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I have been throwing a Z comet for a while now and I love it.  I always felt it was a bit bulky though and sometimes have trouble gripping it.  I recently felt an ESP comet (I found it and must return it, so I am not able to keep it).  The top was quite flexible, and fit in my hand better.  

I want to keep throwing my Z. Is there a way to work a disc, especially the top, to soften it up?  Has anyone tried this?

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yeah the giving it to a beginner idea is not advised. Unless you were considering throwing it in the garbage that day...lol.
I just got a new star destroyer, bought it at the throw shop and threw it every time applicable at Lakeshore that day. Then on the way home from Ypsi, it never left my hands. I just kept gripping and spinning, partially to add some patina and partially to avoid smoking a ciggarette. In the days since, i've used it as much as possible, and fidget with it while watchint t.v. etc..Its what i do with all my star discs when theyre new.
When i get a new overstable premium plastic disc, it immediately becomes my tomahawk/thumber disc. My local course has about 3-4 holes that requires those kinds of shots and the hard contact the disc makes with the ground really helps with the break in process. I broke my star boss and my star destroyer in that way and now they are flying like pro plastics off the shelf. It just took time (about a month of playing almost everyday).

I've also sat in front of the TV and just pushed around the rim constantly with my thumbs for hours but it doesn't seem to work as well as just getting rounds in with a disc.
Regardless of plastic you would be better off finding an open field that you will not lose the disc and just throw it. That way it will break in consistently and you will know what it is going to do because been throwing it the whole break-in period. You will find that regardless of plastic you will become used to what and how the disc behaves a.k.a. Knowing your plastic. Some thing that is new might not feal as good as some thing that you have used before and has been broken in. As an example i only begin to trust a disc if i have practiced at least twice a week in an open field. This allows me to play around with many types of shots and not have to worry about a bad shot. A bad shot adds up to dollar signs($$$). If you throw a bad shot during practice your less prone to blame the disc than yourself. This saves money($$$). Good luck, i hope this helped.

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