Author’s note: Dart Zone did send a free sample for review; they’re also sponsoring a free giveaway. Thanks, guys!
As excited as I was to get the Dart Zone Pro MkIII, having it for a week now and using it at a war leaves me conflicted. All the ingredients are there for greatness; hitting high velocities on just AA batteries, the ability to swap for rechargeable battery packs, select fire, and more are in the package. Using full and short darts makes for even more versatility. But issues with magazine compatibility and dart feeding taint what would otherwise be a great blaster on paper. For the person entering the realm of high speed dart blasting, it’s an attractive (if flawed) blaster. For those already in the hobby who know how to modify a blaster off the store shelf (retail or thrift), it might not be as appealing. Either way, it’s still not a blaster to dismiss. Just know that, for now, this rose has a few thorns.
How It Works
As detailed in a post last Wednesday, you’re essentially buying a modified blaster when you purchase the MkIII from Target’s website. The blaster is wired up with much thicker wire than most stock electric blasters. Hobby-grade motors drive the large diameter flywheels. There’s even an XT60 connector in the mix. Normally, the AA battery tray is connected to it. However, popping out one screw allows the user to remove the tray. At that point, you’re free to throw in a lipo battery of your choice (2S will shoot darts slower, while 3s will give you the most velocity and rate of fire).
The blaster has a manual lever for going between a mechanical semiauto and an electric full auto feeding mechanism. The lever operates a clutch mechanism, disconnecting the trigger from the pusher arm while lining things up with an internal electric switch. At that point, you have a motor driving a gear train, eventually leading to a rack and pinion mechanism for pushing darts into the flywheels.
The full auto is somewhat slow, between 3-4 darts per second. In fact, leaving the blaster on semiauto, you can theoretically fire faster. Even so, there are going to be people out there who enjoy having the spray and pray option. Just don’t expect a 10+dps fire hose of a blaster.
Handling the Blaster
The shell of the MkIII is rather chunky and aggressive, which I actually like. The front has a large, comfortable area for your offhand to grip. If for some reason, that’s not your style, there’s a Picatinny rail under the giant barrel for mounting attachments. (A rail sits on top of the blaster as well.) The main grip has a rubber cover, making it more comfortable. The triggers have easy, comfortable pulls, while the mag release lever and select fire lever are easy to toggle. This blaster feels like a premium product!
The blaster comes with both an adjustable stock (you can use other M4-style stocks, including those from other blasters, if you like) and a red dot sight. The latter runs off of two AAA batteries, and seems somewhat unnecessary. Since it’s still just a small LED shining on flat plastic, it won’t do much for you unless you looking straight ahead…and since darts very much obey the laws of gravity, it will only be useful for short distances. Even so, it completes the look.
The blaster comes with two magazines (short and full dart) as well as an adapter. So, should the need arise, you could absolutely borrow a teammate’s magazine and use it, regardless of dart type.
However, now that we’ve started the magazine talk, there’s a large caveat: Talon magazines (arguably the current hobby standard) more often than not don’t work well! Due to designs changing since their initial release, the feed lips are spaced together tighter than the pusher track on the MkIII! You can fix this in the initial production models by snipping out some of the plastic. Even so, that’s something users shouldn’t need to do, especially when the blaster’s mag adapter comes with a slot meant for retaining Talons! Without this fix, the pusher gets jammed into the squeezed plastic, getting the blaster stuck with the motors running until the magazine is removed. Special thanks to Foamblast for working this out when they got their model for review.
The included short dart magazine and Pro 2.0 darts generally feed quite well, but you still occasionally drag a dart backwards and jam the pusher.
Even after fixing that issue, I’ve also run into problems getting short darts to consistently push into the flywheels. Be it strong magazine springs (Talons) or worn darts, or possibly even a pusher without enough meat on the front face, I’ve often needed two or three trigger pulls to fire a pesky dart. In a casual war, it’s annoying but not debilitating. In a competitive setting, that’s just asking for trouble. I’ve also seen the pusher drag darts backwards out of the short dart magazine, regardless of brand.
Full length darts, meanwhile, have fed more consistently…at least in semi-auto. In full-auto, like Luke from Out of Darts demonstrated, full length darts often double feed, making for strange firing patterns.
Of course, the big question, as always, is “How hard does it actually shoot?”. The blaster advertises 150fps, and on eight AA, it can actually do that! Performance will vary among dart types and lengths, but of the common ones on shelves, I got:
- Pro 2.0 short: 148fps average
- Pro 2.0 long: 155fps average
- Dart Zone Max: 144fps average
- Adventure Force Pro: 142fps average
- Adventure Force waffle (full length): 146fps average
When running on lipos, 2s drops the short dart speeds below 130fps on my MkIII, which would make it viable for HvZ (assuming feed issues are solved). 3s lipos, meanwhile, had little effect on short darts, but raised full length speeds around the 160fps mark, simply due to having the current to support the motors over the length of the entire dart. More importantly, though, using rechargeable batteries led to the motors spinning up much faster between shots.
As with most blasters, these numbers are in semi-auto, giving time for motor spin-up. Expect full auto firing to drop average velocities lower, due to motor slowdown. The first shot will still be fast. Later ones, not so much.
Final Thoughts: Who is This For?
As with the rest of the Dart Zone Pro line, the MkIII is meant to be a great blaster for those entering high-velocity blasting, or who want a blaster with minimal effort. Even so…the blaster needs work, especially if you already have plenty of gear. Granted, you can buy the official short dart magazines online for better consistency, and three 15-round magazines for $30 should be around by Christmas. But physically being unable to use the most common short dart magazine out there is a downer. The feeding issues are also a major concern, though there are some temporary fixes out there, and others in the works.
Nevertheless, the blaster is fun to use and packs a punch. It’s simply hitting a double, though, and not a home run.