Monday, 30 September 2013

What they should tell you about drop-leg holsters

Drop-leg holsters, they're cool arn't they? Well, as the head guy at the (now sadly defunct) South Yorkshire Airsoft used to tell us 'they're great if you have arms like a gorilla'!

It's a valid point, as all the youngsters seem to love that low slung holster look but have absolutely no idea WHY it's low slung in the first place. No, it's NOT because cowboys wear their holsters like that - it's what's known as a 'sub-load' carrier, designed to be worn below a tac vest or body armour.

I have never liked these low-slung holsters and have always bought good old fashions belt holsters (with a close-able flap). I like my pistol high on my hip and as I prefer chest rigs rather than tac vests they are not in the way, but easy to get to.

Having said all that I came across a very good video today explaining all this and showing how best to fit a drop-leg holster...One of the most important points being FIT and keeping the rig STABLE...

I have seen countless numbers of young guys wearing drop-leg holsters at airsoft sites who's pistols flop about when they run, and even fall out, because they have not adjusted their holsters properly. One poor guy even lost his pistol (not having realised it had fallen out until the game was over).

Monday, 23 September 2013

WoT - The Love Stug

You've got to love the Stug! Pound for pound it must reap the biggest payback for it's modest list of attributes of any tank in World of Tanks. And it's FUN!

Of course I do somewhat cringe at saying any German tank is a favourite of mine, so I hastily re-decorated the Stug is a slightly less offensive Finnish colour scheme (sorta takes the curse off it a little, at least in my mind it does)!

It's strange how art mimics life in the case of the Stug. The Finns seemed to find exactly the same benefit in this modest tank destroyer as I am in the game, in that it punches well above it's weight. Even in the later stages of World War Two, when the Finns were up against far superior Soviet tank designs, the little Stug was their most important and successful tank killer.

In 1943 and 1944, the Finnish Army received a total of 59 StuG III Ausf. Gs from Germany and used them against the Soviet Union. Thirty of the vehicles were received in 1943 and 29 in 1944. The 1943 batch destroyed at least 87 enemy tanks for a loss of only 8 StuGs[7] (some of which were destroyed by their crews to avoid capture).  [Wikipedia]

With games score like I've just had I can concur with the tenaciousness of the little 'Sturmi' - as the Finns called it - can pull off some wonderfully gratifying feats...

Seven killed - so top scorer - in this game, including the rather formidable
British AT-2 (which is a hard nut to crack). Most enjoyable kill was a Soviet
KV-1 - ironic as that was exactly the tank the real Stug was designed to combat.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Geman loadout secondary AEG - The D|Boy EBB G36c

In my previous post about the range of possible companion or back-up AEGs that I considered for my modern German army loadout I left you with sort of cliff hanger. At that point I really did not know which AEG I would buy to go with my long JG G3A3. Well, I made my decision!

The D|BOY G36c EBB was not my first choice for a G36 based AEG, originally I was looking at the SRC G36c but - as happens with AEGS in the UK - there was a sudden drought of the SRC model and I had to look elsewhere. I looked at several similar models and the D|BOY version seemed to offer everything I needed at a very good price.

Opening the box
Don't expect fancy packaging, the D|B G36c comes in a styrofoam case inside a brown cardboard box. There's A sheet of photocopied 'instructions' and a cheap charger (now in the recycle box) and the G36c itself and that's it!

Basic, that's what the packaging is - but I wanted value not a pretty box!
Curiously, the pack includes a spare mainspring - I wonder why?

Now, as I have been out of airsofting for some years now my UKARA has lapsed, therefore I had to buy a two-tone AEG. That's the way it is. But I have a 'cunning plan' (more of that another time).

The good, the bad and the ugly
Actually, let's start with the bad. Overall there aren't many major squeaks or rattles or breakages, it all feels quite solid…But…

When I attached a front vertical grip I noticed bit of wobble. As it turned out it wasn't the rail but the whole fore-stock itself that was a little shaky. The fore-grip is designed to be easily removed so you can insert the AEG battery, however it is only held in place by one metal pin!

It all depends on this sprung pin. That worries me...And there are a few of
these holding various parts of the G36 together.

Which brings me to my next niggle. The retaining pin is very easy to remove, which may be good for accessing the battery compartment but worrying when you think about how much the AEG will be thrown about in the field. What's more is that there are a few of these pins on the AEG, so there is potential for these pins becoming loose and falling out.

Next there is the stock. The G36 folding stock isn't the most attractive design in the world, it's not that much better than the old AK74 skeleton stocks. That said at least the the AK74 stock locked into the folded position by means of a spring loaded metal hook, the G36 stock relies on the playable qualities of plastic alone!

The power of plastic! This is the 'hook' that the stock clips onto when
folded, I wonder how long it will take before it begins to wear. And look,
you can see more of those retaining pins.

When you fold the G36 stock over you press it into a moulded plastic 'hook', and using pressure and the pliability of the plastic of the stock's frame the stock snaps over the catch. Can anyone say 'wear and tear'?

The final criticism I have relates to what is perhaps one of the most important feature on a AEG (or real gun for that matter), the safety. Or, more correctly, it's the fire selector switch that bugs the bejesus out of me.

Arrrrgggg! THAT fire selector! If you watch this photo long enough the
switch will change position of it's own volition!

Now, on the good side the selector switch is ambidextrous AND in my favoured position just under where the thumb rests when you grip the pistol grip. But it's the quality of the switch that bothers me…It's really sloppy.

The selector does not positively click into place as you change down from 'safe' to 'semi-auto' to 'full auto'. It just vaguely slips down from one position to the other with no real feedback to tell you what mode you are in. I dislike this switch SO much!

Finally, I should mention the quality of the many rails that are included on the AEG...

Sadly D|BOY have dropped the ball here as their rails are rather thick, too thick in fact for some of my rail accessories to slip onto them. The rail accessories that do fit are those that have a two-part split rail track, the kind that allows you to unscrew and loosen one half of the track - like a clamp. Fixed rail tracks, which you have to slip onto the end of the track, are the ones that will run into trouble. This meant I was not able to try out half my rail accessories, which was frustrating.

The good
The G36 is a cool looking gun. OK, you may disagree but Hollywood loves it! And the G36c - which is known as the 'commando' or 'compact' - must be the coolest of the the G36 family...

Form top to bottom: Ray Stevenson in 'Outpost', Gerard Butler in
'Gamer' and the legend that is Chuck Norris in 'The Expendables II'.
And they say men are obsessed by size!

In reality - and experts agree - the G36c is really a sub-machine gun, in format if not in calibre (…I will not start my usual rant about the failings of 5.56x45mm calibre…I won't…I won't…) and because of this it handles like a dream.

In fact, I was surprised just how short this 'shorty' is. It's smaller in length than my AKS74U, and that's short! So it goes without saying that if CQB is your 'thang' then the G36c is right up your - narrow - alley. (You should note that the stock on the G36c is actually marginally shorter than the skeleton stocks on the rest of the G36 family. I believe this to facilitate the use of thick body armour.)

The Russian equivalent to the H&K shorty is the AKS74U. I was a bit
surprised to find that the G36c is actually sorter! 

The D|B G36c is also, with the caveats mentioned above, quite nicely made. I mean - obviously - you do get what you pay for, it's not a VFC or a Tokyo Marui for that matter, it's a cheap and cheerful Chinese clone. So I am willing to overlook some of it's minor quirks - except the selector switch that is.

However, the saving grace is the handling. The gun comes up to aiming superbly well and while, of course, that is due to H&K's design genius and not D|B's, none the less it's handy little bugger!

The format of the G36c is surprisingly addictive. I know my G3A3 is the better AEG, and I know the G36c is at a disadvantage in woodland but the D|B G36c makes it hard for you NOT to want to pick it for any skirmish. It's just such a fun little AEG.

Part of this enjoyment has to do with the ergonomics and the light weight of the AEG.

The G36 is - famously - 'a plastic gun', and so is replicated nicely in high impact nylon in AEG form. There's no arguments about 'real steel' here - the real thing is plastic! This makes it a pleasure to tote about all day.

You can even pick the G36c up like a pistol, if you wanted to...

Top of the list of positives though must be the abundance of rails. And the best thing is that you don't have to add them by means of add-ons, the G36c was designed with the rails as standard. There's a place for all the accessories that you can think of (IF your accessories fit that is).

The Ugly
However tempted I might be to say the ugly is the two-tone paint job I won't! The ugly probably has to be the 'Marmite' nature of the G36 design itself - you really do either love it or hate it.

I'm with Hollywood on this one, I think it's sorta sexy. But how practical is it?

Well, I got it as a backup AEG and it certainly ticks all my boxes - it's compact so will slip into a single bag along side my main AEG, it's light and it was cheap! On the other hand, I'm not going to win any long range encounters, and the small battery is a little bit of a nuisance.

The fore-end component is easy enough to remove (don't loose that retaining
pin though) and it takes a 8.4V 1700mAh Battery (Mini Type, Mini Plug) .

From a personal point of view I suppose I could criticise the design of the magazine release button, but that would be a little unfair as that is a feature of the real gun and not a fault of D|BOY's replica (which is why I haven't mentioned it as a 'bad' feature).

The mag catch is an AK style paddle release and as such is not a gravity drop mag release, it instead requires you to physically remove the mag before inserting a fresh mag. This demands a two stage removal operation whereas, for example, the M4 allows the user to 'drop' the mag by gravity - having activated the release button with the trigger finger - while the new mag is being ready for insertion with you 'off' hand. It's a technicality and something of a non-issue in the world of airsoft as the milli-seconds lost would only matter in the life and death world of real firearms.

This brings us nicely to the issue of magazines themselves. Going for the G36c does mean I will now have to pack a completely different set of magazines when I go skirmishing - that's a pain!

The G36 plastic magazine - the D|BOY variation is a 470 high cap. Not much
else you can say, it fits snug with no wobble. On the plus side the G36 mags are
designed with a duplex fitting built in, so you can clip two mags together.

The real G36 takes a 5.56x45mm NATO round, BUT in a completely bizarre move the German army decided that they would not choose the M4 format mag - which is practically a NATO standard - for their new infantry rifle. The Germans instead decided to go with a completely new magazine design based on, as mentioned, the AK style of mag release.

Airsofters may balk at this. Your team mates may have M4s or variations, therefore you cannot now share magazines during a fire fight. But fear not, as the G36 family of AEGs are very popular and there are a host of reasonably priced mags out there - some may just find this a little annoying.

There is an accessory made by Battleaxe that replaces the whole G36 mag well with a version that accepts M4 style mags. This may solve the issue if you really do want to use M4 mags.

Left: The Battleaxe G36-to-M4 mag converter. Apparently it will fit in JG/CA/Marui G36 airsoft replicas. You pull the mag-well receiver pin out of your G36 and simply swap it over with the Battleaxe unit. It takes about 4 seconds.

Well, that's about all I can say about my initial impressions of the D|BOY G36c EBB AEG. Generally I am satisfied with the replica considering that I did not want to spend a lot of money on what would be just a back-up airsoft gun. There are niggles - oh that selector switch - but I can't really complain that much for just £120.

On the subject of value for money, it is worth mentioning that the D|BOY G36c is a clone of the UMAREX (Ares) G36c, which cost £299. This is worth mentioning because the D|BOY version shares the UMAREX's easy-change main spring feature. In short, access to the spring is via a hatch behind the stock - you pull out the spring and pop in a new one. Handy as I am told the AEG runs slightly hot at 370fps.

Access to the main spring is via this trapdoor at the back of the AEG. The
spring you can see is the blowback spring, the main spring is under the big
screw you can see in the middle of the picture.

The two-tone pain job IS a real annoyance, but that's my fault and it's a fixable issue. Just note that the legal position is that if you repaint the two-tone effect without UKARA registration you are, in effect, turning the AEG back into a RIF (Realistic Imitation Firearm) and as such are contravening the guidelines.

More rails. But I got around two issues with my rail-raiser. It's a split design
so copes with the chunky D|BOY rails and at the same time the 'peek
through' feature allows me to keep the G36c's iron sights.

I suppose the real test of whether an AEG is good or bad is whether it puts a smile on your face when you pick it up - well, the D|BOY G36c certainly seems to pass that test! But let's wait until I do the firing test before we give a resounding thumbs up, but I am optimistic.

NEXT: Shooting test of the D|BOY G36c.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Choosing a companion or backup airsoft gun for my G3A3

My new JG G3A3 - a good woodland long range AEG.

Even before I began to play airsoft I did quite a bit of research about my new hobby and took a lot of advise from experienced players about how I should kit myself out. In particular, it was recommended that I should buy a second airsoft gun; a back up should my primary AEG fail.

This advise turned out to be prophetic when, on only my third time out, my expensive Classic Army SA58 malfunctioned in a very dramatic fashion – but, fortunately, I had my trusty AK74U ‘shorty’ to fall back on.

I am currently putting together a new loadout based around my recent purchase of a lovely Jing Gong replica of the German Army H&K G3A3, and so I started thinking about what would make a suitable companion gun. Luckily, airsoft replicas of German weapons - particularly of Heckler & Kock models - are very poplar and widely available, ironically however this actually make things a little more difficult as now I have almost too much choice!

The long choice - perhaps too long to be considered as a suitable back-up for my
G3A3. Top is the Classic Army 'M41 ES' and bottom a HK33 (CA KA3) variant.

You can have any AEG - so long as it’s H&K!
You might think that having to choose a replica from a selection of guns originally made by just one weapons manufacturer would be a problem wouldn’t you, or that the selection would be very limited? But when that manufacturer is Heckler & Kock, one of the worlds most respected and prolific small arms manufacturers then you needn’t worry about variety.

However, I do have some preferences regarding my back-up AEG and how I want it to perform which should help me trim the herd. I like a companion gun to be shorter than my primary, both as an aid to my already over burgeoning luggage and so I have a CQB alternative to my long ‘rifle’. I also prefer that the candidate has a folding stock, for the same reasons just given, compactness and maneuverability.

The very popular G36c (TM version). A medium length AEG
ideal for both woodland and CQB.

The list of possible stable-mates to my lanky JG G3A3 are as follows then, the G36c, the HK33c, the MC51 or M41 SAR ‘Offizer’ and by way of SMGs - the UMP, the MP5 and the sexy little MP7.

Apples or oranges?
One thing is for sure; there isn’t a clear-cut front-runner among these alternative AEGs. They are all superb designs and very good AEGs, so how do I choose?

Well, I must consider carefully what I want this secondary AEG to do. While I do want something a bit more compact than my primary AEG I don’t want to feel too disadvantages when playing woodland airsoft. However, neither do I want something that is overly long for the confines of CQB. At either end of this scale you have the MP7 and the HK33 respectively – so let’s sideline those.

On the left the Classic Army M41 SAR 'Offizer', on the right the Tokyo Marui
MC51 - spot the difference? These are both medium-length cut-down folding
stock G3 replicas, but the TM model is primarily ABS plastic and is about
£100 cheaper than the Classic Army metal 'Offizer' AEG.

Of the short assault rifles, the G36c is an extremely popular choice as the perfect woodland and CQB ‘all rounder’, but this choice would mean yet another magazine format to contend with. However, the MC51 or M41 SAR ‘Offizer’ are essentially cut-down versions of the G3, so would allow me to use the same mags as my current G3A3 AEG (in theory).

SMG wise, the MP5 is one of those AEGs that many say is requisite to any airsoft gun collection. It opens up so many loadout possibilities because law enforcement and Special Forces units all over the world use the real steel version. On the other hand, its ‘ugly duckling’ sister – the UMP – has a ‘dare to be different’ aura about it.

An ICS MP5 SD AEG along side the STAR UMP SMG. Like all the AEGs I have pictured
in this post these models are also available from budget manufacturers, in this case
from Jing Gong and GG respectively. The ability to add suppressors to either of these
SMG models opens up the possibility of adding a longer inner barrel, extending the
effective range of the AEG.

…Lions and tigers and wolves, oh my!
And here is where I will leave you hanging, I’m afraid, as my quandary is no-where near resolved (in fact, I change my mind on which companion AEG to buy from one minute to the next). But, I will soon be posting up a complete overview of my new ‘Modern German Infantry’ loadout and by this time I will have made a firm decision.

One thing is certain; any one of the AEGs I have listed above would be a cracking addition to any airsoft collection.

The ultra-compacts. Perhaps too short for my requirements or taste, these very
short SMGs would make terrific CQB alternatives to your long German primary AEG. Left is
the TM MP7, while on the right is the rather peculiar JG G3 'SAS'. The G3 'SAS' is the
H&K replica equivalent to the AK47 Spetz, in that this is a made-up weapon - it doesn't
exist as a real steal gun, but was specifically designed to fill a niche in airsofting.

Related links:
> Milgeek's 'Modern German Army loadout' Flickr album
> The real steel Heckler & Kock weapons range

Next: What I got in the end.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

World of Tanks 8.8 patch

I'm afraid the monotonous wait for Battlefield 4 grinds on and on and in the meantime I continue to seek distraction in the World of Tanks. Dear Lord, I cannot believe I have strung out such a shallow game for so long (it's nearly as bad how my old clan hung on to Counter Strike)!

My mighty Tiger II, fully upgraded and decorated! It is a mark of just how long
I have been playing this game now that I have managed to attain this higher tier
tank with my free account. But man, what a grind!

Anyway, give the developers their due - they have continued to patch the game, add 'new' tanks, tinker with others and throw in the occasional new map to make the experience seem like it's progressing (somehow). The new 8.8 patch has thrown we weary tankers some bread crumbs, you can read all about the new features in the release notes here: 8.8 Update is Now Live

For me perhaps the most interesting thing was the return of three older maps that I used to enjoy. But what I especially like about the re-inclusion of these maps is that the developers have modified them to exclude a few of the unpopular 'git spots' (that encouraged mass camping) and bottlenecks that they used to have. They now play better and are more fun.

I have fairly much ignore the new tanks that are available to me as I have been pretty much engrossed in the development of my inventory of German tank destroyers (my favourite type). And sheer staying power eventually won me a pretty awesome predator, the JagdPather II...

However, there was one newer vehicle that did catch my eye and I decided to give it a whirl, the Tier VII VK 30.02 (D) German medium.

Historically I believe this tank was an early prototype for what was to become the Panther and it highlights an interesting aspect to the game of World of Tanks. In their inclusion of 'paper panzers' - drawing-board or prototype tank designs - the developers has introduced players to a whole range of novel and obscure types that are, none the less, very important if you want to understand the historical evolution of the tank.

Take the VK 30.02 (D) - if you look at the design you get a very interesting insight into the minds of the Germans at the time. Remember, the Germans had just had a very nasty shock when they invaded the Soviet Union - far from finding the huge fleets of pitifully obsolete tanks that they expected the Germans were confronted with two new types that put the wind right up them, the T-34 medium and the KV-1 heavy.

The legendary Soviet T-34 - the design that inspired the German VK 30.02 (D)?

The German tank designers were immediately put to work in an attempt to redress the disadvantage that they found themselves in and decided on a two-tier approach. They designed a new advanced medium which was to become the Panther and a new super-heavy tank which was to be the Tiger.

The VK 30.02 (D) shows that the initial response by the German designers was simply to copy many of the features of the Soviet T-34, and some might say that that was a very sensible move. If you look at the picture of the 30.02 you can see a T-34 (look at the frontal plate and the engine deck).

In the end what developed was a overly complicated, though technically brilliant, Panther. It was over-kill and something like the 30.02 might have been all that was really needed...Still, what do I know (I'm sure I don't have all the facts).

Monday, 16 September 2013

The Atlantic Wall Museum, Belgium

From their positions in the dunes west of Ostend the Germans looked out
across the English Channel, waiting for an Allied invasion fleet!
The same position 70 years ago.

The second of my museum visits while on holiday (...oh, it seems so long ago now...) was to Ostend's Atlantic Wall Museum. As with Fort Napoleon, which I visited the previous day, this series of fortifications was used over a couple of conflicts, though - of course - we naturally associate the Atlantic Wall with the Second World War and with the D-Day campaign in particular.

The German battery to the west of Ostend actually began life during the First World War, but then was greatly enlarged and enhanced as part of Hitler's ambitious project to fortify the coastline of occupied Europe in order to defend against the inevitable Allied re-invasion. I found it quite sad really that the poor old citizens of Ostend had to endure occupation by the Germans twice in a generation.

A drawing of the German navel coastal battery as it was during WW1. This
fortification was built and replaced the summer retreat of the Belgian
royal family.
One of the observation posts build by the Germans during WW2.

The network of fortification built by the Germans (in both wars) were done so to the detriment of the Belgians, both i the resources they consumed and in the property that was seized. The Atlantic Wall complex was built on the land used by the Belgian Royal Family as their seaside hide away (sure, as a Republican I can't get too upset by that, but they destroyed several historic buildings in the process).

Anyway, I digress...

You will be pleased to learn that unlike Fort Napoleon - which concentrated on the preservation of an historically important building - Ostend's Atlantic Wall museum attempts to recreate the feeling of the complex while it was in use with displays and the weapons and equipment placed back in situ.

Getting there...
The museum is located in a park of attractions - including the recreation of a medieval fishing village - just on the outskirts of Ostend in amongst the sand dunes along the long beautiful beach that stretches all the way from the town.

Looking back along the coastal road towards Ostend which you can just
make out in the background. If you are feeling fit you could even walk it!

You could drive to the museum quite easily but a nice alternative to this is the tram which runs from the centre of Ostend along the coast and drops you off just outside the museum park. These trams are cheap and run frequently back and forth along the foreshore.

It's also worth mentioning at this point that the Ostend Tourist Office do a special pass that allows access to several of the local attractions for a flat rate. You could save yourself some money.

The Atlantic Wall Museum
There are a few things to note before you go. First of all, the museum trail is not mobility accessible, and don't even thing of taking a pram with young kids (why would you anyway). On the positive side though, the museum offers an audio guide in English, but make sure it is fully charged before you leave the reception - mine wasn't so I ended up listening in on my wife's!

One of the many dioramas designed to give you an idea about who
occupied these defences and how they lived. These chaps are WW1 era
German Naval Infantry who manned the battery of four naval guns.
...And just 25 years later they were back again! This time the army.
As mentioned, the museum is actually a trail through the fortified complex which is built in to the dunes that lie just back from the long beach (which is beautiful by the way). It is a veritable rabbit warren of pill-boxes, tunnels and bunkers that snake around the sandy hills that overlook the coast. The museum suggests that the trail will take you 120 minutes to circumnavigate, but we took over 3 hours!

Two words of warning. First of all, if you visit the museum on a hot summers day - as we did - take some bottled water! It is a bit of a trek round and it gets very hot amongst the dunes, I got dehydrated (I forgot my hat). Additionally, some of the tunnels are a little on the short side and I barely managed to stoop through some of the doorways, so be prepared for some undignified moments if you are tall like me.

One of the maze of tunnels that links the complex of bunkers of the
Ostend battery. My little wife gives some idea of scale - I suffered several
bumps on the head while navigating these burrows!

The exhibits
I wasn't prepared for just how good a job the Belgians had done with their refurbishment of the fortifications. They really went to town recreating life in the various bunkers by creating lavishly decorated tableau with mannequins dressed in the uniforms of the soldiers (and sailors) who manned the fortifications.

The history of the bunkers dates back to the First World War when the Germans build a large coastal battery  into the dunes, but the trail seamlessly combines this exhibit with the later German bunkers from WW2 which greatly extended and enhanced the defensive complex.

I was very impressed by the number of original weapon systems that had been put back in place, these ranged from light AA guns to great big Belgian 120mm cannon (which the Germans 'confiscated' when they occupied the country).

Once again, rather spookily, we see the previously pictured AA gun in
the same position in use 70 years before!

They audio tour described the life that the garrison led in the claustrophobic labyrinth of concrete bunkers and it is quite eery to imagine that they looked out across the English Channel towards British defences that looked back towards them!

The German view across the channel. This picture put me in mind from a
similar scene at the start of the 1962 film 'The Longest Day'. As it turned
out these Germans waited for the Allied invasion fleet in vain - they landed
in Normandy instead.

Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel
(15 November 1891 – 14 October 1944)
Field Marshal Erwin Rommel
It is a mark of a man when he is respected as much by his enemies as he is by his own nation. Such is the accolade that can be ascribed to Field Marshal Erwin Rommel.

My father, who served in 8th Army in North Africa during World War 2, held two leaders in esteem - Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery and Field Marshal Erwin Rommel ('The Desert Fox'). And apparently this respect for an enemy extended to a great many of my father's comrades who also served in the desert.

Field Marshal Rommel was assigned the  job of commanding the German forces opposing the Allied cross-channel invasion in Normandy and overseeing the building of Hitlers 'Atlantic Wall'. This (over) ambitious project was intended to throw a curtain of heavy coastal defences all along occupied Europe, but was never really fully completed by D-Day.

On the 23 November 1943 Rommel visited the Ostend battery in order to inspect it's preparedness, he was given a tour of the fortifications by the Commanding Officer - Robert Koppe - and was photographed overseeing the gunnery positions which faced the Allies. Again it is really rather spooky to imagine that on your visit you will be standing more or less in many of the same places, overlooking the same weapons, as the legendary German general!

Contemporary photograph on display at the museum showing Field
Marshall Rommel inspecting the Ostend Battery...
Spookily, the same gun position in 2013! The gun is a Belgian 12cm
K370(b) gun which was captured by the Germans and subsequently used
against the Allies!

Kit and kaboodle!
As I said in my introduction, there is a wealth of equipment on show around the exhibit. In fact I was taken aback at just how much hardware the museum had manage to gather together, there was an abundance of uniforms and small arms on show but it was the range of material on display that was particularly amazing.

From authentic German supplies, to radio equipment - including an example of a famous Enigma machine - to larger weaponry, including anti-tank guns and even a wonderful - and I dare say unique - display of tank traps used on the beaches. I was really quite agog at the variety of equipment on show.

All in all it does tend you rather appreciate just what the Allies were up against when they landed ashore on D-Day. The Germans were definitely not short of the means to defend the coast. It really is a wonder that the Allies managed to get ashore let alone up the beaches as all along the dunes little spider-holes were places along the tunnels so that infantry could rake the sands with machine gun fire.

It's an Enigma!
As you can probably infer the wife and I were hugely impressed with the museum. They really have done a superb job in helping the visitor understand just what a superb and heroic job was done by the Allies when they landed and overcame these sorts of defences.

I was - I admit - a little creeped out occasionally when I peeked through bunker slits and looked down over the now peaceful Belgian sands to where the waves lapped the shore...It makes you think!

I think I mentioned that The Atlantic Wall museum is just one attraction that the seaside park boasts, aside form this there is a lovely nature reserve and a reconstruction of a medieval fishing village. We had intended in taking in the village as well but simply run out of time as we spent so long at the fortifications.

Predictably - this is Belgium after all - there is a superb little cafe at the other side of the nature reserve, just five minutes stroll away. It serves an excellent variety of Belgian treats including pots of steaming mussels, steak and frites and much more, and - of course - the usual extensive beer menu. It's a lovely place to cool down after a hot afternoon wandering through the dunes.

Of course I highly recommend The Atlantic Wall museum. Sadly, Belgium is somewhat embarrassingly rich in such war related museums, due to it's unfortunate experiences, but I would say that this is one of the best.


> My Flickr album which shows all my 67 photos from my visit

> The official Atlantic Wall Museum web site (in Dutch but use Google to translate it)

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Zombies!!! Family game night

Zombies have always been a popular them on the Milgeek blog, so when I discovered Zombies!!! by Twilight Creations at our local game store I snapped it up. I had heard a lot about this game and was keen to try it out with the rest of the family.

I won't go over all the rules - you can find plenty of play-throughs on YouTube - but, basically, you can win this game by either killing 25 zombies or making it to the helipad. Simple? Well, were it not for your erstwhile companions maybe!

Zombies!!! is a fairly easy to pick up game for 2-6 players and I would say that anyone from 12 years old upwards could get to grips with the rules.

I guess you could say that this was an advanced version of good old Ludo as you try to get your counter 'home', but unlike the traditional board game you make the map up as you go along. Each player lays down a tile at the beginning of their move which represent a piece of the town and on each tile you place a designated number of zombies, or health or ammo tokens.

The board builds up as you go along into a town full of undead!

This makes the game board slightly different each time you play but as well as an evolving map there are special event cards players can play to help them or hinder others!

Getting to the helipad isn't going to be that easy!
This is where the game gets very interesting - and cut-throat - because Zombies!!! isn't a team game, it's definitely every person for themselves. In fact this is where the fun is, doing the dirty on your fellow players. For example, you can move the zombies away from your position and towards your 'friends' in order to enhance your chances of escaping or you can play a card which might trap someone else in a zombie filled building!

The game can be played long or short depending on what you fancy as the basic rules are flexible and can be modified to your tastes (you can restrict the number of map tiles if you want, or change the number of zombies to be killed for a win to 10 instead of 25, or decide when the helipad tile will appear in the game - sooner or later).

All in all, we had a really fun evening - we went for a 'long' game using all the map tiles - but things really got going when the gloves eventually came off and players started getting very ruthless with one-another. The event cards encourage this with some deviously designed actions that can be played on your friends and believe me when I say once one person starts the unpleasantness then everyone joins in with a vengeance (vengeance being the operative word)!

Right: One of the event cards which you can inflict on your fellow players, just to slow their progress! (There are vastly more evil cards than this!)

Terrific fun for all the family! :)

The winner! My daughter Stacey reached the helipad first, behind her
fellow players are still fighting their way past the zombies!

Finally, there are a great many official expansions for this game which add things like new zombies, more map locations and even more devious event cards, so the fun never ends.

> Official Twilight Creations web site link

> Link to Zombies!!! on Amazon UK

Sunday, 8 September 2013

KWA/PTS advanced electric blowback

One thing that has surprised me is that during my absence from airsoft over the past couple of years that now I have returned there isn't any great advance in AEG design. Now most would say 'if it ain't broke don't fix it', but when the industry has - it seems - run out of ideas about new replica designs you might have thought that they would turn their ingenuity to technical innovation?

KWA/PTS *think* they may have stolen the lead (finally) in the quest to provide us with realistic recoil WITHOUT resorting to messy gas. Their new PTS RM4 ERG is an electric design and yet they claim it gives the feel of a gas blow back airsoft replica.

Oh dear, another Armashite design - but I guess they have to make any
new innovation pay for itself.

It seems that - according to GS blog - that so far electric blowback has failed to capture the imagination of ordinary airsofters because the effect is marginal and adds complexity and stress on AEGs. (I have only seen one electric blow back gun - a Chinese MP5 - and all it really seemed to do was add a metallic 'clack' to the mix.)

Anyway - the KWA/PTS sounds interesting and at the very least kudos to them for trying BUT I can't help thinking that - as with TM's much vaunted recoil system* - it may just be another bit of bling for the richer geardos to brag about!

Read more about the KWA/PTS gun here: Gaming Shogun - PTS RM4 SCOUT ERG AIRSOFT GUN REVIEW

* Though the KWA system doesn't require proprietary mags!