Friday, 26 June 2015

Review: Nerf Elite Crossbolt (Aus 21m grey trigger)

The Crossbolt is one of Nerf's latest Elite releases, and is one of an increasing number of blasters powered by a tensioned cord instead of flywheels or a plunger. How does it stack up to its more conventional brethren?

Here's the box, pretty standard stuff.
Here's how the Crossbolt comes in box, it's pretty tightly packed.
This note never ceases to amuse me. Obviously as the Crossbolt is a "stringer", cutting the cord would render it inoperable.
All the stuff you get out of the box. The Crossbolt itself with its two bow arms, a 12 dart Elite clip (mag), 12 Elites and some instructions.

Obviously some assembly is required for the Crossbolt, as the arms come unattached to keep the box small.
The small chamfered ridge in the middle is what retains the bow arms in the Crossbolt. Shave them down and the arms should be removable, though be careful not to shave all of it off otherwise it may be quite loose.
The bow arms have protrusions that simply need to be slotted into the corresponding holes in the Crossbolt...
 ...and pushed in fully until it clicks.
The arms are pretty tightly attached, and I've been so far unsuccessful in my efforts to detach them through brute force, though admittedly I'm not notably strong. I hope to be able to remove them after opening up the shell.
 The darts are "K." coded if you're interested in such.
Here's the Crossbolt all assembled and loaded up.

Since the 12 dart clip (mag) isn't new to us, we'll just look at the Crossbolt itself.

Without the bow arms attached I think the Crossbolt has an awesome Sci-fi carbine/PDW look. With the bow arms attached it's a little more odd, but still looks pretty cool.
The base Crossbolt (excluding bow arms) is a pretty thin blaster, allowing it to fit in a thin box. It's also quite a light blaster, I was a little surprised how light the box was.

The Crossbolt is an all round pretty good looking blaster, if a little unusual thanks to the bow arms. It looks pretty awesome and tacticool, and is quite compact.

Here's a close up on the front of the Crossbolt. Note the lone tactical rail under the barrel, meaning that you can mount grips, lights, etc. Unlike the Retaliator there's no slide tac rail, which was a good idea since attachments on the slide made priming horrible, so there's no tac rail on the top of the Crossbolt, meaning no place to mount tacticool sights like the Elite Pinpoint.
Interestingly the Crossbolt cannot mount any barrel extensions either, which is unfortunate as that would have made converting it to pump action super easy, and also added some tacticool.

The Crossbolt has 3 sling points: one just behind the iron sight... on the thumbhole stock's lower support (essentially the same as the traditional handle one)...
...and one on the back of the stock.

The Crossbolt is a top slide primed blaster, much like the Retaliator and Strongarm. Unfortunately, while it works *ok* for the aforementioned blasters (comparatively), it's simply abysmal for the Crossbolt.
Here's the full slide. Notice that unlike the Retal's or Strongarms, the slide tapers away towards the front. I don't find it to be too much of an issue, but if you have long fingers you may end up dragging them along the shell.
Instead, one of the main issues with the slide is the raised plastic for the Elite badges. Having sharp edges, they dig straight into your palm and fingers, more so when gripping tightly for rapid fire. However that's not the worst of it. Sure it's uncomfortable, but with a file it's easily remedied.
I find that the slide is perhaps a little too small to be properly comfortable, my fingers only just fit in between the rear iron sight and the front screw port. I would have personally preferred a few centimetres of clearance to be less restrictive on hand position.

What makes the Crossbolt's top prime particularly awful is that the slide is positioned  directly ahead of the cord, meaning that if you adopt a similar wrist position to priming a Retal, you'll end up with burn marks all over your forearm from the cord.
To avoid this, I've adopted a horizontal arm position, meaning that I have to constantly hold my arm. It's quite uncomfortable to maintain, however completely avoids hitting the cord or the bow arms.

The Crossbolt has its magwell behind the handle, hence being a "bullpup" blaster. While Nerf has done it before with the Rayven (which was ok, up until the alignment issues), the Crossbolt's design introduces a few new issues.

Here's the magwell with and without a clip (mag), fairly standard.
Note the proximity of the magwell to the handle. That will come into play later.
This is the clip (mag) release. Notice that it's actually completely exposed, unlike the Rayven's or really any other blaster's clip (mag) release. This has resulted in people having the Crossbolt drop the clip (mag) upon shouldering.
I personally haven't experienced that, partly because I don't shoulder the Crossbolt much (we'll get to that later), and partly because my Crossbolt's magwell is very tight on clips (mags). Even with the clip (mag) release depressed, a clip (mag) is not coming out without significant force.
Due to the unusual angle of the clip (mag) release, I find myself having to push off against the clip (mag) release with my thumb to keep the clip (mag) release depressed while trying to remove the clip (mag). It's a minor issue that I got used to quickly, but it is rather annoying coming from a Rayven or Rapidstrike/Stryfe.
Notice also that the Crossbolt's magwell also acts as the Crossbolt's stock, making it very short. How short?
Well here's the Crossbolt roughly next to the Elite Rayven and Retaliator, with their handles roughly lined up. Since perspective ruins the comparison between the Crossbolt and Retal in this picture, we'll just look at the E.Rayven and Crossbolt.
The E.Rayven and Crossbolt have similar distances between the handle and magwell, however as clearly obvious while the Crossbolt simply ends at the magwell, the E.Rayven has a further ~6cm of stock. While that may not sound like a lot, when we're talking about stock lengths 2cm makes a huge difference. I personally find the E.Rayven stock reasonably comfortable to shoulder, while I find the Crossbolt almost impossible to comfortably shoulder.
Here's a better picture of the Crossbolt and Retaliator. As you can see, the Crossbolt's stock length is roughly equivalent to having a Retal stock, which is the shortest stock excepting a retracted Raider stock, and is pretty uncomfortable for everyone over the age of maybe 12.
The Crossbolt's stock is extremely short and practically un-shoulderable, just another ergonomic issue to add to its fast growing tally.

Interestingly, the Crossbolt in fact has two jam doors - one above the magwell (as is tradition), and one above the dart loading area.
Here's the jam doors open. With the front jam door you get a direct look into where a dart would sit when loaded. Having the front door open also locks the trigger (and obviously blocks the slide), however the back door can be left open without any issue. There are no locks connected to the back jam door interestingly.
Here's a look down the back jam door with a clip (mag) loaded. Note the two grey pieces of plastic in the top left and bottom right of the magwell - these are dart sensors. When depressed, these allow the slide to move, and so if no dart is loaded the slide cannot move. This causes some issues in rapid fire, as noted below.

Continuing with the theme of ergonomic nightmares is the Crossbolt's handle.

At first glance it looks ok, it's long enough and it has curves, it can't be that bad can it?
Unfortunately, yes, it can. Unless you adopt and awkward wrist/arm position, your wrist or hand will be constantly pressed against the the thumbhole stock support. Now this wasn't an issue with the Rayven, which had a very similar design, so what gives?

While my pictures may not do it full justice, the thumbhole stock support is actually very wide - wider than the handle and it even increases in width as you go towards the back. The Rayven's was about as wide as its handle, if not a little thinner. On top of that, the handle is not the best design, as it is quite wide and quite squared, similar to how a Rapidstrike's handle compares to a Stryfe's.
I had a friend who was considering getting a Crossbolt hold mine, then immediately say "nope" because of how uncomfortable the handle was.
Admittedly the Crossbolt's handle issues are the least of its worries, its other ergonomic issues are much worse.

Finally we can get to Crossbolt operation, which is pretty simple. If you've used a manual clip (mag) system blaster before you'll be able to pick it up and use it no problem.

To prime, the slide must be pulled all the way back, as far as possible to make sure that the dart pusher can hook on to the next dart. It can be a little bit jarring to pull the slide as far as it needs to be, as the draw is longer than on most other blasters.
As I said before, the rear jam door can be opened and any time without locking up anything, and here it's open when the slide is fully back. This orange construct collects a dart and pulls it into the firing chamber.
Pulling the slide forward chambers the dart. Note that the string is now hooked onto the catch (look for the small hook at the end of the track), and the dart is now loaded just in front of the cord.
Fire by pulling the trigger, obviously, and the cord returns to unprimed position.
Note that the trigger can only be pulled when the slide is fully forward, and when the slide is pushed forward half-way after priming, it cannot be pulled back past half way until it is closed forward, as with most other manual clip (mag) system blasters. This is thanks to a few lock pieces, which can be removed without too much difficulty.

If a jam occurs with the cord firing past the dart, leaving a dart chambered but the cord unprimed, the Crossbolt becomes a pain to unjam. The best method for that jam is to remove the clip (mag) then manually pull the cord back to push the dart back out of the chamber. Besides that particular unique jam, most jams should be relatively easily cleared using traditional methods and the dual jam doors.
I haven't experienced many jams. I can only recall one jam occuring with the stock Crossbolt and that was easily cleared.

Now for performance. Crossbolt performance is quite impressive for a grey trigger blaster, I was pleasantly surprised upon first firing it.
Range wise, I was getting 13-14m at true flat (verified with bubble level) very consistently. It's certainly one of the better performing stock blasters I've tested. At high enough angles the claimed range of 21m is probably possible.
Accuracy is very impressive, even when using Elite darts. I was achieving groups of 0.5m wide, which when compared to what most blasters achieve with Elites, is quite impressive. Hitting a human target is pretty easy at 8-9m, and even at 10-11m you still have a solid chance of a hit.
Using Kooshes accuracy was dead on, firing a 12 clip (mag) of blue Kooshes about 10/12 went dead straight, with the other two firing to the left for some unknown reason.
Rate of fire sadly is not a strength of the Crossbolt's. Thanks to the awkward top prime, unusually long draw length and the ever annoying locks, a ROF of about 1.6dps is the best I can achieve before causing locking up and all round unpleasantness. The locking up is primarily caused by the dart sensors, in the same way as a Stryfe's dart sensor locking up as a dart is in the process of moving upwards. Without locks, I'd say 2dps would be possible.

One thing about the Crossbolt is that due to its use of a cord that directly propels the dart, the back of the darts tend to become softer after being fired from the Crossbolt, more noticeably so with a modded, more powerful Crossbolt. This increases the chance of jamming and misfiring, which typically has the cord simply fire past the dart (by going underneath it) instead of firing the dart, causing the dart to get stuck in the chamber with the cord in unprimed position. This can be fixed by pushing the dart back out into the magwell using the cord itself, however it's quite a tedious process and can take quite some time, also necessitating the removal of the clip (mag).
Darts that have been softened also tend to lose a little range and fly more erratically.

Does the Crossbolt have any place in the "practical" Nerfing scene of in-game use?
Well it's extremely quiet upon firing, with a soft 'twang', which is slightly quieter than a stock springer. Naturally it's much quieter than a flywheeler's hum, and compared to modded blasters it's ridiculously quiet. That much could make it a pretty decent stealth/run and gun type blaster, since most other blasters have quite an audible noise when firing.
Besides that, it's a decent clip (mag)-fed blaster, similar to the Retaliator except more awkward and uncomfortable. I'm fairly sure it could be reasonably used as a primary, although if you're used to shouldering primaries like me you'll probably find the super short stock rather uncomfortable and awkward.

As clearly shown in my HFCBE video, the Crossbolt is not meant to be rapid fired. The slide is not comfortable to hold, and has a longer than usual draw, and the Crossbolt has a lot of locks that slow down operation, unless you want the slide to lock up temporarily, which happened to me a lot in my video. It's certainly no Stryfe or Magstrike.

So if your style is to rush in and spray and pray, the Crossbolt is not for you, it simply fires too slowly to be any good at spray and pray.
If you're more of a longer ranged potshotter, then the Crossbolt is certainly an option. It's more accurate than any other Elite-firing blasters I've used, and achieves respectable and usable ranges.
If you're looking for a fun blaster, the Crossbolt is certainly a solid option. It's not the most expensive blaster, it performs well and is rather unique and quite fun to use.
If you're looking for an awesome bow/bow-like blaster, the Crossbolt is again a solid choice, as it's the most practical of all the bows, being a clip (mag) system blaster. However if you're looking for a true bow/crossbow style blaster, you're probably best off looking at the Rebelle line's arrow shooters as those are more akin to traditional bow/crossbow design and actually shoot arrow-like ammo.

In Australia the Crossbolt retails for around 35-40AUD, though sales take it down to about 30AUD and I got mine due to an error for 21AUD from BigW (more details on this on the FB page). I'd say 40AUD is a little steep considering the EAT was available for 30AUD, and the Retal is now available for 30AUD regularly. The Crossbolt offers little extra over the EAT with regards to value, and certainly nothing over the Retal, but its unique firing mech and design mean it's not something you can easily substitute. 30AUD is what I'd consider reasonable for the Crossbolt.

Being that I got mine for 21AUD, I have a slight personal bias towards buying the Crossbolt, but it's an all round decent buy. Its impressive performance makes it quite a solid blaster, however the shockingly bad ergonomics of the slide, stock and handle hold it back from being a must buy. Because of the ergonomics, if you're on the fence about it I'd highly recommend trying a friend's before picking one up for yourself, that could easily be a make or break.

Pros: Pretty good power and impressive accuracy for a stock blaster, looks awesome, is bullpup, extremely quiet to fire, two jam doors improve jam clearing ability, easily modified for more power
Cons: Shockingly bad ergonomics, slow ROF, very little tacticool, ridiculously bad ergonomics, long prime length, clip (mag) release is exposed and vulnerable, painfully bad ergonomics, bow arms drastically increase bulk and width making storage/transportation a pain, did I mention how terrible the ergonomics are?

Power: 6/7
Accuracy: 5/5
Value for Money: 3.5/5
Usability: 2/5
Rate of Fire: 3/5
Overall: 3.56/5

Personal Rating: 3/5 - has some major ergonomic issues and an annoying dart sensor that slows down ROF, which is a shame because the Crossbolt shoots darts really well for a stock blaster. Getting more power out of it is hilariously easy too.

A link to the review I posted on Blasterhub: link


  1. I have found that one of the two I own suffers from jams more often due to a twisted cord. This is easily remedied by simply undoing the cord retainers and refitting the cord with the limbs in place, or simply making sure all twists are taken out before installing the cords. This also serves to reduce the impact on the darts somewhat and gives them a significantly longer life. I have had ery few jams and almost no torn darts. The stock tension is jut right for a stringer.

    1. Interesting, I'll check mine for any twists. Thanks for the tip.
      Yeah the stock tension strikes a perfect balance between power, dart longevity and reliability. The thing also with the armless mod is that the string gets stretched much more compared to with the arms.