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:

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.