Sunday, April 20, 2008

Tactical Force TF16

Sorry that photo is so blurry. This is the Tactical Force TF16 I purchased last Sunday. The TF16 is an airsoft M4. Airsoft guns are a type of air gun. They shoot 6mm plastic pellets at relatively low velocities.

The quick history on these is that extremely strict firearms laws in Japan lead to a demand among "fans" for extremely realistic replicas of military guns that could be used for some kind of target practice. It was a short leap from shooting paper to shooting people, and now these things are used in elaborate games of tag, much like paintball. However, the nature of realistic airguns has pushed these games of tag into military simulations. And some military and law enforcement groups have latched onto the technology for force-on-force training.

Mention "force-on-force" training, and I get interested. So when I saw one of these babies in a local sports equipment store, I started salivating. The TF16 is an "AEG" or "automatic electric gun." It uses batteries to drive gears that run the air chamber. This can be done fast enough to allow a rapid rate of fire -- the TF16 is rated for 900 rounds a minute. All you have to do is hold down the trigger.

Full auto anything sounds like fun to me, but the TF16 is priced at $129.99, so I didn't snatch one up quickly. Instead, I went to several competitor stores to see what kinds of airguns that had, and what the prices were. You can imagine that a realistic looking airgun makes lots of people nervous, so most other stores had clear, plastic-cased guns. Other guns weren't AEG, but spring loaded one shot at a time. So if I wanted a gun that looked like a real-deal M4, the TF16 looked like it. I also knew the store put the airsoft guns on sale from time to time. So I waited a couple of weeks until last Sunday's flier indicated a 25%-off sale.
Once I'd finished my comparison shopping, and the sale was on... I was ready to buy my very own AEG!

The TF16 is superbly detailed in every respect. It's 1/1 scale. The stock extends. It includes accessory rails. The sights are fully adjustable. And it includes a replica "red dot" sight.

The instructions told me the batteries needed to charge between 2 and 6 hours. So I had to wait a little while before being able to try out my new air gun. In the meantime, I set up my basement target range. I jerry-rigged a target and trap. I'd be able to shoot the paper bullseye, into a net, and the pellets would drop into a bag.
Then I figured out how the magazine worked. This was fairly complicated, since you had to crank the springs in the magazine until the BBs were in place.

Once I was fully-charged, I turned on my red dot sight and slapped my magazine into place. Then I pulled back the charging handle above the pistol grip and clicked the selector switch to "semi." I was ready to rock and roll!

A few shoots later, I was hooked. Everything was working great. The red dot sights were awesome! It took me a little getting use to it. But I was able to keep both eyes open and put the red dot right on top of my target. Best of all... the BB went right where I wanted it.

At that point, I switched the selector to full auto. I pressed the trigger and cut loose with 900 rounds of BB fury! I was able to shoot out the center of my target. The shot groups were extremely tight at 20 feet on full auto.

This was heaven! Full auto fun right in my very own basement. And the sound was no worse than a typewriter. (You remember those, right?) Of course, on full auto, the magazine ran dry quickly and I had to reload.

I reloaded the weapon and started shooting again. Then I noticed that holes were no longer appearing in the paper target. I fiddled with the magazine again, and even went back to semi-auto fire. This time, the sound in the gear box changed form a stiff "whiff" to a dull "whaff." The air was no longer being directed out the barrel of the gun, but escaping out the sides of the air chamber.
My airsoft gun was defective. Talk about feeling deflated! My shooting session hadn't lasted 40 minutes. So, despite my big fun, I'm giving a hearty two-thumbs down to the Tactical Force TF16. Don't buy one! On the bright side, I was able to return the rifle to the store without a hitch.

What have we learned? Well, if the cheapo red dot sight on a crappy air gun worked this well, I can only imagine a real red dot sight works much, much better. So I'll be saving some pennies to add one for my real rifle. Second, airsoft guns don't like me.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

X-Files 2: I Want to Believe

Today we learned the title of the new X-Files movie: X-Files: I Want to Believe.

It took me a little searching, but I found this video which appears to be genuine leaked footage from some geek fest held somewhere... (I wonder if Olivia Munn attended?)

Here are a couple of other movie bones to throw you. I hope you enjoy...

Olivia Munn on YouTube...

Attack of the Show, starring Olivia Munn, and some other guy (and who really cares about his name?)


"If you need a ceiling painted, a chariot race run, a city besieged, or the Red Sea parted, you think of me." -- Charlton Heston, 1924 - 2008

Demo Dick the Sharkman of the Delta

All this digging through my boxes of action figures led me to uncover my 1/6 scale Richard Marcinko. Dick is the founder of SEAL Team 6, a convicted felon (don't mess with federal acquisition law!), and creator of the Rogue Warrior book series. This last is perhaps the least surprising, because he is notorious as a tall tale teller.

I've met Mr. Marcinko, and he even signed my copy of his biography. Actually, he ruined my first edition hardcover by personalizing the signing -- that's a big no-no. Signed copies are much more valuable if it is just the author's name, or name and date. Oh well, I'll never sell my copy so it doesn't really matter.

Anyway, toy maker BBI came out with a Dick Marcinko/Rogue Warrior action figure several years ago. They made at least two versions, one in black ops type uniform -- and seen here -- the other a combat swimmer. I have one of those too... But I can't seem to find it right now.

The other black ops SEAL seen here "training" with Dick is BBI's "Owl."

Here's a shot of Dick in his natural element... Not for nothing was SEAL Team 6's unofficial motto "WGMATATS."
Yeah... I'll let you figure that out for yourself.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Hidden Leaves

In Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics, Death is a goth chick. She’s also the friendliest of a pantheon of anthropomorphic personifications called The Endless. And why wouldn’t Death be friendly? She’s got the worst customer service job in the universe, and anyone who’s ever done customer service can tell you that being friendly is the key to success. But Neil Gaiman’s Death is friendly because: a.) Death isn’t exactly what you’d expect, and b.) Death is someone you want to meet.

Our dojo recently experienced an unexpected death among our students. EB, a bright, attractive, energetic high school student was a casualty in a car accident. Her brother, who was driving, fell asleep at the wheel and ran off the road. According to reports, EB was wearing her seatbelt, and her brother was not under the influence of any drugs or alcohol. Except for – and “hindsight-is-20/20” here – the poor judgment of driving tired, no one did anything wrong. It’s fair to say most everyone drives tired once in awhile, and it literally could’ve happened to anyone.

There is a large population of teenagers in our school. More important to keep in mind, most of them started young and literally grew up together. EB had been with us since Second Grade. News of her death spread quickly, and young people don’t take news of this kind very well.

I remember the first few of more peers who died. Unnatural causes, of course. Accidents and suicide are the leading cause of death for people under 18. In these cases, they all did it to themselves – intentionally or unintentionally; suicides and overly risky behavior. Maybe that was easier for me to take because the circumstances were less random, but it didn’t make it easier to accept.

The “last” person to go in this phase of life was one of my closest friends. Craig popped pills and booze while partying – underage – at a dive more or less across the street from our old high school. He missed a turn on the road home, a route he’d traced probably every day of his life, and kept right on going through a heavy wooden fence.

I took a day off school to attend the funeral and returned to college to write an overdue paper on Aristotle’s philosophy of friendship. I poured my grief into that paper; I was crying as I wrote it.

It barely passed. The professor’s red inked note was, and I’m paraphrasing here, “Get over it.” Philosophers aren’t much for sympathy in cases like this. Not that the prof was completely lacking in compassion: she didn’t fail the paper.

You don’t write philosophy under the undue influence of emotion. And the prof was right: death isn’t that hard.

So when I found myself talking to a distraught young dojo-mate on Monday night, I had to remind myself what it was like, and that philosophy was not what he wanted to hear. So I nodded sagely and expressed my sincere sympathies as he rhetorically asked the existential questions about what the tragedy of young death really means.

Honestly, death isn’t hard. It’s a friendly goth chick who dusts you off, explains what happened, and escorts you on to the next big thing – whatever that is, and I don’t want to get into that right now. For the dead, death is easy.

Life. Now, life is friggin’ hard.

A few weeks further into the syllabus on Aristotle we were taught about virtue. To summarize: it’s the choice to do right instead of wrong. It’s moderation, not over indulgence. It is understanding our duties and meeting them. And it is a never ending struggle in these areas – until you die. You can never say, "I’m a good person," until you have the bookend pieces to examine the evidence. Because until Death says, “Hey, honey…” you can throw it all away in the next poor choice.

This is a sentiment almost every martial artist hears at some point in their career when they hear the quote: “The Way of the Samurai is found in death.” This can sound very morbid, or terrifying, or impossibly “hard man” the first time you hear it. It is a quote from the Hagakure, by Yamamoto Tsunetomo, and it is probably one of the most misunderstood quotes in martial arts.

Often it is interpreted to mean that the martial artist should move through life constantly aware of danger around every corner, and prepared to meet it. Sometimes it is broadened to mean that we should order our lives in such a way that if death comes for us suddenly, we leave no regrets behind. That’s not too bad. But what does the author of the quote himself say?

“The Way of the Samurai is found in death. Be determined and advance. To say that dying without achieving one’s aim is to die a dog’s death is the frivolous way sophisticates. When pressed with the choice of life or death, it is not necessary to gain one’s aim.
“We all want to live. And in large part we make our logic according to what we like. But not having attained our aim and continuing to live is cowardice. This is a thin dangerous line. To die without gaining one’s aim is a dog’s death and fanaticism. But there is no shame in this. This is the substance of the Way of the Samurai. If by setting one’s heart right every morning and evening, one is able to live as though his body were already dead, he gains freedom in the Way. His whole life will be without blame, and he will succeed in his calling.”

“Set your heart right.” I don’t think this is too different from Aristotle’s teaching that we need to choose virtue at every opportunity. That’s the point of life; and it isn’t always easy because it takes constant choices. “Be determined and advance.” Don’t dawdle on making a choice, be bold and attack life. “He gains freedom in the Way.” Hopefully, the more you order your life and make positive choices, the easier it is to keep making good choices and the fewer tough choices you have to make. And if you do so, when Death comes, your life will have meant something whether you lived 15 years, or 150 years. “We all want to live.” Attack life, choose virtue, and when the goth chick shows up, you’ll be saying, “Not yet, I’ve got too many projects going left unfinished…” Death can be someone you’re happy to meet because you have no regrets, and you’ve left the world better than you met it.

Sure, we’re all sad that EB is no longer with us to join the fun. To hear her close friends and family talk, she lead a virtuous life, and she will be missed. But this is the meaning of a death of one so young: We reflect on the good she did while she was with us. We appreciate the value of the lives around us. We are prodded to do more with the time we are given.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Hmmm... JRF's birthday IS coming up next month...

Anyone looking for a hint about what to get me...

T.O.P. Army Fighter

The Military Channel is running a special on the Army's Modern Army Combatives Program (MAC-P) competition next week.

Those of you interested in MMA fights or combatives might find this interesting. This is a meeting point between sport martial arts and real combat technique. I suspect at least one of my readers might find it interesting from a theoretical perspective of fighting arts...

Some "Figures" you'd be interested seeing in action...

What would Snake Eyes be without his girlfriend, Scarlet?

Maybe it's not the comic book outfit, but I think it works pretty good.

For those of you who asked about whether or not I have anything "slutty" for your Barbies... Sure. Check out this part of my Cobra Command contingent. That's a Baroness on the left in the leather catsuit.

Here's a close-up you can print out for your demented fantasies, boys. That head is from one of Barbie's friends and placed on a BBI female body.

This is a BBI action figure of the comic-book character, Shi. It's a stock figure, not a custom.

I hadn't taken my figures out of the display cases or storage boxes for a couple of years until I needed some Snake Eyes pictures for the blog. But you guys must like the photos of my toy collection. I can tell because you comment more about these than on the martial arts topics.
I realize my toy collection must seem a little... odd. That's okay. At least I'm not watching Star Trek videotapes, or hiding weapons in every room of my house. I'm not criticizing; we're all a little quirky around here I guess.
Really, this is nothing. If you want to see obsession, you should visit OneSixthWarriors and check out what other people do with their figures. Most of what you see there are more like model kits than toys. The hobby has come a long way since I sidelined my collection two or three years ago. You might start with this: a "historically correct" ninja custom action figure...