With the holiday shopping season trucking along and Christmas around the corner you may be looking to pick up a Nerf blaster for yourself or someone else. Strangely it’s a rather complex field of toys due to the different “ammo” types you can get and what blasters can use them.
Thankfully, over the years, we’ve tested out a range of Nerf blasters from the main product lines that Nerf offers so we can offer some help in that regard.
Those who take Nerf seriously and pursue it as a hobby may take offense to the terminology here or skipping over some important aspects but this really is a quick guide for the fellow casuals out there who just want something fun to shoot around with.
Below we’ve summarised the four main toy lines and the respective ammo types you can find locally: Elite, Ultimate, Rival and Mega. These are not cross compatible so when buying multiple blasters remember that you will not be able to share darts unless they’re all from the same range.
A final note before getting into things here is that retailers seem to have Nerf products priced very high right now compared to prices we saw earlier this year. We’re not sure if this is because of COVID-19 interrupting supply chains or retailers looking to make extra money during the holiday period. Regardless shop around and look out for sales.
Nerf Elite / Regular
Elite darts are probably what you think of when you picture a Nerf projectile – a foam cylinder with a soft plastic head. Nerf will routinely rename, reskin and slightly alter these darts, but they’re fairly generic and standardised.
From what we’ve seen in South Africa this kind of dart is the most common and you can even get third party darts for this size rather easily.
We tested out Nerf Elite in the Fortnite AR-L, a branded and motorised blaster made to look like a rifle from the game. This is a hell of a lot of fun but at a cost: In July 2019 this could be bought for R979, but in December 2020 you’ll be paying a few hundred more depending on where you shop.
For the price, though, you’re getting a motorised blaster that is a good time and will please the Fortnite fan in your life. There’s a massive range of Elite / Elite 2.0 products out there so you can shop to suit your wallet.
This range also currently has a crossover with Fortnite so you can get a few other blasters based on guns in the game.
TL;DR: the Nerf gold standard. Easy to find blasters and ammo, and you can dip into the third party market while maintaining cross compatibility.
Ultra was introduced to South Africa very recently and may be the popular choice at your local toy store as Hasbro pushes its new line.
Nerf Ultra Darts are made of a harder material and feel more like a stiff polystyrene compared to the soft foam of the other darts Nerf makes.
Hasbor says this has a variety of boons when it comes to shooting but to us, using the flagship Nerf Ultra One, it feels like much of the same.
The big problem is that the Ultra darts are designed to have physical DRM to prevent third parties from making cheaper dart alternatives. The end of the Ultra darts have a small “tail” that interfaces with a lock inside of the Ultra One and other Ultra blasters. Should the tail not engage with the lock – or the ammo is loaded slightly improperly – the blaster will not fire and instead you will be met with a stop of the mechanism.
That being said most of the time when in use, it’s not too much of an issue.
Case in point is the top of the line Nerf Ultra One motorised blaster which you can see firing below. It has a rather satisfying drum magazine that holds a hefty 25 Ultra darts. After you’ve put in some batteries you can shoot away and there’s even storage for an extra eight darts on the side of the stock.
Like the Fortnite AR-L it’s a tonne of fun for a lot of money with a RRP of R1 799.99. For holiday sales we’ve seen it available for less so, again, shop around if you want it or any of the other Ultra blasters.
TL;DR: In a vacuum it’s on par with the Elite / 2.0 darts and perfectly fine for some quick play, but there’s some deeper problems if you’re going to be using these darts for a long time.
Rival rounds are different as they’re not darts but are instead foam balls. This makes the entire Rival line feel more like a pseudo-paintball experience without the pain and expense of one-use paintballs.
The Nerf Rival Kronos XVIII-500 is the blaster we used to experience the Rival line and we came away very impressed. It’s the smallest blaster here and in theory the cheapest, though the weird pricing we mentioned earlier means that this wasn’t always the case.
The Rival Kronos XVIII-500 is not motorised and instead needs to be manually cocked, but the unique Rival rounds here made this a joy and the lack of batteries means it’s a great gift for Christmas. If the prices and availability were better in South Africa this would be our pick of the bunch.
TL;DR: Rival is unique by offering a ball instead of a dart and the Rival range is fun and varied. It’s a bit difficult to come by locally but thankfully you can still find some blasters and even third party ammo replacements.
Mega uses the Pokémon Dynamax school of design: take something you have already and make it larger.
Yes Mega darts are very similar in design to Rival but they’re just bigger and usually differentiated by a large red foam form.
Blasters in this line can usually only hold a few darts given their large size but in return you get the physical experience of larger darts which can make a difference when shooting down targets.
The very unique Nerf Mega Bulldog (below) we experimented with was enjoyable both for the larger darts and the clever transforming mechanism of the blaster.
TL;DR: Mega can be seen as Rival, just bigger. These blasters can be hard to find in South Africa and the ammo is more expensive to replace from what we’ve seen. It can be a blast if you’ve always found regular darts too small to hit anything with.