Monday, 18 January 2016

Review: Buzz Bee Ultra Tek Sidewinder (15m)

On top of all the awesome new blasters that Buzz Bee released under the Ultra Tek line, they also touched up an older one, the Sidewinder. How does this older design hold up to Buzz Bee's new clip (mag) blasters?
Like with the other Ultra Tek blasters, the Sidewinder was sent to me by Buzz Bee Toys for review. As usual I'd like to thank them for sending it to me, and as usual their contribution will not bias the review in any way.

Pretty standard Buzz Bee box.

The Sidewinder is a rather odd, unbalanced design. The handles are at the extremes of the blaster, and there is no stock. This is rather annoying, especially for a pump action design. Aesthetically, it's a little strange, though the handguard and carry handle clearly take from the M4/M16. The Ultra Tek colour scheme does help provide a slightly more serious look, something Buzz Bee has been severely behind in compared to Nerf.
The rear handle is an odd piece. It's somewhat small and weirdly shaped, but I still find it reasonably comfortable. It also lines up with the trigger well, speaking of which... completely fake. The Sidewinder is a triggerless design, and fires on pump. This is quite an issue, as I'll elaborate on later.
The pump handle is very similar to the rear handle, thin and somewhat oddly shaped, but again is still normal enough to be reasonably comfortable. I suspect if you have particularly large hands, you'll find the handles to be too small.

The pump stroke is a pretty normal length, nothing out of the ordinary here.

There is a small jam door on the left side, which opens up an aperture to access the are just in front of the drum well.
The drum well is just a hollowed out section on the right side. Unlike most Nerf designs that put effort into stylising these sort of functional areas (e.g. cylinder area on a Strongarm), Buzz Bee has just left it completely bare and smooth.
The plunger outlet is very similar to many other Buzz Bee designs, with a ring of foam used to provide a good plunger-to-drum seal.
This orange nub in the middle just applies friction to the drum, making sure it doesn't spin around freely.
This little arm rotates the drum on every pump cycle.
There are two drum holders which slot into the side of the Sidewinder to hold the drum in place. They're easily attachable and removable.
These pieces will only insert in one orientation, so no worries about accidentally shoving them in the wrong way.

Let's look at the drum in a bit more detail.
The drum is a giant chunk of plastic with 30 small barrels around it. The centre hole is there for the front drum holder, while the outer slopes
Each barrel is rather short, in typical Buzz Bee fashion.
The back gives a look at the air holes for each barrel, and the rear slot for a drum holder.
Here's the Sidewinder's 30 drum next to a Nerf 35 dart drum. Because the Sidewinder drum requires individual barrels for each dart, it is larger than the higher capacity 35 drum. The consolation here is the ability to reload on the fly easily.
The two drum holders slot into the central holes of the drum. They're a very loose fit, allowing free rotation, while still keeping the drum in place.

Here's a (poor) look down one of the barrels. Note that in place of the traditional Buzz Bee dart peg, there's a weird truncated cone structure. This piece provides a very tight seal on loaded darts - perhaps far too tight.
On the left is a regular Ultra Tek dart, on the right a dart that has been loaded in the Sidewinder. Notice how the right dart's hole has been expanded as a result of being used in the Sidewinder. This is an unfortunate issue, as it is especially bad on narrower darts such as Nerf Elites and Kooshes. The fit on such darts is so tight that a combination of brute force and twisting is required just to load a dart into the barrel. Furthermore, those darts may not even be fully loaded on properly, further brute force is required to ensure that a dart is back as far as possible. If it is not, then the dart will interfere with and completely stop rotation.

So here's a fully loaded drum.
This shot demonstrates the issue with the barrels, because the dart cones are so tight, not all darts were loaded fully and properly into the drum.

Finally here's the drum holders slotted on to a loaded drum.

Here's the loaded drum in place to be attached to the Sidewinder. Note that both drum holders line up perfectly with their associated positions. From here, it's a simple case of pushing downwards to lock in the drum holders... so. The drum is now attached to the Sidewinder, ready to be fired.

So here's the fully loaded and assembled Sidewinder. It's a little odd, the drum pokes out a lot and throws the balance of the blaster off a little. It's a very strange looking piece, part of it is trying to be an M4/M16 while it has a giant orange drum lumped on the side. On the other hand, there are elements of shotgun to it, but again the giant orange drum on the side kind of throws everything off.

The Sidewinder is a pump-to-fire blaster, meaning that all that is necessary to fire is to repeatedly cycle the pump grip.

Pulling the grip back (with significant force) will fire the dart in firing position. The whole system has a surprisingly good seal, which you can feel if you pull the pump back weakly. This good seal gives the Sidewinder a surprising amount of power.

Pushing the pump grip forward past roughly the mid-way point will rotate the next dart into position. The drum rotates counter-clockwise from the user's perspective, so loaded darts get fed in from the top.
To remove the drum and drum holders, simply hold down the two orange buttons on each holder and pull them up. This detaches the drum holders from the blaster.
Once the drum holders are off, you're free to remove the drum to reload freely, or replace with a spare one. Compared to a clip (mag) system, the Sidewinder's drum is a pain to switch out, because of the detaching dart holders. It's made worse when spare drums are only available from buying additional Sidewinders. Overall I'd say that the Sidewinder is not something you'd get for the ease of switching out drums.

Here's the Sidewinder next to an EAT. It's only a little bit longer, however the side mounted drum does throw off balance a fair bit. I do heavily lament the lack of a stock, it would have given the aesthetic a much better balance and would have greatly helped stability.

Finally for performance. Can the Sidewinder keep up with its triggered brethren?
Range is highly variable, dependent on your arm strength, however I have been able to get shots off at and beyond 15m. Obviously I can't guarantee them being completely flat shots, but they're definitely not on a high angle. The good seal helps greatly with ranges, if the seal were bad, ranges would probably be less than 10m.
Accuracy is as you'd expect, terrible. The push-pull firing action completely throws off any stability, and the lack of a stock isn't helpful to its cause either. Unless you risk losing power by using a more stable pump technique, it's extremely difficult to keep the Sidewinder on a particular target.
Rate of fire is thankfully rather good, as this video demonstrates:
Peak ROF is around 5-6dps depending on how fast you can move your arms. At this speed darts just fly in every direction, probably hitting everything except your target.

The Sidewinder best serves a suppressive fire or scavenging role. Its high capacity allows for extended suppressive and covering fire, and its capacity is especially high when compared to non-clip/mag blasters. Though it can feel a little bit clunky to use at first, I find that it is quite reliable and so does work well for constant firing. With its exposed drum, the Sidewinder also works well for scavenging, as you can easily reload it on the move while always being ready to fire. Because of the barrel/dart cone design, it is far more difficult than usual to load darts into the Sidewinder, but again the massive capacity is a huge advantage over other blasters you might consider for scavenging.
It will take a bit of getting used to, since most blasters have a trigger and don't have such an awkward form, but in a bone stock game against non-clip/mag system users, the raw capacity and high ROF provide quite an advantage to exploit.

The Sidewinder retails for 20USD, which like most Buzz Bee blasters makes it quite a good deal. In that price range are blasters like the basic Stryfe pack (which includes barely anything) and the EAT when it was still in stock (which out of box has only 40% of the Sidewinder's capacity). While its performance is rather inconsistent, the ROF and capacity make for quite an impressive dart output. That said, the lack of a trigger and stock makes the Sidewinder far harder to control than a comparable Nerf blaster (e.g. a Rampage), and the dart cone design makes it painfully difficult to load/reload compared to most blasters. Based on how painfully difficult it is to use effectively compared to conventional blasters, I can't properly recommend the Sidewinder. I do think it has a place for clip/magless suppressive fire, but the lack of a trigger is a deal breaker.

Pros: Capacity, max ROF, can get good stock ranges with a good pump
Cons: Accuracy is hilariously poor, blaster is very difficult to keep stable, lack of stock is a big issue with pump-to-fire, can be quite inconsistent, drum is painfully difficult to load up

Power: 6.5/7
Accuracy: 1.5/5
Rate of Fire: 4.5/5
Usability: 1.5/5
Value for Money: 4/5
Overall: 3.23/5

Personal Rating: 2/5 - I personally greatly dislike pump-to-fire blasters, because they're far harder to control than conventional triggered blasters. The poor barrel/dart post design also greatly irritates me.

Again, thanks to Buzz Bee for sending the Sidewinder to me for review.

A link to the review I posted on Blasterhub: link


  1. This is titan.I like how your reviews are very honest. Also, have you had a problem with the barrel rotation mech? Mine broke.

    1. I haven't used mine all that much (and not much in combat either), so I've experienced no problems so far.

  2. So I have a question. How do you slam fire your EATs so fast? Any tips and tricks?

    1. Practice. I've done a video on it here: