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Some would say the NERF Vortex weapons system is a product of the military industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned us about in 1961. NERF already has a perfectly effective dart-based ammunitions system, but now seems to be forcing a new standard with the introduction of the Vortex line. Vortex blasters employ wafer-like projectiles—"XLR" discs. It's a fine piece of ammo, but it's incompatible with all those N-Strike blasters that are sitting in the munitions depots of nerds worldwide. Is this a craven policy shift designed to migrate everyone to a new ammo standard, rendering our darts useless and destined to languish in the ordnance silos of obsolescence?
Perhaps. But the disc-based Vortex blasters would seem to boast superior range, velocity, and accuracy compared to the N-Strike models. We don't have any ballistics measurement apparatus in the Maximum Lab, but anecdotal observation indicates that XLR discs shoot farther, faster, and truer than the Streamline darts that arm the N-Strike blasters. Even more importantly—and this is a biggie—XLR discs can very effectively ricochet off of walls and other hard surfaces. This opens up a whole new world of tactical deployment in surface-to-passing-head-of-coworker warfare.
For this review, we tested the Vigilon and Nitron blasters. The Vigilon is a single-grip blaster that holds five discs, and stages your next shot with a satisfying pump-action reload. We're not fond of its limited-capacity magazine, but this blaster is relatively small and wieldy, and its reloads are quick and easy.
The Nitron is the current chart-topper of the Vortex line, and uses a flywheel mechanism and six C batteries to automatically shoot up to 20 discs in a hail of rapid-fire spongy death. The Nitron comes with a single 20-disc magazine (fully loaded at purchase), and you can buy an additional pre-loaded magaine that fits into the shoulder stock. The Nitron also comes with NERF's Centerfire Tech electronic scope, which is supposed to help center one's aim. For the life of us, however, it seems to be nothing more than a pretty ornament with flashing green lights—and thus a defacto targeting beacon that tells your enemies where to find you.
Regardless, the Nitron is a hoot to use. Simply hold down the acceleration trigger to wind up the flywheel, and then pull the firing trigger to empty your entire magazine in a flurry of projectile grommets. We consistently emptied the 20-shot cartridge in less than 12.5 seconds, so if this Blaster needs anything, it's a much larger clip. We doubt we'll see that, but if NERF's history in weapons development tells us anything, it's that bigger, better, much higher-capacity Vortex blasters are already in R&D.
But, hey, Ike warned us.
$39.99 (Nitron); $15.99 (Vigilon); Hasbro.com
Improved range, velocity and accuracy. Ricochets rock!
Our old darts are now effectively obsolete. Neither gun’s capacity is large enough. The “scope” seems pointless.