Beginner's Guide To Nerf

So you want to kill some zombies?


Figure 1.1a - Screaming Crazy Person

List of Games

HvZ (Humans Vs Zombies)
HvZ stands for Humans Vs Zombies. Humans have nerf guns or nerf melee weapons (such as swords). Zombies get 'stunned' with a melee hit or dart hit, and must take a knee and count out a stun time (such as 30 seconds), and then they are back up and running. Humans who get tagged by a zombie are killed and join the zombie team. Humans are usually given missions they must try to complete while being attacked by zombies in order to stay alive.

The two main HvZ games are HvZ: SFSU and Foam Action Network

TacOps (Humans Vz Humans)
Connor's game of "squad vs squad" - this is military exercises between two (or more) teams doing things like hostage rescue, capture the flag, team elimination, etc..

It is also announced on the Foam Action Network

Jericho (Nerf Spy Game)
Jericho is a much calmer "spy" Nerf game played in downtown San Francisco. There is much more espionage, following and all-around sneakiness, and the weapon requirements are much simpler (and usually weapons need to be smaller to be concealed).
Werewolves (not Nerf)
Also listed on the calendar are a few non-Nerf games such as Werewolf and Capture The Flag meetups. That's just because these are damn fun too.

Equipping Yourself

There are three basic types of players when it comes to equipment:
The "Swashbuckler"
Melee weapons - usually the Marauder or the Vendetta swords (which can sometimes be dual-wielded, depending on the game rules). Melee weapons are actually crucial to an HvZ mission, see the How To Stay Alive section. They don't require darts, reloading, extra gear such as clips or ways to carry ammo and so forth. The main drawback is that they aren't generally useful in games like Jericho or TacOps, and they are less useful in HvHvZ variants.
The "Sharpshooter"
These are people who generally carry spring-powered ranged weapons with the intent of conserving ammo and only taking needed shots. Common smaller guns are the Strongarm and Rough Cut which both have advantages, I'm a fan of the Strongarm. Make sure to push darts fully into the Strongarm to ensure that it fires correctly. Also for people who like bigger guns with (possibly) better accuracy, there's the Longstrike.

Also of note if dual-wielding is allowed are the Sweet Revenge and Hammershot. These are spring-loaded revolvers that are interesting because, due to their hammer-action spring mechanism, they can be fired and primed entirely in one hand.

The "Tank"
This is how I roll (see ridiculous photo to right). The Tank carries lots of ammo and lots of ways to throw ammo, usually with multiple semi-automatic or automatic weapons. I have been known to carry four weapons, though this starts to restrict movement quite a bit. For me one of the best guns for beginners or advanced players is the Stryfe, it's small, powerful, simple and reliable. You can also shoot them one-handed which means you can dual-wield, but you should probably have a sling on at least one of them so you can free up a hand to change clips. At a minimum remove the safeties as discussed in Modifying Your Equipment and consider overvolting. For a long time I used two over-volted Stryfes, and this is still one of my favorite combinations. Another option is the extremely powerful RapidStrike which is fully automatic, but quite heavy. In my experience the RapidStrike is unreliable with it's normal battery setup though some people have no problem with theirs. I had jam problems and the dart pusher would sometimes get stuck, leaving the gun unusable. Overvolting helps this problem but requires rewiring in my opinion, otherwise the temperature safeties in my gun would shut the gun down. After rewiring and switching to LiPo batteries, my only problem is that I can shoot ammo so fast that I run out quickly.

Sock Grenades?

Many games allow for "sock grenades." They are often recommended as a highly underestimated weapon. Frankly, as a "Tank" I just don't see the value. I've never needed my sock grenades when I bring them, but I can imagine they could be more useful with melee weapons or possibly for sharpshooters who are more likely to get in sticky situations with ammo. One clever trick I have seen is to make tiny sock grenades and then stick them into the crevices in your gun so they are immediately accessible in emergencies.

Advice For Gun Users

  1. Carry extra ammo (with easy access!)
  2. Carry extra clips (with easy access!)
  3. Buy Elite series guns. Check online (such as the Nerf Wikia) before buying a gun to learn about ranges, shots per second, accuracy, etc..
  4. Carry a second gun as a backup
  5. Do not store darts in clips - they will start to flatten and jam your gun. I highly recommend getting small boxes to store your ammo in.

Modifying Your Equipment

Nerf Guns are still generally marketed/designed for kids, leaving them lots of room for performance. Modifying your gun may seem daunting, but it's actually quite simple and fun and can make a huge difference in your survival rate. There are many videos and documents online about how to modify your gun, and it's worth looking at some of them. Keep in mind that modifying your gun can damage/destroy it! Here are some modifications to know about and consider
Removing Safeties (highly recommended!)
Many of the guns (particularly the battery powered guns) have safeties for the little kids. These safeties can get you killed in an HvZ. As an example, the clip fed guns have "jam doors" that you can open in case a dart gets jammed. When that jam door is open, it opens a switch which turns the gun off. I've had a jam door pop open in the midst of combat more than once, until I finally removed the safeties on my gun. This can be as simple as taping the pushbuttons so they are always closed or actually rewiring your gun around the safeties.
Spring Guns: Spring Replacement
Some guns (such as the strongarm) have easy-to-find and cheap spring replacements available (do a quick search) that can significantly improve range. It's a pretty easy modification to do.
Battery Guns: Overvolting (recommended!)
The battery powered guns generally use motors with flywheels to shoot the darts. Increase the voltage and your motors will go faster and generally shoot the darts further. Increase the voltage too much and the darts start to fishtail (lose stability and hence accuracy) or your motors burn up (though replacing motors is a reasonable mod). Keep in mind that the overvoltage solutions generally involve rechargeable Lithium batteries. These are the same batteries used in laptops, but they need to be charged and discharged properly or they can catch fire or explode! So treat them properly!

Regardless, overvolting your battery powered guns gives a great advantage. The two main ways to overvolt are:

Trustfire/Ultrafire Batteries
Trustfire batteries are Li-Ion rechargeable batteries that are the size of a AA battery but run at just over twice the voltage (3.6V). For example, take a Stryfe (which uses 4 AA batteries) and put in two Trustfire batteries and two dummy batteries (just an electrical short) (Do not mix Trustfire batteries and regular batteries!). You'll run at just a bit more voltage than the stock 4 AA batteries would, which means the motors spin up faster, meaning you can shoot much quicker and further as well. It's a very easy mod that makes a big difference in your gun. However, before buying Trustfires, consider...
LiPo Battery Packs
Voltage isn't everything. There's also a question of how much current the battery can supply. And this is where LiPo battery packs really win. LiPo batteries are reasonably cheap and can be found in many sizes, these are the batteries used in remote control planes and helicopters. A simple and slow charger can be found cheap (~$25), though a more complicated charger that can take better care of your batteries and charge much faster will get expensive fast ($50 and up). LiPo takes a little more knowledge, but it's worth it. Any "2S" LiPo battery pack will give you 7.2V and can generally dump current very quickly, which will spin your motors very fast. This is why I switched from Trustfires in all of my guns to LiPo batteries. They can be found in online hobby stores and on ebay.
Spring Guns: Air Restrictor Removal
Most spring loaded guns have air restrictors on them that limit how quickly air can come out of the spring piston. Whether this will help you or not depends greatly on the gun. A tiny Jolt doesn't seem to be effected by it much by our tests. And a Strongarm with an improved spring with air restrictors removed will probably break if you dry-fire it (as mine did). Other guns seem to have power improvements if the air restrictor is removed.
Body Modification
Many people chop up and change the bodies of their guns, sometimes simply for show. A very useful example of this is to cut down a RapidStrike which is, in my opinion, too large of a gun. I chopped the stock off of mine. Note that if you do this to a RapidStrike that still uses the stock C batteries then the gun will be very front heavy and harder to hold one handed. Some people have chopped both the stock and the barrel off of a RapidStrike creating the "RapidPistol", which is like a nerf submachine gun. Note that this requires replacing the battery pack which is otherwise underneath the barrel.
Battery Guns: Advanced Mods
Taking it a step further, consider:
  • Replacing the flywheel motors (they are a standard hobby size)
  • Adding internal LEDs and using glow darts
  • Adding a dart counter
  • etc.. etc..
The Ultimate RapidStrike
Here's what I did to my current primary weapon shown in the photo above, it shoots about 5 darts per second, though I can still single fire. It's biggest problem is going through ammo too quickly.
  1. Rewired to remove all safeties
  2. Replaced motors with Solarbotics RM2. Superfast and supercheap
  3. Replaced brushes in Solarbotics with carbon brushes (for longevity) (pulled out of FC-130 motors)
  4. Switched to LiPo battery: ZIPPY Compact 2700mAh 2S 35C.
    It fits perfectly behind the battery cover if you detach the battery tray and drill a hole for the wires.
  5. Chopped off the stock
I'm still tempted to chop the barrel off, though the current battery compartment holds my LiPo perfectly. Incidentally, if you're doing LiPo in a Stryfe, get the "Turnigy nano-tech 1000mAh 2S 20~40C AIRSOFT Pack" - it fits inside the battery compartment after you remove the separators with space still for the wires.

I run all my battery wires outside the battery compartment to another connector that then runs inside the gun. Then I can just disconnect to turn off the gun and connect the gun to the charger whenever I need to charge. I don't need to open the battery compartments unless there's a problem.

Etiquette

Before we start, it should be noted that playing a Zombie is actually quite fun, many people show up at HvZ games with the intention of starting Zombie (and bless all of you who do! :). If you do get killed (which generally happens to everyone by the end, then you are likely to feel pretty disappointed for a few minutes. It will pass, and you will feel the hunger for human flesh. Go and kill! And as a side note, for those of you that leave after turning Zombie, there's no need for you to show up in the first place. We don't need you, and you're a douche. This is different from needing to leave early, that's fine - but leaving because you don't want to be a Zombie makes you a crybaby. And let me tell you this, crybabies don't survive the Zombie Apocalypse.

Also, sometimes it's hard to see where the darts hit, and sometimes it's hard to feel when the darts hit. If you hit someone with a dart, let them know. If they don't believe you, sometimes you can look on the ground and see the dart in front of them, but sometimes there are disputes. And sometimes you shoot someone before being tagged, sometimes you the tag happens before the shot.

Because the game is so full of adrenaline, it's very easy to get overly emotionally invested in the immediate results.

This is, unfortunately, the path to douchedom. Take a breath, try to figure it out, and in the end if you don't know, just give it to the other side. It turns out it won't necessarily matter that much, and remember, the moment you die doesn't mean you "lose" - it means you get to join the ever-expanding and most-likely-to-win team of the Zombies.

Along these same lines, it's easy in the heat of battle to take things physically too far. Watch the head shots. Don't push. Be careful of crouching zombies. Crouching zombies, move to the side if you are blocking a narrow passageway. Winning a game by hurting people doesn't count as a win.

How To Stay Alive

(So you want to be a human?)

Here are some tips specific to HvZ about how to stay human:
Guns: Practice with equipment beforehand!
Rookie players often get taken down because of equipment issues that could have been resolved faster with a little practice. Zombies running at you and your gun jams? Now what? (Here's one hint: don't let them know your gun is jammed and many zombies will still avoid you). Are you able to clear jams quickly? Are you able to switch to your secondary gun quickly? Can you reload fast? Can you reload while running? Can you switch clips? Do you keep track of how many shots you have left in your clip? Battery guns need motor spin-up time before you can pull the trigger, do you give it enough rev time (if not, expect even more jams). If you haven't removed the safeties on your gun, do you know how to resolve those issues? What do you do when your clip hits something and drops out of your gun?

It's pretty easy to spot the new players who aren't comfortable with their gun - they are tentative about shooting because they are in a high-intensity situation and suddenly something very simple such as shooting a gun can get lost. You need this to be part of muscle memory.

So run around and shoot your gun. Switch guns. Switch clips on the fly. Fake or create jams and resolve them. Even a few sessions of practice can make an enormous difference in your preparation. Even for an experienced player, if you switch to a new weapon that you aren't used to you'll find that your reaction times suddenly drop considerably and this can mean death.

Formation
You want to generally stay in an oval shape and you want to have melee weapons on all the "corners" - at least two in front and two in back. Save your darts for when you need them, the Zombies will generally stay right out of range until they see an opportunity, and even then your melee weapons should be able to stun them, unless it's a big swarm. Make sure everyone in formation knows what area they are watching (left side, front, right side, etc...). Your rear needs to generally walk backwards, or at least regularly be checking behind.
Keep the group together
Every human you lose is one more zombie, and one less human protecting you. When things get hectic, it's tempting to run, but if you do, then either your backwards walking rear will have to turn and run (and get tagged by fast zombies) or will get separated from you, and then they will die and your slowest runners will die. Along the same lines, it's tempting (especially with melee) to step out of the group in order to kill a zombie. Good job falling for a trap and getting separated from the group! You almost always want to move slowly and as a close-knit group, one of the only exceptions is...
Beware Crouching Zombies
In games (such as most SF games) that require that shot zombies take a knee and have a stun time, usually they zombies can just stay down until they want to jump up and tag. In some sets of rules you are not able to re-stun a zombie until they stand, making crouching zombies particularly dangerous. If your group is moving through a crouching zombie, make sure everyone knows that they are there (I've seen the backwards-walking rear humans trip over crouching zombies, which just ain't right) and make sure you know what their count is - if they are done or almost done counting, give them space and have a weapon pointed at them. Sometimes crouching zombies are reason to pick up the pace, usually a calm jog will do, running is likely to break up the group. Also make sure everyone knows when you're going to hit a jogging pace, and also make sure to stop jogging as soon as you're safe, it's easy to keep moving fast and wasting energy.
Prepare For Zombie Swarms
One of the best ways to tag humans is to have a swarm of zombies that all attack at the same time. Panic is not your friend in this cases - make sure you've communicated to everyone and make sure you have melee protecting you from those you can't shoot.
Keep Alert!
This seems like it shouldn't need to be stated, but it's amazing how many people lose focus or start paying attention to anything other than the perimeter they should focus on. Make sure you or people in your group are always aware of your surroundings and any incoming zombies. This is one of the top reasons people get tagged - because they were talking to someone or focused on one zombie while a zombie comes in from another side.

Calendar of Bay Area Nerf

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David Ljung Madison
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