VKB Gunfighter Review Part II

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Paddy
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VKB Gunfighter Review Part II

Post by Paddy » Sat Sep 30, 2017 10:56 pm

Welcome back to part II of my VKB gunfighter review, which is (ahem) well overdue and apologies for being such a slacker.

Summarising Part I
To summarise the first part, we have a joystick of beautiful construction and quality but not for the faint hearted as you have to open her up and adjust things manually upon receipt. It's not cheap either but then nothing from VKB is. For those who want to splash a little cash and just plug and play, this is not a stick for them. For those who desire quality, control and finesse and can afford it, perhaps this could be the stick you're looking for.

Out of the box
Once you receive your stick the first thing you have to do is open her up. By which I mean, she's been tied down for transportation in order to keep her in tip top shape, so before you plug it in you have to loosen two key nuts in order to not be weight training every time you use it. The nuts are the two brass coloured ones in the top right below.
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And here's where using the stick for the first time is a learning curve, as you have to keep adjusting the tension on it unless you manage to get it right first time. It's one thing to have it feel right on your workbench (aka dining table) another thing when you are actually flying and you realise that you didn't want something that stiff in your hand and why has your Uncle Tom got a smile on his face? Muuuuuum!

One thing to remember is that if you physically adjust the stick you also need to recalibrate it as well and you should calibrate it the first time that you use it and everytime you adjust it. In recent videos that I have posted to ACG Cinema, you'll see me spin out in several of them and luckily recover - this was not a flying error, this was stupidly forgetting to recalibrate the stick so that the inputs are correct. I was lucky to recover.

To calibrate it you have to download VKB's calibration software which if I remember rightly, wasn't that simple to find from the off and you get redirected to their Russian site to get the software (this now seems to be available on the Gunfighter Store Page). A quirk to the setup is that you have to select your stick first in the blue box (see image) before software buttons light up and become available to you. There's a set order to calibrating it and great guidelines can be found here
Gunfighter Calibration

For sensitivity setings I recommend setting it to zero for both axes and you will see this maps precisely input to output. You may find this too senstive so add say in 5% increments and test each time in game to see if it handles as you require.

The stick
I have come from using a Saitek x52 and this stick feels so much more like the real thing in terms of its balance and response than the wobbly toy response that the x52 gave. There's a precision in the movement that is so smooth that you can make ridiculous adjustments to your aircraft in flight - on Cliffs of Dover (CloD) I was imperceptibly moving the stick millimetres and could see the aircraft respond as if I was adjusting trim. I could never have done that with the x52, it is a much more slap dash stick. You bank and climb with the Gunfighter and it has a firmness of purpose that is sublime. I find myself being much smoother and controlled with this since using it.

So what does this stick have in functionality? This is where you may be disappointed. Plain and simple, it has 4 buttons. Well, okay, 3 in fact. And one of those is a 'shift' at that.

-Whaaat Paddy, are you taking the Mickey here? You're suggesting we pay around £300 for 3 buttons and one of those is shift!

This is a stick intended for fighter pilots (I make no claim) and in doing so, it restricts you to focussing on flying and shooting. It's based on the Luftwaffe Knuppelgriff KG12 and as a result, it simply cannot deviate from that purity. I have to say that, although I fly in a Spitfire squadron, it is a well designed stick and makes the Spitfire stick look like a school project but then you probably already knew that.

On the other side of things, you can actually use the shift to get more functionality out of the stick and you can combine keyboard functions with stick buttons so you can effectively increase its functionality. However, for now I have restricted myself to using shift with the hat-switch so that I can raise/lower undercarriage and alter prop pitch. In many ways it forces you to be more of a purist to limit what you do with the stick and shift your ancillary functions to the throttle or keyboard.

One nice feature is the trigger for fire which has either safety on or off. If you put safety on mode in place by folding back the metal trigger, it's impossible to accidentally fire your guns and I use whenever not in the combat zone. Again, the construction is metal whereas they could have opted for cheap plastic. You can also see the small front shift button in this image that has your pinkie naturally rest against it.

Safety Off
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Safety On
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Finally, there is a top button with a white circle that I use for R/T. Per the VKB build, it has a solid feel and audible 'pop' when pressing it. There's no doubt that it will take tens of thousands of presses before it gets even close to wear.
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The magic black (orange) box
What's the funky black box for then? That is your interface from the stick to your PC and it comes with 4 inputs (more inputs than the stick has buttons!). The orange box (see image) shows that your stick is up and running with a green LED and that you are correctly connected to your PC with a blue sys LED. You can also attach VKB pedals to this device if you have them (I would be interested to know people's verdicts) and there is an additional 'BUS' port. The cabling to this device is of the satisfying female to male and screw type. You connect your lead to the port and then use the threaded screw to secure the connection. I don't know why but I like it, it feels more traditional than USB plug and play and perhaps OTT but again, it adds to the feel of quality of the VKB construction.
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Here's the VKB word on functionality and use;
VKB Black Box

Conclusion
So is the VKB is near-perfect? The big downside with this stick is double edged. There's a distinct lack of buttons on the Gunfighter II and when you look at the competition and the price of the Gunfighter II, this seems like a failure to taxi, never mind get off the ground. Flight jockeys these days nearly expect to be able to control their aircraft from the stick alone and they are going to find it hard with the VKB. Yet all is not lost, combine it with a throttle solution, which is standard-fare these days, and let your left hand be the flight engineer, your right hand be the fighter pilot and enjoy the sheer quality of this stick.

Would I buy this stick again? I have to say, I'm overawed by the workmanship of it, it really is a thing of absolute quality and finesse. The fact that I can adjust this stick myself by opening it up appeals to the gimp in me and VKB facilitate this by supplying additional springs for you to increase the tension, something I am yet to try but I definitely want to do. I hope that I do not have to buy this stick again because it is so well made. The real sticking (no pun intended) point is that there are competitors out there that are cheaper and do a pretty good job. Many at ACG will laugh at the pricepoint of the VKB when they have sub £100 sticks that even provide force feedback and they can fly perfectly well with those sticks and prove so week in, week out.

The problem lies in the fact that now I have got this stick I really enjoy the smoothness, the control, the quality, the thoughtfulness that went into building it and it's a purists stick. It suppose it's a bit like buying a high end sports car and then dropping back to a major manufacturer's like a Toyota sports car. Yeah, the others are still good sticks and they do a fine job but once you have tasted the quality of VKB it's going to be hard to accept anything less in future.

Disclaimer
In the interests of full disclosure I have no affiliation with VKB, opinions cited here and in my other post are solely those of my own and I make no personal gain from zero or more VKBs being sold.
Last edited by Paddy on Sun Jan 07, 2018 10:34 am, edited 4 times in total.
Cheers,

Paddy

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Trystan
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Re: VKB Gunfighter Review Part II

Post by Trystan » Sat Sep 30, 2017 11:37 pm

Awesome review, Paddy. Well done! :nice:
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Re: VKB Gunfighter Review Part II

Post by Ginger » Sat Sep 30, 2017 11:40 pm

Nice one Paddy , it sure is a thing of beauty. :nice:
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Re: VKB Gunfighter Review Part II

Post by Vranac » Sun Oct 01, 2017 1:04 pm

An excellent review Paddy.

Regarding downsides, yes, the stick is expensive but the Warthog is $270 on Amazon. If you're lucky to get a good molded gimbal you're fine, if not some sanding might solve that problem. The WH is using one 3D Hall sensor, costing $3 if you order one. That is fine if gimbal is ok. Any backslash in a gimbal and you can throw it away, you can't readjust anything because there is only one sensor.
The Gunfighter is using MaRS sensors ( magneto resistors) and these are much more expensive and hard to find, the stick fans are chasing those cheap Cobras and Gametronix throttles because of the sensors and Njoy32 controllers, they're calling them packages for MaRS :)

That Black Box is an additional controller, you can control a Warthog grip or these new grips from VKB with it. So, if someone wants more buttons and switches that isn't a problem (except financial :) ).

https://vkbcontrollers.com/?product_cat=mcg-series

About that sensitivity problem you have, it sound very strange to me that you have to filter a perfect joystick. I'm assuming that you have a problem that you're used to the x52 which has a problem with linearity. If you try to draw a circle with it you'd get something like this with a tool like Joytester. People were adding magnets to solve that problem.

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I know that's individual but you're cutting your joystick response by applying these filters. That would be something like you were shooting from a gun that isn't precise and you have to compensate and make corrections to hit the center. But now you have a perfect gun and still applying these corrections.

Could you make a short video like this one with different levels of sensitivity applied, when/if you have time, of course?
You can see that I'm using no filtering on the stick but I'm using a lot on the pedals. I was using much less before TF increased the rudder authority.

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Re: VKB Gunfighter Review Part II

Post by Nev » Sun Oct 01, 2017 2:08 pm

Nice review :nice: I have the pedals and they are excellant! Spring tensions with spares to adjust the firmness. You don't get 109 toe brakes, but again black box can be setup to simulate this.

Looks like I am going to have to save up for the stick :B:
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Re: VKB Gunfighter Review Part II

Post by Shadepiece » Mon Oct 02, 2017 12:15 am

Thanks for the update Paddy. I am very tempted to get this beast.
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Re: VKB Gunfighter Review Part II

Post by Steph » Sun Jan 07, 2018 9:51 am

Thanks for the review Paddy :nice: !
That one stick has been on my list for a long time...
An excellent candidate for replacing my FFB2 when it dies. I especially appreciate the metal design and sensor precision.
Thanks for sharing your input and sensitivity settings, this will prove helpful for those who buy it! (even if you don't own any stock options from vkb ;) )
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Paddy
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Re: VKB Gunfighter Review Part II

Post by Paddy » Sun Jan 07, 2018 10:30 am

**Update on sensitivity settings**
I now run sensitivity set to zero, as I checked this the other day and checked the input versus output. With it set to zero it maps input to output directly and works a treat, just be careful that the stick makes inputs even with a millimetre movement, so its a bit like trimming in that regard.
Cheers,

Paddy

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Re: VKB Gunfighter Review Part II

Post by Shadepiece » Mon Jan 08, 2018 9:01 am

The metal gimbal sounds absolutely incredible. There is some slight lateral/twist play developing in my Warthog. I believe there is a way to keep the Warthog grip, but use the metal gimbal base on the Gunfighter. Can you confirm Paddy?
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Re: VKB Gunfighter Review Part II

Post by Von Archie » Mon Jan 08, 2018 2:00 pm

I'm not sure about the VKB, but you can certainly do that with the Virpil base Shadepiece.
My MongoosT-50 should be here in a couple of weeks and I'll do a review as well.
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