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.



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.


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,
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, 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.

Monday, June 23, 2014

[Theory] Flywheel series as a means of breaking the "glass ceiling"

Striving for the ability to "reach out and touch" zombies at very long range has been an interest of mine ever since I started playing HvZ - not only for the tactical utility, but also for the sheer fun of nailing zombies who think that they are out of range. Here, I'd like to talk about an idea that I've been sitting on for a while now: multiple flywheel sets in series. This is a theoretical exploration of the performance potential of such systems. I'd like to build such a system at some point, when I have the materials and opportunity to use it - so probably not any time soon.

In conventional flywheel systems, there is an upper bound on the velocity which a pair of flywheels can produce - the "glass ceiling" - which is reached when the flywheels and dart slip against each other through the entirety of the dart's passage through the flywheels. The coefficient of kinetic friction varies little if at all with flywheel speed and draft effects are not significant for smooth flywheels, so faster flywheels do not result in faster darts. Attempts to increase the acceleration of the dart while between the flywheels by increasing the grip of the flywheels have been of limited success at best. So far, I think that I'm the first to suggest increasing the length of the dart's passage through the flywheels instead, which is what a flywheel series effectively does.

I will assume here that a high exit velocity, perhaps with heavy darts, is desirable. Pain upon impact limits the useable velocity and weight, and for many games a single set of flywheels can already reach this limit; this is not for those games. I'm ignoring the issue of dart stability for now; I'll assume that this problem can be overcome with either modified Elite or similar darts or with stefan-like darts that can work in flywheels.

Using more than two flywheels isn't a completely new idea - several Rayvens with a second set of flywheels installed near the front, called afterburners, can be seen on Nerfhaven, and IIRC someone made a barrel attachment with a Barricade flywheel set which achieves the same effect. In such blasters, there is a length of Nerf pseudobarrel between each set of flywheels, which wastes velocity while contributing nothing to accuracy. Afterburners cannot be placed further back in a Rayven because they would interfere with the trigger/pusher mechanism, but if a blaster other than a Rayven (or a Rayven with a new pusher mechanism) is used, multiple flywheel cages with little or no gap in between them could be installed.

If a secure attachment mechanism could be obtained, it would be straightforward to make a flywheel series front barrel which could go on any blaster. This would allow one to have a single base blaster which could be used for campus HvZ without and more bruise-tolerant games with the front barrel. Likewise, any flywheel blaster could be used as a base for a dedicated flywheel series blaster, making it straightforward to make one with whatever handling characteristics (SA or FA, bullpup or not) are preferred.  

Flywheel series blasters would be relatively safe compared to HPA, although they still carry non-negligible risks. They would not be subject to the risk of launching a dart with injuriously more velocity than intended and cannot explode. In the event of a short, however, the risk and potential intensity of incendiary failure would be greater than for other flywheel systems due to the increased power requirements.

This article has been written primarily about flywheel series blasters made using Nerf flywheels and cages, and homemade systems where flywheels come in pairs (as mounting two flywheels on either side of a tube is much easier than mounting three or four evenly spaced around it). The theoretical work done here is equally applicable to less conventional flywheel systems, though.

The primary advantage of a flywheel series is that the exit velocity can be very high, even if weighted darts are used, while the blaster itself can be compact, simple to build, ergonomic, safer than HPA, and capable of high rates of fire. No existing high-velocity system combines all of these characteristics.

The main disadvantage of a flywheel series is the cost. Really good batteries and many good motors would be needed. Using several blasters just for the flywheel cages would be excessively spendy, if Nerf flywheels are used.

This is where the math starts, so this is as good a place as any for the jump.

Ported Barrel Observations

Recently, following a nice stock class game, a rather unorthodox idea crossed my mind: A sniper rifle for that class of games.

No, not a loser rifle, you dummy. Grow up and have fun with the game already.

Also, not technically "stock class"... Not quite.

I was inspired by the blog of a paintball sniper. The concept was simple. A single-shot breechloading pneumatic. Accuracy-oriented. A rigidly mounted barrel, muzzle blast reduction strategies, consistent velocities, provision for sights, you know the drill. We know darts have the potential to be quite accurate, I just wanted to push toward that direction with some deliberate effort.

And, I still will, in the future... With stefans, of course. Where the "stock class" part of this concept came in was that it was going to be a .62 caliber and shoot slightly modified Nerf sonic micros. The mod was a wrap of 33 tape on the tip, to cut friction on the bore and improve the gas seal. Wasn't going to fill domes with anything. At that point, it ain't no freakin stock class. May as well just shoot a stefan at the guy. As if my planned 250-350fps was going to fly, but the idea was deliberate low ROF used only from range and with restraint. After all, assault rifles would wreck me bad up close.

So, as a first step of proving the projectile itself capable of accuracy, I pulled out an old UMB (No OPV, before someone comments), cleaned and lubed it, got the chrono, made a starting test set of barrels from a nice stick of Charlotte Pipe 1/2" PVC, crowned and cleaned all of them, 33 taped me a set of micros to a perfect fit, and started slinging them at various velocities over the house at Site B and into a tree to observe stability. These should be about 1.4, 1.5g by the way. Keep that in mind for the chrono data later, this rig had some energy.

I was having problems with my solid test barrels shooting wild at as low as 240fps that I suspected were muzzle blast. The logical next step was to add some blast mitigation and see where that got me... So this happened.

This is an 18" barrel. I patterned my porting after the Smart Parts patent. Eyeballed dimensions: porting starting 1/4" from the muzzle, about 4" ported length. Double helix pattern, 5/32" hole diameter, 17 holes x 2 rows.

And a shot down the bore.

I then proceeded to chrono this before I shot it for comparison. In addition to proving the projectile, and this time giving it a de-blasted test, I was testing out ported barrels. Lots of myth has surrounded them in nerf. Some would call them strictly a velocity nerfing device used to make OP guns not OP, and run hoppers in CQB events, and the like. But is this the case? Would porting a barrel used to fire a dart, rather than a paintball, cause a huge unheard-of efficiency problem?

The results regarding the 33-taped sonic micro projectile: Still fails, at least after a few shots and recoveries worth of wear it is not going to hit the side of a school bus at 250fps and 70 feet plus. Stock Class First Strike it ain't. It acts like a damn elite. Well, too bad. I wanted that to succeed. I guess there is a limit to micro stability.

But the ported barrel?

Now, the solid length (i.e. the active bore, before the porting releases the pressure behind the projectile) of this barrel is about 1/2" longer than my 14" solid barrel (which is actually a little under 14") that was in here, so note the italic figures. Chrono session, zero attention to statistical integrity due to sheer number of configurations and impatience but it gets the message across, units of feet per second:

18" Solid - 5 pumps:

18" Solid - 7 pumps:

18" Solid - 9 pumps:

24" Solid - 5 pumps:

24" Solid - 7 pumps:

24" Solid - 9 pumps:

14" Solid - 7 pumps:

14" Solid - 9 pumps:

18" Ported - 7 pumps:

18" Ported - 9 pumps:

Well isn't that somethin'. With only 1/2" more accelerative length and almost 4" of what should have been nothing but velocity-killing drag tacked on the end according to the typical ideas of barrel porting in nerf, the 18" ported still hung right with, or maybe beat, the 14" solid efficiency.

This is yet to be tested with projectiles having a PE foam barrel-sealing component like a stefan does, but my micros mostly had a rather tight fit in the barrel, and the results I suspect would be similar. Exception may be super tight underbores, which means, spring guns with cylindricals (...should be stepped up and then ported...) but overall, I suggest you try a ported barrel if you are doing the high-velocity thing. It has promise. I will note that the porting definitely reduced blast and I would say, visibly reduced oscillation of the projectile near the muzzle, but then again I have no highspeed of that for ya. Less blast is better, that's not really disputable.

My project is still alive and back-burnered but it will probably not be of mainstream game use.

[Edit 04-24-14 In the paragraph describing the porting, "4 rows" was incorrect, this is "2 rows"]

Friday, June 20, 2014

Thoughts on game design and the nerf arms race

In my last post, I changed things up from my usual focus on the equipment, and discussed gameplay for once. I ended up getting into closed field games versus "everything else" (such as more open games, CQB games, and for lack of a better term, anything tactical), and how I had a bit of a distaste for the former for a variety of reasons. That got me thinking a little more on the concept of field games, their inherent weaknesses, and the age-old debate surrounding equipment performance in this hobby.

What I have come to realize, is that the field-based game is inherently quite vulnerable to the effects of escalating gear specifications. It is this, that I believe is the source of much of the concern, and much of the antagonism, toward the evolution of gear in this sport that I have long failed to understand myself. I have long been a competitor in the arms race, and a very hard-driving player of my gametypes with regards to gear, and while that may offer some bias it also gives me perspective.

Let's go back to a phrase I had used: foam speedball. When you take a 100' or 150' square arena and throw a dozen stock class players into it, you get a ROF-dominated game. SC has a lot of common gear that can create insane and sustained volumes of fire. Due to the limited cover and physical layout of the fight, it partially becomes a matter of who can get the greatest number of darts downrange. For instance, at a casual campus war I found the most effective loadout for me was my old SAW and a secondary Rayven. My strategy? Simple. Stay on the trigger until all bad guys were dead. I sprayed the whole field and kept them pinned, and our lighter guys ran in and bunkered them or nabbed them as they dodged my shots. Real straightforward, not really demanding of any real tactics. What did it require? A hundred rounds up in smoke in a one-minute match, which is not exaggerated, plus what my teammates furiously spammed. Similarly, nowadays I would run a game like this with my Rapidstrike, and play smarter and with more trigger restraint, but it is still a matter of darts on tap.

Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily, spamfest games can be fun, in their own way (not saying I prefer them...) but it does illustrate a fundamental flaw, or at least weakness, of the field game.

Now, let's talk about NIC nerf. Specifically, why the Proper NIC has a longstanding opposition to improving the equipment in great and fundamental ways past the modern day field ruled by manual springers and manually pumped airguns.

Of course, the safety aspect of the above is surmountable, for example by the use of a chronograph and enforced standards of safe design for pneumatic launchers, and due to the fact that some of the concerns such as a catastrophic and random high-velocity shot from actual setups are myths and not truths or likelihoods. However, one aspect remains that cannot be addressed by science and that is the desire to avoid "generalized effectiveness" or ROF escalating out of control, because that would be much more of harm to NIC than to us (i.e., stock class nerf) where it is already a factor.

You see, aside from the fundamental differences in the origins and approach of NIC versus stock class nerf that render stock class much more progressive and objective and much more favorable to friendly competition and hardcore wargaming whereas NIC strives to be a silly extension of Nerf guns as a toy, there is a mechanical difference at work here. The muzzle energy of NIC guns, which shoot approximately one-gram darts at 200-300fps, is much higher than stock class which typically has 130fps as a safety limit for public games. That complicates the task of building something wieldy that can spit out those shots at 6+ per second.

In stock class, we have (and have been working toward for years, example being the Stampede system as far back as 2010) numerous ways to shoot darts at "full" velocity with extreme rapidity and convenience. I have been, for years, a primarily full-auto player, and I shoot about as hard as I am allowed to shoot and get as much range and punch as I can at any given game, and I am doing this with mostly converted toy-grade stuff, bought from stores and fitted with upgrades. That is not the case with NIC nerf. Boosting the rate of fire and using stored energy in NIC would increase costs - think HPA tanks, regulators, fittings, air refills... It would spell the end of playing with plumbing and usher in a new era of buying a collection of parts and assembling a rather expensive primary, such as a QEV/DCV semi-auto. It would also create an environment for very, very nice and awesome gear to be created - like a mag-fed selective fire airgun based on paintball technology, perhaps.

I would welcome this as the evolution of the hobby, especially because frankly, the crude nature of a lot of NIC gear and its low ROF is what puts me off from doing anything but plinking targets with it. I like dakka and assault rifles, and playing stock class with Rapidstrikes gives me that, whereas I don't play pump very well. Plus I want to see high-spec and non-cheesie nerf gear meant specifically for us. But enough of that tangent...

Given what NIC wants to be, it is understandable in light of the above why NIC is so antagonistic and closed-minded toward stored energy devices on the field. It would reduce the accessibility of the game to newcomers and casuals in a time when we are all (SC included) still pre-critical mass and short on players.

But what is the REAL problem?

Not the weapons... Not the players and their arms race...

It is the field game!

There is no other way to play that is so especially vulnerable to being damaged or reshaped by what people do with or to their equipment, particularly centered around rate of fire. Yet, that appears to be all the proper NIC ever plays. No wonder.

Remember that CTF game I discussed? How about HvZ, have you ever played or seen it played? These are examples of situations where the arms race escalation is inherently secondary to tactics by means of the game mechanics and setting. So in short, my opinion on the arms race issue: Fix the game to make it more playable, don't nerf the players to make it work. Banning equipment should be done only for safety purposes, IMO. Banning for playability is not addressing the root problem and it makes the game less appealing to the players that get their gear - or their ideas - targeted.

Furthermore, a regulatory approach that aims to limit field effectiveness and control non-safety parameters like rate of fire and energy source, and indeed the concept of leveling the playing field to such an extent, is more consistent with a sport than a game. Do we want to play a sport? I don't. As an example of the effects, note the proliferation of all these 1.25" bore, circa 7" stroke, springers with a "K26"-like spring rate, a pump grip, and a hopper. I was building a one-off design of my own, but I realized that there are far too many SomethingBowPumps out there already, and as Kane described in his NH post, the format is more or less self-limiting - so gather dust the parts will. I can improve the "hoppered SomethingBowPump" format in some minor way, but really, it can be practically improved just as much as tournament paintball guns can be improved, which is not much at all. And that is not cool.


Thursday, June 12, 2014

More on ***Fires, this time in Swarmfires

This is a somewhat incomplete - but good enough for present purposes - analysis of high resistance Swarmfire setups, performed using sound analysis of various high resistance setups firing. I chose Swarmfires to represent electric spring-powered blasters in general as they are one of the two most widely used such blasters with the other, the Stampede, having been supplanted by the Rapidstrike.

One should expect the problems caused by high resistance and compensatory high voltage to be lesser for spring-powered blasters than for flywheel blasters. The motors in electric springers never free-run; they are always compressing a spring, except for brief transitional periods between cycles. This reduces the variation in desired current draw and thus reduces the severity of the Morton's fork described previously. For Swarmfires at high rates of fire, the inertia of the gearbox is significant relative to the energy required to compress the spring (enough to fire a few times after the trigger is released), further reducing variation in motor speed during firing. This makes trigger response time the primary performance-related problem caused by low current capability.

There is an interesting parallel here with high-resistance high-voltage flywheel systems. Both can have good performance with regard to a characteristic which is readily measured and prominent when showing off (max range and ROF), but falter in a characteristic which is (arguably more) important in actual gameplay (rapidfire range and trigger response).

Given the severity of the problems inherent to compensatory extra voltage in flywheel blasters, it is plausible on theoretical grounds that such problems would be (reduced but still) very severe for springers, or that they may be tolerably mild. That is the question which I address here, by analyzing videos of modified Swarmfires on Youtube. Unfortunately, as Swarmfires lack cycle control, they may stop and restart at various points in the firing cycle, causing the trigger response time to vary randomly. So, videos of multiple high resistance setups had to be analyzed. This includes setups with both alaklike and ***Fire cells. Alkalines have worse resistance than ***Fires because, while each cell has roughly the same IR when fresh and incurs similar cell contact resistance, a greater number of cells are required to achieve similar nominal voltages.  

Monday, June 9, 2014

Gameplay observations. RS TacMod First Blood. USF.

I haven't been playing much, so it was nice to finally have a game to go to yesterday, a regular non-HvZ stock class event at the University of South Florida.

As to the event itself, it wasn't any regular campus war by my standards. We ran a TDM on the usual field, and then a CTF game in the woods. I will focus on the latter.

Other players there may disagree purely based on the issues* of this particular CTF match but, after being there for it, I realize what we are missing. In this game the playing field was very large, filled with cover (it was a wooded area), and players scattered widely and seeking an objective that required a lot of moving around the area, and it wasn't constant engagement. There were tense situations and fully automatic firefights that left the ground littered with darts as hits pinged off cover, but there was also that certain element of measured gameplay. It wasn't the usual charge and spam like hell, quick death, over in 5 minutes or less type of round at a "nerf war" which is something I find really unsatisfying and un-fun in certain ways.

* The issue with the CTF game was that more participants were expected, or some such planning error, and the spread of players over the chosen area and flag locations reduced the amount of combat. No team had captured a flag by late day so the game was called. This does not represent a fundamental problem with the gametype so much as poor choice of parameters for the actual playerbase, IMO.

Despite these aforementioned problems and their consequences on how this game played out, I really liked everything else about how it was run. I think nerf has far too many gametypes that play out in the same tired old manner: We all attack each other on a mostly open field, maybe with some bunkers (pallets, mobstacles, trees, and the like) strewn about, with the size of the arena constrained to just about as far as the guns can shoot from corner to corner. The games are usually high-intensity, but it's the same old feeling, what I said above about the overly rapid and haphazard progression of games applies, and I think we can do more than play this like a sport. That's why I think we need to stop with the foam speedball.

Available play area is a noted problem, though. If you only have a public park or a little corner of a campus, there isn't much to be done.

Now I move on to the trial by fire of the Rapidstrike Tactical Model. Overall, it went very well, and strangely enough, I have precisely zero complaints which is strange for picking up something new and different. The handling was beyond amazing.

It also shot like a beast, and I have to say that for this case I really like the 7.4V battery I am using and will not be making a 3S pack for this gun. Noise, heat and dart damage were all minimized yet velocity stayed up exactly where I want it, and with the pack topped off (the Sanyo hybrids do lose quite a bit of voltage at half charge or so) the response from the flywheel motors was still beyond excellent. I shot this like a springer all day and never had a single low-velocity shot or problem reacting quickly. And these are just FK Blades, not Xtremes, that I am running. The microswitch FCG is also doing well and gives great trigger feel and response, and I am satisfied with the cyclic rate of fire, which probably averages 600RPM.

Accuracy was awesome with ZombieStrike Elite and I was matching effective ranges with most of the blowguns that were shooting at me. Not so much with crappy scavenged ammo and old 1.3g Chinawhites and orange streamlines and other garbage that I shot a lot of. Many of those spun out, which can be extremely aggravating. However that is expected and afflicts all my primaries. Use good ammo, people. It makes a massive difference!

Overall my experience with this build was awesome, and this is the first time I feel like I have the primary I have been looking for since my mid 2011 Stampede days when I first hardcored HvZ and had a blast. This is the first time I don't feel like the gun is in the way of playing the game, it's just, seamless. Nor am I missing my integration, which is a first as well, as I have a history of finding rifles inadequate and hanging Swarmfires and stuff on them.

Speaking of gear, my loadout for all this war was the RS TacMod as primary, RapidPistol as secondary, and my old duct tape 4-up belt pouch full of mags, hung from a web belt. I also had a holstered Jolt and my Convoy M1 flashlight. The RapidSwarm stayed in the car, although I had expected to run it primarily. Yes, I still do need better gear and better mag carriage solutions and the TacMod needs a proper sling, but what I have works out surprisingly well with 2 full HvZ games of use on it plus a lot of zombie arena games and stock class.

The RapidPistol got used, and saved my ass, many times in thie event. This is just a regular stock motor/7.4V setup, on a pseudo-singlepoint sling, tucked under my left arm just as my old Rayven was. I would highly recommend RapidPistols as secondaries.

On the flip side of things, ammo costs are killing me. I bought a case of ZombieStrike Elite before the event that I mostly did not recover. Before next time I play real HvZ I am going to need hundreds of rounds of something, and even with those "Koosh" darts that I haven't yet tested, that is going to be a pain in the wallet. The airsofters are right, they have far cheaper ammo than we do, even disregarding reusability. So do the NIC people with their stefans. Stock class, virtually defined by the use of manufactured darts, is NOT good on ammo cost. I'm really not sure what can be done about that, if anything. It may just be the tradeoff for the positives of our more engineered (thus guaranteed safer, and enabling for games like HvZ in public places) ammunition.

Overall though, it was a fun day and great to be back in the game!