Guide to Buying a Microsoft Sidewinder Force Feedback 2 Joystick

Image from Gizmodo

Introduction

I have five Microsoft Force Feedback 2 joysticks. Yes, five. Why? Because it’s the best stick I’ve ever used, and after I tried one for the first time, I had to have…ahem, “backups.” I’ve therefore spent a LOT of time on sites like eBay and Amazon scouring listings for this particular stick, and in that, learned how to not only find the right sticks for me, but for friends. This is what I want to help you with.

Why This Particular Stick

This is really the finest stick I’ve ever used, and I’ve used a lot. One of the reasons is the centering/dead zone. This stick uses mechanical motors attached to gears for its two main axes, and uses optical sensors to center the stick, so you have a perfect dead zone every time. There’s a small hole at the base of the stick that, when you put your hand on the stick, gets covered and engages the motors, and it’s an amazing feel. Couple that with how comfortable this stick is during long sessions, its compatibility with sims old and new, and the amazing feel when you use games that actually support force feedback, and you have an amazing piece of hardware.

Also, it’s wonderful by itself or as part of a multi-device HOTAS (Hands on Throttle and Stick) solution. The stick itself has both the pitch and yaw of a traditional stick, plus a stick twist for rudder or rolling, depending on your game. The trigger buttons are clicky and responsive, and there are enough buttons to cover the most essential functions in any sim.

I can’t mention enough true force feedback though. Playing a game like Freespace 2 with this stick, for example, is AMAZING. The game support DIRECTIONAL force feedback, so you can feel shots from your left, and if your left engine is damaged, you’ll be fighting the stick. You can see this in action here:

To be blunt: There really isn’t a better stick than this, I feel. Sure other sticks might have more buttons and what not, but the feel of this particular stick is still unmatched to this day, I feel.

Differences Between the Two Versions

There are two different versions of this stick. Mechanically they’re exactly the same, but they have some slight differences. The first model is the original “green” model. This has a plastic grip on the stick, along with solid black buttons, and a green power light on the base:

Image result for microsoft sidewinder force feedback 2
Image from ActiveWin

This is the first version I got, and it works great. The ONLY downside is after long sessions, if your hands get even a bit sweaty, your hand might slip off the plastic, since it doesn’t give much traction. This isn’t a huge problem, of course, but it is something I wanted you to be aware of.

The second version, or the “red” version, has a rubberized grip, translucent buttons on the stick, and a red power button on the base:

Image result for microsoft sidewinder force feedback 2
Image from Amazon

This is the one I currently use, because I like the extra traction on the grip. The downside to THIS one is that, after a lot of use, the grip can get a bit sticky, and can have dust and other particles stick to it. I’ve had success cleaning it with a lint-free microfiber cloth, but it’s something I have to do a couple of times a year. Again, not a BIG deal, but something I wanted to mention.

Now, again, besides these aesthetic differences, there’s really no difference mechanically between the two, and either will get you a ton of use. Just know that the red model is a bit more rare than the green model, and therefore usually carries a higher price tag.

Where Should I Buy It?

The big places to get it are, of course:

I’ve found all mine via eBay, but Amazon is of course a worthwhile seller, and you can also likely find them wherever else you get older computer hardware, like estate sales, garage sales and the like. This article will focus on finding them on eBay, however.

What’s Your Process for Finding One?

Now, at the time I write this – about 2 PM on Sunday, August 11th, 2019 — there are about a dozen listings for these sticks on eBay. That might change once you come across this article in the future, but regardless, the process for finding a good stick will be the same. I’m going to take you through several listings and tell you what’s good, what to look out for, and which sticks you should get. Let’s begin:

Listing One

Link to Listing

The above is a green stick for $76. This is a tad pricey for the green version of this stick, but the shipping is actually quite reasonable, and if you look at the other pictures, such as:

You can see the stick itself is in fantastic condition on the outside, which usually denotes it’s in solid condition on the inside, since it’s either not been used much, or has been well taken care of. Overall, if I was looking for one of these sticks, this would DEFINITELY be a buy for me, due to the excellent condition shown in the pics. This thing will last forever, so about $90 with shipping is a very good price.

Listing Two

Link to Listing

This stick might be even a better deal than the last one, as it’s going for $65 with FREE SHIPPING, which, if you see the other pics, such as:

Besides a bit of dust on the base — which is VERY common for these things as those slots are basically dust gutters — this stick looks to be in FANTASTIC condition. If you read further in the listing, the seller said they’ve also tested it and it works. Couple this with the EXCELLENT seller rating, and this one would be a must-buy, in my opinion.

Listing Three

Link to Listing

Now this is an interesting one. It’s about $200 with shipping, which is a LOT. HOWEVER, it’s in box and wrapped in plastic. Now, I’ve not really seen how these things came wrapped, so for me, it’s IMPOSSIBLE to tell whether this is the original wrapping, or if the seller wrapped it up like this to make it look new. I mean it has what look to be original stickers on the wrapping, but because of the wrapping, it’s hard to gauge the condition of the stick itself. I mean take a look:

It looks pretty solid under the plastic, but I’m still not 100% this is a new stick, worthy of the price they’re asking for. In this case, I’d write the seller and ask how they came about the stick, and if it’s legitimately the originally plastic wrapping. If they tell you that in writing, you likely have a better case if it turns out to be a dud. The seller DOES have very positive ratings, so it’s possible it’s fine, but I’d do some digging to be sure. If it turns out to be a brand new stick, then I’d say $200 is worth it, as it’ll last you pretty much a lifetime. But it’s up to you as to whether you’d want a new stick or a slightly used one for far less.

Listing Four

Link to Listing

This is an interesting one. It has the box and all the docs and disk, but it’s apparently untested. The one major problem I see right off the bat is that there are no pictures that include the power cable. This stick has motors that make the stick function, and as such needs to be plugged into its own outlet to work. No power cord, no working stick.

If you were interested in this listing — if it has the power cord, it’s a likely solid buy, as it takes a lot to make one of these not work — I’d recommend contacting the seller to see if they indeed have the power cord. If they don’t, then pass on it. Getting one of the power cords to this on its own is pretty difficult. Unless, like me, you plan to own multiple copies. ;)

Listing Five

Link to Listing

Here’s another interesting quandary. This is the less common red version of the stick, and according to the pics, it looks to be in very good condition. The base looks great:

Microsoft-SideWinder-Force-Feedback-2-Joystick-USB-Red

However, the stick itself looks to be plagued with the stickiness issue I mentioned earlier:

Microsoft-SideWinder-Force-Feedback-2-Joystick-USB-Red

Which might make this a no-go for some. Again, this can be cleaned off, but if it was ME? I’d likely pass on this one because I’m a bit squicky about someone else’s dust and what not. Also the shipping price isn’t great.

Which Listing Looks the Best?

So out of these, which one would I buy? Likely the second one (this one). $65 with free shipping for what looks to be a stick in excellent condition is a fantastic price for this piece of hardware. I’d almost call it a steal, to be perfectly honest.

Conclusion

I hope that this guide has helped you understand not only why you’d want to purchase one of these fine sticks, but the process it takes in finding the right one for you. I’ve scoured hundreds of these listings over the years, so I can now spot a good deal on these pretty well. If you have any questions about the stick itself or buying one, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. Thanks so much for reading, and happy flying!

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