Thursday, June 30, 2011

REVIEW: Valken Sierra Jersey

       With the exception of the torso area, this jersey is a lot like the Zulu jersey while retaining the more moderate price of 50$. It's a comfortable and pretty baggy jersey with no points which feel like they need to be adjusted when it's first put on. The material composition of the jersey is 40% polyester, 60% cotton, and it is indeed the same milspec rip-stop material which can be found on the rest of Valken's pants and jersey's. It's a pretty hardcore material and is a little rough on the skin, not so noticeable on the arms and legs but on the torso it's abrasive qualities will be especially noticeable for the first few game days. Like the other Valken products, a wash or two will take a lot of the rigidity and roughness out of the material but until then I have to recommend: do something to save your nipples or they'll be rubbed quite raw! It's fairly cool to wear, especially if you use a harness but some heat issues may become apparent when a vest is placed over top of the Sierra jersey.
        One area of slight discomfort on the jersey which isn't so easily overcome is the velcro running up and down the sides of the torso. The velcro here can be a little annoying against bare skin and it has a tendency to scratch a bit. An undershirt can be worn to alleviate this but this will result in some more heat retention. Scratchiness aside, these velcro strips serve two purposes, first is allowing the user to conceal the front of a pod pack underneath the jersey and get leave the camo scheme of the top unbroken by a thick belt running through the middle of it. Their second use is allowing the user to adjust for ventilation. The strips do run straight down the jersey when first taken out of their bag, but they can be offset at an angle to let a little air make it's way to the the user's core. Another way to get a little more air circulation is to purchase a jersey one size larger than necessary. The extra loose material will help gain some bounces and not cause the material to stay tight to the user's body letting air circulate better. Though the jersey is touted as having “breathable milspec material,” most of the ventilation the user will get from this jersey is going to come from air entering around the waist and any looseness around the V-neck. The material itself is good at insulating in this case and does a better job of cutting the wind than letting it pass directly through to the user's core.
       Some similarities this jersey has to the Zulu model: the areas of the arms where a gentleman can place some patches are in the same spot and of the same size and the Sierra jersey also possesses the clear plastic enclosure for a event or season's pass. The arms have the same elastic cuffs at the wrist as on the Zulu and the elbow pads are of roughly the same size as those which are found on the more expensive model. So whats one thing which the Sierra jersey can claim which the Zulu one can't? The Sierra jersey won't generate piles of fuzzy excess material as a result of a little friction from the wearer's vest. To some, the fraying and fuzzing of the Zulu model is a non issue but to my crew, this is the biggest gripe of the whole. I can't give the Sierra jersey too many bragging points here though since when it comes right down to it, the Zulu model will keep the user a lot cooler.
       In regards to lifespan and overall quality of this jersey, you aren't missing out on anything when you buy it. It's definitely made of some tough stuff and there have been zero rips or broken threads on the Sierra jersey belonging to one of my team's most aggressive players. 
       As per usual, Valken's Page (link) has more pictures of this jersey and the specific features.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

REVIEW: Valken Sierra Pants

       If money is tighter for you, or you're a purist who wants camoflage covering their entire garment (not pictured) and not be absent on the ventilation strips, stretch panels, and you don't want the large V-Tac branding on your pants, then the Sierra line might be just right for you. At your proshop, you'll probably find that these pants are about half the price of the Zulu pants but they certainly aren't lacking in features as a result. They are quite a bit different from the Zulu pants in their general design as well as feel but retain many of the things prospective buyers would want out of a paintball pant.
       First, as mentioned earlier, the Sierra pants do lack a lot of the stretch panelling which covers the crotch and thigh area of the Zulu pant making them a little more restrictive of movement. To compensate for this, the legs feel a little looser than they do on the Zulu pant and have a straighter leg which doesn't taper off so much toward the ankle. It's a nice relaxed fit which I definitely give bonus points for. There is one stretch panel in the crotch of the pants, but I don't follow the reasoning for how it's situated. It's oriented in a way that would suggest it's helpful for going “spread eagle”, a position not often executed by paintballers for fear of a disastrous nut-shot and there's rigid stitching the whole way around which would neutralize any gains delivered by the panel. It probably has some valuable use I haven't ascertained yet because I do know Valken puts a lot of effort into their gear's designs.
       The knee pads of the Sierra pants are softer, wider, and of roughly same length as the knee pads on the Zulu pants but they are thinner as well and so aren't quite as on par protection wise as their more expensive relative. The softer padding here does make it so that the wearer is a lot less conscious of the pads in the knees, and at first try on they do feel a lot less stiff than the Zulus. The knee pads also have less stitching than those on the Zulu pant are overall a much less complicated design. They will not appear as “beefy” but also won't seem as intricate as the knee pad design of the Zulu pant and there's fewer places for a stitch to break here. The material on the Sierra pant is the same polyester cotton blend as on the Zulu pant and this material covers the entire garment, including the knee area and hips. Like the Zulu pants, some have black knee pads(shown) , while other have the same camo material as the rest of the pant covering that area and I believe this has to do with the year they were manufactured. The ones with the black material are of identical design but the black material itself is not the poly cotton blend of the rest of the pant and it is a little tougher, more in line with the knee padding of the Zulu pant.
       The Sierra pants have the same cargo pockets in the same location as on the Zulu pant with the same spot for stashing a barrel swab, and they have the same means of buttoning up in the crotch, as well as the same folded fabric string for tightening the ankle of the pant over top of the users boot. As a result, I have the same complaints about these pants as I do for the Zulu pants, and something I've noticed on both models when squatting down is that the knees seem to have this desire to bow inward away from the wearer's knee caps.
       Unlike the Zulu pants, there are no hip pads to be found on the Sierra model so be careful if you like sliding into bunkers baseball style. There are also no zippers over the pockets on the hips so players should take care to stash valuables somewhere other than their pockets if they plan to do anything particularly acrobatic in the Sierra pant. There is also no ventilation mesh on the pants to speak of so user's won't get the same delightful draft of air going up the ankles on the those hot days. They do make up for the lack of ventilation by having less padding overall to insulate the wearer.
       I read this review back now and find myself saying “Geeze, these sound a lot like the Zulu pant to me suddenly...” but they really aren't. The fit, feel, construction, and ways which they facilitate or hinder movement is totally different. Prospective buyers have to look at their funding and then try the two on to see what feels best for them. The Sierra line isn't Valken's platinum offerings but for what you pay, they might be a slightly better gear deal in my opinion. Still, you are going to get a lot of awesome bells and whistles if you save for the Zulu pants.
      As always, Valken's page (link) also has numerous pictures of all the features of the Sierra pant. The pair which my team mate wears has camoflage over the knee, the one pictured clearly does not however.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

REVIEW: Valken Zulu Jersey

       The first thing you'll think when you pick up one of these jersey's is that they are some of the most robust camo jerseys in paintball right now. This was my first thought when I pulled mine out of the box it was shipped in back in February and prior to that I'd had all sorts of offerings from Empire, Invert, SpecOps and select other companies to compare them to. The first thought that sprang to mind when I tried it on though was that it felt a bit like wearing a deflated balloon. I definitely don't mean this in a bad way, it's just the the material that covers the torso on this jersey is unlike anything I've ever placed over my skin in the past. What covers the arms is the same tough material from the ankle area of the pants but the material on the torso is a very elastic feeling silky material. The tag says 67% polyester, 30% cotton, and 3% lycra, perhaps the mystery material is the lycra? (I do a quick google search, it's essentially spandex). Even on the large models of the jersey this material will want to cling to your figure however so if you're a little shy this might not be the model for you. At first try on it doesn't strike you as the most well ventilated material either, but it only takes one gust of air to turn you into a true believer that these jerseys are as well ventilated as any speedball product.
       The arms have plenty of real estate for patches, they have pockets underneath said real estate for stowing small items, and the clear plastic pocket under one of the velcro panels is adequate for placing an event or season's pass. The material on the arms feels a little rigid at first, as well as a bit crinkly but after a few days wear, or a wash or two, this feeling begins to disappear. The material on the arms doesn't facilitate ventilation as well as that of the torso but continued movement will allow enough air to pass over and through the jersey to keep the wearer at a comfortable temperature. Also a noteworthy part of the arms is the elbow padding which is well placed and actually does cover the wearer's arms. I point this out because I know some companies throw elbow pads on their jerseys which don't actually end up resting on the elbow at all and end up skewed off to one side when they're needed. These Zulu elbow pads are pretty adequate for crawling through the grass, dirt, and take the bite out of most paintball hits and even encourage some bounces without adding any effort to moving the arms. Like the knee pads on the Zulu pants however, they don't have sufficient padding to carry you through a nasty collision with the ground unscathed.
Fuzzing or fraying, regardless, we don't like seeing it
       Myself and my team mates have 3 small complaints about these jerseys however. The first is the patch real estate on the arms which we've compared on several models of tactical top. They aren't planted on in a particularly ergonomic fashion and so the wearer's arm will bulge a little bit where they sit because they don't wrap around. The second is the elastic wrists and collar, I don't mind the elastic material personally but some have said it makes them feel a bit like they're wearing a hoody or in some cases, pyjamas. Feedback from the team suggests that a preferred alternative to this would be velcro for the wrists, and a zip up collared neck which might even provide some throat protection. Coincidentally I do have a product which fits this bill and will be reviewing it at a later date. The last gripe of the team is their biggest one: that silky material on the torso. They love the feel, they love the ventilation, what they don't love is that it only takes a very small amount of friction here to cause it to “Fuzz up.” On this area they think a cotton more like that of a t-shirt would be an appropriate choice and some of them regret not ordering a less expensive Sierra jersey to have avoided the fuzzing up in this area. These three complaints aside, not one person I know personally has broken a stitch on their Zulu jerseys yet and they still rock them proudly when they go to the field, and I can tell you one other thing: when it comes to picking members for teams, the guys wearing Zulu V-Tac are the first ones to be snatched up!
       That sums up Valken's high end, Gucci equivalent, scenario/milsim products for you. You won't find anything else out there specifically designed for paintball as robust (or expensive) as the Zulu gear without looking to Dye Precision, but then you're looking at higher prices and less variety of camoflage! If money is tight but you gotta have some V-tac love, stay tuned for tomorrow and the next day's review of the Sierra line of jersey and pant. Whether money's an issue or not, Valken's got you covered. 
       Valken's page (Link) has more views of all the features these jerseys have to offer.

Monday, June 27, 2011

REVIEW: Valken Zulu Pants

       As mentioned in earlier posts regarding Valken, the Zulu line of Valken's V-Tac very closely resembles the 2010 Redemption clothing line (2010 Redemption pant review here) while the Sierra line is more in line with the 2010 Crusade line.    
       The first difference you'll notice between the 2010 speedball and V-Tac lines, aside from being able to blend in to your environment while wearing one of them, is the material they are made of. The speedball gear is 60% nylon and 40% polyester, giving the gear a very tarp-like feel. Not in the crinkly way, but in the synthetic, impermeable to water way and feels a lot like wearing the outer material of a winter coat. The V-tac line is made of a different blend: 40% cotton, 27% polyester, and 33% nylon, and I have to say, the addition of cotton to the pants makes them quite a bit more drafty which is nice on those hot summer days. They also make less of a swishing sound when your legs rub against each other as you run so the stealth aspect is a plus.
       The second thing anyone going from the speedball line to the V-Tac line will notice is how much harder the knee pads are. I'm sure mine will become a lot more flexible as the season wears on, but at the time of first try-on, you'll find they're a far cry from the poofy, brown-black, kevlar padded knee pads on a lot of paintball pants. I can understand this being a turn off to some particularly competitive players since this surface certainly doesn't encourage ball bounces. However, there's a difference between the knee pads on the V-cam and Tactical black Zulu pants, and the knee pads on the other four camo schemes. The older ACU (pictured), Marpat, Woodland, and Tiger Stripe models from 2010 all have the old kevlar knees, identical to those on the 2010 speedball gear. V-cam and Black and most runs of the other camo's made in 2011, despite having hard knee pads get a plus one in my books because their profile isn't broken up by a large obnoxious brown-black knee pad in the middle of your leg. I rather like the black highlights of the old model Zulu pant since it helps highlight the cool features of it for reviews sake! The camouflage on the latest runs of the pant goes right over top of the padding unlike the first four camos that were released in 2010, and this applies to both the Zulu and Sierra pant. I'm not sure what the hard knee pads are made of, maybe a dense neoprene or gel but the pants need more of it in the knee. I'm the only guy on my team to complain about it so far, but when you smack into a rock with these pants, there's just enough padding to take the bite out of the collision but if the hit is hard enough, you will be painfully aware of it. That said, it's only terrifically rotten terrain where this is a problem. The pants are still perfect for crawling around behind the vast majority of bunkers without feeling the texture of the surface you're on.
       The Zulu pants also have two large cargo pockets for carrying extra odds & ends, as well as a somewhat hidden place behind these pockets to slide a barrel swab away for later use. The waist area of the pants have some nice big belt loops for adding a duty belt to your loadout but if belts are of no interest to you, there are also two velcro tabs on either side of the pants for tightening them around the user's waist, same as on the 2010 Redemptions.
       The two last noticeable difference will be a moot point for some but were kind of big deals to me. The first is buttoning up at the waist. On the 2010 Redemption pants, you zip up, then snap together two brass buttons. With the V-Tac Zulu pants, you zip, and then have a large, sewn on button you pass through a loop, much like those on dress pants. I'm really not sure how I feel about this, on the one hand you don't have to worry about unsnapping at the waist so much but I can see the string holding that button on snapping after enough movement in your midsection. The other major difference is your means of tightening the pants at the ankles. On the 2010 Redemptions, there's an elastic cord with a squeeze tab for adjusting the tightness in the ankle area above your footwear of choice. The Zulu pants have a thin piece of folded and sewn fabric. It doesn't feel cheap but it also doesn't feel like the best design choice in this area either. I would have preferred the elastic cord from the other pants here and because I'm too lazy to tie them up every time I play, I've opted to pull them out of the ankle area entirely.
       In regards to similarities, the overall design is close to identical. Slide panels are in the same places, the knees are the same size, shape, and design, you have stretch panels in the same locations in the crotch, and squeegees can be stowed in the same general area on the user's hip as on the 2010 Redemption pants, and branding is also in the same place. In the Zulu pants' case, the barrel swab pocket is hidden behind the large cargo pockets on the thighs. The last similarity in the design somehow managed to be improved on for the V-Tac line: the venting up and down the back of the legs... I don't know how they did but it's in the same place, made of the same material but somehow they managed to make air flow even better than they managed to before, so with any luck you'll feel quite naked on those hot summer days.
      Valken's Page (Link) also has some nice pictures showing some of the things I mentioned such as button and the ankle area.

INTRODUCTION: The Eight Pounds Ops Week of Valken

       Drum roll please! Today is the big reveal for the super secret project I've been working on resulting in less posting of other paintball related articles: the Eight Pound Ops Week of Valken. For those not familiar with Eight Pound Ops, this is a scenario/milsim paintball blog comprised of reviews, paintball oriented articles, galleries, and stories which was launched in late December 2010. Over the next 9 days, including today, I'll be reviewing 15 Valken paintball products in rapid succession adding close to 30% more content to what's already on the blog. In addition to more than a full week of Valken product reviews, I'll be adding action and posed shot galleries of all the different camouflages available from Valken and both Sierra and Valken styles of the V-Tac line soon after the event. Skeptics, be calm, these won't be cellphone camera galleries, I am quite proficient with a Digital SLR.
       Now, during this week there's going to be a lot of material flowing through the blog, all of which I'm preparing all by my lonesome self so the reviews are going to of a slightly shorter length than most on the blog thus far. I don't have a story to lead into most of them with which is probably one of the reasons why, and I'll be adding team mates opinions of some of the gear since I do not personally own all of the equipment. I have, however, demo'd all of what's being reviewed and confidently fill you in on feel and performance of all the gear. Also, because I have a team of 8 other guys giving input, you will have more than just my own opinion to go on when doing your pre-purchase homework on these products
       This introductory post will also serve as an index page to quickly direct and link you to each review that occurs, so without any further adieu, I present the roster of Valken products which will be reviewed on a day by day basis on Eight Pound Ops. Click the day to go to the product!

Friday, June 17, 2011

EPIC STORY TIME: Hand Grenade Epic fail

The very grenade involved in this debacle
       Yes, this fail is so epic that it warrants two epics in the title of the post. Ok, maybe I'm being unfair to the people in the story since they were renters but this is another one of those stories that just HAS to be shared with the paintballing masses of the internet.
       This took place about two weeks ago, it was a midweek game, just two refs on the field and about 10 people playing in a private group, they were there for a birthday party I believe it was. We were playing a round of a game called doctor. The rules 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. 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 taking out the rest of the players when they have no means of re-entering play.
       One young gentleman approached me asking if he could use a grenade purchased from the field at an earlier date. I tell him he most certainly can as players seldom get injured by an old surgical tubing grenade, it's old paintballs which we don't like to see on the field. He's most happy to hear this and the two five man teams head to their bases with their respective doctors. The horn blows, the game starts, and very early in the game this gentleman throws his grenade. I'm not fortunate enough to watch this throw but when the grenade hits the ground, it doesn't go off in any way, shape, or form. It bounces, rolls a bit, and much to the dismay of he and his team (the armbanded team), the undetonated grenade is captured by the non-armband team for later use against them.
This, my friends, is not the fail.
       The armbanded team gets pushed back a little bit and tries to regain ground by pushing hard in the middle of the field, usually a good tactic if it weren't for them leaving too many remnants of the non-armband team on their flanks. Things look ok for armbands at first until the non-armband team moves in on them enough to start placing some good shots. One is tagged in a spot where the doctor doesn't have a hope of getting to him, two keep pushing hard in the middle, and another pushes so far to the right side of the field that it will take him too long to return and help his team mates entering the following situation...
       Armbands suddenly find themselves in a bad way. Their two leading shooters in the middle of the field get tagged and because of the sheer volume of fire coming at them, they opt to sit down to call for their doctor instead of stand up in the middle of the fire fight which is understandable. Their doctor is very timid at first, but after a moment or two, he makes an heroic sprint through the fire to rescue his two downed team mates and makes it. Both of his team mates enter the game again but are still in the same position they were in before: the can't stand up without getting blown away by the non-armband team. If they had the guts they could stand up, return fire, and have the doctor slap their ankle to bring them back in every time they get tagged but that's a ballsy move even I don't want to try, they'd be soaking up a lot of kill shots and bonus balls on top of that in order to pull it off. They stay huddled behind their piece of cover with another body there, the doctor, to join them now, and the non-armbanded team begins to move around it. They can't move too far though, or they'll be shot by the players behind it who are nearly invulnerable thanks to their doctor being present.
       It's a stale mate in the middle of the field at this point. The armbanded team is bunkered down and unable to move. If one of them were to let their foot slip even a little, non-armbands will have a view of their ankles and try to shoot to scare them into submission. Non-armbands could potentially move in and put a gun over the piece of cover to try and mercy them but it could mean subjecting their face to three markers being trained on it which isn't very desirable at all. There's a team of two young guys trying to move around the piece of cover to make an elimination on the three armbanded players but neither wants to get lit up by the three guns they'd have to stare down to make the kills. Fortunately, one of them has the grenade that didn't go off from earlier and has the awesome idea to try and get a triple grenade kill on the guys behind the bunker. They wave to me and make some hand signals to ask if it's a good idea so as not to reveal their plans to the enemy. I nod enthusiastically; if it works, it's going to be awesome to watch for sure, I'll definitely call a grenade explosion as a doctor kill in this case. The guy with the captured grenade pulls it out, gets ready to throw... and then the duo stares at the thing like it just spoke. It takes me a moment to realize that they don't remember that the grenade is primed and ready to throw and they start talking in hushed voices trying to figure out what they need to pull to get it ready. I'm confused as to what to do at this point, yell to just chuck it? Go over and help? I don't really want to leave the three helpless armbanded players in case pain starts to rain down on them and I need to intervene.
       Let's quickly refer to the picture of the grenade at the top of the page. It is wrapped in plastic, to prime it, you remove the plastic, then it's good to go. What sets it off is it colliding with a surface hard enough to off set the elastic (bottom of grenade) and the rest involves the paint goo inside spraying out all over in a spinning motion. The plastic on this grenade is already gone but these two players see the black cap with the loop on top and think “Ah, clearly this is the pin which we need to pull first.” They firmly grab the elastic wrapped end, and pull on the black loop, hard, ripping it off and exploding the grenade in their faces. They are very confused and blinded by paint goop on their masks; between chuckles I inform them that they just killed themselves. The armband team is overjoyed to hear, but not enough to try to come out of their cover and fire back at the non-armbands.
       Though these two did not manage to grenade kill the three armbanded fellows behind the bunker, this fail was entertaining to watch in it's own rite. These players were pretty young and the doctor on their team was one of their chaperone’s. He was brave enough to waltz up to the bunker, stick his gun over the top and say “Mercy.” Armbands decided to take it instead of being capped in the top of their heads and this effectively ended the game for their team.
       I think that Epic Story Time is a good piece for the blog. FLASC ended up really liking the post about their Cannoniser barrel tip. A lot. Enough to link to the blog from their website among other things, so I think this section is sticking around for the entertainment value is holds. I hope you enjoy it!
       P.S. This will be the last, possibly the second to last post on the blog for a week or two before the unveiling of the Eight Pound Ops' super secret project.

Monday, June 6, 2011

EPIC STORY TIME: The Angriest Barrel You've Ever Seen (or Heard)

The Cannoniser

       I'm starting a new series of posts today, a sort of story time entertainment kind of entry for the blog. Every once in a while, we have exceptional experiences when playing on the field, and also have some epic failures. As a referee, I get to watch even more of these stories unfold before me since when I'm not assisting players it's my job to observe while being right in the middle of the action. Regular readers have probably also noticed that I like to add a little story, or personal history to every review I do as build up to how I ended up with a particular product. Here's story number one, I hope you like it.
       Earlier this year, around January I believe it was, a team mate was asking for a barrel suggestion. At the time he was looking at several options from Tippmann such as the somewhat expensive Sniper and Straight Line barrels, as well as the Marksman barrel from Milsig. The summer previous a friend had pulled out a FLASC (Frozen Land And Sniper Creek) barrel kit which had me piqued my curiosity due to it's double threading, modular design, long backs for sizing as well as a price tag that greatly undermined anything from Freak or Tech T. What 129 Canadian dollars could get you from FLASC was amazing so after doing my research and drooling over their kits myself, I suggested to the team mate that he purchase a control bore kit from them as a solution to his barrel woes. After all, why not spend a little more than you would on the other options and get a kit? The full meal deal so to speak.
       He purchased the kit with a normally ported 3 and 5 inch extension as well as the four-prong tip as for the muzzle break that came with the kit. The kit it all came in was quite nice I might add, but he also picked up one other item: the Cannoniser barrel tip. It was more than a month ago that several of us gathered around the local field's chronograph and were checking out the barrel kit. He first showed off the various bore backs and extensions with the normal tip, and shortly after, he pulled out the Cannoniser tip. He squeezed the trigger, and.... pop, pop. Business as usual, no sound or pitch difference. Ha! Sorry, bro, looks like you've been duped by advertising! After yesterday however (public Sunday), we know what the problem that day all the time ago was.
       The same team mate (on the opposing team) was letting me test out the kit yesterday to see how I liked it. Over bore was good, so was under bore, matching the bore in this case was not the best option but I was liking the kit. I was using the Cannoniser with a ported extension just behind it and was noticing the same lack of noise difference but wasn't too concerned. Going in to game three, an experienced autococker player was also checking out the kit was examining the set up I'd last used. He unthreaded the tip, then the ported extension, and placed the tip on the un-ported bore back. “Here, Kris,” he said, “try this, no porting, right? Maybe that'll jack the sound up a little since the gas isn't escaping before the tip.” This is a very logical idea, I think to myself. I like it. So before going back to the X7 Phenom's stock barrel, I decide to try one more FLASC barrel combo. Also worth a mention: I didn't bother to test it before walking out for the game and had no idea what to expect from it.
       Fast-forward a minute and the team I'm on is standing in front of our starting base waiting on the horn blast to send us into combat so just to see how consistent and accurate the combination is, I take a few shots. Pop, pop? Nope.
CRACKOW! We all know that the higher fps a marker is shooting at, the louder it generally is, correct? This was close to twice, possibly three times as loud and a much higher pitch too. the velocity it sounded like was definitely over 500 fps but I was still shooting 290. I know my own eyes went very wide after that first test shot, the ref off to my side almost jumped and stared at me with the same look I was giving the barrel, and every person on the team stopped chatting and started to stare too. I began to feel myself grin wickedly. I knew that the first time I opened up with auto in the next game, even for suppression's sake, I was going to scare half the other team back into their starting base! My team decided I should sprint ahead for the game and lay down some fire with this angry barrel to shake up the opfor while they brought up the rear.
       Kicking it into auto, the thing screamed like a banshee. I'm not even kidding when I tell you my ears were ringing at the end of the game after all those bursts of auto and I was behind the tip, not in front of it! FLASC is correct in warning players not to use this tip if you're in close proximity to someone else, next to them in a bunker for example. Myself, a team mate, and a handful of renters created enough cacophony around midfield to let the same autococker user who'd suggested the barrel combo to slide down the left flank and decimate the members of other team who'd made it so far. I have no idea what part the barrel played in this but we were shooting forward like lightning and the Cannoniser was the thunder. Under normal circumstances this would have been a winning tactic, but in this case we were playing capture the flag, and having the whole other team hiding in their base after five minutes with their guns trained on the flag was not a great move on our part.
       In the end we didn't accomplish the objective. I made a last ditch suicide spring to grab the flag at the one minute remaining mark but got lit up, business as usual. My team mate caught up to me after the horn sounded to end the game. “I think I want my tip back now” he said, as we walked off the field.
       I will have my own back bore and Cannoniser tip the mail shortly.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

NO MORE MAG FED: A Departure From Milsigs

       After a great amount of deliberation, I've sold my M-Series Paradigm. The idea that I had spent too much acquiring and adding onto a marker which was very A5-like has been festering on my mind for a very long time. That, and the set up was starting to feel too intricate, to run it effectively I needed the expensive RRV Vest, multiple mags, and because I run a remote line, multiple add ons to that previously mentioned vest. The more I was spending to operate the Paradigm, the more I felt I was less happy using it. I was acquiring a pile of stuff, all of it to run this particular marker and the set up, tear down, and cleaning time was starting to feel chore-like and less rewarding than it usually is. I still love milsim, and still remain a somewhat limited ammo player (150-ish shots a game anyone?), but I've opted to go back to basics and run a fairly minimalist X7 Phenom set up. Not only with the Paradigm, but with other pricey markers in the past (e.g. Bob Long Vice) the more money I pump into a set up, the less happy I am using it. At the end of the day, they all shoot 300 feet per second, they all get you a one foot grouping with the right barrel, and even respectable entry level markers grant very consistent velocities when running on HPA.
       Once all is said and done, I no longer have a Marksman Barrel, nor a Paradigm, however I do have the Phenom which I can review for your paintball pleasure, another stock to talk about, as well as an online acquaintance with a Paradigm who I really hope would be interested in doing a guest post on here. He also has a Replica Elcan SPCTR DR which I'm sure some would like to hear about. If he reads this, he knows who he is. I also met a young gentleman with a Tippmann Gryphon today which I'd love to get my hands on and poke around with.
        In the mean time, I'm still working away on the giant Eight Pounds Ops Super Secret Project which I hope all will love, and in the next two weeks I'm hoping to get some gear gallery posts up of all the Valken camo schemes as they trickle in from the team supplier. No one likes a bonus baller! Have a good week.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

REVIEW: Oakley Assault S.I. Gloves

       I've tried quite a few pairs of gloves in the 4 years I've been playing. Winter leather ones, Extreme Rage Half Fingers, BT Sniper Gloves, and a whole slough of other gloves from Empire and I have to say, the life expectancy of gloves designed for paintball is pretty pathetic. The biggest let down came last year with a 50$ pair of fancy new Empire Contact gloves that didn't survive half a season, and I reffed all last year, they barely saw action! Those ones didn't need much abuse to give up on me, so as much as I love other stuff from Empire, I don't think I'd wish a pair of their gloves on any ones wallet, you just don't get what you pay for with them.
       Even though every pair I'd used had been pretty lousy, I fast realized how nice gloves were to have on the field. I don't know if anyone else does this but when I was squirming around behind a bunker I'd often wipe grit off of my hands reflexively and seldom had my marker at the ready while unconsciously cleaning myself. Two great recurring examples: ever played after a night of rain and slid into a bunker where someone accidentally spilled a pod of paint? Pretty gross mess in there right? Ever slid into another which has deer and/or bear droppings in it? With gloves on, my hands didn't feel like they were collecting filth anymore so even the bad pairs were nice to have on hand. Plus the sting they take out of hand and finger shots is lovely. But if you don't buy something of good quality that's going to last right away and go with the budget brand, you end up paying the same amount or more for multiple inferior products instead of one good one. Somewhere along the line, probably around pair number six, I started looking for a pair of real deal gloves meant for operators whose lives might very well depend on the build quality. The realization that I needed something better came to me when I saw a pair of Oakleys on (New Westminster Store) and it was demonstrated that something better than paintball gloves existed, I'd always been under the impression that gloves designed for sliding into bunkers all day long should be some of the best and didn't look any further that what ANS Gear had to offer.
       I opted to pick up the very same pair of Oakleys I saw online which originally captivated me. Some places call them the Factory Pilot model, others call them the Assault S.I.'s, if there's a differences between the two models I can't see it in the descriptions, pricing (80$ CAD), or aesthetic appearances. I've had them since around Christmas and most of the wear they received before season's start was around the house trying to break them in. If you can't tell yet, I hate reviewing things that only just arrived the mail, I like to beat the stuff I own into submission, then see how it holds up. Since season's beginning however, I've played in them, reffed, filled many many CO2 tanks with them, built on the field, probably moved close to 300 cases of paint, and washed them vigorously while wearing them to clean grit out of them after a long day's work. I'd say that in a pretty short time I've tried to subject them to as much punishment as I could and aside from one broken stitch by the wrist, and some paint taint, they're in great condition.
       I've really only got one peeve with the glove: the palms. They seem sorta tough and are very flexible and haven't taken any wear and tear in the time I've been giving them a beating but something about them doesn't feel right. I pad along the ground on the my fists so I end up subjecting the palms to the least amount of punishment but I'm worried to test them to the fullest extent for fear the palm will end up being the first part of the gloves to give out. There is one place that paintball gloves do out shine these ones and that's in the robust kevlar padding they have there for diving hands first into a bunker. The Other thing about the palm is the underside of the fingers: they have some rubber bits on the finger tips for added grip, the ones on my gloves are falling off without much encouragement. ADDENDUM: when I mentioned washing the gloves earlier, I take it back, these gloves really shouldn't be washed. Ever. And if you get sweaty palms you're going to notice this too: they bleed black dye out of the palms like a stuck pig when they get wet. Ever see the viral video where those guys keep adding shampoo to their buddy's hair and he keeps on washing wondering why he can't lose all the lather? It's exactly like that, dye just keeps coming out of them if you wash them to get soiling out.
       In all other departments the gloves are really great and at my field anyway, they're a real show stopper, everyone is curious about them. The carbon fibre knuckles are brilliant and I have no idea how I got by without them in the past. As mentioned earlier, I crawl along and support my upper body with my fists when I do so, gorilla style, and can't detect any sort of horribleness that might be connecting with my knuckles as I crawl along. I've even had ball breaks on them which I didn't notice which some might think is a problem but people like to light me up usually, so the other 20 balls that make contact inform me I've been tagged. Other parts of the fingers are pretty well padded, and most sections and joints have some rubbery bits for protection, the only area where it needs some more padding would be the finger tips but to add more there would mean sacrificing some of the dexterity these gloves allow for. These are almost on par with mechanics gloves in regards to the fine control they allow your fingers. The gloves also have holes for venting so your hands will be kept cool and are about as effective ventilation wise as anything from Dye or Empire.
       Some things to know if you are going to pick a pair of these up: The gloves don't win any points for flexibility in the trigger walking department. If you're a speedballer who loves tactic-cool gear then looking for a half finger solution might be good for you. I can get up to 17 BPS semi on a really good day without gloves day, with these gloves I'm never that lucky. Also: everyone who's tried these on, myself included agree that these gloves fit a little funny, the solution to this is to wash them while wearing them, and let them dry to your hands. ADDENDUM: Or don't because they'll bleed black dye!
       The gloves are good, a much more durable option for the milsim paintballer than “high end” green speedball gloves but there is a certain something that I can't put my finger on which they leave to be desired. I think it might be the price point, if these were 15-20$ less than what they are, I think they'd be damn near a perfect 10 in my books and I'd wear nothing else, but right now they sit at about an 8 for me.

P.S. I'll try and get some pictures of my particular gloves up shortly