Sunday, December 18, 2011

DECISIONS, DECISIONS: Tippmann TPX or Tiberius 8?

Tiberius T8.1
       At some point in the last couple of weeks I had a nearly complete post regarding which pistol I recommend to people when they're hunting around for one, but I also somehow managed to lose it between then and now. I wanted to get something up in time for the holiday season regarding pistol purchases so you could take advantage of all the sales that appear around this time, so hopefully putting in double the effort to deliver this post to you will pay off for all of us in the end.
      Alright guys, so most of you know I'm Canadian, and as such, I tend to purchase a lot of stuff from paintballgear.ca. With that being the case, I'm going to use their website for all of the price comparisons herein. So let's examine the price tag of the pistols on their magazines first. The price of a Tiberius 8.1 here in Canada is $199.95 which is down from $227 the last time I checked the price. The price of the Tippmann TPX is $278.95, nothing much had changed there since the pistol's release a couple years back. I give the win in this department to Tiberius, but Tippy's pistol can still shine through, lets take a look at the price of the magazines.
Tippmann TPX
       Tiberius 8.1 magazines cost.... Oops, apparently paintballgear.ca doesn't have T8.1 magazines, however the prices listed on some other sites tell me that T8.1 mags are currently sitting at 45-50$ a pop. That's a bit steep. Tippmann TPX magazines are going for the same price, but you get 2 for the price of 1, so that's 22-25$ per magazine for a TPX. Ok, Tippmann, you win that round.
       How about the construction of the two marker's themselves. The grip and trigger of the T8.1 is plastic, but the rest is all metal, even the magazines. Tippmann's pistol has a lot more plastic on it, the magazines are all plastic, and metal parts are for the most part limited to the trigger, barrel, and internals. To some, this isn't a problem due to the next point, but I give the win in construction to Tiberius.
       How are the ergonomics of both pistols? How do they feel in the user's hands? The TPX being mostly plastic is a lot lighter than the Tiberius 8.1, the grip is smaller, the receiver is narrower but a little "taller" in the user's hands due to where the 12gram powerlet is installed in the pistol. The metal that goes into the T8.1's receiver and it's mags makes it a lot heavier, and I personally like this. I don't like a heavy paintball assault rifle, but I do like a heavy pistol; I enjoy the heft in my hand, it feels reassuring. The T8.1's 12gram CO2 goes in the grip with the magazine which makes the pistol's grip beefier than that on the TPX and a lot of people aren't fans of this, they say it feels too bulky and alien. I can't complain about this myself and I have smaller hands than most gentleman and grip feels quite natural for me. But I'm in that generous Christmas spirit right now, so I'll go with what the majority has to say about the TPX's grip and give them the comfort point there, even though I feel it's a draw.
       Accuracy: Depending on the forums you spend your time on, you'll see different reports of what kind of accuracy people have had with the different pistols. Some swear by the TPX, some by the T8.1. I think a lot of this comes down to avoiding buyer's remorse. When someone shells out a bunch of money on a marker, they will defend that purchase, sometimes to the point of making themselves look like a complete ass to avoid acknowledging contradictory evidence suggesting they picked up a sub par marker. Accuracy wise, I have not been able to do a controlled side by side experiment with these two pistols, but I'd imagine most accuracy will come down to the user's skill and paint in the magazine. You will find your accuracy increases out of necessity when you play with limited ammo in any case. It's a good way to train! I call accuracy a draw for both pistols in this case.
       So we're all tied up, even though I'm personally still kind of leaning in the T8.1's favor, and it sort of looks like we've covered all the bases. What's going to be the tipping point? Air delivery. Imagine you're on the field with a TPX, you place the CO2 powerlet in the marker, shoot about 3 mags (24 rounds), and you're out of gas, you have to change the CO2 cartridge out of the marker. Now let's try the same exercise with the T8.1, take those same 3 mags, put a CO2 cartridge in each since they go into the mag in the T8.1 and not the pistol itself, and start blowing away the opfor. But! Every time you slap in a new magazine, you're also slapping in a new CO2 cartridge which seals when you eject it so it's not wasted. As long as you have a mag with CO2 in it, you can keep shooting, you don't need to change the CO2 out of the pistol itself. You can put more paint in those 3 mags, and shoot each one 2 more times before having to swap out the 12gram giving you a grand total of 72 shots. What I'm saying here is with the T8.1, you could hypothetically shoot through an infinite number of magazines 3 times over before having to swap out a single CO2 powerlet, but with the TPX, you have to make the swap every 24 shots no matter what (unless you use a remote coil). To me, that's an important selling feature the T8.1 has over the TPX. 
       Both companies have a great reputation, stand by their products, and have customer service second to none though. Regardless of what you buy this holiday season, you likely won't be sitting on the sidelines teching a temperamental marker, I just find there are certain things that tip the scales in the T8.1's favor and felt I'd share these observations to help you make an informed decision.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

STILL ALIVE


       I feel like a bad blogger again, having not posted for, oh, let's see, two months I think it's going on? But I figured it was time to throw something online so folks know I'm still alive, still sorta writing, and have no interest in letting the blog die, but times are busy right now. As I've said in the past a few times, when I'm pressed for time, writing a micro-essay on paintball isn't at the top of my to do list. As much as I love other blogs like GreyOps and Catshack Reports, which I go to very regularly for news and reviews of paintball stuff, I'm not the sort to do a two or three sentence post and link out to a different website for a story. I like having 100% original content on here and unless I'm posting some kind of photo gallery, I have a minimum length I like to keep my posts at, that being about one page, single spaced, 12-font, typed in Open Office.
       So outside of Eight Pound Ops, here's where I am: I'm taking a heavier course load than ever before in school which is gobbling my time up, as a result I don't get to go to the field very much these days, I even missed the end of season last weekend. I don't have the same inclination to write in my free time when writing happens to be all I'm doing in my other time. I've been getting out on the longboard a lot, which has been nice since I don't need a ride anywhere to do that, don't have to pay a fee, and don't need a few buddies to make it a good time. As a result I should be probably posting on that blog more than I am, but it's like ever since I started the second blog about longboarding, suddenly the thought of maintaining two blogs is scaring me away from doing anything on either one of them. Crazy.
Do you smell something burning?
       I have a few articles which are near completion, though only a few, and most of them are reviews, too. There's a chance I'll be able to post some of them before Christmas which itself will bring some free time to write a little more. There is the 5.11 TDU Rapid Assault Shirt, Milsig Hydration Vest, a little commentary on pros and cons of the T8.1 and TPX pistols, and just to mix things up, I hope to do a review of the latest Call of Duty installment as well (I can only do one and not the other so Battlefield will have to wait!). That review would also come way-late since only being able to pick one game for the next couple weeks means Skyrim takes priority! I have no stories up my sleeve right now for this blog though, given that playing doesn't fit into the schedule as it used to, and this makes me sad as well since Kamloops Paintball Games just started selling some really excellent smoke grenades.
        A fellow recently posted on the Facebook page (which by the way has a staggering 2 fans!) that he liked the Week of Valken, and was sorta sad to see there had been no new content appearing on here in over two months. That was a bit of a motivator for this post and has got me back to thinking about doing something I'd been considering since mid-August, that being a “Week of GoPro”, which given the recent release of the HD Hero 2, might just be a smashing idea. I'll let you guys know a little closer to Christmas how that's shaping up.
       Don't be a bonus baller!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

AN INTERVIEW: With Nelson "Noc" Lau of Milsig

Lau, posing for some product shots of Milsig's
2009 limited run paintball marker, the M-Series Paradigm
       Milsig hasn't always been the Milsig it is today. Those loyal to the brand are familiar with a magazine fed marker know as the TM4 which precluded the very popular K-Series, and also know of Milsig's involvement in assisting RAP4 in the creation of their Gen 3 T68. How far back does Milsig go? What are the origins?

       The gun you know as the K-Series actually goes farther back than the MILSIG brand. The platform existed for 2 years before MILSIG was launched. My partner Cho designed the original K-Series, and RAP4 picked it up and re-branded it as the T68 Gen5. Then we went into a partnership with a company called SWAT systems, they rebranded it Tactmark TM4...and then we launched MILSIG on our own. Before MILSIG was launched, we did massive upgrades to the original system, and throughout its life cycle, we’ve continued to make improvements.
       As for even older markers, RAP4’s T68 Gen 3 line was also our design. It was based on the stacked tube (SPYDER) system. RAP4’s current mag fed design is basically a T68Gen3 converted to mag fed. I guess they decided to upgrade our earlier design after we broke ties with them. You’ll also notice that RAP4 magazines are identical to ours as they pretty much copied our design.


       Was being the president of a milsim paintball company always a goal of yours? Or was there something special along the way that kindled an interest in the industry?

       I actually never set out to start a MILSIM PB Company, and I didn’t play a lot of PB growing up in Vancouver. I was actually heavily involved with airsoft and real steel. I got my first airsoft gun when I was 14, and I founded the British Columbia Airsoft Club when I was 19. I was literally one of the “pioneers” of airsoft in Canada. Eventually, my interests in airsoft and guns in general led me to run a small but successful business selling and fixing airsoft guns...which eventually led to a lot of lucrative work in the movie industry as they had just “discovered” airsoft guns as movie props. My life basically revolved around Airsoft, Real Guns, and MILSIM. When I wasn’t working with Airsoft, I was out shooting them with the guys at the club.
The BCAC was run by a pretty tightly knit group of older professionals, and we steered the club towards a true MILSIM mantra. Unlike a lot of clubs and even businesses today, the word “MILSIM” had true meaning to us. A bunch of guys running around with BDUs and space guns and playing different versions of capture the flag is NOT MILSIM. We were all drawn to airsoft because we were a bunch of military buffs, and the game play reflected that. All we played were objective based scenario games.
       There was very little conflict, and while we always played on the same few local fields, the changes in scenarios and objectives kept things fresh. Over time, more newbies joined, and all they wanted to do was play “shoot em up” games. They all wanted instant gratification, and doing recon, patroling, and stalking was WAYYYY too boring! It became the same “team A out to kill all the guys on team B”, and vice versa. And as bragging rights and egos got out of hand, the finger pointing started and everyone was accusing everyone else of cheating. In the end, I quit airsoft, and I often wondered “Wouldn’t an airsoft gun that marked solve the problems in airsoft?” “What about a more realistic paintball gun?”
Years past and I eventually moved to Taiwan as my long time girlfriend was “summoned” home to Taiwan to help with the family business. Out of shear luck I met my manufacturing partner Cho when I attended a PB bachelor party at one of his fields. We quickly became friends because of our common interests and he eventually asked me for help on a project.
       He was working on a contract for an American company intending to turn one of his products into a Less Lethal Launcher for Law Enforcement and Military use. I was brought on as a consultant to help with the R & D. I spent 18 months on this project and I got to know Cho’s product inside and out. Eventually, the project ended as the company we were working with had some legal and financial problems...but we didn’t walk away from this project empty handed.
       While working with the American partners with the LE Project and launching Tactmark, I saw a void in the Paintball Market. Accessorized Tippmann A5s were all the rage, and everyone wanted to make their marker look more real. I looked at these things and I thought...” Why add a hunk of metal to the receiver to make it look like a magazine, only to continue feeding balls from a top heavy hopper?” “Why add a CAR stock to a marker to only put a gigantic air tank underneath?” “Why pay hundreds of dollars to wrap your marker in folded sheet metal just for looks?” I asked a lot of WHYS and realized that we already had the perfect product. We already had a realistic and robust marker...with a working magazine! The answer to the questions I asked myself when I quit airsoft was staring right at me... 
        The rest as you’d say is HISTORY!

       On the way to the spot you are in now, was there any person in (or outside of) the industry who you aspired to be like?

       I met a lot of people along the way, and I learned a lot from many different people. I can’t say that I want to be like any one person or company in particular as everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. If I have to identify certain people and their positive traits, I’d say Doug Brown of PSIWORX for his passion and understanding of the industry...or in particular what is WRONG with the industry. Eric Bratten of Tiberius for his candor and professionalism. Finally, Gino Postorivo of Valken for his vision and ability to spearhead such a come back in such a short time.

       Some individuals at the woodsball field I hail from and some from others have criticized the design of the K and M-series markers for being somewhat archaic, relying on high pressure output for operation instead of a lower pressure poppet for maximum air efficiency. When one considers the MSG RRV vest which holds 8 mags (160 rounds) and the MATS Stock grants around 130 shots, they make a reasonable point, what would you say to address nay-sayers?

       I don’t doubt that there are more efficient systems out there, and that the inline blowback design is quite old. But the oldie is a goodie as there are more inline blowback markers out there by volume than any other designs. We chose to use the inline blow back system ourselves because the action most feels like a real gun as the blowback action creates some sensation of felt recoil. It’s NOT the most efficient system, but for the sake of realism, there must be some tradeoffs.
       As for the vest holding more mags than the 13CI HPA tank can shoot...get a bigger tank and a remote line! I honestly don’t know why we get so much slag in particularly. From our own tests, our markers are actually more efficient than other brands’ blow back markers...so why so much hate?
As for guys that run MATS with the 13CI HPA alone, most of them report that they never go through all of their ammo before air runs out. I will say this though...we WILL look into a system upgrade or change at some point in the future, but we’ll stick to our core values.


       Milsig is somewhat famous with it's fans for not being a “hype machine” like other paintball companies when they choose to market new products. Some fans are crying for some kind of teaser from Milsig for anything from new marker accessories to the long awaited box-magazine. Are there any plans to throw them a bone in coming weeks? Anything you'd be willing to share about the "Milsig 2.0" teased on Facebook?

       I’m not totally against hype, as excitement is a key marketing tool. However, unless I’m 100% good and ready to release a properly tested high quality product, I’d rather not talk about it much at all. I disappointed a lot of fans for a failure to deliver a box mag, which we hyped... In the end, our competitor beat us to the punch, and I vow to not make the same mistake again. I’ll let the end results speak for themselves...talk is crap unless you deliver substance.

       Milsim paintball and limited ammo play is becoming hugely popular, unfortunately for new players, the price of a magazine fed marker is pretty huge itself. Does Milsig have any plans to make it more accessible to new players in the future?

       Without revealing too much, part of MILSIG 2.0 is to make the entry barrier into mag fed play lower...stay tuned.

       Accessibility aside, where do you see Milsig paintball or mag-fed play as a whole in the future?

       I think more players will see the benefits of limited ammo or mag fed play. I don’t think one needs to shoot a case of paint per outing to have a good time, and the cost benefits will outweigh some “spray and pray” tendencies. I think over time, field operators will see the light and realize that you don’t need your players to burn through a lot of paint to make a profit.

       If you weren't involved with Milsig as you are now, what do you think you'd be doing instead?

       Well, truth be told, MILSIG isn’t how I make my living. I’ve recently taken on a more active role and spend as much time running MILSIG as one would at a full time job, but I have other business interests. The company behind MILSG does a lot more than just make MILSIM paintball products. We do considerable ODM (Original Design Manufacturing), OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturing), and R & D work for clients from a diverse range of industries including the automotive, firearms, airsoft, and paintball industries. On top of that, we do a lot of military and law enforcement contract work here in Taiwan and abroad.
When I’m not doing the manufacturing stuff, I’m involved in property development. I guess I just like to “build things”.


       Lastly, what is Nelson Lau's favorite game to play at the field?

       Capture the flag! No, just kidding... I actually don’t have a favorite game. I like to take part in objective filled scenario games...just like it was from the BETTER days. I like it more when an event takes on an unpredictable life of its own, where the outcome isn’t solely determined by “which team killed more of the other teams’ guys”. I’ve played in games where I fired a lot of paint, got into many firefights, and made a lot of kills and not felt fulfilled. I’ve had others where I did a lot of sneaking around where I didn’t even make a kill but felt way more enjoyment. Teamwork and comradery are more important to me than having the coolest toys or the most kills.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

REVIEW: Tippmann X7 Phenom

       I'm not going to lie, writing this, my first ever marker review on Eight Pound Ops isn't exactly what I want to be doing with my first Monday off in four months (obviously posting this late), least of all with a copy of Borderlands Game of the Year Edition sitting in it's plastic wrap, glistening in the late afternoon sun coming through the window and calling out to me. But alas, I've had the X7 Phenom for awhile now since selling my Milsig Paradigm, I've beat it up a fair bit, and it's time for an after action report of the thing. The pictures you'll be seeing of the marker in this review are of my own X7, which I painted, there is no SKU of the gun which looks like that. I've been using the X36 stock on it, with a Milsig PDW grip more often than not, as well as a FLASC Barrel kit, but for the day of consistency testing and chronoing I only used the stock barrel the marker itself comes with. In these pictures it's sporting a Versapod Bipod instead of the PDW grip, and sadly there is no Tippmann Phenom label where it should be since it wouldn't stay on and fell off in the bush somewhere. The air I've used has for the duration of use has always been supplied by a Pure Energy 70/4500 outputting at 800 psi, and is delivered to the marker via a PSI Worx Pro Connect III. I should also mention the bolt is regularly lubed with Tech-T Gun Sav.
       Let's break the Phenom down and talk about some of the cool features you get with the gun out of the box. First off is an awesome submachine gun look. The magazine on the marker is a durable light weight plastic and so although it doesn't do anything for the gun functionally (unless you stow allen keys in yours) it doesn't take away from the Phenom by adding any more weight to it. Second is no gap between the grip and magazine for you whiners who hate an air line going into the gun right there. The Phenom also has a gas thru grip meaning there is no line running outside the gun to power tube anywhere on the marker, your propellant goes right through the pistol grip of the marker and the Phenom accepts both CO2 and HPA. As the old X7 and A5 before that, the Phenom also comes with Tippmann Cyclone feed system which really is a hell of a loader. Most folks with gripes about the Cyclone loader are those forum users with several thousand posts who wanted to make their Tippmann a speedball marker and inevitably failed at doing so. If the Cyclone isn't broken, so don't think you're the guy to improve upon it. The thing capably feeds 17bps fine out the box without any tampering so nit-pickers should just leave the thing alone, seriously, you don't even need squishy paddles. The Phenom has a nice select fire switch for jumping between mechanical and electric operation, the usual iron (plastic) sights found on bushball guns these days, a low profile hopper, and a pretty respectable stock barrel. Perhaps a personal favourite feature of the Phenom is the way the velocity is adjusted at the back. There is an open area on the rear right side of the marker which allows access to a dial for velocity adjustment, but no specific allen key is required. All one needs is any small, skinny object which they can put in there to rotate the dial up to lower velocity, or down to raise it.
And it folds away to fit in a backpack nicely!
       The X7 Phenom comes E-gripped to go full-auto out of the box unless you specifically are trying to buy the mechanical version. If the battery in the Phenom's grip dies, however, it can still shoot in semi automatic unlike most other auto-electric markers. Firing modes included on the board are 13bps auto, auto-response, 3 round burst, and 15bps turbo where you must continue pulling the trigger to stay at 15bps; this last mode is essentially a ramping mode.
       Internally, the gun is not like any Tippmann before it, with the exception perhaps of the TPX Pistol. The bolt and air nozzle of the Phenom are pretty much the same as the TPX, and users of Tiberius pistols and even Invert Mini's and BT TM series guns will be familiar with the way the marker operates. The “powertube” of the Phenom is a long black tube which runs the length of the marker, inside are all the things needed to regulate air pressure down to 400psi, adjust velocity, and effectively deliver air to the air nozzle and bolt to fire the marker. Some gas is also supplied from here to power the Cyclone Feed System. The Phenom doesn't have the same blow back system for recocking as your typical Tippmann marker would, and instead of a spring and hammer pushing the bolt forward to shoot, it's all done by air. Once the bolt has delivered the air and fired the ball, a spring in front of the bolt pushes it back to it's cocked state to be fired again. As a result, there are no outside levers to pull to cock the gun, nor are there additional springs and metal rods running the length of the marker's internals.
Image credit goes to "Merc" of A5OG
       Disassembly of the Phenom is a breeze too, which is a nice departure from having to break down one's entire Tippmann as was the case in the past. To clean and due routine maintenance on the Phenom, all one needs to do is pop out the two rear push pins where the stock would go, pop out the pin at the front of the trigger, and then remove one last plastic pin which runs through both the body of the marker as well as the powertube, keeping everything inside secure. Once this has been done, the internals will begin to slide out and user only needs to ensure the hose running from the Cyclone Feed to the marker is out of the way and guts will come out with ease for maintenance.
       So how about performance? As earlier mentioned, I've been using the marker for about three months or more and have had ample time to break it in. It's become my primary marker and I'm already dreaming up ways to build my next one since I love the thing that much. I had a few bad days at the field right away when I was using it though, so I didn't want to review the marker right away. The bad days were not due to the gun, but other life things which would probably have muddied my objectivity for a review which is one of the reasons I held off for so long. I've scored tonnes of kills with this marker, had lots of good days since the one or two personal rotten ones when I received it, and had lots of winning games, but I can't chock that up to the marker alone. A lot of that goes to personal experience from so much practice, as well as the skill of the team I'm on. The gun definitely feels great though, it's light, manoeuvrable, and super easy to keep tight to the body with or without a stock on it, and the fake magazine makes for an adequate foregrip all on it's own. The only thing I'd recommend getting is your preferred stock to complete the look of the gun and maybe a barrel kit. It's a rocking marker all around, but the review wouldn't be complete without a consistency test and target shoot, right?
       I'll get to that in just a second. It seems that right after posting this, some folks thought my review might be a little biased and that I needed to hunt high and low for some cons of the X7 Phenom to talk about. After many hours of chin scratching, I've found three, and they aren't super big complaints. First is the biggest: it seems that there are quite a few Phenoms which have come off the production line with some rough bits on the bolt, this issue has been identified by Tippmann, I'm sure they are looking in to it, until they do however, all you need to do is take your bolt and lightly sand off any rough nubbins you feel right where the air exits it to propel the ball out the barrel and you will be chop free. I had to sand my own, and I'll be sanding a friends the same way very shortly. Problem two: where the Cyclone Feed's hose enters the power tube. This part that plugs into the power tube is plastic, if you give your Phenom's back end too rough a tap to make the internals slide out, they might get to much momentum and sheer this bit off. This happened to mine, but Tippmann replaced the part very quickly and it was an easy fix to do on my own. Tech T's MRT bolt kit also comes with a metal fitting to go into the power tube instead of the plastic one which is stock on the Phenom. Last complaint which isn't a problem for me but might be to others: the profile of the Cyclone Feed and hopper. This marker uses a wide mouth loader and hopper and it's kind of a bulky thing to have hanging off the side of your marker. If you play at a field where gun hits count, the hopper on the Phenom will get tagged more than you do, landing you in the dead box. You can keep your head in behind your bunker, your arms and marker in tight to your body, but that Cyclone hopper is going to hang off the side no matter what . What you can do to overcome this is try shooting lefty, this will keep the hopper inside the bunker so only your guns fore-end is sticking out while shooting. This isn't an issue for me at Kamloops Paintball Games since gun hits don't count there, but I can attest that this markers hopper takes a lot of hits. Now onto the tests at the chronograph...
Did I mention that not one ball missed?
       I did this chrono test at a big, red, X-Radar chronograph after all those moths of play to break the marker in so bare with me on the numbers. Shooting off of the air delivery system mentioned above, with GI SPORTZ 4 Star paint and the stock barrel, I obtained these successive numbers: 282, 287, 298, 296, 298, 300, 302. It would seem that for the most part, the marker shoots within 2 fps of the previous shots with the exception of those two warm up balls. I also have another picture here of a target I fired at, and an additional shot taken at 50mm focal length (approximate human eye equivalent) so you can see how far off it was; only about 60 feet in this case, but good grouping for a stock barrel I think.
       That's the Tippmann X7 Phenom for you and I'm going to put it out there that this marker is the Eight Pound Ops Marker of Choice, up there with the Dye I4 as the preferred mask, and the Milsig Hydration vest as the preferred vest. I should probably get around to reviewing that vest soon.... anyhow, I hope you liked the read, and regulars will hopefully let me know how the first gun review on here went so I can tweak how future gun reviews go!

Monday, August 15, 2011

GALLERY: Valken Tactical

       Well guys, I told you I was going to try and do some shoots of all the different Valken camoflage offerings and it looks like I can start delivering on that promise. It's been tricky getting around and arranging these things with out a car! Saturday night, I went out with my team mate in his Valken Tactical black gear and did a shoot in a quiet parkade downtown. I also tried to get him to model some of the tactical offerings of the other sponsor we're working on acquiring, First Response Duty Gear. there were kind enough to supply us with some gloves from Hatch Tactical, boots from 5.11, a TK45 flashlight (720 lumens!) from Fenix, as well as a simple rack rig from Blackhawk which turned out to be ideal for holding 100 round pods on your gut. The rest of the gear, that being top and bottoms are Valken Zulu Tactical stuff. For those wondering about anything else in the shoot, there's a Fasta loader, Invert Mini, 68/4500 with black Planet Eclipse cover, Spyder MR2 with 50 round loader, a polished up Tiberius 8.1 with a compensator from Action Gear Canada, Dye I4 mask which is a field favorite in Kamloops, as well as Annette's doughnuts. Full gallery can be viewed here:  https://picasaweb.google.com/105329055913978245011/August132011ValkenTacticalFirstResponseDutyGearShoot


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

EPIC STORY TIME: The Human Centipede

It was pretty close to looking at this, actually

       Remember a story I told you about a 'Doctor' game back before the Week of Valken where there was a hand grenade? Which blew up in some guys faces when they ripped the wrong end? And the title warranted not one, but two epics in it? If I had a way of working it in, this one's title would have three. This tale might actually be the most epic story time post yet on the blog yet if for no other reason than the feelings of dread it fostered in us very early in the game. This story also involves the very same game of Doctor, and for those just joining the blog now, I'll post my fields rules for the game type again for you to understand what's going on.
       The rules of 'Doctor' go as follows: the game is elimination with a twist, each team has a doctor, more than one depending on how many other players the doctor has to tend to, usually one doctor to every 9 or 10 normal combatants. When a player is shot, they put their arms up and call for the doctor to come revive them, the only means of removing a doctor from the game is with a headshot and the doctor can choose to bring his marker into combat with him if he so chooses. Hypothetically, a player could have unlimited lives if the doctor were beside them to constantly tag them back to life and progression of the game usually involves making the doctors the first priority targets, killing them, and then systematically taking out the rest of the players when they have no means of re-entering play.
       Myself and a young lady were the doctors for my team, two other regular renters were the doctors for the opposition. Things started well, the team splits in half, no one really occupying the middle of the field, a few of my guys get smacked by lucky shots early on but I revive them with no problems. The young renter lady is a little nervous about having to take a headshot to die but seems to be managing her side alright. Sometimes I see a guy call for a doc but she gets to them before I do a double take; very nice, we're making good progress.
       I run around making sure my side is alive and go over to the middle to scope out whats happening on the lady's side. Coincidentally, I look over just in time to see every single one of them sprinting as fast as they can back toward our base and we lose well over 100 feet in a matter of seconds. I check to see what they're running from. Their side had a few nice, lucrative bunkers to capture, but not too much to hide behind and I can't see anything over there in spite of the very little cover. Why'd they dash away? Is there a bear? If it's the enemy team they just need to retreat back up the hill our base sits on and wait for the them to wander into the open at the bottom and then let some paint fly, we should do fine...
A full 5 seconds pass.
       I see something sliding out from around a small rise which had been blocking my view of some of other side. There is no discernible texture to the thing which is wondering out from behind the hill, no variation in color, all I can tell is that it has a human outline but is solid orange. I start thinking that it's a guy who didn't clean his hits after last game, or any before that and maybe he took quite a few this game but then more comes out from around the rise. It was one guy in front, a doctor huddled behind with his hands on the guy, and another person in back wrapped around the doctor to protect him. I realized at that point that all the paint on this guy had to have been from this one game, there was no way to count all the hits on his body there were just that many. He was alive thanks to the doctor and he kept moving closer. My team had dumped everything they had into this guy and the doctor behind him but he'd kept coming, so close to them that they had to fall back to the base.
       The man in front had a TM-15 and the trio in the conga line were next to unstoppable. All the front man had to do was depress the trigger and let out a burst of auto and we had to duck down. They kept trundling forward. Their doctor's head was barely visible but it could be hit with a lucky shot. Usually during a game of doctor I run out without a gun in order to lighten my load and run faster, this time I'd left a mini with one hopper-full of ammo in our base just in case. I grabbed it, went prone on the rise our bases sat on and snuck up to the ledge. The conga line was 50 feet away down an incline and I worked my lethargic fingers as fast as I could to dump more than half a hopper down at them. I was lucky enough to be using to very nice paint that day and it looked like a brilliant fireworks display the way the balls were enthusiastically exploding on their targets. I was not fortunate enough to hit the doctor but I did slow down the advancing conga line, enough so that a well hidden team mate who'd previously been retreating could fire a few good shots and drop the doctor, the other two fell quickly resulting in that entire flank being open for half my team to storm up. The other doctor on the opfor was hiding in their base and we never did manage to get that far up the field resulting in a draw that round. The tactic was so effective and terrifying that they tried it again en mass in game two, but most other players who participated in that team's antics didn't have the same pain tolerance as the guy in front of the first conga line, as a result we out manoeuvred and beat them for round two. By the end of both rounds, this one man had probably taken 1000 direct hits to himself and his gun (gun hits don't count at my field), and he just kept walking toward us.
       Some who I've told this story to have said the tactic should be banned or prevented for a host of reasons: make head shots mean a player is totally removed from the game, gun hits should count in this one, the tactic is kind of cheating, risk of grievous bodily harm to the person who managed to pull it off. I don't think I'll ever see someone do this one again so I don't see the need to take too many preventative measures so it won't happen again. I'm just about 100% sure the gentleman who did had some kind of analgesic condition (does not register pain like the rest of us), and the odds of encountering someone on the field during this game again, with an equivalent pain tolerance I might add, is super small. Frankly, it was an exhilarating battle, like fighting a tank, and the guy thought outside the box to try and go for the win. We didn't expressly prohibit this and he exploited a loop hole valiantly. I salute him, but wholly discourage anyone from trying the tactic. If it's something I wouldn't subject myself to, I certainly wouldn't advise others to try it.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

ICE TO ESKIMOS: Selling Your Used Paintball Gear

       Some people have mad skills at selling their gear off, other folks slap some one line classified ad together in under a minute, post it, and wait months for so much as a nibble. There are a few things that make for a good advertisement: a well maintained and complete package that people want, a well written ad itself, and good media of what's actually in the ad. Most people's greatest interest is selling off a big ticket item, like a complete marker or gear bag package in a hurry. Maybe it's a pricey Milsig, or an Ego, a high end vest, loader, pile of magazines, or things over 200-300 dollars in general. A lousy advertisement can ruin someone's odds of selling a very fetching item, and a stellar ad can help sell something mundane in less than a day. It all depends on the presentation.

An eye pleasing ad shot,
though I'm biased because it's my own
Click to enlarge, quite ugly when you see the whole shot!
       Maybe you just started dabbling in selling things online, or maybe you already do but can't move your wares, either way you're probably reading to find out how to get the most back from an earlier investment. So what are some of the best things you can do to help sell something off quick? Providing lots of details in the ad is a good place to start. Some really neurotic people won't give an ad a second glance if the only info inside is your forum alias and “xxx.xx$ O.B.O.” Let people know that you will provide them with your email and phone number on top of the return address on the package. If you're a private person and keep your number and email to yourself, then make sure you give them some additional means of contacting you to put their mind at ease. It looks good if you're on top of that and they don't have to ask you first. List EVERYTHING that's coming in the box you ship it in right down to barrel condoms and extra nuts and bolts. Listing every item you plan to send will make your offer look beefier, like there's a lot more to it, and prospective buyers will be more interested. Throw in a few odds and end you wouldn't otherwise consider throwing in too, extra lubes and o-rings, other things in your gear bag you don't actually use to make the deal appear more awesome; you don't need them, why not put them to use in garnering you a bigger return on your used wares? If you're planning on selling a big marker, buying a brand new maintenance kit to add on to the deal might be a good idea to get a much bigger return on what you sell. No, it's not swindling. Selling your gear is like selling your house, if you a throw a bit more stuff into the deal (like new appliances, floors, or paint the walls ahead of time) you can get a lot more back than you invested in sprucing it up.
        Be honest about the products too. Some might want to overlook problems they had with their marker or other gear and never mention them but disclosing any previously encountered issues makes you seem like a more honest sort of fellow. Make sure people know of any scratches or dings, that you think might disappoint them when their gear arrives. Even if your gear isn't in mint condition, people will be happier with the purchase knowing exactly what's coming without any surprises. Lots of forums also have formats which they ask users to post their ads which ask for things like location shipping from, whose paying shipping, and age of the product. TechPB has one of the better lists which you should follow regardless of where you're posting an ad and you can read it by clicking here. You can't even post an ad without their “must have” information and they have the right idea making you follow their BST rules.
400 CAD or less this one can be had for
       Onward! No one wants to buy unless they can see the thing you're selling first right? At least a picture? At most a video of it? What needs to be done now might be pricey for you but it will pay for itself if you use it appropriately: buy a camera. Don't use a point and shoot, and definitely not your Iphone. Ideally you should invest in an SLR or a hybrid camera somewhere between an SLR and point and shoot at least. Lousy pictures like the one of the Alpha Black will do your ad more harm than good. The one of that painted Paradigm is one I took of my own gun, that package sold for close to 1200 in less than two weeks, and I had the buyer interested in less than two days. A good DSLR camera can be had for as little as 400 CAD, less if you find one on sale or in a classified ad of it's own. That's almost as little (or as much) as a high end point and shoot! Everyone has a camera of some kind, buy a good one next time you're on the market for one and remember: DSLR's hold on to their value much better than point and shoots. Also remember the composition of the picture can do a lot for the ad too. Without getting too artsy about photography here, just let me say that your marker propped up in nature or a close up of it in action will up the bad-ass factor more than a picture of it on bedsheets or your sofa will and help it move faster.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Addendum Reviews Come Marching In

From Wikimedia
       The addendums to some of my previously posted reviews are coming in now! The final method I decided to use to do this was going back and giving them all another proof-read (and believe me, some of them needed it) and then editing in new thoughts on the product after typing “ADDENDUM”. I added some new opinions to the 5.11 Coyote ATACs boot 8 inch (Here), Oakley Assault S.I. Gloves (Here), and made an affirmation of my love for the Dye I4 with an addendum opinion regarding the lens (Here).
       Now, I am a junkie for racking up page hits but I won't make you click all those links to get revised and re-proofed content, even if it does mean passing up a potential 200 hit day. What I had to add on to my review about the 5.11 boots was how much they disagreed with the shape of my feet. In the original review I did post about how in the first pair I wore, I managed to destroy the heel of the boots by placing a new insole over top of the old one, raising my foot to a height it didn't belong. 5.11 was nice enough top replace those but by the time they did, I'd purchased another pair, 2 for the price of one new pair in the end. I'm currently wearing pair number 3 since during the time since posting, pair number 2 crapped out on me, the heel wearing worse than the first pair. 5.11 recommends purchasing a pair one size smaller, or one half size smaller to remedy this if you encounter the problem. I did this and still had the issue. I know of no one else who's had the issue though, so it must be my own mutant heels. Though I personally won't be investing in any more pairs since the boots hate me, I still recommend them to anyone looking for a good tac-boot since they are that damn comfortable. By the way, not to toot my own horn but... the review of the boot? If you plunk 5.11 coyote atac review into Google and certain permutations of it, Eight Pound is the first result at the top of the page, above 5.11's own website!
       Oakley Assault S.I. Gloves: Still a good glove with good protection all around, the knuckles still being the most amazing part. The palms continue to hold up well but when I wash them to get heavy soiling out, the palms will BLEED black dye out of them. No rips yet, no other broken stitches than the original one mentioned, some fuzzing from friction, but when you wash them you have to find a spot to let them dry which you don't mind having a black hand print on from the dye bleeding out with the water.
       The Dye I4's (Verbatim): I still love the mask, have worn it in every kind of weather imaginable barring a tornado or hurricane and they have never once fogged on me or any other heavy breather at my field whose purchased one. Since buying one and sporting it at my field earlier this season, it's become the most sought after mask in Kamloops. Most people still wear JT hard plastic Flex masks at KPG but those are usually what they purchased as a first mask. If an upgrade from an entry level face protector is what those people are after, then they usually end up buying an I4, the I4's only competition up there being the Sly Profit and more than 50% of those who have purchased those are having buyer's remorse! I have encountered two issues though, one very small, and one somewhat bigger: Due to lacking a visor of any kind, the vent above the lens are exposed to the elements, this allows paint spray to fall into the mask sometimes, as well as rain water. Not a huge deal if you clean it quickly after but if outside pollutants fall inside and aren't cleaned quickly, it will lead to problem 2. The mask will bubble a bit. The coating itself doesn't come off or rise off the surface of the mask and it's only the inside surface where it's an issue, but anywhere I had outside pollutants touch, there is a permanently distorted spot if I didn't clean it immediately. On the bright side, if you have this issue, Dye makes very affordable replacement lenses at only 30$ CAD from paintballgear.ca.

Friday, July 15, 2011

BIRTH OF A NEW BLOG: and Eight Pound gets a Facebook Page!

       That aforementioned vacation from blogging after the Valken event is really not happening. In my time off I've gone and started another blog which I decided I should give a plug to right here and see if I can scare up just a little bit of readership for it. What is it? Boy, I do feel like just a little bit of a poser sharing it here but it's a longboard blog. I live on the side of a mountain and ever since my bike was stolen from under my apartment last year, I've been looking for a means of getting around town which wouldn't break the bank and could be tucked away in my closet. The solution? In my case it's going to be sidewalk surfing. I've actually never ridden one so I'm taking a gamble in purchasing one and the new blog is my way of documenting my attempt to learn as much about longboarding as I do about paintball. I figured a good day by day journal of a regular joe who knows very little about it going in might be nice for others interested in picking it up. If you want to follow along you can expect to see the same type of writing and articles as you see here. Less in the way of reviews, more in the way of stories. EDIT: wow do I ever feel dumb, I suppose the url might help for sharing it, eh? l2lb.blogspot.com
        Also, Eight Pound Ops is going to get a Facebook page! Or I mean to say it actually has one right as I type this. I'll be setting up the news feed there to automatically publish articles from here and those on the page will be able to read the material from the blog as soon as it's published. If you like the content found here, become a fan and invite your friends, it means a lot and the reception this blog has had has been much more positive than I imagined it would be. Seeing a nice healthy number of daily views makes it all worth it and propels me onward to do more.
       I know that the last couple posts on here haven't been too paintball newsy but I have a few in the pipeline which are. Two Epic Story Times which I'm saving for a rainy day, a review, two addendum reviews, an interview, and a podcaster told me I should put a more personal introductory post up for readers to "relate better" so expect a masturbatory 'about me' post coming soon, probably for post fifty.
       Don't be a bonus baller!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Week of Valken Aftermath, Arbitrary Milestones, Self-Congratulatory Back Patting, and an Epic Story Time

An over zealous congratulatory back pat
worthy of a paintball blog
       It's completed, but even with a designated conclusion post for the Week of Valken for summarizing and wrapping it all up, my mind is still whirling from the rapid fire posting and editing. I re-read a handful of the posts from those 9 days last night and noted some spelling errors and a few unclear points and decided to give every post an additional proof read and edit. I double checked all the in text links as well to ensure they were working and linking to what it is they're meant to. I also realized while doing this that going back and doing some edits might be a great way to squeeze in some afterthoughts on products previously reviewed, for example, the Oakley gloves and 5.11 boots; definitely developed some new opinions on those in recent days. Finally, I went in to the stats section of Blogger to check where the blog sits in regards to traffic these days.
       I've passed a few good milestones in the last week and though I believe there is every possibility those would have been passed without the 9 days of product reviews, I think it's appropriate to look back and let regular readers know where the blog is sitting right now. Firstly, it's garnering about 60-70 page views per day right now, and more every time I add a review. This month the blog is sitting at 1350 page views. And in regards to all time history, three evenings ago the blog broke 5000 total views since Christmas of 2010. But wait! There's just a little more back patting to give myself! I have one of those epic stories to share and this is one of the rare occasion where the story is about myself.
       It's starting to seem like all the stories I want to share with you guys are coming out of games of “Doctor,” and this one is no exception (currently editing another one). It's a short one though, and one of the few stories about myself personally but being that the blog isn't for personal ego stroking, I'll try my best not to drag it out.
       As alluded to earlier, this was another game of Doctor, myself and another gentleman were doctors on our team, and the other team was also equipped with two life givers. The crew pushing up my side took their time making their way up the field but ended up having very minimal need for me and managed to clear out one doctor and a pile of his team mates just before the 5 minutes remaining mark. I was only using a pistol and so was of little use in any case, but with one man with a Custom 98, another with an X7 Phenom, and a third with an Etek 3 AM, we had a pretty capable and interesting mix of guys working our side. Our jubilation for the successful push was short lived after taking down the one flank as time was running out and the other half of our team had not managed to take any ground, we had to make it up in short order or end the game in a draw. Several enemies on the flank we we're moving into quickly fell in places where the surviving medic wouldn't easily be able to get to them and so they exited the field. Our team had a great position to destroy the rest of the team given our flanking positiong, but we had a rotten amount of ammo. I was out of both paint and gas, and the gentleman with the Phenom on my team was in the same boat, by this point, he was mostly just standing there to look intimidating, myself as well.
       Two guys remain on the enemy team, one doctor, and one experienced Autococker user who would like to be known as Wade (see the Angry Barrel story). Wade is good, no one wants to poke their head up just because he has the uncanny ability to snap his focus to you before you can line a shot up on him. His doctor is near him, not close enough to tag him just by reaching out, but about one bunker away and could easily revive him if he made a quick dash. I make a stupid move: being out of paint, gas, and being my team's more experienced doctor, I decide to keep low and out of the Wade's line of site, as well as his doctor's and crawl to a bunker super close to them.
       Well crap. I can't even move now.
       Very lucky for me however, the one time I peak out from behind this cover Wade was looking the other way. One of my team mates dropped in behind him and so Wade sprinted at the guy unleashing hell in the other direction. The enemy doctor was to the right of what I saw before me, he was hiding in a piece of culvert which had been cut in half lengthwise and was leaning against a tree. All I could see was a barrel sticking out, moving back and forth, rhythmically blasting balls down the course to suppress my team from coming at him. With no threats in front of me except the doctor if he pokes out, I decided to make a move.
       I crouch-ran very quick, and I was holding my breath the whole time, worrying I'd be heard since I had a half empty pod in my dump pouch making a horrible noise as I moved along, but I kept low and made it to the piece of culvert without being detected. The doctor was still blasting away. I reached up, and grabbed the barrel of his Custom 98 and he fired in surprise, I pushed it forward and away from myself and the doctor, my arm extending straight out. I then brought my T8.1 up with my other hand (right) and rested it on my extended left arm, trained on the doctor's face.
       “Mercy.” I said, and he took it.
       I don't believe I've ever seen close quarters contact such as that during a game. I've seen a barrel tag or two, and have heard epic stories about bingo dabber knife fights, as well as rubber knife and lipstick CQB kills but have never seen or been involved with a player having his gun immobilized as part of gameplay. It was great, 4 kills off an 8 round magazine some games too! That day was the only one ever where I've run just a pistol, and if action like that is what's generated as a result, I might have to try it a little more often!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

VACATION TIME: Closing the Week of Valken

       This 9 day long project took a lot longer than ten days to make, believe me, and long before I started writing the articles, ideas for how I wanted to do the “Week of Valken” were percolating in my brain. Regular readers know by now that I have a team which is sponsored by Valken, or more accurately their Canadian distributor, Underground Productz, and this week of reviews and coming Valken gear picture galleries is the team's way of repaying them for how instrumental they've been in helping me organize and equip my little recreational/scenario team since we are a low budget group of guys who aren't super mobile. I hope no one will take the fact that I'm sponsored as a suggestion that the reviews from the week were biased. I tried to give equal representation to pros and cons of the products when reviewing all of them and the means by which the team became sponsored by Valken was me approaching Valken, not vice versa. They didn't ask the blog to do anything, I asked them to sponsor this team (Kamloops Fusion for those wondering) because I loved their gear and what they had to offer, and I already owned a full Zulu V-Cam get-up before anything was arranged.
       I hope the two dealers (Valken and UGP) liked it if they followed along, I hope the readers liked it, I know I certainly enjoyed it since I take a good deal of pride in the blog and adding 30% more content felt great but I think it's time for a breather. This event has been weighing on my mind quite heavily since the idea to do it came to me and aside from posing the boys for pictures, the writing, editing, and general production was a solo act. I'm thinking now that some time away from self imposed blog deadlines is in order. The galleries are coming and I'm stoked to have some time to do camera work instead of my one track attention span being focused solely on paintball, be it working the field or for the blog.
       I hope that in the last few days I've acquired some more readership from the places on Facebook that I've shared updates on the event. If you liked the Week of Valken and took the time to look at some older articles, let me know what you thought of all of it, and if you're a real keener, you'll let me know what sort of material you hope to see on the blog in coming weeks as well.

REVIEW: Other assorted Valken Goodies

       We have 6 products to quickly review as a wrap up to the Week of Valken on Eight Pound Ops; some stocking stuffer kind of products they could be described as. We have the Valken Remote Hose Cover, Neck Protector, Tank Cover, Sierra Gloves, and two flavors of Valken barrel condoms. I apologize for how inappropriate that last one must have sounded.
       The Hose Cover: I don't have any similar products which I've used that are like this one but I can definitely say that for around 15 dollars, it's a super handy device to add to your paintball gear collection. I decided to grab one when I realized how annoying cleaning a naked remote coil can be. It doesn't take much incoming fire to get your coil covered in paint which will dry, crack, and flake off all over your house once you're off the field. For me at least, running a wet cloth along the length of the coil is easier said than done. However, as I write this I realize that running the remote line under hot water would probably be a much faster solution to my hose cleaning woes.... In any case, the Valken remote line cover is a robust piece of paintball gear being made of the same material which their pants and tops are made off with easy to use velcro strips to keep it form sliding up and down the length of your remote coil. Another plus? Using one of Valken's camo'd remote line covers means you won't have a bold black line running from your back to your marker and will allow the remote line to blend into your outfit.
       The Neck Protector: It's a comfortable device for taking the bite out of shots which find their way to your throat. For the first couple days of use, you'll definitely be very conscious of it being there. This isn't to say that the V-Tac neck protector is uncomfortable or restrictive of movement, just that it folds in very “feelable” ways when you crane your neck in certain directions. Unlike a lot of neck protectors, there aren't a lot of sewn on pieces of cloth, neoprene, and extraneous designs so it's a fairly minimalist and affordable piece of equipment. It is however a piece of foam, albeit a nice one, but like most pieces of foam, it will soak up your sweat on hot days rather than wick it away like those expensive models with cloth.
       The V-Tac Barrel Condom: This barrel cover is pretty standard fair as far as barrel condoms go but with a much nicer price tag, about 3-5 dollars depending on where you're purchasing from. Some might think the price tag is an unimportant part of the deal but with barrel covers with half naked ladies on them running 15$ in some cases, it's worth a mention. This cover isn't quite as long, nor as wide as what Tippmann usually includes with their makers but it is large enough to cover a Flatline or Apex Barrel. The construction and material they are made of does appear to be more robust and they are made of a material more hefty than that on other products in the V-Tac line. They also come in every camouflage scheme which Valken currently offers so there's plenty of options to choose from.
       The Rental Barrel Condom: According to the order sheet which Valken sends teams and dealers, these barrel covers are supposed to be orange, but the 30 covers which landed in my employers lap are black. We can't complain however because they look slick, fit our rental Custom 98's quite nicely and are holding up just as well, if not better than any other barrel cover. With most rental covers running 5$ a pop (from our other suppliers) Valken's make a nice new addition with their 2.50$ price tag. Unlike those from the V-Tac line, they are not large enough to fit a Flatline or Apex Barrel.
       Valken Sierra Gloves: a team mate of mine ordered these gloves and agreed that letting me try them on to review them in the Week of Valken was a good idea. I'd personally never seen them before and wasn't sure what the expect for 15$, but when they arrived and I got a good look at the gloves, they reminded me very much of those BT Sniper gloves people know I've come to loathe. These are made by Valken however so I will try to evaluate them objectively. First off, they do feel comfy. at first try on they don't restrict movement in any parts of the hand which is really nice, they also grant a fair bit of finger dexterity so a good trigger walk on a speedball gun might not be out of the question, and I'm even wearing these gloves as I type this review. They have a very small amount of padding on the palms of the gloves, four small stitched areas of it and it's so little in fact that it almost seems unnecessary to have added it here. Some of you know I'm a fan of the kevlar palms of some paintball gloves and the padding on these palms doesn't seem worth it. They are warmer than inexpensive, cotton, winter gloves which might be a turn off for some, and they do not have any padding on the back of the hand at all, with the exception of a small piece of synthetic leather over the trigger finger. I do like the synthetic leather palm of the gloves, as well as the added silicon bits for facilitating grip. For the price, they seem like a good deal, but I know inexpensive paintball gloves too well by now to think these ones are going to be much different than other companies offerings. To be fair, I'll do an addendum review at the end of the year and let you know if they survived the next couple of months on my teammate's hands.
       The V-Tac Tank Cover: When you buy yours, you may think you've been had. They look a lot smaller than the tanks they are meant to cover but rest assured, they stretch over and compliment the profile of the tank you're using just fine. The cover is made of a combination of materials: 70% neoprene, 25% polyester, and 5% lycra (spandex). The stitching that holds the tank together is about what you'd expect from a cover from NXE, but the design is much simpler. As a result, this cover costs less than those made by competitors, but they come with fewer features, most notably any sort of silicon grip on the back to give the cover better grip to your shoulder. Having this material make contact with your shoulder is certainly better than a slippery naked tank resting there sliding all over the place causing shots to go wide but some form of grip would have been a nice touch. Some of the gentleman on my team have noticed that in some ares of the cover there is the same fuzzing up which is present in the V-Tac Zulu jersey. Aside from that complaint, there's only one other thing which worries me: the zipper. It's standard Valken fare but as of late I've broken so many zippers on all sorts of paintball gear that I whimper whenever I see one. Perhaps I'm just paranoid.

Monday, July 4, 2011

TEASER: Valken SW-1 Marker

       Here's the teaser for a certain Valken product review I was very much hoping to have completed for the Week of Valken, the SW-1, but due to some unfortunate corner cutting on behalf of the warehouse help who packed my team's "order number two", it won't be ready for a little while longer. What were some of the issues? Well, we got the marker, it was missing a rear site, missing a hopper feed neck, and had been quite thoroughly test fired with broken paint residue coating the bolt and the part of the marker the bolt calls home. This was our first order with the sender, and no one had ordered from them in the past at the retail capacity. On it's own, the marker transgression wouldn't have been so upsetting, if this hadn't been the second order in a row from a Valken distributor which was either incomplete or incorrect.
       We love Valken products here in Kamloops, but we're not stoked about the service from the distributors. KPG Fusion's deal with Valken was to support the local field and business (done), bring new players into the sport (constant and ongoing), and use their gear. This last one has been difficult to do with incomplete and incorrect orders sent to us. We had a lot of nice things to say about the gear this week, and some more nice things to say tomorrow, but we can't candy coat the shipping service aspect of the deal.
      A complete review will hopefully be posted once we've rectified the issues and I tell you about the porblems now because I'd be posting without any sort of professional objectivity if I chose not to. If you'd like to see some more media of the SW-1 prior to the full review at a later date, you can see it on Valken's site (link).

Sunday, July 3, 2011

REVIEW: Valken Tango Vest

       I'm posting this the night before day 7 only because day 7 turns out to be super busy for me, but hey, it's after midnight, so technically I'm keeping on schedule right?
       We have here today, Valken's molle vest offerings for the discerning gentleman whose most interested in paintball's tactical gear. The Tango Vest is a pretty cool model for sure, and like the Fate pants, I mean that in more than one way. There's a lot of features I didn't imagine the vest would have and I'm very excited to tell you all about them, however, there are a few things that I wish were just a little bit better, or perhaps different than what they are. The vest looks really good, feels really good, and the vast majority of the vest's surface area is made of a nice breathable mesh which after sporting the Milsig RRV vest for so long makes me say it feels really nice when a gust of wind hits it. It has a zip up front which makes getting in and out of the vest exceptionally easy, the zipper could be a bit nicer though. What they have for zipping you in is adequate but a beefier zipper would have been a plus for when you're hands are gloved, a larger YKK sort of zipper for instance. There are two pull tabs on either side of vest to adjust it to conform to the users torso and there's the same mesh along the sides here as on the rest of the vest. Personally, I think the vest would have benefited more from no mesh here because if you tighten the pull tabs it bunches up and turns into insulation. Also, the pull tabs hold the front and back of the vest together making the extra material here seem superfluous. Overall, myself and team mate who owns the vest can't complain about the fit and feel, it is really comfy.
       Construction wise, the vest is comparable to the Echo Vest, there's lots of stitching, not all of it is double stitching but it feels super tough without compromising flexibility. The materials used for the the vest are also the same and you get the same quality you'd expect from a Valken product. Design wise, the vest has a kind of skeleton to it which is made of tough ripstop material. I thought it was going to be all mesh so when I saw this added framing of material I got pretty stoked to poke around the vest some more, but I digress. This material provides a frame for the mesh to be attached to, and on top of both the ripstop material and the mesh sits the nylon webbing for attaching things all over the vest. How molle webbing sewn on to mesh stands up to punishment remains to be seen but if it hold up like that on the Milsig Hydration Vest (to be reviewed later), then users will have nothing to worry about. The webbing isn't super tight, but it's not super loose either so adding attachments isn't much of a chore on this vest like it can be on some. We haven't had time to see if there is much movement on this vest from the attachments on the molle webbing but from our demo tests (for fraying and breaking stitches), none was particularly noticeable.
       But no review can be nothing but 100% praise right? There are a few shortfalls with the Tango vest, the most notable for me being one particular feature of the attachments rather than the vest itself. I've tested a few of them, some pod pouches, the tank pouch, the multi pouch in some a picture from the Echo review but Valken has commit the same 'crime' a lot of paintball companies love to: they think they've gone and improved the molle system by adding velcro to straps you weave on to the vest. BT did it, so did Action Gear Canada, and I don't know why they tamper with the system! Granted, it has no negative effect on most pouches except adding fuzzy material to clean behind the pouches when you get shot. Where velcro on the pouches REALLY SUCKS is when you add a tank pouch. Paintball companies want to make it so the pouches take up as little real estate on your molle vest as possible, and as a result, there isn't enough of a “foot” on the tank pouches to hold a remote tank on your back securely. What ends up happening is the user has a tank on their back that wants to move from side to side, making just a little contact with the velcro as it travels back and forth, then loses that contact, making a ripping noise as it does every time you take a step. Some of the stealth factor is lost as a result. Valken's is the same sadly (it holds a 70cu 4500psi tank with very little room to spare by the way). Their pod pouches are great, and if they made a tank pouch that was about 4 molle strips wide like the 2+3 attachments for pods then they'd be set, no velcro ripping of the tanks, they could even add two elastic pouches to the equation and make a 1+2 pack and it would be amazing. Until then, there will be just one pouch I can't recommend from Valken, as well as other paintball companies (save for Milsig) and that's the remote pouches. Tim Minchin said it best when talking about alternative medicine in his 9 minute beat poem: “do you know what they call alternative medicine that's passed clinical trials? MEDICINE!” Not to rip on Valken, but a lot of other companies too: “do you know what they call 'improved' mil-spec molle gear that has been adopted by the military? MIL-SPEC!” If it ain't broke, don't fix it guys!
      P.S. I didn't write any of these reviews in chronological order, I have 3 more articles coming in the next 2 days, but this was the last I finished writing, whew*
      P.P.S As always, Valken's Page (link) has more pictures of said products

Saturday, July 2, 2011

REVIEW: Valken Echo Vest

       We have two vests to review for you over the next 48 hours. One is the monster pod carrier Echo Vest, and the other is the Molle milsim style Tango vest. Given the title, I guess I should tell you about the Echo vest first. My first impressions of both these vests after examining them through the sealed plastic they were delivered in is that these are some pretty robust pieces of gear, and after taking the Echo vest out and trying it on, I was not disappointed. There are tonnes of tabs, belts, and buckles, all easily accessed from the front while wearing the vest for adjusting to fit the user perfectly, but there aren't so many that it becomes a chore figuring out which does which and later worrying one will loosen while playing. The stitching which holds it all together is very tightly done with no space under the stitches for something to slide under, pull, and break the stitch. It also seems to be made of a tougher sort of thread than on much of the other gear but I may be mistaken on this point.
       This product can be called a vest thanks to the shoulder straps it's been given, but in my eyes, it's still more or less a pod pack with suspenders, but how well does it function as a pack? It's actually better than any belt pack I've ever used! With this pack, you get many more points of contact with the added shoulder straps, the usual elastic belt piece for your gut, as well as an additional strap across the chest, and all these additional points to secure the device to your body ensures that there is a very small fraction of the movement of pods on your back compared to the usual belt pack. To ensure zero movement on your pods on a regular pack, you need to position the belt just right around your torso or waist and then do it up fairly tight which for some players means sacrificing breathing capacity. The Echo vest has a large belt which wraps around the user's stomach just as on most pod packs. It's a thick piece of an elastic material with velcro panels for tightening it to the user's preference and since there are shoulder straps on the vest, this part can be left somewhat loose. It doesn't restrict the wearer's ability to bend in the midsection and it doesn't subtract from comfort while playing. Some belts like this on other vests and podpacks can cause pinching between this belt and the waist area of the pants, especially if the user has a bit of extra weight in the midsection, but I'm glad to say that I haven't felt any sort of pinching from this vest in that region while demoing it, and my team mate who owns the product also can't comment on discomfort here. To limit side to side and up and down movement of the pack area of the vest while running, there is a moderately sized rubberized panel to hold the pack tight to your lower back. It doesn't take up much room and the surrounding material is a high quality mesh to facilitate ventilation. A small molle panel just above the pod pouches can also hold a remote pouch if you so desire to carry a tank on your back and I should probably mention to you now the pack's true coup de grace. How many pods does the Valken Echo vest hold? A whopping nine 140 rounders!
       So what are some cons of the vest? For what the Echo vest is designed to be, I really can't comment on any shortcomings. I know that some other products like it, such as one particular vest made by NXE includes a remote pouch and a reservoir for a hydration bladder, however the addition of both those features rockets the price of that product up to over 100$ in Canada and the remote pouch location on that vest lowers the number of pods which can be carried. There is no real estate on the front for adding additional pouches but to add some there would mean more material and restricting ventilation. If there was one thing I have to say I don't like, it's the 'top' of the pod pouches where the bottom of the pod sits. This is a rigid piece of material, what would have been excellent here is an elastic loop to help eject the pod into your hand when opening the pouch it's sitting in. Aside from this, only one other minor gripe and it's with the shoulder straps. They are a little close to the wearer's neck and like to make you aware of this fact. Though I did not have any issue, my team mate whose played some more with the vest has noted a little abrasion from the vest in the neck area from the close shoulder straps.
       For the price of this vest (Roughly 36-40$ US, a little more CAD), and the variety of camoflages it comes in, you really can't go wrong picking one of these vests up. If you use a speedball gun but never go to tournaments, or a recball gun with a tank on the ASA instead of on a remote this is probably the best option out there for you, even if you're experienced and have a healthy budget for a vest. It's less expensive than high end pod packs and does the job of holding paint just as well, if not better than many other companies' offerings.
       Valken's page (link) has more images of the Echo Vest.

Friday, July 1, 2011

REVIEW: Valken Fate Pants

        These pants are cool in about three pretty awesome ways. First is their affordability: Sitting at less than 40$ US, they make for a handy addition to your gear collection if for no other reason than they're great for when you can't use your regular load out and don't want to get the street clothes dirty.
        Second is they look great: it's a minimalist design for sure, given that these are Valken's entry level pants but sometimes less can be more. Aesthetics aside, these pants have a very modest design which still manages to cover all the bases in ways that don't jack up the price. Valken really puts a lot of work into the designs on their gear and the Fate pants are no different than the high end products. They have two pockets for stowing pocket things, they zippered though so if you want a pair I wouldn't keep valuable in them. They have padding in the knees which is comparable to that of the Sierra pants and there are two pockets on the sides for stashing a barrel swab. Nearly all the stitching to be found on the pants is double stitching ensuring the pants won't be falling apart at the seems quickly. The pants also have the same strange stretch panel in the crotch which the Sierra pants do. To top it all off, they have plenty of excess material so to encourage bounces and not breaks. Like all other pants made by Valken, they have a mechanism at the bottom of the leg for tightening the pant around your ankle and keeping that area from dragging in the dirt, the means by which it works on these pants is a thin length of velcro all the way around the ankle which can be adjusted the wearer's preference.
       The third way they're cool is that they literally can keep you cool. Living in a desert, I was skeptical when I made a bit of an impulse buy on these black(!) pants but they most certainly delivered. Like the Sierra pants, these ones lack any kind of significant ventilation on the backs of the legs. Unlike the Sierra pants, they're made a different material entirely which encourages air flow and discourages insulation on hot days. Sitting out in the sun today, even while not moving I felt pretty acclimated wearing these pants despite my fears that the color (or lack there of) would cause me to over heat quickly but they breathe very nicely.
       I am going to have to do an addendum review to these pants however. I've reffed in them, plan to do a lot of building and field work in them which usually involves scrambling about on my hands and knees anyway, will be moving the business to a new location in them soon, but I will not be playing in them. I'll run them through their paces a little longer and let you know how they hold up.
       By now do I even need to mention Valken's page (link) has additional pictures of all the features talked about? Check their page out after the jump.