Up-downgrades..

It’s an old story and not one restricted to airsoft.  You purchase a bunch of shiny bits that should improve the performance of your airsoft gun, take care fitting them and then discover that it’s range has fallen to 20m and it’s struggling to manage 123 fps at the muzzle.  What gives?

This is a problem I was faced with this week, on behalf of a customer.  He had fitted a new air nozzle and a WinPro hop unit.  Could I get his gun up to 350 fps?  Well, maybe, but with the current parts fitted I was going to need something around a 170m spring and that way lies madness and an early death for his gun.

The culprit was the air nozzle.  I was able to try the hop unit with an unadulterated lower and got around 280 fps, less than ideal but there was hope there given that I would have expected around 300 fps from this gun in stock trim.  The replacement alloy nozzle may have had awesome internal o-rings which give an unparalleled seal around the cylinder head but if it doesn’t properly reach the hop rubber, or leaves a gaping space between its external surface and the internal surface of the hop unit, all the expense is just pissing air away.

The problem as ever is the fact that not all parts intended for your gun will fit properly, even when they fit (if you see what I mean).  Air nozzles can be especially bad for this as small differences can have a large effect, but this is equally true of other parts.  No matter how much their makers claim that they are 100% compatible you don’t really know until you fit them and try.  Short of recommendations for parts that others have used and got good results with there is no way around this and trial and error is your friend.

I wish it was otherwise because trial and error can be a slow process but unless you fit nothing but parts from the original manufacturer you will hit this problem at some point.  When you do, you simply have to work through the parts in a methodical way until you can pinpoint which component is the issue.  For this reason it’s a good idea not to bin the original parts until you are certain that all is as it should be, unless of course those parts are broken.

I wish it were otherwise, this makes my life a pain at times, but it is what it is and we have to live with it I’m afraid.  So chin up, chest out and onwards!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Do as you would be done by

I have been pondering this post for some time.  The subject is something I have seen, heard and been guilty of for as long as I have been involved in airsoft and it’s something I just do not understand.  Or rather I do, but I cannot for the life of me get a handle on why people would be so utterly short-sighted.

Let’s take an example; there are two airsoft companies -one is well-established and reputable the other is the new kid on the block, full of piss and vinegar.  We’ll call one Old Bugger airsoft and the other Upstart Guns.  Upstart decides they can serve the airsoft market better than what is already available and starts buying and selling in a small way.  For some reason best known to themselves they get into the habit of publicly abusing Old Bugger.  No particular reason that I can see, but any time a complaint about anything crosses their path that have a bit of a pop.  There are several problems here…

Firstly, Old Bugger doesn’t really give a flying fu**.  Upstart isn’t a commercial threat and the only thing that prevents Old Bugger from suing them for their stupid comments on-line is that it would be a colossal waste of money.

Secondly Upstart doesn’t seem to realise that if they act like a snotty kid, forever kicking against the rest of the airsoft market both the market and more importantly their customers will notice.  Airsofters are notoriously disloyal customers – they will go for the best deal pretty much regardless of who is supplying it.  As long as Upstart is cheap they will buy from them and they’ll humour them as the Upstart staff slag off all and sundry.  They also remember and some of them will wonder if they too are the subject of ridicule once they have handed over their money and left with their goods.  The end result is that there is no real connection there, customers are taking advantage of low costs but frankly think that the people behind it are plonkers.

Since Upstart are probably playing the “sell it as cheaply as possible game” they aren’t making much profit and they depend on those same customers coming back.  Customers become suspicious of them.  Fellow retailers have no time for them and although it’s not like all retailers are bosom buddies there is generally a degree of respect and reciprocity between them.  Not for Upstart- they have proven themselves to be utter nobs whose only selling point is that they are cheap.

Lacking any substantial base of goodwill Upstart will probably go the way of so many other failed enterprises, and it will be entirely their own fault.  No-one will care.

If you act like a shit, people will use you and treat you like a shit.  Behaviour like that says more, far more, about you than it does about the people you pick on.  Business is a grown-up pastime, if you can’t act like an adult I suggest you leave it and continue playing games with your friends.

Posted in Airsoft | Leave a comment

Maybe I should have asked?

My wife, Amanda, who some of you know, is an employment lawyer. Generally there is very little overlap between our respective work but this week has been an exception.  In both cases it was the result of not asking a question that we didn’t know we had to ask.  Follow me so far? No?  Ok, I’ll try and explain…

It all boils down to making a not-unreasonable assumption based on what I believed to the be the situation.

I was given a LCT TK105 to look at.  I know the gun having done some minor work on it in the past.  It has changed owners and now wasn’t feeding or firing properly.  What followed was for me a week (off and on) of mind-buggering frustration.  I stripped and checked the gearbox – all fine in there.  Still mis-feeding and muzzle velocity was a paltry 150 fps.

Ok, swap the hop rubber.  No appreciable difference.  Change the hop unit for a ProWin (not one of my favourites) – Ah – now it feeds much better but almost no change to velocity.  Fit a new barrel – feeds pretty well, velocity still sucks.  Grab a new piston head but settle for changing the piston O-ring.  Great compression and the spring is perfectly healthy.  No change apart from a blinding headache caused by hammering my head off my workbench.

Finally I message the customer (Taz Stokes) and give him a run down of all that’s been done, and in return I discover that the air nozzle had been changed to try and resolve the problem. Ah.  Really?

In Landwarrior I grab an Ultimate AK air nozzle, strip the box a third time and fit it.  Guess what?  Suddenly I have an extra 200 fps at the muzzle, and returning the original barrel and hop to the gun claws back another few fps.  Feed is much improved although still a bit magazine dependent.

Throughout all of this pain, it hadn’t occurred to me to ask if anything had been done and it wasn’t obvious that the nozzle wasn’t the original.  Some might claim that they would of noticed straight away but I doubt it – different manufacturers use slightly different designs and more importantly I had no reason to believe it had been changed – so I didn’t ask.  Well, that’s a lesson learned.

Had I known that the change had been made I would have started there – it’s axiomatic.  This is no criticism of Ian in anyway, I should have asked and I didn’t.  Rest assured that in future there will be a “anything else I should know” question; it can and will save a load of grief!

Posted in Airsoft, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Too cheap?

The cost of airsoft is something I have written on several times before but it has reared it’s head once again.  All airsofters are schizoid about this; we want to buy gear as cheaply as possible but at the same time we want to be reassured that there is backup and support there if things go wrong as they inevitably do in a minority of cases.  On that latter subject, consumer law demands that sellers, other than private sales be they new or secondhand, are governed by the various consumer protection legislation that applies in the UK.

News that a major distributor is apparently failing to understand that sellers need to make some profit and is willing to see their wares sold for only a few pounds over cost had me shaking my head in despair once again.  Don’t get me wrong, I would dearly like to be able to buy every gun I want for £2.36 each and in fairness I have the experience and knowledge to fix them if they go wrong, but many players don’t have that knowledge, or feel, correctly, that the seller has a responsibility to them if something goes wrong.

To provide that mandated service, retailers need to make profit (they need to make profit for a whole bunch of other reasons but we’ll come back o that in a bit).  Like most gun techs I charge £25.00 for my time, that’s the going rate by and large.  Most problems will be fixed in an hour, especially the sorts of problems that tend to occur with new gear.  Does it add up if the seller is only making £10.00 total profit on a gun though?  Ok, the majority of guns sold won’t suffer any problems so it’s a bit of a gamble that you won’t see too many problems and if you can sell high volumes, you can still make a profit.  What happens if you don’t sell decent volumes though?  The sort of entities who sell at such low profit margins are low-volume pop-up sellers.  What happens if you have an unexpected run of problems?  Yes, the distributor should help out but expect to have a short-term cash-flow problems as I have never seen a manufacturer or distributor step up as quickly as the customer wants (some of them never step up to help – ever).  Furthermore the buyer has no interest in the distributor as in law their contract is with the seller.

Airsoft retailers are businesses, they buy stock, pay rent, pay staff and pay taxes.  Margins in the sector are not high, compared to say the restaurant trade, and those profits can at time become thinly spread.  It’s also a very competitive market; for the size of the customer base it is well supplied with retailers and outlets – all of this works to keep prices down.  By way of an example you can now pick up a G&G Combat Machine SRL with metal front end, electronic trigger and mosfet for well under £200.  £200 is still £200 but really?  That’s cheap.

Distributors and manufacturers have always been short-sighted, failing to understand the argument for not selling to every Tom, Dick and Harry.  Often they fail to understand that anything sold too cheaply becomes devalued in the eyes of consumers and that their headlong pursuit of sales at any cost will ultimately backfire.  Airsofters will start to look at brands that turn up repeatedly in the hands of bedroom sellers somewhat askance.  If there are problems, word will get out within the community and sales will plummet, especially if the after-sales service is lacking.

The only people in airsoft who do it purely for pleasure are the players, everyone else is trying to eke a living from it – myself included.  That means that money has to be made by everyone, that’s market economics.  When distributors start undermining that we as players stand to make a short term gain but they stand to destroy their own market ultimately leaving all of us worse off.  Watching companies who should know better act with such blinkered views is distasteful and saddening and they will either learn from their mistake or suffer for it.  Fortunately the company involved doesn’t contribute a huge amount in terms of airsoft guns to the UK market and accessories can be found from many sources – WE Europe have been busting a gut to get into as many areas of airsoft as they can and they will likely benefit from the foolishness of others.

If you want to buy cheap guns – really cheap guns – and you don’t worry about aftercare service or advice I would buy from abroad.  It’s not that I want to undermine the UK industry, quite the opposite, but if you are going to pursue a bargain beyond all else you might as well focus on that while at the same time denying succour to those who apparently don’t really give a shit about the longer term health of airsoft in the UK, only their own short-term benefits.

Posted in Airsoft | Leave a comment

Opinel, a tale told in steel and wood

I am huge fan of Opinel knives. Wearing another hat, I was prompted to go a do some digging into the history of the brand and the family behind it. As this piece was never used, I am going to pop it up here for the delectation of those who, like me, love this quintessentially French knife. Here therefore is the tale of a simple peasant knife that has become a world-wide success, a tale told in steel and wood.Opinel_n°8_ouvert_-_modèle_1890

The Opinel story begins back in 1800 with Victor-Amédée Opinel, a peddler who learnt how to forge nails during his travels. Presumably tiring of his travels, he established a blacksmith workshop in Gevoudaz, a hamlet part of Albiez-le-Vieux, near Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne. After his death, Victor was succeeded by his son Daniel who had worked alongside his father learning the trade at his side. Daniel became a renowned “edgetool maker”, his billhooks and scythes being popular amongst farmers who would come from afar to purchase them.

In 1872 Joseph Opinel was born, the eldest son of Daniel Opinel. In 1890 Joseph Opinel turned 18 and began work in the family edgetool making workshop. Joseph brought a passion for new machines and innovative technologies, he built his own camera and soon became the photographer for weddings and special events in his area. It was this passion for machinery and manufacturing processes that led Joseph to seek something that could be made using the most modern of techniques. Daniel, his father was less than enthusiastic being firmly rooted in the tradition of handmade tools but Joseph persevered. Joseph spent his free time designing and refining the shape and manufactured of a small pocket knife: the Opinel was born.wood

Like many great ideas, the Opinel knife did not spring fully formed from Joseph’s imagination and straight into production, it was 1897 before the first knives were produced. Whilst designing the knife, the idea had occurred to Joseph that the knife could be made in a variety of sizes, better to suit individual hands and tasks. The result was a series of knives, all based on the same basic design numbered from 1 – 12. The No. 1 was the smallest and had a ring that could be attached to a pocket watch chain, No. 12, that largest knife had a blade that measured 12cm. The range as introduced in 1897 survived unchanged until 1935 when the No. 1 and No. 11 knives were dropped, the smaller being considered just too small and the larger because there was very little difference between it and the larger No. 12. In the 70s, a giant knife was produced in small volumes as a promotional item to be used in shop windows. The retailers were rapidly asking Opinel to produce larger quantities due to requests from private individuals! The blade of the giant No. 13 is 22 cm long making the knife 50 cm long when fully open.

 

As the Twentieth Century dawned and commercial success continued, Joseph needed to dramatically increase manufacturing capacity of Opinel knives. He built his new factory at the Pont de Gevoudaz near the family workshop. Here he streamlined production and developed machines which could manufacture knife handles at greater speed. Having installed a hydraulic turbine, he was the first in his village to have electricity. With the factory electrified, along with his workshop and home, he decided to add a few lights along the lane he used to go to his factory prompting an elderly resident to wonder aloud how he “managed to get oil running through the cables…”

By 1915 Joseph had realised that he would never be able to develop his business if he stayed in this remote hamlet. In the middle of the war, he decided to travel around the area to find the perfect place. That happened to be on the outskirts of Chambery, in Cognin, where he bought an old tannery with its own waterfall on the Hyères canal. The premises were old but close to Chambery railway station. Being at the heart of a large railway and road network was an important asset. A few months were needed to renovate the premises and from 1917, Joseph, assisted by his two sons, Marcel and Léon, began the industrial and commercial development of the Opinel brand. Production continued until 1926 when a fire utterly destroyed the factory, prompting yet another move to a newly built facility. Opinel have remained in or very near Chambery ever since.

A distinctive feature of Opinel knives is the crowned hand found on every blade. In 1565, King Charles IX of France ordered each master cutler to add his emblem to his products to guarantee their origin and quality. Joseph Opinel chose the Crowned Hand emblem in 1909. The blessing hand is that of Saint Jean-Baptiste. Joseph Opinel added the crown as a reminder that the Savoie was a duchy. Every single Opinel blade and tool is stamped with the Crowned Hand.lame_0

One of the abiding qualities of the Opinel knives is their simplicity. Modern knives consist of only five components; the handle, typically turned from beech or birch, the blade, either Sandvic stainless steel or more traditional carbon steel, the metal ring through which the rivet on which the blade hinges passes and the Virobloc safety ring. Originally there were only 4 parts to each knife, from 2000 the Virobloc was added to every knife in the range from the No.6 up. In eschewing the use of springs to hold the blade in either the open or closed position as is common in penknives, even knives of a similar age, Opinel simplified the production of his knife enormously. He also simplified it’s price – even today the most commonly used sizes of knife sell for around £7-£10 GBP.

It is only when you stop and look at what Opinel did with the design of the pocket knife that you truly appreciate his genius. What most of us probably regard as the “classic” pocket knife, the slip joint knife, was invented in the late 1660s and Opinel would undoubtedly have been well aware of them. The slip joint knife uses a hinged blade that is held in the open and closed position by the use of a back-spring. Think of any classic pocket knife design and you are probably thinking of a slip joint knife. Opinel went in a completely different direction, one which may be regarded as brave since there was no provision for securing the blade on Opinel knives until the introduction of the Virobloc in 1955. If the blade on your Opinel became loose you either replaced it, hit the rivet to tighten it or dunked it in water, which caused the wooden handle to expand thereby tightening the hinge!opinel-no-8-inox2

Manufacturing was also simpler compared to slip joint design, as we have seen it required only four pieces. A typical slip joint knife will have at least double that number of components, and most of them need to be made to precise tolerances from steel or brass. This isn’t to say that Opinel isn’t a precision made tool, it is, but by foregoing the spring Joseph Opinel massively simplified the manufacturing process. It is interesting to note than very few manufacturers have ever attempted to replicate Opinel’s design…

In the UK the presence of the Virobloc poses an interesting dilemma for anyone using an Opinel as an EDC (every day carry) knife. UK law does not allow lock-knives, well it does, but if challenged you have to be able to show good reason for carrying such a knife. It also limits the blade length to 3 inches or smaller. The No.5 Opinel does not have the Virobloc but frankly it’s a small knife even for mundane tasks like opening letters or cutting fruit. The Number 6 is perfect in this respect having a blade just under three inches – but it comes with the Virobloc. The answer, should you be looking for one is fairly simple but does require you stepping back into previous centuries. With the knife closed, lock the Virobloc and then open the blade. The Virobloc will ping off (so do this where you can retrieve it). The Number 6 is now restored to it’s pre-2000 state and is a non-locking knife. Since Opinels managed for decades without the lock mechanism you should be just fine as long as you use it as carefully as you would any other knife. Generally the blade on an Opinel is stiff anyway and you should never use a knife, locking or not, in such a way that it could close on your fingers. It’s a sad state of affairs that such things are necessary but that’s the world we Brits live in. In the rest of the world, we doubt this is any kind of issue for you and you’ll all be happily carrying the even more practical No. 8.

The choice between stainless and carbon steel is a personal one – I have several of both as do many Opinel owners (well, they are so affordable!). The argument is generally that carbon steel takes an edge more easily and develops a nice patina with age whereas stainless is harder and doesn’t stain (obvious really). In truth it makes little practical day to day difference.

The simplicity of the knives also makes them very popular as a base for custom designs and modification, whether that is something as simple as staining the handle a different colour or altering the blade shape and radically changing the handle. Opinel actually produce finished/unfinished knives with the handle left in a relatively raw state to allow the owner to carve it to their own design. If you’re curious there are many many pages online dedicated to these knives.

The Opinel is not “the perfect knife” but it is unique, astonishingly simple and remarkably robust and practical. Opinel has gone from strength to strength and shows no sign of weakening. As long as we have a need to cut, we suspect that Opinel will be there to help us do so. Vive la France!

Posted in Outdoors | Leave a comment

Just musin’ on a Friday

…I’ll grant you it’s Friday the thirteenth which means that some of you will be hiding in nuclear bunkers whilst posting that really, you’re not superstitious…

I don’t have anything in particular to grumble or rant about but the need to put some words down was strong, so the following is really just in the spirit of musings.  I have worked on a number of Marui 416 recoils recently, which is good as my experience of them has been limited to date.  I have a better understanding of them, and as a consequence a deal more respect for the continuing excellence of the Japanese masters.  One came to me with a trigger issue.  It wasn’t the trigger that was the problem as far as I could see but an issue that can afflict all electric airsoft guns.  If you fail to pull the trigger fully – very rapid semi auto shooting for instance – the gearbox may well lock up you.  Resolving it is simple, flick to full auto, quick bust, away you go.  I have done this myself, so I make no criticism of the customer whose gun it was.  We had a couple of other things to do and I had the chance to thoroughly check his gearbox for him.  Some guns are much more prone to this than others, I can get MP5Ks to fail this way simply by frowning at them 🙂  If you think you have an iffy trigger because this happens a lot, check your technique.

I have had a pleasant time reworking a Classic Army G3. Naturally they call it something completely different, but G3 it is.  CA are a funny bunch; they haven’t kept up with developments in the airsoft universe and they have certainly lost the plot as far as pricing is concerned against most of the Taiwan based manufacturers, but….  I like them.  It’s always worth checking one over, some people swear that the yellow pistons disintegrate in a heartbeat, my experiences are very different.  In the case of the G3 I found that the number and thickness of shims was correct, but the placement of them wasn’t – rather defeats the whole point of shimming.  Since there was no indication that anyone had been inside the box since the factory that’s just carelessness.

Properly shimmed and with the noisy CA motor replaced, the gun is like silky silk made from silky stuff.  The quality of CA guns and components is generally pretty high, I just get the impression that they are happy to OEM for other companies these days rather than innovating.  They used to be a major player but no longer it seems, however if you are offered one second hand, have a good look, it might be an awesome bargain just ripe for the picking.

If you’re playing this weekend, especially in the UK, wrap up warm, stay safe and have fun!

 

Frenchie out

Posted in Airsoft | Leave a comment

Really?

Since I’m not necessarily venting my spleen elsewhere these days, I thought I would just let my mind ramble here.  This post was occasioned by an exchange between a retailer and a player I heard recently, and harks back to something I wrote for Airsoft International not long ago.

The crux of the issue was chronos – specifically their accuracy or lack thereof.  There are chronos out there which are very accurate, brands like Skan are used by some because they are properly calibrated and can be relied upon to give accurate and consistent results.  Unfortunately these are few and far between on sites, who tend to favour smaller, more portable chronos.  Been there, done that and there is nothing wrong with it.  Each site effectively states, “this is our test, these are the results we stand by when determining whether or not your gun is acceptable”.  The results are consistent within that context.  What they aren’t is necessarily accurate – a small amount of chrono inaccuracy can lead to huge differences in results when measured on a known, accurate device.  I’m not going to rehearse the arguments I made in the magazine, suffice to say that inaccuracy combined with allowances made for such inaccuracy can lead to wild variations on the actual muzzle velocity of guns permitted at different sites.  This is all simple stuff.

It get’s really interesting when a retailer is accused of consistently delivering ‘hot guns’, guns which notably exceed the permitted limits of a given site or sites.  Assuming that the sites involved rely on anything other than a properly calibrated chrono, the person making the argument is on thin ice, especially if the supplier of the guns does use such a chrono.  The fact that more than one chrono is used on site is neither here nor there, since inaccuracy simply compounds inaccuracy.  No, where it got really silly was when the supplier was accused of deliberately delivering hot guns…

Now that’s just plain silly, in the great airsoft tradition of silly.  It’s one of those accusations that is so pointless as to make you wonder of the  person making it was having a brain-rest day, as what they are saying is that someone whose livelihood relies of satisfying customer needs would deliberately spend time and therefore money to create a problem.  The first question is “why?!”, quickly followed by “what planet..?”

No-one reliant on the goodwill of customers is going to waste money to ensure that they are not satisfied.  This is especially true in a market like the airsoft sector in the UK where all the major players are constantly attempting to gain an advantage and improve their lot, leading to constant competition.  To me it is utterly inconceivable, so I have to assume that the person who suggested this was having an off day – they had taken a bunch of disparate and not necessarily accurate information and formed a perfectly silly conclusion.  I think it skipped the sanity check phase before being offered for consideration.

I’m not suggesting that airsofters, as a breed, are more or less detached from reality than the rest of the population, but as with the broader population, there are some who clearly can grab an idea and run with it without ever apparently pausing to ask if 37.2 + 45.9 does actually equal 2. Fortunately no harm was done but I confess I was left slack jawed by this episode. Remember children, engage brain before letting your mouth, or fingers, start talking!

Stay safe 🙂

 

Frenchie

Posted in Airsoft | Leave a comment

Normal Service is resumed…

Normal in the sense that this is about airsoft guns.  One of the most-asked questions is “I have just got XXXX airsoft gun – what upgrades should I do?”  The Interweb is generally full of all manner of ideas so it’s understandable if the owner of a new gun thinks he or she needs to do loads of stuff – they don’t.  My most common answer to this question is “nothing”.  Most guns are perfectly fine out of the box, and you can leave upgrades until you know that you’re going to keep the thing and have decided what extra you want out of it.

Here’s a case in point:  G&G have revamped their Combat Machine series, adding an electronic trigger and mosfet al-la Gen 2 ASCU.  There are cosmetic changes too, but it’s still basically the same, reliable machine it was.  So what to do?

If you want more range – change the already excellent green hop rubber for a Madbull Blue.  Cheap and easy, just be aware you may well need to use heavier ammo as the blues can really lift BBs.  For me it was more to do with reliability – I’m not a fan of G&G pistons, so the obvious change was to install an Ultimate 170 red polycarb job.

This is pretty simple, just be aware that with the mosfet living in the stock tube, you are going to have to disconnect and then reconnect more wiring than normal – it isn’t hard, just don’t f**k it up! The photo shows the power connections separated, the black cable is the control c20150929_095234able which stays attached to the gearbox and should be fed out of the stock tube.

The gearbox come out just like a standard version 2 and strips the same way.  I’m personally not fond of the G&G piston head but having forgotten to pick one up, I reused it.  This required the use of a longer screw from the spares box as the original is too short to properly secure the piston head, the Ultimate piston being made of thicker material.  A dab of loctite keeps things from going west and a 20150929_095951bit of silicon grease on the o-ring makes up for the habitually dry G&G top end.

After that it’s just a case of working backwards and rebuilding the gun.  Ideally you will have some 15-20mm clear heat shrink to re-wrap the mosfet, again I didn’t (it’s ordered) so I used insulating tape as a stopgap.

The 170 piston is a tank, and with a gun that puts out pretty much bang-on 328fps I would expect it to last for years, barring accidents or acts of God!

I could do more, and I may do more in the future, but these guns, like so many, really don’t need it for the majority of skirmish sites.

Frenchie

 

 

 

 

Posted in Airsoft | Leave a comment

If I catch them, I swear I’m going to hurt them…

Nothing about guns for a change.  No the cause of my fury, and it was fury, is the slew of cheap Chinese-made radios that have increasingly found their way onto the airsoft field, chief amongst them Baofeng.

There is nothing inherently wrong with them, and by God they’re cheap so I can completely understand their popularity, there’s just one tiny problem – they’re illegal.  Ok, I’ll qualify that – if you have an appropriate licence in the UK, and you programme them to use permitted frequencies, they’re probably legal.  Otherwise, they’re not.  However most of them can be programmed to the PMR 446 frequencies.  This doesn’t make them legal, they are too powerful and they don’t have fixed antenna, and as any radio ham will explain – at length – antenna can make a huge difference to performance.

They claim to put out between 1 and 5 watts of power although pretty much everything I have read about them reckons they are nearer 2 watts even at the higher setting.  Still that’s four times the output permitted for PMR, so they’re still illegal…  What am I?  The Radio Police?  No, actually I don’t care that much at all until the user makes a complete dog’s arse of programming them.  Then I care.  Get the parameters wrong and you can instantly share your pearls of wisdom with every poor bugger who is trying to use their legal PMR sets.  On a small site it might be possible to identify the culprit but faced with 320 potential users it wasn’t happening.  What’s more they were so badly programmed that they were cutting right across all 8 PMR channels sharing their love with everyone.  I swear if I had found them I would have buried them, fortunately for them I couldn’t and didn’t.

If you decide to push the law a bit and use radios like this – do us all a favour.  Find out how to programme them and do it properly.  There is tons of info available on the internetweb and here’s a free tip to get you started – choose narrowband, not wide FM.  Do that one thing and I am ten time less likely to hunt you down and set fire to your feet!

And breathe……

Posted in Airsoft | 3 Comments

ICS G33 – no, I hadn’t forgotten!

My apologies, I have been busy writing and editing Vol. 8, Issue 2 of “Raider” magazine, so this has hung around a bit.  As I stated at the beginning, Ben beat me to getting a review of the G33 into AI, but that’s cool.  Rather than giving you the “it does this, it doesn’t do this..” sort of review, I’m just going to offer an opinion – me?!!  Opinion!  Strange, but true 🙂

Ok, I love this gun.  I like it because it’s wrong, because it’s not a G36, a gun I admire but could never get on with.  I like it despite the fact that it’s made by ICS, one of my least favourite manufacturers, for various reasons.  I like it despite the fact that the rails are made of plastic – I’d rather decent polymer that crap pot-metal. I just like it. Quite a lot.

The gearbox is pretty good – Version 3 as you’d expect, there is nothing too amiss with it, gears are solid although I should have replaced the piston when I was changing the spring, but that’s more for my peace of mind than anything.  Out of the box this was doing 406 fps and sounded really nice.  With an Ultimate M90 spring in, that came down to 325, and was pretty consistent at that.

At the same time I changed out the ICS hop rubber for a Madbull Blue and was surprised by how easily it went in, ICS hops can be a little tight and the Blue is fat.  But no, a smear of silicon grease and all was well.  Plenty of lift now so it should chuck 0.25 ammo a decent distance.

Even with the downgraded spring the gearbox sounds nice and smooth, helped no doubt by the amount of plastic.  If you remove the magazine and shake the rifle, nothing rattles.  I always reckon this a good thing.  All the pins are proper sprung steel pins rather than pot metal crap – I countersunk the hole for the foregrip to make insertion easier as this is the one that is in and out most.

Taking down the gun is ridiculously easy as ICS haven’t bothered with the screw through the back of the gearbox.  So, front end off, magwell off, gearbox and lower receiver out.  I thank you!

Plastics are nice and dense, mould lines are there but not obtrusive.  As mentioned earlier the pistol grip fits my hand very nicely, the mag release works well with my magazines although I agree with Ben, it’s too easy to press the end of the retaining pin for the magwell if you’re not paying attention.

Sights are open and adequate, although a cheeky wee sand coloured T1 doesn’t go amiss.

All in all, a competent package for very reasonable money.

ICS make ‘reasonable’ airsoft guns, in my opinion (and it is just that, my opinion) they don’t do anything exceptional, but maybe adequate is what’s required.  A number of fellow techs agree that, left alone ICS guns will quite often go on for years, they only go bad if someone tries to “upgrade” them or they get broken, so I cannot accuse them of unreliability.

Aesthetically I really like the G33 – more than I like the original G36, but again that’s a matter of taste.  It works well and it shoots well.  It’s components aren’t earth-shattering but nor are they utter rubbish – they’re adequate (that word again).  When I say that I mean they are adequate to the task, they do what is required of them.  That is true of the gun itself.  I doubt it will set your world alight, but I also expect that it will keep plugging away, with a little TLC, for many years.

At the end of the day I’m not sure any of us can ask more than that.

Posted in Airsoft | Leave a comment