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Monday, November 23, 2015

PPRMG: LaserLyte Emitters

Last week I talked about the targets; this week I'll talk about the emitters.

Universal Pistol Trainer (LT-PRO)
The LT-PRO is essentially a laser boresight with a universal collar that allows it to fit any pistol from .380 to .45 caliber. This has both good and bad points.

Good: You can put it in a Trainer Pistol (see below) for a dedicated training platform, or you can put it in your carry guns and practice with your actual firearm. This allows for realistic training and one LT-PRO ought to fit all of your needs.

Bad: The emitter is sound-activated and listens for the click of a falling hammer or striker to trigger the laser. This works very well if your pistol has an easily thumb-cockable hammer or is otherwise dual action; however, if you have a striker-fired, single-action pistol like a Glock, you will have to rack the slide after every single shot. As you can imagine, this gets old very quickly, and will probably spur you to purchase one of the trainer pistols.

What's more, this system has a significant drawback: because it is sound-activated, it is listening for hammer-fall all the time. This means that if you forget to remove the batteries after a training session, they will slowly drain as the inbuilt sensor actively listens for the next click, and the next time to you go to train you will end up with dead batteries. (Fortunately, the LT-PRO runs on common LR626 batteries, which can be easily ordered in bulk from Amazon.)

Like all LaserLyte products, the LT-PRO comes with a fresh set of batteries.

Retail: The LT-PRO retails for $120, and while it is available in combo packs, it cannot be bought separately on Amazon. This is because it has since been replaced with the LT-PRE, or Laser Trainer Premium, which also retails for $120 but can be purchased at Amazon for $87.

I have not tested the LT-PRE. From what I can tell, it is similarly sound-activated, so it still has all the drawbacks of the LT-PRO in terms of  slide racking and battery drain. It does, however, have an on/off button for the microphone, which mitigates the hassle of having to unscrew the battery compartment each time.

My Rating: C
My metric for a C is "Functions adequately, but something pisses me off." While the LT-PRO laser emitter does indeed work, the need to turn off something which is not visibly on or risk draining the batters is a source of annoyance for me. Far more irritating is the poor synergy it has with my carry pistol, which is a Glock 26; considering that many law enforcement agencies issue Glocks to their LEOs, I consider this a major drawback. 

I received the full-size pistol (stated as "approximately the same size as a Glock 23"), although a compact-size trainer is also available. These trainer pistols are a cross between blue guns (nonfunctioning pistols shaped and weighted to realistically mimic actual guns for training) and toy guns which go "click" when you pull the trigger.

It's listed as being "weighted and balanced to give the realistic 'feel' of most semi-auto pistols," but on that point I must vehemently disagree; my unloaded Glock 26 weighs about 20 ounces, while the full-size Trigger Tyme weighs only 13.25 ounces.

It does have a working trigger, though, with a 5.5 pound trigger pull (just like my G26), and when it breaks it makes what can only describe as a click-sproing sound; the click is from the trigger breaking, and the spring is from a spring resetting in some manner. The sound echoes down the metal-lined barrel to facilitate the activation of the LT-PRO.

Retail: The full-size Trigger Tyme retails for $55, but can be bought on Amazon for $35. Alternatively, a combination trainer and laser set can be purchased for $98.

My Rating: B
It's not realistically weighted, nor is it shaped like an actual pistol, but considering that proper blue guns cost around $50, this makes an excellent tool for hand-to-hand training or a costume prop. I do not think it makes a good laser trainer, both for reasons related to the LT-PRO's performance and for the following anecdote.

An Anecdote Is Not Data, But...
The first LT-PRO and Trainer Pistol I received had issues:  I would put the laser arbor into the pistol, and it would take several trigger pulls before the laser would realize that I wanted it to activate. It would then activate most of the time, but not always. The problem persisted when I placed the LT-PRO inside of an actual pistol.

I mentioned this to the folks at LaserLyte, who promptly sent me a new LT-PRO. When I placed the laser within the trainer pistol, the problem occurred again, but interestingly enough the problem did not present when I placed the laser within actual pistols.

This leads me to suspect that either both the original LT-PRO and trainer pistol were broken in some manner, or if the laser was broken and the pistol just poorly built. As I am just one reviewer, I cannot draw a definite conclusion.

Trigger Tyme Laser Trainer
Also available in a compact version. this trainer (which I shall refer to as "Laser Tyme" to differentiate it from "Trigger Tyme", above) is leaps and bounds better than its non-laser sibling.

Slightly heavier (15 ounces) and with a trigger that breaks sooner and heavier than the Trigger Tyme, the Laser Tyme solves every problem I have with the LT-PRO and is an honest-to-goodness laser gun.

(I just have to stop and giggle about this. One of my earliest memories is of watching Star Wars at a drive-in, and ever since then I've dreamed of having a blaster. While this trainer doesn't do any damage unless you flash someone in the eyes with it, the fact remains that this is a laser gun and it's mine and I'm holding it in my hands and I'm shooting things with it. Pewpewpewpewpew.)

Where was I? Oh, right. By having a laser integrated into the pistol itself, there's no need to worry about the sound hitting the sensor and activating the emitter; it's all hard-wired into the trigger. Every single trigger pull results in a crisp burst of light, and I don't have to worry about the batteries running out because I forgot to take it apart afterwards.

It also has enormous endurance, with a battery life of 50,00 shots, compared to the measly 3,000 shots of the LT-PRO. (Like all LaserLyte products, batteries come included.)

Retail: Of course, all of this comes at a price: the full-size Laser Tyme retails at $150, and costs the same on Amazon. However, the compact version can be purchased with a single plinking can (reviewed last week) for as low as $90 if you can find them in stock.

My Rating: A+
It does everything I want to do it, and it does it smoothly and perfectly. Unless you truly need a laser that will fit inside your carry gun, save a bit more and get the Laser Tyme instead. You will not be disappointed in its performance.

Combine a Laser Target or a Score Tyme with one of these and you will have so much fun you will practice every day. As I said previously,
Yes, it's expensive. Believe me, I know this better than anyone; I am both poor and cheap. But you will save money with this system, because
  1. Practicing in the comfort of you home means you won't spend money on range fees and gas to and from the range.
  2. You can shoot as often as you like without having to buy expensive ammunition.
  3. Points 1 and 2 mean you will practice much more than you would with real ammo. For example, if I need to stretch my legs or clear my head, I'll fire up the target and take about 20 shots -- and I do this several times a day. That is something you simply can't do at a range. 
Besides, when you think about it, $258 for the Score Tyme and $150 for the laser pistol is still cheaper than a brand new gun. You're actually saving money when you buy this.. or at least that's what you can tell your wife when she asks you how much it cost.

Obligatory FTC Disclaimer: I received this products for free. I was not paid for a good review. I do what I like. Call your mother. 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Gun Blog Variety Podcast #66
Adam and Sean do bring you Episode 66 of The GunBlog VarietyCast.
  • Erin Palette talks about addictions.
  • In our Foreign Policy for Grownups Segment, Nicki Kenyon talks about the Paris attacks and the refugees situation in the attack aftermath
  • Our Special Guest this week is Ryan Michaud of Handgun Radio. He talks about Nanny Bloomberg's assault on Maine gun owners' rights
  • Barron B is still "On Assignment" with his family.
  • and Weer'd takes Girl Pants Productions to school with another of his Patented Weer'd Audio Fisks™. 
Thanks for downloading, listening, and subscribing. Please like and share The GunBlog VarietyCast on Facebook, and if you use iTunes, give us a review!

Listen to the podcast here.
Read the show notes here.

A special thanks both to Firearms Policy Coalition for their support and to our sponsor, Law of Self Defense. Use discount code "Variety" at checkout and get 10% off.

Doctor Who: Remembering the Impossible Girl

Spoilers, possibly from the title onwards...

Very rarely do we lose someone to death on Doctor Who. They can be banished to another dimension, decide that they need to live their own life, be stranded in the past, or simply forget everything. But death? That's in the far past, with the Adrics and the Sarah Kingdoms of old. Clara Oswald, once the Impossible Girl with the whimsical Disney Princess-esque musical theme, is no longer with us; and yet will always be with us, splintered throughout the Doctor's timeline, a painful reminder of one of the rare few who fell in the line of duty saving worlds.

Many of us did not really get to know Clara, did not give her a chance after she spent a year as a literal walking plot device, and wrote her off (paradoxically) as yet another misogynistic Stephen Moffat creation (I still say his women are stronger characters than Davies' ever were). But in truth, The Bells of St. John was not the first appearance of Clara Oswald. Nor was it Asylum of the Daleks, or even The Snowmen.

No, the first actual, proper appearance of Clara Oswald was The Day of the Doctor, where she convinced the Doctor to change his history (or to take the action that he had always previously taken, and will always have taken -- wibbly wobbly, timey-wimey), and she didn't come into her own as a character until partly through Deep Breath.

Over the course of two seasons,we saw Clara change from a purposeful Mary Sue of a companion into someone with a life outside the TARDIS and fall in love. Clara was reckless. Clara was impulsive. Clara had control issues. Clara loved, lost, got angry, made mistakes, and saved people.

Clara was a friend, and she'll be missed.

Good soldier. You went out on your feet.
We'll run, Clara. We'll be clever. And we'll remember you.

Oh, right. The episode.

Face the Raven was quite good; the juxtaposition of the quaint, almost stage-like air of the not-Diagon Ally with the urban normality of London worked quite well. I enjoyed seeing Local Knowl- I mean Riggsy again. He was quite good as Clara's sidekick (or Companion's companion, if you like).

The quantum shade and the raven were nice touches, and remind me heavily of the Faction Paradox spinoff universe, where agents of House Paradox use their shadows as weapons.It also worked as the culmination of all the little character hints that we've gotten about Clara becoming, as I mentioned, reckless and impulsive, as she was too clever for her own good in this episode, and it came back to bite her, hard. She did, however, face the consequences of that decision, and sacrificed herself to save the life of someone that she believed in.

The Doctor's reaction requires special mention, as well. Capaldi's quiet rage easily dwarfs that of both Tennant and Smith, reminding me heavily of Smith's “Colonel Run-Away” moment at Demon's Run and Tennant's punishment of the Family of Blood. I'm still unsure whether he meant what he promised Clara, or if he simply told her that so that she could go peacefully. 

The only major problem I have with this episode is that they telegraphed the stasis pod so hard that I kept waiting for him to throw Clara into it and switch it on so the raven couldn't get her.
I'm looking forward to solo Capaldi's episodes next week, but at the same time I still can't help but be miffed that Sleep No More's many, MANY questions still go unanswered. I certainly hope they plan on re-visiting that episode before long. It didn't have to be this week, due to the non-linear nature of time-travel plots, but there's more to that story that needs to be explored.

[mad author's edit] NON LINEAR NATURE

His hair's all wrong. Where's his jumper? Who was he explaining the bootstrap paradox and Beethoven to? How did Missy get his disk in episode one and why did Mayor Me take it in this episode? We're out of chronological order again and that would mean Clara's been dead for... what, ten episodes? Oh dear, I've gone cross-eyed. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

SHTFriday: Situational Awareness is a Two-Edged Sword

In this week's post, I waffle about the existential dilemma between "Not being in places that terrorists might target" and "Not living in fear."

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Hyrule Warriors: A Linkle to the Drama

For the past year or so, there's been a vocal contingent of cultural critics, industry writers, and twitter loudmouths that have been pushing for female characters. For even longer than that, there's been actual gamers that have been saying “We like the characters that we've got, but wouldn't mind a little more variety in character design.”

I've been a part of the latter group for some time, and appreciate every game that lets me play something other than the industry meme of the 'dark-haired white dude in his 30s.' From under-appreciated games like Assassin's Creed: Liberation and Remember Me to classics like Beyond Good and Evil and Tomb Raider, to imports that a lot of people very vocally hated like the Final Fantasy XIII series, I dig a good female protagonist.

Now I haven't been in Nintendo territory in a long time, but I understand there's a game out there called Hyrule Warriors, which is a Zelda-themed take on the Dynasty Warriors franchise, a sort of horde-mode spectacle fighter in which you pick a hero and take on hordes of enemies. 7 male, 8 female, and 3 monster characters fill out the roster; pretty balanced, I'd say.

Hyrule Warriors is available on the Wii U (which has just now managed to out-sell the failed Sega Dreamcast) and  is coming to the 3DS in March. (The 3DS has out-sold EVERYTHING. I mention this because it will be relevant later.)

On the 3DS version, Nintendo has announced a new character to the franchise: Linkle, a hero with long-ish blonde hair, big blue eyes, a green tunic, brown boots, and a very familiar overall style.
Good for them..?
Yep, this is a female Link. This is what Link would look like as a woman. This is literally everything that the cultural critics and Twitter-twatters have been clamoring for (short of literally making Link into a woman). And the reaction has been... mixed.

Pack it in, guys.
Now, you all know I've been paying very close attention to that alleged misogynistic hate mob, Gamergate, for the past (oh god has it been that long) 15 months, and given their reputation one would think there'd be outrage from them over a female Link. Mostly, though, the reaction has been “Hey, she looks neat. We'll give her a try” and discussion over her fighting style (and wondering how she fires crossbows without reloading them).
I can't find a single topic of discussion where people complain about a new female character being introduced, and the praise is pretty much universal.

The reaction outside of there, though; now that's where the real drama lies.
Do worms still turn?
Initially, it was very positive, but then it began to break down. The Mary Sue (bless them) cries “I love Linkle, but Linkle is not enough!” She's been criticized first for being a new female character and not a female Link, and then called a Ms. Male Character, when a literal female Link would be just that very thing.

It genuinely feels right now as if Linkle was trotted out by regressive activists as a “gotcha” who then backpedaled quickly into critical-theory-based criticism of the character as soon as they realized their targets actually kinda liked it. I almost wonder if Nintendo created Linkle just to prove that this type of people can never be satisfied, but then I remember that most of the Japanese companies really couldn't care less what Western-centric cultural critics think of them and practically print money every time they come up with something like this.

My favourite bit of criticism has to be that she doesn't count because she's on a mobile device.

A mobile device that's the Nintendo 3DS, which has outsold the X-Box One, Playstation 4, and Wii U. combined.

Linkle will have a potential reach of 55 million players (as opposed to a potential reach of only 10 million had she been released on the Wii U), and given that's she's being released on the 3DS, she'll likely cross over onto the Wii U version of Hyrule Warriors anyway.

Tits? What tits? She's wearing 
a loose blouse and flowy green tunic.
Sorry, cultural critics and twatters, Linkle is legit. She's adorable, and she's a great-looking character. You'll just have to swallow that disappointment and live with the fact that a Japanese games company gave you exactly what you wanted in a way that appealed to the rest of us as well.

Maybe one day you'll even admit that you're only in this because you're addicted to being outraged over things. Either way, the cognitive dissonance is great fun, and if I had a 3DS, I'd give her a spin.  

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Traveller Tuesday: Spinthrift, a Prototype J-7 Ship

Those of us in the Mongoose 2e playtest have access to the "still being written" 2e High Guard, and so I decided to tinker with them a bit to create a prototype Jump-7 starship.

Of course, given that 2e HG uses a completely different ship design process than 1e Mongoose, what I'm doing isn't so much a playtest as it is a Frankenstein approach of chainsawing out the bits I like and stitching them together into an unholy abomination.

But that's par for the course for someone who made a My Little Pony RPG using the Unknown Armies game engine.

My use of Traveller setting and dress falls under
fair use guidelines for both Mongoose and Far Future Enterprises.
Here is the handy table I'm using:


TL Tonnage Cost Modifications
Early Prototype -2 +100% +400% 2 Disadvantages
Prototype -1 - +100% 1 Disadvantage
Budget +0 - -50% 1 Disadvantage
Advanced +1 - +50% 1 Advantage
Very Advanced +2 - +100% 2 Advantages

From context, it should be clear that this is 2e's version of the "Primitive and Advanced Spacecraft" rules found on p.52 of 1e High Guard, and indeed that's the name of the chapter that this table is from. It's pretty straightforward: as tech progresses, you get Advantages like a reduction in tonnage or an increase in performance, but you pay out the nose for them.

What's new is that this chart also goes the other way, and allows folks to create experimental equipment at lower tech levels in exchange for fun drawbacks (in addition to increased price and/or tonnage). 

Since Jump-7 is canonically listed as TL 16, I decided to make a TL 15 Prototype J-7 ship with this chart and 1e's ship creation system. 

(Link leads to Google docs spreadsheet.)
Every ship needs a name. A portmanteu of spindrift and spendthrift seems apropos without courting too much disaster.  

I chose a 200 dton hull because the "Performance by Hull Volume" table on p.108 of 1e MongTrav has a handy "1 2 3 4 5 6" progression, which means that J-7 from its hull simply follows next in line. This makes a lot of things easier. 

Power Plant
Since J-7 at 200 dtons is a G code, that means I just need a power plant G, which already exists. Handy, that. 

Prototype Jump Drive
A normal jump drive G would displace 40 dtons and cost 70 MCr. This means that my experimental drive costs 140 MCr, and because increasing tonnage of the drive doesn't seem right (G engines already exist, we're just trying to squeeze more performance from them), I decided to make the J-7 a real fuel guzzler. 

The disadvantage "Energy inefficient" says that it consumes 30% more power than normal, but I'm not using the Power stat, so I want to turn that into fuel consumption. But a 30% increase in fuel raises it from 140 dtons to 182 dtons, and for some reason that still seems low. Because I'm the GM, I decide to tweak this to 50% under the rational that power consumption isn't fuel consumption. This gives me 210 dton for a jump-7, and that feels reasonable to me; I like the notion of an experimental drive requiring as much fuel as the ship displaces. 

Drop Tanks
These are the easiest way to wring more performance out of a ship. I'd feel guilty if various J-6 ships weren't rotten with drop tanks as well. Being a prototype means it's a test bed that isn't expected to do more except get there (like the Bell X-1), so a single J-7 is fine. 

At this point I begin to imagine the Spinthrift as a Marava-class Far trader, with the top sheared off and replaced with a single 200 dton drop tank. The remaining 10 dtons of jump fuel is carried internally, along with power plant fuel.

Maneuver Drive
M-drives are small and we want this ship to be able to move under its own power in case there's a catastrophic misjump, so M-1 is added as an emergency backup. (Once the first test is successful and the IISS/Navy/whoever is bankrolling this gets tired of hauling the ship out to the 100 diameter line, a ton of cargo space can be lost to upgrade the m-drives to 2G. This would allow Spinthrift to travel under its own power to the jump zone, even with full drop tanks (albeit at 1G)).

Speaking of backups, the Spinthrift is a significant investment for whomever is making it, and given that the risk of misjump** is high, they'd want to protect their investment and give it (and its crew) a fighting chance to make it back. A backup J-1 drive and dedicated power plant (in case the one attached to the J-7 fails) is added, along with fuel processors, enough fuel to make 2 J-1s, and two triple turrets with lasers for self-defense. 

Jump Control/6 requires a rating 30 computer, and lesser jumps decrement by 5, so it's logical for Jump Control/7 to need a rating 35 computer, which is just possible at TL 15 with a 30 million credit Model 7. Even so, plotting a 7 parsec jump might require a larger program, so just to be safe I assume JC/7 is a rating 40 and turn the Model 7 into a jump-specialized bis.

In addition to astrogation, a J-7 test bed is going to need sensors for recording the trip data. Advanced sensors are added. 

We don't want to endanger a bunch of people, so let's take along the bare minimum: A pilot, a navigator/sensor operator, and two mechanics. Space is at a premium, so it's double occupancy for our intrepid jumpnauts. 

The 10 dton cargo hold is filled with food, spare parts, and other supplies to provide 6 months' worth of endurance in case the Spinthrift has to limp back home. 

An emergency low berth is available in case they need to set an SOS and wait for rescue. 

High-rating Evade and Fire Control programs have been  added in case combat happens and no one is available to run the guns, and a reflec coating was installed because armor and sand canisters take tonnage. 

Total Cost: 307.3 Million Credits
Not bad for advancing technology and a chance at immortality, right? And it's still cheaper than a capital ship.*

* Not counting costs for research, development, tooling of prototypes, personnel costs, and other bits of infrastructure spread out over who-knows-how-long. 

** There are no rules for this in Traveller, but with experimental jump tech I'd raise the roll for a successful jump to 10+. 

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