Thursday, 9 November 2017

Review: Buzz Bee Thermal Hunter (15m)

The Thermal Hunter was one of the most anticipated of Buzz Bee's new releases, with the promise of the Sentinel's raw power and mod potential, in a more practical pump action rifle form. It also includes a unique attachment, a sight with basic thermal detection capabilities. Needless to say, I was very excited at the prospect of toying around with the blaster and its fancy scope.

Disclaimer: This blaster was sent to me for review by Buzz Bee Toys. Despite their contribution, I will do my best to ensure that this review remains as objective and unbiased as possible.
The Box

Mostly ordinary large open box, though the extra section for the Heatseeking Scope highlight panel is a little different to more traditional open boxes.

The Thermal Hunter Blaster

The Thermal Hunter is a decently sized, pump-action mag-fed rifle. I personally quite like how it looks. The blaster has a lot more physical detailing and texturing than previous Buzz Bee releases. Like with recent Buzz Bee blasters, the plastic feels quite improved over previous releases, and seems thicker and tougher.
The Thermal Hunter has a single Buzz Bee tactical rail on top.

The handle of the Thermal Hunter is rather poorly designed. It is very short and not very thick, making for a tight and uncomfortable grip.

The pump on the other hand, is much more reasonably sized. While I find the bottom surface a little too wide for my preference, it is of a decent length and is quite easily grippable.

The pump travel of the Thermal Hunter is about the same as most other Buzz Bee mag-fed blasters, perhaps a little shorter.

The Thermal Hunter's magwell is pretty standard fare, with Buzz Bee's typical mag release. My opinion of these push-up-to-release buttons has not changed, they are fairly awkward to use and strictly inferior to a lever release. The Thermal Hunter's is a particularly annoying one, as it is out of reach of your main hand.
Unlike most of Buzz Bee's recent mag-fed blasters, the Thermal Hunter is not directly compatible with Nerf mags out-of-box. The front ridge of Nerf mags stops them from inserting in far enough to lock in place and chambering darts reliably. A little cutting and shaving to the inside of the magwell fixes this problem, however it would of course have been preferable for it to have worked out-of-box.

The Stock 

The Thermal Hunter's stock is a unique, detachable piece. It has no special features besides being detachable, and is not compatible with any other blasters. Lengthwise it is very short.

The stock slides onto place on a stub on the rear of the main blaster. It slides on and off very easily. The stock locks into place, and is released by holding down the orange button on the bottom.

The Heatseeking Scope

The Heatseeking Scope is a large, bulky sight with a relatively small viewport, and a massive top bulge. This top bulge houses the buttons and switch for the sight, as well as components for the actual heat detection.
The bottom of the scope features a set of tactical rail clips meant for Buzz Bee's now standard tactical rail.

The scope has a simple on/off power switch, and two buttons, "set" and "mode". "Set" is related to the heatseeking mode of the scope, while "mode" toggles between two different scope modes.

The default mode is heatseeking mode. Upon startup, mode switching or pressing of the "set" button, the scope reads the temperature of the object it is currently looking at, indicated by the reticle flashing green/red. It uses this as the reference temperature. Once set, the scope then compares whatever it looks at to the reference termperature. If the object is significantly hotter than the reference temperature, the reticle turns red. If not, the reticle remains green.
The second mode is a blue reticle. It doesn't use the thermal sensing functionality and doesn't change.
The Heatseeking scope mounts smoothly on Buzz Bee tac rails, and clicks into place, though it is not an especially secure connection.
Here's the scope next to a Nerf Pinpoint Sight. The scope is very large and bulky for a sight.

The Rail Adapter

The Rail Adapter is another new Buzz Bee product attempting to bridge the Nerf and Buzz Bee worlds. It features two tactical rails, one Buzz Bee and one Nerf, and two tactical rail clips, again one Buzz Bee and one Nerf. This piece is intended to allow the use of one company's attachments on the other company's blasters.

For instance, it allows the use of a Pinpoint Sight on the Thermal Hunter, and the Heatseeking Scope on a Rapidstrike. Its fit for Nerf attachments is extremely loose, and it is very loose itself on tactical rails of either companies' blasters.
While it fits more standard Buzz Bee attachments just fine, the Heatseeking Scope is notably bulky and messes with the fit a little. It does not actually properly fit, and is extremely tight to attach and remove.

Fully Assembled
The fully assembled Thermal Hunter is a fairly complete rifle-type blaster. I find it to be fairly poor ergonomically. The pump and magwell are quite far away from the handle, which is in turn very close to the back of the blaster. This coupled with the small stock results in a overall slightly awkward to handle blaster.
Compared to a Retaliator with a pump grip, the Thermal Hunter's magwell and pump are quite far away. Overall, it is noticeably longer as well, however replacing the Retal stock with a longer one reduces the length difference. Regardless, the Retaliator is a lot more ergonomic. The handle and magwell are much closer together, and the handle is much better designed. It also has provisions for replacing the very short stock, which is a problem that plagues both blasters.


With both the PrecisePro and Long Distance darts, the Thermal Hunter achieves around 55fps muzzle velocity. Range wise, this translates to around 8-10 metres true flat with PrecisePro darts. Long Distance darts are much less consistent, capable of 12 metres and further on a good shot, or as little as 6-7 metres on a bad shot. I've based the final score on using PrecisePro darts, as they are the primary dart type in the package.
Accuracy also depends heavily on darts. PrecisePro darts, true to their name, are very consistent and fly very straight. Long Distance darts behave much like Elites, swerving and veering all over the place with no consistency. Again, I've based the score on the use of PrecisePro darts.
Rate of fire is rather decent. I was able to achieve about 3 darts per second consistently. Without slam-fire, the Thermal Hunter falls behind compared to Nerf's pump action blasters (e.g. Rampage, EAT) but is still quite usable.

Game Utility
The Thermal Hunter is a pretty standard pump action magfed rifle. Out of box, it is not compatible with Nerf mags, however this is fixable in a couple of minutes with some basic tools. It fills the same role filled by a pump gripped Retaliator or Elite Alpha Trooper, an all-round springer primary blaster. It achieves a decent ROF and can pack some solid power, though the Aus-spec model is rather weak. The Thermal Hunter as a blaster doesn't achieve anything special or noteworthy on its own.

The Heatseeking Scope could potentially see niche use in low-lighting situations in relatively cool weather. As it works off of IR, it can easily detect a warm person in a relatively colder area with no visible light at all. In such situations, it would potentially allow its user to detect other players more easily than simply trying to spot them by eye. The sight is quite bulky however, and is ineffective in warmer conditions or outdoors during day time. Additionally, there are many other ways of seeing in low/no light.

Value and Summary
The Thermal Hunter retails in the US for around 25USD, with the scopeless "Interceptor" variant exclusive to US Kmarts retailing for around 23USD. It is available in Australia at Mr Toys Toyworld for 60AUD, though since it is a specialist retailer, I am not using its pricing for my rating. In the case of the Thermal Hunter package, 25USD is a very solid deal. The Thermal Hunter is a fairly complete blaster out of box, and the Heatseeking Scope is a rather fun and neat gimmick, if perhaps not all that useful in most situations. If you're willing to forgo the Heatseeking Scope, the Interceptor package has a blue Thermal Hunter with an extra mag and a different scope, all for a slightly lower price. This is also a very solid deal, as the extra mag is probably a lot more useful than the Heatseeking Scope. Regardless, both packages are very solid deals considering the Elite Alpha Trooper retailed for 20USD, and the not-pump-action Retaliator retails for around 25USD. If you're after a decent pump action blaster with some good modification potential, or even just a decent blaster with a fun gimmick, the Thermal Hunter is certainly worth a look.

Power: 4/7
Accuracy: 5/5
Rate of Fire: 4/5
Usability: 3.5/5
Value for Money: 5/5
Overall: 4.07/5

Personal Rating: 4/5 - with some work, the Thermal Hunter can be modded into a very solid and rather comfortable pump action rifle. It requires this work however, as out-of-box is somewhat awkward and does not accept Nerf mags.

The Thermal Hunter uses the same plunger system that Buzz Bee has used in just about all of their recent magfed springers. The plunger tube is decently sized and can put out quite a bit of power. The locks are all contained in a single block that is very easily removed. The main concern with the Thermal Hunter is the plastic priming bar that links the pump to the plunger. I would not trust it when placed under the stress of an upgrade spring in combat conditions. Reinforcing it with some epoxy putty or other similar solid gap filler is not difficult though.

A link to the review I posted on BlasterHub: link


  1. Very nice job. It is neat how the scope actually works to some degree. And the adapter was a clever idea on Buzz bee's part.

  2. Are adventure force and buzz bee separate companies?
    If not, they have several copies of buzz-bee blasters.

    1. They are separate companies, however I believe Adventure Force does have Buzz Bee manufacture the blasters, simply with different colouring and packaging.