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Beginner’s Guide to RC Tanks

One of the more interesting and overlooked RC products out there has to be RC Tanks.  Not just for RC fans, RC Tanks are extremely popular with history buffs, traditional model builders, hobbyists, tank enthusiasts, military lovers and even Airsoft players!  There are also a lot of different types of RC tanks on market, all with a varying amount of features.  You can buy everything from inexpensive RC tank toys perfect for the little ones, all the way to super accurate, expensive and realistic large scale RC tanks with loads of features.

But be wary, depending on how far the rabbit hole you want to go, this hobby can be very pocket draining. For example, you can buy a 1:4 scale King Tiger Tank that is 550 pounds and able to tow a regular mid-sized car for over $10,000!  But let’s think more realistically.  Besides price, to find the perfect RC Tank of your dreams, there are many things to consider.  Read on for more insight on how to find the RC Tank that works for you and your wallet!

Details and Features

    When purchasing an RC tank, there is a lot to think about.  How much do you want to spend?  What age group is this RC tank intended for?  Do you want a fully RTR (ready to run) RC tank that’s fully operational out of the box or do you want to spend some quality time painting, detailing and customizing your new RC tank?  What features are most important to you?  If you are feeling a little lost, never fear, read on and I’ll break down all the most popular RC Tank features for you so you can make an informed decision on this awesome hobby!

Scale

    Scale refers to how big the RC Tank is compared to its real world variant.  For example, a RC Tank that is 1:20 would be 1/20th the size of the tank it’s emulating.  This is an important factor to consider, especially if you plan on purchasing or interacting with other RC Tanks.  For serious RC Tank buffs, history fans or hobbyists that love to tinker, I would recommend a 1:20 scale RC Tank or lower (remember, the lower the scale the bigger the tank will be).  If you are looking for a fun RC Tank to mess around with, choose whatever scale suits your taste.

Type

    If you are a tank fanatic, you are probably looking for a RC Tank modeled after its specific real world counterpart.  Now there are a lot of RC Tank toys that are not modelled after any tank specifically, but that’s probably not what you are looking for (unless it’s your child’s birthday).  If you are very interested in the World War II era, then you’re in luck!  There are tons of RC Tanks on both sides of the Axis and Allies! Some even vary on what year the original tank was produced!  For example, check out these three awesome low price WW2 RC Tanks created by the same manufacturer:  The US M60 Patton, the Russian T90 and the German Tiger.

There are also a lot of modern variants of RC Tanks, but if you are looking for a RC Tank from another historical war that isn’t World War II, you might have a little trouble finding what you are looking for (unless, you have some painting and upgrading skills).

Remote Control Transmitter

    Just like with most other RC vehicles, most transmitters come with your new RC Tank, but you must make some careful considerations.  If you plan on piloting your RC Tank in an area without any other RC vehicles in the area, it shouldn’t matter too much what transmitter the RC Tank uses.  But if you have two or more RC vehicles running in the same area, you must make sure the transmitter frequencies are different, otherwise there will be radio interference.  Your best bet is to get a RC Tank that comes with 2.4GHz transmitter since you shouldn’t ever have any interference issues with it, no matter how many other RC vehicles are running around you.

Batteries

    Luckily, most RC Tanks include the rechargeable batteries you need, so this shouldn’t be a big concern!  Transmitters and smaller toy RC Tanks usually run off simple AA batteries or other easily available types.  If you plan to upgrade the power of your RC Tank or want to replace the rechargeable battery it comes with, first make sure to check the included manual so you know what battery type and voltage to use.

Airsoft/IR Battle

If you want the complete tank experience, then you need to get a RC Tank that shoots Airsoft BBs.  No other RC vehicle has this ability!  Many Airsoft RC Tanks come with a small sample pack of BBs which is good for a trial run, but you are definitely going to want more (and you can always grab more at AirsoftRC.  Most fire .12 or .20g 6mm Airsoft BBs but always double check the manual first to make sure!  Some more premium Airsoft Tanks have adjustable hop-up, wherein you can adjust the aim so you always get the perfect shot.  When you’re ready to get shooting, setup some paper targets or some old soda cans and test your accuracy! Here’s an example of a very popular Airsoft RC Tank, The 1:16 German Jagdpanther Destroyer!!

Another popular type of RC Tank (especially with children) features an I/R (infrared) sensor.  Grab two I/R RC Tanks (make sure they are the same brand), a friend and get ready to play laser tag, RC Tank style!  These sensors can detect every shot and shut down after a couple of hits from the other RC Tank.  Although some people may scoff at this feature, take it from me, these I/R tanks are a blast to play with!!  Just make sure you play in a dim area, because bright lights or direct sunlight may interfere with the I/R sensor.  Here’s an example of a solid I/R RC Tank that won’t break the bank, The JXD M1A2!

Sound FX, Smoke and Accessories

One feature to consider when purchasing a RC Tank is whether or not it comes with the ability to make real life Sound FX (like engine, machine gun and cannon sounds).  Some people really like this option and if you don’t, the Sound FX can be disabled on most models.  Another popular feature is smoke!  This means the RC Tank produces real life smoke out of the exhaust and/or turret.  It really gives it an extra bit of realism that can make your RC Tank stand out.  And speaking of realism, many RC Tanks come with accessory packs.  These could include machine guns, tank supplies, solider tools and tank operators to fully deck out your RC Tank.  If you are a history buff, these really will make your RC Tank come alive!  For a good example of all those features and more, check out the aforementioned 1:16 German Jagdpanther!!

Full Metal Treads And Gearbox

If you feel like getting your hands a little dirty, there are a lot of things you can do to upgrade and fully deck out your RC Tank so it can handle anything!  One thing you can do for extra mobility (especially in swampy or mountainous terrain) is to upgrade your RC Tank with some decent full metal treads.  These can bought at hobby shops or you can even make your own if you’re handy enough!  Just make sure your RC Tank is waterproof before taking it out to wet and muddy areas.

Another big thing for Airsoft RC Tanks in particular (and Airsoft guns in general) is a full metal gearbox.  This refers to the firing mechanism inside the tank.  Normal plastic gearboxes aren’t as durable and are more prone to BBs jams and malfunction.  Depending on the type of Airsoft RC Tank you get, some are more easily upgradeable than others. But having a full metal gearbox will greatly extend the life of your Airsoft RC Tank! Just do you a YouTube search on your RC Airsoft Tank and you are bound to find a complete guide to help you out. Also be aware that some more premium RC Tanks have these features already installed, so if you don’t mind paying a little more, you can get it all straight out of the box!

Operating Your RC Tank

You got your brand new RC Tank out of the box, the batteries are fully charged and now you are ready to roll!  But if it’s your first time operating one of these bad boys, it can be little intimating on knowing where to start.  Although every RC Tank is a little different, here is a general step-by-step guide to help get you started:

1)    After inserting your charged batteries into transmitter and RC Tank, turn the transmitter on.  Next, flip the switch on your RC Tank so it’s operational.

2)    Get used to the remote control transmitter.  Your remote control should have two joysticks.  The right joystick controls your RC Tank’s directional movement while the left joystick rotates and changes the altitude of the gun turret.

3)    Practice moving your tank with the right joystick. Pushing up moves your RC Tank forwards while pushing the joystick downwards puts it into reverse. A nudge left to the joystick makes your RC Tank go left and a nudge right makes it turn right.  If you get it right, you can perform spin turns with ease.  Experiment with the joystick until you can easily drive in circles and perform backward turns.

4)    The same concept goes when controlling the turret with the left joystick.  Moving it left or right turns the turret, while moving it up or down adjust to adjust the turret’s angle.

5)    If your RC Tank has other features, it should have buttons to fire Airsoft BBs, play sound FX, deploy smoke etc.  Remember, you’ll need to load the Airsoft BBs and/or smoke supplies in RC Tank first.   Make sure you test these buttons out to get the full experience!!

That should cover the basics, but make sure to read your RC Tank’s manual to get more detailed facts.

Painting Your RC Tank

If you’re an avid fan of history or just want to get creative, why not try painting your RC Tank?  Some RC Tanks are sold in a basic solid color and are ready for your patient hand.  If however, the RC Tank you want to paint is already covered in another design, you can spray it with primer so you can start anew.  Below is a simple guide to help you get started with painting, but first you’re going to need some supplies (most can be found at hobby or art supply stores):

Stuff You’ll Need: Bowl, Water, Newspaper, Tweezers (optional), Sponge, Common Degreaser Spray, Black Spray Primer, Paintbrushes, Different Colored Enamel Model Paints, a Fine Tip Black Permanent Marker, Matte or Regular Clear Coat (optional), Gloss Varnish (optional), Decals (optional)  and Time.

1)    Find an image online of a tank you want to copy.  Try to find a real world tank than is the same type as your RC Tank.  It also would probably be best to remove the tank treads at this time.

2)    Set down some newspaper on your work area and plop your RC Tank down on top of it.  First completely spray your RC Tank with common household degreaser spray.  Then, fully rinse your RC Tank with lukewarm water and a sponge.  Let that bad boy air dry for at least 10-12 hours.

3)    Then completely spray your RC Tank with black primer paint.  Let it dry (check the primer can label to see how long it should take).

4)    Use your fine tip permanent marker to make sure you have straight lines on uneven surfaces. You can even sketch out the contours of each color barrier so you know where to stop painting.

5)    Okay, now it’s time to get those paintbrushes wet! Using your tank picture as a model, start painting the design with your enamel model paint.  Only do one color at a time and make sure to wait at least one hour before doing another color.  This will prevent the color from bleeding or dripping.  This is the longest step, so take your time!

6)    This step is centered on decals, so if you aren’t adding any, go ahead and skip it.  Brush the location of the model decals on your RC Tank with gloss varnish and allow it to dry (this prevents air bubbles from forming).  Next, grab a decal with the tweezers and dip it into a bowl of water for at least ten seconds.  Place the decal on newspaper and let it dry out for thirty seconds.  Then, hold the decal onto the model with the back of a paintbrush and pull back the paper with the tweezers.  Carefully place the decal on the correct spot of your RC Tank and viola, you’re set!

7)    Once the paint has completely dried, you got one more optional step.  Some people like to spray their RC Tanks with Clear Coat for protection, but it may give it an unrealistic sheen.  You can use a Matte Clear Coat instead, but it will always make your RC Tank look like it’s brand new off the lot.  Some people don’t like using Clear Coat so their RC Tanks look more weathered and battle experienced.  Whether you want to use clear coat or not, it’s up to your personal taste.

And that should cover all the basics.  You can find even more detailed guides on YouTube if you search around a little.  Happy painting!

That does it for this basic guide on RC Tanks!  Make sure to check out all the amazing RC Tanks, RC vehicles and Airsoft Guns available at AirsoftRC!!

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