Thursday, October 05, 2006

USB Circus Cannon

This one is downright hilarious. It's a USB Circus Cannon which is controlled by your computer. You simply plug the Cannon into your USB port, and you use the control the cannon. It comes with a bunch of sound effects to make this downright comical. It might be a bit loud for the office (especially if you sit next to sales people like I do who, for some blasted reason, always talk to clients with the speakerphone ON at their desks. What's up with that?)

The ammo are foam darts called "babes" (remember the women they fire out of cannons at the circus?) I guess "babes" are no longer politically correct so perhaps the manufacturer should say, "Fires foam persons of the female variety."

The good thing about this toy is that it is powered off of the USB port, so no batteries are required (now if ALL kids' toys could be USB powered....) It comes with a software CD.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

"Dark Ghost" Wallpaper

Enjoy this wallpaper. It's called "Dark Ghost". Resolution: 1280x1024.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Who the heck is Akimbo? Fire foam -- John Woo Style

You put one gun in a hero's hand, and he looks sufficiently armed, depending on what he's up against. But you put one gun in each of his hands, now he has two, and suddenly he's larger than life, a super badass, invincible, able to slow time and dodge bullets and spank Neo all at the same time.

The person I'd like to write this tribute to is actor Chow Yun-Fat who had worked eleven hard years in Hong Kong's daytime soap opera circuit until recruited by director John Woo for the film A Better Tomorrow which catapulted him from leading ladies' man to leading MAN and ultra badass with two guns, cooler than Chuck Norris himself.

So how does one nerf like this?

Buzz Bee's Twin Tek Four

This was available as a set for around $10 or less at K-Mart, so I immediately nabbed this. It comes with a target (don't care). Four yellow darts and four green darts come with the yellow and green blasters. What originally drew me to the Tek Four other than price was the fact that you cock it by pulling the rear handle.

And then I notice the rear handle's "T" shape and figured, "That looks like a hook. What if I can hook both together and pull the guns in opposite directions and cock them at the SAME time?" Bad move. First, the mechanism is based on a thin metal round bar, and the moment you try to lock the "T" handles one to the other, they rotate and no longer hold onto each other.

Yet in a firefight, I found the "T" shapes very accessible. For example, I could use the fingers of my right hand to cock the gun in my left without letting go of the gun in my right hand (bear in mind I'm a grown-up with medium-sized hands. Little kids: your mileage will vary, so eat your spinach, grow up to be big and strong, and when you're BIG and STRONG you won't need any steeenkin' nerf guns to pulverize your enemies and to hear their lamentation Conan-style.)

One drawback to the Tek Four is that they it has a short grip. While perhaps slightly shorter than the Nerf Crossfire, it's more ergonomic than the Crossfire. Smaller kids wouldn't have to worry; they can grip it fine. The trigger is reasonably comfortable, and while not wide enough for a grown-up's two-finger use, if gripping the entire handle is an issue, you could use your second/middle finger as your trigger finger. The depressed area above the trigger is actually long enough for an index finger. But I stopped playing with toy guns in this fashion a long time ago; since the middle finger is stronger than the index finger, little kids sometimes have to rely on it to pull tighter triggers, or until their hands build strength. I'm a grown-up so I don't have to do that any more, and besides, it makes holding the blaster awkward anyway.

Another drawback is that the cylinder does not automatically rotate to bring the next round into alignment. So now you not only have to cock the gun with the other hand, you have to use the other hand to rotate the barrel to prepare the next dart.

However, I was able to to do so with each opposite hand without letting go of my guns.

So while having to manually rotate the cylinder is a bummer, it's not toooooooo inconvenient. Realize now that you have to cock it and rotate the cylinder of each gun before you return fire. Reloading, however might be inconvenient because that is still a two handed action. Yet if your fingers are long enough, you might be able to reload without letting go of your blasters.

If your friend has a Maverick and you have a Tek Four in each hand, you have better firepower, but the trade-off is that it's slightly less convenient. The downside is you have to take cover more to prime your guns before you can return fire. The upside is you can be Chow Yun-Fat any time you want to.

Again, with my previous findings with the Tek Six and Tek 10, the range is a few feet better than the Maverick.

The plastic looks cheap, unfortunately. But none of the gloopy paint that I had seen on a 2004 Tek Six. The finish is consistent with the 2005 Tek Six and Tek 10 I've reviewed recently. Conversely, the Nerf Maverick and other blasters of Hasbro's Nerf N-Strike family have a satin texture to the plastic, which causes it to refract light differently than a glossy or waxy looking surface. Buzz Bee could probably learn a thing or two about finish from Hasbro.

So, what's comparable in the Nerf world?

Without modification, nothing.

You may argue the Nite Finder, the Scout, the Tech Target, the Firestrike, etc. But these are all single-round weapons without cylinders. You may even argue the Firefly and the Hornet, but the Firefly is kind of like a submachine gun (SMG) and the Hornet may be SMG-class but it has no cylinder; both are two bulky for single-handed operation.

The only handgun-style single-handed blasters with cylinder are the Airtech 1000 and the Maverick. The Airtech 1000 was made around 2004-2005 as a cheap $5.00 and is very hard to cock. I had bought two at K-Mart and they were utter pieces of garbage with poor range; the 1000 model only mimicked the look of its bigger cousins but not the functionality.

That leaves the Maverick.

The Maverick doesn't facilitate two-gun brandishing too conveniently. If you're gripping one in either hand and then you're trying to cock each gun by pulling their sliders back with the fingers of the opposite hand, it's very cumbersome. The Mavericks are somewhat heavier and the grips are full size, so you have to be careful not to let go of your gun.

However (yes, MacLaren here has been thinking about this) the very back of the slider is a hole in what would have been the hammer of a real gun -- right behind the orange-yellow rear site. It's gray and it's part of the plastic of the slider.

So if you can find some kind of roundbar plastic and if you can affix it to this hole, you can create a rear "T" handle to pull in order to cock the gun. Even better, with some ingenuity you could make the "T"s interlock and so you hook one to the other, pull them apart to cock both at the same time. Perhaps one is a hook and the other a circle. Use your imagination!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Blast from the Past: 1984's Ghostbusters Proton Gun

(Photo above: Dr. Egon Spengler trying to capture a ghost with a particle accelerator gun. Picture courtesy of Sony Pictures.)

Dr. Egon Spengler: There's something very important I forgot to tell you.
Dr. Peter Venkman: What?
Dr. Egon Spengler: Don't cross the streams.
Dr. Peter Venkman: Why?
Dr. Egon Spengler: It would be bad.
Dr. Peter Venkman: I'm fuzzy on the whole good/bad thing. What do you mean, "bad?"
Dr. Egon Spengler: Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.
Dr. Ray Stantz: Total protonic reversal.
Dr. Peter Venkman: Right. That's bad. Okay. All right. Important safety tip. Thanks, Egon.

The films from the 1980s had a magic to them. The zeitgeist -- a German term for "the spirit of the times" -- was innocent, energetic and positive outlook on life. The 80's produced incredible shows like The A-Team, Battlestar Galactica, Charlie's Angels, Magnum P.I., The Incredible Hulk, Knight Rider, and MacGyver. You can watch a lot of those shows again through the miracle of DVD boxed sets of thos old TV shows. You might find them a lot "campier" and more goofy than you remembered, but how many of us when we were kids fell in live with Olivia Newton John's character, Kira, in the movie "Xanadu"? After watching that, we all went straight for the store to buy rollerskates...

... and then fell on our asses on the street trying to rollerskate!

Who didn't feel the movie magic and then tried to bring a little of it off the silver screen and into real life?

That's what the magic of Ghostbusers did to us -- it made us feel like we were in New York cheering on that team of four to beat the powers of Zuul. What invoked that spirit? Was it the movie's theme music where it sounded like everyone around you was shouting "GhostBUSTERS!" when it was played over the radio, or if it was the marketing and minshare Ghostbusters was gaining when you saw the Ghostbusters logo everywhere from schoolbooks to jackets? And who didn't want that amazing ghost-busting gun that emited particle streams?

So here is a tribute to the "nerf" version of that famous proton gun, made by Kenner in 1984. It's range was allegedly not that great, but it was one of the first foam-shooting guns on the market at the time.

How did the proton gun work in the movie? As described on

"Particle-beam weapons are devices that accelerate subatomic particles or atoms to velocities near the speed of light, focused into a narrow stream. The energy of the weapon is the aggregate kinetic energy of the individual particles forming the beam. A lightning bolt, a flow of electrons, is similar to a particle beam. For those still keeping up with these weapons, there are two general types, classified by their use: charged particle-beam weapons (endoatmospheric use) and neutral particle-beam weapons (exoatmospheric use)."

Who you gonna call?

Back-pack nuclear accelerator not included.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Forget Foam Darts... Fire Adorable Teddybears Instead!

The Japanese are notoriously talented for creative, inventive weird and nutty things. In the world of firing fun things (ranging from foam darts to t-shirts) this one is surprisingly surprising. The poor little pink bear is held captive within the blaster, and unless you pay that mean Japanese man a bazillion yen he won't release the pink poobear into the world to once again shower love and affection among the children of the kingdom of foam... just kidding! Click HERE for a full report. In Engrish ;-)

Buzz Bee versus Nerf, Tek 10.. a-aaand Action!

"The power of the sun... in the palm of my hand."-- Dr. Octavius in Spider-Man 2.

To a kid, the Tek 10 (2005) will look fusion-powered, with a built in nuclear accelerator, if he or she has any concept of those words. To older kids the Tek 10 is less gloopy than its previous incarnation. Gone is the funky bee look (which made no sense other than to reinforce the Buzz "Bee" trademark. The Tek 10 is more aerodynamic looking as if it were shaped in a wind tunnel.

Sporting a 10-shot capacity, the Tek Ten is part of the "Air Zone" line of foam dart-firing blasters produced by Buzz Bee Toys Inc. It is quite possibly the most serious contender to the Nerf domination of superior single-handed blasters.

Advantages: lots of ammo. And the ammo goeth far. Farther than the Maverick, it bested the Maverick's range by about 3-5 feet. Again, as usual, I'm talking about effective distance indoors, angled at about 30-35 degrees, fired down the hallway in the house here. It's not an apples to apples comparison to the Maverick Rev-6 (6-shot capacity) and is about $1.99 more expensive. But you're talking about $1.99 for four extra rounds of capacity. That's 50 cents per extra shot. You do the math.

Disadvantages: still cannot fire Hasbro darts without forcing them in and crushing the foam. While the Tek 6 (2005) suffers from a short grip, the Tek 10's grip is longer -- an absolute requirement to handle plastic of this bulking size -- but it still fails to be long enough for my medium-sized grown-up hands. Also, ammo availability so far appears to be limited to you writing Buzz Bee and ordering it by mail. Futher, while it's trigger is wider than the Tek 6's, it's "T" shaped in cross-section, so its edges may cause some discomfort to the fingers even though the "T" effectively makes the trigger pressing surface wider.

Another word about the grip: while it feels less awkward than the Tek 6, it's trigger area is so wide that you can put two fingers on there if you're a kid. But the remaining two fingers will have a hard time weilding the front-heavy without support of their other hand. As an older kid (yes, adults are considered "older kids" here on NiF!) I found that I can only keep the fingertips of two fingers on the trigger -- any more than that my fingers would feel squashed. Yet with only an index finger on the trigger, the space on the grip outside of the trigger guard is barely enough for the rest of my hand.

A more appropriate comparison would be the original Hasbro Dart Tag (2005) 10-shot. Here, the Dart Tag has superior range, but again this isn't an apples-to-apples comparison. The Dart Tag "Tagger" ammo is quite possibly more aerodynamic than the suction cup darts that Buzz Bee provides; the more aerodynamic the ammo is, the less it will be affected by air resistance and therefore travel farther. A lot farther. Sonic darts with the Dart Tag can achieve indoor distances of roughly 35-45 feet. The Dart Tag has the advantage of having a vertical foregrip. With the Tek 10 you'd have to palm the front of your gun as if had a horizontal foregrip.

To prime it, you pull the gray colored slider back, which cocks it and rotates the next round into firing position.

In terms of looks, it's not as handsome as the Nerf Maverick (N-Stike line). However, it's best apples-to-apples comparison is the Dart Tag, and as you may recall, the Dart Tag isn't part of the N-Strike line and thus does not benefit from its sci-fi look. In other words, the appearance of the Dart Tag is acceptable but nothing to write home about. I feel that aesthetically they're tied. The plastic on this one I've reviewed is primarily yellow with gray parts, and some areas of the yellow are painted dark blue. The paint doesn't feel like paint, which is what you want. The previous iteration was "gloopy" becuase it not only looked gloopy, it felt gloopy.

Where could it improve? I would recommend a vertical foregrip because the blaster is front-heavy. That would have put it head-to-head with the Dart Tag. I'd urge Buzz Bee to use a warmer (redder) shade of yellow, as this particular shade here looks cheap. I'd also lengthen the grip by 0.75 inches so big kids' hands can grasp it comfortably.

These are minor suggestions in comparison to the potential of this "sleeper". To overcome its inherent incompatability with Hasbro's Nerf darts, after-market modifications will have to be made, and there are various mods that you can search for online. It is said that the Buzz Bee toys are easier to modify than the Nerf toys. You decide what works for you.

Hasbro should be paying attention to this one. Why? Because for roughly $10 they have the equivalent firepower of the Dart Tag 10-shot, whereas the only way right now to purchase a Dart Tag is to buy the "Nerf Dart Tag 2-Player System" -- a boxed set of two, which costs about $39.99 (the price may have dropped to about $35). To be fair, Hasbro bundles this boxed set with two felt vests and two visors. The downside is that the visors are useless for large kids or adults, and the Dart Tag "Tagger" ammo is dangerous to the eyes without visors. I usually advise people to find a friend and to share the cost, then either rip off the velcro from the darts or use safer Sonic darts instead (which make a fun whistling sound and are the best of all of Nerf ammo in terms of aerodynamics).

The thing for Hasbro to consider is that someone who has roughly $10-12 who wants instant gratification, who has no brand loyalty to Nerf, and doesn't care if his/her ammo won't be compatable with that of Nerf-brand blasters will find their purchasing option a no-brainer.

In terms of price, the Tek 10 is difficult to beat. In terms of range and usability, the Dart Tag 10-shot capacity blaster is better only by a margin. If Hasbro is paying attention to this, I think the ultimate Buzz Bee killer would be a 12-shot capacity N-Strike version of the 10-dart Dart Tag -- but with the N-Strike style of looks, with a vertical foregrip. Will Hasbro make one soon, or will we have to wait till next year?

Friday, May 05, 2006

Power in your Pocket (or are you happy to see so many Nerf blasters?)

"Drop your gun, Mr. Bond," said the bad guy. Bond did as he told. But just before his weapon hit the ground, without warning he spun around and, as if out of nowhere, a small Walther PPK was in his hand. He placed a careful shot between his assailant's eyes and before the bad guy knew what was going on, the last thing he saw was the floor before he blacked out.

The N-Strike Secret Strike AS-1 is the most powerful Nerf blaster in the world and it is approximately four-and-a-half feet long.

Just kidding.

Would you believe it if I told you that the Secret Strike AS-1 was part of the N-Strike family? Indeed it is! What does it mean to you? Well, other than the fact that it looks like the baby brother of the Maverick, Firefly and NiteFinder (though recent NiteFinders have a different color scheme) the answer is: absolutely nothing. The Secret Strike does not have an attachment rail that would allow it to integrate with any of the other N-Strike family of blasters. And why would you? It gets unwieldly when you "Borg-ify" your Nerf blaster, unless you particularly like the Sanford and Son approach (those of you old enough will remember the ol' 1972 show!)

The Secret-Strike literally fits in your pocket and its form factor is roughly that of a bulky cell phone. It comes with a key ring so if you ever fear losing your car keys, the bright orange and yellow will hopefully get your attention if you've left it lying around the house -- unless of course it was laundry day four months ago and your keys are under some pile of funky linen.

Interestingly enough you can "grip" the Secret Strike. The gray part fits into the web of your hand between your thumb and index finger.

You basically pump it 7 or more times and then press the "trigger" on the top. And what amazes me is this: it keeps up with the Maverick and the Nitefinder (and Scout, and Crossfire, and Firestrike -- the repainted Nitefinder). All of Hasbro's pistols achieve roughly 20-22 foot distance if angled up approx. 30-35 degrees, and i'm talking effective indoor distance. Not bad for a little shrimp.

There are no whistles and bangs here. It's basically of one-shot capacity.

While it's not as wieldly as the Nitefinder, it has comparable distance. Not a bad value for $3.00. The downside in a firefight is having to pump the little pump several times to prime it, but the upside is that it's a quick process. But if you needed a cheap backup weapon, keep it primed and in your pocket or at the end of an elastic cord attached to your belt. If you're ultra serious and ultra dweeby, I could envision you wearing a tactical vest with ten of these attached, so as needed them you'd use them if you were backed into a corner by a ton of n00bs and you won't go down without taking out a few of them in the process. Listen: if you were to ever do that and you e-mailed me a photo of yourself, I'd award you with an L33t G33k award and post the photo here on Nerf Intelligence Files!

The N-Strike Secret Strike AS-1 a powerful yet tiny Nerf blaster and it is approximately four-and-a-half inches long. In my opinion it has the highest power-to-size ratio of all that Hasbro has manufactured to date. (For those of you who'd argue and are too young to understand ratios, that means that for the teensy size it packs a lot of power, so if you scaled the size larger, think how immense the power that would be.)

All that power in my pocket. Whoo-ha.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Video: Nerf Dart Tag Sick Stunts

There are some incredible stunts here in the fashion of Neo from "The Matrix". Don't you just love Nerf?

(Warning: The video's hosting provider, YouTube, may contain other material elsewhere on their site that may be unsuitable for minors. For safety purposes please only play the video here on NiF.)

CSMacLaren's Top 3 Single Action Blasters of 2005

Time and again, people ask, "What's the best Nerf gun?" In one sense it's a flawed question. Best for what? Everyone's application is going to be different.

Some want the numbers. "I can get the XYZ gun to shoot 120 feet." As I pointed out in another article, that is ideal range, i.e. if you assume ideal conditions and angle the gun 45 degrees and fire (assuming no mechanical flaws affect the unit). Ideal range is what marketers go for. It is not, however, the effective range. A foam dart is going to take some time to cover that 120 foot distance. By the time the dart completes its arc in the air, your friend will have had enough time to take one step to the side to void your attack completely. Most likely you will be shooting at people within 6-25 feet from you and they'll be ducking behind objects. Given those circumstances you won't be angling the blaster a steep 45 degrees, but it's possible it would be a more shallow angle.

My personal baseline is how the blaster performs indoors (home or office). Indoors you are more likely to try to point the blaster at someone directly. You'll notice that a dart traveling from a blaster held parallel to the ground won't go as far as if it were angled upwards by 25-35 degrees.

Some want coolness. Okay the Big Bad Bow (BBB) is hella cool, as is the NiteFinder EX-3. But they lack in firepower. While the BBB is actually more of a shotgun-style blaster (due to the fact that the bow is only cosmetic and the bowstring is purely nonfunctional so some people chose not to install it) it can only fire one round at a time; you need time to reload each round by hand. The same goes for the NiteFinder. Some like the N-Strike Unity System's Titan but one person complained how he had to pump it for what felt like ten minutes before the blaster was primed.

Some want firepower, and admittedly blasters like the N-Strike Unity System's Hornet and RapidFire 20 give you that. But the Hornet has problems with air pressure not reaching darts, and darts sometimes either slide out of their chambers, or they don't sit all the way in but some spring mechanism pushes them out slightly enough to reduce their effective range to a few inches! The RapidFire 20 is the ultimate of automatic fire but that's outside of the scope of this Top 3.

Back to Basics: The Baseline

This is the criteria by which I measure foam-firing blasters.

1. Handling and practicality: Does the blaster feel right in the hands? Does it faciltiate use well? Are there sharp corners or edges that may cause operation to be uncomfortable? Is the blaster easy to use? Is the trigger hard to squeeze or does it dig into your index finger? Is it easy to cock?

2. Capacity: Are there a sufficient number of rounds for me to use the blaster in foam wars? And how easy is it to reload my darts?

3. Reliability: Are there any mechanical issues that can cause the blaster to misfire?

4. Availability of Ammo: Are refill packs readily available at the toy store, or am I going to have to go to Home Depot, buy caulking foam and start creating my own little darts?

5. Does it look hella cool? Can't look sissy or silly. It has to look manly-man. 'Nuff said!

So here's my roundup for the Top 3. Bear in mind this is for close-quarters combat (indoors or outdoors at close to medium rang) and single action (cock-and-fire) blasters.

3rd Place: Nerf N-Strike's Maverick Rev-6

The Maverick (2004) has a six round capacity. Handles wonderfully. Range is approx. 20 feet indoors. Range can improve to about 30 feet or more using the more aerodynamic Sonic darts (round tipped) that are available in refill packs at the toy store. This is an all-round well balanced weapon in all five aforementioned respects. Easy to reload -- you don't have to pop out the cylinder. The only disadvantage is that sonic darts can cause a gun to jam and misfire; if the rubber tip is sticking out of its chamber, it can cause the cylinder to not rotate the next round into alignment. The solution is simple: to stuff it back in more deeply. The Maverick is a handsome "manly-man" blaster and extremely good for Office Nerfing.

2nd Place: Nerf N-Strike's Firefly Rev-8

The Firefly (2005) is an 8-round submachine gun style blaster but is still single-action like its handgun counterpart, the Maverick. It's not automatic by any means. Fans of Stargate SG-1 will favor its looks due to its passing semblance to the P90 submachine gun popularized by the show. It unfortunately lacks a foregrip but it does make you want to go out and buy a WEP-8 military jacket and pretend you're taking out the Jaffa. Effective range indoors is about 40 feet, though with the more aerodynamic Sonic darts I've achieved a 50 feet range. It has holders for an extra eight darts. Extremely fun and cool and very gratifying.

And last, but not least....

1st Place: Nerf Dart Tag

The 10-round Dart Tag (2005) is the original "Dart Tag" is not part of Nerf's "N-Strike" line. It was originally its own gun but now there are blasters like the Crossfire and the Firestrike that are now part of the "Dart Tag" line; they too fire velcro-tipped "Tagger" darts. For safety reasons I recommend ripping off the velcro or just use sonic darts. Unlike the Firefly, the Dart Tag has a vertical foregrip so it makes it feel a little like an MP5 / MP5KA4, only bulkier (they did use MP5's earlier on in Stargate SG-1). It's bulky due to the cylinder's capacity (the larger the number of rounds, the larger the cylinder.) It lacks the aesthetics of the FireFly. I've acheived 35-40 foot ranges with Sonic darts. The only downsides are that I feel Tagger darts are unsafe, and that you have to spend $40 to acquire one, but the box comes with two, so share the cost with a friend; it's worth it!

Closing Thoughts

In terms of reliability, practicality, capacity, firepower and aesthetics the Maverick, the Firefly and the original Dart Tag are CSMacLaren's Top 3 of all time on single action blasters. I heartily recommend any of these to a Nerf fight. The Maverick is good as entry level nerf war ordnance and as a backup weapon. The FireFly and Dart Tag are superior. Though the Firefly's capacity is bested by the Dart Tag by two rounds, the FireFly's holders give it a combined capacity of 16 rounds.

What's in the future? I would like to express to Hasbro my keen interest to see an -Strike design that can handle 10 or 12 rounds, and that may very well become my new ultimate weapon.