Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Dusting off this blog!

A little life update so please feel free to skip this if you want. This is mainly a chance for me to get the last year or so of activities (or inactivities) off my chest...

So, what's been happening?

Middle age mostly. A hard as I tried to put it off it has caught up with me and I have finally succumbed to doing 'grown up things'. The main thing is that 'we' (and by that I mean the wife) decided about a year ago that 'we' would not be moving house...

This came as something of a surprise to me as I didn't realise that we were seriously considering it. I thought all that looking in estate agents windows was just her being nosey. But no, as usual I was being naive and there was - it seems - some sort of actual plan. In any case, that plan changed, we would be staying put.

Hooray, you would think I would say - but this quickly turned into a resounding 'booo' when I realised what that meant. You see, fellow chaps, that is wife talk for 'we shall now be upgrading our current house to the way I want it'. And there, in a nutshell, is where my life of sloth and hobbies disappeared into a dark abyss.

Not that the wife is all to blame - the fact is that over the past year work-work has also become a huge pain in the arse as well. But of course, I can't change that because (double-trap) 'we' have become used to the income and that income is needed to do up the house the way she (sorry 'we') want it! Double whammy!

The icing on this s**t-cake is that - as a side-effect of all the house 'improvements' - I lost the use of my attic man-cave, which has now become the house dumping-ground. I can squeeze into my gaming chair - but to be honest, the act of gaming is no longer the relaxed and enjoyable past-time so I haven't done much over the past six months (I'm one of those nit-picking people who cannot sit down and do things unless the workspace around me is ordered and tidy).

So, there you have it, my year of hell.

I have been reduced - hobby-wise - to a small 'TV dinner' sized table in the front room to do my hobbying on. Needless to say, this has precluded all but the smallest projects (so most of my hobby blogging has been done on my 'Kitnoob.blogspot.co.uk' modelling blog). All my bigger projects, or projects that need some space (or are smelly) have been abandoned until I can get the attic back.

In effect, this post is a run-up to this years 'New Year's Resolution'. And my resolution for 2016 is to get some of my hobby time  and hobby space back. (Ironically, one of the aspects of the idea of us moving house that I did relish was the notion that if we got a house with a big garden then I might finally get a shed!)

Middle age sucks...It's just one big race to accumulate objects and nest-build before you die.

Rant over. (I promise I will have a proper Milgeek post soon.)

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

MAGLAN reborn? But what game to play?

'Magnus' - the not so congenial host of MAGLAN
MAGLAN, the tiny drunken get together of the ironically named BIG clan (there are only six of us now) is scheduled for November. As usual there now takes place our traditional disagreement of just what game/s we should be playing together.

As there is no big blockbuster military FPS that has our interest (we all tired of BF4) we have degenerated into a two faction split. Half of us would kind-of like to play some sort of competitive FPS (like Insurgency) and the other half seem to be interested in a futuristic RTS called 'Act of Aggression'.

Now, I have to be honest - I'm a bit 'Meh!' about RTS games. I like more direct action when it comes to my military games and I'm not a great multi-tasker so the whole multi-unit co-ordination thing just frazzles my tiny brain!

MAGLAN 2015's 'refreshment point'. Two kegs between
six of us (plus our preferred bottle of spirits each). This is
why I think computer games that demand coordination and
concentration - like RTSs - are probably beyond us!

I have tried - and even enjoyed - a few RTS games in the past. But my preference had been the slower paced and slightly more methodical turn-based strategy games like 'Age of Empires', 'Civilization' and 'Company of Heroes'. I seem to need the breathing space to take in the strategic element of the complete battlefield that these 'u go then I go' games format affords me.

So I was pleasantly surprised when one of my favourite YouTube game vloggers featured a new game that I hadn't heard of called 'Warshift'. This mix of FPS action combined with RTS unit and resource management appears to be the sort of game that might appeal to all the BIG clan crew...



I'll be looking more closely at this game - it's an 'Early Access Game' on STEAM, but seems quite well developed none the less - and will report back my findings. But, it looks promising so finger's crossed that the BIG clan guys think it might be worth a go.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Hello Mr. Posty! RK-3 AK grip? Yes please!

I actually ordered an RK-3 grip - or to be more precise a airsoft clone of the Zenitco RK-3 - quite some time ago, but unfortunately it turned into of of those online shopping nightmares. To be fair, some of this was my fault - I accidentally ordered the version of the Asura Dynamics RK-3 which is meant for GBB airsoft AKs. Du-oh!

An AK fully kitted out with Zenitco accessories, including the RK-3 grip.

Anyway, after a bit of a soap opera, which I won't bore you with, I finally received another RK-3 clone, this time a plastic one which is suitable for AEGs.

Zentico's tactical AK grip is something of an acquired taste, but it is very much of the Russian design aesthetic which suits the whole Kalashnikov 'beautifully ugly' persona.

The Mila Kunis of AK grips! (Is it attractive or is it not?)

It's actually a great shame that the first RK-3 clone grip I received was for GGBs only as it was absolutely gorgeous and was cast in aluminium (I was very sad about having to send it back). The replacement plastic grip - also made by Asura Dynamics - is not as nicely finished as there are some moulding blemishes and it's the sort black plastic which is more very dark grey (the aluminium version was a lustrous satin black). Ah well...

There is a positive side to the plastic RK-3, it's lighter and at $14.25 (from Ebairsoft) it's less than half the price of the aluminium version.

Well, that's another piece of Zenitco hardware (er, clone) in the bag, but there's still plenty more to collect before I have my AK-105 fully 'modernised'. I'll be looking at the forward grip accessories this month I think.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Battle of Britain Memorial Visitor Centre


Our summer vacation this year took in a quick visit to the BBMF visitor centre which is adjacent to Royal Air Force Coningsby, Lincolnshire. Over the years the wife and I have seen the BBMF - or at least some of it's star aircraft - fly over during air displays and remembrance anniversaries, so when we realised the home of the flight was on our route we couldn't pass up the chance to drop in for a visit!

On entering the Coningsby air base - to the accompaniment of some RAF Typhoons streaking overhead if you are as lucky as we were - you are met with the display board...


This board indicates which aircraft of the flight are 'at home' on any given day. Be sure to note that the aircraft are are usually very busy at displays and events on weekends and Bank Holidays, so be sure to plan your visit carefully if you want to see a particular aircraft. Our visit was on a Tuesday so we were treated to nearly a full house - though, sadly, one of the Hurricanes (my favourite aircraft) was away for some major work.

You cannot simply stroll around the flight hanger - this is a working RAF base after all - and every visit is conducted as part of a guided tour. But this is the best way to get the most out of the visit as the guides (all ex-RAF) are charming characters and very knowledgeable about the history and specification of all the aircraft in the flight.

Our guide began with a brief introduction to the legendary Rolls Royce Merlin and
Griffin engines. Did you know that the Merlin was also built by Ford and Packard?

 The tour is strictly 'hands off' and conducted from behind a barrier, but this is for your own safety as much as anything as it is a real working hanger with full maintenance work going on while you are visiting. Personally I find this fascinating, watching the RAF mechanics and engineers going about their work as we get a very informative history lesson from our guide.

As I mentioned above, there is a set 'cast', which on the day of our visit was made up of the following aircraft types; a Dakota, four Spitfires, one Hurricane, two Chipmunks and the Avro Lancaster.


Practically all of the aircraft (aside from the Dakota and Chipmunks) were in varying stages of disassembly for maintenance or repair. The Dakota and the Chipmunks are the flight training aircraft so are - I guess - most often in a flight ready state. Though the Dakota is also a display aircraft as it has been the mount of parachute display teams as it is equipped with authentic period 'para seats' and is used in commemorative parachute drops.

The unsung heroes of the flight are the two de Havilland Canada DHC-1 Chipmunks.
While these provide the single-engine training for would-be flight pilots they are
unique in their own way, one famous as having been fired on by Soviet troops!

Of course the planes we really want to see are the aircraft we most associate with the Battle of Britain itself, the Spitfires and the Hurricanes and you will not be disappointed with the range of types that are on view. The BBMF has models of the famous fighters dating from the early versions which took part in the battle to later and more advanced or more specialist examples of these legendary warbirds.

Our guide introduces us to an early a Mk.IIa, which originally flew in the Battle
of Britain in 1940, with 266 and 603 Squadrons.

While, over at the other side of the hanger, was a Mk IIc Hurricane and despite
being in a state of disassemble you can still recognise the distinctive 'Hump'!

Each aircraft has it's own story which is related to you by your guide. They also have particular paint schemes which illustrate each aircraft as it was historically during World War Two or to commemorate a particular pilot who served in that type. For example, the Spitfire Mk. IIa is painted in the 41 Squadron code 'EB-G', which represents the aircraft flown by Pilot Officer Eric Lock who, on 5 September 1940, destroyed three aircraft in a single sortie.

Spitfire Mark XVI

Griffon 66 engined Spitfire Mark XVI photo reconnaissance aircraft.

While the purpose of the flight is principally to act as a memorial to those that defended the country during the Battle of Britain - hence the flight's name - one of the three iconic aircraft which flies alongside the Spitfire and Hurricane fighters is not a veteran of that battle at all. None the less the legendary Avro Lancaster heavy bomber was a crucial part of the British campaign in the air during World War 2 and as such is a central member of the team.


This huge bomber is the grand finally of the hanger tour and like all the other aircraft in the flight it is unique and has it's own very interesting history. Aside from being one of the last two remaining flight worthy Lancasters in the world she appeared in two films: Operation Crossbow and The Guns of Navarone!


While the hanger tour ends - sadly - with the Lancaster we then adjourn to the small bomb display outside to get a idea about what the Lancaster was capable of. Aside from the plain old 500 Pound bomb - normally the Lanc was capable of carrying up to 14,000 Pounds of bombs - the display features the enormous 'Tall Boy' (12,000 Pound) bomb and the even bigger 'Grand Slam' (22,000 Pound) bomb. I was particularly interested in looking at the 'Tall Boy' as I had recently watched a documentary on the sinking of the German pocket battleship Tirpitz by several of these devastating bombs.

Three of the stars of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

It was a wonderful visit and I highly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in history of aircraft. It's really important that these aircraft are kept flying as a reminder of the sacrifice that was made in order to keep this country free of Fascism. It's also important to remember that this is a part of the RAF, whose pilots and ground crew volunteer to serve as part of the historic flight.

Related Links:

• BBMF Visitor Centre, official RAF web site: www.raf.mod.uk/bbmf/visitorscentre/

Wikipedia entry for Battle of Britain Memorial Flight - includes details about all the aircraft.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Russian Tactical AK upgrades - Part 2

I'll start off by saying that I had originally conceived this project as an upgrade for my AK-105, but having seen the range of terrific modern Russian AK accessories - by the likes of Zenico - I have decided to expand this project to include my good old AK-74MN.

Today I'm 'talking' mussel attachments, principally flash hiders or compensators. While raking back through my airsoft collection I realised that I have accumulated quite a few muzzle breaks and what not...

Russian mussel breaks and flash hiders, old and new
The two most recent acquisitions were sourced for my Russian Tactical AK project. I originally bought a lovely 'real steel' Tactika Tula DTK -"Coyote" compensator (24mm thread) before discovering the lovely stubby Zenitco DTC-2 compensator which was especially designed with the AK-104/5 in mind. So I forked out for a nice TWI airsoft replica of the DTC-2 as well this month!

Top: the DTC-2. Botom: Tactika Tula 'Coyote'.

The Coyote will now be installed on my old Kalash AK-74MN as part of a refurb, and I will attach the DTK-2 to my AK-105. The stubby profile of the later is a lot more in keeping with the compact nature of the AK-105 'carbine'.

As I mentioned in a prevous post, there are three airsoft manufacturers who are making replicas of Zenitco tactical AK products at the moment; GBL, Asura Dynamics and TWI. TWI is the 'top of the range' Taiwanese company as far as airsoft products go so I was pleased I manage to source their clone of the modern Russian muzzle brake.

This airsoft item has the full Zenitco trade marks on it - prominently displayed at the font of the compensator, which looks pretty cool...



However, this is NOT an officially licensed product (Zenitco have not issued any licences to make airsoft versions of their products), so just be aware that this is - legally - a counterfeit product.

Moreover, despite hearing a lot about TWI quality I was a little disappointed in the finish of this piece. My real Coyote break comes in a lovely satin black finish, while the DTK-2 is a flat grey colour. Nothing wrong with that, looking at the real thing it is about right I think, but it was a thin paint coat and quite scratched and the trademark is not printed on straight (it's not level when the compensator is screwed on).

Another slight problem was the 24mm thread. I found it very tight indeed and had to screw it on and off several times to get it to fit. Not what I expected from a 'premium' brand like TWI.

Still, the DTK-2 does look pretty cool...


Wednesday, 5 August 2015

World of Warships - Some (a lot of) thoughts

Having played WoWs pretty intensively over the past few weeks I have decided I have pretty much got a firm grasp of the game and so thought it was about time to record some of my thoughts about it and it's pros and cons.

My latest ship - the mighty Pensacola cruiser.

Repetition and monotony?
I might as well get straight in there and tackle what I think might be one of the greatest criticisms of the game - repetitiveness and monotony.

Like World of Tanks (Wo)Warships is very formulaic. There is no dynamic or random elements to the game mode construction, like Counter Strike the maps are set and everyone knows 'where to go', the choke points and the camp spots (although I do take issue with the notion of 'camping' in WoWS). This is perhaps both the greatest weakness of the game and - in a perverse way - it most abiding charm.

My gaming friends and I always said about World of Tanks that the best thing was that it was a game you could play while having a good drink! Gameplay 'tactics' (such as they are) in either Tanks or Warships are pretty rudimentary and although a lot of YouTube Game 'celebs' make a lot of videos about the nuances of 'how to play' these games at the end of the day you could sleepwalk through a game if you wanted too and leave the result to fate (and still win half your games). Surviving the games is another matter though!

The game map (M). You can set your auto-pilot way-points on this so you can concentrate of firing
your guns or drinking beer! Already I bet you can see the chock points?

Once you have played a map a few times you pretty much know most of what you need to know, although in Warships the lack of geographic eye candy - as one might expect in a game about warfare on the high seas - is somewhat sparser that it was in World of tanks.

Both these issues lead to some making accusation s of repetition and monotony - with only the incentive to be constantly upgrading and acquiring new ships driving your incessant return to the game.

But I disagree. I like a 'no brainer game' and I think a lot of other people do to.

For a great many people - and a lot of them of a similar age to myself (+-middle-age) - World of Warships is a social activity in the same way that dominoes used to be in the golden days of the pub. Yes you will get those people that are supremely competitive and always trying to improve their game stats, but for the majority the game is almost secondary to the hilarity of the banter when together with ones friends.

So, repetition becomes a comfort zone where you don't have to concentrate too hard (because we all know men can't multitask) and the monotony is simply the absence of distraction so you can focus what concentration you do have available on your ship!

Something for everyone
Having said what I said above, World of Warships - like WoT - does offer a little something for all types of games. Yes it's great for the casual/social online gamer like me (my competitive days are far behind me now) but it also has enough depth built in to appeal to the more intense gamer.

First of the two great evils of the game...The grind. Many players judge their success in the game
by how far they have progressed up the Tech Tree. Not far enough? Then buy a ship!

Aside from the rather addictive nature of 'collecting stuff' - which the Wargame.Net developers are famed for (and from which they profit hugely) - there is a rather nice career path to the game that keeps you wanting to come back and 'just get a little more XP'!

Yes, in essence, World of Warships is the adult equivalent of those addictive trading cards you see kids spending all their pocket money on. Make no mistake, catch the bug and you could be tempted to fork out a lot of real coinage for 'better' ships! But even if you are a goody two-shoes and stick to the 'grind', it's still a insidiously obsessive pass time.

The second of the great World of... addictions, upgrading! How tempting it is to spend real money
on getting that 'must have' extra gadget on your virtual ship...Just a few more Doubloons? 

My thoughts on the ships...
Of course, the main attraction of the game is the ships and all credit to Wargaming.Net - their ship models are gorgeous. I never really knew that much about WW2 naval warfare and certainly not much either about the specification of the ships involved, so these digital models have really opened my eyes and I have learned a lot.

Destroyers: These are to WoWs what light tanks were to World of Tanks I suppose. They are the scouts, light fast and manoeuvrable greyhounds of the sea that whip about and spy out oncoming enemy ships, take advantage of opportunistic 'flag captures' and are - under the right situations - the bane of battleships and aircraft carriers!

One word sums up their potency - torpedoes!


 The moment that sums up destroyer action - what we call the 'oh shit' moment!

I am still getting used to this class of ship, I have only reached tier IV of the American destroyer line with a Tier IV Clemson class ship. And I am afraid I do find the temptation to go all psycho-torp is too much for me sometimes...If I spy a nice juicy battleship or - worse - a carrier - a red mist descends and it's 'all steam ahead'! (With - most times - predictably disastrous consequences for me.)

My latest destroyer - the slippery Japanese Minekaze!

Cruisers: This is my favourite class at the moment. I have reached tier V of the American line with a beautiful Cleveland Class ship.

These are the all rounders of the game but they do have a very specific job to do and that is to provide an anti-aircraft and anti-destroyer screen for your battleships (and sometimes your aircraft carriers, if nobody else remembers to do that job). As such you are kinda tied to the plans of the battleship drivers, you go where they go - but, having said that, the mutual cover you provide each other is good for both parties (especially when you bump into the enemy's battleships coming the other way).

Occasionally (like destroyers) cruisers can form formidable 'wolf packs' and can lay waste to even the most intimidating battleships. This is done by using your superior manoeuvrability and speed (over the battleships) and splitting their fire - which essentially means circling the battleship from different directions so the poor blighter doesn't know who to shoot at first!


Battleships: The big guns! Range is your friend as speed and manoeuvrability certainly is not!

I have one battleship - a tier V Japanese premium battlewagon of the xxx class. And to be honest, while playing battleships sounds attractive - as you have the biggest punch and the greatest armour in the game - the plain fact is that YOU are on everyone else's hit list.

Destroyers - those annoying little midges of the warship world - swarm around you if you are not careful. loosing off streams of torpedoes. Cruisers will try and avoid you, but a couple of good cruiser captains can make your life hell - but it's the enemy's aircraft carriers that are the most frustrating danger as their squadrons of bombers hunt you down in what feels like a personal vendeta.

Obviously, your job is the destruction of the enemy's battleships - you slug it out in gargantuan long range duels looking for those all important 'citadel' hits. This is the only time - battleship versus battleship - that I opt for the armour piercing (AP) shells.



Aircraft carriers: This is the one class I haven't tried yet, but as I am getting more experienced in the game my friends and I are now starting to think that we must try this unique part of the game out.

These huge flat tops appear - at first - to be the games most vulnerable ships and many dismiss them as simply being World of Warship's equivalent to World of Tank's artillery. But think there is much more to them and they do have the potential to change the course of a game.

Using the aircraft carriers air force is something of a dark art and does make the whole exercise look more like a top-down RTS game rather than a naval warfare sim. But the coordination of your multiple little squadrons is something of a feet of juggling, more so the higher up the tiers you go and your squadron numbers increase.

To my mind the greatest threat that carriers present are their torpedo bombers. These drop their tin fish (if you do not have an adequate AA shield) far closer to you that destroyer can unleash their torpedoes. With destroyers you have a reasonable chance of avoiding their torps IF you have your wits about you, but the short distance at which the torpedo bombers drop their loads leaves you with a lot less room to manoeuvre!

Coordinate your attack, with a mic of torp bombers and dive bombers, and you battleship captain is left weeping as the inevitability of his immanent demise becomes ever so apparent and unavoidable.

(I can't show you some carrier play as I haven't got a carrier - but here's a clip which is sort of carrier related!)



HOWEVER, make no mistake - the aircraft carrier is at the top of everyone's most wanted list. While - tactically - battleships are the real game win makers frankly there is no better satisfaction in the game than sending a flat top down to a watery grave. To the point where many people get fixated when a carrier is spotted on the map (I have seen games lost because players who otherwise would have won a game with a flag capture have gone 'rogue' because they spied a carrier on the horizon)!

What I would like to see next for World of Warships
For me, the lack of innovative game modes is the main gripe about this game. Capture the flag can get a bit wearisome over the course of an evenings play.

So here are some game mode suggestions:

Convoy - Team 'A' must escort a convoy across the map. Team 'B' must locate them and then destroy 75% of the merchant ships to win.

Wake Island - Fond memories of the Wake Island map from Battlefield 2/3 has inspired this idea. The two opposing fleets must take Wake Island (by means of holding 3 of the 4 capturable points). Once captured this gives the occupying team team access to the island's airfield and land based bombers and fighters.

• Hunt the Bismark - One team acts as the hunters, the other as escort for the pocket battleship Bismark. The Bismark - captained randomly by one of the escort captains - can hide itself in a maze of fyords and inlets, or out to sea making use of think fog banks.

However, aside from game modes there are some other suggestions I have for improving the basic game features. Here are some of my ideas:

• Fog - already mentioned above I would like to see rome random weather effects like fog, patchy fog and heavy rain. All designed to reduce spotting range and make target identification and acquisition harder.

• Land based patrol bombers or reconnaissance - I'd like to see some of the bigger maritime patrol aircraft brought into the game, access to which is controlled by the capturing of key objectives. For example, if a team capture a flag that has a major port or sea base then that triggers a long range maritime patrol, and if during this patrol a capital ship is spotted that in turn triggers a land based bomber strike.

• Sea mines - I'd like to see some key 'flags' defended by mines, which would have to be 'swept' by suitably equipped destroyers or cruisers...

Oh, I could go on and on. But writing this is so much WoWS playing time!


Thursday, 16 July 2015

Airsoft - AK-105 upgrade project Pt. 1

Ironically, for saying that (in theory) I have 'given up airsofting' I find myself undertaking an AEG upgrade project!

Thing is, though, that I hate leaving things uncompleted and the fact there are AEG projects laying half-done in my attic is a constant source of irritation whether I am actually airsofting or not. But thinking more practically, as I have decided to keep two of my AEGs in working order (just in case I fancy the occasional outing with friends) I am now feel obligated to complete the upgrade plans I had for one of those AEGs...

The classic 'lean' Russian AK-105 format. As 'tactical' as anyone needs really?

The AEG I am going to be doing the work on is my Kalash AK-105. The 105 was perhaps - in my opinion - the most beautiful AK ever designed (although when talking about Kalashnikovs 'beauty' is, perhaps, a relative concept)! As such I was always a little reluctant to change any of the externals and was going to concentrate of upgrading the internal components...

To 'tacticool' or not to 'tacticool'...
When I was involved in airsoft I was something of a 'purist' as far as my AKs were concerned and I was an ardent followed of the 'Red Alliance' Eastern Block airsoft forum. The central philosophy of Red Alliance enthusiasts was the maintaining of AK gun replicas in their purest form and not 'corrupting' Mikhail Kalashnikov iconic design by adding Western 'tactical' accessories. That was seen as 'reactionary'!

Left: Mikhail Kalashnikov: "You can have any colour of AK, so long as it's black." Credit: www.kremlin.ru

However, a lot has happened over the past five or so years. The Russian Army itself has been the subject of very fervent modernisation and - it seems - the well known idiosyncrasies of the AK design - even in it's AK-74/AK-100 series 'modernised' format - has finally succumbed to some 'frivolous'  Western influences. This was manifest by the amount of photos coming to light of Russian Special Forces personnel who had surreptitiously sourced Western tactical firearm accessories - such as Picatinny rail systems and even optical equipment - of their own volition or by the unofficial procurements made by these special units...

Russian Special Forces firearms competition, circa 2011.

Today the official Russian attitude is one which embraces 'tactical' accessories as the 2010 AK-74 upgrades ('AK-200') with its 'bolted on rails' morphed into the 'new' AK12 with it's more elegantly incorporated rail systems...

Russian Army publicity photo showing their equivalent of the West's 'Future
Soldier' programmes. Star of the show is the new AK-12.

East meets West...
I think one of the main reasons - philosophy or dogma aside - that some people (myself included) do not like to see Western firearm accessories on a Kalashnikov design is the aesthetic incompatibility of the two design concepts. Sticking a US made crane stock onto a AK-47 is somewhat like transplanting a man's arm onto a gorilla! In theory it might be 'handy' (excuse the pun) but it's just not right!


The popular perception of a 'tactical AK'. All Western accessories.

Luckily this gulf in aesthetics has been bridged of late as Russian companies have themselves begun to manufacture AK accessories that are rather more empathetic in their design to the Kalashnikov's utilitarian and puritanical  'look'.

Zenitco (Russia) manufactured AK add-ons (except the Eo-Tech of course)!
Source: www.zenitco.ru/en
Oh yes...Now that is Russian 'tacticool'! Perhaps a bit 'bling' but hey...AKs are fun! ;)
Source: www.facebook.com/zenitco

And so, I now feel it is time I 'modernised' my AK-105 to reflect the sort of changes that are taking place in the Russian military at the moment. Although the AK-12 upgrade program is in a very embryonic stage (and will only affect mainly 'Special Forces' units, the remainder still using the 'old' AK-74) there seems to be a very lively ad-hoc adoption of products like Zenitco's - though whether this is a localised adoption by specific units or even the personal purchases of Russian infantryman I am unsure...

Source: Russian Military and Police Vademecum (via www.facebook.com/zenitco)

Airsoft replicas of Zenitco and other parts
So, having established a 'why' I need to determine the 'how' of my upgrade project. Where exactly can I source these new 'tactical' parts - indeed are they even available in airsoft 'clone' form at all?

Trust the Chinese to spot a good thing when they see it! No sooner had I started Googling than Ebairsoft (my favourite Chinese airsoft retailer) brought me the goods!

In fact, Ebairsoft far exceeded my expectations as they seemed to stock Taiwanese copies of almost all of Zenitco's AK accessory range. I was flabbergasted - especially when I saw that they were selling a couple of fully tricked AEGs with Zenitico products as standard...

T NO13 ( Taiwan ) ZNTC Style LCT AK105 AEG (Er, it's actually an AK-104!)
Cost? $732.25 minus shipping....Yikes! Source: Ebairsoft

To be honest, while it's tempting to think that I am discovering something new that nobody else knows about (which is always a cool feeling for an airsoft 'geardo') the fact is that I am a little behind the curve as this video from AirsoftObsessed1 illustrates....



And now, the bad news...
OK, every silver lining has a great fluffy dark cloud around it and my Zenitco replica find is no excepton. In fact - technically - there are two issues, one 'minor' and one major...

Let's have the major bad news first...The price!

The T NO13 GBL Tactical AK Folding Stock for AEG / GBB (clone of Zenitco telescopic PT-1 "Classical" butt-stock) is a whopping $155 (plus shipping) from Ebairsoft or £177 plus shipping if you get it from Red Wolf UK.

....Pause...Breath...

So you can imagine how things begin to tot-up once you add the rest of the Zenitco clone parts (which include; the cool butt-stock of course, DTK-2 Steel Muzzle Brake, A-1 Rail Sling Mount, B-12 Upper Rail, B-13 AK Slide Mount Rail,  B-10M Lower Rail, RK-6 AK Fore Grip, RP1 Charing Handle AD-P-012, RK-3 AK Pistol Grip, etc, etc...).

A real fully tricked-out  Zenitco AK...There's a lot of non-standard parts on that AK! Airsoft clone
companies have faithfully reproduced this selection of accessories.
Source: www.zenitco.ru

The lesser issue cane be found on the Zenitco official Facebook page, and goes like this: "Attention everyone. FAKE PRODUCTS. They exist. We will not mention any companies as we don't deem them worthy of this, but please watch out. Zenit has not given permission to, endorsed, or supported any of the companies currently producing these copies..."

Opps! I kinda know already what most airsofter's attitude to this would be - but felt obliged to pass on the announcement. A lot of Western firearm accessory manufacturers are already aware of the thriving counterfeit or 'clone' trade (mostly conducted in China) and it is a serious issue...BUT...

I personally find it slightly amusing that a Russian company is complaining about others stealing their designs. Historically this is a little like the kettle calling the pot black! But I jest.

What is perhaps more amusing is that after the USA having at least a 30 year head-start in the area of tactical weapon accessories they have not been able to come up with a decent folding stock solution for the AK-74/AK-100 series firearms...And yet Zenitco have done it right on their very first attempt!

The rather nice Magpul 'Zhukov-S' folding stock of AK47/74 platforms. It's
probably the most pleasing Western design but does - as the photo shows - have
one glaring design flaw...It folds on the right, over the AK's control lever!
Source:  'Zhukov-S' is a trademark of the Magpul Company USA

The majority of folding/telescopic stock solutions for AKs have been based on the AR-15/M-4 crane-stock design which, as we all know, is not aesthetically compatible with the Kalashnikov - I don't care what anyone says. The best designs to come from the 'West' - if you count Israel as being part of the West - are the FAB Defence UAS folding stock and the new Magpul (USA) Zhukov-S stock.

However, neither of these are as good looking as the Zenitco "Classical" PT-1 folding stock, and they aren't - as I keep emphasising - completely in touch with the classic, 'no frills' AK philosophy...In short, they look Western.

LCT's T NO13 ( Taiwan ) ZNTC Style AK74U AEG ($672.55) illustrates the
seamless way that the PT-1 stock 'borgs' itself into the AK. This model is the
AKS74U modification using replica Russian parts (again, the 7.62mm banana
magazine is wrong as the AKS74U was a 5.45mm calibre weapon).

(If I sound like I am labouring the point about the stock there is a reason for that. As much as I admire the AK generally and the design of the AK-104/5 in particular I have always detested the flimsy polymer 'solid' stock that was added to the 'M' ('modernised') AK-74 in 1991. It is hideous in the way that only a Russian firearms designer would find acceptable...I.E. it works. Hence me taking this opportunity to get rid of it!)

Anyway, to conclude...
I have started collecting the (external) parts for my project but I am also putting a lot of thought to the internals and the current Kalash body. Though to be honest, the AK-105 bodywork was some of the best AEG replica work that Kalash (D-Boy) had ever done.* It's markedly superior to their earlier AK-74MN - which I also own - and feels absolutely rock solid (as it is full metal).

* The Kalash AK-105 is itself a clone of LCT's AK105 replica. 

So the work starts now as the first parts arrived this week...(Yes, I know, I told you the price and now you are shaking you head. It's lucky that I didn't mention that the real steal - Russian made - DTK 'Coyote' flash hider by Tactika Tula cost me £60 then...Opps!)


Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Never say never (airsoft redux)

Me in my Russian Tiger BDUs
When I said, earlier this year, that I was finally giving up the idea of participating in airsoft it did cause one unexpected quandary...Just what do I do with all that airsoft kit that I had accumulated?

At the moment it's all taking up a large amount of space and gathering dust in my 'man cave' - space I would rather use for other hobbies. I have been putting off the inevitable 'clear out' of this largely redundant collection owing to a serious case of denial that that phase of my hobby-life is now over.

Left: The glory days at South Yorkshire Airsoft with my, then, newly purchased CYMA AKM. This was pre-UKARA and I bought this on the site stall...Those were the days!

That said I had always said I would keep two AEGs and one loadout 'just in case' - as I have had several friends who have kindly said I would be welome to join them if I ever felt the urge to have an outing for old time sake.

But beside this I have always felt I have some unfinished business. I had several gun-based projects that I put a lot of time and effort into that were still far from completion and that just niggled me (a mild case of OCD maybe)! And chief among these was my AK-105 upgrade plans.

The two AEGs that I decided to hang on to are my VFC AKS74U and my Kalash AK-105. Not because they were the best airsoft guns I have ever had (top honours must go to my JG H&K G3A1 and my first CYMA AK-74)  but because they are the most fun. These are the sort of AEGs that put a smile on your face in the field.

Awww, my first AK - which I guess is what made it special. It was a CYMA AK-74,
a fixed stock ABS AEG which was reliable and accurate. Being basically plastic it
was wonderfully light, and yet was strong (I fell on it once but didn't snap it)!

So, while organising my airsoft kit clear-out I am at the same time going to be spending some time customising my AK-105 to get it the way I want it.

One of the plus points about not being into airsoft to the degree I was a few years ago is that I am now not so precious about having my AKs 'stock' (i.e. unmodified). My days of being an avid fan of the 'Red Alliance' forum - with all the annul self-righteousness about not using 'Western' accessories on my Eastern Block replica guns - are over and I am not so disinclined to a bit of 'tacticool' now.

To that ends I will be sparking off a series of blog entries about customising my AK-105 and as a teaser I give you this snap of some of this month's purchases...

Modern Russian 'tactical' components - a replica Zenitco folding stock for the
AK-100/AK-74 series and a real steel DTK 'Coyote' flash hider by Tactika Tula.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Getting started in World of Warships

One of the things that use to frustrate my game-playing friends about the way I approached World of Tanks was that I 'didn't take it seriously'. I didn't learn how to use the tanks 'properly', I didn't use some of the third-party 'mods' that indicated tanks weak spots and I never really made the best use of 'armour angling'.

Well, I have started playing Wargaming.net's new naval warfare arcade-sim called - predictably - World of Warships and this time I thought I'd look into the theory of how to play the game rather than just 'winging it' (as I did in WoT)!

This time I'm making a conscious effort not to do so many 'stupid things'. And I have began as I mean to go on by actually watching some of the very good quality game tutorials that are available online. YouTube game-bloggers like iChaseGaming, BaronVonGamezeNtaKPhlyDaily and many more upload oodles of 'how to' videos regarding World of Warships...



As much as anything some of these guides are very interesting and do give something of a historical background to some of the issues that WW2 naval commanders had to consider when going into battle. Techniques and tactics like fleet cooperation, gun laying, mutual support and armour angling (yes this can be as important with a ship as it is with a tank) are not only going to help you last longer but also help your team performance improve as well.

There is a danger that you can approach WoWS as if you are playing pirates, sailing directly at an opponent and trying to slug it out with broadsides...This is mistake number one!

YAR! ...Er, NOT how you should play World of Warships!
More so than World of Tanks it's your primary assets - aircraft carriers and battleships - that will dictate the result of the game and every other class is simply a supporting role. While in World of Tanks everyone seemed to think that their tank - no matter what class - could have a major impact on the direction of the game (however misguided that was) with World of Warships nearly every game I have played has been dictated by how well the battleships have been supported and used.

So, the short story is - if you want to be a part of a winning team in WoWS learn your role!


(I know World of Tank enthusiasts will point our that that is how WoT should be approached as well, but it was my experience that because the majority of players 'played for themselves' in public games the game outcomes in Tanks were a lot more random. Clan Battles were a different thing.)

Moreover, the difference in power between a destroyer and a battleship is so much more apparent than the difference between a light tank and a heavy tank. This is particularly evident because on the high seas there is no where to hide!


You won't be playing World of Warships long before you start hearing players talking about
the 'citadel'. It's the WoWS holy grail of 'good hits' and yet you are very much left to find
out just what it's all about yourself - here's a video that will demystify this WoWS jargon.

I will let you know how my new found gaming ethos will pan out. At the very least if I take things a bit more seriously I shouldn't annoy my team-mates as much! (In theory.) ;)

Friday, 26 June 2015

So, what is Insurgency like?


OK, I've now had some time to really get to grips with Insurgency so thought it was about time I gave you my views on it.

But right off the bat I'll have to tell you that I'm very pleased I bought this game - and even more pleased that it didn't cost a huge amount (in fact STEAM have just had it on sale for the price of just £4.99 which is crazy). In fact I will go as far as saying that this game has rekindled my tactical shooter mojo.


If I had to put my finger on why I think this game is a terrific little 'tactical shooter lite' it's because it gives players a choice in how they play the game. The differing game modes really provide something for everyone, and because the game is heavily 'mod' based if a mode doesn't exist then just wait a while and you can bet your bottom dollar that it soon will do!

Myself, I have gotten really addicted with the co-op mode. Playing against bots may not be everybody's cup of tea but I really like the teamwork that results from live-players playing hoards of bots. Insurgency is turning out to be the best co-op game I've played since the original Ghost Recon - and I do not say that lightly.

(By the way, because of this emphasis on teamwork I have not read or heard the word 'noob' ONCE in the couple of weeks I have been playing this game...How nice is that?)


Variety is the spice of life and each map change seems to bring you the challenge
of tailoring your play style, weapon choice and character to a new environment.

Anyway, rather than me ramble on - as I do - I came across a video by BillyEatWorld Gaming that absolutely encapsulated my views of Insurgency. So instead of my reinventing teh wheel, so to speak, take a look at this...



To conclude, I see a lot of potential for this game (and games like it) - casual takes on the tactical shooter format which allow allow 'tactical shooter' fans like me get a quick fix and a lot of variety (rather than sitting down for a marathon 2 or 3 hour tactical infantry warfare fest, like ArmA or Project Reality).

One of my favourite maps is Buhriz because it reminds me so much of the sort
advance and capture gameplay I used to like in Battlefield 2. But also Insurgency
'keeps it real' and depicts battle scenarios that we are familiar with and not 'futuristic'
fantasy environments and weapons (no drones or invisibility cloaks here)!

Friday, 19 June 2015

Project Reality - general impressions

OK, this isn't going to be one of my rambling diatribes [I wrote this when I began, but you can see what happened in the end] - I just wanted to acknowledge that I've looked at this game, played it a bit and so give you a few of my initial thoughts and concerns about Project Reality 1.3 stand alone.

One of the very attractive aspects of Project Reality - and the beauty of a mod
based game mechanism - is that very niche player wishes can be incorporated.
It's particularly nice to see some army models that aren't just American - the
British Army models are very welcome and very well done.

To begin with - a LOT of people have jumped on this band wagon. It's had a lot of publicity from some of the celebrity YouTube gamers and their positive comments and exciting videos - along with the game being FREE - has meant that there has been a big rush to download it. This - as it turns out - is a good and bad thing...

My principal observation is that when PR was a little harder to install (being a BF2 mod) it attracted a hard-core of very dedicated enthusiasts who were very much into the philosophy of the game. Project Reality is a highly enhanced version of Battlefield 2 (though also available for ArmA) and it adds many new features to the basic BF2 game, but mainly it focuses on even greater and more enhanced teamwork and 'realistic' squad mechanics.

The original PR player community was renowned for being a somewhat serious lot who approached the game more as an infantry/squad quasi-simulation than an arcade tactical FPS (which BF2 was). An example of this is that in a previous attempt to 'get into' this game I was once told off for not using correct 'radio discipline' when communicating with my squad!

In some ways you might say that Project Reality (when conceived in conjunction with BF2) was an early attempt to create something along the lines of what ArmA would eventually be.

Graphically the quality of PR varies - there are times a very decent job has been done
of the visuals, but at other times you do think 'Battlefield 2'. This back-wards step -
while an unavoidable necessity - is a little off-putting when you have been playing BF4!

Now the problem is this...Many people have been - as I said - attracted to this game and not all, I have to say, are completely up to speed with the player philosophy which goes with the game. To them it is just a free game which 'people have said is good'. The up-shot of this is that if you are trying PR for the first time and like me were attracted to it by the videos of Bluedrake or JackFrags et al - which show off some pretty cool tactical team-play - you *may* be slightly disappointed.

My first evenings attempt to play this game had me searching for a suitable server - no great problem as the boom in popularity means there is a good number of PR servers out there at the moment. But once in things didn't go quite how I imagined they would...

Of the few servers I joined none of them displayed team-centric play I had expected and despite my many attempts to use the various communication tools that were available many people simply seemed to be treating Pr 1.3 as a replacement for the now defunct BF2. Lots of PR 'noobs' were just running around like the game was an arcade shooter looking for kill scores.

Project Reality squeezes every ounce of possibility out of the poor old BF2
engine. Maps are a example of how the developers pushed the envelope of the
original EA game into a game which has ArmA-like ambitions.

In a way this isn't surprising. BF2 had a good following and despite the fact that it was superseded by BF3 and BF4 quite a few people still stuck doggedly to Battlefield 2 and there was a modest little community of regular players. So when EA turned the tap off (withdrawing backend and server support) and - coincidentally - PR released it's stand alone version of it's game I am pretty sure a lot of these errant BF2 fans jumped ship to PR 1.3 simply to continue playing a 'BF2-like' game.

Anyway, in the end I did ramble, but the point is this. If you want to play Project Reality as it was intended that you play the game - as a semi-serious semi-sim - then do yourself a favour and hook up with one of the gaming clans who support this sort of play. Otherwise your PR experience - as mine was - may turn out to be little more than a chaotic farce.

There is something almost schizophrenic about Project Reality and a lot of this
has to do with the servers you play on and the people you play with. The right
servers and players make PR 1.3 the tactical quasi-sim you have heard it is, but
in the wrong company it quickly degenerates into the worst aspects of BF2.

AND FINALLY...

Be aware that to get the most out of Project Reality you have to be ready to 'read the manual' or at the very least watch a half-dozen or so tutorial videos...

Project Reality 1.3 IS NOT Battlefield 2! (You definitely will not pick it up and become proficient at it in a half an hour.)

[I may give PR 1.3 one more try as I have found a community that does take the game seriously. But I just cannot shake off the nagging idea that Project Reality is like a rough sketch for a game that people would like to have, only PR isn't quite it! The word is that that game is probably called 'Squad' and is - predictably - by the people who developed Project Reality!]