Sunday, December 14, 2014

Practical Stock Class: Doing Magfed Right, Individual Ammo Load and Scavenging Considerations

I cover the tech's viewpoint typically, and game design and meta-concerns have been touched on by both me and contributor Herbert West, but there hasn't yet been much about actually playing.

Granted, I don't consider myself an "excellent" player of either stock class or HvZ, by far. I am a much better tech than I am a player, but I almost always succeed by an underlying methodology to the apparent madness on the field. In no way do I claim my ways are the only way to approach the game, by far - your mileage may vary, for what it's worth, etc. - but this series will be my player advice.

This first topic was inspired by comments left by an anonymous user on my ammo roundup post, which focused on magfed systems above all else:

"...myself and many HvZers i know avoid relying on mag-fed blasters due to the amount of time taken to scavenge darts and refill those mags during long-running matches. Front loaders are more efficient as they are easily topped up from a pouch of loose darts as you walk or jog."

Namely the longstanding "detachable-magazine debate" - within stock class, you have one group of players (most of them, in my experience) working around a milsim-type usage of detachable mags and noting the high endurance and quick reloads offered by this system, and another, typically minority at this point, group advocating shotgun-style loading on the fly (LOTF) from a supply of loose rounds.

Advantages cited for the latter include the ability to keep a gun at full capacity (by topping off quickly) for a greater proportion of total game time, no costly and bulky mags to manage, no potentially disastrous situation where all mags on one's person are empty in combat, and easy scavenging. These advantages are not, in fact, fallacies or myths - they are all very valid observations - and if you do magfed wrong, you can have trouble with it that will greatly tilt the matter in favor of the LOTF crowd's usual arguments.

The by far most common and most severe way you can screw up a magfed loadout is to carry insufficient ammunition for the situation. The detractors are right - if you run out of loaded mags, you have probably lost your primary and decreased your effectiveness greatly. So plan ahead, and don't cut corners! Magfed takes a certain level of commitment, thought and investment; it is a system, not a standalone piece of hardware, that you must be aware of. Pay attention to how you are doing in games. If you are frequently almost out of ammo, you must react, and carry more mags! It isn't difficult; mags are easy to accommodate with gear, and you can have a low-profile belt mag carriage solution for as little as $1.75 per magazine with no supporting gear required. Start with around 100 rounds worth and go from there - but the bottom line is that you should never end up in that oft-mentioned bind where all you have are empties and you have to fill up mags under fire. If you get there, congratulations, you just did magfed wrong.

About the only exception is in a long scenario game, say, HvZ - but for those, you very rarely are actually playing for so long that you can't satisfy these conditions of using a magfed system correctly. When you get to carrying 8+ mags (which is not only possible but easy and comfortable with some care) you can play through just about any fight.

So with that taken care of, what is the flip side of the LOTF argument? Well, in stock class nerf, we do not have hoppers or bulk loaders of any kind - so it's either magfed, or you are manually reloading single rounds. That is where trying to go magless can seriously burn you. Magfed systems excel at endurance and sustained rate of fire - with my full belt rig alone, I have 162 rounds ready to go at a sustained average ROF (including mag changes) of greater than 200RPM if necessary. Note, all modern armed forces use magfed rifles not by accident - the concept is very well proven to work for individual weapons. By comparison, once the capacity of a fixed-mag or revolving "primary" like a Swarmfire or Stockade (which is typically no greater than the capacity of a mag, and often much less) is exhausted, sustained ROF drops precipitously to however fast you can stuff in rounds between bursts - perhaps 20 RPM, at most. This simply will not cut it in many games and playstyles; you often need to shoot continously at much more than 20 RPM through multiple mag changes in both tactical SC and HvZ to keep up with the current state of opponents' tactics.

So there it is, there really is no credible magfed debate as to fire superiority. Magfed is life. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Running a lighter LOTF loadout is not off the board. It can work in certain situations - but just like other niches, skirmishing, scouting and running in HvZ, my position is that if you don't have the experience to know for absolute certain whether it would work for you, it's a safe bet that it won't work for you. Traditional playstyles take that position for a very good reason.

Also, magfed and LOTF can indeed cross paths. Most flywheel guns can be loaded through the action. I do this frequently with Rapidstrikes. You can have both sets of advantages quite easily.

Now on to the other related hot-button reloading issue: scavenging.

Reusable ammo is a large part of what defines nerf. Mostly that entails having a skirmish and then policing all the darts from the field, separate from the game; in other cases, players reload from fired darts on the field. You've done it, I have done it, all of us have probably done it at one point or another. Some of us do it a lot, or advocate it - but it is a vice. Beware scavenging.

Scavenged ammo is not predictable at all. You could encounter anything from no darts at all to a handful of junk darts to a room littered with brand-new koosh. If you are counting on obtaining usable ammo, you could be in trouble. The circumstances will often not be in your favor. Some gametypes, such as arena HvZ and other multi-wave gladiatorials, and high-ROF "speedball" games, are too fast-paced to scavenge anything - or to load on the fly, for that matter.

You are also abandoning control over your ammo as a factor in performance, consistency and reliability (which ammo has a serious impact on) and instead opting to shoot whatever the other players have decided to shoot, after it has been subject to damage in its last firing and presence on the field. If you care about playing well, you should not take such a risk - often, particularly in HvZ events, scavved ammo can be utter garbage.

Hence, relying for any reason on reusing darts from the ground is very poor practice, if you ask me.

You can also get into trouble easily if you are focused on scavenging when you really need to be playing - whether you have run out of ammo due to a poor loadout or you are just compulsively chasing fired darts (remember, when the game is over, you will have the opportunity to recover darts without being shot at). It is much better to get shot while actually playing than to get shot while picking up a 10 cent piece of foam.

Just as with carrying sufficient number of mags to not run out of them when using magfed primaries, you should always carry on your person enough ammo - magfed or not - to get through a game without scavenging anything. Treat darts as paintballs, airsoft BBs, or firearm cartridges - once you fire it, it's gone. Once you have done that, anything you can scavenge (being mindful of when it is appropriate and being adequately selective about what you put through your guns) is just an added bonus. Maybe it gives you extra insurance, maybe it lets you shoot more, maybe you give it to a teammate who is low on ammo. Don't be afraid to scavenge, just know the place of scavenging and use the double-edged sword on the enemy. Not yourself.

How many darts do you think are free for the taking here? Probably at least 30.

This post is mostly (unintentionally) taken from forum posts of mine, all the way back to 2011. Since then, I have only had these approaches verified multiple times by experience.

For what it's worth.


  1. When I play I carry between 2 and 6 loaded mags on my persons. Not counting the "jungled" 18rounders (36rounds) clip in the blaster. I've found that the flip clip is rather easy to fill up on the go. I can grab scavenged darts and throw them on the bottom mag. If the bottom mag is full I'll do a quick switch and fill up the less than full mag. I often find myself taking top darts off the mags on my belt to load into the bottom clip while on the go. While I've not tried loading a clip through the jam door (definatly going to try that now) I do enjoy being able to load a clip while still having an active clip in the blaster.

    For the next Practical Stock Class I bet there are a few of us that would like a smattering of full auto tips and tricks.

    1. Depending on what blaster you are using, you might want to remove the jam door and expand the access hole instead of attempting to reload through an unaltered jam door, which can be rather difficult.

      As for FA tips and tricks:
      (1) Trigger discipline. Have it. Use it.
      (2) Choose a controllable ROF. I'm of the opinion that there is a unique best ROF for any given player, and that is the highest ROF at which they can reliably control their burst lengths under pressure.
      (3) Know when to lay suppressive and charge-busting fire in bursts rather than continuous fire. See point #1.
      (4) Don't panic. People spray'n'pray when they panic. See point #1.
      (5) See point #1.

      There really isn't much else to say.

    2. Perhaps this should count as one more point (I hit the publish button too soon):
      (6) FA makes it easy to fire several darts in rapid succession to secure a hit on a player who would probably dodge each dart if they were fired individually. Use this power wisely. See point #1.

    3. I wasn't trying to get the advice for myself. I've gotten good advice before, and last game I made the switch from a Stryfe to RapidPistol and loved it. A 2.4V plasma dash is a great pusher speed for me.

      Trigger discipline is sometimes something one has to practice on the field. Sure you can fire darts down a hallway in select bursts for hours, but nothing will compare with the adrenaline of the moment clouding your judgement.

  2. I'd like to expand on one point: "Also, magfed and LOTF can indeed cross paths. Most flywheel guns can be loaded through the action."

    Combining magfed and LOTF reloading is advantageous, as doing so remedies one of the main drawbacks of using magazines (in anything except for a Pyragon or Praxis, that is): the inability to fire if surprised while reloading. Loading through the breech allows a player to reload in such a way that they can fire at a moment's notice.

    A magfed blaster with a LOTF-only integration is similarly advantageous. A LOTF integration provides both a way to fire a few darts when only a few are needed and thus preserve the contents of the magazine and a defensive weapon well-placed for use while swapping magazines.

  3. I just carry a minimum of 7 18's but my rig can take up to 12, with another 200 darts in the pouches on my back pack. The burst fire on the Reaper is handy if you are a bit trigger happy. I only find I burn ammo in speedball type games with re spawns, where you need to take and hold somewhere or something. If I have good loose darts to load, I work in tandem with my partner, re stocking empties on the move from a dump bag whilst he covers me. Then we both have more ammo.
    This tactic has saved my hide in day games of HvZ where the zombies sweep up as many darts as possible to burn the humans supplies down over the game. We stun, sweep and scoot on those.