The Sledgefire was one of the two blasters in Zombie Strike's first wave back in late 2013. Like its partner the Hammershot, the Sledgefire is a completely new design rather than a modified version of an older blaster. Unlike every other Nerf blaster though, the Sledgefire uses shells to allow for fast reloading of multiple darts. This concept has been around for a while, primarily from Buzz Bee, but has had mixed opinions. Some like the novelty/realism factor of the shells, while others hated how they drastically increased reloading time. So how does the Sledgefire stack up as a shell using blaster?
Here's the Sledgefire in its new design open box. Past modern Nerf blasters of this size have all been in sealed boxes, while some of the upcoming blasters are intended to have open boxes. This open box idea is supposedly intended to let people know exactly what they're purchasing, which is a good idea. Unfortunately, having an open box means the blaster is exposed to more germs, dirt, etc, and is much more easily damaged or tampered with than a sealed box.
Let's take a look at the Sledgefire's shells, Nerf's first venture into this territory. Buzz Bee has been making shell-using blasters for years, though they've primarily been shunned for the impracticality of shells increasing the time it takes to reload. They make for awesome props though.
Due to the design of the shells, the Sledgefire will only fire Elite and Elite dimension darts like Kooshes. Large head darts such as Whistlers and Suctions, and long stem darts such as Streamlines will not work, as they don't fit in far enough to engage the Sledgefire's ARs.
So far the Sledgefire is the only blaster to use these 3 shot shells, however there have been rumours of a shell fed blaster coming in 2015. They work decently well, it's faster to remove an empty shell and put a loaded one in than load 3 darts individually, however sadly the Sledgefire only includes 3. There is a refill pack available Hasbro's online shop, however it only ships to North America.
Let's look at the Sledgefire itself.
It differs from the Hammershot's orange with grey and orange, or the other ZS blasters with green with grey and orange, which I think is very unusual considering they all belong to the same line.
The general shape of the Sledgefire is more of a grenade launcher design than a shotgun, due to its single barrel break open action, but if you're looking for a hand cannon style, you can't go wrong here.
The Sledgefire is about the length of a Rapidstrike with the stock extended, so while it is still a fairly large blaster, it's not huge.
When priming the Sledgefire naturally, you'll probably pull it down into the eject position without realising it, so you don't realy need to think about pulling the barrel down further to eject the shell.
Because the shell ejection system is spring loaded, if you hold the Sledgefire sideways or upside down, you can make it eject the shell right out of the barrel, rather than partially eject.
Ranges aren't very good. The Sledgefire punches its three darts out to about 9m (30') which is pretty bad by today's standards, and average even by N-Strike standards. This would normally get it a terrible rating the the power category, except for the fact that the Sledgefire fires all three of its darts to this range, not just one. This gives the Sledgefire a much more respectable power score.
Putting only two darts into the shells instead of 3 gets you slightly better ranges, but the range difference is minor (about a metre at best) and you'd be much better off with the extra shot from loading 3 darts.
Loading only a single dart does get a bit more range, reaching the 12m (40') mark. However, the consistency of shots is very bad, with some shots firing shorter than with 3 darts loaded. Accuracy was also severely lacking with these shots, so if you want to fire single darts from the Sledgefire, my suggestion is to get a shell purpose made for firing single shots, or mod the Sledgefire.
Accuracy naturally isn't very good considering the Sledgefire fires 3 Elite style darts through a wide barrel. Spread at full range is usually about 1.5-2m wide. But hey, you don't get a Sledgefire for the accuracy do you?
Rate of fire is a rather odd one. Because the Sledgefire is a single shot style blaster, you fire out the darts, break open the barrel, switch the shell to a filled one and close the barrel. This makes for a fairly slow reloading process. However the Sledgefire doesn't fail miserably in this area simply because when you reload, you reload 3 darts at once, instead of one at a time. Switching shells takes about 4 seconds, so overall the Sledgefire's ROF is around 0.75dps - not as bad as it seems.
So should you get the Sledgefire or not?
If you're a Nerf war practicality purist, then no. The Sledgefire offers far worse practicality than just about every other blaster currently available. It lacks range and accuracy, and its use of shells coupled with its own large design makes the Sledgefire a pretty large and cumbersome burden. Sure the three dart burst could help you in some situations, but in almost all cases there's a superior blaster for that situation. And being so severely limited to just 3 shells which can only be sourced from Hasbro US (seriously, just release a proper retail package) forces you constantly reload your shells.
If you're a shotgun guy, then yes, obviously. The Sledgefire is one of Nerf's few blasters that works properly as a shotgun.
If you're looking for a fun, cool and silly blaster to just tool around with, the Sledgefire is definitely an option. No other blaster offers the same awesome break barrel shell fed true shotgun action, and the Sledgefire is just super fun to play with. Its high price does mean you make a fairly large monetary risk buying the Sledgefire however, as you can get blasters like the Firestrike and Triad which are also fun, but much, much cheaper.
The easiest test is to just look at it. If your insides scream "buy it!" like mine did, then clearly the Sledgefire is meant for you. If your insides say "...meh" or anything of the sort, then your money is probably better spent elsewhere.
Pros: Shells allow faster reloading of darts than individual dart loading, looks and feels awesome, loading system is quite intuitive and ridiculously fun
Cons: Incredibly impractical, only 3 shells and no easy/cheap way to source more outside of the US, range and accuracy are rather lacking, stock is a little too short for me
Value for Money: 3.5/5
Rate of Fire: 2/5
Personal Rating: 4.5/5 - though it's totally impractical, it's just so much fun to let loose three rounds at a time. The reloading process is also awesome despite its impracticality.