Voltron vs Reptile House – an Interview with The Reptile House
Many years ago, born from a steady diet of old school copies of Airsoft International, The Wannabe Forums and The ‘Official’ Systema PTW Forum’s I found an ample home to air my on field ‘Plastic Deth‘ exploits and engage with other likeminded individuals …
Shortly thereafter, the world was firmly gripped in the explosion of social media and smart phones.
Naturally, trawling lengthy threads and the days of personal messaging and even emails soon all but, became a thing of the past …
One positive of this epithet was the ability to really connect and share information, enthusiasm and really expedite our own personal endeavors within the community. Particularly this was evident in the PTW’s page earliest incarnation on Facebook.
Whilst we traded information and criticism, praise and awe in equal measure it was noticed by some, that perhaps these works of ‘Krylon’d‘ art deserved their own platform, and that their owners individually should be given the soapbox to record for posterity their labors of love.
One such man, up until a recent hiatus, undertook such responsibility to become librarian and curator, and to this day his blog stands tall as a monument to ‘Plastic Deth‘ …
It’s with great pleasure I welcome none other than Rich N of ‘The Reptile House‘ …
GM75: Welcome aboard, Rich – I’ve been dying to get you on here and shine the proverbial bright light in your face and grill you about your blog ‘The Reptile House‘.
I’ll open up with this to set the tone, for you what was the purpose, or rather driving ethos behind creating such a vast catalogue of PTW’s ?
TRH: Cheers, I’m humbled to be part of your blog, so thanks very much for the kind invitation to chat. Hopefully some readers will remember me from before the blog took an extended holiday and not think, “Who is this PTW obsessed idiot?”
The Reptile House is sort of a classic web log because while it’s mainly written by me, the main audience is also me! It’s a way of documenting my interests, experiences and influences; what I’m impressed with and what inspires me. I suppose the difference is, it’s as much about the creations of other people as is is about my amateurish efforts.
Also, I really, really like writing. Airsoft has been my main interest for the better part of ten years but when I got into PTWs in 2010, like you I found a whole new world with different customs, rituals and higher expectations of quality and performance.
I felt like I really fitted into that world and I met a lot of like-minded individuals.
So I suppose my unconscious ethos with the blog was, “This is some really cool shit. I want to know more about this really cool shit and while I’m learning about this really cool shit I’m going to write about it, too.” That extended from giving my thoughts on the parts or gear that I’d bought, to PTW builds, evidencing trending blaster parts from in the wild pics, loadouts and later Recoil Shock builds.
I get the same PTW-world buzz from the guys into the Marui Recoil Shock platform, which is why – with enormous help from Ben Webb of AI – I started learning about that area and writing about it, too.
People started sending me stuff to review at some point, but I always made it clear that I’d say what I’d say, not read from their script. I’d also never guarantee they’d get a review, unless the item hit the mark in terms of quality. Believe me, I can write negative reviews. I just don’t like wasting my time doing it when there’s so much cool shit out there.
GM75: It grew, early on at such an exponential rate, did you at any point struggle for material or feel pressure to deliver ?
TRH: When the blog’s readership grew and grew, I was shocked. However, how much of the blog’s success was down to its content I don’t know. I was really lucky that the blog picked up some highly influential readers, who are also Airsoft taste-makers.
I’ve mentioned Ben Webb. I’m really grateful to Ben for his input into the blog but also because he championed it. I got a huge spike in readership after we collaborated on the first Recoil Shock article and he put the link out on AI’s Facebook page.
I just sat staring at the stats that night, marvelling at the global reach of AI !
At that point my work rate was phenomenal and in hindsight there was no way I could keep it up. That’s why the blog had to take a break. I had Airsoft burn-out and completely lost my mojo. This coincided with a foot injury and a period of ill-health, which meant I couldn’t play for many months.
But, at no point did I feel pressure to publish from anywhere other than myself. Now the blog has started up again, I shall be pacing myself …
I don’t think I ever struggled for material. There’s just too much cool shit out there that I can’t document it all. The only thing I did have difficulty sucking up was when someone wanted me to blog their blaster and I didn’t think it was right for what I was doing. That’s harsh, because it’s like telling someone that their child is ugly.
GM75: Stepping off track momentarily, do you recall me getting Stickman (world renowned firearms photographer) to drop by and say hello regarding the blog ?
I think for me, his recognition of the quality on offer was not only credit to yourself, but the level of attention to detail set by purists you featured …
TRH: It was really kind of you to direct Stick to my blog because I’m a massive fan of his, as you know. I hope he thought, “These Airsofters really do get it and are doing some cool stuff” because you’re right about attention to detail in the builds that I tend to feature. My blog is nothing without the talents of others.
GM75: I, like yourself, remain a huge fan of the work horse qualities and durability of the PTW series. I won’t date insult the more learned engineers amongst us, who fettle these in to even more awe inspiring capabilities (take a bow Tackleberry) – but do you feel it’s still wrongly much maligned amongst the masses, PTW owners often being branded as elitist or snobs ?
TRH: I’m glad you mentioned Tackleberry, but how could we not? Until I discovered Tac, there was absolutely no way I would have bought a PTW. Did I like the concept? Yes. Did I like the trigger response? Yes. Did I like the 99% RS compatibility? Oh yes.
But come on… every time I saw a PTW user in the field, their gun would last the morning – working intermittently due to drizzle; with constant hop fiddling to get 50% of their shots on target. They’d then play the rest of the day with their backup Cyma AK …
Tackleberry changed all that. He also changed the way I think about equipping myself. I now only own two blasters – two PTWs. I only actually need one, since I’ve never had a PTW go down. But one is none, as they say…
So, I don’t know if the base product is unfairly maligned, because I wouldn’t go near a PTW that Tac hasn’t worked on.
As for the snobby elitists, I think there’s a lower propensity for that sort of behaviour because other platforms have developed so much. Look, all we’re doing at the end of the day is blowing a plastic BB out of what amounts to a pea shooter. The mistake the elitists make is that a PTW somehow bends the laws of physics. It really doesn’t.
All you are doing by choosing a PTW is selecting the way in which you want the BB to exit the barrel. I want my BB to exit using a lipo battery, with a decent trigger response, in a highly consistent way. That really is it. No challenge to Einstein in any of that.
GM75: Now, I’ll put you on the spot, you documented hundreds of PTW’s and the work done by their owners, but did you have a particular favorite iteration you liked to cover, or even a particular interview/PTW which you really felt set the standard ?
TRH: Well, the item which really set the standard was the one I did with you, right at the start (linked below). If you remember, we were both riffing on the fanzine aesthetic – which is what my blog basically is: a fanzine dedicated to PTWs and other cool shit. If it wasn’t for that piece of convergent thinking, it may have taken some time to get the formula right.
As for favourite PTWs, it’s a long list! I don’t feature blasters which I don’t like and even leave out ones I do like, through lack of time.
In no particular order, here are ten of the best …
(Click on any of the links in green to go to TRH’s original blogs – S23)
Andy’s Block I:
Mil Done Right #2 – Andy’s Block I
Dan’s Mega Build:
Dan’s Mega Build
Kryloned Blasters 2.5 – Seraph’s 416, Ultra
SN22’s Block II:
Mil Done Right #19 – Tackleberry’s M733
Kryloned Blasters #3 – Tuomo’s SPC
Sailun’s Twisted Classic:
Sailun’s Twisted Classic
GM75: Your own PTW’s saw a prolifically organic evolution and often went beyond the curve of trends and the popular zeitgeist – drawing inspiration from what you’d observed and then given your own flair for both form and function.
Such an evolution was to me astounding, but I often wondered, with much respect – was such an auteur’s vision almost it’s own ‘Alpha and Omega’ ?
TRH: It’s a good question. I think I got lost in the detail with my own blasters. For instance, in hindsight I’m not sure that painting my brand new SGT 416 in dazzle camo was such a good idea (I’m sure many people thought the same thing at the time).
I’ve zoomed out a bit now. Looking back on the blaster I liked using the best, it was a completely vanilla 2012 PTW. It was carbine length, with plastic hand guards and A-frame sight. That’s sort of ironic, given the vast amounts of attention I’ve given to blaster evolution.
My 416 is now back to black, mainly because spraying Krylon over Cerakote is such a massive PITA. It’s easy to remove Krylon from Cerakote, but that also means Krylon doesn’t bond too well to Cerakote. Not great if you like painted blasters, which I do and I’d never buy a Cerakoted gun again for that reason.
The other thing with the 416 is that you can’t really do much to it. It’s sort of constantly vanilla. There are only so many rails, for instance. I’ve got an RS SMR on mine, but for a bit of variety I’ve ordered a HAO 416 quad rail. I’m hearing very good things about HAO’s gen 2 416 and I think for the price it quite possibly rivals SGT’s item. I need to see one, though. Anyway, the 416 stops me chopping and changing, by design. So that’s a very good thing.
My M4 will be getting a classic upper soon, in homage to that vanilla carbine I mentioned earlier. It’ll all be blogged, if anyone is still interested (I can safely say they very are –S23)
GM75: Whilst we’ve remained in contact, naturally as one of the ‘best friends’ I’ve yet to actually meet, we’ve both been busy on and offline. However, I’ve noticed recently a few ‘Reptile‘ Godzilla fins breaking the surface with not one, but two recent releases on the blog. Could we see a return to form, or are you happy to ambush the unsuspecting reader with this new guerrilla style attack ?
TRH: Thanks, S23 – that’s very kind of you! Funnily enough, my son is completely obsessed with Toho Studios’ Godzilla films (he’s only 8, so there’s still time…) and insists on watching the Japanese versions with English subtitles, rather than the American dubbed versions.
There’s been no plan for asymmetric literary warfare. I’d really like to publish at a steady rate. To be honest, I think the blogs that look like guerrilla attacks were me coming back to it too early.
One thing’s for sure, though. Playing Airsoft – not blogging or being online – is my priority going forward.
GM75: It reminded me a lot of Bill Watterson (Calvin and Hobbes creator) who’d preferred to retire content he’d completed his body of work, and surprise everyone with the odd piece now and then ?
However, in its absence, have you been keeping up to date with ‘Plastic Deth’s‘ evolution, the rise of, and plethora of material that almost obscures the very act of getting out in the field, and perhaps the pursuit of, or celebrity status of some individuals ?
TRH: I’ve an awful lot to catch up on, because I’ve not really looked at anything Airsoft related for about a year. However, even when I was on top of things I very much saw myself as a self-directed learner, so the way I’ll be approaching things won’t change. Aside from that, I don’t know what I don’t know. That’s scary and exhilarating at the same time.
My approach, then, is wanting to know why people make decisions in selecting components, gear, paint, etc. I like hearing about what people do and how they interpret things, because it interests me.
A good example here, is Seraph of TF Green. I’m not a MilSim player and I’m not an impressionista, but I really admire his drive, determination, seriousness and attention to detail. He’s always given his time freely and he sent me a rather nice TF Green patch, which is still on my cap.
If I spoke to him in real time, he’d never get away because I’d ask him about all the details. The good thing is, he’d have answers for all the details: why his vert grip is placed here, why he chose this rail, how he does his paint jobs (which as you know were an influence on me taking up rattle cans).
As for internet Airsoft celebrities, I particularly admire the ones who haven’t hustled to get where they are but are there out of hard work, talent, or a combination of the two. There’s always lots to learn from them, which is always a good thing. Most are wise, thoughtful and innovative. I also think as a community we’re quite quick to sniff out the pretenders.
As for obscuring the act of getting out there and playing the game…
I’ve been guilty of that. However, I’m building up my kit at the moment to get out there and play and I’ll say again that the blog/online world won’t ever get in the way of that. I’m going back to basics.
GM75: In the truest tradition, it wouldn’t be complete without asking the old favorite, obligatory last question – I always like to ask (kind of a trademark), I’m a fan of 30 Rounds per mag, what’s your thoughts on this – could you see this perhaps bringing something new and fresh to game play if embraced by the masses ?
TRH: I’m not that good a shot!
I go with 80 rounds per mag, for no other reason than needing the firepower. I don’t max out my mags to 120, because 80-100 is the real design limit for trouble-free PTW mag performance.
I think if I played a MilSim I could get away with a real cap load, but my local skirmish site is very hi-cap oriented, so mids are enough of a challenge as it is. There are some really talented players there who use high caps – contradictory, but true – so I’m pretty pleased I can hold my own with more of an ammo limit.
GM75: So, honest, humble and profoundly insightful as ever. Two new articles have already surfaced. Check them out and the vast back catalogue of blasters here –
REPTILEHOUSEBLOG | thereptilehouseblog.com
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