Monday, 17 August 2015

Review: Buzz Bee Air Max/Baron + Internals (EU)

Along with their new clip (mag) compatible Ultra Tek line, Buzz Bee has also released a new Air Max line compatible with Nerf's Mega line. The smallest offering in the new Air Max line is the Air Max/Baron. I received the one called the Air Max specifically, supposedly meant for European retail.
Once again, many thanks to Buzz Bee Toys for sending the new Air Max blasters over for review, as without their contribution I would not be able to obtain them otherwise. Note that their contribution does not affect the review in any way.
Standard small blaster packaging, a single piece of cardboard with a few cable ties.
Out of the box, just the AM/Baron and two new Air Max/XL Distance darts.

Let's take a look at the new Air Max darts. Like with the Ultra Tek darts, the blasters in countries with stricter laws get flat tipped darts, while the full power North American ones (called XL Distance darts) have suction cups.
The AM dart is a little bit shorter than Nerf's mega, primarily in the tip which is a thin flat plate where Nerf's is a full whistler tip.
A better look at the tips together, Buzz Bee's one is just a solid piece while Nerf's whistler tip is hollow and compresses on impact.
Foam wise the darts are very similar in both dimension and feel.

Here's the AM dart next to a UT dart. Note how the tips are very, very similar.
Unlike Nerf's Mega and Elite dart, it's almost impossible to fit a UT dart within the AM dart's hole.
Interestingly with my two AM darts one was noticeably thicker than the other, and seemed to get better ranges.

The AM/Baron is a very simply designed, lacking some of the more intricate details found on some of the Ultra Tek blasters.

Weirdly, the handle is quite small for the AM/Baron, despite the blaster itself being scaled up from regular dart blasters. I find it rather uncomfortable.
Here's a comparison of the AM/Baron's handle against the UT3/Star's handle. Note how the AM/Baron's handle seems to be a scaled down version despite the rest of the blaster being scaled up.

The AM/Baron is a slide primed blaster like most other Ultra Tek and new Air Max blasters. It's slide is fairly wide but not not particularly tall, so in my opinion is not particularly comfortable or easy to grip. Certainly not as good as the UT8/Champion's, which in my opinion is one of the best slides out there.
The prime stroke on the AM/Baron is very long for such a small blaster, and coupled with a surprisingly strong spring the AM/Baron is actually not very easy to prime. I could certainly see young children having trouble priming it

The AM/Baron is a two shot blaster, and at the front has these two rather chunky barrels with ARs.
And here's the two barrels loaded.
Like the other multishot UT blasters, the AM/Baron uses a rotating plunger to switch between barrels. Naturally being a two shot blaster it just switches between top and bottom alternately.
Here's the AM/Baron next to some other blasters. You will notice that though it's not particularly tall, it is very long, almost as long as the much larger and more expensive Magnus.
So how does the Air Max stack up against Nerf's established line of Mega blasters?
Range is pretty solid even for this small blaster, with the AM darts I'm getting around 11-13m ranges very consistently. Switching to Nerf's Mega darts yields ranges up to 15m and beyond, depending on what the darts feel like as they're wildly inconsistent and inaccurate, as we know them to be.
Accuracy using the AM darts is also pretty impressive. The darts fly very straight and end up with a spread no more than 0.5m even at full range. Naturally switching to Nerf Mega darts makes accuracy go out the window.
Rate of fire is not very good seeing as the prime is quite long and stiff, but pretty hard to measure (and fairly pointless) for a two shot blaster. Both darts within a second is probably what can be achieved consistently and relatively easily.

The Air Max/Baron retails in the US for a measly 5USD, which is a fantastic deal.
As a Mega blaster it's competitive with the Magnus for power and cheaper than a Bigshock while also having one more shot than the Bigshock. As a blaster overall it packs a lot of power and mod potential for a ridiculously low price, as well as being quite fun to use even in stock form. Overall I'd highly recommend picking up one (or a couple), whether you want it for Mega blasting, modding it into a mean dart blaster or even just for fun.

Pros: Incredibly cheap, performs competitively well, great accuracy, simplistic internal design allows for very easy modding
Cons: Overall ergonomics are not great - small handle, stiff, long prime stroke, awkwardly long length

Power: 7/7
Accuracy: 5/5
Usability: 4/5
Rate of Fire: 2/5
Value for Money: 5/5
Overall: 4.2/5

Personal Rating: 4/5 - a really cheap Mega firing blaster that can compete with the Magnus and has pretty good mod and integration potential, the only things bugging me are how small the handle is and how long it is overall. That and I've lost interest in single shot blasters.

Once again, many thanks to Buzz Bee Toys for sending the Air Max to me for review, it's a fantastic blaster.

Now for the AM/Baron's simple internals.
First up, remove the two screws in the slide and remove the slide. Once the two screws are out it should pop apart easily.
 Before removing the screws, pry this orange piece off. A flathead screwdriver or a fingernail should do fine.
Once the screws are out, the shell comes apart easily and you're greeted with this.
Trigger and catch mechanism. The catch looks a little weak to me, though I'm not qualified to quantitatively say so.
Priming and rotation mechanism.
To achieve the switching between barrels, the plunger tube has 5 separate holes and a foam seal, which rotates about every prime to alternate between barrels.
The plunger system exploded out. The spring is pretty strong for a stock blaster, comparable to or possibly even stronger than the newest style Nitefinder spring.
Note that the plunger and barrel block don't actually click together or anything, it's just a friction fit.
The plunger tube has a diameter of 3.3cm, certainly quite a large plunger for a blaster this small.
The AM/Baron has a draw of around 7cm, which is very long.
Considering the size and draw of the plunger tube, I have no doubt that provided the catch holds up to stronger springs, you could get a lot of power out of the AM/Baron. Even better, because the barrel switching uses a rotating plunger tube, there's no need to keep the ARs in, so you can just rip them straight out and straight up rebarrel for regular darts no problem.


  1. Thanks for the shot of the internals! That's a really big plunger tube, should be great for modding.

    But I'm worried about the priming mechanism. The priming bar and the plunger rod are contacting each other only at those small plastic nubs. Can't imagine them holding up very well to really strong spring loads. Any idea on how to reinforce them?

    1. You could easily add material to the back of the plunger rod's nub, though I think a better option would be to reinforce the nubs by filling the gaps with epoxy putty (or similar), then running a screw through each of them.

  2. Don't believe it.. I epoxied the nubs and added on a second strong spring. When it tried to prime the gun, there was a loud snap. I opened the blaster shell thinking the nub must have broken. However, it was the priming bar itself that snapped.

    I think for all the potential that the Buzz Bee guns have with their large plunger tubes, they are simply let down by the poor quality of their plastics. There's only so much power you can try to jam into them before they give way, much less than Nerf guns.

    1. Oh man that's really awkward, sorry to hear that. Guess that adds another point to reinforce before even thinking about spring upgrades.