcome by the herein disclosed systems and apparatus for providing a paintball hopper or feeding system which feeds paintballs to a user in an efficient and consistent manner.

In general, a paintball delivery system according to the present invention includes a container and a drive system which acts in concert with the drive system to deliver paintballs to a paintball marker. The drive system can include, for example, an auger which has a number of pockets configured to each receive a paintball spaced along the length of the auger. A delivery cavity can run parallel to the auger and can act in concert with the pockets. For instance, as the auger rotates, the pockets may move along the length of the auger, thereby propelling the paintballs within the pockets along the length of the delivery cavity, and towards an outlet which leads to the paintball marker. In this manner, the auger can act as a force-feed device for delivering paintballs in a consistent manner, and such that the auger acts as a part of the force-feed device, and not merely as an agitator which facilitates the gravity feed of paintballs.

According to other embodiments, a paintball delivery system is contemplated which includes a container adapted to hold and facilitate delivery of paintballs to a paintball marker, and includes a chamber and an delivery cavity that is configured to hold, at any particular time, less than all of the paintballs which are held within the container. This allows the user to use container as a hopper and, without changing the container, insert additional paintballs therein which can then be fed to the marker.

To feed the paintballs to the marker, the delivery system can also include a drive system at least partially housed within the container and which includes an auger next to the delivery cavity, the auger being configured to advance the paintballs within the delivery cavity to a paintball marker. A power system any also be included to turn the auger and advance paintballs along the delivery cavity. An actuator may also be connected to the power system and configured to selectively enable the power system to turn the auger. For instance, a power system may include a motor while the actuator turns the motor on for a specified period of time in response to a detected event. The specified period of time may be that which is sufficient to advance one or more paintballs from the delivery cavity through an outlet in the container.

According to other aspects of the present invention, a paintball marker system is disclosed which includes a paintball having a firing mechanism. A hopper may be used in connection with the paintball marker that includes a chamber having an inlet for receiving one or more paintballs and an outlet through which the paintballs are delivered to the firing mechanism of the paintball marker. A delivery cavity may also be included which is configured to receive one or more paintballs from the chamber, and an auger can be located in the chamber and parallel to the delivery cavity, such that it can advance the paintballs along the delivery cavity to the outlet.

Such a hopper can be connected to the paintball marker in any of a number of manners. For instance, the hopper can be connected below the barrel and can optionally be connected to the barrel. This can further allow the hopper to be used as a hand grip for stabilizing the paintball marker. The hopper can alternatively be top-mounted to the paintball marker. In still other embodiments, the hopper is disposed within a butt-stock of the paintball marker or within a backpack that is then attached to the marker.

These and other objects and features of the present invention will become more fully apparent from the following description and appended claims, or may be learned by the practice of the invention as set forth hereinafter.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

To further clarify the above and other advantages and features of the present invention, a more particular description of the invention will be rendered by reference to specific embodiments thereof which are illustrated in the appended drawings. It is appreciated that these drawings depict only typical embodiments of the invention and are therefore not to be considered limiting of its scope. The invention will be described and explained with additional specificity and detail through the use of the accompanying drawings in which:

FIG. 1 illustrates paintball marker having a gravity fed hopper according to the prior art;

FIG. 2 illustrates a plan view of a paintball marker having a paintball delivery system attached thereto according to one embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 3 illustrates a cross-sectional view of the paintball delivery system of FIG. 2, including an exemplary drive system for feeding to paintballs through an outlet for delivery to a paintball marker, according to one embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 4 illustrates a frontal cross-sectional view of the paintball delivery system of FIG. 2, including an auger for delivery paintballs which are contained within a delivery cavity;

FIGS. 4A-4C illustrate frontal cross-sectional views of alternative embodiments of a paintball delivery system such as that illustrated in FIG. 2;

FIG. 5 illustrates a perspective view of paintball marker having a paintball delivery system connected under the barrel of the paintball marker, according to one embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 6 illustrates a perspective exploded view of various components of the paintball delivery system of FIG. 5;

FIG. 7 illustrates a frontal cross-sectional view of the paintball delivery system of FIG. 5;

FIG. 8 illustrates a paintball marker having a paintball delivery system according to one embodiment of the present invention top-mounted to the paintball marker;

FIG. 9 illustrates an exemplary paintball delivery system according to one embodiment of the present invention in which the paintball delivery system is implemented within a butt stock for a paintball marker; and

FIG. 10 illustrates a paintball delivery system implemented in a backpack, according to one embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Reference will now be made to the figures wherein like structures will be provided with like reference designations. It is understood that the drawings are diagrammatic and schematic representations of presently preferred embodiments of the invention, and are not limiting of the present invention nor are they necessarily drawn to scale. In the following description, numerous specific details are set forth in order to provide a thorough understanding of the present invention. It will be obvious, however, to one skilled in the art that the present invention may be practiced without these specific details. In other instances, well-known aspects of paintball markers and paintballing have not been described in particular detail in order to avoid unnecessarily obscuring the present invention.

FIG. 1 illustrates a simplified prior art marker 10. Paintball marker 10 includes a hopper 12 which stores a number of paintballs which can be fed into the firing chamber of paintball marker 10 and discharged through the barrel of paintball marker 10. As illustrated, hopper 12 sits on top of paintball marker 10 and uses gravity to feed paintballs into the firing chamber of paintball marker 10. A user of paintball marker 10 can then discharge the paintballs by pulling a trigger. The power necessary to propel the paintball is often supplied by compressed air which can be stored in gas canister 14.

Paintball marker 10 can be a semi-automatic and thus can fire paintballs as fast as a user pulls the trigger. However, hopper 12 utilizes gravity to feed paintballs into paintball marker 10. Thus, the speed at which paintballs can be fired are also limited by the speed at which gravity causes the paintballs to drop from the hopper into the firing chamber. Moreover, paintballs can jam within hopper 12, thereby requiring the user to shake paintball marker 10 or releasing the jam by other means.

Now turning to FIG. 2, an exemplary embodiment of a paintball marker 100 is illustrated which includes a paintball delivery system 102 according to one embodiment of the present invention, and which replaces hopper 12 illustrated in FIG. 1. While FIG. 2 does not illustrate a gas canister or other container for holding compressed air, it will be appreciated, that paintball marker 100 of FIG. 2 can incorporate gas canister 14 of FIG. 1 or any other system or device for providing power to discharge paintballs from paintball marker 100.

In the illustrated embodiment, paintball delivery system 102 is configured to mount below the barrel of paintball marker 100. As will be appreciated in light of the disclosure herein, one feature of a paintball delivery system such as paintball delivery system 102 is that it reduces the likelihood of a hopper kill, as compared to a traditional hopper such as that illustrated in FIG. 1. In particular, inasmuch as paintball delivery system 102 does not extend above the barrel, it is produces less of a target area which can be hit in a paintball game or competition.

Although FIG. 2 illustrates paintball delivery system 102 as being positioned below and parallel to the barrel of paintball marker 100, it should be appreciated, particularly in light of the disclosure herein, that this feature is exemplary only and that other configurations are contemplated. For example, in other embodiments, paintball delivery system 102 may be mounted or integrally formed within the butt-stock of paintball marker 100, or can be included in a separate device such as a backpack, thereby also reducing the target area which a traditional hopper creates. In still other embodiments, however, a paintball delivery system according to the present invention can be mounted above the barrel.

As illustrated in FIG. 2, paintball delivery system 102 can include a container 104. Container 104 is configured to act as a reservoir for paintballs, which can then be transferred to the firing chamber of paintball marker 100. Container 104 is, in this embodiment, an elongate container which is about parallel to the barrel of paintball marker 104 and includes an intake 106 into which paintballs can be inserted. For example, as illustrated in FIG. 2, intake 106 can be formed or otherwise created in an outer side surface of container 104. In other embodiments, however, intake 106 may be formed on an end of container 104.

Intake 106 is configured to facilitate the insertion of paintballs into container 104, thereby allowing container 104 to act as a reservoir for such paintballs as they await discharge into paintball marker 100. To maintain the paintballs within container 104, a cover (not shown) may also be mounted to intake 106. For example, such a cover may be entirely detachable from container 104 or may be attached by a pivot, hinge or other mechanism that allows the cover to be selectively removed from covering intake 106. The cover may also be securable to intake 106 by, for example, a lock-fit device, a clamp, magnets, or any other suitable attachment means.

As discussed in greater detail herein, paintball delivery system 102 can be configured to store paintballs within container 104 and to feed the stored paintballs to paintball marker 100. Container 104 may include an outlet 108 which acts as a port through which paintballs exit container 104 and are directed into paintball marker 100. As illustrated in FIG. 2, a feed tube 110 may be disposed between the firing chamber of paintball marker 100 and the outlet 108 of container 104. In this manner, as paintballs exit container 104, they can move through feed tube 110 until they are input into the firing chamber of paintball marker 100.

Feed tube 110 can itself have any suitable configuration. For example, feed tube 110 can be formed of a rigid metal, plastic, composite, or other material, or from a flexible material. One feature of using a flexible material is that it facilitates movement of paintball delivery system 102. For example, paintball delivery system 102 may be selectively moved between a position below the barrel of paintball marker 100 to a position above the barrel, and a flexible feed tube 110 can remain connected to paintball marker 100 and to paintball delivery system 102 and can flex to accommodate the repositioning of paintball delivery system 102. A rigid feed tube may, however, need to be detached from paintball marker 100 and/or paintball delivery system 102 to accommodate such a change in positioning. In other embodiments, however, a rigid feed tube can have multiple interconnected rigid tubes which rotate about their interfaces and/or the interfaces with paintball marker 100 and/or paintball delivery system 102. Such rotational connections may thereby allow container 104 to be repositioned without removing feed tube 110 from paintball marker 100 and/or paintball delivery system 102. A rigid feed tube 110 may also have the feature of providing greater strength and durability such that it has a longer useful life than a flexible feed tube.

Now referring to FIG. 3, additional exemplary aspects of a paintball delivery system, such as paintball delivery system 102 of FIG. 2, are illustrated in additional detail. In particular, FIG. 3 provides a cross-sectional view of one example embodiment of a paintball delivery system 102 having an elongate shape, according to various aspects of the present invention.

Paintball delivery system 102, as illustrated in FIG. 3, includes a container 104, a mount 134 and a cap 136. For example, as illustrated, mount 134 may be connected to a distal end of container 104, while a proximal end of cap 136 is then connected to mount 134. When mount 134 is so connected to container 104 and cap 136, mount 134 acts to separate the interior cavity within container 104 from the cavity within cap 136. One feature of this separation is that container 104 may house any number of paintballs which are then prevented from entering into the interior of cap 136 which may in turn house all or a portion of a drive system 120 used to advance the paintballs.

In particular, as illustrated in FIG. 3, paintball delivery system 102 includes a drive system 120 configured to feed paintballs received within a container 104 towards an output 108, and from which they can be delivered to the firing mechanism of a paintball marker. In the illustrated embodiment, drive system 120 is disposed within each of container 104 and cap 136, although in other embodiments, drive system 120 may be disposed within only one of container 104 and cap 136, or an opening may be provided such that the interior of container 104 is in fluid communication with the interior of cap 136.

A paintball delivery system such as paintball delivery system 102 illustrated in FIG. 3, can be configured to use drive system 120 to advance paintballs to the firing chamber of a paintball marker in a quick, consistent and efficient manner. According to one embodiment of the present invention, this can be performed by a drive system 120 which includes an auger 122 and a motor 125.

Auger 122 is configured to rotate about its longitudinal axis and is sized and configured to advance a paintball along all or a portion of the length of container 104 and out of container 104 through output 108. For example, in the illustrated embodiment, auger 122 includes an elongate axle 123 connected to a helical blade 124. Helical blade 124 in turn forms a plurality of pockets 129 which are sized so as to each receive a single paintball 115. In one embodiment, for example, the pockets, which are formed between adjacent portions of helical blade 124 along the longitudinal axis, are about equal to or slightly larger than the diameter of a desired paintball to be used in paintball delivery system 102. In this manner, a paintball may be positioned within pockets 129 and as helical blade 124 of auger 122 rotates, pockets 129, and thus paintballs 115, move lengthwise, from the distal end of container 104 toward the proximal end of container 104, along the elongate axle 123 of auger 122 where they can then be discharged through output 108 into a paintball marker.

Rotation of axle 123 can be performed by any suitable means. As illustrated in FIG. 3 for example, axle 123 is coupled to a motor 125 which causes axle 123 to rotate, thereby also rotating helical blade 124 and causing paintballs 115 to move along container 104 towards output 108. Motor 125 may be connected to axle 123 in any suitable manner. For instance, in the illustrated embodiment, a rotating disk 126 is coupled to axle 123 and a corresponding disk 127 is coupled to motor 125. Each of disks 126, 127 is configured to receive a drive member configured to transfer the rotational motion of motor 125 to axle 123. For example, a drive belt 128 can be disposed between disks 126, 127 such that as an output shaft of motor 125 rotates, drive belt 128 transfers the same rotational speed to axle 123.

Of course, motor 125 may be coupled to axle 123 in any other suitable manner. For instance, drive belt 123 may be replaced by a chain or other similar drive member. In another alternative, motor 125 may be aligned with and directly connected to axle 123, such that a belt or chain is unnecessary. In still other embodiments, disks 126 and 127 may comprise gears which mesh, or which have one or more intermediate gears therebetween to transfer the rotational motion of the output shaft of motor 125 to axle 123. One feature of using gears to couple motor 125 to axle 123 is that the gear ratio may be changed such that axle 123 rotates at a different rate than the output shaft of motor 125.

Motor 125 may be any type of suitable motor, and no particular motor should be considered limiting of the present invention. One exemplary motor suitable for certain embodiments of the present invention is a 9-18 volt, direct current motor providing a torque of approximately 150 g/cm. Such a motor can be obtained from a variety of sources, including one which has a diameter of about one inch and a length of about one and a third inches. Other motors are, however, equally suitable for use with the present invention. Moreover, in still other embodiments, motor 125 may be replaced by, or supplemented with, a torsion spring which is used to provide rotation of the axle 123, or other devices such as pressurized gas.

In the illustrated embodiment, in which motor 125 is enclosed within cap 136, a power source 130 may also be included within cap 136 so as to provide power with which to operate motor 125 and thereby rotate axle 123 of auger 122. In the illustrated embodiment, power source 130 includes a 9V alkaline battery, although any other suitable power source can be used. For instance, alkaline or lithium batteries may be used in any of a number of sizes and voltage capacities. Moreover, more than a single battery can be used and used in series or parallel. One feature of batteries run in series is that they can be used to provide greater torque, thereby allowing the motor 125 to turn auger 122 at a greater speed, and to provide paintballs to a paintball marker at an even greater rate. In contrast, a feature of embodiments in which the batteries are run in parallel is that one battery may be used as a backup in the event a primary battery becomes disconnected or loses power.

It should also be appreciated in light of the disclosure herein that power source 130 is not limited to batteries or any particular energy source. For example, in other embodiments, a stored energy source such as a torsion spring provides the power. In still another embodiment, solar panels may be used to provide power motor 125.

As further illustrated, drive system 120 can optionally include a mounting member 134 which is disposed between cap 136 and container 104. Mounting member 134 can be connected to container 104 and/or cap 136 is any of a variety of manners. For example, each of container 104, mounting member 134, and cap 136 can be separately formed and thereafter permanently or detachably coupled together. In still another embodiment, mounting member 134 can be integrally formed with container and/or cap 136.

Mounting member 134 can be configured to perform any of a variety of functions. For example, mounting member 134 can have an interior wall which acts as a barrier to the passage of paintballs into cap 136. In particular, as mounting member 134 may mount to the distal end of container 134 and to the proximal end of cap 136, mounting member 136 can provide a barrier which prevents paintballs from within container 104 from passing into and coming into contact with motor 125. One feature of such a separation is that as motor 125 operates, it can radiate heat. When a paintball comes into contact with motor 125, the radiated heat may melt the outer shell of the paintball, causing the interior liquid or gel to leak, thereby dirtying the interior of container 104 and/or cap 136. Moreover, a paintball may rupture even without contact with motor 125, and separation between container 104 and cap 136 can allow a user to more easily clean the interior of paintball delivery system 102.

While the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 3 illustrates cap 136 and mounting member 134 disposed on the distal end of container 104, it will be appreciated in light of the disclosure herein that this feature is exemplary only. For example, in other embodiments, cap 136 and mounting member 134 are disposed on the proximal end of cap 136, and output 108 can be located at the distal end of container 104, at the proximal end of container 104, or can pass through mounting member 134 and/or cap 136.

Motor 125 may run continually, thereby continually rotating auger 122 to deliver paintballs to a user of a paintball marker. In alternative embodiments, however, motor 125 is selectively operated and/or auger 122 is selectively rotated so as to provide paintballs on-demand and only when needed by the user. Accordingly, in some embodiments, power system 120 includes an actuator 132 to control the selective operation of motor 125 and/or auger 122.

Any of a variety of types of actuators can be used as actuator 132, and no particular type of actuator is limiting of the present invention. For example, according to one embodiment, actuator 132 includes a sound-activated electronic board. In such a case, a particular level sound frequency and/or decibel can be recognized by the sound-activated electronic board. In response to such a sound, the board generates an actuation signal which is passed to motor 125 and which causes motor 125 to operate for a specified period of time.

A sound-activated electronic board can thus be configured to recognize the sound generated by a paintball marker when it fires a paintball. In this manner, each time a paintball is fired, the sound-activated electronic board can activate motor 125 and cause auger 122 to deliver another paintball out of output 108. To deliver a proper number of paintballs, the time which motor 125 operates can be determined based in some part on the size of pockets 129. In particular, motor 125 can be actuated for a period of time sufficient to move a paintball 115 the length of a single pocket 129, such that upon subsequent activation of motor 125, auger 122 has pockets 129 positioned in about the same location, or at exactly the same location, as the position of pockets 129 for the prior round.

As noted previously, actuator 132 can include any suitable type of actuation means for selectively operating motor 125 and in turn rotating auger 122. For example, in another embodiment, an electrical or magnetic contact is formed between the trigger of the paintball marker and a contact switch, such that when the trigger is pulled, the contact switch on the trigger will interact with the contact on the marker, thereby causing an activation signal to be sent to, and to cause activation of, motor 125 for a specified amount of time, in turn operating auger to advance a paintball 115 a specified distance.

A number of other actuation means are also expressly contemplated, and any suitable actuation means for selectively operating motor 125 may be used. In other embodiments, for example, a reflection device can be used at or near output 108 which detects movement in paintballs through to or through an attached feed tube. For example, such a device can use lasers and reflective mirrors to monitor the position of adjacent paintballs. In another embodiment, a break beam device may be implemented in which a laser or infra-red light beam is passed transverse to the path the paintball travels to the paintball marker. As a paintball moves along the path, it interferes with, or breaks the beam across its path. Such interference can be used to generate an activation signal which causes motor 125 to selectively activate for a particular period of time. Other activation means may also be implemented, which can be mechanical, electrical or optical means or devices, or any combination thereof, including toggle switches, pressure sensors, accelerometers, proximity sensors, and the like.

Actuator 132 may also comprise safety or other devices which can selectively operate motor 125. For example, according to one embodiment, actuator 132 includes an on/off switch or toggle which allows a user to selectively control when the motor will or will not actuate. In this manner, if actuator 132 is turned off and the paintball marker is inadvertently fired, no additional paintballs may be delivered to the marker's firing chamber. In this manner, the actuator 132 may also be operated as a device safety.

To allow a user to efficiently determine the status of actuator 132, a status indicator (not shown) may also be provided. For example, a two-color LED may be provided which indicates a first color (e.g., green) when actuator 132 is in an on-mode, and indicates a second color (e.g., red) when activator 132 is in an off-mode. Of course, other indicators may also be used. Moreover, actuator 132 may also include a feedback system which can sense when a paintball jams within container 104. For example, a sensor may be included within container 104, or a strain gauge may be used which detects when auger 122 is jammed or when excess strain is being placed on motor 125. In such a case, the feedback system can automatically stop the motor and prevent further activation of motor 125. Furthermore, the feedback system may alert the user of the problem by, for example, illuminating an LED indicative of a problem in container 104.

Turning now to FIG. 4, an additional cross-sectional view of an exemplary paintball delivery system 102 is illustrated. In particular, FIG. 4 illustrates a cross-sectional view of container 104 from its distal end. To operate paintball delivery system 102 in a quick, efficient and consistent manner, a user places paintballs into container 104 through intake 106. In particular, intake 106 can be formed through the surface of container 104, thereby providing an opening into a first chamber 112 which the user can use to hold and store paintballs. Intake 106 may be sized and configured in any desirable manner and even according to a user's preference. For example, intake 106 may be sized so as to allow a relatively large or small quantity of paintballs to pass therethrough at any given time.

Similarly, first chamber 112 may can be sized and configured to accommodate a user's preference in the number of paintballs the user would like stored therein. A large first chamber 112 will allow more paintballs to be stored therein as compared to a relatively smaller chamber 112. Of course, a user may prefer a relatively small chamber such as where, for example, a game of relatively short duration is expected such that not many paintballs are needed, or where the weight of the paintball marker and/or container 104 is a concern to the user.

In the illustrated orientation, as paintballs are received in chamber 112, gravity causes the paintballs to drop from first chamber 112 towards auger 122. Container 104 can also include a second chamber 113 positioned adjacent auger 122 and which is at least partially defined by container 104. Second chamber 113 is configured to receive paintballs as they drop from first chamber 112. Accordingly, in the illustrated orientation of paintball delivery system 102, first chamber 112 is an upper chamber and second chamber 113 is a lower chamber.

Second chamber 112 can also be configured to maintain the received paintballs in contact with auger 122, thereby aligning paintballs 115 for delivery out of output 108. More particularly, as paintballs fall from first chamber 112 into second chamber 113, the paintballs align themselves within the longitudinal pockets 126 (FIG. 3) of auger 122, and between auger 122 and the interior surface of second chamber 113. In this manner, as auger 122 rotates and moves paintballs 115, second chamber 113, in which paintballs 115 are located, acts as a guide or rail which facilitates the advancement of paintballs 115 towards an attached paintball marker. For example, as illustrated in FIG. 4, second chamber 113 can cause paintballs 115 to advance towards output 108 along a single row which is about parallel to the longitudinal axis of elongate auger 122 and about parallel to the elongate configuration of container 104.

Thus, second chamber 113 can be sized, configured and oriented so as to receive paintballs therein when drive system 120 is in place and/or operating. Second chamber 113 acts in concert with drive system 120 to advance paintballs from first chamber 112 to the paintball marker to be fired. In one embodiment, second chamber 113 defines a cavity which has a proximal end adjacent output 108 and is positioned substantially on the bottom side of container 104 and extends substantially the length of container 104. As will be appreciated in light of the disclosure herein, second chamber 113 may also be sized, positioned and oriented in a variety of other manners in order to facilitate delivery of paintballs to output 108. For example, in other embodiments, second chamber 113 may be curved, helical, or otherwise not follow a substantially straight path.

Accordingly, according to aspects of an exemplary embodiment of the present invention, an auger 122 cooperates with a second chamber 113, into which paintballs 115 are positioned when they are to be advanced toward output 108. Moreover, output 108 may be aligned with second chamber 113 so as to receive paintballs 115 as they exit second chamber 113. In this manner, paintballs 115 can be gravity fed into position along auger 122 and thereafter force fed by auger 122 through output 108 to a paintball marker. To facilitate transmission of paintballs 115 to the paintball marker, output 108 may thus be aligned with second chamber 113 such that paintballs receive

While FIG. 4, illustrates a single row of paintballs within container 104, it will be appreciated in light of the disclosure herein that this is for clarity purposes only and that a larger quantity of paintballs may be stored in container 104, such as within first chamber 112. In this manner, a large number of paintballs can be stored in container 104, and optionally located in contact with auger 122, while less than the total number of paintballs are positioned within second chamber 113 and within pockets 126 (FIG. 3) of auger 122. Thus, less than all of the paintballs contained in container 104 can be in position to be advanced to an attached paintball marker. In this manner, container 114 can act similar to a traditional hopper which allows a user to add paintballs therein at any time. Thereafter, as a paintball 115 is advanced from the proximal end of second chamber 113 into output 108, an additional pocket opens at the distal end of auger 122, thereby creating an opening for one of the paintballs held in first chamber 112. Thus, when one paintball exits through output 108, a paintball from first chamber 112 can then fall into place in the now-open pocket. Accordingly, auger 122 and second chamber 113, which define a force-feed mechanism, can receive paintballs 115 at any time, including while an attached paintball marker is being used, without requiring the paintballs to be preloaded or container 104 be removed or replaced.

In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 4, auger 122 and second chamber 113 are positioned at towards the bottom of container 104. Thus it can be seen that auger 122 and/or second chamber 113 need not be centered within container 104, although in other embodiments, one or more of auger 122 and/or second chamber 113 is centered within container 104. In particular, FIG. 4 illustrates an exemplary embodiment in which container 104 has a generally cylindrical configuration and a generally circular cross-section. Along the perimeter of container 104, however, is a projection 138 centered in which is auger 122. Projection 138 can extend the entire length of container 104, a length corresponding to the elongate length of auger 122, or any other suitable length. Thus, auger 122 can be positioned within the cavity formed by projection 138 while it rotates about its longitudinal axis.

In some embodiments, a projection 139 is also formed in the perimeter of container 104 which corresponds to second chamber 113. For example, in FIG. 4, projection 139 is adjacent projection 138 of auger 122. Projection 139 creates a cavity into which paintballs 115 can fall enter into second chamber 113 and are positioned along side, and moved longitudinally by, auger 122.

While one or more projections can be formed to define a cavity for auger 122 and/or for second chamber 122, it should be appreciated that FIG. 4 is exemplary only and that other configurations are suitable. For example, in another embodiment, a third projection may be formed on the right side of projection 138, and on the opposite side of auger 122. The third projection may define a third cavity which provides a third chamber into which paintballs can be force-fed out of an output from container 104. Thus, a second row of paintballs may be formed which are in position to be output to an attached paintball marker. In a configuration in which auger 122 has a single helical blade, it will be appreciated that pockets in auger 122 which are aligned with the third chamber may be offset at a different longitudinal position from the pockets which are aligned with second chamber 113. In still other embodiments, however, auger may have a double-helix configuration, thereby providing pockets on each side which are at an equal longitudinal position.

FIGS. 4A-C illustrate still other alternative configurations of an exemplary paintball delivery system. FIGS. 4-4C are not intended as an exhaustive description of suitable arrangements for a paintball delivery system, but are instead provided merely to illustrate that a number of viable configurations and arrangements may be used in accordance with the present invention.

For example, FIG. 4A illustrates a container 104 a which has a generally circular cross section, and in which a projection 139 a is formed to at least partially define second chamber 113. In contrast to the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 4, however, container 104 a includes an auger 122 which is adjacent the cavity formed by projection 139 a, but does sit within a separate projection. Auger 122 is instead aligned with projection 139 a and is situated within first chamber 112. Moreover, while projection 139 a projects to the left, it will be appreciated that it could alternatively slant to the right, or could project downward. In this embodiment, paintballs may still drop from the first chamber 112 into the second chamber 113 b defined by projection 139 b, where they are engaged by auger 122 and propelled longitudinally along container 104 towards an output.

FIG. 4B illustrates a similar arrangement in which a single projection 139 b is formed in circular container 104 b and configured to at least partially define second chamber 113. In this example embodiment, auger 122 is positioned within first chamber 112, and is not aligned with projection 139 a, but is instead offset to the left of projection 139 a, allowing a larger gap through which paintballs can pass into second chamber 113.

FIG. 4C illustrates yet another example embodiment of a container 104 c which can be implemented with aspects of the present invention. In the illustrated embodiment, container 104 c has a generally circular cross-section but does not include any projections in its outer surface into which auger 122 or second chamber 113 is situated. Instead, within container 104 c, there are various plates 139 c-e which direct paintballs as they fall from first chamber 112 into second chamber 113. Thus, second chamber 113 can be defined by the perimeter of container 104 c and the left plate 139 c. Another feature of plates 139 c-e are that they facilitate the proper placement of paintballs as they move from first chamber 112. For example, right plate 139 e can extend substantially the length of container 104 c, and prevents paintballs from dropping to a position to the right of auger 122 where it may be difficult to move the paintball into a pocket on the left of auger 122 and within second chamber 113. Similarly, plate 139 d acts to prevent a paintball from dropping to the left of plate 139 c, where it too may be difficult to move the paintball into second chamber 113.

Now turning to FIG. 5, another example embodiment of a paintball marker 200 is illustrated which includes still another example embodiment of a paintball delivery system 202. In the illustrated embodiment, paintball delivery system 202 is optionally configured to mount below the barrel of paintball marker 200. As described previously, one feature of such a configuration is that it can reduce the likelihood that the paintball delivery system 202, which can act as a hopper, will be exposed for a hopper kill.

Another feature of a paintball delivery system 202 such as that illustrated in FIG. 5 is that it can be used by the user of paintball marker 200 to support the weight of paintball marker 200 and/or to improve the stability of paintball marker 200. In particular, paintball delivery system 202 may configured to attach directly below, and optionally directly to, the barrel of paintball marker 200, such that it can be used as a hand grip by the user. By grasping paintball delivery system 202, the user can exercise better leverage on paintball marker 200, making it easier to control, carry and shoot. Moreover, the improved leverage and control of paintball marker 200 improves the stability of paintball marker 200 while it is being shot by the user, thereby also improving the user's accuracy.

An exemplary exploded assembly view of paintball delivery system 202 from FIG. 5 is illustrated in FIG. 6. In particular, according to the illustrated embodiment, paintball delivery system 202 includes a container 204, a cap 236, and a mounting member 234 configured to connect cap 236 to container 204. Container 204, cap 236 and mounting member 234 are similar to container 104, cap 126 and mounting member 134 of FIG. 3, and can thus incorporate similar features and provide similar functions.

In contrast to the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 3, paintball delivery system 202 illustrates cap 236 and cover 234 mounted on the proximal end of container 204. In some embodiments, output 208 extends adjacent to, or through cap 236. One feature of this arrangement is that it allows an actuator within cap 236 to selectively activate a motor, which turns auger 222, more effectively. In particular, as disclosed above, various actuator means can optionally be used in connection with embodiments of the present invention to control the motor based on the movement of paintballs from container 204 into an adjacent feed tube.

For example, a reflective device or beam-break device may selectively activate the motor based on when it is determined that a paintball has moved with respect to container 204. In particular, as a paintball marker fires a paintball and loads the next paintball into the firing chamber, some or all of the paintballs in the feed tube may move closer towards the firing chamber, thereby also allowing to advance within container 204 and output port 208. As such movement occurs, the movement can first be detected near output 208. In a configuration such as that illustrated, in which cap 236 is positioned adjacent to output port 208, this movement can thereby be detected more quickly, and an activation signal can thus be sent to a motor more quickly, thereby providing a greater response time to constantly and consistently supply paintballs to a user, thereby improving the user's paintball experience.

Cap 236 can be mounted to container 204 in any suitable manner. For example, as further illustrated in FIG. 5, cap 236 may include a plurality of tabs 221 which extend distally from cap 236 toward container 204. Container 204 may correspondingly include a plurality of openings 223 which are formed in its shell. Openings 223 can be configured to mate with tabs 221 which cap 236 is mounted to container 204. In particular, as cap 236 is moved distally toward container 204, such that tabs 221 engage and come into contact with container 204, tabs 221 may flex inwardly, thereby allowing container 204 to slide over the top of tabs 221. As cap 236 continues to move distally, to a point where the distal end of cap 236 engages the proximal end of container 204, tabs 221 may come into alignment with openings 223, thereby allowing tabs 221 to flex outwardly. Tabs 221 may, on their proximal end, have an abrupt or sharp end. As tabs 221 flex into place, this sharpened end thereby effectively locks tabs 221 into openings 223, thereby preventing inadvertent removal of container 204 from cap 236.

To thereafter release container 204 from cap 236, a user can simultaneously depress each of the tabs 221 through openings 223 in the shell of container 204. By depressing tabs 221, tabs 221 are caused to again flex inwardly, releasing the lock-fit, and allowing container 204 to be quickly and efficiently removed from cap 236. It is also considered that a release fit may be made by other means. For example, tabs may be formed on container 204 and corresponding openings formed in cap 236.

One feature of a removable container is that it can be efficiently cleaned. As discussed herein, paintballs may rupture inadvertently, thereby causing paint to leak therefrom. If a paintball ruptures within container 204, or paint from a ruptured paintball is on the exterior of a paintball that is placed within container 204, the paint can get within, and dirty, container 204. In other cases, a paintball placed within container 204 may have dirt or grit affixed to its outer surface which can also dirty the interior of container 204.

Thus, to clean container 204 and remove the paint, grime, or other dirt therein, container 204 can be removed from cap 236. Optionally, selectively removing container 204 from its connection with cap 236 also removes auger 222 from within container 204. Once removed, either with or without auger 222, the interior of container 204 is easily exposed to the user, thereby allowing a user to quickly and efficiently clean the interior of container 204 and/or auger 222.

As discussed previously, a paintball delivery system according to aspects of the present invention can include a depletable power source, such as a battery, which can operate a motor, an actuator, or some other device or mechanism within the paintball delivery system. In some embodiments, such as that further illustrated in FIG. 6, paintball delivery system 202 may also be configured to allow a user to quickly and efficiently replace such a power source.

In particular, in the illustrated embodiment, a motor and/or actuation means for selectively operating the motor may be contained within cap 236. Such means and devices may use power from a battery or other depletable power source. To provide the power, a window (not shown) can be formed in cap 236 which is sized and configured to receive a corresponding battery or other power source. For example, such a window or opening may be sized so as to receive two 9V batteries, although other types, sizes, and capacities of batteries may also be used or inserted therein. Within the window, suitable electrical contacts can be provided which are connected to suitable wiring or circuitry which completes a circuit with the motor, actuation means or other device. As discussed previously, such a circuit may run from multiple power sources either in parallel or in series, as desired. Optionally, a switch can be provided to allow the user of paintball delivery system 202 to select whether the power sources operate in parallel or in series.

In embodiments using a window or other device for allowing replacement of depletable power sources, a door (not shown) may also be provided in connection with the window. The window door can, according to some embodiments, slideably engage the window and optionally be removable therefrom. In this manner, when a user desires to check the power level of an enclosed power source, or to replace such a power source, the user can slide the door such that it opens the window for access. It will be appreciated that a door can also engage or be connected to a window in other manners. For example, a door may be pivotally connected to cap 236 so as to selectively cover the window. Alternatively, snap-fits may be used to connect a door to a window.

Turning now to FIG. 7, a cross-sectional view of the paintball delivery system 202 of FIG. 5 is illustrated to show additional aspects of some example embodiments of the present invention. In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 7, a paintball delivery system 202 includes a container 204 which is configured to be any suitable size, shape and configuration. In this example embodiment, a user may use an intake 206 (FIG. 5) which is in communication with a first chamber 212 within container 204 to insert paintballs into container 204. In particular, the user can drop paintballs into intake 206 where they then pass into first chamber 212.

In the illustrated embodiment, first chamber 212 has a generally rectangular configuration with a notch 245 formed on the upper side thereof, although any other suitable configuration can be used. One feature of notch 245 on the upper side of container 204 is that it allows container 204 to be placed adjacent the barrel of an attached paintball marker. In particular, notch 245 can be contoured such that it approximately matches the shape of the marker barrel. Thus, when paintball delivery system 202 is attached to the paintball marker, the barrel of the marker can rest within notch 245. The elongate shape of container 204 provides an elongate notch 245 in which the barrel can rest, thereby providing additional support for the barrel. Such support further allows a user to use paintball delivery system as a hand grip and achieve greater stability and control over the paintball marker, thereby also improving the accuracy when firing a paintball.

Optionally, a shroud 246 may be mounted to container 204. In the illustrated embodiment, for example, shroud 246 is mounted on the top portion of container 204 and is adjacent notch 245. Shroud 246 is configured such that as a user mounts paintball delivery system 202 to a paintball marker, and places the barrel of the marker within notch 245, shroud 246 covers the barrel and can further be mounted to the barrel or other portion of the marker to securely mount paintball delivery system 202 to the paintball marker.

In the illustrated embodiment, container 204 is at least partially separated into distinct chambers. In particular, and by way of example only, container 204 includes a first chamber 212 into which paintballs are received. A second chamber 213 is disposed below first chamber 212 and has an auger 222 disposed therein. Second chamber 213 is configured to receive paintballs as they drop from first chamber 212 into one or more pockets within auger 222. In particular, as previously described, auger 222 can include a helical plate and an axle which is centered on the longitudinal axis of auger 222. The helical plate winds around the axle and forms multiple pockets which extend along the longitudinal axis of auger 222. Paintballs may then fall into these pockets and, as auger 222 is rotated, the paintballs move along the length of container 204 toward outlet 208 where they can be delivered to a paintball marker through a feed tube 210.

The use of auger 222 to deliver paintballs to the paintball marker can thus operate to provide paintballs in a quick, efficient and consistent manner. To further enhance the consistency with which the paintballs are delivered, second chamber 213 may further be configured to define a path along which the paintballs within the pockets of auger 222 follow. For instance, as illustrated in FIG. 7, the interior surface of container 204 may be contoured to define at least part of a cavity along which paintballs can travel for delivery to outlet 208 which is aligned with the cavity. In particular, and by way of example only, the interior surface of container 204 includes a lip 209 which can be contoured to approximately match the curvature of paintballs within second chamber 213. Thus, lip 209 defines at least a portion of the cavity in which the paintballs travel, and can act as a rail along which the paintballs move as they are driven towards outlet 208 by auger 222. It should be appreciated in light of the disclosure herein, however, that lip 209 is but one method for defining the cavity in which the paintballs are delivered by auger 222 to outlet 208. For instance, in other embodiments, a rail or plate may be used, or the bottom surface of container 208 may be contoured to provide an additional recess in which the paintballs can be situated.

In the illustrated embodiment, auger 222 has pockets along its longitudinal axis and the cavity in which the paintballs travel is parallel to the longitudinal axis of auger 222. In this manner, the predefined path along which the paintballs travel while being fed to outlet 208 by auger 222 does not wind around auger 222, but is substantially straight and parallel to the longitudinal axis of auger 222. It should be appreciated in light of the disclosure herein that this is exemplary only and that in other embodiments, the cavity in which the paintballs travel may not be straight or may not be parallel to the longitudinal axis about which auger 222 rotates. For example, a path may be defined which winds at least partially around auger 222. In another example embodiment, an auger may have a tapered or conical configuration and the paintballs may move closer to, or further away from, the longitudinal axis of auger 222 as they advance towards outlet 208.

As is also illustrated in FIG. 7, one or more plates 247 may be situated with the interior of container 104 and may be used for any of a variety of purposes. For instance, in the illustrated embodiment, plate 247 is positioned between, and at least partially separates, first chamber 212 and second chamber 213. In particular, plate 247 is situated adjacent auger 222 on a side opposite the cavity in which paintballs travel to outlet 208. On feature of such a configuration is that plate 247 can prevent paintballs stored within first chamber 212 dropping into second chamber 213 except into the desired locations within the pockets of auger 222. As a paintball falls from first chamber 213 and hits against plate 247, plate 247 thus directs the paintball towards the pockets in auger 222.

While FIGS. 2-7 generally illustrate and describe various paintball delivery systems which can be implemented in connection with a paintball marker and which can be optionally attached to the marker in a configuration which is parallel to, and positioned below, the barrel of the paintball marker, it will be appreciated that such a configuration and orientation is merely one manner of implementing aspects of the present invention, and that other configurations are contemplated. For example, FIGS. 8-10 illustrate various other embodiments of alternative configurations of a paintball delivery system according to other aspects of the present invention. It will be appreciated that FIGS. 8-10 are illustrated schematically, and that the respective paintball delivery systems therein can incorporate any or all of the features previously discussed with respect to FIGS. 2-7.

Now turning to FIG. 8, an exemplary paintball marker system 300 is illustrated in which a paintball delivery system 302 is top-mounted to the barrel of paintball marker 300. Paintball marker 300 may have an interior configuration similar to any paintball marker system previously described and can, for example, include an auger and a cavity defining a predefined path along which paintballs can travel, in accordance with embodiments of the invention as previously described herein.

To use paintball delivery system 302, a user can insert paintballs into a container 304 by using an intake 306 which is in communication with the interior of container 304. The paintballs within container 204 may then be delivered by a drive system to a feed tube 310 through which they are delivered to the paintball marker 300.

While FIG. 8 illustrates a paintball delivery system 302 which is top-mounted to paintball marker 300 about its barrel, it should be appreciated that this is exemplary only. In particular, paintball delivery system 302 can be top-mounted to various other portions of paintball marker 302, such as above the trigger guard or above the ammo feeder. Indeed feed tube 310 can be eliminated in some embodiments inasmuch as paintball delivery system 302 may be attached to paintball marker 300 in such a location that it can directly attach the outlet of paintball delivery system 302 to the ammo feeder.

Moreover, while paintball delivery system 302 has an elongate configuration which is generally parallel to the longitudinal axis of paintball marker 300, this feature is exemplary only. For example, in other embodiments, paintball delivery system 302 may be arranged vertically or orthogonally with respect to the longitudinal axis of paintball marker 300.

Now turning to FIG. 9, still another example embodiment of a paintball delivery system is illustrated according to another aspect of the present invention. In the illustrated embodiment, a schematic, cross-sectional view of a paintball delivery system 402 is illustrated as it may be implemented in the butt-stock of a paintball marker.

In the illustrated embodiment, paintball delivery system 402 thus has the configuration of a butt stock which delivers paintballs to an attached paintball marker according to aspects of embodiments of the present invention. For example, paintball delivery system 402 can include a container 404 which has the shape of a butt-stock and which is configured to mount to a paintball marker. An auger 422 may thus be disposed within container 402. Paintballs can then be received within an intake 406 which includes an optional cover 407 which can be used to shut intake 406 when sufficient paintballs have been added, or when otherwise desired, such as when participating in live action during a paintball game or competition.

Paintballs received within container 404 may then be delivered to auger 422. Auger 422 can selectively rotate as necessary to provide paintballs out of an outlet 408, where they can then be delivered to the firing mechanism of the paintball marker. In this embodiment, rotation of auger is controlled by a drive system that includes a power source 425 and a plurality of gears 426, 427 which translate to auger 422 the rotational power output by power source 425. Gears 426, 427 may be of any suitable size or configuration. For example, gears 426, 427 may be helical gears, spur gears, bevel gears, worm gears, or the like. Moreover, gears 426, 427 may effect a gear ratio change such that auger 422 rotates at a rate which is different than the output shaft of power source 425.

Gears 426, 427 are, however, exemplary only and other mechanisms may be used to translate power to auger 422 from a power source 425, such as a motor. For instance, in some embodiments, a drive belt or chain may be used to connect auger 422 to power source 425. In other embodiments, a rotational coupling may be used to directly couple auger 422 to power source 425.

Now turning to FIG. 10, still another embodiment of an exemplary paintball delivery system 502 is illustrated. In the illustrated configuration, paintball delivery system 502 can be implemented within a backpack design such that backpack 504 operates as a container and reservoir for storing a number of paintballs. In the illustrated embodiment, an auger 522 is disposed at the bottom of backpack 504 and can receive paintballs into a number of pockets as they are gravity fed into such pockets.

Auger 522 may be aligned within or adjacent a second chamber such as that previously described, or with a cavity, rail or other structure configured to facilitate advancement of paintballs by auger 522 along a predefined path towards an outlet 508. From outlet 508, the force-fed paintballs may then be delivered to a feed tube 510 which can stretch around the user (e.g., around the waist, under the user's arm) to a firing mechanism of a paintball marker being used by the user.

While the disclosure herein discusses the delivery of paintballs to a paintball marker, it will be appreciated that the application of the invention disclosed herein is not necessarily so limited. For instance, the principles of the present invention can be practiced with regard to the delivery of any round object to any firearm or, more broadly, with regard to the delivery of any object to any desired location.

The present invention may be embodied in other specific forms without departing from its spirit or essential characteristics. The described embodiments are to be considered in all respects only as illustrative and not restrictive. The scope of the invention is, therefore, indicated by the appended claims rather than by the foregoing description. All changes which come within the meaning and range of equivalency of the claims are to be embraced within their scope.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US7441556 *Jan 13, 2006Oct 28, 2008Brant FriesenPaintball feeder
US8375929Sep 29, 2008Feb 19, 2013Kee Action Sports I LlcDevice for storing projectile balls and feeding them into the projectile chamber of a gun
US8381710 *Dec 7, 2010Feb 26, 2013Dong Thanh NguyenPaintball ejecting apparatuses and methods therefor
US8408194Aug 9, 2010Apr 2, 2013Kee Action Sports I LlcProcedure and device for feeding balls into the projectile chamber of a handgun
US20130167821 *Nov 29, 2012Jul 4, 2013Dong Thanh NguyenPaintball ejecting apparatuses and methods therefor
Classifications
U.S. Classification124/31, 124/51.1, 124/49, 124/32, 124/45
International ClassificationF41A19/00
Cooperative ClassificationF41B11/57, F41B11/50
European ClassificationF41B11/57, F41B11/50
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Jul 25, 2007ASAssignment
Owner name: SPECIAL OPS HOLDING, L.L.C., UTAH
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:ORVIS, JARED R.;TARNAWIECKI, BORIS;JOLLEY, LINCOLN;AND OTHERS;REEL/FRAME:019608/0044;SIGNING DATES FROM 20070419 TO 20070716