Model Boaters Want to Play War

Apparently it’s illegal to fire slingshots, crossbows, BB guns and other projectile weapons in San Jose. But a club of model ship makers hopes the city will make an exception.

In the most off-the-wall item on the Rules and Open Government Committee agenda for Wednesday, Councilman Kansen Chu asks the city to relax its rules about discharging projectile to allow the Western Warship Combat Club to fire low-velocity ammo at each other’s model boats.

For the past 25 years, the 43-member all-ages club has floated 4- to 12-foot ships on the Penitencia Creek percolation ponds. They offer classes to local families who want to learn about model building, robotics and U.S. history, Chu says. And they work with a lot of veterans.

“They have displayed a perfect safety record,” Chu states.

Projectile from the miniature battleships would fly 205 feet per second max—way less than the speed of a paintball pellet.

More from the San Jose Rules and Open Government Committee agenda for March 5, 2014:

  • David Wall uncharacteristically refrained from writing anything to the public record this week.
  • Johnny Khamis wants to recognize the Assyrian New Year on March 21 with a flag-raising at City Hall and Tartan Day on April 8 with by posting up the Scottish flag. A flag-raising for Cesar Chavez Day takes place on March 24.

WHAT: Rules and Open Government Committee meets
WHEN: 2pm Wednesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


  1. The changes only apply to 1:144 scale models, but if you read the link to the Western Warship Combat Club, they’ve been staging “battles” with models of different scale sizes. So most of what they’re likely to be doing will still be illegal.

    It also mentions that they were firing 1/4 inch ball bearings. 205 feet per second doesn’t mean much to many people, but when you do the conversion, it comes to about 140 mph.

    • The larger scale ships 1/72 have been obsolete for a number of years. New technology used in model cars and planes
      has shrunk the size of our ships. An old battleship could be 12ft long and weigh 400lbs. The same ship in 1/144 scale would be 6tf long and weigh about 40lbs. The new rule would not exempt the old boats, it eliminates them.
      We no longer use the old boats they just haven’t been removed from the website yet.

      The reason for the change is administration, what is a San Jose City park now used to come under control of Santa Clara Valley Water District and not the city.

      To make a correction the 1/4″ ball bearing cannons launch at 160ft per second or less and .177″ at no more that 205
      the carefully gauged power to put a hole in a sheet of 1/8″ balsa wood at a few feet.

      The old Red Rider BB gun you might have had as a kid, shoots around 400ft per second and produces about 400% more energy if I remember my high school physics correctly.

      • I’m not a politician, so I say it how it is….Mr. McManus is not telling the truth. 1/72 scale ships and Pacific Model Warship Club are very much alive and field more combat captains than western warship. Mr. McManus wants the public to believe 1/72 scale ships are obsolete so they can control the City of San Jose to exclude all other scale ships from using the Penitencia Creek Pond System. We are currently in negotiations with western warship to properly word the change in the city ordinance. Western warship believes shooting .25 cal ball bearings in populated city parks is safe. We do not. If we were obsolete, why did the city tell western warship to come to an agreement with us? There is much, much more to this story that western warship does not want anyone to know. The effort to change this Health & Safety ordinance was orchestrated without public comment. Why?

      • I do hardly think 1/72 model warships are obsolete as you say George. This scale is newer than the ole 1/144th scale. Technology is the same. Paint Ball CO 2 tanks, magazines turned on a lathe fittings bought from the same company. Just can not understand your statement.

        What is a fact is the Western Warship Combat Club specifically tried to pass an ordinance that favored only 1/144th model warships. Bad enough you deprive a fellow model boat club you knew was out there. By doing this you also deprive kids coming down and running there Toys R Us or Radio Shack boats. Not very good thinking on the clubs part.

    • You are correct. Skin has been penetrated. I had a. 1/4 inch ball bearing penetrate my left upper hand at one event. Fearing the WWCC club would lose their NAMBA Insurance I took care of the problem using my own insurance
      Many of these new members ( Mr Wood included ) that when the original rules were written only 100 pounds of pressure was to be used. I left the club in the early. 90s. When I came back that safety rule was taken out of the safety rules. Now though air pressures are checked (sometimes) before each event by shooting into a certain thickness of foam. Foam is not skin. What should be done is shoot into that jelleton I see on myth busters & gun shows we see on TV. That would truly show if these guns are safe. These game like any game is highly competitive. People cheat. Special coatings are painted on that makes the balsa wood hard as masonrary stone. The quick fix is, when no one is looking crank up the air pressure in your guns and safety be damned.

      Do not be fooled by all this talk about safety. It is kept hush hush. Things happen that we just don’t say anything about. I seriously think that the first injured gun injury claim sent to an insurance company will be denied. Take a guess what will happen next? The lawyers will have a field day.

  2. The Engineer only hopes that Groundskeeper Willie can make time to attend the Tartan Day celebration and the raising of the Saint Andrews flag…at least it would make it interesting.

  3. Nice lie about 1/72 being outdated.Most 1/72 boats are smaller than your 1/144 battleships. The only thing outdated is the idea that RC combat can take place in city parks. When I brought WWCC to their current site in 1989 it was for safety, the Campbell ponds had to much foot traffic and was not to safe to play there. The new location was far more remote and we played there for years and the water district had no problem with us playing there, but after a 15 year break from the hobby I came back in 2013, and things have changed and not for the better. The place is more like a park now with a lot more foot traffic, dogs swimming and people sitting on benches installed after I left. The only safety improvement is the magic rope between the public and the steel ball bearings flying at them. I think it is time to find a safe place to play or ask you friend in high places to take tax payers money and put up safety screens. Also is the over whelmed SJ police going to measure your boats for size and FPS to make sure you are not breaking the law, because most of your boats are not to scale so they will be in violation. The 25 year safety record is more luck than attention to detail .So quit pulling the wool over the city council’s eyes.

    Past WWCC President,

  4. Some actual facts might be refreshing at this point. Even John Kort admits in his post that WWCC has an exemplary safety record that spans over 25 years. He says it’s “more luck than attention to detail.” Let’s do some very basic math, just for a bit of perspective:

    Western Warship Combat Club annually conducts an average of 9 days of events featuring model warships that launch low-velocity projectiles. I’m no math wizard, but even I can see that if we multiply 25 (years) by 9 (events per year), we get – drum roll please! – 225 days of safe events!

    225 days of safe events? And this is due to luck? That’s just plain silly.

    So, silliness aside, what is really happening here? The actual truth is so simple that it will seem dumb and childish when I share it with you, but every bit of it is documented.

    The simple truth is this: Members of a rival new club, Pacific Model Warship Club (PMWC) in this case, a club that likes to operate in a scale of model warships that is twice as long, twice as wide, and four times as heavy as those used by Western Warship Combat Club, has embarked on a systematic campaign since January of 2013 to destroy another club (Western Warship Combat Club). Why? Because some of the members of the new club have a personal vendetta against some of the members of the established club.

    (I told you it would sound dumb and childish. This is about toy boats, and these are grown men.)

    Can people get hurt while engaging in this toy boat pastime? Of course! I myself tripped over a rock at the pond and hurt my ankle. Can people get hurt while playing basketball or baseball or practicing archery at one of the City facilities set aside for this purpose? Of course! Does this group clamor to have these “dangerous” activities banned from SJ parks? No, of course not! Because this is not about safety at all. It’s about personal feuds and vendettas.

    That is the simple, unadorned truth. Now I’ll pull out my crystal ball and predict what will happen next. They will counter with more smoke and mirrors and propaganda, and will claim they have “proof” or “facts” or personal testimony that will show that Western Warship Combat Club’s 25+ year safety record is fiction, because that is their style of attack. But I have a lot of faith in the readers here that they won’t be impressed.

    Rob Wood
    North American Model Boat Association Combat Class Chair
    Vice-President, Western Warship Combat Club

    • In talking with the NAMBA president safe record means claims have been settled without using the insurance. The president has stated that even the speed boats, which is what NAMBA is all about, there have been instances that happened and were payed out of pocket at the time it happen.

      Back in the 80s the WWCC shot car windshields out and the members took up a collection and payed for the damage on the spot. Now what hangs over this hobbies head is there is an ordinance in every county and city that states it is against these ordinances ( THE LAW) to discharge an air projectile gun. The Penetra Pond is where this combat takes place. If now this type of event is run and an injury or property damage takes place and it is in violation of an ordinance, no insurance in their right mind would pay the damages.

      Mr Wood brings up the THERE OUT TO GET US statement. Why in the original ordinance the provision for only 1/144th scale was written in ? I thank the council for dropping the 144th scale. Mr. Wood knew we existed. The WWCC last year actually let Pacific Model Warship Club members to join the WWCC. So Rob and the WWCC knew about a 1/72nd group out there.

      So ask this with this knowledge. “WHO WAS OUT TO GET WHO?”

      Thank you.
      Former Founder of Western Warship Cimbat Club. & now known as Western Warship INC.

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