During our visit at IWA & OutdoorClassics 2009 we've met representatives of Airsoft Innovations from Canada, Carlton Chong (Director) and his associate Bartek Foltyn. They were guests at Redwolf Airsoft stand were they could present their product: multiple use airsoft fragmentation grenade Tornado - described as most effective among all the grenades produced up to date. Carlton Chong has handed us one grenade to review it.
gas: propan or HFC134a;
activation: by removing safety pin;
capacity: 206 BB;
hit radius: 360';
Grenade sold for ~100 USD.
Grenade is delivered in simple cardboard box. Inside in hermetic plastic bag, we have a grenade itself, pin with a ring and key for valve reset.
At first, grenade made me pretty confused. From one point of view it doesn't resemble any real thing, which is usually a rule in airsoft, but on the other hand it looks solid, general look and proportions are sending a clear message that it is a hand grenade actually - so it is not that bad. Grenades are available in three colours - black, yellow and blue. Last two should make it easier to find your grenade after tossing it.
In June, Airsoft Innovations informed that their grenade would be available also in Flat Dark Earth colour.
In general grenade's principle of operation is very simple, but after closer look it is obvious that it wasn't designed during two evenings with CAD. The main difference to the real grenades (and its major drawback) is lack of a "spoon". Pulling of the pin initiates the delay and nothing can be done from that moment. On the IWA, Carlton Chong presented the prototype with functional spoon. New grenades equipped with a spoon would be available soon, also the spoon kit which may be assembled at previous series would be available in company's offer. This kit would for sure make tornado more attractive and make it more usable.
How does it work
Loading with pellets
Time for what is complicated in its simplicity - so how it works. To use the grenade, obviously it has to be loaded first. Before you start make it safe by removing bottom cap. This ensures you, that even if there would be still gas and pellets inside then somebody would "accidentaly" remove the pin, all the gas would decompress safely without letting out the BBs.
Remove plug on the top of the grenade. It is important, because if we skip this step - it would be impossible to reset the valve.
Then reset the valve with a small key (in the package) by putting it to original setting. Reset it by pushing a key down in the "neck".
For comparison, below valve in the setting after use (empty) and further below: after reset - ready to charge with the gas:
Next, place the safety pin in one of the available slots. In theory our choice decides about delay - 3 or 1.5 sec ( about that a bit later ). Then put the plug back in place. Filling with gas is done like in other gas replicas (it can load something around 1-1.5 pistol mag gas capacity; there is standard valve there). Next is to fill the tubes with BBs (through holes on the top of the grenade).
You may load BBs with a standard loading tool ("syringe") though it requires some attention. Producer (likewise some portals and reviews) states that grenade can load 180 pellets. When we tested and calculated this, it seems we could load 206 BBs. After loading it is ready to transport and almost ready to use. To arm the grenade just put back the bottom cover. It is recommended by the producer (reasonably) to remove the cover to transport or store the grenade. In Canada it is necessary to disarm the grenade before entering safe zone from gameplay area.
Producer recommends to use silicon oil every second use (two drops). Bartek Foltyn stressed that it is highly recommended to use Airsoft Innovations silicon oil, dedicated for Tornado, if we want to keep it working properly - due to variable oil density of other brands. Our testes prooved that without using silicon oil - after just a few blast-off - valve tends to move with difficulty and delay is much longer.
It might look like just another marketing move to get some additional profit. It is hard to say. It is truth though that silicon oil by AI is more dense than standard silicon oil for airsoft replicas. They charge 5USD for one bottle (like the one above), the grenade was set-off more than 70 times during the tests and the oil usage was almost none: just the oil from the neck hidden in the bottle cap. I personally think that trying to bargain on that might be irrational, especially if we would buy a few grenades with friends. It seems enough for long term use for a couple of grenades.
Setting off the grenade
To set off the grenade pull off the safety pin. After pulling it off, delay mechanism is started and after some time BBs would be set off. Thanks to rotating move BBs are expelled in every direction. It is recommended to toss it on the safe distance right after pulling the pin off :)
After the successful operation, it just takes to find the grenade, pick it up and start from the very beginning.
How does it work?
So what happens inside during "blast-off". Simply speaking, grenade is just a tube closed from one side with double chamber plastic valve inside.
When we charge the gas it fills the lower chamber. Valve movement towards the top is blocked by the safety pin.
When we pull of the pin, valve starts to move towards the top. Delay at this point is achieved by "airbag" of the upper chamber. Air stored in the upper chamber is let out through the hole in upper body. Hole itself is fitted with semipermeable material which slows down the process and ensures of the proper delay.
At the moment, when lower edge of the valve is moving towards the top, when it would reach the broader part of the tube, gas is let out into lower part of the body. If the grenade is disarmed (no lower cover) gas is let off in the air. If it is armed it is let out through its only way out: two spiral tubes filled with BBs. Gas expells BBs and thanks to spiral shape it starts to rotate the grenade. All of the BBs are expelled in 0.18 second. BB muzzle velocity is 135fps, which is the best among any other airsoft grenades.
Thanks to its rotation pellets are expelled in every direction. What is more, every tube end is directed in different angle which should result in more dense blast-off zone.
Outlet aiming high
Tornado has no parts which might be easy to loose, like replacable shells and its construction is sturdy and firm. Producer assured us that it is practicaly impossible to damage the grenade during normal usage, but there would be replacable parts available.
Air temperature would affect the delay time. It seems that in most cases shorter delay setting would work better, unless it is really hot. There is also "no delay" setting possible, which is achieved by skipping to plug upper exhaust step (during loading and arming process).
In theory thanks to zero delay setting, Tornado might be used as a claymore type mine, but it seems improbable. When grenade is armed, pulling out the pin requires pretty big force. So to set off the mine, it would have to be equipped with a sturdy thick string and "the victim" should walk fast or most preferably run. What is more, to properly mount your Tornado mine, it would have to be firmly attached to some unmovable element, what takes down the primary advantage of the grenade - rotation. In my opinion, "mine solution" is a pure theory.
Grenade may be tossed or rolled on the ground. If you choose to roll, to get the best rotation effect and range, keep the grenade upside up when rolling with a right hand (upside down when rolling with a left hend). It is due to rotation turn and decompression direction.
Airsoft Innovations has started to sell a set which converts it into "flash" bang. Set is simple, it consists of two elements plastic ring and 50 plastic stickers.
To use Tornado as a flash bang, just put the plastic ring under lower cover, it would cover the BB tubes. It is now safe to use without a risk to let out any forgotten pellets. Next take off the plastic plug from lower cover.
In the place of a plug, just place the sticker (round sticker made of transparent film) and to arm screw down the cover. When the gas is set off - pressure would rupture a sticker with a bang.
Let's drop a specification and maintanance details. Time for subjective feeling.
It is not that smooth. Of course, the idea is just great, especially where the pyrotechnics are forbidden. Grenade works silently (except for the FB set :F ) and "blast" sound is similar to cool-down effect in GBB, so it is safe for your hearing, as it is frequently the danger of using pyrotechnic based grenades. Grenade really spreads equally in every direction - it is impossible to point the safe zone. Unfortunately because of its specification (rotation) it would be rather effective in buildings than anywhere else. For example any forest-like location with any greenery would limit or make it impossible to hit anyone. Not mentioning that it might be hard to find our grenade after the game.
As we mentioned, muzzle velocity is around 135fps which is felt less than pyrotechnic grenades with a pea pellets. Which means you might have to expect to be hit by the grenade to actually feel it. Sometimes, especially if one wears a vest and helmet it might be hard to feel any hits.
Flash bang, as for producer data emits 120dB. In my opinion it is silent especially in comparison to avarage petard. Though bang is loud enough to get somebody surprised. It is a safe compromise between loud flash bangs and safety of our eardrums.
Unfortunately the biggest drawback of Tornado is a delay mechanism. Tornado commercial states proudly that delay should be altered by pin placement with 1.5 or 3 seconds setting respectively. But in manual we may find some information that the delay would be altered by the temperature and may vary from 2 up to 5 seconds. Unfortunately even this is not true. During tests I did some load, set-off and reload rounds with a short delay one by one - which resulted in cooling down and delay time extended. Grenade had to go back to room temperature to make it possible to keep going with a test. For comparison I did a tests with Green Gas as propelant.
When charged with Green Gas (120 psi in 20'C), if to set short (default 1.5 sec.) delay - avarage delay after 10 attempts was a bit above 5 seconds (4-6.5 seconds range). Longer delay (default 3 sec.) after 10 attempts had avarage of over 7 seconds (6.5-8 sec. range).
Results for Propan (150 psi at 20'C) short delay setting after 10 attempts was around 3.5 sec (3-4.5 sec. range). Longer delay setting after 10 attempts was a bit below 6 seconds (5-6 sec. range).
As it seems, due to unstable delay, Green Gas is not recommended to use with Tornado grenade. Propan gives much more reliable delay times but it is still longer then product specification says. Tests were pursued at chilly summer beginning (20-22'C) and obviously the pressure would rise in higher temperatures so when it gets warmer like 25-27'C, Propan might give delays close to producer data. Since extreme temperature range in specification is +13'C up to +47'C it might mean that Tornado was designed for a bit warmer climate zone than Poland.
As it isn't available in Poland we haven't have a chance to test HFC134a gas which is recommended by a producer for higher temperatures. Due to avarage temperatures in Poland and above tests on Propan and Green Gas it seems that it would not be much of use in our climate zone. Delays would be longer and power would be lower.
After longer usage, it came out that it is not true that "this grenade cannot be broken". I manage to do it temporarily. After first round of tests indoor (70-100 set-offs) I took the grenade outside. After tossing grenade ten times on concrete (it was nothing like using force, just low hand short distance throw) it stopped to work properly. It started to went off immediately after pulling the pin. When I looked into it, it came out that an upper cap (on the top of gas chamber) was a bit slacked. Fortunately after screwing it firm (even using inserted pin as a lever works fine) everything went back to normal and the grenade was again functional.
Take it with you
RedWolf Airsoft website offers MOLLE style pouches designated for Tornado grenade. Fortunately grenade fits well into popular pouches like M4/M16 or smoke grenade pouch. To take out the grenade you can quite safely use the ring on the safety pin - to pull the pin off it requires some power, and it's sideways not upright.
Double M4/M16 mag CQB pouch
Double M4/M16 mag CQB pouch
Double M4/M16 mag CQB pouch
Smoke grenade pouch
Smoke grenade pouch
Smoke grenade pouch
Along with a Tornado we have also received new Propan bottle adapter. Old metal type was known in Poland for quite a time (probably because it was copied and "hand-made" produced). New one is made of plastic so it is more leakproof on the adapter to gas container and as well on the end while charging. Inside there is also gasket preventing leaks between movable parts. Set goes with a cap to protect the plastic nozzle from any damage.
For a few years now I've been using metal adapter and now I had a chance to intensively test the plastic one, and I must say it's a step forward in comfort of using Propan.
As Carlton and Bartek says, Tornado are very popular in Canada. During games which are mostly played in confined paid game areas, you may say avarage every second/third player would use the Tornado. Everyone would rather have two or three grenades and it seems enough for one game. I believe it is a very good, probably perfect solution for any airsoft society which would not allow pyrotechnics. Nevertheless wherever it is legal to use I would still opt for "pea petard".
Grenade tested thanks to producer Airsoft Innovations from Canada
Translation by Bukhart