I’ve been sitting on this article for a bit, waiting for information and a good way to formulate my opinions. Two recent intellectual property (IP) issues have come to light this summer. In one, Dart Zone has filed to own “Blaster Tag” as a trademark – which seems questionable. In the other, Hasbro (along with Spin Master) is going after essentially all current gel ball blaster brands in the US, after being late to the party. Both are interesting topics to look at, so let’s dive in!
This year, it seems the Dart Zone Max blasters are a better deal overall than the Dart Zone Pro line. After covering the Mk1.2 and the Mk2.1, the Dictator was a nice change of pace. After a bit of war testing (and a bit of accuracy testing at a weekend retreat with friends), I like this blaster even more. It’s a Conquest Pro, but with better ergonomics and a bit more mag compatibility than the previous iteration. It’s a step in the right direction, for sure.
I was excited for the Deuce Pro. It’s a neat concept, having a pro revolver with both swappable cylinders and barrel options for higher and lower fps gameplay. $40 for a blaster, three cylinders, and a molded holster and gear seemed like a steal. So when a friend found them a few days before Endwar, I jumped at the opportunity to pick up one of them from him for use during Endwar.
At that point, during the mission, I realized Dart Zone didn’t quite stick the landing.
Dart Zone has updated the entire pro line this year, in conjunction with the Dart Zone Pro Tournament. The Mk1.2 was ambitious, but not quite as successful as it should have been.
In contrast, the Mk2.1 successfully improves upon most aspects of the Mk2, including better performance and the use of in-grip magazines (which can be easily purchased separately). Those who love the Mk2 might be justified in passing on this iteration, but for everyone else, it’s largely an example of what the DZP line should be about: comfortable, easy performance.
My One Complaint…
If there’s one thing I don’t like about the Mk2.1, it’s the magazine release. Due to the need to contain a removable magazine in the grip, the grip can’t help but be large. It’s still usable for the majority of people in the target age group, but it leads to a new problem: how do you comfortably swap magazines?
Dart Zone placed a tiny ejection button at the front of the grip, where your thumb could reach it…assuming you have giant fingers. For everyone else, you either have to rotate your grip to reach the button or depress it with your off-hand. Is it a deal breaker? No. But it’s still quite annoying to not be able to easily drop a magazine with your main hand while inserting a new magazine with the other.
On the plus side, the magazine will drop out on its own via gravity. The spring-loaded feed lips provide a little extra oomph to the ejection, as well, if you swap with the breech closed. Yep, you don’t have to prime in order to replace the magazine!
The Mk2.1 is a bit larger than its predecessor in all dimensions. The grip is larger, the priming slide is larger, and the metal barrel is longer. Rubberized surfaces on the grip and slide make handling a breeze, even with sweaty hands. An included muzzle extension doesn’t add to the performance, but it does help make the blaster appear more toylike. As with some other pro blasters, there is a trigger safety that must be engaged before blaster use.
Firing the blaster is a breeze – pull back, return the slide, and pull the trigger. The magazine can be ejected and inserted regardless of whether the slide is pulled back or not. The unique feed lips ok the magazines provide an additional benefit: while you cannot use the old reloading clips, you can still insert darts into the open breech! Given sufficient magazines, it’s not necessarily a feature all people will use. But if there’s a pause in combat, and darts available for scavenging, that option becomes far more appealing.
The Mk2 included a holster and clip storage. The Mk2.1 continues that trend, with both a belt magazine holder and a leg holster (as opposed to going on a belt last time). The holster is made to go on your right leg – no word yet on whether a free 3d printed version for lefties will be made available, as they did with the Mk2.
With the included (and lighter) Bamboo 2.0 darts, the Mk2.1 averaged 162fps. That’s nothing to sneeze at. Other short darts like AF Pro and Dart Zone Max averaged around 141fps. Given their greater mass (and thus inertia), though, they seem to work just as well for combat and are just as accurate at these speeds.
The rate of fire is somewhat slow – there’s no slamfire, and it is possible to move so fast that the slide hangs up (due to the priming lock). Even so, once you figure out the rhythm to priming the blaster, a rate of two darts per second is quite possible. And with the move from reloading clips to magazines, you can keep up that rate of fire for much longer.
Of course, here is some gameplay footage.
If you’ve already seen the inside of an Mk2, then this won’t be any surprise.
The features are all largely the same, from the oval plunger tube to the trigger linkage going around the magazine well. However, the installed spring does seem a bit stronger, and the longer barrel further explains the increase in fps. That magazine eject button is still tiny, though…
The Mk2.1 is nice to use, and while the magazine eject button is quite annoying, it’s overshadowed by the rest of the blaster’s qualities. Does the update justify the extra $20 over the original? Maybe, maybe not. I know lots of players who are either fond of the compactness of the original or don’t see it as enough of an improvement to drop $100 for the update. If you do get it, though, I think you’ll be pleased. Especially since four packs of spare magazines are $17, which is quite reasonable.
Dinosaurs are all the rage with kids. Nerf has had the Dinosquad line for a while now, and Xshot has carried a few blasters under the Dino Attack name. When it came to the latest Jurassic World movie, though, Walmart was able to secure the rights to get JW-themed blasters, and had Prime Time Toys (Dart Zone) design and make the blaster. The first, the Jurassic Pro, was powerful, fun, and worth the price.
Sadly, the second blaster (the Pyroraptor) does not live up to those standards. In theory, everything should work. But between inconsistent shot velocity and large numbers of jams, I can’t recommend it.
If there’s one thing Xshot is known for, it’s consistency in product design. Even with new lines, the blasters are essentially the same as before (even if they’re objectively better in looks in utility, as per the Dino Attack line). The Fortress falls into this pattern; it’s objectively not much different from the Turbo Advance. Even so, $25 for 40 shots is hard to argue with. A high-capacity blaster is a must for any collection, especially if you have HvZ or close quarters combat in mind.
Author’s note: I received a free sample for review from Dart Zone, and also had the chance to handle the Mk1.2 early at an exclusive party for Foam Pro Tour players, guests, and other qualified individuals. Thanks for the sample and the hands-on time!
It was supposed to be a massive upgrade. More power, a sealed breech, and a new design scheme to match the Mk3. There’s a folding stock as well as a focus on short darts. There’s even a lower price compared to its predecessors. For all the improvements, though, the Mk1.2 is, in its current form, somehow a downgrade, with integral flaws in the design. Until things improve, there are better blasters to use.