Thursday, September 11, 2014

Voberry Dart: Not competition grade.

A little less than a month ago, I was alerted to the appearance of a new low cost Chinese dart on Amazon, from a vendor called Voberry.

Link to product.

At first glance, the image and the "6.7cm" in the description led me to believe these were just more of those cheater-length hard plastic tipped junk darts, but reading the reviews posted on Amazon suggested otherwise, with claims that these were "slightly longer than" Elites and "durable" with no mention of tip glue problems, so I gave them a shot with a 100 round test batch.

Price wise, these are currently at $4.11 shipped per 50 rounds giving a cost of 8.22 cents per round, which is certainly excellent, and competitive with any of the other low-cost darts sold in bulk at the time (such as the well-known "koosh dart" and the "7.2 cm" knockoff Elites).

The seller I purchased from (JLTech1) seems to no longer stock these; however, 2 other sellers do.

The seller shipped via China Post. No functional tracking was provided. The package arrived in about 2 weeks.

Only a few deformed foams were found on opening the package which did recover.


As is standard for bulk darts from Asian vendors, they arrive in 10-round plastic packets.


The foam quality and density is excellent, probably superior to all Nerf brand foams of the modern era. These should last a good long time.

Of note is the foam OD, which is larger than typical .50 cal "stock" foams. I would guess these are a medium spring fit in .530 bore or so.



Fits in Nerf's stock barrels are unusually tight, but within optimal range for springers (whereas most "stock" foams are on the low end and tend to become a match or an overbore and thus underperforming and falling-out as soon as they wear out even a little).


The tip appears to be entirely constructed from a plasticized PVC compound of similar hardness to the thermoplastic elastomer used for genuine Elite tips. This is in common with clone Firefly streamline and elite sold by happyeverydaysales (HEDS) near the end of their dart sales.

The dome has much less tack than said rubber tips, however. This is beneficial for reliability and smooth feeding. These are excellent in magazine compatibility.

The tips are solidly installed on the foam with no dreaded glue faults.

A cross-section reveals the tip construction:


Like Elite tips, these are a 2-part design with a hollow cushioning/ballistic tip dome, vented by a small air hole to allow deflation on impact, with a dense "squib" of a second material forming the core and containing most of the mass.

In this case, the squib material appears to be identical to the dome, however, unlike a real Elite, but like an old-style Streamline.

The two appear to be mated by an overmold process as they are very well welded together and inseparable.

I cannot confirm the mass of these at the moment, but it feels (and shoots like, see chrono data) greater than that of a Streamline - perhaps 1.4g. Also, note the core length, shorter than a Streamline but about twice that of an Elite.


The overall length is very close to that of a Nerf brand full length streamline, not longer as some reviewers suggested.


As usual I put a bunch of these over the chrono. I do not have my full arsenal to test everything at the moment, so certain somewhat important concerns remain unaddressed (such as reliability in mag-fed springers) but at least Update: These have been tested with a Retal and a Stampede and ran fine suggesting no problems with magfed springer breech systems, and functionality of the barrel fit is confirmed with the troublesome Strongarm, which is a bit of a surprise.

Note how low the velocities are. That is consistent with a heavier projectile. I suspect these to be excessively heavy for stock class use. Consistency was OK, but given a heavier mass and lower velocities, I would not rate these well for consistency with a few bothersome numbers seen during this session. The Tacmod snap test numbers were also all over the place and I don't feel as confident with these as with Elite.

Preliminary accuracy observations were not impressive. These feel like Streamlines to shoot. It's like time traveling back to 2011. Elites, at least good ones, definitely have the edge in both time on target and accuracy.

Now here's where things go from OK to a bit sketchy.

Out of the 20 unused darts that I unwrapped for the test shoot, THREE of them came right out of the factory with the tip dome feeling SOLID.

Like it had been pumped full of hotglue by a noob, solid!

Visible through the vent hole was clear material, as used in the tip core...








Here you can see some of it through the split vent hole.


...And cutting one of these in half reveals the cause.


The tip core of this dart has been assembled incorrectly to the dome, apparently by some kind of overmolding process error. No air pocket is left. The weld is still solid as usual. Strange indeed.

Comparison to a normal tip.


Weird!

Such darts are still perfectly functional (if a bit more painful), but do you want to use these where it counts if this is the state of quality control? I don't.

Also, here is a tip half removed from a dissected dart. The glue was easily broken and is applied only to the core, not under the dome. It seems to be the core length and barbs that hold it in place - and the fact that the glue is at least cured, unlike Koosh and many other poorly manufactured Chinese darts.



In the end, I have mixed feelings about these. The quality control and particularly accuracy problems, and the somewhat unhappy figures for velocity and flywheel snap response, mean I will not be buying more of these unless I discover something unknown when I take them to a game.


It is, however, nice to see:

  • A dart (any dart, even versus expensive ZS Elite!) with such good quality foam;
  • Another legitimate dart for under 10 cents a round;
  • A low cost bulk dart WITHOUT a major tip adhesive issue.
If all you need is a cheap dart that will last, these are an excellent choice, perhaps for loaner, backup or rental ammo. However, these are not quite there when it comes to serious gameplay, and ultimately it's a bit a shame because they come very close.

Pending: Magfed springer reliability test. Combat test in next game.

Also, next I will be giving koosh darts a good honest shot (with reglued tips).

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Concept Demolisher Underslung Launcher Relocation

A quick one.

Stock Demmo:



Proposed launcher position change:


Original image credit: Prop Weapons Coop


The number one complaint about the Demolisher's launcher installation is that the overall system is very tall and ungainly. This is not necessarily inherent. The stock launcher location obviously is constrained by the flywheel cage and the desire to place it as far back as possible, as well as the need to accommodate the flange on some types of handguard sets of barrel extensions when installed on the twist-lock.


To that beef I add that there is no natural support hand position except on the ungainly launcher pump grip. The launcher blocks the front of the mag and magwell entirely.


The concept moves the launcher forward and upward, closer to the inner barrel and in front of the flywheel cage, theoretically remedying both the ergonomic and the aesthetic shortcomings. The twist-lock is rendered useless by the launcher barrel's proximity; but in practice I consider this twist-lock of zero practical use and would install a nice big tacticool flash hider instead. Also, the typical Hasbro cheek rails are taken out (likely entirely removed in an actual build, as in the Tacmod) which is similarly just fine as these rails' position renders them practically useless for lights.

Monday, September 8, 2014

RS Tacmod external charge connector

Seeing as there is no easy way to make a RS stock battery "user removable", I planned to add a connector for charging the pack in place from the start.

Here I used a surplus 5 pin DIN panel mount connector and a molded cable assembly that matched.


Any simple charge connector install will have battery voltage on it continuously, so choosing a connector that properly guards against short circuits is imperative. Generally, that means pin-based designs should have a female connector on the gun.

Also, if you are going to use your charge connector to supply power to anything external, be sure to use a connector rated for whatever current is involved.

Finally, you need the correct number of conductors to charge your battery. For nickel chemistries, this is 2, and you can use a cheap and small DC barrel jack (but only a barrel jack, not some audio connector such as a 3.5mm TRS, RCA or 1/4", as I have seen some nerfers use incorrectly for power).

For lithium-ion, regardless of what anyone else tells you about charging these, nowadays it is considered mandatory to balance charge, or at least use a charger that monitors individual cells. This requires 3 more wires than there are cells in series - you need 5 wires for a 2S pack. Go look at a lipo and note the total number of pins on both connectors - yes, do you need all of them. More about that later.

This is the connector installation in the receiver.



And the cable plugged in.


Remember what I said about needing access to every single wire coming out of a lipo (or other lithium-ion pack with multiple cells in series) in order to charge it properly?

A Li-ion balance charger typically has 2 separate connectors that are attached to the pack.

One is the balance tap connector, which has one wire for each interconnect between cells plus each free end of the series string - 3 wires for a 2S pack, 4 for a 3S, and so on - and these wires are supposed to terminate as close to the actual cell as possible. This is used to sense cell voltage as well as charge or discharge individual cells to balance the pack.

The other connector plugs into the pack's discharge leads and is used to pump charge current through the pack.

Note that this arrangement minimizes or eliminates the portion of the main charge current path that is shared with the balance connections. Wiring and interconnects have resistance, and when charge current is forced through resistances, voltages appear across those resistances. If these voltage drops are included in the cell voltages measured by the charger, they constitute errors. Even if we are talking about large power wires and Deans and the like that really don't have much resistance relative to the charger current, even small voltage errors are a big deal in Li-ion charging.

This is why balance connectors have "seemingly redundant" connections to the pack, namely the ones that duplicate the pack positive and negative leads.


When you install wiring for charging a Li-ion pack, it is important to maintain this separation, and not share wires - for example using 3 wires to charge a 2S and just cheating by hooking your innermost and outermost balance connections to the main leads at the charger.

That is however, what I did here. Go ahead and boo and hiss.

I found out my surplus cable has one pin unconnected and I needed this rig working now. That it does, but charging at too high current will give the charger fits, and balancing isn't perfect either. Moral of the story this is not just theory the RC people talk about with balance wiring!

This bad cable will be replaced and the wiring switched to use all 5 pins and separate balance wires in the near future. Hell, probably in the very near future, as the kludgeness of this thing grates on me.


Anyway, here's it charging.


As a footnote, charging LiPo while installed in something is strongly frowned on. If you use LiPo (and not LiFePO4, NiMH, or hybrid Li-ion like me) you should avoid this type of setup entirely.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

[Rant] Human organization, discipline, and trust

Let's talk about something that annoys me: careless human HvZ players who mess up other players' game.

Recently, at Waterloo's first invitational, I went on missions with several different groups of humans, with varying levels of organization, varying levels of human reliability, and, as a result, dramatically varying levels of success. Case in point: when the Windsor group secured and completed a puzzle in a small atrium, they did so with no losses and in good time - the zombies pestered us heavily, but that's all they could do as there were people watching all of the entrances at all times - versus a ragtag group milling about and failing to find a bottle in a different atrium, with several people being lost to a few opportunistic zombies.

There are a few specific people whose carelessness has inspired this rant. I'm not going to name names but, if by any chance any of you are reading this, you know who you are.

Let's clarify one thing right now: I'm not saying that there isn't a place for goofing off in HvZ, or that the serious/"milsim" approach to play is the only right approach. In fact, the opposite is true - HvZ is a game. We play it because it is fun. Approaches to the game cover the full spectrum from the immersive and serious to the goofy and careless. There is most certainly a place for goofing off and for being reckless in HvZ.

What I am saying is that group operations are not that place.

Waterloo: Pictures!

As it turns out, someone brought a camera to Waterloo's recent game - and they took some really good pictures. Link.

I'm the person in the orange shirt with two Stryfes; you can see me getting stomped by the tank, and a sockwhip-user coming to my aid just a little too late (mostly my fault; I really should have turned and ran, or noticed the armbands sooner and switched to socks).

Those duck tape magazine holders that you can see me wearing deserve special mention. I've been experimenting with different ways to make duck tape magazine holders for a while now, and I've almost reached the stage where most of my dissatisfaction comes from the design of the magazine itself rather than the holder. Duck tape holders are fairly quick to make - the ones that you see me wearing were made the night and morning before the game - and will be the subject of a future post.

More pictures of the magazine holders can be found here. Credit goes to . . . um, darn it, I didn't get the name of the person who took those pictures for me. (If you're reading this, please speak up in the comments. )

The blue bag was supposed to be a dump pouch, but it didn't work as planned. Magazines didn't fall out of it when I tested it by jumping around the house, but they did fall out during the game. This goes to show that HvZ is very, very unforgiving of cut corners in terms of equipment security.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Game report: Waterloo's first invitational


Last weekend (on the 23rd), Waterloo hosted a day-long invitational game of HvZ. This was Waterloo's first invitational, and my first game since graduating from Mount Allison.

Pre-game


Waterloo's rules allow sockwhips, which are commonly used as they are good for clearing corners. I had never played a game with sockwhips before - and for that matter, have not used throwing socks much, as I prefer blasters. As Waterloo has special zombies which require socks to stun (more on that later), and does not allow high-velocity modified blasters, I decided to do some minimal mods (lock removal and parasitic resistance zapping) on some new Stryfes that I had lying around and attach sockwhips to them.

Although the game was well-organized overall, there were some issues - in particular, there was some confusion over what modified blasters could be used and whether and how blasters could be combined with sockwhips. The rules PDF, as a moderator told me after the game, was written hurriedly and was a compressed version of a compressed version of the rules for Waterloo's regular weeklong games. It was vague and, in some parts, contradictory. I had asked one of the moderators for clarification before the game and, to make a long story short, not all of the details of the rules had been hashed out before the game, there was overall poor communication on the subject, and as a result I ended up finding out only the night before the game began that attaching sockwhips to the front of dual Stryfes would not be allowed.

Needless to say, this was disappointing - I was looking forward to being able to seamlessly transition between melee and ranged combat, while having weapons appropriate for all zombie types ready at all times.

Since this was Waterloo's first invitational, some issues are to be expected and, aside from this one thing - which AFAIK was only a problem for me - the game was well organized, well run, and well balanced. So, overall, no complaints.

The campus


The campus was a very good one for HvZ, and featured plenty of terrain that favored zombies. The game area was limited to the portion of campus surrounded by ring road, plus building E5. You can see a map the campus here. The blob-shaped road which surrounds a dense cluster of yellow buildings is ring road. As you can see, this area of campus is complicated and convoluted - but what the map does not clearly show is the extensive system of overpasses (which are shown as yellow lines indistinguishable from the buildings) and tunnels (which are not shown at all). Fortunately, I had the foresight to make a small map of the area which I attached to my arm, but even with that, it was easy to get lost.

Much of the area outdoors consisted of gaps between buildings which were narrow enough to allow humans to be hemmed in yet wide enough to give zombies plenty of room to maneuver. The one exception to this was ring road; as it was the edge of the play area, attacks could only come from one direction, and there was enough space between the road and the buildings to give the humans plenty of opportunity to fire on approaching zombies.

The indoors areas also favored the zombie side - or, perhaps I should say that they favored the human side, but less than indoors areas usually do. Many of the corridors had nooks and crannies and there were plenty of doors, all of which made for great ambush spots. There were also some small atriums with many entrances; areas of this sort require good organization on behalf of the humans to clear or defend.

Human groups often traveled along ring road both because it is relatively safe and easy to navigate, and indoors because, despite the abundance of good ambush spots, this was still safer than being outdoors and away from ring road.

Special zombies


There were two types of special zombie in the game: wraiths and tanks. Due to good performance on the part of the humans side early in the game, the zombies only had the one wraith that they had at the beginning of the game, and then gained only one tank later.

The wraith had two long sockwhips which could be used to tag humans at a distance. This made them extremely effective at ambushing humans in stairwells or walking under balconies - or so I heard. I only saw the wraith once, and that was outdoors.

The tank was immune to everything except for socks and missiles, and had two (narrow) blue armbands in addition to the usual headband. This made the tank difficult to quickly identify - especially for people who are used to only looking for headbands, and very much especially at night. Ultimately, it was the tank who zombified me - by the time I noticed that the zombie charging me had the armbands, it was too late to switch to socks. To make matters worse I reflexively swung my blasters as I would if they had sockwhips attached to the front. The lesson to be learned here is that you should always, always, practice with *exactly* the loadout that you intend to use - assuming that you can, of course (*cough* poor communication *cough*).

Combat


Combat at Waterloo was markedly different from combat at Mount Allison. At Mount Allison, during missions, the humans tended to travel in a small number of large groups, which the zombies would ambush and charge opportunistically. All play took place outdoors; all academic buildings were safe zones and hiding in them during missions was strongly discouraged. (Sneaking through them to grab a bite from a human group backed up against the doors, on the other hand . . . I had some fun as a zombie that way.)

At Waterloo, the zombies had a strong presence right from the start, the mission goals required the humans to split into smaller groups (or, sometimes, they split anyway due to poor organization), and the campus was convoluted enough that it was possible to run away from the zombies, turn some corners, go through some doors, and loose our pursuers (and sometimes also get lost ourselves). The campus was also large enough that it was possible for human and zombie groups to simply never meet, especially if the humans were traveling indoors.

All of the encounters where zombies spotted a human group that I saw ended with the human group running indoors. There were some good clashes, though - all of which occurred because the humans needed to access an area which the zombies occupied. I wish that there had been more.

While I can't say from firsthand experience what most of the game was like from the zombie side, I heard from other players that it was a little frustrating, as the humans were hard to find and even harder to confront. During one mission, the zombies didn't manage to find any of the humans at all!

If I had to summarize my experience as a human at Waterloo, I would say that it was like playing a survival horror game, whereas I am used to (and prefer) first-person shooters.

The missions


There were a good variety of mission types in the game - surviving for a period of time before the human HQ (which was a safezone) opened, finding and retrieving some maps, securing and escorting some NPCs, collecting items ("dynamite", represented by bottles), and finally assaulting a set of three insta-zombie-respawn circles, each of which could be destroyed with a pack of dynamite.

There were also some filler missions in between these, where the humans were kicked out of the human HQ and told to just survive while being given no clear goal. Each time, the group that I was in spent these missions holed up in an out-of-the-way classroom, and didn't see a single zombie. The high-tension waiting wasn't boring, and it made a nice change of pace from the other missions, but I think that the game could have been improved for both sides if these missions had been replaced by something a little more active - such as, perhaps, defending the human HQ against zombie entry.

There was only one seriously problematic mission: the bottle retrieval one. During that mission, a stunned zombie carried away a bottle that out group was transporting after the person who was carrying it was bitten (a clear rules violation - stunned zombies cannot interact with the game in any way), another bottle simply could not be found, and a human-turned-zombie lied over his cellphone that the three bottles which his group was responsible for retrieving had been found and delivered (a possible rules violation - it hadn't been made clear whether lying about all game-related matters was forbidden, or whether it was only lies regarding one's status as a human, zombie, or stunned zombie were forbidden).

As a result, two bottles were declared to be out of play, and the humans were given one extra bottle to compensate. I remember hearing from a moderator that bottle missions - that's what they call retrieval missions, presumably because they always use bottles - have always been troublesome at Waterloo.

During the final mission, the humans split into four groups - one assaulted each of the three aforementioned circles and one stayed behind to protect a set of NPCs which the humans needed to stay alive in order to win. This was a mistake - the humans had plenty of time and they could easily have had one large group tackle each circle in turn. As a result, the humans were wiped out and the game was declared a zombie victory. At the end of the game, there was one circle left intact, two humans left alive, and one pack of dynamite. The moderators decided to end the game and declare a zombie victory because they saw no chance of the humans succeeding, it was getting late, and they couldn't get in contact with one of the two remaining humans.

Human organization


There were several groups of humans who each tended to stick together, and the degree of organization varied considerably between groups. Since I was the only person there from York, I travelled with different groups throughout the first half of the game - until I was on the same team as the group from Windsor University, who were very well-organized; from then on, I stuck with them whenever I could.

During the first mission - which was to simply survive for a period of time and then enter the human HQ - I ended up with a small group who were abandoned by a larger one. The larger group was watching the back of the area where we had all decided to make a stand, while the smaller group watched the front. The larger group simply left without telling the smaller one where they were going. I happened to be with the smaller group at the time, and decided to stay with them (rather than chasing the larger group) to make sure that they had sufficient firepower.

After we lost some people to a charge, we decided that a change of strategy was in order, and hid inside a building. We took the long way around, though the buildings, to human HQ. By the time we arrived through an underground tunnel, the first mission was over.

I joined the same team as the Windsor group during the third (or was it the fourth?) mission; our team had to secure one of three mad scientists and escort them back to the human HQ. I must say, I was very impressed by how well-organized the Windsor group was - we moved through the corridors in formation, with sockwhip-users at the front and blaster-users supporting each sockwhip-user. In order to persuade the mad scientist to come with us, a sudoku puzzle had to be completed. A small number of people took turns attacking the puzzle while the rest of the team each watched one potential route of entry. It was very nice to be able to focus on the stairwell and to trust the other members of the team to watch each of the other entrances.

The Windsor group only started taking serious losses when they split in order to ensure that each of the four human teams during the bottle mission had sufficient firepower (the humans decided to split into four teams, with each being responsible for all of the bottles in one of four areas of the campus).

During the bottle mission, I was with a large group of people who needed to search a multi-floor atrium for a bottle. This was not a well-organized group. Most of the people milled about the atrium, with each person trying to watch all of the nearby entrances while searching for the bottle, and some people wandered onto higher or lower floors than the bulk of the group. Some of these people were lost to opportunistic zombies, and the bottle was not found. At the time, we thought that the bottle had been removed and it was declared out of play, but we later found out that it was there all along and we simply had not found it. I am quite sure that, if we had put a two-person team on each door and on the stairway, had the rest of the humans do a sweep search, and then repeated that procedure for each floor, we could have found that bottle with no losses.

There is a lesson to be leaned here - trust is paramount, and trust requires at least some degree of organization and discipline. I've more to say, but it would be better to save that for another post.

In summary


It was fun. There were some communication issues pre-game, but nothing too serious. The game itself was very well balanced and, overall, well run. Given that this is the first invitational that Waterloo has ever hosted, I'm impressed by how smoothly everything went.


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Shelf watch: Boomco in Toronto

After moving to Toronto almost a year ago, I've finally found a store (this one) that sells Nerf within walking distance. That took long enough, eh? Recently, Boomco blasters have also appeared on their shelves - suddenly, and in large numbers.
  • Stealth Ambush: $40
  • Rapid Madness: $60
  • Farshot: $13
  • Clipfire: $10
  • Twisted Spinner: $30
  • Pack of 16 darts: $7
Now, compare those prices to these - that's not too bad a markup. Oddly, Walmart.com only listed the RM as being in stock. Also oddly, all of the prices ended in .97 (I've rounded them up) - Nerf's prices trailing digits tend to vary.

There were a surprisingly large number of Z tek bows on the shelves, including several Firetex bows, which I hadn't seen before - no pictures because I forgot my camera, but you can see it here.

This store had a decent stock of the new orange-scheme Stryfes - emphasis on "had", because when I visited the same store again the next day, they went from having more Stryfes than I cared to count to two (and then to zero because, well, I like orange and I like Stryfes). They also had Demolishers (which were not flying off of the shelves; the fact that the Demolishers cost $50 each IIRC probably has something to do with that), Thunderbows, a few Centurions, the new white-coloured Rough Cuts, and a few other miscellaneous blasters - Strongarms, Triads, Jolts, Slingfires - not a bad selection!

Here's something to watch out for when buying Strongarms, if they come in an open box like this:


This design of box makes it possible for kids to prime them while in the package, and leave them primed on the shelf - and, yes, people actually do this - but fortunately it's just as easy to check for this sort of abuse. (Don't they know that's bad for the spring? Dumb kids. *Grumble.*)


Sunday, July 6, 2014

Grav-fed vortex magazine developments

So, this thing:

This was supposed to be a new and improved type of gravity-fed vortex magazine. Traditional gravity fed vortex magazines lack any way to prevent the follower from colliding with the pusher rod, short of reloading before the mag is empty; this was supposed to fix that problem. The basic idea was simple: make a grav-fed vortex mag and, instead of cutting off the guide tabs on the follower, cut guide slots in the tube. This would allow the guide tabs to halt the motion of the follower in the proper place, as they do with stock vortex magazines.

Things didn't go as planned.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Ramblomatic Stock Class Friday



I think that's fairly self explanatory. Time for a catch-all post for lots of random stuff.


USF War

 

Last Wednesday was another nerf game at USF. Same organizer, most of the same people, a little lower attendance.

However, going back to my post on this war and game locations and fields, the CTF round was changed up this time due to the previous issue with insufficient playerbase to run the old field and not have a broken game that never ends. Image shows one base end of the new field. Bases about 300 feet straight apart, and quite a lot of trees and bushes as natural bunkers. No woods, walls or buildings in the play area this time, though. So, yes, it ended up a bit faster and spammier, unfortunately.

However, it was still a lot of fun, and trading snap shots using the trees as cover was cool.

In addition, we ran a King of the Hill gametype. Open field, circle of marking cones in the middle, 2 teams. A team wins by holding the location for some time, in this case 15 minutes was planned but the game was called after a few minutes every time. Infinite respawns at the edge of the field, but if your team is in control, an additional 20-second delay is applied to spawning. It worked out well, surprisingly fun and not speedballish. However the same old issues of playing totally without cover apply. Namely, it becomes a range contest and a dodge fest. In practice, with SC nerf it can be made to work since most people don't carry enough ammo to waste it shooting at the limits of effective range nor to put down any indirect cover fire. Most people will rush in and get close-ish before they commit rounds. That is not perfect though, and playing any kind of true OPEN field game is primarily about HvZ-style situational awareness, except the zeds can now tag from a substantial distance just like you can.

With new sling described below.

Tacmod thus far.

On that note, at this game the Tacmod had its second trial by fire. It absolutely owned. Several remarks were made by teammates about range, and that would be effective range. Lots of hits were had that day. No crappy ammo this time, and no whirlybirds and severe accuracy problems. Reliability was great excepting one mag of ratty old darts that was a shake 'n shoot. Battery life, also great. Blew through a good few hundred rounds and the pack is sitting at 4.0V/cell as I speak.

Now about that reliability, if you paid attention to the Tacmod build posts you will remember I was on about QC problems, and among them, some sort of feed issue that I never covered in detail. This, as far as I know, applies to 32961 and later serials only - but the problem is actually with the mag release and/or magwell, and it causes certain mags (the newer clear plastic Elite 18-rounders are confirmed, and possibly all Elite style bodies) to hang a bit too low. That causes feeding rounds to contact the lower feed ramp in the flywheel cage excessively, and with sticky Elite tips and worn foam, those darts will occasionally bend and cause a minor stoppage similar to a "Vigilante malfunction" with the stock rubber sheet.

If you have a jamming RS and you suspect you have this gremlin, try shooting while pushing upward on the mag. If the malfunctions stop, you have it.

A solution seen to the left is to take a grinder to your lower feed ramp and rework it to a less aggressive angle and exposing more of the flywheel.

This was necessary for the Tacmod and it has proven very reliable with the fix. Unfortunately Hasbro's design and QC process is still not perfect and even with something as simple as flywheel gun geometry, there continue to be nagging problems.

JT Mag Pouches (thanks CBAS)

I was in the need for a proper mag carriage solution, as until now I was using, believe it or not, some duct tape pouches. Go ahead and boo and hiss, I deserve it for being a cheapskate and cutting corners that could have turned out to be stupid one of those days in hvz. I did and still do want to move to a more complete MOLLE-based solution for load carrying in the field including some higher-quality mag pouches, but for now I am using these.


These are JT dual paintball pod pouches. You can read the review of these as a nerf mag pouch on Coastal Bend Action Sports here. Each dual pouch holds 4, 18-round NS box mags, fits all standard web/tactical/duty/riggers belts and has velcro cover flaps that do close over 18-rounders.

The best part? These pouches are around 7 bucks each. 7 bucks for 4 mags. They also include a free web belt - so that is a $7 standalone solution if you don't already have LBE to mount modular stuff on. I don't think that will be beat.

I run my mags unconventionally, feed lips up, BTW. This avoids problems with losing the top round when pulling the mag out or having deformed foam from the bottom of the pouch pressing on it.


This is my old web belt that carries my holdout jolt and flashlight, with one of these JT pouches. I keep another JT pouch on its included lightweight belt, which I can then add if I need it.

The only cons with the JT pouches:

* Tight fit on mags, but a little hint, leave mags in them for a while, and they are a quick draw once the fabric has some shape memory.

* No MOLLE compatibility or modularity of any kind, belt loops only.

* Only available in (knockoff) UCP.

Free Magpul MS3?

Another gear upgrade on the road to UGA Invitational: A proper sling for my rifle. Well. Proper is relative. I have been eyeballing the Magpul MS2 and MS3 slings (read: airsoft grade clone versions) for quite some time, and also headscratching about proper (custom) sling mounts for the RS. However, literally an hour before bugging out for USF on Wednesday, I came across this disused bit of kit in the shed at Site B.


I have zero idea what it came from. Fairly simple, it's a webbing noose with a sturdy plastic attachment loop at the free end, and it cinches around the buffer tube just fine. Perfect location for a rear sling mount? Nope, that should be just behind the grip. This suffices though as a nonpermanent sling attachment.

Now here's where the MS3 part comes in. I grabbed one of my old cheap slings, clipped it onto that attachment point at both ends, and boom.

Comfy. Doesn't get in the way or make noise. Hangs a little low in singlepoint mode and there is no front mount for 2-point mode on either of my rifles now. This works, though. It isn't that bad with the gun flapping around and hitting you when moving with it down. You can shove the weapon off to the side and it's OK. The sling webbing rotates around your body as needed, as my cheap sling is actually similar to the "seatbelt" texture real Magpul slings are described as having.

Darts

The world of ammo for stock classers is a constantly changing one. I think it is time for a decent dart roundup.

To begin with, let's look at what is going on with the standard Elite. In the past, this stuff has not had a great reputation for reliability and the cause was almost certainly some combination of the tip compound used in the early Elite tips (very sticky/tacky) and the frequent incidence of spilled contact cement all over the foam near the tip. That, of course, is all bad for feeding and magazines.

You may also know the reputation for reliability and superior quality of ZombieStrike Elite and that my squad is running that for HvZ.

However, I have seen strong recent evidence that the Elite dart has been fixed. For that USF game I bought a case of Elite off the shelf. It wasn't HvZ where reliability can make you dead for 6 whole months, so I bought that 75 case of Elite the day of the war for the better deal knowing I would come home with about half of it (and that is what happened) - but those J-code Elites were excellent. Very little spilled glue around the tips, and absolutely zero malfunctions at 10rps in 105F Florida heat and near 100% humidity. Accurate, too.

I do suggest buying ammo brick and mortar, not online. You should inspect that case before you buy it, because if it is old stock and pre-quality improvement you will have nothing but trouble. Good ammo is absolutely critical.


Now, recently there have been 2 popular alternative stock-style darts on the market. I am cool with neither of them, however.

First up, we have the Nerf Elite Universal Suction. We have a lot of people claiming these to be consistent and accurate, and that they are. They do seem to be widely recommended (Coop772 reviewBURN game video). However, I have encountered two killer flaws with them.

One, rapid wear from flywheels. The rebated design of the tip means the foam takes the hit from flywheels and the consistency and velocity are shot to hell fairly quickly. What do you know, this is what Nerf themselves say on the package...

Two, however, is range and trajectory. These tips have a terrible time cutting through the air. Shooting pseudoflat at 120FPS, they are droppy as hell. It felt like shooting 80FPS. I was seeing them HIT THE GROUND consistently at only 60 feet away from the gun and that is just abysmal. Again, that was combat flat, not actually zero elevation, and over descending terrain to boot! Perhaps those recommending them are not comparing engagement ranges or simply do not require the range benefits of higher velocity in the first place and are playing like they have 70FPS.

Next up: Koosh darts. With such a low price point they are an attractive option and apparently well reviewed. I was considering buying a lot of them on eBay, but I quickly ditched that idea due to what BasicNerf (Vigilante) had to say in a Reddit PM thread around the same time:
I like the Koosh Darts a good amount, due to their low cost and solid accuracy. In eye testing them vs. Elite suction darts, the Suction Darts seemed to be a little more stable in flight and as a result you'll get tighter groupings because of it. From my 2 Nerf Wars playing with almost Koosh Darts extensively, you get about 5 feet or under groupings most of the time. I feel like the Koosh Dart groupings maybe a little smaller then 5 feet (feels like 3-4 feet), but I'll round to 5 since I haven't done extensive testing regarding their groupings.
Coop772s review on them, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VkToXnuhnj4
Now here's the Cons/variables part of the message. Something that he mentioned is that the width varies a little bit amongst darts since they are knock offs. He also mentioned that sometimes the heads aren't 100 percent aligned with the rest of the dart. Coop and I have also noticed that dart density seems to be a little bit lesser then normal Nerf Darts. I'm assuming that besides the usual dart tumbling/"crapping out" of the barrel, this may increase that. In a modified Nerf blaster game with friends before "Geddon, and in fire testing, I noticed that about 1, sometimes 2, of these darts have that "tumble out of the barrel" effect and you don't get much range of them.
In 'Geddon, it was fairly warm that day. The war started off in the low 80s temperature wise, and was in the high 80s at it's peak. Playing in the sun you can add about 5 degrees to the weather/how it feels. It wasn't humid, but it wasn't dry either. I felt like the weather was more towards the dry side, but checking the weather.com weather, there was a 10 percent chance of rain for the day. As you know, hot weather affects Nerf Foam and makes it softer.
I also underestimated how much darts I would need, and had to reuse about 150 Koosh Darts constantly throughout the day. The extra wear, along with the hot weather, might have led to my observations with the darts through the day.
My range mentions below are a bit rough, I used Google Earth to judge the engagements I had based off GoPro video I recorded.
Now I'm not 100 percent on these next things, but here are some extra observations from that day.
Instead of having 1 or 2 darts tumbling every other mag, or every two mags, it seemed that it was happening more frequently. About every other mag at least.
There is talk online about them not being glued on as well as normal Nerf darts. That seems to be true from my experiences. I noticed at least 3-5 different Koosh darts with their heads missing throughout the day. I also had one lose it's head when I fired it through my Rapidstrike late in the day. I was out of that round for about 10 minutes trying to fix that jam before I asked a friend for PVC pipe and rammed it out.
So again with the Koosh darts the head will probably break off first before the foam breaks down. I consider the weather and extra usage of 'Geddon to be extra adverse conditions though. I wouldn't be afraid of my Koosh Darts breaking off constantly.
Again in what I believe was some what due to the weather and extra dart usage, my ranges seemed to drop a little bit. As the day went on, and again what I assumed what partly was due to weather/extra usage, I went from about the 70-80 feet I mentioned to 60-70 instead.
I also chrono-ed my Rapidstrike a bit since someone brought one. Testing about 5 shots, I only clocked low 70s FPS and high 80 FPS. I know Koosh Darts are heavier then normal elites, 1.20 Grams vs. 1 Gram for Normal Elite. But based off Coop's modded Stryfe video in the link, I should be getting closer to 100 FPS. Again not sure if this is because the blaster isn't quite modded up to speed, the weather, or the extra wear on the darts not giving them the best grip on the dart.
Image credit: SOFT
So again, evidence suggesting rapid flywheel wear of the foam (hence the dropped velocity from the 110FPS his 7.4V FK motor RS should have had) which is in line with the tip design - rebated, again, just like the suction. Then the tip glue issues common to low-cost China darts. However the squib stuck in the barrel is a dealbreaking issue and a major red flag. These are not coming anywhere near the squad for HvZ before more testing and/or quality improvement from the manufacturer has occurred. I also officially do not recommend these to anyone right now.


Flywheel Response

I got a quick video of chronoing snap reaction shots with the Tacmod.


FKs on 7.4! Not even the punchiest rig out there but still, if you're a zed and you charge around a corner and run into a proper flywheel setup, you will have a small welt and a stun, not a tasty human kill. Can we please stop with the "Flywheels take time to wind up and ruin your stealth before you shoot someone and are liable to get you tagged if you aren't revved up"?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Shelf Watch 06-25-14. BoomCo in the wild.

On the way to a game, I stopped by the SODO Target in Orlando, Florida to pick up a case of Elites, and BOOM... Co. There it was.




Did I miss something or is this news?

Apologies for the bad image. One, I shoot people with foam, not take photos, and two, I was trying to avoid looking sketchy or have trouble with employees.

Anyways, the Rapid Madness was priced at $59.99! Holy hell. Based on the performance reports from the community that is an outright scam. I did note that the ergonomics looked decent, and the thing is huge. A large rifle size aside from the barrel length.

Also checked out the .40 caliber "straw" darts. They are weird indeed. The "straw" appeared dual-layer and very thick walled. Very un-foam, but the way I see it, anything that isn't an airsoft BB or a paintball (with their attendant problems when it comes to safely and cleanly tagging people) is welcome in the hobby of nerf.

Finally, I did buy my case of Elites, and proceed to shoot all of it at the game, and I do think it is time I gave an update on the state of the Elite dart. It has improved, and I am liking these newer J-code orange and blues just as well as ZombieStrike. No malfunctions and lots of kills that game, and a surprising absence of frustrating accuracy problems.