Thursday, December 29, 2011

Q&A: Is Airsoft Just for Gun Nuts?

A friend of mine recently had some questions for me regarding Airsoft. He was interested in becoming involved in the hobby but was not sure if it was for him. I thought these questions were relevant to a lot of new Airsoft players and frankly did not like the answers that he got from others he had asked. So I’ve decided to repeat his questions and my answers to them here.

1) Is there a place in Airsoft groups for somebody who has no interest in firearms, the military, or any related phenomena? Is everyone who plays a gun-nut?

As a person who has no interest in firearms or the military, this is a simple question to answer. I’m just a regular person who enjoys the adrenaline rush and physical conditioning that Airsoft offers. I actually picked up Airsoft originally because I needed a sport to do in the summer when I couldn't ski. Most of the people I know have similar personalities and either picked up Airsoft as young kids or just enjoy the adrenaline.

At the end of the day it doesn't matter if you are into guns or the military or not. The Airsoft community is just like any other sports community. It’s just a group of people that come together and have a lot of fun, and really enjoy a game. If you are there, enjoying the game, then you belong to that group and will be accepted. I've never had anyone be aggressive or really even impolite to me at an Airsoft game. And for what it’s worth, most of the people I know personally who play Airsoft have never even fired a real gun.
Airsoft Scopes at
2) Are there some locations / groups / play-styles that are less focused on military simulation and more on just having good fun / more fantastical scenarios?

Technically Airsoft is milsim and you will hear people call it milsim. But unless you are at a scenario game, the games are run basically identically to paintball games. You will see people with military uniforms, sometimes even patches. But you will also see people with patches like "Raccoon City Police Department" (from the Resident Evil video games). I remember one local team was called the "Pansy Boys" and their logo was Duke Nukem holding a daisy. It is also common to play "Zombie" games, Capture the Flag, or "Football" (where one flag is in the center and a team has to take the flag to the opponent's end zone). My local place even does a zombie game every Halloween with people in full zombie makeup.
Tactical Airsoft Gear at
 3) Are there quality Airsoft guns that aren't trying to look like real firearms?

Not really. There are a few that come to mind, like the Jing GongThunder Maul, but almost all guns you find will be based on actual firearms. For many this is a draw of the sport though and adds to the fun.
High End Airsoft Guns from
4) What is a good way for somebody brand new to try out the sport? Do Airsoft centers rent out guns/equipment?

The best place to try Airsoft is at a professional Airsoft field, they are all over the US and there is sure to be one in your area. Some Airsoft fields do rent equipment, yes. Call in advance and ask. Airsoft Guns
5) How badly do the BBs hurt? Is it about comparable to paintballs?

BBs hurt, on average, much less than paintballs. They also only leave small welts instead of massive purple/yellow bruises like paintballs tend to. Just make sure to use common sense and keep a minimum safe distance depending on how hot of a gun you are firing. Safety always comes first, so if you don't know how to be safe with your Airsoft gun, you have no business firing it.

For any further questions about getting in to the exciting world of Airsoft, check out the HobbyTron Forum. We have Airsoft experts standing by and waiting to answer your question, so just post it up in the Airsoft section and we’ll get to answering it right away.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

David Blaine: Street Magician

David Blaine is one of the most well-known illusionists of the modern era. His first television show, David Blaine: Street Magic aired in 1997 and immediately started a craze for street magic. His illustrious career includes street magic tricks, large scale stage performances and incredible feats of endurance. He has been referred to as a modern day Houdini. David Blaine has broken numerous world records and continues to amaze the world with his unique brand of magic.
Blaine was born in Brooklyn, New York and attended various schools there while he was being raised by his mother. She eventually married and Blaine moved to New Jersey to attend high school before eventually moving to Manhattan at the age of 17. When Blaine was only four years old he saw a magic performance on the subway and was immediately interested. Blaine has a half brother named Michael Bukalo.
Blaine’s Street Magic special is widely considered one of the most important magic specials ever shown on television. Penn Jillette of Penn and Teller fame called it the biggest breakthrough “done in our lifetime”. Much of the show’s focus is on the audience, and this was really the first time magic performances were filmed this way. Blaine also remains calm and collected through most of the routines, not employing some of the classic patter techniques that magicians are familiar with or any over the top gestures. His second special, Magic Man, would take the show on the road around numerous major American cities.
After the success of his specials, Blaine turned to massive spectacles of endurance and strength. Most of these have been performed in public or on television, many have broken world records, and all are frankly amazing. His first show of endurance was Buried Alive in 1999. Blaine stayed underground in an enclosed plastic coffin for seven days. He ate nothing and drank only a few tablespoons of water per day. It is estimated that over 75,000 people visited the site during the display, and Harry Houdini’s niece even stopped by to say that her Uncle never could have performed such a feat.
Possibly the most amazing stunt ever performed by Blaine was Frozen in Time. During this display, Blaine was enclosed completely in ice for over 63 hours. Again he ate nothing, but was supplied with water through a tube in the ice. Thousands came to witness the amazing spectacle. After being cut out, Blaine was rushed to the hospital and treated for shock. Blaine claimed that he was not able to walk for a month after the stunt and that he would never again attempt a feat of endurance so grand.
Other feats of endurance by Blaine include standing on top of a 100 foot pole for 35 hours then jumping 88 feet to a landing platform made out of cardboard boxes, sitting in a raised Plexiglas case for 44 days without food, sitting underwater for seven days, holding his breath underwater for over 17 minutes, being attached to a gyroscope for 52 hours then escaping from shackles and jumping to a platform 30 feet below and being hung upside down from a building for 60 hours. Imagine putting all that down on a resume.

Blaine has also been involved in numerous charity shows for such organizations as the Salvation Army and Hole in the Wall Gang Camp. He also raised almost $100,000 for Haiti by performing magic in Times Square for 72 hours straight. He has announced a new show for May of 2012 that will apparently be entirely comprised of street magic and use all new material. One thing is for certain, David Blaine has some serious willpower and work ethic. Check out’s magic section for a full selection of magic tricks and gimmicks, including some from the man himself, David Blaine.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Airsoft Review: ICS MP5

ICS Electric MP5A63 (DYT-ICS-63)
The ICS MP5 has long been a pretty iconic gun in the airsoft community. It is an attractive gun for beginners with its reliable performance and metal body. Until some years ago it was one of the few choices for those who didn’t want to spend Classic Army or Tokyo Marui money but still wanted a high quality gun. Nowadays the Chinese companies have stepped up their quality and many of the guns from companies like CYMA and Jing Gong are quite reliable. Companies like Classic Army and G&G have also started making cheaper models of their guns for the entry level market. So, with all these new options, does the ICS MP5 still stack up?
ICS Electric MP5A2 (DYT-ICS-03)
ICS offers a wide variety of MP5 models. The main differences are in the lower receiver and the stock. The SD models are the same as their corresponding numbered model but include a silencer. So an MP5 SD5 will be the same as an MP5 A5 but have a silencer. The silencers don’t do anything, but they look really cool and down the road you can extend the barrel into the silencer for improved accuracy. Stock choice is personal preference and should be an easy choice to make. The only options are retractable and full. I prefer full stocks but it’s all about what feels best. Retractable stocks are more versatile as you get the option between a couple of different lengths.
Electric ICS MP515 (HT-ICS-15)
The final difference between models is in the lower receiver, of which there are two kinds. One option is the “SEF” receiver, named for the letters that designate different firing modes (in German). The other option is the “Navy” receiver. The Navy receiver is completely ambidextrous whereas the SEF receiver is only designed for use by right handed people. For this reason, lefties should probably choose the Navy receiver. Those who are right handed should take the SEF receiver, because the fire selector switch on the Navy receiver models is places slightly awkwardly and those with bigger hands will find it actually touches their hand while holding the gun, and this can be fairly annoying.
ICS Electric MP5A64 (DYT-ICS-64)
The externals are pretty excellent on the ICS MP5 range, and this is one of the big draws to the guns. The metal is fairly high quality, not top of the line but not pot metal by any means either. You don’t get any official trademarks although they are stamped with 9mmX19 instead of having the 6mm BB stamp. They come with metal clips as well that are excellent. The externals are hardy and things like the sling attachment points aren’t going to break off. I’ve known a ton of people with this gun and none of them have ever managed to break it. I did find one unfortunate soul who managed to break one in half at the front grip, so it is possible to break them and they aren’t indestructible. But other than this one person (who apparently fell directly on the gun with its barrel pointed down), I’ve never known anyone to break any external parts of this gun.

Performance is good and reliable on the ICS MP5 line. They tend to come badly shimmed from the factory but if this is taken care of and regular maintenance is performed then these will run for years. They shoot around 320FPS stock with .2g BBs and shoot pretty consistently – within 10 FPS. The gearbox and internal components are capable of withstanding stronger springs than the one they come with, anything up to an M110 spring should be no problem and it is easy to get these guns shooting over 400FPS simply by dropping a new spring in. Rate of fire is respectable although not blisteringly fast. Obviously this can be upgraded as well with larger batteries or by downgrading the spring. Inside the V2 gearbox is very standard, ICS doesn’t use funny gears or pistons or anything. The wiring is excellent and should hold up for a good long while.
Many of the new ICS MP5 models feature the ICS split gearbox. This is a new style gearbox that allows for the easy switching of springs. Say your gun shoots 450FPS and you want to play a field with a 350FPS limit, you can easily switch out the springs. As any experienced airsofter knows, switching a gearbox’s spring can be very annoying. It requires a screwdriver long and skinny enough to hold the spring in place and is really a big hassle. With the ICS split gearbox it can be accomplished easily in 10 minutes. It is also possible to just have two gearbox tops with different springs, and then switching can be accomplished in seconds. There are a few compatibility issues with the split gearbox and non-ICS parts. But they have proved reliable and are very useful.

Overall, the ICS MP5 line makes an excellent choice for beginners or experts. I personally think they are worth the extra $50 or so over the cheaper Chinese brands as they are made from good materials and known to be reliable. I think they are a better option than “Sportline” guns from the big companies as well, as these tend to have plastic bodies and sometimes even downgraded internals. Another great thing is that with so many new options for beginning players, ICS are kind of out of style right now. Used to be you would walk into an airsoft field and see ICS everywhere, sometimes including the field’s rental guns. Now they are a little bit rarer which means you won’t have the same gun as everyone else (everyone else will have an M16 variant anyway).

Head over to to check out some of the ICS MP5 models currently in stock and we’ll see you on the field.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Life of Harry Houdini: Part 3

By 1915 Harry Houdini was virtually on top of the entertainment world. He was an international celebrity, a top vaudeville performer and had amazed millions with his illusions either directly or indirectly. But in the coming years his fame would continue to grow ever larger. 1915 was the first year Houdini performed his famous “Buried Alive” stunt that would become one of his most famous routines. The first variation almost killed him. He was put six feet under (literally, six feet) and became panicked as he attempted to dig himself out. As his hand broke the surface he became unconscious and had to be rescued by his assistants.

His second variation of “Buried Alive” didn’t appear until 1926 and was intended to debunk a performer named Rahman Bey who claimed to use supernatural powers to stay sealed in a casket for an hour. Houdini was placed in a casket that was then submerged in the pool of New York’s Hotel Shelton. He remained there for an hour and a half. Later that same year he performed the stunt again in Massachusetts. Houdini had a third variation planned but it is unknown whether he every performed the stunt, as he died the year before it was planned to be unveiled.
“Buried Alive” was not Houdini’s first or last attempt at debunking those who claimed the use of supernatural powers in their illusions or performances. He debunked many purported mediums such as Mina Crandon and George Valentine by going to séances undercover and brining reporters along. He wrote a book about his debunking quests, titled “A Magician Among the Spirits”. Interestingly, a man by the name of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle believed that Houdini himself used supernatural powers to achieve his illusions and released a book in 1931 claiming exactly that.

Houdini created a number of short films in the early 1900’s and would show them at his performances. Many of these films are now lost and the nature of some of them is unknown. Regardless, in 1909 Houdini made a film for French audiences titled “Merveilleux Exploits du Célébre Houdini à Paris” (Marvellous Exploits of the Famous Houdini in Paris). It was mostly comprised of footage of his most famous escapes, with a narrative thrown in almost as an afterthought. This and his various other short films, as well as his massive fame, got him the starring part in “The Master Mystery”. This part secured him a contract with Paramount Pictures, for whom he starred in “The Grim Game” and “Terror Island”.

After these two films, Houdini started his own production company and named it Houdini Picture Corporation. HPC produced two films in which Houdini starred, titled “The Man from Beyond” and “Haldane of the Secret Service”. His films had little success and Houdini left the film business in 1923. He still managed to get himself a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame though.
Houdini continued to do his stage spectaculars, with the longest run of his career coming from “Cheer Up”, which has been described as a patriotic extravaganza. Many of his most famous routines were featured in the show and he also made an Elephant vanish and performed his underwater box escape as a special stage version. This was the height of Houdini’s fame, evidenced by the 1920 edition of Funk & Wagnall's dictionary including “houdinize” as a verb that meant to wriggle oneself free from something.

Houdini died on Halloween 1926. He died at age 52, the number of cards in a standard playing deck. He was half way through his life and aged 26 in 1900, almost as if the new century cut the deck of his life exactly in the center. Despite Houdini’s aggravation with those who claimed spiritual powers, his wife Bess conducted séances on Halloween every year after his death till 1937. They were attended by famous magicians and old friends of Houdini. Although Bess eventually stopped the séances, they continue around the world to this day.

Love MAGIC? We all love to see a well executed magic trick. Come check out our all new magic tricks by famous magicians at

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Life of Harry Houdini: Part 2

Houdini returned to America as an international superstar. While in Europe he escaped from many notorious jails after being stripped naked and searched. He also won a court case in Germany after he was accused of using bribery to aide in his escapes. Legend has it that he won the case after opening the judge’s safe, which it turns out he had just forgotten to lock. Fact states that he demonstrated a few of his handcuff techniques for the courtroom, including revealing the fact that some handcuffs could be escaped from by simply banging them on a hard object. In London he escaped from the “Mirror Cuffs”, which had taken a blacksmith 5 years to build and had locks that were impossible to pick. Houdini escaped from the cuffs in about an hour.
Houdini bought a luxurious Brownstone residence with his newfound wealth upon his return. His whole family moved in and it would be his base of operations for years. The year after his return, Houdini stunned spectators by escaping from the prison cell in Washington D.C. that once held Charles Guiteau, the man who assassinated President James Garfield. By this point Houdini was a force to be reckoned with, and in the next few years his list of accomplishments grew ever longer.

Over the next few years Houdini would invent some of his most celebrated illusions, such as his manacled bridge jumps and his extremely famous milk can escapes. If Houdini was unable to escape from the milk can and did not receive assistance, he would have drowned. This added a level of danger to the act that would become a sort of signature of Houdini’s performances. In 1908 he wrote a controversial book called “The Unmasking of Robert-Houdin”. In the book he would accuse his former hero (Houdini’s stage name is simply Houdin with the addition of an “I”, which Houdini incorrectly believed meant “like Houdin” in French. The book would accuse Houdin of performing old routines and claiming them as his own, and Houdini actually traced the original origins of many of Houdin’s routines. He also claimed that Houdin exaggerated many of his accomplishments, a criticism that would occasionally be thrown at Houdini by other magicians.

Houdini was interested in flight and aviation, and in 1910 did something truly remarkable when he flew his Voisin Biplane in Sydney, Australia. It was one of the first human flights ever recorded, lasted a full three minutes, and was the first human flight recorded on camera. Houdini’s performances would become even more dangerous and exciting in the next few years as he created his underwater box escape and his Chinese Water Torture Cell escape, the latter of which is the illusion for which Houdini is best known.

The Chinese Water Torture Cell escape involved Houdini being lowered upside down into a locked steel and glass container filled with water. The performance involved Houdini holding his breath for over three minutes. It quickly became one of his most celebrated acts and he performed it for the rest of his life. Popular belief is that Houdini died while performing this escape and his death was portrayed that way in two separate Hollywood films. In fact, the Chinese Water Torture Cell escape had nothing to do with the death of Houdini.

1913 was a year of great change for Harry Houdini, who finally legally changed his name from Ehrich Weiss. On July 17, 1913, Cecilia Weiss died. Houdini was performing for the Swedish Royal Family at the time and apparently fainted when he was delivered the news after the performance. Houdini always was a family man. His career showed no signs of slowing down and would only continue to grow as he enjoyed his spot as America’s top vaudeville performer. Soon Houdini would turn his gaze to another form of entertainment as well – the silver screen.

Interested in MAGIC? Come check out our huge supply of magic tricks at

New Airsoft Field to Open in Los Angeles

Five years ago there were almost no dedicated places to play Airsoft in the Los Angeles area. Now there are more fields popping up every day and a lot of options for the SoCal airsoft player. Tac City (formerly Airsoft Playground) continues to run one of the most exciting indoor CQB fields around and they have a dedicated player base. Jericho moved a little farther out of LA but now have even more impressive fields as well as running extremely fun vehicle games on the last weekend of every month where players can take aim at enemies form the back of a moving pickup or fire a vehicle-mounted heavy Airsoft machine gun.
Giant Paintball has also entered the fray and begun constructing Airsoft dedicated fields at their various paintball fields. SC Village was the first in the area with their SC Viper complex. It is a large outdoor field modeled on an Afghan village and contains some unique props and bunkers as well as a two-story building. Recently Santa Clarita’s own California Paintball Park opened a field for airsoft as well, known as Airsoft City. It is a fairly large field with a pretty high bunker density, and it is very fun. In eight days, Giant Paintball is set to open yet another Airsoft dedicated field, this time at Hollywood Sports Park. It will be known as HSP Combat Center.
Hollywood Sports Park has been serving paintball players for a number of years now with their friendly staff and extremely fun fields. The fields are actual movie sets from films such as Godzilla, Starship Troopers and Saving Private Ryan. They run some fun scenario games as well and overall it is a great paintball experience. They are located off the I-91 and Lakewood Boulevard, towards Long Beach. Hollywood Sports Park has a great track record with the paintball community and they have been extremely successful since they opened. The complex also contains a massive arcade, BMX racing, indoor soccer and even an RC racing track.
The new Airsoft field opens on Sunday, December 11th and you can play for free from 9am to 4pm as part of a grand opening event. The following description of the field is taken from the HSP Combat Center Website. “The HSP Combat Center, located just off the I-91 and Lakewood Blvd in California, is a state of the art Airsoft complex centrally located to Los Angeles. Housed in a specially custom-built facility at the legendary Hollywood Sports Airsoft Park, the HSP Combat Center features a full M.O.U.T.-style Afghan village complete with 2-story perches, city streets, and building to building firefights. The concourse was designed and constructed by the world-renown field/map developers of Giant Airsoft, who were also responsible for building the hugely successfully SC Viper complex at the SC Village Airsoft Park in Corona, CA. The HSP Combat Center is perfect for elite airsofters looking for the most realistic urban combat operational zone in all of the West Coast.” They failed to mention, but Giant also built the field at California Paintball Park.
The HSP website features a virtual tour of the new field and from the pictures to looks to be an exciting experience. As someone who has spent some time on their paintball fields I can say that I have the utmost confidence in their new Airsoft field. As if playing for free on Dec. 11th wasn’t enough, they will also be having free giveaways, prizes, a vendor village and military simulations. It should be a party and I’m sure it’s worth the trip. Field rules don’t seem to be available yet but there will be a 350FPS limit and the field is apparently available seven days a week for private party rentals. Any new local Airsoft field is cause for celebration, and HSP Combat Center seems like it will become one of the most exciting fields in Los Angeles. So head on over to and pick up some Airsoft guns and we'll see you on the field.

The Life of Harry Houdini: Part 1

Harry Houdini is, without a doubt, the most famous magician in history. His illustrious career as a performer, producer and actor spanned almost three decades and he inspired millions with his illusions and feats of strength. From humble beginnings in a first generation American family Houdini launched himself into the world and became an entertainment mogul the likes of which have scarcely been seen before or since.

Houdini was born in Budapest, Hungary on March 24, 1874. His given name was Erik Weisz and at the age of four his family immigrated to America on the S.S. Fresia. The Weisz family settled in Appleton, Wisconsin. Houdini would claim it as his birthplace throughout his life. Houdini’s family changed their name during the process of immigration, as many do. His surname became Weiss and Erik became Ehrick.
In 1882 Harry became an American citizen and in 1887 he moved to New York. He began his performing career as a trapeze artist. He became a magician in 1891 under the name Harry Houdini. The surname was a tribute to the famous French magician Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin, who was one of the most famous magicians of his time and one of those to blaze the trail that nearly all modern magicians would one day follow.

Houdini was only 5’5” and had a high pitched voice. He once listed Hollywood, California as his favorite city and Auld Lang Syne as his favorite song. His brother was New York’s first X-ray technician and Harry would let his brother practice on him quite often. He was possibly sterilized by this habit as he never had any children. Houdini was also extremely athletic and a successful cross country runner in his youth.

Houdini started with card magic but soon found his true calling with escapism. In 1898 Houdini created the “Challenge Act”, whereby he would escape from any set of handcuffs produced by the audience. He then met a man named Martin Beck who was impressed with his handcuff act and became Houdini’s manager. In 1900 Beck arranged a European tour for Houdini. In Europe he traveled to major cities across the continent and asked to be arrested by the local police force. He would then be shackled and placed in their jails, only to escape. In Moscow Houdini escaped from a prison transport van that could only be unlocked in Siberia.
Houdini returned to America in 1904 a rich and happy man. At this point in his career he was famous as a vaudeville performer in America and an escape artist throughout Europe. He had come a long way from the struggling magician who once offered to sell all his secrets through a newspaper ad for $20. Once back in America, Harry would continue his path to becoming the greatest magician ever known.

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Monday, December 5, 2011

RC Icons: The Sand Scorcher

An Original Tamiya Sand Scorcher
Sometimes a product transcends what it was originally intended for. Certain moments and technologies just change things forever. Inanimate objects can become heroes and timeless icons. The Sand Scorcher from Tamiya is one of those products. It was released in 1979 and the RC world changed forever. Without the Sand Scorcher, RC cars today would be very different and probably much less popular. The Sand Scorcher changed people’s perceptions of what an RC car could be and spawned a new class of RC vehicle built for off-road racing.
2010 Tamiya Sand Scorcher Remake
Until the release of the Sand Scorcher, RC racing was done exclusively on tracks. RC cars of the time did not have working suspension, and the hobby was loosely associated with slot car racing in the early days. The Sand Scorcher introduced new technologies that would allow off-road RC racing to become a reality. The popularity of off-road racing skyrocketed and it is now the most popular class of RC racing. This also dramatically increased the popularity of RC racing as a whole.

The Sand Scorcher was a 1:10 scale RC car, the sixteenth model made by Tamiya. Some of the revolutionary features included working suspension modeled on that of the Volkswagen Beetle, shared parts with the Rough Rider, another early off-road model, mostly metal components and a waterproof case for the on board electronics that made driving through water possible. Even today, only top of the line off-road beasts have waterproofed electronics. The Sand Scorcher also had metal, oil-filled shock absorbers, ribbed front tires and paddle-type rear tires and a chassis constructed of a fiberglass plate with metal supports.

The Sand Scorcher’s influence was so great that original models fetch prices of up to $5000 at auction. The Sand Scorcher was also featured in the Australian cult film Malcolm about a man who robs banks and also enjoys his hobbies. In the film he uses a Sand Scorcher with a gun and camera attached to rob a bank. Tamiya even commissioned a full sized version of the Sand Scorcher to be built in 2010. The impressive final product was an exact replica of the Sand Scorcher, down to the recognizable tires and the iconic sticker job.

The popularity of the Sand Scorcher is so great that last year Tamiya decided to produce a 30 year anniversary edition. The re-release was almost identical to the original Sand Scorcher but contained a modern electronic speed control instead of the mechanical one used in the original, and a few more die-cast parts. The re-release coincided with re-releases of two other classic Tamiya models, the Rough Rider and Buggy Champ, the latter of which shares its chassis with the Sand Scorcher.

The Sand Scorcher has a pedigree of the type usually reserved for actual, full sized cars. It revitalized RC racing, spawned an entirely new type of off-road RC racing, starred in an Australian film, was made into a giant and dominated competitions. Without this vehicle, the entire world of RC racing would look incredibly different. So pay your respects and raise your glasses, to an RC car that did more in the last 30 years than most people do in their entire lives. 

Make sure to come and visit to see all of our exciting RC Buggies.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Early History of RC Cars

Every important thing to ever come out of the country Wales has come from a little coastal town called Swansea. Dylan Thomas, who inspired countless individuals with his poetry in the early 1900’s came from Swansea. Catherine Zeta-Jones, the incredibly attractive Hollywood star, is also from Swansea. Howard Marx, who was at one point the biggest hashish smuggler in the world and had his life turned into a major motion picture is from Swansea as well. And in 1967, in a model shop in Swansea, one of the first ever remote control cars was on sale. It came from an Italian company called Elettronica Giocattoli, and it was a 1:12 scale model of a Ferrari 250 LM.
Ferrari 250 LM
The model was popular enough for a second one to be produced, this time a 1:10 scale replica of the Ferrari P4. It was shown at the Milan Fair in 1968. The world of RC cars was about to begin. The next major company was a British one named Mardave. They still produce RC cars made in the UK to this day. A race was held at Berk Hampsted in 1971 and their model won. The next year in Leicester they built the world’s first permanent RC racing track. The early 70’s would see numerous small American companies enter the fray as well, and it seemed as if RC cars were on the map. At the time, the scene was dominated by 1:8 scale nitro cars.

In 1974 a company by the name of Jerobee developed a 1:12 scale nitro car. Soon other companies started developing parts for it and it became extremely popular. It was a major influence in the creation of a 1:12 scale racing circuit, which eventually became very popular. It was also at this point that individuals began building their own cars from scratch. RC racing had remained relatively the same for its ten or so year existence, but that would all change in 1976 when the Japanese company Tamiya decided to try their hand at the world of RC.
Traxxas Jato 3.3 Nitro Truck
Tamiya Corporation is a well-known Japanese manufacturer that sprung up directly after WWII. At the time, they were known for their highly detailed models of cars, boats and various other things. They produced a run of RC cars that looked incredible and were well designed but did not exactly possess high performance. Nevertheless, they were popular and sold out quickly. Then in 1979 they released the Sand Scorcher and the Rough Rider, the two first RC vehicles designed for off-road use. They were based on the buggy design and were the first RC cars to feature real working suspension. They began manufacturing trucks as well, and produced the first vehicles with realistic 3-speed transmissions.
Redcat Racing Lightning STR 1:10 Nitro Car
The popularity of the Tamiya models skyrocketed and they can be credited as being responsible for creating the RC car market. RC racing would see a boom in the 80’s as people began racing both on and off-road. During this time tires became more realistic, motors became bigger, components became more durable and RC monster trucks were born. Many of the Tamiya models from this time are now considered vintage and fetch thousands of dollars at auction. However, a British company was about to make the largest change to RC cars since working suspension and off-road rubber tires.
Traxxas Mustang Boss VXL 1:16 Scale Electric Car
Schumacher Racing Products is a company that started in 1980 in Northampton. For the first year they manufactured only components for other RC cars, but the next year they would produce their first car as well. Their gift to the world of RC racing is the ball differential. Ball differentials use small ball bearings instead of bevel gears and allow for a lot more adjustability. Before the creation of the ball differential, drivers simply did not have many options for field adjustability. Ball differentials allowed a massive number of tuning options for different track conditions.
HPI Racing 1:5 Scale Baja 5B V2.0 Gas Buggy
Other companies would start producing their own models with ball differentials and it quickly became the standard. Schumacher continues to produce RC cars today, and they have won a great many Championships in all manner of classes and categories. Without the dedication of companies like Schumacher and Tamiya, RC racing today would look very different indeed. As the 80’s progressed, RC cars would continue to improve both technologically and ascetically. The modern era of RC racing was about to begin… 

Now there are numerous companies that build RC cars for our enjoyment. Traxxas, HPI and Redcat Racing name just a few of the top of the line companies that keep this hobby at the cutting edge. So come on down or log on to and pick up an RC car that you will enjoy for years to come today.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Alphonse Pénaud: Father of the Model Airplane

Alphonse Pénaud is a name many people may not have heard, but also a name that everyone involved in RC aircraft should recognize and respect. His time on earth was short, he was born in Paris in 1850 and committed suicide in 1880 at the age of 30. But during that short time, he shook the scientific world and changed everyone’s perspective of what mankind was capable of. He did it all with a simple tool – a controllable model airplane. Yes, Alphonse Pénaud is the father of model airplanes, and model helicopters as well. Of course, back when he was making them no full-sized airplanes had ever been produced. His work would be an inspiration for the next generation of scientists and engineers, and eventually help to create a human flying machine.
Pénaud built many models, but his principle concern was the “Planophore”. The Planophore was a small model aircraft with a wingspan of only about one and a half feet. It was powered by a rubber band and resembled a modern day balsa wood airplane kit. Two major versions were produced, one with a standard tractor propeller located in front of the plane, and another with a push propeller located in the rear. He would continue to improve his Planophore for the duration of his life, adding weights and making the models more aerodynamically sound. He even invented wing washout to solve one of its problems, a feature that would later be seen on full sized modern aircraft.
P40 Warhawk Balsa Wood Nitro Airplane
The Planophore was the first model of its type and Pénaud travelled around demonstrating its flight capabilities. It was endorsed by the Société Française de Navigation Aérienne, a recently formed French society for aeronautical navigation. Pénaud developed other flying models as well. His first ever model (even before the Planophore) was a basic helicopter design that he had built by a watchmaker to exacting specifications. It even had gold plated propeller blades. Imagine how much your co-axial would cost with gold plated blades. He tried his hand at ornithopters as well, producing a model that was able to travel up to 15 meters. While this was impressive, it paled in comparison to the 60 meter flight distance of the Planophore. Later he would try different helicopter designs as well as further refining and experimenting with his Planophore design.
C-17 Global Master 6CH Electric Airplane
Pénaud was not only a designer but published many studies as well. He was a strong advocate of the internal combustion engine despite steam and electric engines being the preferred technology of the time. Many of his studies revolved around aerodynamics, drag and weight. He put forth revolutionary ideas of how to overcome the problems of flight that would become even more relevant years later during the production of full sized aircraft. He also revived the work of many former scientists and published this as well.
F-16 Fighter Jet 4CH Electric Airplane
Perhaps Pénaud’s most revolutionary design was the two passenger amphibious plane that he developed in conjunction with Paul Gauchot. This design was incredible for many reasons. First of all, it was amphibious with waterproof components and the ability to land on sea. It also had retractable landing gear, electronically controlled elevators, an air pressure indicator, bank indicator, anemometer, a windshield and even the possibility of being launched by a catapult. It was way ahead of its time and many of its features are still seen on aircraft today. The invention was registered in 1876. Three years later Pénaud would attend a meeting of the Société Française de Navigation Aérienne, where he realized the society would provide no more financial backing. Pénaud then returned home, placed all of his original blueprints in a small coffin, and shot himself.
Mini Infrared Thunder Fighter Ed Hardy Special Edition 2CH  Airplane
Although the man was dead, his ideas would continue to live on and drastically shape the future of mankind. Years later two boys in America would be given one of Pénaud’s helicopter toys by their father, and it would inspire them to new heights. These boys were named Orville and Wilbur Wright, and they would later study Pénaud’s diagrams and papers, and cite him as a major inspiration, before creating the machine that would provide the world’s first ever human flight. Today our functioning model airplanes, whether powered by the new powerful brushless electric motors or internal combustion engines, are based on full-sized airplanes. Many of them even come ready to fly because we can’t figure out how they go together. Alphonse Pénaud imagined, designed and produced model airplanes on which full-sized airplanes were based. Think about that.

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Choosing the Right BBs

Airsoft BBs come in all shapes and sizes. This is bad, because they should all be round. When compared to almost all other conventional ammunition, Airsoft BBs are the cheapest of the lot. Some real steel firearms owners actually own GBB pistols for target shooting because the ammunition is so much cheaper. However, some Airsoft ammunition is a little bit more expensive than the average BB. These high quality BBs are going to be what you want to shoot. Using low quality BBs will not only affect your range and accuracy, but can also seriously damage your gun. What you don’t pay now for BBs you will pay later in repairs. There are a few things that can go wrong when using low quality BBs. The worst things that can happen are jams and breaks. You may not think this is such a big deal, but it can cause permanent damage to your gun. For example, if the barrel becomes jammed when the gun is being fired on full auto it can cause a massive build up of BBs in your barrel and feeding tube. Now there is nowhere for the air being pushed out by the piston to go. This can cause the piston to not complete its full cycle, which will then cause the still spinning gears to strip and break and explode into tiny metal shards of pure failure. Low quality BBs can shatter easily as well and the shards of the broken BB can end up in the gearbox. The gearbox is a tightly fitted system of gears and electronics, and tiny plastic shards that shouldn’t be there will wreak all sorts of havoc on the internals. Improperly shaped BBs can even clog up your magazines, especially the spring-powered high capacity magazines that are so popular. Even if they don’t break your gun low quality BBs will render horrible accuracy and velocity because of non-uniform shape, low weight, and inconsistent calibers.
There are a couple easy ways to avoid low quality BBs and keep your gun happy and healthy. The first thing to do is buy your BBs at an Airsoft shop. I can’t say definitively that you will never find high quality BBs at sporting goods stores, and I know that sometimes Big 5 will have decent ones, but overall you have a much higher chance of picking up useless BBs from those places. Brightly colored BBs or clear BBs are mostly likely low quality. Most high quality BBs will be either white or black but you will sometimes find them in yellow, green, and other colors. Anything that doesn’t list a weight is low quality. Anything under .2g is not for your high quality gun. .12g BBs are fine for springers but in your AEGs, GBBs, and high quality spring rifles you will want to use .2g BBs. Some people prefer .25g BBs because they give you slightly better accuracy at range, which is more of a personal preference. Don’t ever use paint BBs. They always break and then your gun will be full of paint and probably ruined. Don’t use the sample BBs that come with your gun either, they are usually low quality. If you are buying biodegradable BBs for whatever reason you have to pay more attention to quality. High quality biodegradable BBs are probably the most expensive Airsoft BBs you can buy, but it is even more important that you use a high quality product when you are shooting biodegradables. I suggest Biotech brand, although there are other good ones out there.
A lot of Airsoft gun manufacturers make their own BBs and these can usually be trusted, at least the ones from Taiwanese and Japanese companies. I don’t particularly like CYMA BBs (Chinese), ICS ones are decent, Tokyo Marui and G&G ones are high quality, and Airsoft Elite are my favorite BBs. Some other high quality BBs are Madbull, GoldenBall, Systema, and Killer Beez. An important thing to keep in mind is that even containers of high quality BBs will occasionally have a deformed BB in there somewhere. If you see these, throw them out because they can cause jams.

When in doubt as to which BB company to purchase from, ask the internet or the guy behind the counter at your local Airsoft store. If you buy some BBs that are universally recognized as high quality you might be able to trade some to other players at the field and get a better idea of which brand is your favorite. High quality BBs are probably the most important investment you can make for your Airsoft gun, and it’ll thank you by not breaking every five minutes. Be safe and have fun and head on over to HobbyTron and I’ll see you on the field.