Just when you thought it was safe to enter the toy section, it’s time once again for another installment of… TALES FROM THE TOY AISLE!

This time we head to an entirely new type of toy aisle. The toy section at Gander Mountain! I bet you didn’t know there was a toy section at Gander Mountain, did you? Honestly, neither did I. For the uninitiated, Gander Mountain is an “outdoorsman” store, not unlike the kind of place Tim Allen’s “Last Man Standing” would work at.

For the most part they sell guns, hunting gear, more guns and fishing supplies. Speaking of which, the entire store reeked of rubber fishing tackle. Literally every section smelled like some little rubber lure. Aside from the stench, what sort of toys do they have?

As you might expect, they have a lot of toy guns. And I do mean a LOT! They even have pink ones for girls.

Sometime last year I lamented that more stores didn’t sell toy guns, but at this store they take it to another level. Gander Mountain not only has a crap load of real guns, but also toy versions to get “junior” into shooting things as well. It’s kind of scary how many varieties of toy guns they had.

The best stuff is the “exclusives” like the Bone Collector here. Wait, the BONE COLLECTOR?! Gander Mountain is starting to turn into less of a sporting goods store and more into a primer for young serial killers. Who the heck comes up with this stuff? Why is this guy the Bone Collector?!

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“So the bartender lived? Ha! The bartender never gets killed!”

“But… as the stranger neared the door… Naw, man. The bartender got it worse than anybody.” – Desperado

Barrel Break Ix-2 N-strike Blaster Gun

Greetings again! Wesitron here with another toy review for all you fanatics out there. What makes a toy great? This is a question I often have to ask myself when looking at prospective purchases. When it all comes down to it, what do I love the most? It’s a simple answer, and for many of us, it’s the reason we became collectors and do what we do. I ask myself:

Is it fun?

The toy I’m reviewing today is the Nerf Barrel Break and despite any flaws in paint or sculpt or even price, it’s a darned fun toy.

The packaging is absolutely what you’d expect from a Nerf gun. It’s got an illustration on the front of the box that shows you the gun in use and how cool you look holding it. It features the name of the gun and the N-Strike shield very clearly with some nice anime action lines to show you how the gun grants you temporary superpowers.

The back of the box has actual pictures of the toy and some instruction in how it operates. This is awesome because it allows parents, players, and collectors to assess the difficulty of use without having to open it. I don’t know if you’ve been down the Nerf aisles lately, but they’ve got electric guns that operate like tennis ball launchers, guns that use magazine-style systems where you refill a “clip” with bullet-like ammo called streamline darts, modular weapons with R.I.S.-like attachments, and even belt-fed fully automatic heavy machine guns. Pretty soon they’ll have the Nerf Nuclear Strike set complete with dual-key activation and the ashes of your enemies included. Go Nerf!

The one big drawback to the box is the same drawback that the Hero Factory boxes had and that’s that it has no personality when compared to the others in the series. I’m all for uniformity making purchases easier on parents, but goodness gracious!

This picture was taken at a Toys R’ Us right around the corner from your house. I’m closer than you think. As you can see, other than the product itself, all the Nerf guns have almost identical packaging. Most of the Nerf guns nowadays have very similar paintjobs. So when you’re looking at a wall of Nerf toys for a Nerf Longshot because you’re dumb and didn’t buy them when you first saw them and now Hasbro has canceled the gun and you can’t find a darned one anywhere because all the other nerds bought them already so they could hack them up and rip out the internals for their Hello Kitty custom joke blaster that shoots rainbows and Valentine’s candy because you’re uber-cool and it gives you the credibility to say mean things to kids on the NerfHaven website; you may have a hard time locating one in the sea of yellow, gray, and orange.

“Now, I don’t know what he does on that floor, but he’s up in two shakes, the suitcase is wide-open, and he’s pulled God-knows-what out of it, but it’s the biggest hand cannon I’ve ever f***ing seen!” – Desperado

Cutting the ties inside the box, you get the blaster, instructions (not shown), an ammo holder attachment doo-dad, and ten whistler darts.

The ammo holder is reminiscent of classic shotgun shell holders and locks firmly into place on top of the blaster. It’s actually a pretty boring sculpt, but holds the darts very securely.

The darts are the traditional fare, with a modern twist. The heads are rounded and have notches out of the sides, so with enough power they whistle as they shoot through the air. So that’s why they call them that! Ohhhhh…

The blaster itself is a very cool looking sawed-off shotgun, with little grooves and rivets and faux screws and such. It also features an “iron sight” for aiming, a molded loop (for attaching a lanyard, bandolier kit, or your favorite Autobots insignia keychain), and a hatch pattern on the grip for a better, uh, grip.

And here’s the part I love. On the left side, molded into the blaster itself, are the instructions for operation. Say whaaaat? Check it:

So if in ten years you’re pulling this out of an old toy box or just forgot how the thing worked because you spend too much time on the Facebooks or on your cellular telephone getting tumors, you’ve got the instructions right in front of you. Brilliant!

Fun Factor:
This blaster is tons of fun. If you’ve ever seen a spaghetti western or Robert Rodriguez flick, then odds are you’ve wanted a sawed-off shotgun. It functions almost exactly like the real thing as well! It’s a very simple process and the instructions are located here:

As you can see above, it’s very simple and loading the blaster also primes it for firing. When you load two darts, you prime the blaster by breaking it, so when you close the gun, it’s ready to fire. No pumping, cocking, making chicken noises at it from across the room, nothing. It’s good to go.

The bad side is that you can never leave darts in it, because once it’s loaded it means the blaster is primed. The big rule of airsoft which I imagine also applies to Nerf is that you never leave a compression spring charged or primed, because it will loose elasticity over time and reduce your power.

The other cool part about the blaster is that the trigger is “two-stage,” meaning that even though it has only one trigger, it can fire each barrel independently depending on pressure. Pull the trigger halfway to fire the left barrel. Pull it the rest of the way to fire the right. Pulling the trigger all the way on the first pull fires both barrels at the same time and gets you a patch and a unique ID card to the John McTiernan Hall of Pain. You can hang your coat next to Dutch’s vest. He doesn’t need it where he’s going.

The blaster will shoot roughly 20 feet when fired. If you fire the trigger two-stage, the second dart doesn’t go as far, but I’m not sure if that’s a design element or just a problem with my blaster. It actually has two individual springs on the inside, so I’m guessing I’ve got a problem inside. Don’t tell my girlfriend, she’s a therapist.

Come on! Kill me, I’m heeaaaar!

It’s awesome fun to shoot and reload, and in no time you’ll be loading all ten darts with ease. The only gripe I’d have is that it’s slower to reload than many Nerf blasters on the market, so if you’re in a battle it could mean the difference between eternal glory and eternal dooooooom.

I went ahead and shot a video of me loading and firing the blaster. If you turn up your speakers, you should be able to hear the whistler darts:

This is where I’m going to hurt the gun a little. See that little sticker?

I don’t know if you’ve been in TRUs lately, but they’ve lost their friggin minds when it comes to pricing, with many exclusives jumping in price 5 bucks since the end of the holidays. The Barrel Break was one of the casualties and will run you $24.99.

It’s not that I think it’s an exorbitant price for the blaster—heck, the thing is about 18 inches long, comes with a lot of darts and a brand new rail attachment unavailable on any other blaster—but knowing that it was only 19.99 just before Christmas and that there are other blasters that use ejecting clips and faster firing for about 17.99, I have to call shenanigans.

However, if you’ve got the cash it’s a great buy and a ton of fun. If you’re going to use it in a Nerf war, either get fast or pray your enemies are slow.

And don’t forget, the N-Strike rail is universal, so you can add accessories from any other blaster to change it up. It’s not as useful here because you really NEED those extra darts, but it’s still cool.

Score Recap:
Packaging: Adults – 7, Kids – 8
Sculpt: Adults – 9, Kids – 10
Fun Factor: Adults – 9, Kids – 8
Value: Adults – 6, Kids – 6
Overall: Adults – 7.75, Kids – 8

The Nerf Barrel Break IX-2 is a really fun toy to play outside with or even just plink around the house. The darts don’t shoot hard enough to really hurt and the design and loading function is absolutely brilliant and shows that Nerf is still innovative despite its years.

I don’t think anyone would be disappointed in the blaster, but if possible I’d say wait for sale.

Thanks for reading and as always, it’s just a toy. Open the darned thing.