Earlier this yr, we launched you to the world of Nerf blasters so powerful they leave your childhood in the dust, designed by a group of makers who now not want the official Nerf model to advance the state-of-the-art. However makers and hobbyists aren’t the one ones pushing the foam-flinging sport ahead — there’s additionally Dart Zone, a toymaker whose 2020 Walmart-exclusive $50 Nexus Pro and $25 Aeon Pro introduced a never-before-seen degree of vary and accuracy to blasters you possibly can simply purchase off the shelf.
For the previous a number of days, I’ve been testing the model’s new flagship blaster, the hotly anticipated $130 Dart Zone Pro MK-3, which pitches itself as the primary absolutely automated blaster designed for sporting-grade Nerf, precisely firing at as much as 150 toes per second. And whereas I’ll have to attend for the following native Nerf conflict to actually let you know if it could compete (I do have one vital doubt), this firm appears to get the Nerf group in a means I’ve by no means seen earlier than.
Whereas Hasbro is making an attempt to promote us on a new rubbery little ball to get any kind of vary in any respect, the second such attempt at new ammo in recent memory, the MK-3 manages to ship modded-blaster grade efficiency from the usual lengthy and quick darts that the group’s been utilizing for years. That 150 feet-per-second promise is on the cash: plug in eight common AA batteries, and it’s almost as highly effective (but quieter!) than the LiPo-powered Demolisher I modded a number of years again. I can simply hit targets 80 toes away, dart after dart after dart, and blast as much as 130 toes away once I angle the MK-3 up into the air.
However surprise of wonders, you don’t want to make use of AAs in any respect. A single Philips-head screw is the one factor conserving you from lifting out the whole battery tray — the place you’ll discover a real XT-60 connector to plug in your very personal LiPo battery. Swap in a two-cell (2S) 7.4V LiPo, and also you’ll get roughly the identical efficiency whereas shedding almost half a pound of weight. Swap in a three-cell (3S) 11.1V LiPo, and your darts can immediately go 20 toes per second quicker, plus I noticed my full auto rate-of-fire soar from three-plus darts per second to four-plus darts per second. It additionally spins up notably quicker, which means you don’t want to carry the rev set off as lengthy earlier than you may blast!
It’s the best mod ever, and it’s fully completely different from the way in which Nerf model proprietor Hasbro operates. Nerf has frowned on modding for years, presumably for security causes, and has even sealed its blasters with epoxy now and again. And whereas Dart Zone inventive director Bryan Sturtevant tells me his firm isn’t precisely encouraging you to mod this one — “if you happen to put the improper LiPo in it, you may blow up the blaster” — the corporate’s additionally not remotely apprehensive about three-cell battery packs. The specifically chosen 36,000RPM motors and larger-gauge wire are designed for 12 volts, they usually’re LiPo-tested and prepared.
I’m rather less positive in regards to the well being of your darts whereas utilizing it. For the MK-3, Dart Zone’s utilizing serrated flywheels that seem like barely shredding each dart I fireplace out the tip. I’ve been firing off journal after journal in my yard and a close-by park, and I’ve by no means seen fairly a lot foam mud settle in my barrel. Heck, I had a tough time measuring dart pace with one in all my ballistic chronographs as a result of tiny specks of froth have been capturing out the tip. Nearly each dart I’ve fired reveals indicators of wear and tear, some have lacking chunks of froth, and I’ve 5 fully busted darts as a result of this blaster yanked off their ideas. And that’s with AAs, not an upgraded LiPo battery.
I don’t know if there’s a defect or if, say, my flywheels have been simply misaligned on the manufacturing unit, however the firm says it’s by no means seen this and can ship me one other unit. I wouldn’t personally purchase one till this will get found out. Trendy Nerf wars usually use a shared pool of group darts (so there are not any arguments about who owns which of them) and the group tends to frown on individuals who shred them. Plus, every dart can simply price 10 cents even if you buy in bulk.
I’m hoping the difficulty is a fluke, as a result of this blaster performs good with virtually each form of dart in the marketplace — and I’m together with Nerf’s personal pitifully inaccurate Elite darts in that. Whereas it’s means too highly effective to fireplace Elite darts in its semi-auto mode, which fly wildly astray like they do in most high-power blasters, the MK-3 loses sufficient velocity in full auto that Elites begin working once more. This can be a blaster the place you may actually flip a change to play a lower-stakes recreation of Nerf with mates who don’t have a high-power package.
The MK-3 looks like a well-designed blaster in different methods as nicely. Each change and lever has a satisfying and assured pull, there’s cozy rubber on the four-position inventory and pistol grip, and also you’ll discover two built-in foregrip positions and an underslung rail so as to add your personal — all whereas nonetheless trying like a sci-fi toy relatively than a gun, which I admire. It comes with two 15-round magazines for lengthy and quick darts, a brief journal adapter, and a detachable red-dot sight that appears cool however sadly has no windage adjustment and doesn’t line up with the place my darts really go.
Dart Zone says it’s upgraded its inexperienced “bamboo” darts alongside this blaster’s launch, transferring to a lighter inexperienced that’s simpler to identify in grass. They’re additionally adopting the narrower dart head that helped enhance the vary and accuracy of the black darts that Dart Zone sells at Walmart alongside its Nexus Professional blaster. I don’t have sufficient of them to correctly take a look at, however to date I desire the black darts’ efficiency.
The Dart Zone Professional MK-3 ought to go on sale this Friday, October 1st at Target.com (not in retail shops), and Dart Zone estimates it ought to arrive per week later at Amazon Canada. The corporate additionally plans to promote three-packs of the brand new 15-round magazines for roughly $30 at its personal web site nearer to Christmas.
After the Nexus Professional, Aeon Professional, Conquest Professional, the MK-3, and different methods Dart Zone has undercut Hasbro like constructing a greater dart, I can’t wait to see what the corporate does subsequent. And what, if something, it would take to get the official Nerf model to react.
Replace, 12:45PM ET: Need to see it in movement? You’ll find video impressions of the brand new blaster (and footage of its internals) at Out of Darts, Foamblast, LordDraconical and WalcomS7 on YouTube. Two of them seen a difficulty with some Talon-style magazines, however Foamblast discovered a possible solution.