As previously reported, Prime Time Toys is jumping into anything blaster-related, it seems! With the Walmart-exclusive Hydro Strike line, the people behind Dart Zone Blasters will have their first two gel bead blasters on shelves. The sidearm, the Nebula Pro, isn’t anything revolutionary in construction. In fact, fans of dart pistols like the Blitzfire X2 will find the Nebula Pro quite familiar. But if you’re looking for a low-cost, reliable gel bead pistol, the Nebula Pro fits the bill.
Big Game, Small Blaster
The Nebula Pro comes in a serious but colorful package, and it includes the base blaster, 1000 gel beads, a hydration/reloading container, and safety glasses. Not without reason, since a tiny projectile going the advertised velocities could potentially cause eye injuries. I’d recommend eye protection for any blaster-related activities in general…but especially in this instance.
The blaster itself is bright green in color, with orange around the barrel, top rail/reloading port, and operational bits. The slide is darker colored, which makes for a nice contrast. The internal hopper has translucent orange windows, allowing the user to see how much ammo remains. There are two Picatinny rails on the blaster; one rail is mounted on the bottom of the barrel area, while the other is molded into the reloading door. How useful they are for a sidearm is questionable (perhaps a flashlight or camera mount?), but they are present.
There are two 500-packs of dehydrated beads included. Getting the ammo ready consists of dumping 500 beads into the container, filling it to the neck with clean water, and letting it sit for ~4 hours (yes, gel bead blasting needs planning). Doing so gets you 7.5mm balls weighing a bit below a quarter of a gram each. Once you’ve done that, the expanded beads can be loaded into the blaster simply by pouring them in. You can fit the advertised 120 beads in there, with a bit of room left to allow for movement and settling. If you didn’t drain excess water prior to pouring in the beads, no worries. There are small holes molded into the blaster, similar to those you’d find on soakers, for letting the water leak out.
Operationally, the blaster is quite simple. Once loaded, flip the safety switch (similar to what you’d find on a Dart Zone Pro Mk2) to allow the trigger to move. Pull back the priming handle and release it in order to load a gel bead and prime the blaster. The plunger rod will stick out the back of the blaster; some blaster fans aren’t fans of such mechanisms, but they still work. Once you’ve done all that, aim the blaster, and pull the trigger to fire. Repeat as necessary.
The Nebula Pro is extremely comfortable in hand, and it feels quite sturdy. Ergonomically, I have no complaints!
The Nebula Pro, as it turns out, quite readily exceeds the box claims for bead velocity. With fully hydrated rounds at my disposal (and using up nearly an entire hopper), I averaged 188fps! That’s quite impressive for a small blaster. There will be a bit of variation if rounds aren’t fully hydrated, or if less than ideal things happen (double-feeding, rounds breaking in the barrel). However, the latter situations were fairly rare, and unless you shake the blaster around while holding the breech open, these aren’t likely to happen.
Speaking of shaking, I have yet to actually shake the blaster to load it. The balls have thus far fed perfectly fine from the hopper. If anything, the backward slope of the internal hopper takes advantage of tendencies to tilt the blaster up when priming.
The rate of fire is quite acceptable, with two balls per second serving as a good ceiling. Most important, however, is the accuracy. There doesn’t seem to be any sort of hop-up on the blaster, yet in my testing, it was easy to hit targets repeatedly at distance. Given the ammo weight versus the initial velocity, the usable range is limited. Even so, at least with the included gel beads, I didn’t have any aiming issues whatsoever. Since there are other major brands out there in the United States (SplatRBall, Gel Blaster, etc.), I can’t immediately say that the other beads will perform similarly. Given the common size (7.5mm), though, they should at least not be terrible, should that be the ammo available to you. More testing is required!
Hopefully, one of these weekends, I can convince American Foam and a few others in Ohio with gel bead blasters to have a war, with a few rounds dedicated to these blasters in particular.
As you saw above, Prime Time Toys is enjoying the visuals of showing off blaster internals in their videos as of late. In hand, however, we can look and see that the tech here isn’t anything new.
Quite frankly, the blaster may as well be a reconfigured Blitzfire, built to operate with a hopper instead of a dart cylinder. Priming the blaster opens up a small breech at the front of the plunger tube, loading a gel bead. The rubber gasket around the “pusher” then seals against the barrel assembly once the priming handle and plunger tube move forward again. It’s quite efficient, and a good way to convert what is normally a dart blaster into a gel bead blaster.
For an MSRP of $25, the Nebula Pro delivers the hits, and it does so with great precision. Admittedly, the similarities to cheaper dart blasters from the same company make me wonder about the Nebula Pro’s price (a two-pack of Blitzfire X2s runs around $13). Still, if we can accept that a “Pro” line can’t be priced too low (to avoid being seen as “cheap”), and assume that all the Nebula Pros are made to this same level of quality…it’s still quite a deal. You may not have the firepower of a full-auto gel bead blaster, but you can match the velocity and return fire, especially if you have cover to exploit. And in a pinch, if something were to go wrong with your main blaster, you have a backup you can pull out of a pocket or holster to cover yourself or your teammates.
For beginners, too, the Nebula Pro makes sense. $25 is pretty easy to justify for dipping your toes in the proverbial water, and you won’t be completely outgunned when doing so.
If the Nebula Pro appeals to you, go ahead and grab it. It won’t disappoint!