Saturday, August 31, 2013

Dart Nommin

Well, my Centurion has been collecting dust ever since it ate 5 of the 6 darts it came with.  Time to dig in and do some work on this blaster... and make it worth using.  Before I give up all hope in my Centurion and gut it for a Laser Tag shell, I figured I'd try my hand at modifying this beast.  If there's one thing I've noticed that has really been an underlying problem with this blaster: the Darts.

I later found out that, upon a close inspection of my blaster, that the breech had been damaged.  How, I'm not sure... as my Centurion was frequently jamming with it's long 1 Foot Pull to prime the darned thing.  It somehow damaged itself and, as a result, started chomping up my Mega darts.  If you look at the photo to the right, you can see where the breech was essentially growing teeth that would, quite literally, EAT my darts.

So obviously, THAT'S my first fix right there.  Breech work is certainly a must on perfecting any Clip-Fed Dart Blaster that Nerf has made.  However, these darts could use better balance, too.  My first attempt at modding this will be moreso focused on improving the darts with more weight in the tips.  I'm not usually a fan of modified darts, as they easily get mixed up in games... but since the Centurion is using specialized darts to begin with, it's not a major problem for me.  This Labor Day weekend, I look to dig in to the Centurion and see what kind of easy mods I can manage to improve this thing.  If all else fails, there's a brand new lens from LazerBait that would work quite well in this behemoth!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Huntsman Blasters

Thanks to a tip from one of my buddies on Tactical Tag's Facebook group, got a bit of a scoop on a new blaster lineup that looks to be a K-Mart-specific brand.  It's "Huntsman", and things at least look promising.  There's a shotgun using Mega-sized  darts that's hilariously called the "Boomstick".  Then there's a pretty mean looking magazine-fed sniper rifle called the "Huntsman 50".  This blaster has a smaller sister blaster called the "Commando 12", which is essentially the Huntsman 50 without the barrel extension.  There's also the "Pillager", which looks pretty familiar... and aggressive-looking pistol called the "Judge" that comes with it's own holster, too.  There are also two bows, one's just a normal setup.  The other is a crossbow.

They look to be part of the AirZone lineup.  Some of them are just repainted blasters, but others look to be new designs.  The full list of links to these blasters on K-Marts online page are listed below.

Huntsman 50
Commando 12
SwiftStrike Crossbow
Tracker Long Bow
The Pillager
The Judge

Anyone managed to nab any of these?  I'm especially interested in how the Huntsman 50 and Commando 12 work... and if they're comfy to use, too!

Elite Spectre Review!

When Wal-Mart's Exclusive N-Strike blaster, the Spectre REV-5, came out... I was quite the fan.  It addressed all the issues folks had with the Maverick as far as loading/barrel rotation/tactical rail position, and then added a rear stock adapter and front barrel adapter to make it versatile.  To top it all off, they gave it a killer design that has remained one of my favorites in my arsenal.  I made two other versions of the Spectre: a blue-painted one (to match the Longstrike Barrel Extension and Raider Stock) and a Whiteout-themed one.  Nerf had teased us with a true Whiteout Spectre box-art design, but I was more than happy to see the Spectre eventually get Elite treatment in the blue color I had hoped it to have to begin with.  Not only that, but now it's got some Elite power pushing through it, so it's an even stronger blaster out-of-the-box.

Below is a review of the Spectre, as well as a photo gallery for my Facebook Page.  Check 'em out!

Friday, August 23, 2013

New Space, MORE MODS!

So I've finally got most of my stuff moved in to my new home, including the start of a VERY nice workspace.  All I could think was "gosh, I've gotta mod something", so I reached for my new favorite Office Defender: the SledgeFire.  Turns out an Air Restrictor removal on this guy is really all it needs to punch those darts forward.  I'm quite happy with how easily upgradable the SledgeFire is for it's size.  Didn't take long to open it up, dig in, and get this mod done.  See the video after the jump to see the results of this upgrade!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Nerf Mission App: Actually Cool?

Looks like Nerf may have actually done this one right!  Thanks to a tip from one of my buddies on Facebook, I actually took the time to take a closer look at what's behind the new Nerf Mission App.  There's a great article over at TacticalFanboy, where my interest in this started.  The app includes a heads up display, compass, inclinometer, and rangefinder. The app allows players to record photos and videos, track their Nerf arsenal, learn about hand signals used to communicate with a squad, and plan out different missions for multiplayer Nerf battles.  Seem too cool for Nerf to make?

That's because they didn't!  Read more after the Jump!

CTDYNE: Stinger

Earlier, I showed off one of Custom Tag Dynamics' newest projects.  Well, thanks to an e-mail I got this morning, we've got new completed photos of this stellar upgrade that Mr. Yates calls the "Stinger".  I suspect this name choice may be linked to his callsign of "YellowJacket", but regardless of how it got it's name, this accessory for the Phoenix LTX is fantastic!

"My expectations are that the Stinger will not only improve the long range capability of the LTX, but also retain the close quarter battle mode capacity of the Tiger-brand Shotblast. The two IR LED's mounted under the main lens both have a wide spread light pattern for QCB work. This function should come in quite handy in the tunnels at Fort Worden.

The Stinger slides on in seconds just as the Shotblast does. No tools or modification to the LTX are required to press this tactical accessory into service. It is just as easy to remove. The Stinger is about half as tall as the Shotblast and about the same length. In this smaller package you not only get the close quarter benefits of the Shotblast but also increased sniper capability as well. The 1.2 inch lens is about .050 smaller in diameter then the lens on the Hasbro TMB. Since this lens is engineered for a much greater focal length then the TMB optics I expect comparable ranges with the installed TSAL-6100 LED. Time will tell.
I have also attached an image of Duncan's LTX showing the subtle changes in the paint scheme. I have retained the blaze orange tip for safety but the additional black color helps blend the lines of the Stinger with the LTX. I expect the orange plastic to show thru the flat black Krylon Fusion paint on the bottom of the battery compartment in short order once this piece is pressed into service. Oh well, it looks good to my eye in these images anyway.

I put a lot of effort into making this housing sturdy enough to take the punishment typically encountered in the aggressive games at Fort Worden. It will probably show some wear but should hold up structurally to the abuse.

~Mike Yates - CTDYNE"

I'm personally a little proud of this one... not because I had any part in making this, but the lens he's using in this is from a Laser Challenge Virtual Paintball blaster that I send him a year or so ago.  Good to see it worked into such an awesome design!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Off-Season Mode

Season 8 for the Midwest Laser Tag Association concluded last night with our 15th scheduled "Fight Night" game.  The usual bit, cookout at 6 and games at 7.  While I wasn't crazy about the lower turnout this year for games, I was really quite happy with the quality of players we got this summer.  We also have some great progress on Custom blasters that we'll be focusing into full-fledged IR Blasting monsters in the Off-Season... which brings me to all the plans I have between now and mid-May of 2014, when the MLTA will enter into it's 9th Summer Season!

I've got quite the checklist of stuff I want to do in the Off-Season, including some projects like my LTAR-converted RapidStrike.  For the most part, my interests will be in exploring new possibilities for our group.  If you've missed it, I have moved to a new home that pretty much has a Laser Tag-worthy park right in the backyard.  I've got a group of folks that will help me test out the first of hopefully many games in this new park.  If there's enough local support during the off-season, we may actually move the MLTA's 9th Summer Season to operate out of this park, which would make things a TON easier for me to continue this.

In years past I had attempted to "hand off" the MLTA to other players whom I had hoped would carry the torch and continue our laser tag group without my constant watch.  An ever-increasingly busy lifestyle was approaching and I thought that this kind of a switch was inevitable.  However, when I tried to hand the torch to others, I found myself doing most of the same amount of work from before.  It was now more troublesome than ever, so I feared the MLTA would fizzle away at some point.

Now, with the new house and new park, planning games looks to be easier than ever!  However, none of that means anything if the park is no good for laser tag, which is why we're going to run some test games in the park to see how things pan out.  Off-Season mode is always our time to prepare for the next active Summer Season, but this time it's not just about the gear.  Location, location, location!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Armory has Arrived

So I've been busy moving in to my new house this week.  What's the first thing I managed to set up in the garage?  Oh that's right... a wall of Nerf and Laser Tag blasters!  I'll need to start getting a workspace in there, but my garage is plenty deep.  Shouldn't have any problems getting the space I need in there to get a nice workshop going!

Once that's rolling, projects go back on schedule and I'll hopefully be planning the first of many new games in the big park that my property backs up to.  It's a fantastic space, and I've got a gate in my fence that opens right up to it.  This means I'll be able to host games straight from my house and into the park!  I've already talked with neighbors about it and their kids seem more than enthusiastic about the idea, so I get the feeling I'm gonna fit right in to this great community!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

RapidStrike goes Laser Tag!

Before JohnsonArms manages to go M41A all over the new Nerf RapidStrike CS-18, I'll hopefully have one of my own repainted and running as my first reshelled Lazer Tag Augmented Reality (LTAR) rifle.  I've yet to dive into one of these for a recasing since the LTAR was released last summer... and that just seems wrong to me.

To the left, you can see one of the repaints already completed by Lee Vincent on the Xplorer Facebook page.  Mine will be following suit, as the RapidStrike CS-18 bears a strong resemblance to the iconic M41A Pulse Rifle... a blaster I've already fielded as a Laser Challenge rifle.  As my own Pulse Rifle sits and collects dust, waiting for somebody in my laser tagging group to make an Arduino-based custom OS to run it on, I'll be building yet another recasing to be painted to mimick the M41A's Black and OD Green colorscheme.

I also plan to utilize a modular system on this blaster to change to different lenses, much like the RE-CON that Sundawg built for the Laser Challenge lineup.  The LTX is able to add hardware like a Shotblast, RapidFire, or SniperShot accessory.  There's no planned equipment for the LTAR to physically upgrade the blaster (just gimmicky app-based upgrades), so a Sniper Lens attachment will certainly be in the works to allow this new blaster to go toe-to-toe with long-range foes while being able to compete easily in mid-ranged combat for the majority of the combat I typically see.

This will also be the first blaster completed in my new workshop... which happens to be in my new home!  So, for those of you keeping track at home, this blaster has quite a few "firsts" it'll be checking off.

  • First reshelled LTAR
  • First Laser Tag-converted RapidStrike CS-18
  • First blaster completed in my new home
  • First planned modular platform for LTAR
Keep it here for updates on this new project!  I'll likely dig into it once the MLTA's 8th Summer Season concludes this Friday.  The Off-Season for laser tag is usually prime-time to start up new projects and test 'em out at the occasional games we'll have until Season 9 starts up in May of 2014.  That's PLENTY of development time to get the kinks worked out of this blaster!

IRcombat: Custom Blasters

I recently discovered a pretty awesome laser tagging group based out of central Michigan.  It's called "IR Combat", and is run by Zachtos.  They've got a Website and YouTube channel that show off their awesome blasters, game information, and class information.  IR Combat recently caught my eye with their Sentry Gun, which is a team-switching tri-pod-mounted gatling gun that's waaaay ahead of anything my own laser tagging group has managed to muster up.

See the video that caught my eye after the jump!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Office Escalation

So that friendly competition my office neighbor and I had has started a bit of a friendly exchange of foam between other coworkers.  Since then, my chair has been booby-trapped, others have picked up pocket-sized blasters, and my lower desk drawer is consistently raided for darts.  Today was certainly the most intense combat I've seen, so I was glad I brought some help from home in anticipation of the escalating climate.

I can't say I'm surprised.  I work with a great bunch of fellas that are all in favor of a little friendly firepower.  They all know I've got this blog and that I play Laser Tag and Nerf pretty frequently, so I've got a reputation as the armorer for most of them.  Today, I kept the best blaster for myself, laying down quite a bit of lethal firepower with the help of this SledgeFire.  It's pretty much impossible to miss with this fella, though I have noticed it's range is a little weaker than the other stock Jolts, Triads, and Firestrikes running around the area.  It's clear I need to do a few things to stay on top with the SledgeFire.  The first is to clean up my sloppy, time-consuming, and admittedly laughable attempt to quickly reload.  The second is to upgrade the SledgeFire a bit without making it too powerful for simple office warfare.  The Third... give this fella a neat paintjob!  It's more important than you may think!

I never imagined I'd be combat-testing blasters from work, but it's a good time.  I'm a little worried how far this might go, and when the friendly exhange will cross the line into a full-scale excursion into the depths of war... but I suppose if I don't up my firepower much more, we can keep things from getting out of control.

As I pick up darts around the office, I can't help but think... anyone else partaking in foam battles at work?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

NERF ZombieStrike SledgeFire Review

Zombies knocking at the door?  Greet them with a 3-round blast from your SledgeFire!  This shotgun-style cartridge-fed blaster is fun to use, comfortable to aim, and down-right deadly.  Although I wish it came with more cartridges or that you could buy more cartridges separately, a fresh supply of darts in a nearby pouch shouldn't hinder you as long as you manage these cartridges well.

Check out my quick video review after the jump!

NERF ZombieStrike HammerShot Review

Zombies have invaded the Nerf Aisle!  It's a good thing you've got a quick-draw 5-shot Revolver-style blaster with "Real Hammer-priming Action!"  ... or something like that!  The HammerShot, for Nerf's ZombieStrike lineup, is a great blaster that combines simple one-handed priming with powerful range in a compact pistol design.

Check out my quick video review of this great little blaster after the jump!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

MEGA Centurion Review

Let me begin by saying that I had already seen all the reviews and heard the horror stories about this blaster... but I'm a completionist at heart.  I figured "how bad could it be?"... well... umm... it's bad.  Long-story short: the N-Strike Elite MEGA Centurion is a train wreck.  Outside of looking cool and having a nice Bi-Pod, reading this review is more worth your time than actually going to the store to see if they have one.

Ranges are less consistent than Lindsay Lohan's drug testing results.  90-100 ft tests were successful about 1 out of every 6 darts in the clip.  The rest either veered sharply left, right, or vertical... or they flopped out or worse.  Jammed.

The blaster has already damaged itself, with a massive failure in the breech that has shredded 5 of my 6 MEGA darts.  I didn't have the heart to put my 6th dart through the same horror the other 5 had endured.  Because the blaster was pretty much broken before I could even manage a video review, I didn't even take the time to edit this footage, add fancy music or end-credits graphics.  It's not worth the time, and neither is this blaster.

Thankfully, I'm a master of turning broken Nerf blasters into kick-ass Laser Tag rifles.  It's not often that something so NEW is already broken, but I've already got plans to drop some LTAR internals in this guy, put a long-range lens on there, and make this blaster finally perform as good as it looks.

Video Review is after the jump!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

"Perfect Shots" at the Office

Every now and then when things are slow at work, a familiar "thunk" of foam darts hitting my desk and the girlish screams of my sales manager taking cover from the ensuing attack.  So when I saw these "Perfect Shot" videos showing up on Nerf's YouTube page, I thought "hey... we already do that."

My office neighbor nabbed his Jolt, I got the iPod video rolling, and we shot (literally) our video.  Don't get me wrong, we work hard.  But when we're hardly working, we know how to have a good time.  No acting, no makeup, no staged scenarios, no professional boy-actors cheering in the background.  Just a little fun at the office!

Go Get 'Em!

Summer may almost be over, kids may be going back to school, but all of the new blasters Nerf was probably going to unveil over a couple months during the fall have hit shelves.  HammerShots, Blazin Bows, RapidStrikes, Centurions, SledgeFires, and all the fixins... they're at your local retailers.  I checked two different Target stores in my area and both had shelves stocked with the newest blasters from Hasbro.

I've already started working on reviews for most of these blasters, so keep an eye out for those.  Also going to be doing a few projects with a few of these.

Oh, and before I even review it... if you're going to get a Centurion, make sure you get the Dart Refill Pack.  I already need to go back and get some fresh darts.  I'll tell you why later in a review.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Elite Spectre and Stockade hit US Shelves!

Stockades in the US!
Fans in the United States will be happy to hear of these two sightings!  The N-Strike Elite Spectre REV-5 has been spotted at a local Wal-Mart in Tennessee (thanks, Tim!) and the N-Strike Elite Stockade, previously unavailable in the US Domestic market, has been spotted in Illinois (thanks, Tom!)

This does a couple of things for fans.  The first, obviously there's more variety of blasters to choose from, although they're both essentially repaints.  The second, which may seem trival to some, we've got some great new accessories for the N-Strike Elite range including the Spectre's "Silencer" styled barrel extension, Spectre folding stock, and Stockade stock with 10-dart ammo storage.  The Stockade's stock is really my favorite accessory, so I'm happy that others in the US will get the chance to enjoy them, too!

Pay No Attention...

Hobbies Colliding!  Subaru - Laser Tag/Nerf
So it's no secret by now (and if it is, the secret is out).  I drive a Subaru.  Accidentally posted an article on my "All We'll Drive" blog on here, so if you're confused about that... it should explain things pretty well.

Just had a great game yesterday with the MLTA.  We're approaching the end of the season and I'm also in the process of moving into a new home, so I'll be pretty busy for the month of August.  Either way, I'll have new reviews up once new gear arrives for Nerf and Laser Tag!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Hit Me!

When it comes to Laser Tag, the most crucial part of the game is being able to "tag" the other player with a "hit".  It's the whole basis for the game!  So when my laser tagging group was founded using Laser Challenge gear, sometimes it was difficult to hit players because of where the sensors were located.  For those of you just joining us, here's a quick shakedown of this system's features.

Laser Challenge, in it's most basic and cross-compatible form, has a front and back sensor that keep score of how many "hits" have been landed, and a blaster.  There's no teams settings, no blaster-to-sensor recognition, and a LOT of wiggle room for other light sources (indoor lighting, sunlight, TV remotes) to interfere with things.  Also, because of the nature of a torso-based sensor for players to aim at, it can be a little tricky to hit your opponent.  Shooting around corners with no sensor on your blaster, taking cover that's higher than your waist, heck even just taking aim with both hands can make it a bit of a pain for people trying to tag you out to... well... actually do that.

This is where modifications came into play.  Although I'll admit I was reluctant at first to make myself EASIER for everyone else to hit, especially considering the fact that it took a whole 2 years before anyone else started doing the same in our group, it only seemed fair.  With all these shoulder-stock-toting rifles I was cranking out for Laser Challenge, having a shoulder-based sensor was a LOT easier to hit for my foes.  And thus, the Custom Vest Project series, or CVP, was born.

I stole the idea from Mike Yates of Custom Tag Dynamics.  He had a similar setup for his Laser Tagging group with a Laser Challenge V2 sensor rigged onto ALICE straps that he wore into combat.  As such, my first in this lineup was the CVP-01, a Laser Challenge V2 sensor integrated into a Universal Shoulder Holster (USH).  Not only did the -01 make me easier to hit for my opponents, but it also carried a few simple items like flashlights or a small sidearm backup pistol.

Later, I tweaked the design.  Instead of a simple front-facing sensor, I modified the design by adding a dome sensor to the front, allowing for a greater range of angles to land tags on me.  The CVP-03 was probably my most thought-out system.  MARPAT Camouflage, Domed sensor, integrated tactical light system, it was great balance of adding a tactical advantage without adding too much weight, while still making myself easier to be hit.  However, the CVP system would eventually go the way of the Dodo, as I set my sights on making something that could be added onto any system, something much more versatile and modular.

The Custom Sensor Setup, or CSS, was the answer.  These systems, unlike the CVP, could attach to just about any harness.  From something as simple as suspenders to something as complex as a full-on MOLLE rig, the CSS design meant I could use one sensor array on any tactical loadout.  Unfortunately, with this modular setup, the system's reliability took a hit.  The first two units, the CSS-01 and CSS-02 only lasted about a month each before their fragile internal construction broke down.  Design changes in the -03 and -04 addressed this issue and saw continued use through the rest of the OLCA's history.

Because of their design, I've been able to use Laser Challenge systems on just about any setup.  It's most commonly paired with my MOLLE rigs, as I tend to carry a lot into the field these days.  First Aid kit, flashlights, spare batteries, a small screwdriver, radios, and other useful equipment generally go with me.  Both the -03 and the -04 were also designed with the speakers facing my rear, making these excellent "pointman" vests.  Although it's a little tricky sometimes for the user to hear when they're hit, it's a quick warning to folks following me to know when to take cover/identify the source of the incoming fire.  I often lead from the front anyways, so this design suited me well.

The -04 was so easy to mount that I managed to pair it with my Captain America costume for our Halloween Game in 2011.  It utilized two hooks on the costume to mount on and meant that I didn't have to cover up my costume with some kind of vest.  I still use the -04 on my rig whenever we use Laser Challenge gear, as it's tough design has managed to last the past 2 years problem-free.

Below is a video of how the last of these custom Laser Challenge sensors functions.  It's an older video, so bear with me!

Thursday, August 1, 2013


It's amazing the kind of response you get from fans when you throw something "free" into the mix!  On July 24th, I announced a giveaway for Tactical Tag's Facebook page.  It didn't look like we were gonna make it to the 250 goal I had set, so I upped the winnings from a mere Triad EX-3 to my RapidStrike CS-18.  Needless to say, we surpassed 250 and 300 pretty easily in 2 days!

Thanks to everyone who helped spread the word!  One lucky fan will be drawn at random to choose who will get this blaster.

On the Horizon, we've got reviews for new gear that'll be hitting YouTube soon.  I've also got a few other projects in store for the RapidStrike, so August should be a fun month!