I backed the TR Kickstarter about a week after it first started. I really enjoy backing blaster toys on Kickstarter and IndieGogo; it gives smaller companies a chance to get on to the market with their toys. I have backed the successful AppTag, the unsuccessful Paper Shooters and now Tek Recon.
This is the first of those crowd-funded blasters that I’ve actually wanted to sit down and do a review. The AppTag was successful, but it doesn’t shoot anything, so I didn’t want to do a review for our blog. We really want to keep our blog to projectile-launching toy blasters (you can check out our non-Nerf reviews at ToyBlasterFan.com).
There’s been quite a bit of hype surrounding Tek Recon’s blasters, and we haven’t really been saying much on the subject. But that’s by design, really. I was excited about the product line once I saw it on FoamFromAbove, but I wasn’t really interested in jumping on the bandwagon fully right away. Even though I was excited, I still had apprehensions about the blasters and the whole ‘AR’ app thing.
Let me now just say that those apprehensions were justified.
Let’s talk about the ammo first, because that’s really where the blaster’s power lies. They’re at the most basic level, specialized rubber bands. They seem to be made of something like latex, and are about 3/4 of an inch by 1/2 of an inch, with the band being about 1/8 of an inch in diameter. They’re little tiny things, and that’s where my problems with this system starts.
These blasters are definitely not outdoors blasters, unless you plan to purchase cases of ammo refills. If you were to play with these outside, chances are you’ll only find 1/2 to 3/4 of your ammo after playing with them. The color of the ammo doesn’t help when it comes to finding it either, though I’m hard-pressed to think of a color that would help you find it. After discussing outside play with some of my fellow bloggers, the concern about wildlife also came up. Since these aren’t biodegradable, there may be a hazard if they get left behind after a battle.
The ammo is very reminiscent of the rubber bands that farmers use to castrate sheep¹, and that makes me laugh a bit every time I see or handle the NRG rounds.
The blasters’ mechanisms work off of these bands, so unless they manage to create some kind of brand new ammo in the future, we’re pretty much stuck with the ranges we’re getting on these. There really can’t be much room to improve on the design of the mechanisms, because there probably isn’t much more they can stretch the ammo in the blaster before it breaks.
These blasters look damn cool. When I first saw the designs, that was my initial impression about the product, and that is what sparked my excitement. Even after having tested them out, I see them sitting on my desk and I still think about how cool they look. That modern yet somewhat futuristic look really works well for these blasters in my opinion.
Two of the main problems I have with these blasters is that they’re a little too large for my hands and difficult to fire. I wouldn’t say that my hands are either weak or small, but if younger kids are supposed to play with these they’re going to have a hard time (and they’re located along with the Nerf blasters in the toy aisle, so kids will pick them up). Both blasters have a switch that allows you to adjust the draw of the band so you can get better range or faster firing, and it’s meant to look like a slider, but it’s really just a 3 position switch. At the lowest setting it is easy to fire, but the highest makes it very difficult to fire with the ‘Rapid Blast Trigger’.
Having trouble firing it, I often find myself with my finger off the trigger, and relying more on the ‘Pump action trigger’ (that’s what they’re calling the black thing just in front of the trigger on the Hammer Head). It’s really just a larger trigger that you can get your hands around, and it’s not at all satisfying to use, but it’s easier to use than the normal trigger. When firing the blaster with the Rapid Blast trigger, which is anything but rapid, the Pump Action Trigger just loosely slides back and forth (which is just annoying).
These blasters are supposed to have something akin to ‘Slam Fire’ in Nerf blasters. Sadly, it doesn’t really work that well. Whether it’s the Hammer Head or the Havok, they just don’t seem to shoot that rapidly at all. Sometimes even firing more than once in 10 seconds is difficult, and it doesn’t seem to be related to the rounds at all, but the mechanism in the magazines themselves. They move down as the round is being stretched, and sometimes it doesn’t move back in to position.
It takes some banging on the blasters to get the magazine to slide back up in to place, and when that happens you’re sure to get a round bouncing around inside the blaster. It’s more of a problem in the Hammer Head than the Havok, because the Hammer Head has a void just behind the magazine where these rounds like to gather. They come out pretty easily when the magazine is out.
The website claims that they can blast over 75 feet, and the boxes lack any kind of indication (other than the claim of ‘max distance’) of the ranges these blasters are supposed to get. From my tests, running through one full Havok magazine (both sides full) and two Hammerhead magazines with the switch on full power, I didn’t get anywhere near the claimed 75 feet. Of course I tried shots at both flat and angled (30 degrees) orientations, but I couldn’t manage to get over 40 feet with any of the rounds.
The way they fire did take some getting used to I’ll admit, because they come out toward the bottom of the barrel. That means aiming is a bit different from the other toy blasters that I normally use. But the accuracy isn’t anything to write home about. I had rounds flying left and right of where I was aiming. I would say about two thirds of the rounds flew straight.
The website also claims that the blasters have recoil kickback, but I didn’t feel anything more than what I feel when using my Alpha Trooper.
Through all of that though, there is one positive thing I can say about the Havok at least. I really really like the shoulder stock. It’s far more comfortable than anything any other company has released on a toy blaster. The black part that touches your shoulder is a soft rubberized plastic that really grips tight against your shoulder, and helps stabilize the blaster quite well.
Tek Recon App Features:
- ‘GPS Flags’ – I couldn’t test this out because neither of the flags that came with the Tek Recon Kickstarter packs had the AR symbol on them
- Vision modes – Useless filters on the camera. they just change the color of the video.
- Walkie Talkie – one of the only useful aspects of this app, as long as you’re connected to the same wireless signal that is.
- Radar – If you’re using a device not capable of GPS or are inside a building, this is useless.
- Recording video/taking pictures – The app doesn’t support taking pictures or recording video
- Ammo Counter – When I did get my iPod in the cradle somewhat decently, the app only registered half of the time I fired. Coupled with the frequent misfires, the ammo counter didn’t have any real usefulness.
If I could pick one word to describe the Tek Recon App, it would be: useless. I thought it would have some usability, but I was wrong. I could barely even get my iPod Touch (4th Generation) to fit in the cradle with any of the rubberized plastic shims. For a company that touted the amazing capabilities of their app, it was a very disappointing experience.
I had somewhat high hopes for these blasters, not so much for the app. The ammo seemed to be revolutionary and innovative. It’s really something we haven’t seen in the toy blaster market. Sure, rubber band blasters exist in kitschy souvenir shops all over the US, but I have never seen a high-capacity plastic version anywhere.
Honestly though, these blasters are a novelty. They’re way too expensive for how poorly they perform when you can purchase a Strongarm for half the price of the entry level Hammer Head blaster. I think that may be one of the killing blows for the Tek Recon line of blasters; they don’t have an entry level version. They start off at about $20 and only go up from there.
Perhaps if they can financially survive long enough, they can improve on their heavily-researched mechanism and ammo to create something truly amazing. Unfortunately in my opinion, these first two blasters aren’t amazing, merely ‘meh’.
1 – I just happened to see this video with Mike Rowe talking about learning something from castrating sheep, and I looked up the bands he talks about. It’s his TED talk, there isn’t any footage of castrating sheep.