August 28, 2014

Buzz Bee Gunsmoke Review

Which is better: firing two darts, or one dart with cool effects? That's the basic difference between the classes Buzz Bee Double Shot and their new blaster, Gunsmoke. An extra $5 (for a total of $15 on the price tag at Walmart) means that instead of the second dart, an electronic unit will release a puff of "smoke" whenever darts are fired. Read on to find out what makes this blaster tic, and to see if it's worth your money!

Fresh of the shelves, the packaging is already more serious in color and tone than other Buzz Bee products. While I'm not going to test the claim of 500 shots of smoke, I will test how well it works, in addition to the 30' range claims. Lucky for us, Buzz Bee packaging is easy to tear apart. No clam-shell!

Let's get down to business. (To defeat the Huns!) The rear green piece covering the butt will actually come off relatively easily, provided you give a little leverage with a flathead screwdriver. Then a few more screws reveals the plunger assembly.

PLEASE note at this point that I had already managed to drop the disassembled blaster, relieving the stock of all its contents. I used a little intuition and put everything back in, and the blaster worked afterwards. In case I messed up, though, just note that a few my internals may no longer be in their original positions.

Here you can see the dual plungers, the lever for the break action, and two of the pulley wheels guiding the string used for priming.

And here's the back of this section. There are two more pulleys, plus a spring-loaded lever that keeps tension on the strings. You can also see the catch system. Unlike the Double Shot, the catches are not staggered.

At this point, you can remove the screws in the forward grip/battery tray area. You'll also have to pull a yellow tab out from the orange barrel assembly, as that prevents you from simply lifting up that part of the shell. The movable black pieces are what trigger the shell ejection. Since the shell is already being pressed toward the rear by a weak spring, only that long black rod with the tab on the end is holding it in place. At the end of priming, it is rotated slightly out of the way, releasing the Kraken. I mean, the shell.

Still wondering why the second plunger tube is there? Here's your answer! The momentary blast of air upon firing moves a small plastic rod far enough to press the electric switch, sending a small amount of current to the smoke unit up front. The air tube then extends to that area.

Here's that tiny smoke unit. You simply press it in, then turn until it is threaded onto the small heating element. Each time you fire, that tiny amount energy is bled off as heat within the smoke compound. I didn't bother poking it to test its consistency, so I'll just say compound.

Last, but not least, is the end of that air path, which goes up into the end of the barrel. That's where the smoke comes out.

Now that we've done our dissecting for the day, we can throw the blaster back together. Note that three of the screws are longer than the others. These screws in particular go in high-stress areas of the shell, namely the attachment point for the string, and around the hinge/initial pulley area. They can't go in anywhere else, so it shouldn't be hard to figure out if you weren't paying attention when you took them out.

Finally, performance! It turns out that, at least for my unit, the box's claims were an understatement. I was hitting 30' firing parallel to the ground, and 45'-50' when firing at an angle (the usual way manufacturers get their range claim numbers). The shells ejected with a bit of speed, making catching them a problem. However, this blaster is clearly designed with form in mind, so that isn't as much of a slight as it could be. In addition, the smoke unit worked perfectly, releasing a visible (and slightly acrid) puff behind the dart.

This blaster is clearly much more of a novelty than other Buzz Bee products. That novelty, however, is what drew people in (especially kids) when I was testing in a park. So there's clearly a niche for such an item. In addition, the blaster would make a wonderful addition to various costumes. The blaster performed better than claimed on the box, and it was fun for anyone who tried it. NIC diehards looking for amazing performance are sure to be disappointed, but this blaster wasn't meant for them. Keeping that in mind, I have to give a glowing initial grade.

If for some reason, the blaster breaks after further use, the grade will be revisited. After all, I've seen many new style Double Shots break at the pivot point. We'll see if that issue persists.

UPDATE: It appears I've seen some disagreement online over giving a good grade to a blaster like this, when so many others perform better, even much older blaster models. That is true, and based solely on the performance of the blaster itself, I would only give a C at most, if I felt generous. However, I don't think that's a fair metric, since Gunsmoke is, in my opinion, a different entity altogether in the blaster realm. The purpose of the blaster is very much form over function (form being the gun-like qualities), and to me delivered what it promised, without a horrible sacrifice in the function department.

1 comment:

  1. There are no refills for the "smoke". Ours only lasted from Christmas morning to afternoon. Any suggestions?