To balance out todays previous bad news it occured to me that we did not say cheers to Stitch me up for their excellent patches we took delivery of at christmas.

Coveted & sexy...

Coveted & sexy…

They do loads of work for airsoft teams and I’ve yet to hear a single bad word about them. Our’s was certainly delivered promptly and in great packaging protecting the patches – at a very reasonable price! You can check out their facebook page for loads of examples of their work and they’ll do batches large and small…
Well done Swamps for picking them!
BZ

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Anyone who reads our game day reviews knows we try to be as positive as possible and highlight the best points of sites, so this is one of those rare occasions we have to report something definitely not so good.

Recent Raptors returnee and resident grenadier expert Derka was looking to book a private game day for a special occasion, having played all the local north east sites and having had good experiences on the whole at all of them we had no hesitation in recommending the most local one to him to cut down on hassles with travel. So he contacted NTAC at Shildon.

He contacted them to ask if they could take 30+ full hires with a some additional walk ons (airsoft regulars with own kit) on a Saturday as part of his brothers stag weekend. Well over a £1,000 worth of business, when you figure in extra BB’s, pyro and drinks and munchies probably closer to over £2,000. Having had the booking confirmed and even offering to make a deposit he was informed no deposit was necessary and “pay on the day”. Off he went to inform everyone and book transport…

Fast forward to T-4 days when he was asked by the site if he knew a name in his party. When the name was unfamiliar it became apparent to the site that they had double booked the day and told Derka he would have to have another weekend. On the Tuesday before his brothers stag weekend. I’m sure you can imagine how this news was greeted.

In the sites defence they have explained that their booking system was overloaded as it could only cope with 100 free messages and so didn’t read any more, and they apologised for “any inconvenience caused”.

Have to say that the inconvenience is considerable, cancelling 40 or so players with less than 4 days to go, for his brothers stag weekend, having had a booking accepted and confirmed and having booked minibuses for transport. For a business taking orders over a thousand pounds the excuse that our free booking system was overloaded and we didn’t clear it is pretty unforgivable. I’m certain that if anyone was spending that amount on any other service you would expect a decent level of professionalism.

So what now?

Well, Derks is faced with last minute panic through no fault of his own. To further compound the disappointment all the other sites in the area say they would have been happy to help if they had a bit more notice to get hold of marshals etc, understandable really.

In all good conscience if you’re looking for a large game day booking we cannot possibly recommend NTAC following this. For a large airsoft booking in the North East try either NSC at South Shields or NAA at Dishforth depending on your location and preferences. A quick look back through our reviews and you can see from our game day reports that we’ve had a warm welcome and many great days airsoft at both.

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Off I went…
Not often I get to buy new gear at the moment, so after first having had a few goes on Derkas Ares Vz58 I made the trip south to Patrol Base to make the purchase. I know if you’re prepared to hunt around you can probably knock a tenner off, but there is still something I like about going to a shop, picking out the one I want and leaving with it.

Everyone loves a new gun!

Everyone loves a new gun!

Some comments on Patrol Base. It’s easy enough to find and we had no trouble parking up. Once inside its a spacious shop with plenty of stock. The guys were very enthusiastic even letting me shoot off a few rounds on the display model they had on show in their test range. My only proviso was they tried to sell me a battery they insisted fitted, and only the fact that I had experience of actually using a VZ58 made me cautious. When I said fine if they could fit it for me I’d buy 2 did they concede (after much trying) that none of their batteries in stock fitted. More of the batteries later though…

Almost fresh out of the box...

Almost fresh out of the box…

As the Ares website highlights, the VZ58 series comes with a propriety mag which are about £30 each at the moment, and you can see I went for the compact version. For those who like to read up on the real world counterparts there’s some info here.

Also in the box were cleaning rods, mag loader, and some reasonably decent instructions. Read them! No batteries of any kind, which I don’t mind as they’re usually inferior and never get used in any case.

Read them! You never know...

Read them! You never know…

I added a few modifications to my initial purchase. First up and probably most pragmatic was the magazine adapter to allow the VZ58 to accommodate M4 type mags. This gives you access to a far wider variety and they tend to be cheaper!

Mag well adapter for all those M4 mags you already have!

Mag well adapter for all those M4 mags you already have!

Next up was a suppressor, reasonably short and simple dual ended type. Primarily because I liked the look of it, but having skirmished the VZ58 now it definitely mutes the noise of the gearbox taking a lot of the sharpness out of it. It turns it into a satisyingly solid thump rather than a crack and seems to be harder to position from any sort of distance.

extra sneakiness fitted....

extra sneakiness fitted….

Lastly for now was the quick release sidemount attachment that allows me to use the QR sidemount from my AK105. Fitting was a matter of minutes allowing the VZ to mount a toprail for scope and sights. This top rail does make fitting the battery more fiddly so be warned!

QR sidemount ready!

QR sidemount ready!

The ring for attaching sligs is definitely robust and feels secure. After the somewhat flimsy affairs on the side of some CYMA AK’s this was a welcome find.

Why aren't all guns fitted with one of these?

Why aren’t all guns fitted with one of these?

..and of course it has a folding stock, with the stock folding to the right so you can still make use of the QR sidemount and access the selector switch with ease.

Even shorter...

Even shorter…

However!
This brings me to a definite gripe. The folding stock relies on a screwcap retaining a small spring over the pin in the hinge. I was warned by other owners this would be loose and to get some threadlock on it immediately. Like an idiot I hadn’t got round to it before I skirmished it the first time. The VZ didn’t even make it past the safety brief before this pinged it’s way across the carpark. Why they seem unable to secure this I have no idea. Sheer dogged luck and some very helpful friends enable me to find the escaped parts (and they go a long way) and it was replaced having been smothered in threadlock. I may look into a more permanent securing pin mod at a later date.

PAY ATTENTION! THREADLOCK THIS BIT!

PAY ATTENTION! THREADLOCK THIS BIT!

Power it up!
Right. Batteries. The only batteries I can find that currently fit the recived space are G&P 7.4v lipo at the moment. You can get them on the usual popular auction site from overseas, but I also recommend checking out our pyro supplier Jack Rabbit who have supply at wholesale prices here in Blighty. Replacing them can be fraught so here’s my best method so far…

Step 1 slide pin to unsecure rear of top receiver

Battery step 1

Battery step 1

Step 2 remove the receiver top completely.

Battery step 2

Battery step 2

Step 3 move the cocking handle rearwards

Battery Step 3

Battery Step 3

Step 4 remove the cocking handle reciever section as well to permit access to the battery with ease.

Battery Step 4

Battery Step 4

I find it easiest to lay the new battery in position carefully and essentially go through all the above procedures in reverse to fit. BE WARNED it remains a tight fit, be wary of trapping wires and damaging LiPo batteries when doing so!

But having done all this you are presented with a tidy tight and refreshingly rattle free AEG. Having skirmished it once I can assure that the electronic programmable gearbox seems to work well. using 7.4v LiPo gives it more than fast enough rate of fire, although I tend to leave it in semi. (see our video from the last game day report. I intend to program this to either a 3 shot burst or semi auto only at a later date, so I’ll update the performance then.

In action I found it beautifully nimble and accurate for it’s size. Power was dead on 326 fps out of the box (1 Joule) so no need to be using the quick access for the spring just yet that the current Ares AEG come fitted with.

Pros
Solid
Small size makes it agile (ideal CQB)
Good range on stock hop set up
Perfectly powered out of box
Can take standard mags with adapter

Cons
Make sure stock hinge is secured properly!
Battery compartment is small and fiddly

Overall? A cracking little AEG. I mean, just look at it...

Admit it, you want one now don't you?...

Admit it, you want one now don’t you?…

Costs…
VZ58 Compact £192
Mag Adapter £29.99
Suppressor £10
plus I went for some additional Ares Amoeba mid cap 140rd M4 magazines at £9.99
G&P 7.4v LiPo batteries £25

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A cold bleak wintery day…
An eagerly anticapted day out for a number of reasons. First both raptors made the long trek north to NSC Boldon, and always good to see my buddy! To make the day even better, long term Raptors groupies Derka & Jamie were in attendance.

Raptors rocking the ATACS FG camo...

Raptors rocking the ATACS FG camo…

It was also the first chance to give a new AEG a run out, having recently purchased a VZ58 from Patrol Base I was keen to see how it fared (review to follow)

Weather was as you would expect for the end of November in the northeast. Cold, icy and damp. Despite that the safe zone filled up quickly. The undercover area a great addition to the site letting you get kitted up, mill about and socialise out of the wind and rain (or hail and sleet in this case). Funny how much you come to appreciate this!

Swampy takes aim...

Swampy takes aim…

Into it then

As always at NSC a comprehensive and well done safety brief started the day. Then straight into a relative fast “kill the opposition” game to get people playing and warmed up! It was great to see so many youngsters playing, and playing well. It was quickly apparent that a lot of the undergrowth from the summer has died back a long way and there was a lot more open ground to cover – also presenting the opportunity for some manic long range duels.. one of which allowed me the chance of a great sneak up on one of the Opfor. All the time expecting a hail of BB’s coming at me. Definite pulse pounding moment – and for once captured on the gopro!

The next game was a fall back type scenario. The raptors plus Jamie decide to hide out in a little brick building and let the attackers pass by before delivering a surprise from the rear. As luck (and it was sheer luck) would have it it also presented an opportunity to shoot one of the NSC regulars in the back and leave him believing his own team shot him. Evil twat? certainly. But you’d all do it given the chance and you know it… The game progressed as we fell back to the bunkers. The attackers trying to breach and secure a footing inside whilst we desperately tried to deny them entry. Veritable hailstorms of BB’s traded in both directions, with some great sportmanship seen, with players calling hits in the dark and gentlemanly allowing shot players to clear the area before resuming hostilities. BZ all round.

What lurks in the dark?... Spider does. Always bloody Spider

What lurks in the dark?… Spider does. Always bloody Spider

One of my only concerns on the day at this point would be the use of smoke grenades in or near bunker entrances. Not convinced the smoke is particularly good for anyone in enclosed spaces and I know as last man in it was hard not to cough and give my position away. Would hate to see a ban, as a single smoke is fine overall – but several at once could be a real issue.

We were off for lunch at this point, and the nice warm grub provided by NSC was most welcome – hot drinks, hot dogs and soup all round seemed to go down very well with everyone.

Things that make you go boom

The afternoon games started with an objective based game to secure, arm and then defend a device that the guys at NSC had custom built. We had the chance for a good look at it earlier on and it looks awesome. Digital keypad activation with countdown timers and pyro detonators. I love great props like this in games and think they add a whole extra dimension to the gameplay

Tick, tick... boom!

Tick, tick… boom!

The gameplay was based on the use of a large open building with teams approaching from opposite sides. Players had to get to the device and arm it, then defend it for 20 minutes so it could detonate – or disarm it. We quickly lost ground to the opposition and found our spawn covered, from then on the end was predictable. No matter how hard we tried it they had us pinned back and got a well deserved win.

We returned the favour on the return match however, the youngsters on our team piled into the factory and secured the bomb, there then started a dogged defence as the opposition tried to straight on attack, then flank us. the game turning into a real gritty hold on to the end type situation. It has to be said with the close nature of the games we were having such a good time no-one noticed the cold or the damp, and i enjoyed running about so much I ended up laid out with cramp!

All in all a cracking days airsoft. Played in good spirits and enjoyed using the new AEG. I managed to get a bit of footage from the gopro although as with the AEGs the cold quickly ate into battery life… enjoy!

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Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 11.46.58A little left-field but traditional style board games are the new rock and roll…Er, a bit of an exaggeration but they are ‘quite cool’ once again for a lot of people.

Now, on the occasions we cannot dress up as soldiers and run around the woods going ‘pew, pew’ it is nice to – dare I say – ‘socialise’ with the family. Now, this process needn’t be as painful as you might suppose and that’s where today’s boardgames come in. Forget Monopoly (and the family arguments that it results in) or that beige bag-o-monotony Scrabble – how about an evening of adventure, daring-dos and untimely sticky ends?

Every couple of Friday nights my family and I sit down to battle it out on the cardboard battlefield and this week we tried out Gamewright’s ‘Forbidden Island’ (duh, duh, duuuuuuuhhhh)!

This is typical of the modern slew of board games that have been hitting the marketplace, it replaces tedious plods around a game-board circuit with a tense and imaginative adventure where you and your compatriots take on the roll of a cast-way roll (think TV’s ‘Lost’) on a mysterious island which – frankly – is out to kill you!

This game is for 2 to 4 players with a age range of 10 and above – now at this point I say ‘hold on there’ because you saw ‘age 10 and above’ and were about to switch off weren’t you? A word to the wise, a group of adults drinking wine while playing a board game easily falls into the intellectual category of ‘age 10’, believe me I talk from experience. Overly complicated games and booze do not mix! Forbidden Island is just the right balance of simple game mechanics and intriguing game play and theme.

Forbidden Island

The ‘plot’ is simple: You and your ‘Scooby Doo’ gang have landed on a mysterious island on the look-out for arcane treasure. To escape the island you must collect four mythical objects and get them back to your helicopter as a team. Simple enough? Oh well, did I mention that the island is sinking?

Honestly, this is stupendous fun (it must be to warrant the use of the word ‘stupendous’)! For starters this is a co-op game – you are all on the same side (against the island) so none of that pain in the arse huffing like you get in Monopoly when someone get’s knocked out! And furthermore, because you are all in it together and each have a very particular specialist skill you have to co-ordinate as a team to complete the tasks in the most effective (and quickest) way!

Forbidden Island

The Diver – one of the special characters in the game. You are allotted a character and this gives you some special skills – obviously mine was swimming, which is very handy on an island that is sinking!

All through the game the water levels are rising and bits of the island become flooded and then, eventually, disappear altogether hampering your task. For such a simple game mechanic things start to get very, very tense as you all try to negotiate water obstacles to escape.

Now, hopefully I have communicated the excitement of this game, but if not here is a – hopefully- the clincher. We lost our first game – the island sank just as we were about to recover the last mystical object and return it to the helicopter pad to make our escape. Despite this the whole group of us thoroughly enjoyed the adventure, every one of us was engaged in the storyline (even the wife, who famously ‘doesn’t get’ roll playing games) and several times during the course of the quest we were all on our feet pointing out ‘better ways’ to cooperate in order to finish in time.

Forbidden Island

Whah, whah, whaaaaaaah! Game over! The island sank.

It’s a cliche – but this game really brought us together.

Forbidden Island is destined – I know – to become a firm ‘starter’ game (as it only takes up to an hour at most). It’ll really warm the group up before we undertake longer and more complex games, but even if that’s the only game you play in an evening I don’t think you will be disappointed. Buy it now!

Steve

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Some of you may have noticed a marked increase in the output of Raptors social media pages of late. Both twitter and Facebook.

I would love to say this is because Swampy and Spider have become more knowledgeable and conscientious about publishing stuff, but lets be honest it would be easier to get a noob to take their hits at Ground Zero than that.

It’s all down to the enthusiasm of previous contributer MilGeek who has started penning (should that be keyboarding?) upon our pages. A long term airsofter and self confessed old fart (probably why he fits right in…) for those who don’t know him we heartily recommend his own pages on airsoft, military history, modelling and computer gaming. You can find him over on the MilGeek Blog and his spin off pages chronicling his modelling past times. (No. Not that kind of modelling you filthy minded…)

 

..and he does graphics too!

..and he does graphics too!

We’re sure you’ll like his stuff and he shares a fun first ethos like us, has a penchent for Ruskie gear, for those that can recognise him he’s has already appeared in our vid for Centurions CQB game at Scarbrough and written the report

Welcome aboard buddy.

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