It’s not supposed to be out yet, but I found an Alpha Strike Cobra at a Target for $10 last week. As expected, Alpha Strike is Nerf’s answer to the “budget brands” that have taken away its market share in the lower price points. The line still isn’t my favorite for comfort; however, after using the Cobra over the weekend, it’s better than expected. Even if I have other preferences, I expect those brands (at this price point) to have a hard time in the near future.
The single blaster pack comes with 12 darts and four half-bottle plastic targets (which do connect and can be blasted apart).
See my thoughts on the line here.
To start things off, let’s see how the blaster is actually made. The Cobra ditches the classic, thick plastic shell for a skeleton look. There are no screws whatsoever in the blaster; at most, a panel snaps into place with plastic tabs (which aren’t always made to come back apart). The insides are simplified as much as possible, from a plunger head that just snaps onto the rod via thick tabs to a cylinder with the rotation system molded on the outside. Even with all the lack of plastic, the shell is sturdy.
The main spring is fairly strong, and also narrow in diameter. Interestingly, the philosophy of “less is more” extends even to the plunger head, which doesn’t have an o-ring seal. Instead, the plastic head is flared at the end, right up to the diameter of the plunger tube.
Finally, the trigger is sealed within the shell, rotating on a point, with the “catch” attached to it and supported by ribs in the shell. This is a weak point if you attempt to modify the blaster, for sure. Then again, if you’re modifying the blaster…you’re probably not the target audience of the Alpha Strike series.
In addition, it’s easy to get off a shot every second, even with the stiff prime. Whether you want to empty the cylinder that quickly, of course, is another matter.
This is the major downfall of the Cobra. The handle, while sufficient for gripping the blaster, feels horrible due to the skeleton nature of it. It can be somewhat ignored when the blaster is used in short spurts, but long term use is uncomfortable.
Wrapping with tape at least prevents the blaster from digging into your palm, though.
The Nerf Alpha Strike line looks to be a solid market entry, after so many years of Nerf offering $30-$200 blasters and leaving budget blasters largely untapped. The blaster works well, and is comparable in power to other Nerf blasters. Even so, the ergonomics are lacking, and the blaster is uncomfortable to use, especially over prolonged periods.
I still prefer the Xshot Reflex 6 (and its Walmart version, the Destroyer), due to the somewhat better performance and the far more comfortable handle for less ($7 or $8, usually). However, the Cobra is good enough to potentially overshadow it, especially on impulse purchases. After all, there’s now an option screaming “#1 Blaster Brand” in bright colors and at a similar price range. We’ll see how things play out come Christmas!