Tackleberry – AKA Anthony Gnapp – has dominated the PTW world for well over a decade.
Anyone who has even a tenuous grasp of PTW history will know it was he who solved a number of significant issues – including the disastrous 2008 motor problem – which delivered usability and reliability to what was a troubled platform. This in turn helped to establish the term ‘Tackleberried’ as a rock solid guarantee of quality.
He kindly answered a few questions for the blog, as he prepares to move into a new phase with his business; one which is hoped will deliver Tackleberry services locally, across the globe – because one of the downsides of success is the massive demand and long wait times for his work.
To accompany Tackleberry’s words, I’ve included just some of the customer builds he’s undertaken which have graced the pages of the blog since it’s inception in 2013.
Let’s start from the beginning. How did you first get into PTWs?
I started skirmishing in 2004 and while I enjoyed the things we all enjoy about the hobby, the one thing that always bugged me about the way an AEG worked was it kept firing when the ammo ran out.
I then became aware of this new Platform from Systema. To anyone in the hobby Systema was all too well known for their range of upgrade parts for Marui, so the idea they would be making their own AEG piqued my interest. It was further piqued when I learned it would feature that one thing that no other AEG had at the time – a functioning Bolt Stop.
However, and there is always one of those, there was the cost. At the time I simply could not justify spending that much money.
Eventually, around 2005, I managed to get a look at one, and the first thing that struck me – and I guess anyone who picks one up for the first time – was just how solid it felt and how different it felt to the regular AEG AR15s around. This of course being down to the fact it was 1:1 size wise with the real thing, and not the strange off scale of the stuff we’d all been using up until then.
I knew then that I had to have one and eventually my first PTW was purchased.
What led you to your niche of perfecting PTWs?
I was already aware of the PTW’s less than adequate shooting performance (at the time the Motor was not an issue), but was not prepared for just how terrible it actually was until I first tried it.
To say I was deflated was an understatement, but I wasn’t going to be defeated by this, and decided I was going to see if anything could be done to change it from an expensive oddity into a fully skirmishable weapon.
What was the first thing you perfected?
The first port of call was the Hop. I tried all manner of ways to improve things, most of which didn’t work too well or were not practical. However when improvements did happen I quickly learnt not to fight it but to work with what was there.
Intriguing! What came next?
The next was Cylinder Performance or getting the Muzzle Velocity up to a sensible level, although in honesty this was being done alongside the Hop.
Modifying the hopeless Bolt Stop mechanism was a very early Mod as well, circa 2005. Then dealing with the spectre of using your PTW when it was damp. The early electronics, in particular the Gen 3, where absolutely useless when it came to a bit of moisture; to the point of if they even sniffed a rain cloud it was a, “No thank you – not today if you don’t mind!”
Obviously water proofing is impossible, but I reasoned that if the sensitive boards could be afforded some protection, then you would at least get half a chance to use the PTW in inclement weather…and thus Moisture Proofing was born.
How about the dreaded 2008 Model problems?
In fairness it wasn’t all bad. It was late 2007/early 2008 when Systema changed to the 2008 Electronics package. This was a massive improvement in general reliability over the Gen 3; but although not as sensitive, Moisture Proofing was still a sensible and necessary thing to do.
However, it also heralded the switch from the delightful, reliable, sweet running and robust 480 to the frankly abysmal 490 motor. To be honest I shouldn’t be too harsh on it as it was this which propelled me forward as a business, as seemingly I was the only one who had an answer to the problems and a working solution.
All those years messing around with R/C Car Motors as a hobby was about to come into use – in very big way. I didn’t hit the nail on the head straight away, but early fixes were helping and bringing into focus the very specific peculiarities of this type of Motor.
While in essence it is a D/C Motor it soon became apparent it was a highly unconventional design – brought about by the requirement to fit in to the space provided (a 1:1 grip).
The burning question was always why was the 480 so reliable yet the 490 was a piece of shit! It was a literal eureka moment when the solution to the continued winding failures popped up, and the rest is history…
After you’d established the essential mods, you started to branch out with more custom work?
Indeed – I began to offer the more “Vanity” based mods, which enabled the use of different Stocks etc.
An early example was the “Basic Li-Po Conversion”. This shortened the rather long EL-003 Switch Device, allowing a bit more space for the Battery to slide as far down the Buffer Tube as possible – leaving the minimum sticking out the back; which of course allowed pretty much any commercially available Carbine Butt Stock to close as far down as possible. This was done with Gen 3 Electronics well before the 2008 version came out.
Then came the popularity of the UBR Stock, which led to the Super Mini Module. I was the first to make an ultra short EL-003, being roughly 1/3rd the original length of the donor 2008 Switch Device. This of course got mercilessly copied, but oddly the cloners completely missed the point of why it was done and the way it was done for a very specific purpose.
Then of course there is the modifying of Real Steel Grips to fit the PTW. Most Grips can be made to fit. Some are fairly easy while others are, er, not so. The K2 Grip, and similar shallow angle Grips, were something I’d been toying with doing for years.
The restrictions of fitting a Grip of a completely different angle to the Motor are pretty obvious, and while I knew what I had to do to achieve it, I just kept putting it off. Then a PTW popped up in Japan with one fitted, so I thought okay; lets give it a go. What I needed was a willing participant. “Hey Rich, do you fancy…”
There have of course been one off modified Barrels for specific custom applications of Suppressor and Handguard, and various other custom work too – Cerakote and engraving. There’s also the Super Float RS mag conversion.
10 years ago I dabbled with a Beta C-Mag conversion using a combination of RS and Airsoft C-Mags to get the desired result. It was 90% there, but for some reason the PTW just doesn’t lend itself to it and how the Mag functioned. I still have it somewhere, and might go back to it one day and see if I can get it to work reliably!
One of the PTW’s big plus points is its 1:1 scale with the real thing. However there are couple of areas where it is not 100% right.
The obvious one being the early Buffer Tube which people thought was Commercial size, but was in fact off by just enough for it to sit somewhere between Comm & Mil Spec; annoyingly shaped like a Commercial Tube. This was later ditched by Systema for a proper Mil Spec sized Tube from 2012, but converting and installing RS buffer tubes took off and is still popular today.
Obviously it’s not just the mods in isolation which perfect the PTW – I gather there’s the fitment part and a whole lot of other engineering?
One example is the Trigger Guard. While a little out of spec with RS, fortunately it’s not enough to cause a big headache with fitment – although you need to watch out with the RS Set Pin being slightly larger. Plenty of OEM Systema Receivers having been broken by unwitting owners this way.
The profile of the Lower Receiver around the front Hinge Pin is, to be frank, an odd shape. Why they chose to do this is beyond me, but being squared off and longer than it needs be means it fouls some Handguards when the Receivers are swung open, catching out the unwary and sometimes resulting in new OEM Receivers being required. Machining clearance into the Handguard is essential, and far more preferable than using spacer shims to move the Handguard forward.
Fortunately this not an issue with aftermarket CNC’d Receivers like HAO, as they have the correct profile around the Front Pin.
With all that said, how does a basic Tackleberried PTW differ from an out of the box PTW – in a sound byte?
Usability and Reliability.
Now…expansion. I understand the first Tackleberry franchisee is about to sign on the dotted line?
In fact he already has, and should be up and running from early Feb. I’d been toying with franchising for a number of years. The main reason being shipping – especially by air with the costs and risks involved. The idea being to put an individual with the necessary Tackleberry skill set within easy – or easier reach – of more customers across the globe.
What’s it like working with Systema in one word?
Why did you choose to form a strategic partnership with HAO?
It was initially born out of necessity, due to the astonishing unreliability of supply from Suzutomo with regards to 416 kits. As it happens it was blessing in disguise, as HAO have improved and expanded on that product in the last few years.
If I don’t ask you about the Super Hop, I’ll get abuse…
Ahhhhhh, the Super Hop! The idea was originally born out of two basic requirements. First was to make it easier to adjust, and second was to use a conventional AEG Hop Rubber. That’s it.
I knew from the start it would get copied and cloned mercilessly, so with that it mind the adjustment on the prototypes was done with the now familiar external wheel. And as sure as night follows day the clones started to appear…all of them using the “red herring” that was the external wheel.
The prototypes were simply to prove a theory, which as you know yourself, worked. I may return to it one day when I have more to time to dedicate to it.
Lastly, when is the PTW forum coming back?
The new Forum should be up and running in February too.
Until then, Tackleberry’s PTW Facebook group is here.
For information on running your own Tackleberry franchise, contact Anthony Gnapp.