Reviews: Nerf Brand
Nerf Jolt EX-1: Not-so Noisy Cricket Blaster
Some of us Nerf fans love our blasters to be smaller, more compact, more discreet. For a long time, the smallest blasters available were mostly pistol blasters like the Nitefinder, the Reflex/Eliminator, the Secret Strike, and the Scout. Hasbro has outdone themselves again with their latest blaster, the Jolt EX-1. With a body profile even slimmer than the Secret Strike, and a body shell more compact than even the Reflex, the Jolt's tiny barrel and "spurred" grip evokes images of the infamous Noisy Cricket Gun from the Men In Black movie. The only flaw of the grip design is that the knuckleduster-like notches make it uncomfortable for less-slim fingers to hold comfortably. The sample blaster(s) I bought have all been slightly "modified" with a simple wrapping of duct tape around the grip to make them more comfy to hold, and it works wonders. Simple notched 'iron' sights atop the barrel help you take aim better. The priming lever is right at the base of the handle, with the Direct Plunger built inside the grip. This economy of design is what makes the Jolt's petite frame possible, and the efficient and powerful plunger/spring system gives it the power to drive darts with great barrel velocity. it is also far quieter than the hollow frame of the Reflex, which clicks and clacks loudly as the springs and the hollow reverse plunger are fairly noisy and amplified by the blaster's hollow frame. As other reviewers can attest, this little Noisy Cricket can propel darts with very nearly the same power as a Nitefinder, and in some cases even outranged stock Nitefinders due to their excellent breech seal that allows proper pressure buildup to drive the darts far. As a matter of fact, some samples prove to have a seal strong enough to suck in a partially-inserted dart when you prime it due to vacuum action! Verdict: Excellent. While the grip is a little nitpick, it is still an excellent blaster and makes a great sidearm or concealed "weapon".
Nerf Deploy CS-6: All in one
The Deploy's gimmick is that it folds up into a "flashlight" for "stealth", which has the natural problem of, as our page on Nerf products so helpfully points out, is still bright yellow and looks like a folded up Nerf gun. Now, that said, it does have some actual virtues. Its flashlight is brighter than the Recon's, though you can't adjust the focus, and the pump action is nice (though the later Raider and Alpha Trooper also have a normal pump action). The scope in the handle at least feels pretty cool. Also, I think it shoots a little farther than the Recon, and it can use barrel extensions. On the down side, the stock is kind of short, it can't carry an extra magazine, there's no trigger guard, and for being a "covert" blaster, and it's actually a little bigger than the Recon is with its detachable stock. The biggest problem of those is that the stock is too short. Or maybe I'm too big. I've also been told that it has trouble with the larger magazines (especially the 35 round drum), but I don't have those, so I really can't comment on that. Furthermore, the sideways facing magazine probably would put lefties at a disadvantage when using the Deploy. I've been comparing it to the Recon, because it's basically an all-in-one version of the Recon with its flashlight, stock, and scope (which is comparable to the Recon's "iron sights"). Overall, it's slightly better performance-wise than the Recon and has some features I'm sure many of us wish it had in the first place (like a normal, underside pump-action (also resolved by the Alpha Trooper)), but it suffers for it's gimmick of folding up and would probably have been a better blaster if it had been built around the full-size mode instead of to accommodate the "stealth" mode.
Vortex Proton: different yet effective
It has been several months since I started following the news and speculation about the new line of Vortex series blasters. I thing I noticed was that a lot of people had little confidence in Disc blasters in general, as previous attempts have been less than impressive. This new series of blasters caught my attention, so I went and picked up the Proton when the stock finally arrived in Singapore on the 9th. The Nerf Vortex Proton is essentially a breech-loaded disc pistol that launches the new XLR (eXtra Long Range) ammo. It fulfils the role of being the venerable Nitefinder's counterpart, and does a decent job of it. The XLR Disc ammo is a little plastic disc with a foam rim, shaped like a frisbee or saucer with a hollow undercentre. A simple ring-holed tab pulls out the breech-feed, as well as the bottom-rail of the entire barrel assembly. Very generous tolerance allows for the disc ammo to be loaded easily, and then a pair of tiny levers similar to actual firearm safety switches triggers the spring that pulls the whole assembly back into the pistol. When fired, the spinning discs easily achieve about 60-ish feet, or about 20-ish meters, of flight (performance may vary due to loose tolerances). The simple, compact pistol body includes a relatively small but well-molded grip, and a triangular under-barrel assembly that contains the torsion spring that powers the launch mechanism. A small push-button built into the breech-tab serves for the jam release, which makes part of the barrel's tapered inner rail pull back to allow the disc to slip out. Due to the loose tolerance, the Proton rattles when you shake it as the breech/barrel assembly slides back and forth, but in general, the little disc pistol is remarkably reliable. Safety locks built into the mechanism prevent you from dry-firing, or even attempting to fire with the disc inserted upside down. Unless you are a staunch Nerf Dart conservative or simply are scared of attracting tiny dogs to play fetch with your XLR ammo, the Proton is definitely a wonderful little pistol to mess with. It's certainly a less "realistic" take on the toy foam blaster than the tacticool N-strike line, and a lot less likely to get police asking awkward questions when you get caught in public armed with it. I definitely recommend it!
Spectre REV-5: building a better Revolver
The Maverick is among the most popular of Nerf blasters by due to its easy-to-learn nature as a simple six-shooter. However, it does have its share of flaws, such as a finicky reload for the frantic and unpracticed, a hit to accuracy because its cylinder advances as you press the trigger and fire, and a common complaint by many an unlucky person, the tendency for the cylinder advancing mechanism to misbehave and cause darts to misfire. Enter the slightly more expensive Spectre, a five-shooter that improves on the Maverick's most glaring flaw - the Spectre's cylinder advances only when you prime it for firing, meaning the barrel doesn't rotate at the moment you shoot, resulting in greatly improved accuracy. While the loss of 1 dart capacity may be a sore point for some, the improved cylinder design makes it easier to load the darts and make sure they seat securely so they don't get forced out by the air restrictor's spring and disrupt the cylinder rotation; on top of that, the air restrictors installed are a new and improved design that actually improves air flow, further improving the effectiveness of the common "stock'' (read: unmodified) Spectre beyond many common Nerf blasters. Oh, and it comes with two accessories, a folding stock (Which makes a nice complement to the Alpha Trooper CS-18), and a silencer-styled barrel extension (which is less useful). Ultimately, the Spectre is a leaner and meaner revolver that fixes the most major flaw of the Maverick.