Thursday, February 9, 2012

Inside Scoop: RE-Con Mk III

So I'm putting together a video segment on one of my favorite blasters that's had quite the evolution since construction started on it back in June of 2009.  It was a project that I originally started, but handed off to my friend who goes by "Sundawg".  I talk a lot about him on this blog when it comes to Laser Tag, as he has revolutionized a lot of the modding techniques I use for electronics in my new blasters.  He has a much deeper background in working with electronics and it shows in his ingenuity to turn my simple recasings into feared blasters of IR death!  As I'm working on this video to show you all what the RE-Con is all about, I thought I'd share a bit of this blaster's impressive evolution.

The RE-Con, as you may have guessed it, is based off the Nerf Recon.  The "RE" in it's hyphenated name actually stands for "Radar Extreme", as in Laser Challenge Radar Extreme.  This is what serves as the motherboard for the blaster and, despite the blaster's many changes, continues to sit at the core of it's abilities.  The Mk I was just the basic blaster working, with the Mk II adding the removable barrel system and the Mk III improving the general layout of it's wiring and a NEW removable barrel.

The Mk I started it out.  This was basically Sundawg starting to get the hang of recasing a blaster.  He made good use of the Radar Extreme's original switches (most of which have since been replaced) but also made use of the clip system as a battery pack.  It's initial paintjob has remained mainly the same, only needing touch-ups since it's Black/Metallic Grey color scheme was first laid down.  It was a solid blaster at first, but in hindsight, the Mk I is a very basic and simply laid the groundwork for something much MORE impressive!

When the Mk II started, it was time to make use of the modular abilities of the Nerf Recon.  Nerfers take for granted the ability to attach and detach accessories since there's no electronic wiring connecting the two.  For attachments to work for Laser Tag, you need to find a way to hook up these accessories to make use of new optics and that adds a WHOLE new level of complexity.  Sundawg went through a few different variants of a modular removable barrel system for the RE-Con that eventually evolved into the system it now has.  From manually plugging in wires before the hookup to testing with copper contacts on the barrel system, there were a lot of trial and error attempts to find a good usable system.  There was also making use of Sundawg's electronics background that would move this blaster up from just being a simple recasing to an electronically enhanced blaster.  While there wasn't a whole lot he could do about the functions of the board (sound effects, rate of fire, etc) there was one major part that he intended to upgrade: it's power.  For a laser tag blaster, it's power lies in it's IR LED.

I've shown how power can make a difference in range before.  When I did focus tests between Light Strike and the LTX, the brighter signal on the wall was the better performing blaster.  The brighter you can get your IR LED to shine, the better range it'll get.  This is because of how the laser tag sensors work.  They receive hits when they sense a certain pattern of IR Light.  If that light is too far away or too dim, the sensor won't pick up the signal.  By making the IR LED shine brighter, you can extend the range of the blaster.  That's when the "Booster Board" was developed.  By drawing more power from a separate power source, he was able to increase the power going through the IR LED without increasing the 3 Volts going through the main board (so he didn't fry the board!).  This is why the RE-Con actually has two separate power supply sources in it's clip system.

The RE-Con Mk II was a big performance increase from the original and really started to become a feared blaster in games.  Sundawg had not only increased the power of the IR LED, but he had also focused a powerful lens in the Nerf Recon barrel extension to give it an even stronger signal.  While simply increasing the output of the IR LED already increased his range, by fine-tuning the way that light was magnified, he was able to make even more use of that new power.  This barrel would be used for general combat and, when removed, actually revealed a short-range unlensed IR LED that could be used as a "shotgun" effect, due to it's spread.  The Mk II marked the first blaster in the Omaha Laser Challenge Associations history to have multiple firing modes depending on the equipment used.

The Mk III was really just fine tuning what was already becoming quite the beast to deal with at games.  Not only was the wiring and circuitry of the base blaster refined to make it easier to use, but a NEW barrel was made as a Sniper-class attachment.  Built from a lens purchased from 1SourceLaserTag, this new lens could achieve ranges that far-exceeded normal laser tag blasters.  Generally, laser tag blasters have an effective range between 400 and 500 feet.  The new lens could achieve ranges over 1,200 feet due to it's impressive magnification of the already boosted power of the IR LED.  This meant that the RE-Con Mk III could pretty much hit anything the user could see.  But since the focus of the Sniper-class lens was so tight, even being off by a few inches would mean a miss.  Thankfully, because the lens was designed to be modular, the lens can be stored in a pouch and swapped out for the combat barrel from the Mk II.

 A Red dot sight is all Sundawg needs to land tags with this lens.  It's been zeroed and is super accurate, making this blaster (and it's user) one of the most feared in our laser tagging group.  Over the next month, I'll be focusing on some legendary blasters doing video reviews on them and the RE-Con Mk III will certainly be among them!  Keep it tuned to Tactical Tag for more information on this ground-breaking custom tagger!


  1. cool post. ive broke my wrist so i cant use nerf for 4-6 weeks :(

  2. Oh, so that's why.

    I was wondering why Sundawg's IR beam was so much brighter than all of the others on the IR comparison video. Hooray for the magic of separate power sources.