Friday, 17 July 2015

Review: Buzz Bee Ultra Tek 3/Star (15m Aus) + Internals & Ultra Tek Darts

When Nerf first released the Elite line, they bumped up the standard for blaster ranges, making a lot of the non-Nerf market obsolete range wise. Now Buzz Bee has joined in the bumped up range claims with their Ultra Tek line, the smallest offering being the Ultra Tek 3/Star.
The Ultra Tek blasters were kindly sent to me by Buzz Bee for review as they're yet to hit Aussie stores, however their contribution will not affect the review in any way.

The box is a pretty basic open box, standard minimalist Buzz Bee fare. Note the 15m range claim instead of the usual 22m/72ft. Unlike Nerf blasters though, downtuned Ultra Tek blasters are externally identical to their full power version. Note that the US release UT3 is called the Ultra Tek Star instead.
Out of box, 3 Ultra Tek darts and the UT3.

Since the UT darts are a new ammo type, let's look at them first.
As clearly obvious, the UT darts a little shorter than Elite darts. From my limited experience, Elite darts all seem to work in UT blasters, and UT darts seem to work in most Nerf blasters, though the blasters I tested the UT darts in are all modded.
The UT head is shorter than the Elite head, and while it has a similar taper, lacks the air release hole in the side of the head.
The UT head is completely solid and is much, much harder than the Elite head.
A rough comparison of the foam. The UT darts have a larger hole through the centre, but have roughly the same OD. From qualitative squeeze testing, UT darts feel slightly softer than Elite darts.

One thing important about UT darts is their weight. UT darts are significantly heavier than Elite darts, and even Koosh darts which are already heavier. I don't trust my exact scale measurements as they differ greatly from what others have measured, but the relative weights are still relevant. The UT darts are approximately 20% heavier than Elites and a little heavier than Kooshes, placing them around the 1.3-1.4g range.
Because the UT dart head is solid, the UT dart has more weight in the head than the Elite dart. This is likely the cause of the difference in performance between the two.
From my experience, UT darts typically get less range than Elites (thanks to their higher weight), which is noticeable from both Nerf and Buzz Bee blasters. However, I find UT darts to be significantly more accurate and consistent, as they fishtail and veer a lot less than Elites. I believe this to be due to the smaller head and higher head weight (though primarily the latter).

Let's look at the UT3 now.
Buzz Bee have been upping their game aesthetically from their roots with basic shaped boxes. The UT3 has a lot of extra details, such as the weird circle thing at the bottom of the handle, and the finger grooves in the handle. The one sticker is much less prominent than most other Buzz Bee things, and the coloured parts are plastic inserts rather than paint.
Physically the UT3 also feels more solid than previous Buzz Bee blasters, though still noticeably less so than Nerf blasters.
The UT3, as its name suggests, is a 3 shot blaster. The barrels are fixed in position and do not rotate, unlike the old Tek 3. There are ARs, but my iPotato was not good enough to capture them in this picture.
The trigger and handle are fairly standard fare, though the handle is noticeably quite well designed besides the obvious circle construct at the bottom, which is just plain annoying and uncomfortable. There's no trigger guard, and the trigger has a relatively light pull.
The UT3 is a slide primed blaster. Its slide is surprisingly wide, though I personally find it still a little short to comfortably hold.
The priming draw is quite short, no more than 3cm. It's a little stiff/rough as well. At the end of the prime, you get a click of the catch popping into place, as well as what feels like rotating something, which I'll elaborate on in a second.
The UT3 loaded up, it looks no different from any other multibarrel small pistol. What makes it different to the likes of Nerf's pistols however, is how it indexes through each barrel.
The UT3 indexes counter-clockwise from the user's point of view. So for instance starting with the bottom right (bottom left for user) dart, the UT3 fires the bottom left (bottom right for user) and then top darts. However the UT3 does not use Smart ARs, as that's a Nerf technology which is possibly patented, making it difficult or maybe impossible to utilise. Instead, the UT3 uses a rotating plunger tube. Each prime rotates the plunger tube by a certain angle, closing off the used barrel and moving on counter-clockwise. As such, if you fire a single dart the reload the barrel, the UT3 will still fire the next dart.
What this means as well is that unlike Smart AR blasters, each of the UT3's barrels performs the same.
 Here's the UT3 next to the Messenger and Triad, Nerf's 3 shot pistols. The UT3 is perhaps a less space efficient blaster, and so is slightly larger than the very similar Messenger, and far larger than the extremely compact Triad.
So how does the Ultra Tek 3 perform? Does it compete with Nerf's Elite blasters?
Range is usable, being around 10-11m at true flat using UT darts quite consistently. Use of Elite darts bumps the range up by about 1m though consistency goes out the window. The range claim of 15m is certainly possible at an angle. I expect US-release blasters will get stronger springs for more range.
Accuracy is quite good, though primarily thanks to the more stable UT dart. Hits on human-sized targets at 8-9m are quite easy, and hits at 10-11m are still quite possible. Naturally switching to Elites completely eliminates any accuracy.
ROF is about what you'd expect from this sort of pistol-sized blaster, firing all 3 darts takes up to about 1.5s at best.

The UT3 however has a major reliability issue. The UT3 relies on the plunger tube being rotated on prime to index through each barrel, however due to a slight design flaw the priming bar doesn't always fully engage with the rotation mech. As such, you can sometimes get weak shots resulting from the plunger tube not rotating fully, or have the UT3 fire the same barrel multiple times due to the plunger tube rotating insufficiently or not at all.

I'm not sure how much the UT3 will retail for, however based on past and current pricing for other blasters I expect it won't pass 5USD. The reliability issue is easily fixed with a piece of cardboard/thin plastic and a bit of adhesive, however should not have existed in the first place. Nevertheless, the UT3 performs well enough to be usable, so if you're looking for a multishot sidearm that isn't a revolver, do consider the UT3 if you're willing to dive into its internals. Just remember that the UT3 has a rotating plunger tube instead of a Smart AR system.

Power: 4.5/7
Accuracy: 4.5/5
Value for Money: 4/5
Usability: 2.5/5
Rate of Fire: 2/5
Overall: 3.24/5

Personal Rating: 2.5/5 - a usable sidearm/pistol, however the reliability issue brings the score down a lot. With a 5-minute quick fix, it becomes much more useful. I just don't find it particularly interesting or good.

Again thanks to Buzz Bee toys for kindly sending some Ultra Tek blasters to me for review, and again their contribution does not affect the review in any way.

Now lets look at the internals and my fix for the reliability.
First up is removing the slide, which is held together just by 2 screws.
Here's the internals, fairly standard Buzz Bee fare. Note that I have to hold down the catch or else it will spring out, which is very annoying for reassembly.
Just a few closer up pics.
A better close up look of the barrels, though still super blurry.
Here's the back of the barrel block, note each trapezoid air inlet for each barrel.
And here's the front of the plunger tube, with 4 trapezoid outlets. Instead of the plunger tube having a single outlet and being rotated a full 120 degrees to engage the next barrel, the plunger tube is simply rotated 30 degrees to a different outlet engages a different barrel. As such it takes 12 primes instead of 3 to return to exactly the same state.
Here's a look at the reliability problem. Now the priming rod usually ends up in the former position, bent slightly upwards. The problem is that for the priming rod to properly engage the rotation mech, it needs to be perfectly horizontal, as in the latter position.
All I've done is get a shim of transparent plastic off a sheet, and hot glued it above the priming rod. Its height is crucial - too high and it won't improve reliability, but too low and the prime because much tougher and the slide won't return on its own.
In its current form, my UT3 is now perfectly reliable. Before the fix it misfired/misrotated once every 5-6 primes, but after the fix I haven't had it misrotate a single time in at least 100 shots. With this fix the UT3 because a decent multishot sidearm.

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