CycleOps Fluid2 TrainerMelissa and I have just returned home from a wonderful long-weekend celebrating Christmas with our family in Southern Virginia. We received wonderful gifts from my parents, Melissa’s parents, and other members of our family. I want to thank everybody for all the gifts, and I sincerely hope that you all enjoy our gifts to you as well.

I spent part of this evening getting our new CycleOps Fluid2 trainer set up, which was a gift from my parents. This is, basically, a device that connects to a bicycle so you can use any bike as an indoor stationary bike. I apologize for the poor picture, but I set it up in a place where there wasn’t a whole lot of room ;-). I’m not sure exactly how these things work, but the simplistic version is that the bike is held in place by the frame of the trainer, and the wheel rests against a spinny doojob.

The spinny doojob has a flywheel (to provide some inertia) and another gizmo that provides resistance (for friction). All-in-all, it basically feels like you’re riding on a road—at least as far as raw friction. The inertia is a bit light (so the bike wheel stops spinning a bit faster than it does on a real ride), but overall it’s quite realistic. You adjust resistance simply by shifting gears, which is pretty slick and easy. I did a half-hour ride this evening after setting it up, and I was sweating just as much as I do on a real ride (which is how I judge effectiveness ;-)).

Aside from the trainer, we got all kinds of other great stuff. Melissa’s parents gave me a Beatles Monopoly game (combining two of my favorites) and a James Bond 007 Encyclopedia. My parents gave me a Mystery Science Theater 3000 DVD set (one of my favorite shows) and some great CDs. Of course, there’s all kinds of other things mixed in. It always takes me a few weeks to process everything around Christmas because my family is so incredibly generous.

Of course, Christmas is always followed (possessions-wise) by a second Christmas—putting all those gift cards and monetary gifts to good use. After returning to Northern Virginia today, we swung by Dick’s Sporting Goods to pick up an Airsoft gun. Airsoft is sorta the modern incarnation of the BB, combined with some paintball influence. Airsoft guns, which are powered by various mechanisms including CO2 cartridges, pumps, springs, and electric systems, fire a 6mm plastic BB that is designed to be fairly harmless—harmless enough that Airsoft guns are used for recreational war games, much like paintball tournaments, where people shoot at each other for fun.

In my case, I was looking for a cheaper way to build my firearms proficiency. I had considered a .22LR caliber pistol, since .22LR ammo is far, far cheaper than 9mm or .38 Special ammo, but stumbled upon Airsoft during my research. The biggest benefit is this: Airsoft guns, with an appropriate target device, can be used in the home safely and quietly (important in an apartment ;-)). BBs and CO2 cartridges are very, very cheap. Companies like Cybergun make Airsoft pistols that are accurate, authorized replicas of ‘real’ guns. A whole Airsoft system—the gun, targets, BBs, and CO2 cartridges (if necessary)—can be had for less than a .22LR pistol.

So, since the startup cost is low and the range and ammo fees, after that startup, are extremely low as well, it seemed like a good deal. We’ll see how it works out.

sw-mp-airsoft2sw-mp-airsoft1sw-mp-airsoft4sw-mp-airsoft3Anyway, the gun I picked up is a CO2-powered replica of the Smith & Wesson M&P .40 caliber, which is practically identical to my M&P 9mm. It’s a bit lighter than the real M&P, but is otherwise a very accurate replica. This allows me to target practice with Airsoft in the apartment using a gun with the same grip, ergonomics, and dimensions of my ‘real’ gun. Of course, Airsoft practice does not replace real range time with real firearms. I am, however, looking at this as a practical, economic supplement to my firearms accuracy training.

In the photos to the right, you can see the Airsoft gun (easily identifiable as being a ‘fake’ firearm by its orange barrel tip). You’ll also see a side-by-side comparison of the M&P Airsoft gun as compared to my real M&P 9, the 5,000 count bunch of Airsoft BBs, and the Gel target I’m using initially (the BBs hit the gel material and hang there for a few seconds, before starting to slide down slowly into the tray—this photo was taken after a few seconds, so my actual shots were mostly higher than shown).

Obviously I’ve only had the Airsoft gun for a few hours now, but so far I’m enjoying it quite a bit. I’m not impressed with the target though, since it seems to be under-designed for a gun like the M&P replica (shooting at at 380 feet-per-second velocity) and is already showing serious wear and damage. I’m already looking into better Airsoft targets. The gun itself, however, seems to be quite good and accurate. It should be a good addition to my arsenal and a great way to shoot daily (or nearly daily) without spending a fortune.

Anyway, all is well. Tomorrow I’ll be back to work and getting back into the regular swing of things. I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas (or Hanukkah) and I wish you all a Happy New Year!