All hail the Hailfire; the all new 9-9 blaster from Nerf that has been in the rumour mill for a while now, being the flagship model for their new N-Strike Elite range. It is an all new original design that boasts the ability to hold the highest capacity of rounds of any Nerf blaster to date, semi auto fire (via 4AA battery run flywheel mechanism) and of course touts the new Elite performances of up to 75 feet!
And yeah baby, we got one, and we were excited- remember the first time you first fired rounds from the Vulcan or the Stampede and you burst out laughing at the sheer power and fun you got from it?
The all new N-Strike Elite Hailfire.. err not so much. Full review after the jump.
The first thing I thought when I received the parcel in the mail was "this box is kinda small".. It's not the largest bit of kit on the block definitely. Standard customary late teens/early 20s looking dude in black skivvy with grim face on the box art. I received my unit from Amazon.com so it's still boasting the 75ft ranges which is a good thing.
It of course plugs the "Hailfire Upgrade Kit" given there are slots for 8 clips but you're only provided with four out of the box.
|Gush gush: Hailfire blurb|
Inside the box, is the blaster, the two piece carousel "ammo rack cover", the two piece handle attachments, four Elite clips and 24 Elite darts.. and a manual.
The Hailfire itself is actually quite small, given the hype- it's actually shorter than a Rampage/Raider in length and without the ammo covers it kinda has pump action shot gun style cues which I find lends itself to me wanting to grip the bottom/front of the blaster a lot.
I really have to make a point about the lack of clips in the package. Remember how the Stampede came with a 3 18 round clips and a 6 round clip? That was an impressive kit. Here, the Hailfire touts off the high capacity with 8 slots for clips, and they only provide you with four 6 round clips. Yes I appreciate it's a blatant ploy to get you to go out and buy more but really? 24 rounds? That's it? A Rampage has more than that out of the box.
The ammo rack cover comes in two pieces that you snap in place- it's supposed to be a semi permanent attachment an once in, does give the Hailfire a somewhat "Star Trek Starship Enterprise" look about it
On the top, you snap the handle pieces together and this works as both a grip to hold stabilise the blaster when shooting (a la Vulcan style) but is also the advancement lever;pushing it forward will advance the clips onwards in the ammo rack. It is made for small hands, so mine fit in nicely.
Still on top of the Hailfire is a nifty clear jam door just behind the handle. Gives you a nice view of what's going on inside every time you fire:)
Behind the jam door is the customary tactical rails for adding other Nerf attachments. While this is all good and well, adding any scope gets negated by the handle in front of it, not to mention it's kinda awkward to use a scope if you're holding it that way. There's not a whole lot of other stuff you'd put on that position (MAYBE the Barrel break dart holder? Sorta?) so it's sorta impractical.
It's got a pretty snubbed muzzle which I like, and I also noticed inside there's NO rifling- just conventional straight line grooves.
Underneath the muzzle is another tactical rail, which is useful for attaching the Retaliator or Stampede front grip but not much else. Unfortunately the rail is too short, so something like the Recon light juts out the back too much and interferes with the clip advancement. Fail.
|Looks tough, but the Recon's light sticks out the back blocking the clip|
At the rear of the Hailfire is the battery compartment; using a battery sled it takes four AA batteries which is pretty good as far as weight is concerned.
Like the Rayven CS-18 and Vortex Nitron, the Hailfire uses an "Accelerator Trigger" under the main trigger to power up the flywheels. It's in a good spot and feels pretty comfortable and easy to activate with minimal pressure.
So, now to the clips. Loading clips is a matter of manually sliding them into the slots in the carousel with the darts facing outwards. It's pretty straight forward, but there are no quick release buttons, it's just gripping via a little nub in the slot and it's the same as unloading- it's simply pulling the clip out. To be honest I didn't really like this- I watched some friends under pressure trying to reload quickly and they either put the clip in incorrectly, missed the slot or were too gentle with it trying to take the clip out that they thought it was stuck.
It's not an easy blaster to reload on the fly; it's a lot easier if you can have the time to turn it over and load the clips and this takes time
|Nice and clean with only four 6 round clips..|
|Literally everything I had.. what a mess:P|
Once the batteries were in and clips were loaded, we were ready to rock. I'd gotten over the underwhelming general 'presence' of the Hailfire- and just wanted to fire off some rounds but there are a few things to consider..
Well firstly, build quality feels rattle-y. This is partly because of the massive exposed area of the ammo rack- it just feels flimsy and too often the edges of the plastic uncomfortably cut into your hand. The grip and trigger itself feel great, and the front looks tough, but it's.. all of the bits in between that just feel like it's almost.. unfinished.
Ergonomically, this is a blaster that just doesn't feel.. right. How am I supposed to hold it? One could in theory use it with one hand, but it's obviously very weighty in the front so it's not comfortable. With two hands, the supporting hand wants to naturally hold it on the under carriage, but the clips are in the way- the front of the blaster works well if you have small hands, but 1) the inside of your forearm rubs against the clips, and 2) once you're out of ammo for that clip, you've gotta advance it by using the handle on the top. Which is fiddly on the run.
So what does that tell us? The Hailfire WANTS to be held by the handle; it's designed as a suppressive fire "heavy" blaster but it just feels so small and.. well wrong to be held that way.
|A practical alternative- the Retaliator grip is ideal..until you need to advance your clip|
The big round centre of the Hailfire just gets in the way. Even if you have a shoulder strap, it feels like you've got a model spaceship strapped to you rather than a blaster, and it feels awkward whether it's slung on the side or your back or around your neck.... It doesn't lend itself to the whole "primary"/"secondary" thing. It's also not an easy blaster to transport- good luck getting it into your kit bag!
The reloading of the clips on the fly is a pain. We ran up and down my apartment and everyone who got to use the Hailfire would accidently try to insert the clips incorrectly, upside down, wrong way up and in that time would be absolutely hammered by opposing players. It's very much a "load once- fire off all rounds, discard" type of blaster we found in the end.
Onto the actual performances. It actually was also a little underwhelming here- perhaps because it IS flywheel, but I found the darts fishtailed more than the other Elite blasters, almost like using a modded conventional Nerf blaster with Streamlines. Accuracy wasn't fantastic either- but I guess you don't get the Hailfire for accuracy:) I also wasn't getting consistent ranges- some of them might have made the boasted 75 feet, but you had no real certainty that your next round would.
I'd suggest the upcoming Stockade might be a better flywheel blaster, but as far as "fit for purpose"-I'm assuming the Hailfire is best suited for someone who doesn't want to move a lot, and happy to just sit back and fire away bootloads of rounds while also being protected at the same time while he/she reloads. It's not my thing, and while I don't mean to "bag" it per se, I think my expectations of what comes out of the Nerf stable to be a lot higher these days.
It's not BAD, but it's definitely well over priced for something that I doubt is going to get a whole lot of use in UT HQ. We paid almost a hundred bucks (including shipping) and while for the purposes of this review I'm glad I have it, I'd definitely not want to be buying another at that price in a hurry.