I’ve been taking extra time on this review, mainly because I wanted to be as sure as possible about testing and trying different things with the blaster (trying to move may have also played a part). After the Nexus Pro emerged early onto Walmart shelves, I woke up at 5am just to make a two hour drive to Cincinnati, where one store was already putting out a ton of new blasters ahead of the official release. Since then, even with extra testing, I can’t help but wonder how good this blaster can be for the enthusiast branch of the hobby, provided Dart Zone and Walmart play their cards right. If you’re in any way interested in high fps blaster tag games, and especially if you’re just joining the hobby, this is possibly the best $50 you can spend right now.
Hold on, because this is going to be a long post!
(Note: the box clearly states on the back the recommendation for both adult supervision and eye protection for the user and people nearby. It also notes basic safety for using the blaster. Please follow that advice!)
Downgrading the Price, but Not the Quality
Dart Zone has stepped up their presence in the enthusiast community over the years. Not only do regular blasters tend to shoot hotter than their Nerf counterparts on store shelves, but they’ve also released the Dart Zone Pro; Mk.1 was a 1000 item limited run, and it did well enough for Target to carry the Mk.1.1 online.
Now, Walmart is getting in on the action, but with a price point of $50 and (at long last) the inclusion of standalone short dart packs on shelves. I’ll have to do a full review of the darts themselves at a later date, but they seem to fly just as well as the bamboo darts from the Dart Zone Pro. (See Spam’s Instagram post here about the darts in comparison to bamboo and Worker darts.)
The small but compressible foam heads and the foam bodies are well glued, and at $10 for 100 are priced well for mass adoption. Granted, it’s possible to get Gen3 Worker darts for as low as $6 per 100, but that also usually involves paying for shipping as well as varying shipping times. When it comes to new people buying the blaster, $10 is easy to justify, especially when the darts are on the shelf beside the blaster.
As for the blaster itself, it’s lost some of the nice touches from the Dart Zone Pro, like the rubberized grips, the metal priming arms, the take-down assembly, and other things. However, in the end those were all nice touches, and not necessary for a comfortable or operational blaster. To that end, Dart Zone was able to take the Pro blaster idea down to $50 and get it on shelves.
Solid and Satisfying
The Nexus Pro comes in a flip-open box, clearly showing all the parts that come with it. In addition to the blaster, you get an extending stock (M4-style), decorative muzzle brake, 12-round full dart magazine, 12-round half dart magazine w/adapter, two aiming attachments, and 12 darts of each length.
The confident marketing should also be noted, as it claims ranges of over 125′, as opposed to advertising “Shoots up to X feet” like most blasters!
Immediately on examination, some noticeable things come to mind. The buffer tube stock, while slightly shorter than the one on the Dart Zone Pro, still has five articulation points. It also has an easy-to-remove spring rest, based on removing a single screw and turning the plastic cap. The included stock, while lacking the rubber coating, is still solid and comfortable. It also holds tow spare o-rings for the breech.
Speaking of the breech, the loose format of the Dart Zone Pro has been replaced with a sealed breech! If you plug the metal barrel, the plunger will stop in its tracks when you pull the trigger. That makes possibilities for modding enthusiasts even better, of course, but it also means that Dart Zone can use a lighter spring (less inefficiencies to overcome). I tried swapping springs to see the exact effects; you can read about that at the end.
What Can I Put On It?
The Nexus Pro has two separate Picatinny rails at the top; the barrel section sits slightly lower than the rear section. In practice, this actually works out fine, especially with the included sights; after all, foam darts are going to drop much sooner than “serious” projectiles, and starting with the blaster already at a slight upward angle for aiming just helps to set up new users for distance shooting.
The grip is mounted in a similar fashion as the DZP, and you can swap those two grips interchangeably; you can also mount other grips on that short additional section of moving Picatinny rail.
In a rather audacious move, Dart Zone ditched their DZP mags in favor of more traditional designs. Well, traditional in the sense of using already established short dart magazine formats. The included adapter not only lets you use the new magazine (and the similarly shaped Jet Katana mags), but also Worker Talon magazines as well! I double checked, and the included 12-round mag works in Katana adapters, so that’s the chosen shape.
The included adapter has two magazine retention tabs, one for each type. It’s unfortunate that DZP magazines do not fit (and the DZP adapter itself also does not fit within the Nexus Pro without modification), but it’s an understandable move. Talons and Katanas are the vast majority of short dart magazines in the market (the former being the most popular), so choosing compatibility when it comes to a hobby-grade blaster on store shelves makes sense. Those of us with a large number of DZP mags, in all reality, are likely people who would go ahead and shave off plastic to make it compatible anyway. We’re just the outliers!
I should note that while in theory Nerf magazines are still compatible, in practice this still varies due to bulges on the various types of magazines. Some shorter magazines will fit and feed without issue, as will some drums. Given the intense focus on short darts, however, this isn’t a priority.
Using and Shooting the Blaster
The Nexus Pro chambers both half and full length darts, like the Dart Zone Pro. As such, the Nexus carries over the core system from the Dart Zone Pro, included the first portion of the priming motion simply opening the breech partway and not compressing the spring. This “slop” in the prime doesn’t appeal to everyone.
However, an important improvement over the DZP was made; after priming and loading the blaster, the grip locks in place! On the DZP, there was no priming lock, so you had to hold the priming grip forward when firing. If for some reason you get a jam, there IS a jam button up top on the Nexus Pro, allowing you to open the breech again.
Overall, the blaster is sturdy and pleasant to use, even without the creature comforts of the Dart Zone Pro. The vertical priming grip works well, but if that style isn’t your cup of tea, you can always change it out. The plastic is thick around the entire blaster, and while there may be less of it overall, it’s done in a way that makes sense without compromising blaster function.
This is the part where the Nexus Pro really shines. The blaster has a weaker spring than the Dart Zone Pro, but also has a sealed breech – one that’s wide enough to easily chamber various dart types without leading to jam issues. As a result, I’ve been able to reliably prime, load, and fire one dart per second compared with the more deliberate rate of fire of predecessors.
Thanks to that sealed breech, dart velocity also hasn’t suffered. So far, the included short darts are averaging 155fps, while the standard length darts average 145fps. Other dart types load just fine, but velocities vary based on the exact foam diameter as well as the width of the rubber head. Worker darts (at least in my testing) seem to average 10-15fps lower, as do full-length Nerf Elite darts. Adventure Force waffle darts and Nerf Accustrike darts usually fire, but velocity varies wildly due to the friction of the wide dart heads with the barrel. To be fair, however, why are you trying to fire those kinds of darts in a sealed breech format?
The included standard and short darts both appear to be just as accurate as bamboo darts.
After removing all the screws (and separating the halves of the priming and main grips), you just need to twist and pop off the rear spring rest, then unclip the twin tabs on the buffer tube. Once you’ve done that, the blaster pulls apart quite easily.
As you can see, unlike the Dart Zone Pro (and various Retaliator-like setups), there is no bolt sled for priming the blaster. Instead, a solid piece of black plastic sits above the barrel and breech, connecting the priming grip to the bolt. A spring-loaded black par at the top of the blaster serves as the priming lock. When fully primed, the plunger moves that in place (and is nearly out of the plunger tube as well).
The plunger, for reference, is roughly 35mm wide, about the same as a classic Nerf Longshot, although it doesn’t travel as far. The barrel is 15cm long, simply friction fit between two plastic pieces, one being the dart loading port, the other being and end piece within the orange tip of the blaster.
There’s actually quite a bit! The spring used for the plunger is of the same dimensions as that from the Dart Zone Pro, simply weaker. Out of interest, I swapped those springs. The results got a 10-15fps increase in velocity, but a rather noticeable drop in accuracy (you could watch the darts veer off course from where you were aiming). As it stands, the system as-sold is highly optimized, and it doesn’t quite have the barrel length to harness the power from stronger springs. The result? You have the dart leaving the barrel and being pushed off-course by the remaining blast of air behind it.
Modders who want to do more with the platform will need to replace the front plastic piece holding the barrel in place with a homemade design (most likely 3d printed) in order to accommodate a longer barrel. Given how fast the early models are flying off shelves, I have no doubt this will happen sooner rather than later. Once the longer barrel is in place, experienced modders can concern themselves with things like SCAR attachments for accuracy, etc. (For readers unfamiliar with the concept, watch this video here)
I should note that while the prime was noticeable harder with the DZP spring, the plastic priming bar above the barrel didn’t seem to have any extra flex or indication that it couldn’t handle the force. That’s a pretty good sign for the longevity of the design.
The Dart Zone brand is knocking their designs out of the park this year. After entering the high-fps space with the Dart Zone Pro and making incremental improvements with the 1.1, the Nexus Pro somehow takes that performance to a budget-friendly price, with more improvements to boot. It’s not hyperbole to say that having this kind of blaster (and the associated short darts) on Walmart shelves holds great promise for expanding the enthusiast market. It’s easy to use, performs above and beyond expectations, and has the compatibility with various short darts and common magazines (even if it means sacrificing the DZP mag design to do so).
I hope that all of these new high-performance blasters now entering the market actually make the case for “blaster tag” being (at the very least) a fun activity, if not its own sport in the vein of paintball and airsoft. There’s lots of room to grow, and plenty of ways to take blasters, be it modder-friendly Ceda S variants (like the Gameface Prime) at sports and supply stores, or the beginner-ready Nexus Pro at Walmart. It’s a space that Hasbro isn’t touching anytime soon, and it leaves the door open for companies like Prime Time Toys to truly shine.