Sunday, October 4, 2015

Thanks everyone!

Hello, world! I'm Bazookafied (go by "Zook" for short most of the time) and one of my big hobbies is modifying Nerf and Laser Tag blasters for recreational use around town with friends and colleagues. These games have been great social outlets and are safe and convienent enough to play just about anywhere and I am, at heart, a tinkerer. So messing with these blasters has been a fun hobby of mine for quite some time.

After four-and-a-half years of writing articles for Tactical Tag, I'm hanging up the mantle of blog-ness.  I'm still messing around with Nerf and Laser Tag, still hosting games, still following my favorites, but I just don't see much of a point to continuing the blog any longer.  I would rather leave it as-is as a resource than drag it out and scrounge for content.  There are smarter, more active, better equipped fans out there for these hobbies and, should I do anything earth-shatteringly awesome, I can just post it up on YouBook or FaceTube without feeling obligated to fill the time between projects with needless posts and queries.  

I used to think all the "great Nerf blogs" were dying because the writers were growing out of these admittedly kid-oriented hobbies.  However, in the time that I've been doing this, there's been an obvious shift in focus online from blogs and websites to social media outlets.  Much like MySpace, Geocities, and Message Boards, the blogs are slipping away as Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, Facebook, and YouTube come to the forefront.  I can't fight it, and I won't drive this blog into the ground just to keep a steady trickle of content going for it.

I can't avoid these hobbies that have been such a big part of my life.  Friends and relatives simply expect me to host Laser Tag games in the back yard or to come across a dart in my house from an impromptu battle.  That's just me.  So don't think I've "outgrown Nerf" or "graduated from Laser Tag".  I'm still a big kid driving fast cars to get to my 9-5 job to come home to my wife and puppy in a house full of grown-up things and a garage full of kid things.  It's just time to quit pretending that it's important to keep the blog going.  This page will always be here.  My Facebook page will stay up.  My YouTube channel will continue to have n00bs claiming all sorts of things about Elite Longshots.

For those who have followed this, whether it was recent or from ages ago, thank you for your support.  I have made and hope to continue friendships forged through the connections of this blog.  Following their projects and games keeps me going and helps fuel this hobby with helpful insight and encouraging results.  

For those who missed this train, I hope the information between April 15th 2011 and October 4th 2015 is useful for you!  That'll be all for Tactical Tag on the blog side of things.  It's been a lot of fun!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Air Restrictor Game: Part 1

It's been awhile since I've done one of these two-parters, but I've had this lingering question that keeps getting prompted each time I modify a blaster.  It used to be that, in the N-Strike world, removing the famed "Air Restrictor" (commonly referred to as the AR) was the first thing to go if you wanted to wring more performance out of your blaster.  To protect the rest of the blaster from smashing itself to pieces on the inside, some padding would be added to the plunger head to soften the impact.  I've been doing this with blasters since my first modified Longshot nearly 10 years ago.

But the blaster world has changed quite a bit since then.  Most notably, the Elite lineup has brought much more out-of-the-box performance than traditional blasters we had seen up until that point.  I've been doing my routine modifications to Nerf blasters ever since, but while Blasters have evolved, so has the community.  The world of Nerf Modifications has become much more of a science than it used to be.  There are tests upon tests upon readings and statistics being recorded to investigate what modifications make the most gains in performance.  With all this, that same famed AR now seems to be in question.  Some testing suggests that removing the AR from Elite-style blasters is not beneficial to performance increases.  There's also a new player in the AR world that is commonly referred to as the "Smart AR" that is used in blasters like the Triad, Rough Cut, and Crossfire Bow.  Removing these systems can essentially turn the blaster into a one shot fires all system instead of the sequential firing that they're designed to use.

So, between Part 1 and Part 2 of this, I'll be doing some research to attempt to shed more light on this once-commonly accepted practice now-highly debated modification to see if it's worth removing those little ARs anymore in your blasters.  Obviously, there's a lot of information out there and many different kinds of blasters, so there's not going to be only one "right" answer, but I think for my own education and for readers of this blog, it'd be helpful to shake the dust off of our old modification habits and catch up with all the stats and science behind blaster mods in the new era!

Feel free to leave a comment with info you have or links to websites that could be helpful!  We'll wrap up the discussion in Part 2 next week!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Where is Modulus headed?

When it was first leaked in that "2015 Blasters Photo" spotted in the Summer of 2014, the Nerf Modulus was one of the few that caught fans attention.  A new lineup.  A rifle design.  This is gonna be good!

Now I'm not saying Nerf Modulus hasn't been good.  It's flooded the aisles with accessories and given us a decent platform blaster.  Now there's more on the way with the Recon Mk II and the Ion Fire, so the ECS-10 is getting some company to share all these accessories with.  But, ever since I figured out what Modulus was supposed to be (accessory combinations that are OVER 9,000!!!!) I've always thought... "Well isn't that what N-Strike and N-Strike Elite have been doing?"

To a certain point, no.  While the N-Strike blasters have always had some kind of accessory attachment via removable barrels, removable stocks, or tactical accessory rails, there hasn't really been a plethora of accessories available.  Unlike Modulus, the only way to really get accessories was to buy the blaster that they happened to come with.  Want a foregrip?  Buy a Retaliator.  Want a barrel that looks like a silencer?  Buy the Spectre.  Want a Dart Holder?  Buy a Barrel Break (we know that's probably the only thing that sold that blaster).

Modulus and N-Strike then, on the surface, are very similar... and I had a hard time trying to figure out what the point was.  The ECS-10 is a beefier Stryfe.  The Recon Mk II is a reworked Recon/Retaliator.  The Ion Fire is a Sharp Shot with a tactical rail.  Where these lines differ (aside from the obvious coloration changes) is how they're marketed.  Where N-Strike and N-Strike Elite have the option for accessories, the emphasis has been on the blaster itself.  Yes, there have been a few accessories released on their own, but for the most part, you buy the blaster and you're done.  Modulus is pretty much aimed at that same market, BUT now they can buy accessory upgrades to suit how they want the blaster to look from the start.

Look at it this way.  When other lines have made their debut, there have been several blasters along with it.  The Vortex release is a good example, boasting four different sized blasters from the start.  The Modulus lineup started with ONE blaster and a plethora of accessories from the start.  Right out of the gates, Modulus boasted over 1,000 combinations with their initial release for the ECS-10.  To some, that means WAY more variety in what they can do to build up their blaster.

The marketing itself is much more clever with this.  Much like the rest of the spin-off lineups with Rebelle, ZombieStrike, Doomlands, they usually take a blaster design that already works and just put it in a fancy shell.  Different colors, different designs, same guts.  Those who are completionists... those who are OCD about their stuff matching, they draw on that to get you to buy the same Stryfe twice (or three or four times).  But then there's a step further with this "Buy More of the Same" pitch.  Not only do you have to buy the new colors and designs, but there's a whole world of accessories that you can buy to outfit your blaster the way you want.  They're bundled, so you still sort of have to mix and match if you want something specific, but I bet Nerf plans on making more money off all the accessories you can add to Modulus, N-Strike, Rebelle, N-Strike Elite, ZombieStrike, the list goes on.  It's all compatible with their existing blasters anyways.

So where is Modulus headed then?  It could replace the N-Strike Elite lineup on shelves as the new mainstay "tacticool" lineup.  The combinations, the availability, this really has the potential to be bigger than the beloved N-Strike lineup.  In fact, I sort of made the mistake of thinking that Modulus was it's own thing until I noticed the "N-Strike" logo at the top, so it's more of a continuation of the N-Strike lineup than a replacement.  It's simply going from N-Strike to N-Strike Elite to N-Strike Modulus (from the looks of it).  With fewer blasters and more accessories, there's plenty of room for expansion.  For the small majority, and I was in this minority when the Modulus lineup came out, it really just seemed like the reshell game with a different brand and extra accessories.  Many fans don't realize how far the customizing game is going for Modulus.  They've moved this from the shelf to the site with Amazon.  You can literally build your blaster from the ground up instead of going to the store and being limited by what is packaged together or what is available.  It's really a game changer for Nerf.

But for most Nerf fans, Modulus is a whole new realm of fun with customizing blasters.  With more blasters planned and the lineup seemingly doing well, it's not going away anytime soon.  I don't mean to play crystal ball, but I think it's safe to say that Modulus is poised to take the top spot for the shelf.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Blaster Report - 9/6 Gameplay

It seems like every time I do a game I've got a different setup.  So, for the foreseeable future, I'm going to list details of the blasters I used in the games and report on how things went.  This report is for the game held on September 6th.  The Blasters used were the Demolisher and the Vagabond.

I used the NERF N-Strike Elite Demolisher 2-in-1 blaster as my primary for all of the games except the pistols-only rounds.  My Demolisher was fitted with a 35-Round Drum and a Strike-and-Defend Pistol Stock.  The only modification to the Demolisher was the power supply, as I was using four Energizer Ultimate Lithium AA batteries.  The Pistol Stock had it's AR removed and was using a stock spring.  Pretty light modifications.  I was using normal N-Strike Elite darts of varying codes.

For the games I used the Demolisher with, I found that my performance and accuracy were very similar to other flywheel-driven blasters with power upgrades.  There was a Rapid Red and a Stryfe with Ultrafire batteries that I found myself up against pretty frequently and, while my spool-up time was longer, the power and distance I was getting had me on seemingly even terms.  Ranges seemed to be between 55-65 feet for average engagement distance.  Accuracy was fairly consistent and I only experienced two jams the entire day.  Both instances were mag-feeding related and occurred with older darts, so the blaster itself was very reliable.  I carried 4 Rockets into battle with me and only managed to hit somebody once with it.  The Rockets move slower than the darts so they seem much easier for opponents to dodge.  This was further supported by the fact that my only rocket kill was at an engagement distance less than 15 feet.

The Strike-and-Defend Pistol Stock performed very well both as a Pistol and as a shoulder stock.  It was sturdy and provided a good amount of comfort during battle while aiming the Demolisher.  I only managed to use it as a Pistol when I was reloading and the performance of the Pistol didn't seem bad.  I was only using it when targets were closer than 20 feet and it was fairly accurate.  I did notice that, during one instance, I grabbed a Koosh dart off the grass to fire back at my opponent and it seemed to shoot straighter than the Elite darts.  Throughout the evening, I managed to pick up 4 or 5 other Koosh Darts to load into the Pistol or my Demolisher to fire back and I was impressed every time, so I'll likely be picking some of these up for future battles.

In the last two games of the evening, we switched to a Pistols-only game.  I opted to go for my new NERF Doomlands 2169 Vagabond.  No modifications were made to the blaster and I was using mostly Elite Darts (unless I could manage to pick up a Koosh dart here and there).  The Vagabond's range was impressive right from the start.  The accuracy seemed pretty decent, too.  Since the Pistols games were on the playground area, I didn't really have an issue with range.  Most engagement distances were between 30-40 feet and the Vagabond had no issues there.  I never ended up using the Vagabond's Slam-Fire feature, but single fire had no jams or firing issues.  I did find that reloading the Vagabond seemed easier than other rotating barrel pistols and the design of the barrels seemed to help make quick reloads easier.  The games were fast paced, so the ergonomic issues I had noted before in my reviews weren't noticeable due to the short amount of play time.

It's odd for me to use mostly unmodified blasters, but after using these in the games we had, I was already pretty happy with their performance.  I'll probably do upgrades for them later but I was pleased that they didn't mitigate my success in the games.  I'm also growing increasingly interested in Koosh darts based on my experience with them.  I had already been reading up on them and heard good things but I'll probably be finding some to load up for the next round.

With weather cooling down, I'm hoping to do another game or two with the Nebraska Nerf Legion soon.  I'll use a different setup for those and list my findings with those, too!  See ya next time!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Post War Report 9/6

Over Labor Day Weekend, the Nebraska Nerf Legion met up at Southridge Meadows Park for a fun evening of Nerf! This is the first time I've hosted a Nerf game outdoors and my first outing with the NNL. I must say I was very pleased with how everything went and met a lot of great people. From Ralston to Norfolk, from Lincoln to Omaha, we had players show up from all around the area to sling those familiar foam darts all across the park.

Our first game was a simple team match in the middle of the park. Two teams of 7 squared off in a one-hit-kills elimination game that revealed the power of many of the customized blasters present. There were some epic shootouts between trees, as the dart pickup in the aftermath revealed localized areas of extreme dart spammage. After that first match, and after spending a good chunk of time retrieving darts, we decided to run some quicker games in the playground in the park. We ran several rounds of Attack & Defend and "Pistols Only" matches that proved to be a lot of fun.

You'll also notice that in nearly every photo I have of gameplay that there's a Corgi running about. Our new puppy (the small black, tan, and white Corgi) had a ball chasing players and her friend Weasley (the tan and white Corgi) around the park while we played. I imagine the players enjoyed being around these friendly playful pups during the games given their playful interaction with them.
We wrapped things up earlier than we hoped thanks to a strong thunderstorm moving through the area. Actually, when the players were polled to vote if we should do one more or call it a night, I was surprised to see an overwhelming support to play another round as the thunder rumbled overhead. After one more pistols round in the park, we grabbed our gear, picked up the darts, and ran for the cars before the downpour kicked in.

Despite the hot weather and the early finish thanks to the storms, I think it's safe to say that this event was a rousing success.  I didn't know if we'd have 5 people or 55 people, but I can't think of one complaint after the great time we had yesterday.  14 people made it perfect.  Big enough teams to run games, small enough size to manage easily.  Plus there were some cool blasters and setups on-hand.  From RapidRed / Hornet integrations to tactical vest layouts that would make an airsoft player blush.  I was also very happy with the new friends made at this event.  Connecting with other players from around the state, seeing the mods first-hand, and exchanging fire in my backyard park together made for a fun evening.  I'm looking forward to more outdoor engagements with the Nebraska Nerf Legion!

Friday, September 4, 2015

NERF First Order Stormtrooper Blaster

Here comes another Trilogy!  In true-out-of-order fashion, Star Wars is hitting the big screen again.  First they made Episodes 4, 5, and 6.  Then they made Episodes 1, 2, and 3.  Starting in 2015, Lucasfilm hits us again with Episodes 7, 8, and 9.  And if there's one thing you can ALWAYS bet on with Star Wars films... there will be plenty of merchandising opportunities.  Star Wars the T-Shirt.  Star Wars the Lunch Box.  Star Wars the Breakfast Cereal.  Star Wars the FLAME THROWER!!! (Please tell me you're getting the reference)

So here comes some new merchandise!  Nerf has come out with 3 blasters for the September 4th release of special "The Force Awakens" toys.  Of these blasters, the largest is based off of the Nerf Rampage (2012).  This First Order Stormtrooper blaster has all the same features of the Rampage, including Slam-fire, tactical rail, and stock attachment.  It comes with a 12-round All White clipazine that uses Elite Darts.  The Darts that come with this are red and have translucent red tips to look like "Laser Blasts!"

The grip, stock, and general size feels a little smaller than a normal Rampage, so larger users might want to stick to their existing blaster instead of shelling out another $30-$35 for this Star Wars version.  It's not a direct reshell, either.  I found this interesting.  The layout of the pump, the trigger, and the stock point are all slightly different from it's N-Strike Elite cousin.  It still loads from the side and can use other N-Strike Accessories and Clip / Magazine sizes.  I found this one at Target.

Below is a video review going over all the features as well as outlining differences in side-by-side comparisons with existing Nerf blasters.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Unintentional Advertising

When I first looked at buying the home I live in now, there were a number of things that had me excited about it.  The location was great, the neighborhood was inviting and friendly, there was a big park in the backyard for hosting Nerf and Laser Tag games, and there was a nice big garage waiting to be fully utilized.  The garage has become my "office" with all sorts of space for my workbench, massive armory, tools, parts, and my beloved Subarus.  Covering the entire north wall of the garage were panels of pegboard that I mounted hooks and holders for Screwdrivers, Power Tools, and everything in-between... but since there was SO MUCH space, I decided to fill the unused portions with some of my favorite blasters.

I didn't realize it at the time, but I happened to put my blasters underneath the light for the garage door on the side... so at night they are illuminated.  Also, since it's on the north wall, in the mornings when I have the garage open, the sunlight lights up that wall, again displaying my collection.  In the two years I've owned the house, I can't tell you how many neighbors or even a random passerby have stopped to ask about them.  Just the other day I was doing some cleaning in the garage and I went inside to grab some water.  When I came back out, a fleet of boys were standing in front of the garage inspecting the display talking among themselves "That tan one is a sniper rifle!"  "I think my brother has that orange one, but it's different."  "What's that rocket thing?" so I spent much of the morning explaining each blaster and fielding their questions.

Adorning my wall is a Crossbolt, Elite Alpha Trooper with an OMW kit, modified SledgeFire, my "Van Helsing" SlingFire, my LTX DMR, the soon-to-be-modified LawBringer, a modified Demolisher w/Strike & Defend blaster stock, the ELV2, and the Blue "Unity Power System".  And with the upcoming Nerf War in my backyard, I took this opportunity to plug that event to get some more players with us.  I never intended for my pegboard wall to be an advertising asset, but it's certainly been working!