Originally Posted by ufale
and the landings were so hard
That has been my experience as well. Trying to land on the gear on the runway has been very rough and bouncy. Very hard to do. I have only had one successful, near perfect landing. The rest have been belly landing on the grass, which has been very successful.
Lately, I've been taking off with gear down from the grass to try and save on prop damage when taking off from a gravel runway. However, even the bumpy grass has chipped the blade tips badly. That's why your hand launch has given me some hope. If I can do it like you, the retracts come off for good. They can be used to better benefit on my upcoming BD-5 build.