Thursday, November 27, 2014

I am Thankful for YOU

It's true... November has not been kind to my spare time, which has left my beloved hobbies a bit neglected.  However, as we celebrate Thanksgiving in the United States, I can't help but think about what consistently drives me to return to my workbench and tinker on a Laser Tag pistol or upgrade a spring in a Nerf blaster... YOU!

Whether you're a new reader or a long-time supporter, whether you live down the block from me and come to the games I host or you're residing in far-off lands I wish I could visit, the people that read, comment, criticize, praise, and everything in-between make this blog worth returning to.  As a result of that, it has kept the fire for my interest in these hobbies burning strong.  I can honestly say that I don't think I would enjoy Nerf or Laser Tag nearly as much as I do were it not for the involvement and interaction I have with people on Tactical Tag and in the community for these hobbies in general.  YouTube, blogs, websites, wikis, chatrooms, and even just as simple as people I interact with locally for games and mod nights, it's really just fantastic.

When I'm stressed out paying bills or neck-deep in a bathroom remodel at my house or under pressure at work, my hobbies are part of what keeps me sane.  So, this Thanksgiving, I need to thank everyone who has been a part of those hobbies.  I hope you all have a great day as you all have had a part in making Nerf and Laser Tag more enjoyable.  I hope you all enjoy your day, your weekend, your Black Friday sales, and everything else in-between!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

CTDYNE: RapidBlast LTX Accessory

If you've been following this blog for awhile, you know that Lazer Tag fans have been teased with unreleased goodies designed for the Phoenix LTX since the line was discontinued almost 4 years ago.  To-date the only officially released add-on accessories for the LTX were those that came with it's initial release in 2008:  the Green-Dot Sight and the Shotblast.  These two accessories continue to be popular with our group and are sought-after items by most Lazer Tag enthusiasts.  The Green-Dot Sight isn't nearly as important as the Shotblast, though.  This shotgun-pump 3-round burst short-range accessory has been an excellent addition to the stock LTX and are often the first things to get picked up when we start our games.

But enough about what we already have.  I want to talk to you about what we COULD still have... even after years of waiting.  Best of all, it's from our friends at CTDYNE, my Lazer Tag modding heroes since 2006.  They sent me information and photos about one that they have in the works.

Gold Shotblast (top), Blue TV-Module (bottom)
The original concept was to provide a design and parts list for a printed circuit board that the user would have printed and then assemble. The intention was this PCB would fit into the video game accessory for the Hasbro LTX tagger without any modification to the housing, utilizing the original video game lens and an IR LED supplied by the user. The RapidBlast would unlock the super high rate of fire that was originally to be used on one of the accessories for the LTX that was never released.
We were recently able to complete one of these DIY RapidBlast boards. The project has gone thru a few different hands along the way. The first unit was taken to Fort Flagler this past September for a shake down at the last big game of the summer here in the northwest. After the Fort Flagler event, it was reported the rate of fire was outstanding, but the range yielded from the stock video game optics was unsatisfactory. If the user could get close enough and played smart, they were able to overwhelm an opponent with the super high rate of fire from the RapidBlast.

I have been given the opportunity to upgrade the optics on this first DIY RapidBlast in an effort to extend the range to a more usable distance. I am actually the fifth person to work on this project. The DIY Rapid Blast is such a special accessory for the LTX that I wanted to upgrade the optics and the housing accordingly. This CTDYNE version of the DIY Rapid Blast is called the Counter Sniper Module (CSM). The optics in the CSM consist of a 45 millimeter main lens with a single TSAL-6100 IR LED. As well as a pair of wide spread IR emitters under the main barrel that fire simultaneously. This pair of LED's each have a different spread/range. These are intended for close quarter battle use. Not much range with these but a significant spread of IR light. A selector switch is located on the left side (Labeled S-C) of the fore grip to switch between the main barrel or the pair of CQB emitters.

But the real innovation as far as the optics on the CSM, is the externally adjustable focal length mechanism. The IR LED behind the main lens can be set to different focal lengths in seconds. The minimum setting is 4.0" Maximum focal length is just under 6.0" This adjustment is made by turning the locking knob on the left side of the housing. Slide to the desired position and turn to lock. There is a scale on the outside of the CSM for reference. With some experimentation in the field we should be able to come with a set of dimensions to be used for medium to long range targets.

The work on this project is currently ongoing.

So there you have it!  Not only will there finally be a board that can "unlock" the LTX's potential for an insane RoF, but there's also an awesome custom-built unit with adjustable settings being built by CTDYNE to put this new ability to work in a wide-range of situations.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Darts, Mags, and Reloading for Nerf

Do you ever have a thought and just run with it?  Do you ever catch yourself thinking up the most EFFECTIVE loadout possible... only to realize that your theory doesn't quite work out in the real world?  Not only has this happened to me in Nerf games before... but it flat-out happened during filming for this video.

The topic centers around reloading Nerf blasters between "Quick Reload Clips" and front-loading blasters.  I use the Stockade (front-loading) and Stryfe (Magazine fed) blasters to face off in a race to reload.

Sometimes when you set out to accomplish one thing, your result isn't what you thought it'd be.  However, it's still a result and still something you can step back and take something from it.

This video is sort of an example from that.  You'll quickly have video-proof that I really don't rehearse/think these things through... as the plans sort of change as the test results come through and I think up more scenarios and adjustments needed, only to figure out that it's kind of impossible to nail down the result I was looking for.

Just check it out after the jump.  You'll see what I mean!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Laser Tag: Skirmos Mark I - Prototypes & Demo

Several months ago I signed on through KickStarter to support the Skirmos Laser Tag development. This is an Open-Source system being developed by enthusiasts for enthusiasts, so it's been lots of fun seeing Skirmos take shape. From the design of the blaster to product features, the evolution of this system over the last few months has been fun to watch!

Today, the Mark I made it's debut on YouTube. After a successful run on Kickstarter, they managed to include even more features than originally projected, so it's a nice treat to be getting a little more than what I bargained for! While the aesthetic design has evolved from a FAMAS-looking design to something a bit more Master Chief worthy, the system seems much more polished and easy to use. Even the prototype in the video using a 3D-Printed shell seems like all is going well.

The addition of a Weaver Rail system along the top carry rail will be especially useful for mounting optics. As I was reminded at the Halloween Game I did with the MLTA a few weeks ago, trying to aim a blaster covered with bright LED lights can be difficult at night, so having targeting optics will be a must. The clear shells of Skirmos mean team Identification will be easier than ever, so I'm interested to see how that plays out with our group. I'm also excited to see and hear what these blasters are performing like. The Full-auto feature is blazingly fast and the sound effects are spot-on! Still, I'm most looking forward to the Open-Source nature of how this system works and the potential it might have.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Crossbolt Questions

As many blogs, websites, and news sources around the Nerf Nation have reported, there's yet ANOTHER crossbow-based blaster on it's way to shelves.  This latest one, the N-Strike Elite Crossbolt, is a bit more puzzling in terms of how it works, but has also been spotted for sale on the site.

Originally, the Crossbolt was part of the handful of blasters featured on a larger image that was leaked in September of 2014.  Most recently, the MEGA Cyclone Shock (as reviewed by our friends at SBNC), is out and about, so one-by-one, they are becoming a reality.  However, there's a cloud of confusion currently around the Crossbolt.  There's really only one photo of it out on the interwebs that simply shows a bullpup style magazine-fed blaster with a gray priming handle on top, a tactical rail on the bottom, and bow arms on either side.  Personally, I think it looks awesome, but then I try to figure out how it works.

Many fans have been going off of the "It says 'real crossbow action' so it must be string-powered" assumption, but the Crossfire Bow in the ZombieStrike lineup says that too... and it's not actually using the crossbow bits to fire.  The only other bullpup-style blaster in the N-Strike or N-Strike Elite lineup currently is the Rayven, but this appears to be a manually-primed blaster.  It also lacks any signs of being battery operated like the Rayven (no accelerator trigger for the flywheels or battery box) so that strengthens the idea that this is some kind of plunger-system blaster.  Considering the space things are in, there's got to be an arm that sits above the magazine that moves the dart into position.  Then there appears to be two jam doors on the top side of the Crossbolt.  One is over the magazine well but the second seems to be over the middle portion... presumably where the mysterious internals are.  The bow arms are in-line with the barrel too... which toys with the idea that it is, somehow, a functional use of "crossbow action".  Suddenly, that idea of it actually utilizing the bow arms to sling a dart forward start to make sense.  Does the priming handle simply move a faux string back and forth while plunger internals do all the work?  Or could a string-based firing system actually shoot a dart to Elite ranges?

That deadly mix of "not enough information" and "we're basing this off of existing tech" information start to conflict with one another.  After being fed Flywheel after Plunger after Flywheel blaster over and over, it's tough to accept the possibility that this could be using something new.  There is, after all, that Nerf SlingShock that's coming out that looks to utilize functional strings to launch that dart... so there are newer ideas at work in the Hasbro office.  And with all the faux bows that have been out there before, there's nothing really trustworthy about "real crossbow action" other than just being a fancy selling point and not an accurate description of how it actually works.

The other bit to the puzzle is availability.  With no other photos of this blaster in existence at the moment, and with no sightings or leaked photos showing different angles, it's hard to believe that it is currently listed for sale on the UK site for Amazon.  This 12-Dart blaster has supposedly been available since last week... but still no other photos or information exist.  The plot thickens!

What say you, Nerf fans?

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Contest Winners & November Plans

Hope you all had a fun Halloween!  It's time to announce the winners for the Halloween Giveaway!  Yes, "winners" is plural because, despite the lower-than-I-had-hoped-for number of entries, I still have a few blasters I want to award.  I've come up with three categories for the 17 Entries we had.

I've made awards for Top Nerf entry, Top Laser Tag entry, and Almost Top Nerf entry.

Top Nerf: Steampunk Bane

Top Laser Tag: Satyr the Man-Goat-Thing

Almost Top Nerf: Sterling Archer

Thanks to everyone who participated!  It was really fun seeing everyone's costumes and what they came up with for their blasters, too!

If you're one of those winners, leave a comment with either your contact info or an e-mail I can reach you at so we can get your blaster to you!  I won't publish the comment for all to see!

Alrighty then!  With October's costume fun out of the way, it's time to look ahead at what we have coming next.  November looks to be an interesting month for Nerf releases.  Many of those blasters that were leaked a month or so ago are starting to pop up.  The new MEGA blasters like the Big Shock and the Cyclone are making their way through, so reviews and info on those are inbound.  As we approach the holiday season, more blasters will likely hit store shelves in time for gifting.

There's also more Laser Tag stuff from the MLTA coming up.  Fall Game #1 and the Halloween game (Fall Game #2) are out of the way, so a Mod Night and some more in-game testing are inbound!  We'll probably do another Black Friday game with Nerf or Laser Tag (or both!), so it should be fun keeping warm as winter approaches!