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Airsoft Innovations TORNADO Gas Grenade Review

TORNADO Airsoft GrenadeFor some time prior to its release, Airsoft Innovations has held people’s attention with news and videos of their upcoming Tornado gas grenade.  Now the wait is over, and if you want to know how it fares in tests and in the field, you’re at the right place! (Dec 2008 – Check out our review of the Distraction Device Add-on for the TORNADO.)

What is the TORNADO?

The Tornado is a gas-powered reusable grenade that is made with the main objective of replicating the primary effect of a real antipersonnel grenade — that is, a handheld throwable device with an omnidirectional blast radius, which will reliably cause casualties within that radius.

That last part is emphasized because that’s the part existing grenades seem to have trouble with.

In short, when it comes to effectiveness as a grenade the Tornado is frankly orders of magnitude beyond any other BB-shooting airsoft grenade out there right now.  There’s just no comparison.  (See “Appendix A – Other Grenade Tests” at the end of this review for more information.)

The Tornado accomplishes such an effective blast by simply spraying a large number of BBs (180, to be exact) in a spherical pattern for full 3D coverage of the area, regardless of the orientation of the grenade after it is thrown.  The only part that comes off is the pin (which is re-used).  No parts to lose and nothing to re-assemble!

Where To Get It

You can buy direct from the Airsoft Innovations webstore at gungas.com.  Your favorite retailer may also carry them.

How It Looks

The Tornado has the traditional grenade-looking qualities of a cylindrical body and pull-pin, but it is not a replica of any real existing grenade.   If you’re looking for replica grenades to use for their looks, the Tornado will not be for you.

The construction has rounded edges and is very solid.  A little smaller than a soda can, it can fit easily into just about any mag pouch.

How It Works

BBs are loaded into two holes in the side of the grenade body, up near the top end.  They are simply pushed directly in – a loader rod or other loader tool makes this process easier, trust me.  There is a small clip/tab built in to the opening which prevents any BBs from falling out once it is full.

After loading BBs the valve is reset, the pin inserted, and the grenade is filled with gas much the same way as any GBB magazine — there is a fill valve and propane (aka “Green Gas“) is injected into it.  (It is assumed that you have a propane adapter, or other “green gas” cans with which to fill the grenade.)  The grenade should be allowed at least 5 minutes to warm up after filling with gas, otherwise the delay will not be consistent, and will tend to be longer than usual.  The reason for this is the same reason your gas-blowback pistol will have a lower FPS if you don’t let the mag warm up after filling.

(For full instructions on filling and loading the grenade, refer to the manufacturer’s manual.)

The grenade has settings for a 3 second fuse (normal) and a 1.5 second (fast) fuse.  You select the delay by choosing which hole to put the pin into when setting the valve in the loading process.

Image used with permission from Airsoft-Innovations.comWhen the grenade fires, it sprays a stream of propane-propelled BBs from each opening.  The recoil from this action causes the grenade itself to spin and jump while it fires, resulting in a spherical spray of BBs — not just a circle, a full 3D spray!

A total of 180 BBs are expelled at between 65-137 FPS (first BB to last BB).  To put that into perspective, that’s almost three M16 locaps worth of BBs sprayed in a split second!

All the grenade needs is gas, BBs, and some silicone oil for lubrication every 2 uses (as recommended by the user’s manual).

There are no parts that fly apart or off (just remember to hang onto the pin, which is re-used.)

So How Well Does It Work?

First of all, if you’re not sure what the grenade looks like when it fires or how it shoots BBs in all directions, take a quick look at this YouTube video.

This spray of BBs works extremely well in any “hard” areas such as rooms.  Anyone inside a room, unless they are behind cover, will be hit with BBs — guaranteed.  That’s just all there is to it.

However, the grenade doesn’t work as well in foliage.  If the ground is firm and clear the grenade should work well but grass and bushes will impede both the spinning action of the grenade when it fires (and thus impede the BB coverage) and will get in the way of the BBs themselves.

One way around this is to use the “Air Burst” technique.  This consists of setting the grenade to a 1.5 second fuse (instead of the usual 3 second fuse) to make it easier to have the grenade blow in mid-air.  (YouTube demo video of the “Air Burst” technique here.)

Personally, I found the “Air Burst” technique to be tricky.  I’d recommend at least a few practice throws to get the hang of things before you try to use that technique in a game.

Ultimately, I would recommend limiting use of the grenades to their home turf: indoor or similar “hard” enclosed areas.  While they can be used in other areas, indoors and enclosed areas is where they REALLY shine.

Maintenance

A couple notes about maintenance are worth mentioning.  (Refer to the manual for specific maintenance procedures.)

Lubrication

The Tornado is similar to a Gas pistol in that cleanliness of the internals and lubrication is important to maintain proper operation.

Two drops of silicone oil into the gas chamber every two firings is the recommended procedure.  As such, the silicone oil should be considered a consumable along with the gas and BBs.  Fortunately, two drops is not a lot, so a 1 oz bottle of grenade oil has you covered for (according to the manufacturer’s information) approximately 500 throws.

At this writing, as a introductory special Airsoft Innovations is providing grenade oil with Tornado purchases.  The grenade oil is available separately as well.

Cleaning

There isn’t any particular regular cleaning required for the grenade, but seeing as it’s a piece of equipment that gets tossed about and onto the ground, it’s possible some gunk will get somewhere it shouldn’t.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure; so to avoid fouling the inside of the gas chamber, reload the grenade in a clean area and place the bottom cap (which you have to remove in order to fill the grenade with gas) in a clean spot.  If dirt or gunk does get on the cap or inside the grenade, you should be able to just wipe it out with a clean cloth.

The other possible place that could get fouled is the BB holes in the body.  It shouldn’t be much of a problem when they are filled with BBs, but when empty it’s possible something could get in there.  The grenade body is not meant to be opened up (the two halves are screwed together tightly and appear to be sealed with some kind of glue) so anything that gets in there will either have to come out the way it came in (i.e. blown out when the grenade fires) or in the worst case, removed with a piece of pipe cleaner or something.

I haven’t had any issues with foreign material entering the BB holes, but it could happen if you hit the dirt while holding a spent grenade, or someone steps on a spent grenade and pushes it into the sand or something.

Defining Characteristics

The single greatest defining characteristic is the sheer effectiveness in rooms or other enclosed areas. Quite simply I have never seen something fill this role as well as the Tornado Grenade.  Of course, there are also some other things that stand out as well:

  • Very solid construction.
  • Re-usable with no parts to fly off and lose.
  • Mechanism consists of only one moving part (not counting the pin or BBs of course).
  • Gameplay-altering effectiveness in rooms or other “hard” areas.
  • No spoon.  Some see this as one less nonessential piece to lose in the field.  Others see it as lacking a fundamental “grenade” attribute.
  • Reloading and lubing process requires having the manual handy the first few times until you get the hang of it.
  • Reloading the BBs was a little cumbersome the first couple times, until I found the right angle to use with a BB loader.

Also, if you don’t have a loading tube or handheld BB loader, this grenade will make you wish you did because loading 180 BBs by hand will take a looooong time…

Tips and Other Personal Observations

  • I observed something of a break-in period for one of my grenades before the delay settled down to be nice and consistent.  I’d recommend giving a grenade several test runs (with or without BBs) after you buy it before using them in a game.  For one thing, you’ll get familiar with both the loading/refilling and lubrication processes as a result; and if you are experiencing variations in the delay this process should settle it down.
  • Cheap .12g BBs seem to work fine.  But the grenade seems to work somewhat better with heavier ammo.  Heavier ammo means more mass to move and therefore more recoil, which equals a better spread due to how the grenade works.
  • This should be obvious, but know where you plan to throw the grenade BEFORE you pull the pin.  When you are holding an armed and ticking grenade is no time to be changing your mind!
  • Pull the pin out with your off-hand, leaving the grenade in your strong hand for a throw.
  • Throw underhand when possible for overall best results.  It’s easier to control the throw (and you’re less likely to bean someone in the head.)
  • Be careful not to pop open the rubber plug on the top of the grenade!  You are supposed to open this plug while resetting the valve, but if this plug is open when you pull the pin the grenade will explode in your hand! You might want to give it a quick glance before you pull the pin to make sure you didn’t forget to close it, and it didn’t open somehow while handling it.  A grenade that blows up in your hand is worse than no grenade at all.
  • If you are planning to use the Tornado Grenade outdoors where there is undergrowth or grass, I would suggest tying a ribbon of marker tape to your grenade.  It won’t interfere with throwing, and it will make post-throw locating easier.  Even in short grass, the matte black grenade body can be hard to spot — the marker tape will help you see the grenade for later retrieval.
  • It’s worth looking at the chart at the beginning of the manual which explains how different temperatures and gases could affect the grenade’s delay.  Short version:  If you are going to be storing and using the grenades in hot (30+ degrees Celsius), sunny weather you may want to use Duster gas.  For any other application, just use Propane.


Sample Usage: How To Clear A House Full of Enemies In 4 Easy Steps

If you’re not already familiar with such things, here is a very basic use of grenades to clear a building or similar structure.  This process should give you a good starting point if you’re unsure how to effectively make use of these new grenades.

Note that without grenades that can effectively take out people in entire rooms, this kind of room-clearing simply can’t be done in the airsoft world. (Unless you count using dummy grenades and your imagination.)

This process really does work.  It almost looks too simple to even bother needing to practice, doesn’t it?


APPENDIX A – OTHER GRENADE TESTS

I’ve said several times that the sheer effectiveness of the Tornado Grenade is the single greatest thing about it.  I’ve even gone so far as to say that it’s beyond the capabilities of any other airsoft grenade out there.

These are bold claims, and such talk should be backed up.  My review gives some details, but what about other grenades and their capabilities?

It just so happens that Tactical Airsoft & Milsim magazine did just such a test of grenades in their first issue (Summer 2007 – “Battle of the Grenades”).  The Tornado wasn’t available at the time, but it gives an excellent overview of the capabilities and scope of airsoft grenades on the current market.

(Note that this testing covered grenades that fired BBs only.  Grenades that do not shoot BBs were not in scope.)

The grenades reviewed included the AG-01 (citric acid and baking soda-powered propellant), the PFI grenade (a split-shell design), the Deep Fire grenade (break-away body), and the Escort grenade (one-piece with plug on bottom).  All except the AG-01 are gas powered.

The grenades were ranked on:

  1. Realistic Appearance
  2. Cost
  3. Power (FPS)
  4. Dispersion
  5. Ease of Use
  6. Reusability
  7. Noise in Transport (i.e. “rattling”)
  8. Power Source
  9. Number of Pieces
  10. Capacity (Number of BBs held)

If you would like full details of their tests you will need to hunt down the magazine for the actual article and contents, since it wouldn’t be right to reproduce their content here.

However, I can tell you that in the dispersion test (which consisted of 8 people standing in a circle 7 feet in diameter around the grenade) NONE of the tested grenades hit more than 4 of the 8 people. And those were the BEST results!

How Tactical Airsoft & Milsim magazine would rank the Tornado Grenade against competing grenades in the various other categories will have to wait for a follow-up “Battle of the Grenades” article, but one thing I can tell you is that the 7-foot, 8 person dispersion test would be child’s play for the Tornado.  It would easily hit every single person with multiple BBs, every single time. That kind of effectiveness now in the hands of players has the potential to change the way we play the game.