[dropcap size=small]T[/dropcap]he day the Spire hit the market, it was instantly the most popular high-end loader in paintball. At the time there were three high-end loaders on the market—the Empire Prophecy, Dye Rotor, and Virtue Spire—and the Spire was the clear winner. The Spire was simpler, smaller, lighter, and it just plain worked. That isn’t to say that the loader was perfect; it did have its faults.
The Spire, while amazing, did have some bugs. One trouble spot was the harder bits of plastic used throughout the loader. The Spire used great durable softer plastics in the main body, but Virtue opted for a much firmer and brittle plastic on the back shell, color trim, and button areas.
These areas of firmer plastic were prone to cracking, the back strap being the worst. The back strap would crack along its mounting point, and the power buttons and slide lock would fall off the loader. Virtue later released an improved version of the back strap, but it took around two years for them to do so. The back shell was also an area that had its fair share of weak spots. The back shell was held in place by two tabs that slid into the lower shell; these tabs were small and would often break after moderate to heavy use. Once these tabs broke, the back shell could not be attached the rest of the shell and a new one had to be purchased.
The Spire was a great loader, and my only problem with it was that there were a few parts that could have been made a bit better.
After playing with the Spire III all day and taking it apart several times, it is clear that Virtue tried to remedy the problem the Spire original had. It is also clear that the Spire III is a transitional step forward for the Spire line, rather than a leap.
Physically, the Spire III smartly looks similar to the Spire 200 and Spire 260. I’ve always liked the way the Spire looked. When the Spire 200 was released, it was a break from the norm—its angular design made it stand out against the organic shapes of the Dye Rotor and Empire Prophecy. Moving away from that design aesthetic would have been a mistake and it is good to see Virtue keep with their overall theme of sharp and contrasting lines.
Without question, the biggest change in the Spire III is its shell. Previously, the Spire shell was comprised of three pieces—the back shell, top shell, and bottom shell. While it had three pieces, people rarely ever took apart the top and bottom shells, so in everyday use it was essentially two pieces, the back shell and the top/bottom shell. To remove the internal tray, you needed to remove the back shell and slide the tray out of the back. This is great, but over time a few little plastic tabs would break off and the back shell would not stay attached to the rest of the loader.
Virtue’s solution to the back shell problems was to get rid of it all together. This is great as the back shell was the biggest problem on the Spire 200 and 260. The Spire III now has more of a traditional shell style, splitting the loader into two separate pieces. If you are familiar with the Dye Rotor or HK Army TFX, it is just like that but … on the Rotor and TFX, the shells can easily be separated and you end up with a bottom and top half. The Spire III uses a hinge that keeps the upper and lower shell permanently attached. Think of a clam—it can open on one side, but stays fixed on the other side (although you can take it apart with a screwdriver).
There is no easy way around this; I hate this design. I feel that by having these two pieces attached, Virtue is asking for something to be broken. I can easily see the top half of the shell breaking off when I’m on the field quickly trying to fix my loader. I have no idea why Virtue decided to go with the hinge, when it easily could have been detached like the Rotor or TFX. I guess they maybe didn’t want to directly copy Dye or HK Army, but in doing so they made something more complicated and possibly more prone to breaking.
The Spire has always had one of the best feed systems out of all the high-end paintball loaders, and the Spire III is even better. The Spire was known for feeding any paint under any condition—it just worked all the time, and the same can be said about the Spire III. The Spire III uses the same drive cone design as the original Spire, but with a few improvements.
One of the complaints some players had was that it didn’t feed fast enough. Virtue’s improvements to the feed system have taken care of this. The new drive cone uses longer fingers, allowing it to grab paintballs and feed smoother and faster. Virtue has also upgraded the motor and software to allow for higher feed rates.
Virtue has also made it very easy to disassemble the tray. The board, raceway, and tray can all be taken apart fairly quickly without tools. While this is handy, I don’t think I’ve ever had the need to take the whole tray apart even after using the Spire 260 for nearly two years. If you need everything to be ultra-clean then this is cool, I guess … great feature—I just don’t care about it.
The Spire III also includes a spring ramp that used to be separate (more on that below)
About that spring ramp—it is now a smart spring ramp.
Underneath the smart spring ramp is a microswitch that can tell when the ramp is in the fully extended position (there is no paint pressing it down). When the smart spring ramp senses that there are no paintballs left in the hopper, a speaker will beep once and two LEDs on the side of the loader will continue to glow red until the spring ramp detects paintballs again.
If you don’t like the sound, there is a new force-feed button on the bottom of the hopper that can be pushed in for about two seconds to disable the sound until it is held again.
From testing, the smart spring ramp works great. It was pretty quick to let me know when I needed to reload and worked great at helping direct paintballs into the drive cone.
The placement of the LEDs on the side of the loader is a bit off, though. I couldn’t see them at all when holding the gun and shooting. I had to either lean my head way over or move the gun down a lot to be able to see them—in other words, you are not going to be looking at the LEDs in the heat of battle.
Based on pure performance, the Spire III is an improvement over the Spire. The Spire III’s improved drive cone, software, and motor did improve rate of fire.
Based on our unscientific testing, the Spire III was able to feed around 19 BPS, while the Spire fed around 15 BPS. We used a Dye DM11 with a Virtue board and uncapped full-auto and just went for it.
After the whole day of play with the Spire III, I had zero issues. A good loader should do its job and get out of the way. Shot about two cases of Valken Redemption Pro with no break and no notable performance difference as the day went on.
I’m a huge fan of simplicity—I want stuff to work and not to have to think about it. That is what the Spire has always done and that is what it continues to do. The Spire III’s simple design ensures that it keeps working under all conditions. Its increased durability will result in you playing more paintball and having to worry even less about your equipment.
The only drawback to the Spire III is the feed rate. It can feed in the high teens, but if you need to get in that 20-plus BPS range, the Spire III won’t do it.
If you need a loader that can feed 20-plus BPS, get a Dye Rotor, Dye Rotor R2, or Empire Prophecy Z2.
If you need a loader that can feed under 15 BPS, get a Spire III.
The Spire III is durable, lightweight, simple, easy to disassemble, and, quite simply, it is the best hopper on the market.