Saturday, 8 August 2015

Review: Buzz Bee Ultra Rapid Tek/Sentinel (15m Aus) + Internals

The next entry in Buzz Bee's Ultra Tek line, the Sentinel/Rapid Tek (URT) is a lever action rifle type blaster, also using Buzz Bee's new clip (mag) system. How does it stack up against Nerf's line of rifle sized blasters?

The URT box, standard basic open style Buzz Bee fare. Nerf's started to get in on the open box action too for some larger blasters.
Out of box, the URT, 8 UT darts and an 8 dart clip (mag).

 All loaded up.

The URT is a pretty neat looking blaster, it's quite distinct from the mostly grey UT blasters with its clean mostly white paintscheme. I rather like it actually, it feels quite scifi to me despite being lever action.
One part I really like about the URT is the barrel and fore end. I think it looks really cool, and the fore end is quite nice to grip, if perhaps a tad short.
The URT has a single sling point on the front, which is a little awkward when there's no sling point further back.

Down the barrel, the faux barrel seems a little wider than most Nerf faux barrel though that could be just because of the lack of rifling.
The URT is a lever action blaster, much like the ZS Slingfire and its predecessor, the Buzz Bee Rapid Fire Rifle. Unlike the Slingfire (and like the RFR), the URT has a solid metal lever rather than a flexible plastic one. While it is far more rigid and robust, it is also not as well shaped and so is rather uncomfortable to hold and use as the metal cuts into your hand.  The handle itself is not terribly uncomfortable, but the comfortable part of it is not the full length of the handle.
The metal lever coupled with the improved and weightier plastic feel and the overall detail make the URT look and feel much more refined and sophisticated than many of Buzz Bee's previous blasters, though Nerf is still ahead in that respect.

This is an example of the shell detail that was not on older Buzz Bee blasters. Note quite Nerf's level of intricate detail, but getting closer. Good job Buzz Bee on that.
Note also how short the stock is. Like the Slingfire, the URT's handle continues into the stock, but unlike the Slingfire, the URT's stock is ridiculously and pretty much unusably short, making it impossible to shoulder. As such priming the URT can be harder than the Slingfire, especially with upgraded springs, because you can't brace it against your shoulder.
The URT's magwell is larger than the UT8/Champion's, and better envelops the loaded clip (mag), as is better shown in the next shot. It has the same awkward clip (mag) release as the Champion, a small round button that needs to be pushed up to release. It's not the best magwell and clip (mag) release design (I find Nerf's flywheeler magwells to be quite well designed in general), but it certainly could have been worse (*cough* Slingfire *cough*).
Where the UT8/Champion had the ridge around Nerf clips (mags) sticking out significantly, the ridge is flush with the URT's magwell.
Operating the URT is as standard for any manual clip (mag) system blaster. First is to pull the lever down to prime the blaster and open the breech... so. Note that the lever stops when vertical, unlike the Slingfire whose lever travels a little further before stopping. It should be noted that the URT has a very different balance to the Slingfire. Where the Slingfire was seemingly specifically designed for trick shots (hence the lever stopping in a position ideal for spin priming), the URT is more for regular lever action use and as such has very poor balance when trick shotting, but feels more natural to prime than the Slingfire.
Next is to insert a clip (mag) if not already loaded (or remove the clip [mag] if its empty)...
...and then of course return the lever to chamber the dart.
Finishing of course with pulling the trigger to fire.

A few comparison pics between the Slingfire and URT/Sentinel. Note that they are quite similar in length, however the URT has a longer barrel and fore end, where the Slingfire has a longer and larger handle and stock.
These pictures very well demonstrate the difference between the Slingfire's and URT's prime distance. The Slingfire's lever rests very near to its centre of gravity, so as to allow for the most comfortable and efficient flip/spin prime. The URT's is more natural and slightly shorter, making it that little bit better for newbie use. When I first used the Slingfire I made a lot of short primes because of how awkwardly long the full prime is.
This picture best demonstrates the difference in handle and stock lengths, as well as levers. The Slingfire's plastic lever is thinner and shorter, however is more comfortable. Likewise the Slingfire's handle and stock are more comfortable than the URT's. In contrast, the URT's lever is made of solid metal, and is so far more rigid and robust than the Slingfires. I've seen Slingfire levers flex with even light use, but the URT's is practically impossible to bend.

Now performance, being an Ultra Tek blaster the URT is meant to compete with Nerf's Elite line. How does it fare?
Range is very similar to that of the UT8, about 9-10m flat ranges with UT darts quite consistently. Not the best, but not horrible. It's still relatively consistently beaten by Elites though, even Aus spec grey trigger ones.
EDIT 20/3/16: The US spec Sentinel is insanely powerful for a stock blaster, reaching well over 15 metres. It matches a spring upgraded EAT for power, which is completely insane.
Accuracy, like the UT8, is pretty good, thanks again to the heavier and more stable Ultra Tek dart. Hits on human sized targets at 8-9m are fairly easy.
ROF is not great, ironically I find it to be slower than the UT8. Because the URT is lever action, the prime action is longer and more awkward than a more traditional pump action (which would have been very nice), and also slower than the UT8's quite good slide. Given the discomfort of the hard metal lever, I can achieve only about 1-1.5dps, much like a Slingfire.

The Ultra Rapid Tek is not yet in Australia, though I believe it will be coming soon if the major retailers are sufficiently impressed by Buzz Bee's newest offerings. I don't know what the retail price of the Sentinel is in the US, but I believe it would be around 15USD based on what I know of their previous blasters and pricings. 15USD would translate to roughly 20-30AUD depending on retailer. 15USD for the Sentinel/URT is a pretty solid deal considering for only 5USD less you get a Strongarm, and 5USD more enters you into the realm of Nerf's clip (mag) system blasters. It's a decent blaster that looks pretty cool and is quite fun to use, but of course has some ergonomic issues and a slightly disappointing range which prevent it from being a straight up must buy.
EDIT 20/3/16: A US spec Sentinel is the best stock blaster money can buy. Modded blaster power out of box for a measly ~15USD is an insanely good deal. While the ergonomics are pretty poor, and the painful lever is accentuated by the insanely strong spring, the raw power is well worth it.

The best description I've heard of the URT is as follows: It does what the Slingfire did wrong right (metal lever, no gears), but does what the Slingfire did right wrong (poor handle, stock and lever ergonomics).

Is the Ultra Rapid Tek/Sentinel worth your interest and money? Well possibly.
If you're looking for a lever action blaster, then your two choices are this or the Slingfire, and my previous comparison on the URT vs Slingfire should answer any questions you have about that particular situation (and if not, feel free to leave a comment of course).
If you're looking for just a fun blaster then the URT is certainly an option. Lever action is always fun and the URT looks pretty cool, but of course is bolstered by the fact that the URT is significantly cheaper than its Nerf competitor, the Slingfire. Nevertheless, in this category never forget the cheap but still fun blasters like the Strongarm and Triad.
If you're looking for a budget entry level clip (mag) system blaster, then the URT is an option as it's a relatively cheap rifle-sized blaster. However, I'd also recommend looking at the UT8/Champion as I personally find that to be practically superior, being more compact and more comfortable to hold and use, as well as being 5 USD cheaper.
If you're a fan of lever action I'd certainly look at picking one up, but for practical use I'd say the UT8 is probably better all round.

Pros: metal lever, no gears, nice fore-end, easily moddable plunger system, insane stock power (US spec Sentinel only)
Cons: poor overall ergonomics - handle, stock and lever

Power: 4/7 (7/7 for US spec Sentinel)
Accuracy: 4.5/5
Usability: 3.5/5
Rate of Fire: 2.5/5
Value for Money: 4/5 (5/5 for US spec Sentinel)
Overall: 3.47/5 (4.1/5 for US spec Sentinel)

Personal Rating: 3/5 - a fun and cool looking blaster, however the stock is far too short to be usable and coming from the Slingfire, the metal lever is rather uncomfortable to use, especially with spring upgrades.
The UT8/Champion is probably an all round better blaster unless you're going for a brass breech and/or a crazy spring load.

Now lets take a look at the internals. As already well established, the ZS Slingfire relies on gears to achieve the desired lever position for spin priming, so what's the URT/Sentinel like?
There are several plastic sections you have to remove before
Before opening the blaster, first you must remove this blue panel on the right side of the magwell, which is easily done with a screwdriver poking into the inside of the magwell. This exposes two more screw ports.
This piece on the rear of the stock must be removed, but can be done easily once all screws are removed by simply pulling the two shell pieces apart.
This piece also needs to be removed, but again is most easily done once all screws are removed using a flathead screwdriver to pry the piece off.
 Here's the overall internals, and a few closer up shots.
Overall very similar to the UT8/Champion, obviously set up for lever action. Note the lack of gears.
The plunger tube and rod, like the UT8/Champion it's a surprisingly large and so could provide some pretty decent power. UT dart there for scale.
Down the plunger tube, you can sort of see the AR piece but this shot isn't very good.
The metal lever alone weighs over 100g, being solid metal.
On top is a stock grey trigger Elite CS springer spring (from a Retal or EAT), and on the bottom is the URT (15m Aus) spring. The URT's spring is clearly longer and has far more coils, however radius and wire thickness size the two are very similar, so replacement springs for the Retal/EAT have a reasonable chance of working with the URT/Sentinel, and likely the other clip (mag) system springers of the Ultra Tek line.
Mod potential for the URT is excellent, as showcased by this video from MTB:
And yes, the URT/Sentinel featured in the video was the URT/Sentinel featured in this review.

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