Category Archives: Entertainment – Reviews

crossover profile

Review: Tippmann Crossover Electro-Mechanical Marker

Boy how things have changed!  Tippmann making a tournament gun!?!  Wow!

Oh.  It’s not a tournament gun?  But…it has…you can…huh?

The Tippmann Crossover is being billed and marketed as the kind of gun a scenario player can step out of the woods and onto the speedball court with.  This would seem to be an intentional appeal to the vast majority of Tippmann customers, most of whom have either been entry/introductory level and/or woodsball/scenario/Milsim folks.  Generally.  (It’s never a good idea to characterize paintballers without hedging at least a little.)

I do know that for years (perhaps as many as the twenty-five Tippmann has been making paintball guns) I have been recommending Tippmann guns to those kinds of players;  I even stated here, I think, that the A-5 (and its cousin X-7) were suitable for tournament play (in the woods) and were ideal weapons, especially with the pneumatic response trigger because that literally put a selector switch on the tip of your finger.

(And they were a heck of a lot of fun to shoot anyway you sliced it.)

Now they’ve gone an built a platform around their Flexvalve(TM) technology for players who are looking for something that looks more like a Zodiac Renegade, or a Dye DM or a Droid or an Ion.

Which is exactly what they’ll get with the Crossover and then some.

Last year 68Caliber was pretty thrilled with Empire Paintball’s AXE.  Sleek, lightweight, high-performing in a well-priced package.

This year 68Caliber can say exactly the same things about Tippmann’s Crossover – sleek, lightweight and high-performing.

The two most unique features of the Crossover are its ability to suck either CO2 or HPA (too bad my 20 ouncers are about ten years out of date), although the instruction manual does kind of hint that you’ll probably be wanting HPA hooked up to  it, it’s nice to see that a player who is making the jump from an under $100 gun for woodsball and rec play doesn’t have to replace ALL of their inexpensive kit at once just to shoot this gun.

This consideration alone should convey some small hint that Tippmann has thought long and hard about the issues and desires facing their customers.  Stepping up to a ‘tournament ready marker’ usually translates for most player into having to spend several hundred dollars more than just the price of the gun in order to get kitted out.  Sure, you could put an ‘inexpensive’ steel HPA tank on it – but who wants to overbalance the backend of such a lightweight marker?

The behind the scenes work Tippmann does for all of their products has always been and continues to remain stellar.

And of course you can source your air from either the bottom line or vertically.

But that’s not all:  this gun can be made to fire in either electronic or mechanical mode (just like the E-Mag of yore).  And speaking of E-Mags and Ions, this gun’s powertrain largely resembles the principles of both of those earlier designs – which means high flow-thru and excellent shot-to-shot maintenance of velocity.  Which is at least as true for the Crossover as it was for those other guns.  And we all know that shot to shot consistency, especially in high ROF situations, is a must.  Crossover shooters will not be disappointed.

Other features of the Crossover include anti-chop eyes – the first time Tippmann has incorporated such into one of their guns a gas-thru grip and bottomline with built-in velocity adjuster

a lever-locking vertical feed adapter, A-5/X-7 threaded barrel (and the gun comes packaged with a pretty-darned nice one) and a magnetic hall effects recurved doube-finger trigger that is very easy to walk.

The marker is capable of mechanical semi-auto mode (one pull, one shot), electronic or electronic programmed.  Basic electronic is the same as any other electronic marker in semi-auto mode.  The programmed versions pl;ace the marker into one tournament set-up or another, including NPPL, PSP, Millennium and more.

Programming is fairly easy and accomplished through a button on the rear of the grip;  three LED displays located above the programming switch display eye condition, battery condition and current firing mode.  You also have the option of ‘advanced programming’ mode, where the ROF and Dwell can be micromanaged, all in the usual button/trigger pull/LED colors manner we’re familiar with.

The internals are easily removed without complete dis-assembly of the gun – but you probably ought to look –

and not touch – except to lube.

The Crossover is a delight to hold and to shoot.  Range, accuracy and rate of fire are all consistent with other Tippmann offerings and will stand up on and hold its own on the field against anything comparable.

Tippmann hasn’t so much changed their stripes when it comes to markers as they have found perfect ways to adapt their core technologies to the market trends and desires of their customers.

If you’re looking to make the transition to speedball;  if you are already a member of the legions of Tippmann fans or you’re looking for something from Tippmann that is smaller, lighter and as fast, if not faster, than their previous offerings, the Crossover is definitely for you.

Vidar 260 Degree Goggle System

Empire Vidar Goggles Review

Vidar 260 Degree Goggle System

I just received a Vidar goggle system in the mail today from the folks at Empire.  Seems like they’re spreading the wealth as there’s already a pretty good set of reviews going out there.

I’m guessing they sent me one cause most of those reviews are totally off base, typical internet BS stuff, obviously written by people who’ve got no clue, haven’t seen or held the product, haven’t played with it and just don’t know how to evaluate paintball gear based on on-field results.

(I strongly suspect that most of them spend their days standing in front of a reflective surface primping.  That’s a word that used to apply almost exclusively to women and girls.  Sadly it seems to have crossed the gender divide in favor of paintballing boys.)

Looks are important, but PERFORMANCE owns, pwns, rules, rocks – whatever word is trendy these days that describes the epitome/apex/apogee. (Yes, some of you WILL need a dictionary.)

Way back in 1997 – the last year that I played competitively (I coached a lot after that and none of my teams ever failed to go at least as far as the semis their first and every event), I was fortunate enough to be using a pair of Skullz goggles.

What they Look Like

They weighed an awful lot compared to most other goggles;  the lenses were a bitch to change out (and seemed to be scratch magnets), the field of view was fairly restricted and the strap wore out awfully fast BUT

the entire goggle system was entirely soft, flexible rubbery material.

Here is why that is important: that rubbery, flexible, bounce-inducing material cost the then World Champion Ironmen team a game and ultimately the title.  How?  Because the Ironman’s tape player tried to bunker me, coming over the top of my position on the right hand tape, putting two balls right into my forehead from probably 3 inches away.  I returned fire, putting two into that player’s lens.  The ref, who was in position for the push, called me out without checking and then noticed that I had no paint on me, while my opponent was dripping.  The ref reversed his call and I turned towards the middle of the field where the rest of the push players were broadside on to me and I took out all three with just as many shots, pushed down the tape and the rest was history.

Four eliminations in quick succession on one side of the field in a ten player national tournament game is pretty much the game-ender.  The really sad thing about that story is that I can’t take full credit for it.

If I had been wearing any other goggles, I’d have been called out, the Ironmen would have broken the side and the game would have ended within just a couple of minutes of my elimination.   I’d like to think that taking advantage of the situation was all me (and no one can prove otherwise) but the fact is that if those two forehead shots hadn’t bounced, there would have been nothing to take advantage of.

Vidar Side Armor and Strap

Since then I have not been able to enough about those Skullz, flexible masks and doing everything you can with your kit to promote angling, soft materials, flexible materials and increasing your ‘bounce-factor’ when on the field.

I’ve also got nothing good to say  about those players who push style over performance:  it’s far better to look good ON THE FIELD than it is sitting on the bench. When hits bounce off your goggles, you’ve got a much better chance of looking good on the field.

Which brings me to Empire’s Vidar goggle system.

Here’s about the only thing you need to know about them:  they are ALL flex.

They’re also very low profile, fit very tightly to the head, breathe exceedingly well, have some very cushy foam and use the JT Spectra 260 double pane anti-fog lenses.

They’re retailing for just under $50.00, which some folks seem to be taking an issue with in reviews elsewhere, but I’ll come back again to those bounces.  The win against the Ironmen back in ’97 saw my team qualifying for the semi-finals, which in that era and at that national tournament meant we got to play at least three more games.  Go take a look at your entry fees.  It’s ok, I’ll wait.

How much does one game cost?  Yeah.  Way more than $50 bucks.  If your goggles buy you even one more game…. I think you get the point.

For the price and the performance, I think the Vidars are an excellent system and should not be overlooked just because you’ve got some kind of ‘wanna-look-cool’ ‘tude going on.  Looking good in paintball happens when you’re standing on the podium, accepting that first place trophy.

Vidar's thick, comfy foam

And every player wants bouncers.  Think seriously about picking up a mask that’s going to give them to you.

A few other things I’ve noticed:  The Vidar is a very tight fitting mask and is relatively ‘small’ when compared to other systems.  Some players with larger heads may find this mask a tight fit (it will still fit though) while players with smaller heads – especially younger players – will finally have a mask system that actually fits them well.

The better the fit, the more likely a player is to keep them on and therefore, the safer that goggle system is.  Given the youngification of paintball’s demographic, I sure hope that Empire is considering a field rental version of this mask, as it is the perfect solution for all those kids who put on a regular pair of goggles and end up looking like Darth Helmet from Space Balls.

Oh, and if the above doesn’t convince and excite you about these new goggles from Empire, you should also know that they are fully Bo The Wonder Dog (TM) Approved!

John Carter: Movie Review for ‘Ballers and Scenario Types

I’ve already reviewed this movie over on my science fiction blog  for those who would prefer to see my take from a purely fan oriented point of view.  (If the website name looks familair – I’m working on bringing back science fiction’s first magazine, a magazine largely responsible for establishing the genre, first published in 1926 and which I acquired the rights to back in September.)

Bottom line – it was a mess of a film and, in my opinion, totally deserving of the pre-release predictions of flopification that were heaped upon it.

But let me back up and get to the beginning here.

Edgar Rice Burroughs, the man who created Tarzan, wrote just a few things before he thought up the ape guy.  His first novel was in fact a proto-science fiction tale titled Under the Moons of Mars, and it was printed in a pulp magazine back in 1912.

Where it promptly became an international best-seller and set the course for what we know of today as the “planetary romance” branch of the science fiction tall tale.  Planetary Romances are basically space opera affairs, full of action, heroes, heroines, evil, evil, bad, bad men and are set in a strange and wonderous locale, usually a distant planet, filled with all manner of bizarre beasts, weird cultures and ‘interesting’ peoples.

The main character of this first Mars tale (followed by a total of ten more novels – there’s quite a bit of this stuff out there) was a Virginian cavalry officer named John Carter.

John Carter can lay claim to being the inspiration for just about every fantasy hero that’s followed since – Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, Luke Skywalker, Indiana Jones – you name it, they’ve got Carter’s Virginian blood running through their literary bodies.

Which is why so much hype unjustifiably comparing the movie John Carter to numerous Hollywood blockbusters including Avatar and Star Wars.

As usual, Hollywood decided to take a good thing (the original story) and added unnecessary wolf-piss elements to it (wolf-piss is my term for changing a story so that it bears your own personal, ummm, ‘smell’.  More often than not and as would be expected, pissing on something renders it useless for its intended purpose).  Those elements that were added really only serve to confuse the story and steal time from the more important aspects of the film – like STORY.

Despite all of that, I suspect that most ‘ballers are going to like this film because it is absolutely filled with (confusing, pointless) battle scenes.  John Carter is not called a ‘fighting man of Mars’ for nothing.  In fact, when he isn’t hanging out with his wife (the incomparable princess of Mars, Dejah Thoris), he’s usually out on the deserts of Mars with his 12 foot tall, four-armed Green Martian pal Tars Tarkas, and the two of them are always fighting against insurmountable odds. (But of course they always manage to surmount them.)

Most of the fighting on Mars takes place at sword point, and that usually because fighters on Mars are all honorable fighting men, eager to test their mettle against a worthy foe in hand-to-hand combat.  (They’d be appalled at all of this stand-off, send in the drones warfare we’ve got going these days.)

Which would normally seem to make this film and the stories found in the other novels material that might be quite hard to translate to a scenario game.

But it seems that I’ve forgotten to mention the Green Martian’s ‘radium rifles’ (Green Martians are the natives of the planet – migratory and living a ‘savage’ existence) and  the airboats.

Not to mention that Barsoom (the Martian’s name for their planet;  Earth is called Jasoom up there) is divided into tens of warring city-states and has a bunch of differently colored human ‘races’, each of whom has their own characteristics and capabilities.

Dejah Thoris is a ‘red Martian’ (no – no red tattoos like in the movie), with skin a bit more “reddish” than native Americans;  there are also white Martians (they live at the pole and have a lock on the god business), the yellow Martians, the black Martians, the Kaldanes (giant spider-like creatures that ride atop headless human torsos), the Plant Men (they’ve got nasty sucking mouths in the palm of each of their hands) and the great white apes – in addition to the green Martians, of course.

All perfect fodder for a campaign series of scenario games if you ask me.

But I’d base my game on the books, not the movie.  First of all, there’s a lot more (and better material) to be found in the books (air boats instead of tanks, for example) and secondly, many of the books are already in the public domain and thus freely available.

If you think you might want to give them a try, you can find them at 


Review: Tippmann Crossover

by Bruce Johnston – Tippinators

For over 25 years Tippmann has produced high quality paintball markers like the 98, SL68 and Pro Carbine that are the most rugged and reliable on the market. Over the last 10 years Tippmann has produced the benchmark scenario and military simulation markers with the A5, X7 and Phenom. Now Tippmann ruggedness, reliability and quality have been put into the first paintball marker designed for any style of play with the Crossover.

The Tippmann Crossover is a sleek, lightweight, center fed marker that embodies woodsball durability with tournament speed and agility. The marker is smaller than any other made by Tippmann and is of comparable size to other tournament markers. As they have done so many times in the past Tippmann is set to redefine the gold standard in paintball markers again, with the Crossover.

At the core of the Crossover is the proven FlexValve. FlexValve Technology makes the Crossover the first electro-pneumatic speedball style marker to offer the winning combination of improved air efficiency, superior accuracy due to the spool valve design, manual or electronic mode firing, and the flexibility of CO2 or High Pressure Air (HPA). Although the Crossover will work on CO2 it needs to be setup properly, such as using a remote line and using a low rate of fire so marker internals do not freeze.

The ruggedness of the FlexValve and the ability to operate below 300 PSI will give all players the competitive edge on the woodsball or speedball field. The low operating pressure greatly improves air efficiency allowing you to get up to 1,400 shots from a 68 cubic inch 4500 psi tank.

The Crossover’s searless trigger design incorporates fewer parts to wear, making maintenance easier than ever. Because this new marker is built around the existing Phenom internals and can accept an A5 threaded barrel the look may be a little foreign to die hard Tippmann users but the feel, reliability and performance are undoubtedly Tippmann.

Like the Phenom the Crossover has a lightweight aluminum body with internal gas line and no cocking handle. Unlike the Phenom the Crossover has sleek lines with custom body milling and all excess metal shaved back.

Like other tournament markers the Crossover is a center feed and comes with a clamping feed neck that will adjust to fit any loader without tools. The center feed system also uses beam break style eyes to prevent ball chopping and dual ball detents to hold the most brittle paint without barrel breaks.

One thing players will immediately notice about the Crossover that makes it different than any other tournament marker is a manual thumb safety on the left side of the receiver body with three settings; Safe, Semi, Electro. As the name implies Safe prevents the marker from firing. Semi means the marker will fire one shot with each pull of the trigger, because of the FlexValve Semi will work without a battery in the marker. Electro setting activates the markers electronics. The stock board will fire up to 15 balls per second, full auto, PSP, NXL, response and three round burst. A single button on the back of the grip is used to program the board or turn the eyes on and off.

In the past, Tippmann markers have angled the Air Source Adapter (ASA – the thing the tank screw into) at an angle so liquid CO2 would not be drawn into marker when fired. The Crossover is the first Tippmann marker to have a 90 degree ASA that brings the marker down to eye level and in closer to the body when shouldered.

The Crossover will run on CO2 or HPA. Most HPA tanks put out 800 pounds per square inch (PSI) pressure, because the Crossover operates at 300 psi Tippmann has designed an ASA that regulates the pressure from the tank down to a useable level for the marker. To lighten the marker the regulator for the Crossover is built into the ASA with a velocity adjustment on the front of the regulator.

The engineers at Tippmann have thought of players who want to degas the marker when not playing but not remove the tank. With the Crossover players have the option to remove the factory installed regulator ASA and front grip and install a vertical regulator and on / off ASA. In only minutes with a few off the shelf parts and a macro line the unique appearance of the Crossover can be changed to look like more traditional tournament markers.

Unlike other high end tournament markers the Crossover has kept woodsball players in mind. The gap between the front grip and trigger guard is wider to leave room for gloved hands. The same is true of the oversized trigger guard that allows players to easily roll the trigger while wearing bulky milsim gloves.

“Tippmann has created the perfect marker for which the Tippinators have been searching.” said Tippinators Super-tech Mark ‘Tinman’ Miller. “The Crossover is fast and light enough for tournament play yet tough enough for woodsball and reliable enough for league xball.”

True to the name this new marker can crossover from woodsball to speedball to xball and back again. “This is the marker I have wanted for years,” said Tippinator Captain Bruce ‘Charon’ Johnston, “Tippmann has really listened to players; the Crossover is an incredible marker for any style of play.”

Johnston continued, “The Tippmann Crossover is the perfect choice for players of any experience level, it is the only marker you will ever need.”

For more than 25 years, Tippmann Sports has been dedicated to quality manufacturing and the pursuit of cutting-edge technology and design. The company serves the paintball industry from its headquarters and manufacturing facility in Fort Wayne Indiana. Tippmann Sports’ complete line of paintball markers and related accessories can be found at paintball stores and fields as well as mass retail and sporting goods outlets throughout the world.

S-Thunder Foam Grenade Demo

S-Thunder has welcomed professional reviewers to demonstrate ALTERNATIVE WAYS to effectively use S-Thunder milsim gear.
A video was produced by SAS Woodsball of Canada demonstrating an alternative way to effectively use S-Thunder’s foam ball by filling the foam ball grenade with paintballs and sealing the top of the grenade shell with tape which can be seen here,

By filling the foam ball grenade with paintballs, players have essentially created a grenade type shot gun shell which can be used for clearing a wide area in CQB, woodsball and other milsim games.
S-Thunder would also like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a safe and fun filled holiday season!


Review: How To Dominate The Paintball Field Ebook (-4 Stars)

“7 Killer Tips To Paintball Success” as the subtitle says.  Going further, here’s the last paragraph of  the hype:

“Few paintball players EVER learn the proper methods that paintball professionals use. I have worked with numerous pro paintball players, and they all have one thing in common. They learned how to play the game the right way… AND YOU CAN TOO!”

I’ll give you a clue as to where this review is going by saying that whatever Pros were consulted for this book ought to be strung up by their private parts and used for target practice.

But let’s back up and find the justification for my harshness.

We’ll start with the fact that I’ve written a few paintball books myself and have worked very hard to be as accurate, meaningful and informative as possible.  I’ve also written the standard “Intro to Paintball” article for just about every print publication that’s come down the industry pike since 1986 and if I’ve learned anything along the way, it is that there is a right way and a wrong way to do this stuff.

Now let me tell you where I became familiar with this ‘book’.  It was on a paintball-oriented website that someone I know used to own.  Ownership was allowed to lapse and it’s pretty obvious that the website has been taken over by one of those click-farms that publish meaningless drivel that has a few keywords sprinkled throughout  so that it can draw the attention of search engines.  You know, things like “Learn Pro Paintballer Tricks” that ends up being something like “when I play paintball, I always try to take a shower after the game because my mom says I’m stinky”.  This bit of wisdom is, of course, surrounded by numerous affiliate ad programs – often for unrelated product categories.

These are nothing but SEO mining websites running content-mill crappola that at best is a waste of time and at worst imparts bad or incorrect information.

An ad for the book, published(?) and promoted by the ‘CO2 Paintball Guru’ was at the bottom of the page and, being a writer of paintball books, I decided to take a look.

Clicking brought me to an offer to obtain the book For Free (at the expensive of giving up my email address, no doubt to some company that will spam me from now until the end of time:  I unsubscribed almost immediately after getting the downloaded book but there was no policy statement from the publisher stating that they won’t resell my address.  There is a policy from the fulfillment company – AWeber – which just means AWeber won’t let the publisher spam me.  Unfortunately, they can’t do anything about what a third party does) so I subscribed (no notice that I’d be getting the book emailed to me btw) and was taken to the Guru’s website.

That’s supposedly chock full of informational content (and ads – in-content ads, so be careful what you click on).

I checked out a few articles and got what I expected, like this passage for ‘Paintball Beginners’

If you’ve ever wanted to participate in a gun fight, but did not want to suffer any serious injuries than paintball is for you.

shortly followed by this:

The most common paintball game played is called a deathmatch.

And I thought the most common game was capture the flag. Deathmatch? Blah blah political correctness blah blah but – come on?!

So then I tool a look at paintball’s history as related by the ‘guru’. All I can say is that there has got to be some kind of alternate-dimension vortex operating between my computer and this guy’s website, as his reality is most definitely not my reality –

While 1983 was a big year for the history of paintball because of its growing popularity and its official championships, paintball still had a long way to go. These championships get credit because they were the first championships on the stage for paintball as a sport, but they were also somewhat illegitimate.

First of all, most of the participants were farmers who played at a recreational level. The championships had 7 teams of 12, and 5 of those teams consisted of farming groups. Quite simply, not enough people knew about the sport yet, so the championships were not a very accurate representation of the the best that paintball has to offer. I would love to see one of today’s paintball professionals participate in the 1983 championships. There would be some serious ownage.

Secondly, the national championships were international. 1 of the 7 teams was a foreign group, from Europe, that were friends of Bob Gumsey. I am not suggesting that paintball should only be available to the United States. I support the inclusion of as many people as possible. But don’t call a tournament national if its an international tournament. Not cool. Not legit. But no worries paintball was only getting started.

Farmers are illegitimate paintball players because no one knew how to play the game yet? Well frickin DUH! It was the FIRST EVER tournament. (What the heck does this guy have against farmers? Doesn’t he like to eat?)

I sincerely hope that you are beginning to get a sense of the, ummm, illlogic, being employed here.

With my stomach roiling, I checked my email and discovered that the welcome message from the website had arrived and that it included a PDF of the 7 Tips book. I opened the file and began reading.

Took me all of ten minutes to get through the whole thing. (If I had had to pay for this ‘book’, I’d be seriously pissed off. As it is, I’m seriously pissed off.)

These ‘tips’ are promoted as being those things necessary to DOMINATING the paintball field. I’m pissed because I’d classify this whole thing as a come-on directed at clueless newbies who are being taken advantage of.

Any pro paintballer, indeed ANY player who has become involved in organized play for more than a few months will be able to tell you that there are three things newbies suffer from and must learn to get past in order for their game to improve: avoid tunnel vision, communicate and aggress.

After that – play against those more experienced than yourself and master your gun skills.

How To Dominate begins with addressing the first of those issues (not a bad start, I thought) by explaining what tunnel vision is.

Without really giving you any clues as to what it really is and how to train yourself out of it. Remember that most newbies are playing by themselves or with one other friend. You can’t talk about ‘flanking’ and ‘suppressive fire’ without explaining what those are.

Here’s a typical paragraph:

One of the basic strategies of paintball is to use a decoy and a flank. In this strategy, one player engages an opposing player, while another player flanks the opponent from another angle.

Tactics my friend, not strategy. Clueless individuals frequently mix these two and never realize that they are completely different animals. Strategy in paintball only comes into play at events and deals with your grand plan for the whole event. Tactics addresses individual moves, positioning, firing lanes, angles and etc.

Decoy? What the heck is a decoy? Are we setting rubber duckies up on the field? ‘Using a flank’. Is that like putting a (flank) steak on a black eye?

One player engages…while another player flanks. Yeah, ok, textbook. Except we still don’t know what a ‘flank’ is and we’re not entirely sure what ‘engage’ means. I suppose that an opponent would be seriously discommoded by a proposal of marriage on the field, but…

At the very least, our little book of tips is obviously not written for its target audience, the newbie.

Newbies – the way to avoid tunnel vision is to remember two things: the opposing player in front of you is the last player you need to worry about and, remember your driver’s ed class. Keep swiveling your head and constantly (CONSTANTLY!) survey the entire field. Look for shots to the left and right of your position, not for shots in front of you and, even when you are shooting at a target, KEEP SURVEYING THE ENTIRE FIELD.

(Pretty simple, huh? One paragraph of no-nonsense, simple and straightforward advice that relates to things newbies are already familiar with.

No, the rest of the book does not cover the other two cardinal newbie sins, other than seeming to suggest that you ought to be running straight down the field at all times. The other chapters include ‘laning’, getting a good tank (cause a nitrogen tank makes your gun more accurate – ANY gun, apparently, regardless of manufacturer suggestions), having a positive attitude and – who cares anymore?

I do, because the information presented by both the book and the website give a completely false impression of just about every aspect of the game. My publishing efforts have been directed towards trying to grow paintball, this one seems designed to turn clueless people off.

(Hey, let’s have a paintball tournament! Here’s the Guru’s tips for running an event – play capture the flag. That’s it. That’s the long and the short of it, and just one of many similar examples.)

I’d be laughing at this joke if it weren’t so potentially damaging to a new player’s introduction to the game.

I can just see some poor newbie arriving for his first game and saying to a ref “I’m not playing if you put me on a team of farmers”

MINUS 4 Stars on this one folks. Give it a wide pass – like avoiding NYC by way of London, ok?

Empire AXE: Review

This one has been a long time coming.  In the middle of the (horrible) winter of 2010-2011, I requested an AXE for review from Empire, hoping that there would be an opportunity to visit a field or get a break from the weather that would allow me to investigate and write up this wonder.

At the time, I announced that 68Caliber would be giving this marker away – right after the review was finished.

The review is now finished and those of you who signed up to win it will have your fate revealed this coming Friday. April 29th.  Those of you who haven’t signed up yet – there is still a chance to win.  (See contest rules at the end of the article.)


By now it is a well-known fact that the Empire AXE is powering a lot of top names to the podium this season:  Empire has very aggressively sought out some of the best and the brightest (that last being relative of course, after all, this is paintball) to help them display this wonderous new tool of paintball mayhem.

Neither side of the equation has disappointed.

You all have been waiting so long for this that I won’t delay the conclusions any further: the AXE is a WINNER.  It is a well-balanced machine, sleek, very light weight, extremely easy to work with. The feel of the trigger out of the box is phenomenal:  be careful, you will be seriously tempted to crank out a case or too the minute that you turn this thing on.

It has features galore, is mechanically reliable and it shoots darts, though as mentioned earlier, you’ll be wanting to hose, and accuracy doesn’t suffer in this regard either.  And did I mention that it’s pretty efficient on gas as well?  No?  It is.

Now let me back off a second and explain that I’m a very hard man to please when it comes to paintball guns.  Coming as I do from ‘ye olde skool’, my experience with markers tells me a couple of things: it should be as light and small as possible (I was a front guy – compact and light is where it is at), it should “feel” good (we used to balance guns at the trigger guard, sans tank and loader.  The AXE passes that test).  It absolutely must be reliable (brief personal experience and reports from the field give this gun an A in that department).  It must be easy to maintain (wow was I surprised here – more in a minute), it has got to be accurate (meaning that with the addition of a reliable loader, tank, good barrel and paintballs, the gun is capable of maxing out on potential performance) and it should be fun to shoot.  Maybe so much fun that you’re tempted to give it a name and take it to bed with you.

The AXE from Empire passes all of those “tests” and more.

One of the things that I found to be missing with the latest generation of paintballers was a certain level of intimacy with their markers.  Yes, the days when you could disassemble you gun while under fire, fix or mitigate whatever your issue was and then get back into the game are mostly long gone.  But that isn’t any excuse for not knowing how your gun works, the ability to easily keep it clean and properly lubricated and being able to diagnose basic issue.

Some of the last world class guns to meet those criteria were the venerable Autococker and Automag.  (True, the ‘cockers were a bit more engineer friendly, but if I could pass the tech course, just about anyone can.)  I used and loved them both, but one of the standouts for me was the ‘Mags’ ability to entirely remove the valve assembly for maintenance and service.

Well guess what:  easily pulling the guts out the back end of your marker is back, and with a vengeance!

I was quite impressed with the adoption of this concept.  It’s been improved with a push button release and a retention system for safety purposes, but you could conceivably remove your valve while on field, run a swab completely down the interior of your gun, reassemble and get back into the fray in a number of seconds.

Another extremely impressive feature is the degassing system built right in to the bottom line (which also serves as a regulator).  We’ve seen armature and cam pin valves before (think 12-gram quick releases for example), so I expected to have to use a little force when operating the lever to de-gas the gun.  Not so. Flip, hssssss, done.  So easy in fact that I imagine one of the ‘tricks’ going on in the pits these days is flipping someone’s lever.

This is a notable, extremely well-engineered and virtually mandatory feature that ought to be incorporated into all bottomlines, if only for safety purposes.

The manufacturing quality of this marker is second to none.  I tried to get a few images of the foregrip battery cover where it mates up to the foregrip.  Mating surfaces are pretty tough to machine accurately, but Empire has gone the distance to insure quality here.  The seam between the two parts is so fine you can’t even get a finger nail into the gap.

The rest of the gun is equally well manufactured, arriving here at 68Caliber with a very smooth, satin-type buffed finish.  There are numerous colors available, but I really like the muted olive drab as a perfect alternative to flat black.  Scenario and MilSim types should have no issues when carrying this marker, in this color scheme, onto the field.

Other nit picky details abound – things that tend to indicate that the manufacturer has sought out the best, most useful features to incorporate.  Most noticeable is of course the absence of an external gas line.  Gas is routed from the ASA regulator up through the grip.  Removing the grip panels will reveal the gas ‘pipe’ and the bottom half of a solenoid.  Looking at the arrangement, one can only come away saying that the AXE has really clean lines and interior arrangement.

I was surprised and pleased to find that the retaining screw on the battery cover is fixed in place.  This is a really thoughtful addition, as most battery changes are made in haste and no one wants to play with the boards exposed for want of a teeny tiny screw.

The included tool kit, maintenance parts and CD manual were clean and straight forward also.  Using the CD, I had the marker up and running inside of about two minutes.  The tool kit literally has everything you’ll need to work on the gun in it.

The trigger, which I found to be just about perfectly set for me out of the box, offers multiple adjustment modes.  I found the trigger’s play to be just fine and was able to walk it at very high rates of fire with no difficulty.  The trigger itself is just broad enough to provide a positive feel to the fingers;  the return is crisp and springy.

Electronic adjustments (ROF, DWELL, EYES) are easily accomplished through just two buttons (one interior, the other the on/off – though I do wish someone would add a speaker so the gun can ‘talk';  counting blinking leds is a bit much for eyes more than half a century old) and velocity adjustment is through the back of the valve, Tippmann-style (clockwise lowers, counter-raises).

Shooting the AXE, as I said, produces an irresistible temptation to hose; the board can be set for all of the popular tournament modes, as well as true semi.  I kept it in the factory settings and cranked, obtaining a stream of paint that would be a joy to every paintballer to behold;  alas, the video I prepared for this review is corrupted and too much time would be needed to reproduce it.  (As a substitute, just visit a field, find an AXE owner and ask them to demonstrate.  This gun is so much fun to shoot they will be more than happy to oblige!)

No as also mentioned earlier, I’m an old schooler, so when it comes to shooting, I prefer aimed shots or, at most, three round snaps, so I turned my attention to this style of shooting and was equally rewarded: shot to sot variation was more than acceptable (usually staying within 3 to 5 fps) and my accuracy out to range was what I have come to expect from myself – phenomenal.

After satisfying myself that I could ‘thread that needle’ with single shots, I immediately went back to cranking until my loader was empty.  In a word, shooting the AXE is “effortless”.

For what you get with this marker, the price is wonderous too.  AXEs are currently retailing in the $459.95 range, making it very approachable for a huge number of players.  You are definitely getting a deal.

I’ll finish off by saying that if you were an Automag fan back in the day, there is a lot about this gun that will be familiar to you, and, as I did with the Automag, tell you that it’s a MUST HAVE gun, at least if you take your play seriously.

(Contest:  Now that the review is up, we can proceed with the give-away.  You can earn multiple chances to win.  Register with 68Caliber, join our Facebook page or sign up for the weekly newsletter – each of these will earn you one chance to win.  Do all three and get three chances to win!  But do it before midnight, EST, on Thursday, April 28th, because we’ll be announcing a winner on the 29th here on 68Caliber.

If you have already done any or all of those sign-ups – don’t worry, you are already entered!)

Review: World War II Re-Enactors Magazine

68Caliber was sent an inquiry a few weeks ago, bringing out attention to this relatively new (UK) publication devoted to the military re-enacting enthusiast.

We requested a copy for review, believing that it might be of some interest to our scenario-gaming friends and we weren’t wrong.

But before we get to the meat of the magazine (which is pretty darned comprehensive), a few words on scenario games, re-enacting and paintball.

Your reviewer (and site editor) has been involved with paintball since 1983.  Not once – not once – during those 28 years have I ever confused playing paintball with war – play-acting or otherwise.

I have, in fact, mostly stayed away from military-history scenario games, using military unit designations for team names, using military organizational techniques and have jumped through a lot of very tiny hoops trying to insure that it is clear that while paintball play utilizes many of the same concepts as real war, the two are kept as far apart in association as possible.

I have, in earlier times, had the privilege and honor of working with the military – primarily developing training systems designed to make soldiers and weapon systems more effective and the use there of less lethal for the good guys (both before paintball ever existed and during my years with Gun F/X).

Never once have I confused playing a game with marking projectiles with war.

I have deliberately consulted with numerous veterans over the years and have, in general, gotten the sense that those who have acquired the “thousand yard stare” do not appreciate a direct association between what they did in the real world and what we do on the paintball field.  On several occasions I was informed, directly, that paintball teams using the unit names of real military units was an insult and an affront to those who had honored those names and insignia with their blood and lives, an opinion that I have personally adopted.

I therefore approach the idea of “playing army in the woods” as a foreign concept when it comes to paintball and view it and military “re-enactment” with something of a jaundiced eye.  I understand that other’s mileage may vary and that veterans are themselves exempted from this view:  those who have risked and sacrificed are welcome to participate in such activities to whatever degree they wish, and I’ll not say boo about it.

Nevertheless – World War II Re-Enactors magazine is a thoroughly professional, well-produced, written and researched publication.

I was astounded at the depth of their coverage.  The issue I was sent as a sample (#10 Feb/Mar 2011) includes articles on subjects as diverse as the Liberty Ships, the composer of the World at War soundtrack, hobbyist tricks for this and that, quick bits (my favorite being a collector who acquired TWO vintage WWII tanks on Ebay!) reports on various re-enactment events and other articles that would be just as interesting to historians as they will be to re-enactors.

The magazine also carries a huge amount of advertising (UK/Europe) from companies that would be of interest to paintballers – uniform suppliers, prop suppliers, technical manual publishers, high-end model kit manufacturers and the like.

Of particular interest was the fact that the magazine has an “airsoft” editor (though no paintball editor) and an article on the ‘tiff’ going on between airsofters and “legit” re-enactors.

In the second part of an articles entitled “Across the Barricades” (part 1 obviously published in the previous issue), the author asks “how far apart are the the two?” (referencing airsoft and living history re-enactors).  It then goes on to quote one re-enactor who participates in both, who, criticizing airsoft says:

No matter how hard you try to get realism, the sound of electric motors clicking in the background and the use of the plastic eye protection just destroys the whole feel of the thing for me – and let’s not even mention the overall kit standards that I often see with WWII airsofters.

Given the shunning by the living history types, one wonders if airsoft will ever find real acceptance anywhere.

World War II Re-Enactors Magazine is a slick, well thought out and well-produced publication that serves a niche market which is, in some areas, related to paintball. If nothing else, it could serve scenario gamers with an excellent resource for detail, historical background and as a collection of other source material.

You can visit the magazine’s website here to check out up-coming issues and for subscription information.

Review: Empire Paintball Trracer Pump Gun

by William Garrison

I remember when the Trracer first came out in the early 90s. I wanted one but never got around to getting one. That’s not to say that I didn’t have plenty of hands on experience with them, all of the fields that I worked at used them for rentals and they never failed to perform. Now, The Trracer is back, and it’s no longer the slim sleek marker that it used to be; now the Trracer has grown up and joined the military.

Opening the Box

The Trracer is attractively packed with barrel removed from the body and everything is held secure during shipping and storage in its box by formed and folded cardboard. I pulled out the packing and fond a CD that contained the manual and a quick start sheet.

I popped the disk into my computer and viewed the manual, which is very thorough and gives a full break down schematic of the Trracer and its parts. The box also contained a small parts kit containing a ball detent, an O-ring, three allen keys, and two extra screws. After checking the body of the marker I discovered that it did not have a ball detent, so I used the one from the parts kit and installed it. The box also contained a very long allen key that is inserted down the barrel to adjust the velocity. I wrapped most of the body of the velocity adjuster in tape to help prevent it from scratching the inside of the barrel.

Comparing old vs. new

'Old' Trracer image courtesy MCB

There are a few differences between the old Trracer and the new Trracer. The new one is beefier than the old one, mainly due to a new designed pump and several tactical rails on the top and on the pump it’s self. The feed neck now has a built in clamp, you no longer need an extra elbow between the feed neck and the hopper. This also allows the hopper to sit lower on the marker, reducing the target profile. The feed neck can also be replaced with a stock class style feed that is used on the SA-17 paintball pistol. Removing the feed neck entirely allows the player to load First Strike rounds into the breach one at a time. The grip is a 45 style that has a really nice Hogue rubber grip as opposed to the smaller euro grip that the older model used. The bottom of the grip frame uses standard bolt patterns for the use of stocks or bottom lines. The finish on the marker is a nice flat black with all of the emblems laser engraved on it. The barrel is now 14″ long and has a nice smooth finish as well as porting. My favorite feature is that the Trracer now has a ball detent to prevent double feeds. On disassembly, the quality of the bolt and hammer are superb. Both the bolt and hammer appear to be heavier than the old versions. The machining is smooth with no rough spots or burrs. The pump arm screws are beefy and have small O-rings on them to help prevent them from vibrating out and getting lost. The new Trracer uses standard allen screws to hold the trigger on compared to the thumb screws that the old Trracer used.


The Feel of the new Trracer is very nice; the balance is good, with a bit more heft to it than the old model. I thought that the new pump handle would be awkward but it actually feels comfortable. The 45 grip fits my hand well and the trigger face is nice and wide allowing for a comfortable trigger pull. With a 12oz CO2 tank on the back the Trracer shoulders comfortably without a mask but as with all back bottle setups, the mask gets in the way. Still, this is nothing that you can’t get used to.

Playing with the New Trracer

I tried to figure out the best way to review the new Trracer. Originally I was going to play with it box stock, and then modify it and compare the two. Due to the weather getting colder, I decided to test fire it stock and modified it for play. My reason for this being that most players who will be buying the Trracer will be experienced and have the extra parts lying around and are looking to relive some nostalgia from the old days. The temperature was in the 50s and clear. The paint that I used all day was PMI Polar Ice, and I used a Ricochet AK hopper and a 68 ci 4500 psi tank. For testing I used the stock 14″ barrel, and for play I used a Lapco 12″ Autospirit barrel. Using the tank on a bottom line set up allowed me to comfortably shoulder the Trracer and aim down the top. At the chronograph, the Trracer chronoed out of the box around 250 fps. After about 3 adjustments I got it around 280 fps to meet the field’s requirements. After each adjustment, the speed would jump up around 10 fps on the first shot and then drop down 5fps and stay around 3-4 fps on all consecutive shots. I think that once the springs break in the velocity will become more consistent. A Nelson Spring kit would also come in handy for extreme changes in velocity, especially if you want to use CO2 for the power source. Once on the field, I was able to get a better feel for the new Trracer. The 45 grip with the bottom line was extremely comfortable to hold for long periods of time compared to the small infantile euro grip that the classic Trracers had. There was no problem with slipping on the pump or the grip. the pump stroke was very smooth and consistent. The trigger has some travel before the sear trips but is comfortable and predictable. During play, the Trracer proved to be reliable, accurate, and light weight. It was easy to get several eliminations with it each game and allowed me to run faster without having to carry what feels like 20 pounds of gear and gun. The only thing that I noticed was that balls were rolling out if I dropped the barrel to the ground. The ball detent prevents balls from double feeding but once the pump stroke is complete the only thing holding the ball in is the barrel. This occurred with both the stock barrel and the Autospirit. A tighter bore barrel would help prevent this, but it never proved to be a problem while on the field. After playing I checked the screws on the pump arms and on the trigger frame, none of them were loose.

Conclusion and Final Thoughts

I am very pleased with the feel, look, and performance of the new Trracer. It is solidly built, feels comfortable, and performed great on the field. The construction of the new Trracer appears to be better than the original. Nelson guns were always very simple to use and maintain, and the new Trracer is no exception. The use of cocker threaded barrels on the new models means that almost everyone can use their favorite barrel with it. Those who are into Milsim will love the fact that the new Trracer has a distinct military styling to it. The new Trracer is a great marker that all players can have fun with without breaking the bank.

Back to the Future – Steel Reserve’s Scenario at PnL Paintball

Charles ‘Happy’ Holton gives us the skinny on PnL’s scenario game – Back to the Future II, hosted by Steel Reserve

I have attended several of The Steele Reserve/PnL Paintball scenario games.  For a change there was not a NorEaster.  For those of you not from, or in New England, that is an ugly storm.  At the risk of sounding like Hollywood “The weather was great and every one seemed to have an excellent time!”  When I arrived at the field the guys, Steel Reserve, were driving around in the Buick-Delorian. (I think that it was the bottom model available)

Players were milling about, asking questions and drinking Coffee and Monster.

Players were there from all over the North East.  There were teams from New York, Connecticut New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and even Revere, MA, the home of Paintball great Rich “The Cricket” Nutlie.  I meet some very interesting people there, but due to “Sometimmers” I do not remember their names-except the nicknames that they asked me not to use in print. (Hi Fluff!)  The “MassHoles” were in attendance

including “Johnny, The Mag Master” and “Sunshine The supper REF”.  Represented also were Section 8, The Paintball Marshals, The North Shore Devil Dogs, The Hurricanes, Team Outback, Killer Grips, Carters Commandos, A team from New York who’s patch I could not make out, and two teams from Connecticut, that I could not figure out their name by looking at them.  Sorry guys-give me a card next time!  “Eric the Blue”, The Ierardo bros, Purple bandanna and his dad, were just of a few of the locals that showed.

In all over 200 players were there to shoot and be shot. Notably missing where the Hurly bros., Sergeant Splatter, ”Buddy” Gary Shrouder and Barney.

I saw some really eclectic gear.  There was a dude in a mellow Hawaiian shirt with a flashy, compared to mine, Palmers Pursuit patch.  There was a dude with a “Mad dog” head wrap and an “Impulse Owners” Jersey. (Good luck getting parts)  I saw an Air-Gun Designs Sydarm, a new style Traccer, Several Blazers, a VM 68, an Ion, A Carter Machine Shop Not Buzzard,

and a Stingray.  There was also a butt load of Egos, E-techs, Tippmanns, BT’s, Spyders, DM’s, many variations of Auto-Cocker, and even a few guys with those guns that look like Snipers, but are those guns that Greg Hastings is using in his videogame poster (Hi Red!  Thanks for including me in your latest game.  My son is pumped!)

The game started promptly fifteen minutes behind schedule, excellent Paintball time.  I could not find any Huey Lewis, so I played Zappa, Rush, Zeppelin, and Floyd.  At lunch time one of the teams was winning.  Which one, I am not sure.  One of the hazards of not playing, loosing your notes, and having the promoters not respond to you questions.  (They did have a long weekend, and I am needy on this respect)  Based on Facebook posting I get the impression that there was a comeback at the end of the day.  My guess is that the team that was winning at lunch did not win the game.

As a recently returned from retirement correspondent I am weak. I do not know who won the game.  I do not know who won the raffle. I do not know who was the most valuable player or most valuable team. I do know that I did not hear any one bitching about wiping, shooting, hot or cheating.  I do know that Steele Reserve is getting good at this kind of thing.  I do know that everyone that I spoke with was having a blast.  I do know that I will be planning to play the next one.  You should do the same.  Check in with 68 for upcoming events. I am sure there that there other places to find out but it would be rude to list them here.

I would like to thank some people.  Goody, thanks for the space and the chicken.  It was good.  I would like to thank Steele Reserve for putting the game together.  Thanks to Gino, and Valken for their sponsorship of the event.  Thanks to the poor bastards doing the paint-checks.  Thanks to the players who shared their Halloween with all of us. I would like to thank Ken Gilder, Ken Kelsh, and Chris Mathews for teaching me this kind of event review. In conclusion I would like to thank 68 caliber for giving me space and all of you who bought something and, in around about way, sponsored my wife’s birthday present.  If you are interested, it is going to be a DSIXL.

Almost forgot, Thanks to Zach ”The Porcupine”, for his help with Photos!

(We’re experiencing technical difficulties with the photos:  they’ll be added to this article when we sort things out – Ed.)

You can read more articles by Charles on his writer’s page

You can also find more photos from the event in his Facebook Gallery

West Point Combat Classic Coverage

You can call this piece just about whatever you’d like to – event coverage, review, article, whatever – since so much happened and there is so much follow-on that I’m forced (by time constraints – out 2.5 days for the game, gonna be out another 2 for a ‘super-secret’ road trip) to combine a bunch of different things into a single article, or stretch the coverage out over a week of posts.  For the sake of relevance, I’ve chosen to do the former.

With that said, let me summarize what will be included here:  the results of field testing of the Tippmann X7 Phenom Mechanical marker provided by Tippmann for review, the results of field testing of the new The Edge barrel system from J&J Performance, provided by J&J for review, coverage of the West Point Combat Classic 2010 event, coverage of West Point’s paintball program, discussions of event operations with one of the best – Chris Dubois (who helped run the West Point program and recently retired from that position), coverage of the Master Blasters Traveling Road Show, a few observations of the players at this game, my road trip with Charlie Holton and just a couple of notes on how physical injury can affect the coverage of an event.

I hope that will suffice.

To begin this interwoven tale: about six months ago the idea of the Master Blasters Traveling Road Show was conceived. The basic concept was to put together a bunch of old friends, get together occasionally and have some good times.

That quickly changed when we realized who our old paintball friends were – just about every visible personality in the industry, from players to gun, tank and paintball manufacturers, long-operating field owners, magazine editors and writers, pro players from back in the day and from today’s day. Movers and shakers, influence makers, founders, innovators and, well, you name it.

We quickly realized that in the face of paintball friendships, politics, feuds and rivalries simply melt away and that the passage of time (decades in some cases) shrinks to meaninglessness.

We also realized that gathering such a gaggle of troublemakers all together in one place and at one time would make for a heck of an event.

West Point’s Combat Classic took place at just the right time for MBTRS to be able to gather in many of the aforementioned (but by no means all of them) and to pass on the message that we’d all like to share: paintball is about having fun, it is about winning, but it is also about honor, integrity, fairness, responsibility and friendship.

We put a good-sized contingent on the ground, fielding somewhere between 40 and 50 players over the course of the two days (we weren’t able to get everyone together all at the same time: most of us are older and have businesses to tend to and family to take care of), but we never put less than about 30 bodies on the field at any given time.

One thing you’ll learn about the Blasters (if you don’t know it already) is that we’re all about shooting people, and very little about missions. If you are a game general and want to use the team to its utmost effect, give us an area of the field, say ‘clean that mess up for me’ and go about your business. We’ll take care of the rest.

The effect that we can have on a game was evident during our first foray onto the field. Within about a half hour of our initial arrival, we’d pushed the red team (we were playing Blue) all the way back to their main base and managed to eliminate the Red General along the way (he was, how shall we say, ‘a bit too far forward’ – but then that’s what happens when you lead from the front).

And don’t get me wrong – when we can accomplish a mission while performing our other role, we’ll do it: point of fact is that we also linked up with the ‘lost platoon’, earning our team some major mission points.

But there are other things to do at games as well, like showing off a collection of old and famous markers – cockers, mags, Icon Zs, Trracers and more. (Holton mentioned that one opponent he shot was mortified to have been taken out by an Automag!) – and sitting around the camp fire, sharing food and stories. Our campsite (one of the A-Frames at the MWR campground) was very popular. We fed a bunch of cadets meatballs, pasta, roast beef, quesadillas and much more, and, especially on Saturday evening, provided much needed warmth to many.

I’m not sure, but I think that the presence of Chris ‘Doobie’ Dubois might have had a little to do with drawing in the cadets; Chris was the coach and adviser for West Point Paintball for a number of years and largely responsible for helping to turn the Academy’s program into the efficient engine it is today.

And if anyone wonders how a program like paintball can assist the young men and women of the academy with their military education, just one short story to relate: Chris told me of a cadet who took on logistical tasks at these games, graduated and moved on in his military career to armor. Armor needs to be cleaned regularly and the graduate was assigned to managing this task; applying what he had learned running paintball games, he reduced the time needed to clean the tanks by a considerable margin. (Go treadheads!)

It’s not glamorous, but it is significant. The US Army and every taxpayer among us can now thank paintball (and Chris and that former cadet) for reducing costs and increasing the efficiency of our fighting forces.

My trip began when Charles Holton, known by those in the know as Happy Holton, picked me up around noon on Friday. Charlie and I both worked with Pro-Team Products (tho not at the same time) and have done a number of things together over the years; for a couple of years Charlie had a specialty company named Intense Marketing that featured difficult-to-obtain parts. We worked several scenario game trade shows together (Charlie selling and me doing gun work for tips). Charlie is also one of the original USPL referees. His driving to West Point repaid the decades old trip when I drove him from SC to IN back in 2000. (Don’t ever think that paintball friendships are fleeting!)

Charlie is one of those guys who’s got a comment on everything, and usually a twisted, bizarre, out-of-left-field comment at that. The trip down was filled with reminisces and laughter all the way.

We arrived on site to find things already in full swing. Amongst the first things we did was to lay out all of the gear for our start in the morning.

I’d brought along a Tippmann X7 Phenom Mechanical that Tippmann provided for review (we’re having a drawing to see who wins it in just a couple of days; to enter the drawing, simply sign up for our free weekly newsletter).

I’ve always been impressed with Tippmann’s products and the X7Mech is no exception. For those who want a mechanical marker, or those who are cost conscious and intend to upgrade as the budget allows, the X7 is an excellent choice.

The number of modifications for the gun that allow you to personalize it are, in a word, Phenomenal. Tippmann supplied me with several magazine-foregrip/trigger guard accessories created just for that purpose. Had I wanted to, I could have taken the field carrying either an M16 lookalike or an AK47 lookalike. Considering the scenario we were playing (Viet Nam), I would have been properly outfitted regardless of the team I was on.

The X7M is provided with the Cyclone feed system, a stock barrel, numerous standard rails for attachments, tools, lube and an oversized barrel bag (you need that due to the barrel assembly).

The gun is ready to shoot almost right out of the box. You’ll need to attach the barrel shroud and screw in the barrel and then attach the low-profile hopper. Mine was a bit tight out of the box, owing to a small amount of plastic ‘flash’. A very small amount of sanding took care of that.

One of the features of Tippmann’s ‘flex valve’ is that it accepts either CO2 or HPA. I had both in hand and used both throughout the day.

One thing that kind of surprised me was – no cocking handle. This has been a feature of Tippmann guns for so long I kind of miss it; on the other hand, it is nice to have the gun completely sealed against the intrusion of dirt and paint (in the unlikely event that I get hit…).

The elimination of this feature makes the X7M even more user-friendly: screw in the barrel, push on the hopper, screw in the tank and you are ready to go.

The other major change is velocity adjustment. Prior to the X7, most, if not all Tippmann guns featured a velocity adjusting screw that adjusted by blocking the gas flow path through the valve. By turning clockwise, the screw filled more of the path, reducing flow and therefore velocity. This ran counter to just about every other gun on the market (which adjusted velocity through spring tension). Now, the Tippmann is adjusted with a wheel dialer at the back of the assembly – up for raising, down for lowering.

Out of the box and on CO2, the X7M was shooting in the 260s; on HPA in the 240s. A quick bit of adjustment (easily managed) and I was good to go.

We were shooting Empire/PMI paints this weekend, either Premium or Marballizer. Marbs tend to be fairly brittle and generally unfriendly to Tippmann markers, so I went with the Premium (good choice as several other Tippmann users at the event complained a bit throughout the day about barrel breaks, which were easily eliminated when they took my advice and switched).

Very nice range, more than acceptable accuracy, right out of the box. During my first foray out onto the field (during which we engaged in an uphill assault against a terrain feature some called the fort and I called the Battleship) I had no trouble returning fire against those shooting down on me. I sent a few folks off for the walk back, rained a lot of long range shots on various positions and eventually got eliminated trying to outflank that (unprintable words) position.

I went back out a little while later with a 20 oz CO2 tank instead of the Guerrilla Air HPA tank; I didn’t even have to adjust the velocity (though I wasn’t riding the edge of the limit and when you make such a switch you should definitely re-chrono). Same good results, tho the weather conspired to give me that condensing CO2 cloud out the end of the barrel every time I fired.

The trigger pull on the X7M is totally different from the M98 and the A5, but equally pleasing – very little to take up and a nice, positive release when pulled. I didn’t time things, but I’m pretty sure that I was spitting out rounds at a rate of somewhere between 7 and 9 balls per second.

The only real issue I had all day long was that my Cyclone feed became unreliable when down to only a few rounds. Fortunately, this turned out to be a gas pressure issue rather than a mechanical issue. The feed system works off of gas from your tank and you may experience a mis-feed or two when your air is low. Switching tanks solved that issue lickity-split.

And that issue mirrored the same issue that the team was having all day. But let me back up and describe the terrain: the field is a mountain, of that there is no doubt in the mind of anyone who climbed it. I climbed it three times.

Way, way up at the top of this behemoth there is another rise (the battleship) that dominates most of the rest of the field. Without controlling, or at least neutralizing that position, you really can’t do much elsewhere on the field. Added to that difficulty is the fact that you really can’t flank that position – you pretty much have to take it head on.

So, from the Blue team/Master Blasters/RTs Raiders side of the equation, our game plan was basically – climb the hill, attack that fortress, clean it out and then proceed to sweep the rest of the field.

Unfortunately, clearing out the fortress took a LOT of air and a LOT of paint. Our line would get all the way down to Red team’s end of the field and then have to give up the position as we were out of paint and air.

The game itself was based on the battle of Ia Drang during the Viet Nam war. That battle is depicted in the Mel Gibson movie ‘We Were Soldiers’ (based on the award winning book We Were Soldiers Once, and Young), and marks the US Army’s introduction of air cavalry and associated air mobility tactics into that war.

One platoon of the assaulting Air Cav was cut off during the battle, suffered numerous casualties, but held their ground and were eventually relieved. That action – relief of the ‘Lost Platoon’, was a centerpiece mission of the scenario game. Our re-enactment led to two more “casualties” than in the original, and a bit of a change to history; most of those eliminations came from friendly fire, as we managed to get behind the Red team and no one realized that after we eliminated the ‘commies’, we were now shooting on our own.

Hey, ‘it’ happens.

During this little adventure I rolled my left ankle coming down the hill (troublesome, painful, but not enough to stop me from hitting the field on Sunday) and then, later that nite while getting into bed, I popped my right knee (my bad ‘paintball’ knee). All it took was turning wrong with the wrong weight distribution. I’ll be wearing a brace and using a walking stick for a while.

The upshot of that injury was that I was rendered pretty immobile on Sunday and unable to get back onto the field to do the game action taping I’d intended. Call it an excuse if you want to, but if you were there, you’d know why I hesitated to hobble, limp and crawl back out onto the field.

We’ll take the remainder of this piece up on Friday when I return from my road trip.

Top Ten Movies For Paintballers Part 1

What – you didn’t know there were ten movies that featured paintball?

Well, there aren’t. There are plenty of flicks that include paintball (usually in a bad or mocking light, but that’s changing), and a few that have included the game as a major plot element or device (Paintball, The Movie, Black Balled: The Bobby Dukes Story) (not to mention the upcoming SPLATTER: Love, Honor, Paintball from Lonnie Schuyler) and of course there are any number of “made just for paintball” DVDs, – but none of that is what I’m looking at today.

Today, I’m looking at movies that paintballers like and offering my take on which of them rises to a high enough level of interest, popularity and ‘paintball-icity’ to be worthy of inclusion in a top ten list.

‘Paintball-icity’ is that virtually indefinable something that says to all of us “that would be cool in a game” or “those guys must be ballers”; these are the movies that you stick in the DVD player for inspiration before you hit the field – or watch with your playing buddies on those rainy, no-play days.

So without further delay, let me introduce you to my picks and, by all means, please let me know where I went wrong and suggest your own!

We’ll start with a paintball staple and a bit of an older flick. Coming in at Number 10 – Red Dawn, from 1984.

Based entirely on Cold War paranoia, this blockbuster-level film featured some of the hottest up-and-coming actors and actresses of its time – Patrick Swayze, C Thomas Howell, Lea Thompson, as well as well-known character actors like Harry Dean Stanton and Powers Boothe.

It tells the story of mid-western high schoolers who become insurgents during an all out invasion of America by communist forces. The movie’s appeal for paintballers is simple to see: if given half a chance, we’d all head for the woods, take pot shots at commies, live off the land and dangerously expose ourselves to enemy helicopter fire in order to shout our team’s name to the heavens.
Kicking the crap out of bad guys is what we do all day long on the field. We’d be naturals at the insurgent thing if stuff like that really happened.  At least that’s what a lot of paintballers were telling themselves when this flick hit.

In fact, the only real difference between this movie and a scenario game is the use of live ammunition and the fact that no one gets resurrected after fifteen minutes.

So many teams named themselves ‘Wolverines’ back in the day that we had to stick state abbreviations after their names!  The movie itself would go on to form the basis of numerous scenario and big games for years to come, marking Red Dawn as paintball’s “first movie”.

At Number 9, another early 80’s favorite – The Terminator.

Who didn’t want a Phased Plasma Rifle in the 40 Watt Range? Who didn’t say “Ah’ll be bach” when they were leaving the field?

James Cameron’s Terminator (ripped off from two Outer Limits episodes written by Harlan Ellison; Cameron was later forced to acknowledge that in a lawsuit – watch the end credits of newer releases) inspired the game perhaps even more than Red Dawn; National Paintball Supply featured a T2 on one of its trailers and a whole new version of the game was based on the concept of the killer robot that “will not stop until you are dead!” (thank you Reese!).

I went to high school with Linda Hamilton, so it was an extra treat for me to watch this second-in-line female action hero strut her stuff (the first would be Sigourney Weaver in Alien) and eventually bring down the uncaring, unemotional, implacable, unstoppable horror that was Arnold Schwarzenegger (well, actually, a stop-motion, nuclear-powered, titanium alloy chassis).

The Terminator franchise would eventually spawn three sequels (each worse than the last, btw), although with futuristic battle scenes like this –

– quality doesn’t matter, as they all served to remind us of just how cool it would be to play a game amidst apocalyptic ruins (an opportunity many would have years later at the CPX Paintball Park).

I’ll be bringing you numbers 8 and 7 in our Top Ten Movies For Paintballers tomorrow!

Paintball Movie Review: Splatter

Lonnie Schuyler, the writer/director of the indie film Splatter was kind enough to provide with a screening copy; up till now the only way to see the entire movie was to attend one of the many film festivals it is being promo-ed at.

Trailers for the movie have been released in various places, including Youtube, and here on 68Caliber. We’ll start with the trailer and move on to the full flick.

When I first heard about this movie, it sounded like it was yet another iteration of the two standard paintball film plots: the first is the familiar splatter/slasher flick, a plot that I’ve gotten entirely fed up with that goes something like this: anti-social type/victim of society snaps and preys on paintballers while using real guns, knives, hatchets, saws, blowtorches, punji stakes and all manner of other household implements to off the other token characters in interesting, bloody and scream-filled ways. The nutjob almost always gets their due at the hands of some plucky co-ed (reprising Jamie Lee Curtis’ Halloween role).

The second standard plot I usually refer to as Karate Kid lite. The main character is always a gentle soul being victimized by the baddies; along comes a reluctant mentor, training – filled with supposed words of wisdom (wax on/wax off) – ensues, followed by the final showdown in which goodness manages to prevail. (Even the comedic Bobby Dukes story loosely follows this plot. About the only difference is that the ‘kid’ (Dukes) in that flick begins as a flawed character and is now seeking redemption.

On first blush, the trailer for Splatter makes it seem as if we’re heading for Karate Kid lite territory. However, the promotional material for the film refers to is as the ‘Caddyshack of paintball’, which would naturally make one assume that there is an unseen comedic element.

Many may not realize this, but Caddyshack (a vehicle for the late, great Rodney Dangerfield) essentially gave rise to the entire sports-comedy genre. Such films work when the humor is really there (as it is in, for example, Happy Gilmore) and become merely formulaic when it isn’t (as in, for example, the remake of the Bad News Bears).

My first thoughts on viewing the trailer had me wondering how funny such a film could be, considering that little humor beyond some physical stuff was evident.

I also noted the lack of goggles in many of the playing scenes, as did many other paintballers who’ve viewed the trailer, so let me address that right now:

Schuyler, writer/director of the film, is an avid paintballer and is well aware of the safety requirements for the game. He is also a film maker and realized very early on during this project that he was going to have to sacrifice realism for artistry.

During an interview with Lonnie, (which will be appearing here on 68Caliber shortly) we discussed the fact that many paintballers were already dismissing the film based solely on the fact that the trailer depicts players raising their goggles to talk during play. Lonnie went to great pains to explain that he had to engage in a bit of artistic license since the eyes (and indeed the entire face) are the windows of the soul. Since so many of the scenes that take place on the playing field are emotionally charged ones, it was necessary to show the actor’s expressions in order for the scene(s) to work.

Lonnie has taken 68Caliber’s suggestions and will be placing a disclaimer regarding goggle safety in the credits of the movie (which is a major first for ANY motion picture or television show) and we applaud his efforts in that regard.

We also don’t think that paintballers should get so hung up on this issue that they’d dismiss a film based solely on that one fact. In the case of Splatter, if they do, they’ll miss a very fine movie and one that may in fact be the first to depict paintball and its players in a positive, sympathetic manner.

So what about the film itself?  Lonnie forwarded a “screening copy” to me so that I could watch the entire flick. (Thanks Lonnie!  And, for the uninitiated, a “screening copy” is a pre-release version of a film meant for reviewers, distributors & etc.  It usually, though not always, presents the film in its final version.  Small changes/re-edits and the like may and often do creep in prior to the final release, but more often than not the screening version is very similar to the final.)

I’ll say this up front:  Splatter is a very likable film.  It’s not the greatest paintball action flick of all time, it isn’t the greatest sports comedy of all time, it’s not the most wonderful family film of all time and it will never be the best relationship film of all time.

On the other hand, it may be the most respectful, thoughtful and real paintball/sports comedy/relationship/buddy/personal redemption film of all time.

Here’s a summary without spoilers:  Jack Reynolds is a lovable loser – stuck in a dead-end used car salesman job, estranged from his son and separated from his wife.  Everyone in his life seems to be moving on without him.

Jack’s friends – T-Rex and Tim, are losers too; T-Rex is a stereotypical weekend warrior who’s mouth and fantasies of glory far exceed his grasp and who is being openly cuckholded by his wife Candy (who’s having an affair with a local paintball field’s manager) and Tim is one of those guys who’s life has typecast him as a nerd.  Indeed, his only claim to real fame seems to be an overwhelming case of lactose intolerance (which ‘skill’ will come to the fore much later on in the film).

Jack’s wife has left him because Jack does not seem to be interested in anything – not his wife, not his son, not his job, not anything – except perhaps for his weekend forays out to the local paintball field.

On the field is where Jack shines – as a target.  The opening scene of the film demonstrates Jack’s skills in this regard as he and his friends perform the role of ducks in a barrel for the local young guns team.

It’s pretty depressing when you not only suck at life but at paintball too.

The reality for Jack is that he has hit rock bottom and he really has only two remaining options – stay in the gutter or do something about it.

The catalyst/foil enters the scene as Deb Reynolds’ (Jack’s wife) new boss Brock Saunders.  (You know that with a name like ‘Brock’, this guy is going to be a dick….)

Brock is, of course, everything that Jack is not – rich, powerful, successful and – clearly adding insult to injury – a paintball tournament champion who appears on the cover of paintball magazines.

Brock was recently widowed and is looking for a mom for his son Elgin (the typical bully’s son) and is fast winning over both Deb and Jack’s boy Cody (he bribes Cody with a spot on his winning tournament team).

Not surprisingly, a regional paintball championship event is upcoming and offers Jack a chance to put some meaning back into his life.  Gathering his friends together, Jack sets out on his quest.

Interestingly, the real point of the movie is made during a very poignant scene between father and son: Cody – who will be playing against his father – asks his father why he’s entered the tournament when he knows that he is going to lose.  His father replies that “sometimes you need to lose in order to win”.

The point is well taken. Lonnie Schuyler reminds us that sport is a metaphor for life, not life itself, and that sometimes the effort itself can have redemptive powers.

Splatter is a feel good movie that manages to teach us all a little something about ourselves without being preachy; it treats the paintball elements in a comedic, over-the-top manner that may have some players cringing a little bit, but then, who among us hasn’t wanted to deliver that crotch-shot to some annoying loud mouth on the field?

If you want to see the first true paintball film that treats the game as part of life, Splatter is your film.  I highly recommend it to all paintballers.  Now I have to go out and buy one of those athletic cups….


Splatter has won several awards at various film festivals and is scheduled to be shown at the Central Florida Film Festival on September 3-6, 2010, in Ococee, FL.

You can also join writer/director Lonnie Schuyler and others on the film’s Facebook page here (Check out the link to 68Caliber’s coverage!)

Paintball & Zombies – Perfect Together

68Caliber was clued in to a BRAINS! new independent television show called BRAINS!  ZOMBIE HUNTERS: CITY OF THE DEAD Brains? an independent production from Devarez Films LLC.

My good BITD paintball buddy Fred Dorski (manages a field in NJ and was captain of the legendary Shore Patrol paintball team) is apparently friends with some of the folks producing this indie and it was through our links on Facebook with Fred that the show was brought to our attention.

Rich Martinez, one of the producers, had this to say about the ‘continuously airing series':Zombie Hunters shows “what a real Zombie uprising might be like at the start, in a major city like NYC.”

Paintball has always had a home for zombies;  one of the earliest non-standard games offered at fields around the country was one called Zombie.  Rules varied depending upon locale, but took two basic forms:  either zombie players could eliminate you simply by touching you and the only way to eliminate them was a shot to the head (following which the zombie player was instantly resurrected) or – get shot by the other team and turn zombie – joining their team.

Culturally, Zombies have become quite the thing in recent years – tons of movies (28 Days Later), and the more recent Zombieland not to mention George A. Romero’s classic Night of the Living Dead (Zombie Hunters is an homage to Romero’s zombie cycle of films) which you can watch right here courtesy of The Classic Science Fiction Channel (scroll on down), novels – the hilarious send up of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice – Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and World War Z, the alternate reality title by Mel Brook’s son Max, zoon to be made into another Zombie film, and games – Left 4 Dead and the freebie – Plants Vs Zombies.

Rich also informs us that the show is now airing on cable in NJ (not sure where else) but even if you don’t live in the Zombie State, you can still catch up on the series on Vimeo; three episodes are already in the can and available for viewing.

The show is compelling, interesting and a great homage to the genre!

Zombie Hunters: City of the Dead Episode 1 from Devarez Films, LLC on Vimeo.

Paintball Product Review: Flurry Industries Emissary Vest

William Garrison returns yet again, this time with what he describes as a ‘long-term’ review of a staple of scenario game products, the game vest.

Bill has been using his for seven years now (!) and offers up some observations on a piece of gear that has stood the test of time.

Long Term Review for Flurry Industries Emissary Vest

Several years ago, back when everyone used harness systems and vests were hard to find, I found Flurry Industries and bought one of the original vests. I wanted a vest due to the fact that my team and I were starting to play in 24 hour scenarios and we needed something that could carry more gear while we were on the field. Over the next couple years I spoke with the owner of Flurry Industries, and exchanged feedback on the vest, and what improvements my teammates and I would like to see. We were very excited to see that the Emissary design had included everything we had asked for. It has been over seven years since I first purchased the Emissary, and this is my long term review on it.

About the Emissary

The cool thing about the Emissary Vest is that it is modular. The vest comes with two 2+1 pod holders and an adjustable tank pouch. The attachments mount using industrial strength Velcro and can be mounted pretty much any way the wearer wants. Extra pod holders can be purchased to increase how much paint you can carry on it. The vest also includes a radio pouch that can be mounted on either shoulder and a built in hydration system pouch so that you can carry a Camel Back or other hydration system. The two front pouches are large and roomy, and the chest pouch can be used to safely store your car keys or wallet. The front of the chest pouch can be used to store a player ID and field map in a Velcro enclosed flap. The weight is evenly distributed around the body and the pods and tank don’t flop around loosely on your back. The Emissary sells for $74.95 on Flurry’s website.

Using the Emissary

Seven years of 24 hour scenario games, local scenarios, and hundreds of walk on games can take a toll on any soft gear. Basic wear and tear, not to mention sharp sticks, rocks, thorns, rough use, abuse, and a owner who likes to trip over his or her own two feet can really test a piece of equipment to its limits. I am proud to say that through all of this, the Emissary vest has stood up to all of it. My team mates have reported the same, and all of us have our own unique way of breaking something in new and interesting ways. I have had no tears, holes, or loose stitching. I have had to make zero repairs to the vest and at one time I had even made a stock class panel to go on the back that worked well. The Velcro on the vest and the pod holders still holds like it was new. The elastic on the front side straps has gotten a little loose over the years, but everything still holds tight.

Comparing the Old to the New

I recently called up Flurry Industries and ordered two new Emissary vests for my wife and myself. We purchased the black ones with call signs and my old team name on the back. Upon receipt of these new vests, I did a side by side comparison to my seven year old Emissary that I have been wearing all these years. The basic design is the same as my original. The stitching is still top notch, and the material is nice and thick. The new Emissary still has the option of removing the inner foam liner. The two front pockets on the new vest are deeper than the original, by what appears to be nearly half an inch. The chest pocket still has the clear windows for scenario game IDs and maps. One of my favorite new additions is an elastic belly band that helps snug the vest up for slim people and keep the pods tight on the body. The elastic band can be removed for larger people and the vest has plenty of room for adjustment.

Competition Comparison

The Emissary vest can hold it’s on against any of the other brands out there. Most of them are fixed systems, meaning you can’t add or remove parts of them. Some of them use the MOLLE system, but it you’ve every used it, it works great, but take a while to add or remove parts. The generic tactical vests out there usually place the pods in the front, which is placing more hard areas in the line of fire and increasing the odds of elimination. With the Emissary, the pods are on the back of the vest. They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery, and the Emissary has several cheap knock offs out there. Don’t be swayed. The material and the construction are no where near the quality of the real thing. Don’t get ripped off!


The instructions state that you are not supposed to machine wash the Emissary. While I have done this on occasion, I recommend following the instructions for care. IF YOU DO MACHINE WAS IT, DO IT ON THE GENTLE CYCLE AND DO NOT MACHINE DRY IT. Basic maintenance for me after a day of play involves breaking it down, laying it on the sidewalk or porch, and spraying it down with the garden hose. I then lay it out to dry in the sun or hang it in the shower to drip dry.

About the Company

Flurry Industries makes several products including another vest called the Dreadnought which removes the two front chest pockets and adds four more pod holders to allow the player to double his or her ammo capacity. They are working on more products that should be out this summer. Their website is


Through a lot of use and a fair share of abuse, the Emissary vest has held up extremely well. I still recommend them over all of the other vests on the market currently. Obviously if I didn’t like them, I wouldn’t have bought two new ones. As for why I replaced my old one, there is no reason other than I just wanted a new one along with my wife. The old vest will be used as a spare and a loaner. Like everything else in paintball, there are several companies making cheap knock offs of the Emissary vests. Don’t waste your money on these low quality vests. I have examined them as well as seen what they look like after they have been used for a little while. The ones I have seen appear to be coming apart at the seams. Do your homework, spend a few extra dollars, and get something that is going to last. Anyone who likes playing in the woods or playing scenario games should definitely take a look at the Emissary vest.

Flurry Industries Emissary Information

New Ultraback Tactical Paintball Vest – Code named: Emissary
The new Ultraback Emissary Vest has features that will help you become a self contained one man army on the paintball field. The Ultraback Emissary Vest has all of the same core design features of the original Ultraback Vest: Comfort, Utility, Versitility and Kickass Style, but now they are even better than before.
New Upgrades:
Hydration Unit Sleeve – Zippered sleeve to place a hydration bladder. Sleeve can be partitioned off to fit up to 70oz bladders. (Bladder not included.)
Removable Contouring Foam – The foam can now be easily removed and replaced back when needed.
Flip Down ID & Card Holder – Chest pocket now has an extra panel which flips down to easily display ID and view maps & info.
Movable Radio Pouch – A separate pouch made for FRS type radios. Can be placed on the front or back of the shoulder straps.
Redesigned Shoulder Straps – Shoulder straps now have nylon loops and D-rings for attaching and routing gear.
Longer Side Straps – Side straps are now longer to fit larger players more comfortably.
Front Belt Keepers – Now they are there if you need them.
Larger Tank Holder Attachment – Tank holder is now wider and taller than before. Can easily fit stubby style tanks & tanks with neoprene covers.
Extended Attachment Area – Easier to reach your tubes and more surface area for tube and tank setups.
Optional Custom Callsign and Team Names – Add a custom callsign and/or team name strips to your Ultraback Vest.
Standard Features:
— Original design made specifically for paintball and not modified from some other application. The contouring design wraps around your body for a snug fit which promotes increased mobility, distributes the weight and helps keep a low profile.
— Modular design lets you configure your setup how you want. Whether you want to wear the packs horizontal or vertical it’s very easy to switch the setup. You can also add or take away the tank holder attachment if you want to run a remote setup!
–Interchangeable and Rearrangeable tube holders.
–Removable Tank Holder for Remote Setup.
–Clip to Carry Your Mask When Not Playing.
–Side Zipper on Chest Pouch for Radio Headset Wires.
–Pockets and Pouches For: Keys, Tools, Money, Etc.
–Padded Design Helps Eliminate the Sting of Getting Hit.
The Ultraback Emissary Vest comes with:
–(2) Tube holder attachments w/ ripcords which can hold (3) 140 round tubes each. (One tube fits in the flip out elastic sleeve.)
–(1) Tank holder pouch to run a remote setup.
–(1) Moveable Radio Pouch
The Ultraback Emissary Vest has the features that serious rec, big game, and scenario players demand. Do what other elite paintballers have done, and Get Yourself A Flurry!
*One Size Fits Most. Tubes are Not Included.
**When ordering name tags make sure your spelling is correct.**

About the Author

William Garrison is married to the lovely woman modelling the Flurry Vest in this article and has been playing paintball – mostly woodsball, since 1988.  Bill is a Law Enforcement officer in the Charlotte, North Carolina region,

Movies For Paintballers: Kick-Ass

So, like, how could a movie called Kick-Ass not be a movie for ‘ballers?

It can’t.  There is just no way that K-A is not a movie for paintballers.

Most war flicks, revenge films, science fiction (fantasy flicks, so long as they have a battle scene or two) and superhero movies are fodder for paintballers – the age bracket is the right demographics, the subjects involve fantasizing to some degree or other and

people get shot, punched, kicked, blown-up, blown-down and blown-out.  Maybe shot and blown-up, or set on fire and exploded or perhaps even chopped into tiny little pieces and then scattered all over the landscape by military hardware that is absolute overkill for whatever  the situation happens to be.

Stuff blowing up and bad guys getting theirs is what good old American movies are supposed to be all about.

Kick-Ass does not disappoint on this score.

And what about Hit Girl?  Is it really too much to listen to an 11 year old girl in ponytails curse like a Bangkok hooker who’s just been stiffed (and not in a good way?)  Isn’t there something wrong with a cute little pre-teen who slits people’s throats, gouges out eyeballs, steps on sensitive parts and always seems to have a gun in her hand?

In a word – NO.

Hit Girl is just way too cool for school.   If she bothers you, go watch a rerun of Little House on the Prairie because Toto, this movie is not in Kansas anymore!

I’m wondering how long it’s going to be before we see an all female paintball team called The Hit Girls…?

Kick-Ass (based on the comic series of the same name)

is not your normal superhero.  In fact, Dave Liszewski is just a normal teenager who decides that since no one else has ever tried to become a superhero, he may as well give it a shot.

The results and final outcome are both hilarious and rewarding.

Dave soon discovers that desire and a tad bit of insanity are insufficient skills for a superhero, but he persists long enough to gain a rep for himself on MySpace and Youtube.

Which brings him to the attention of Big Daddy and Hit Girl, a father-daughter team of true crime fighters;  it also brings Kick-Ass to the attention of Mr. D’Amico, the local drug kingpin and crime boss, and D’Amico’s wannabe crimeboss son, who also happens to be a wannabe superhero named Red Mist.

As you might expect, everyone eventually ends up together, but no one brings the milk and cookies.

Acting was a bit rough in places; the musical score was a bit weak towards the end and the flick suffers from middle-of-the-movie slowdown syndrome; reaction to the film has been mixed (though I expect that the dividing line will see most paintballers over on the ‘liked-it’ side for obvious reasons): if you liked Kill Bill, if excessive amounts of blood do not bother you and if you think an 11 year old reprising Trinity’s scene in the office building (Matrix) is a neat idea, then Kick-Ass is your kind of movie!

NCPA vs NPPL: Paintball Webcasts – A Review

This past weekend presented what was I believe, an unprecedented opportunity to watch live tournament paintball on the web.

Over on Channel FCS, we got to watch the entire NCPA National Championships, live from Central Florida Paintball in Lakeland. (A wonderful and extremely professional field that is a very well thought out and forward-thinking facility. I know, I’ve been there and have played there. I also know that CFP was focusing a good portion of its marketing efforts on serving as a purpose-built tournament facility. More leagues should probably think about checking them out.)

Over on Channel NPPL – the great, wonderful and legendary Huntington Beach event. Re-created by the pier once every year, HB/Surf City Open (I prefer HB. Being a Jersey Boy I know where Surf City is and it ain’t on the West coast) represents the epitome of the the special venue tournament – turf, midways, the beach, the bleachers, the scene.

Two entirely different formats. Two different team sizes, two different tournament production companies, two different ranking, scheduling, qualifying, scoring, two different everything.

68Caliber thought it might be interesting to watch both and kind of review them. Or compare them. Or something.

So that’s what we did. Or I should say that’s what I did. Intermittently over Friday, Saturday and Sunday I tuned in and watched. And screen captured.

Which was a unique experience/opportunity in and of itself. Final images are absolutely NOT quality, but they are almost good enough to use on a website. Almost. (If someone had sophisticated image software, they’re probably good enough with just a little work.) In the relatively near future, it may be possible for news sites to actually cover an event remotely.

How the review was conducted.

I went to each webcast during their scheduled air times and used the print screen function to capture a full screen display. This was then dropped into ImageReady and edited. In most cases the editing was restricted to cropping and re-sizing. In the case of showing what each full display looked like, I had to combine three separate screen captures – a ‘top’ (what you’d see if your scroll bar was all the way at the top) a ‘bottom’ (what you’d see if you scrolled all the way down) and a ‘video screen’ (a current full shot of the actual video feed. This was done because the screen shot from the other two captures were necessarily taken at different times and the screen images did not match.) All three were combined and resized. My monitor is generally set for a lower resolution display, and probably represents what a good-sized minority/small majority of screen watchers would see.

The first thing you run into are the registration screens:

NPPL puts up a greeting screen –

NPPL Greeting Page

If you are already registered, you’ll see the next screen for logging in

NPPL login/registration screen

After logging in, you’ll go right to the webcast.

The NCPA takes you to it’s own greeting screen –

NCPA Greeting Screem

Clicking on Watch the Webcast will take you to a registration screen

NCPA Registration Screen

After logging in, you’ll be taken to a schedule page, where the full day’s broadcast schedule is displayed and the current cast is highlighted in green.  Clicking on the highlighted game takes you to the video.

NCPA Schedule and Game Selection

And here’s what going to the video looks like – NCPA

NCPA Full Screen

and NPPL –

NPPL Full Screen


Neither system required any big hurdles and both required registration. No glitches, slowdowns, simple and quick one-step registration, after which you had immediate access to the webcast.

Same with logging in once you’d already registered.


NCPA presented their entire schedule with a nifty little on-screen guide. Whatever game was highlighted in green, that’s what you were going to watch. They also stuck to that schedule throughout.

The NPPL provided a long continuous stream and unless you had a schedule in hand (which I didn’t) you didn’t know what game you were going to be watching next.   Not a big deal, they were all pro games, the ones most folks are interested in watching. (The schedule was available on the NPPL website and if you bookmarked the page or printed out a copy you’d know what was coming up.)

There were fewer breaks between games and none between periods in the NPPL cast (different format).

The two different formats (NCPA – continuous scoring throughout a set time limit with breaks between periods of play: NPPL – elimination/flag hang traditional format) did make for two entirely different viewing experiences. NCPA games were more strategic encounters, while NPPL games were entirely tactical.

Unfortunately, neither had nearly enough cameras nor the eye-in-the-sky that, at the very least, allows a viewer to see the entire field at least a few times during a game (to get some small inkling of what the game is all about).

Both screen presentations were nicely done, of professional quality and not really all that different.

The major difference between the two was – usage of the webcast.


The NCPA actually had commercials (of a professional variety) that would run during breaks. (If you didn’t know what loader to buy before, you do now.) They also displayed a fair number of ads around the video display. They did not have signage behind their broadcasters.

The NPPL had no commercials (at least none I saw), placed NPPL signage around their screen and behind their broadcasters.

Other than the aforementioned, both casts could use a bit of marketing/advertising dress up. I saw plenty of sponsor opportunities that went missing. Field bunkers were logoized, and the NPPL displayed a fair amount of its own brand (NCPA did not), but there is still plenty of room and creative outlets for advertising.


Nicky T and guests on the NPPL, Matty Marshal, Chris Lasoya and Rocky Cagnoni and guests over on the NCPA side.

Win to – neither. The NCPA guys NEVER SHUT UP. Yes, that’s what they were supposed to be doing, but sometimes the discussion ranged fairly far away from the games and the teams and included a lot of personal reminisces (some of which I could appreciate but a lot of which might be lost on viewers who aren’t from BITD*). On the other hand, they NEVER SHUT UP. A little history, a little commentary, a little game calling.

The NPPL guys – long stretches where they either weren’t saying anything or the microphones were cut off (I’m honestly not sure which), so several games went by without anyone saying anything and barely audible field sounds. On the other hand – very precise coverage of on field play, (they were calling player names like Madden covering the NFL) good basic announcing and a solid attempt all around.

Camera work, graphics.

The NPPL had fancier-looking screen graphics; sometimes they presented two camera views side-by-side, (which was nice but I don’t think really worked all that well – the image size was just too small) sometimes they had a little inset of the broadcasters and mostly they had a full screen camera view of the field.

NPPL Split Screen

NPPL Picture-in-picture

The NCPA had a full screen view all the time.

If I had to guess, I’d guess that the NCPA had maybe one more camera angle on the field. Both casts did present multiple camera angles, three to five if memory serves. NCPA also had a camera down on the field sidelines, but it didn’t seem to get used all that often (except for after-game interviews).

Camera work in both cases was kind of spotty; a little jerkiness here, a little too-quick panning there, some awkward cuts from time to time, some zooming that might make your head spin every once and a while.

Also in both cases, the angles chosen for presentation also left a bit to be desired from time to time. (When the action is static, you are supposed to use camera angle shifts to keep things interesting.) Both too-often presented shots that were of a seemingly empty field.

Other Stuff

The NPPL had a neat little link on the bottom of the screen for accessing the scoreboard.

NCPA of course has all of that data over on the APPA website.

My pause button for the NCPA cast didn’t work, the NPPL pause button did.

Running the NCPA webcast seemed to slow other operations on my pc down more than running the NPPL webcast (though I don’t expect most folks are going to be trying to run their website application software AND a graphics program while also watching – my particular setup and usage were a bit unusual and specialized, so this probably won’t affect most viewers).

The NCPA cast seemed to come online just a tad faster than the NPPL cast.

And – the NCPA seemed to keep their bunkers a little cleaner than the NPPL.

Watching in General

As much as I love this game and as familiar as I am with play (not needing any explanations as to why a player ran over to that round thingie instead of to that pyramid thingie – not to mention – why is the referee laying down?), and as good and knowledgeable as the broadcasters were (some of whom I know personally – sorry guys), paintball tournament webcasts are just not that riveting.

I have my personal favorite broadcast sports like anyone else. In order to give you all some yardstick to measure by, here is my broadcast sports list of faves, in order of faveness:

college football
sumo wrestling
college basketball
trap shooting

I know fer sure your mileage may vary, but it will give you some idea.

I can’t say exactly why I find it so relatively uninteresting; I think that a lot of it has to do with the failure/inability of the camera work to keep up with game flow. This is, of course, not the fault of either broadcaster. (After 15 years of paintball on TV it’s a given that watching this game on screen is not as interesting as watching from the bleachers and certainly is no where nearly as exciting and engaging as playing is.) If you really wanted to re-create a bleachers/pits view of a game of paintball, you’d probably need ten or more cameras and a sophisticated CGI system capable of working live.

Absent that, saying ‘can’t keep up with the action’ is a fairly simplistic view. Looking at the state of the art right now, the problem is – at the least – actually a two-headed monster: players who know the game and who are capable of predicting the action can’t just turn their heads to follow; they’re restricted by the camera angle.

Uneducated viewers, who need to be able to see more of the field at any given time in order to be able to gain an understanding of how things work, are likewise restricted by the camera angle.

Dual screen doesn’t work, birds-eye views don’t work and we haven’t seen a sufficiently advanced (and probably overly expensive) attempt at really integrating everything (many of us suspect that there does remain some truly awesome and workable presentation formula).

You can add to that the standard bugaboos of the action being too widely spread out – the paintball equivalent of receiver-coverage or the pitcher-batter-catcher combo, the lay-up and the block, even the putt and the hole does not exist (except for those rare both-sides-of-the-bunker or snake trade-outs).

Not finding a solution to this problem is certainly not the fault of either league.


Once you accept the idea that you’re not going to be watching the World Series or the Super Bowl (or even professional Sumo Wrestling live from Japan) and settle down to watch paintball because you know and like paintball, both casts were about on a par with each other.

Both could still use a little polish here and there, both are far beyond a lot of webcasts and absolutely the cutting edge of paintball broadcasting. Each could learn a bit from the other. In fact, my recommendation would be that they should each copy whatever the other is doing that they aren’t and add it to their mix. Doing that would, I think, improve both a notch or two.

And both, I think, could be earning more off of their efforts with a little work in the marketing department.

Here’s some screen captures for you.

NCPA Action


Trading in the snake

After the game

A good view of the NCPA field

NPPL screen shots:

Getting ready

A view of the NPPL field layout

Books For Paintballers: Killerbowl by Gary K. Wolf

killerbowlLast month I posted a movie review for you all (Book of Eli); the month before, I mentioned an article that I wrote for Fantasy magazine that showed the connections between genre fiction (fantasy, horror, science fiction) and paintball, particularly scenario games.

Today, I offer you Gary K. Wolf’s KILLERBOWL, his popular 1975 novel about the (then) future version of professional street football and the upcoming Superbowl XXI that takes place in 2010. (If you want to order it, just click on the book’s cover illo.)

Gary’s name might not be familiar to you until I mention a movie title:  Who Framed Roger Rabbit? a critically acclaimed and financially successful film that is credited with sparking the renewed interest in full length animated films.


Gary K. Wolf wrote the novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit upon which the film was based.

Gary writes lots of stuff (and very well);  if you’re an SF buff, you might very well want to check out my review of his recent novel Space Vulture (which I thoroughly enjoyed) or –

seeing as how you’re probably a paintballer first and an SF fan second, you might very well want to read Killerbowl.  It is now available for the Kindle asn an e-book for the paintballer-friendly price of .99 – that’s right!  You can read stuff like the following for a penny less than a dollar!

“The Minutemen’s hidden safety, crouching on the fifteenth floor of the Fontana West apartments, puts cross hairs on Gradington’s Adam’s apple, now ever so slightly exposed just below the bottom of his bulletproof helmet and mask, just above the top of his body armor, and squeezes the trigger.

Gradington and the football hit the street at almost the exact same instant.

A gunshot echoes through the street.

T.K. Mann losed consciousness.

Superbow XX is over.”

Sports combined with military mayhem! If that’s not paintball, I don’t know what is!

The novel has now been released as a Kindle (or IPhone Kindle App) file – but if you don’t have either, don’t despair – Amazon has made a free PC-based Kindle reader available that’s takes about thirty seconds to install and through which you can order Kindle files. I installed it myself this morning right before writing this piece.

If you want to learn a little bit more about Gary and his books, you can visit his website and the Space Vulture website.

If you all like this kind of thing, I’ll think about recommending some other “made for paintball” books.

TSSOC Reviews the new Tippmann Paintball Marker

company logo tssoc 125

The secret is out and Tri-State Special Operations Command is here to confirm that the next evolution in marker design is here with Tippmann’s new X-7 Phenom.

On the surface this new marker closely resembles the X-7 but looks can be deceiving. Under the hood of the all-aluminum receiver of this mil-sim beauty features a completely new “Flex Valve” technology that offers the smooth, kick-free, regulated low-pressure operation of a high-end electro.

Now before you get concerned that this will make things more complicated let us put your fears to rest as Tippmann has completely maintained it’s legendary reliability and simplicity. The Phenom delivers everything a hard core paintballer or someone new to the game could ever want and more. Performance, reliability, and customization all blended together for pure paintball goodness!

For more information and reviews, go to

Parent’s Guide to Paintball Getting Top Reviews From Top Players

parentsguide_cover4Members of San Diego Dynasty (7 Time World Champions) and Texas X-Factor took a look at Steve Davidson’s A PARENT’S GUIDE TO PAINTBALL and had this to say:

“This book is a great resource for any parents out there with questions about paintball. It does a great job going over just about everything someone should know about our sport.”

-Yosh Rau of 7-Time World Champion Professional Paintball Team San Diego Dynasty

“A must read for any parent who’s hesitant about letting their child play paintball or who wants to know more about the sport their child is into.”

-Ryan Greenspan of 7-Time World Champion Professional Paintball Team San Diego Dynasty

“There’s a lot of common misconceptions about the sport of paintball, and this book does a great job of giving a straight forward, unbiased look into our sport that can help anybody—not just parents—make an informed decision about paintball.”—Alex Fraige of 7-Time World Champion Professional Paintball Team San Diego Dynasty

You can visit Dynasty HERE

“This book dispels a lot of myths that my wife and I had about paintball. What a great way to get the kids out of the house and burn up some pent-up energy! This is something I can do with my kids that would be fun, safe, keep them out of trouble and keep us all in better shape. Now I understand why big companies use this sport for teambuilding and corporate retreats.”

-Grayson’s Goff’s dad Jerry Goff

“On my behalf I’d like to say “I wish I had a book like this 9 years ago when I started playing. For a 14 year old it’s hard to explain to your parents why they should wake up early on their day off to drive you out to a paintball field. This book really puts it into perspective.”
-Grayson Goff-X-Factor

You can visit X-Factor HERE

Quoting myself:  “I’m very pleased that such great players (and their Dads!) took the time out to read my book and very happy to see that they think I accomplished what I set out to do with it!”