This year has gone by unbelievably fast, and 2022 felt like a revival for the hobby. Not only did we as a community get back to what we love, but there is so much new stuff to play with. That’s probably an understatement considering where the hobby was pre-2020 compared to all the new events, blasters, products, and people who have joined this year. We have more 150+ FPS blasters readily available from retailers, more support for blaster modifications, and more events than we have time for. I thought it would be cool to recap some of the cool stuff we got this year.
2022 was the first year where we were able to host large-scale events again. Drac’s Humans vs Zombies event Endwar, FoamCon, and Dart Zone Pro Tournament was at Rochester Institute of Technology, pulling in over 300 people. It was my first ever Humans vs Zombies, and despite some problems, I had a great time. FoamCon was probably the highlight of that weekend, where I got to meet everyone and see all the new stuff that people had to show off. The Dart Zone Pro Tournament was on the last day and was a competitive team event sponsored by Dart Zone with a prize pool of $15,000 -- a giant leap for the hobby. FoamFest happened soon after in the UK, spotlighting the BritNerf community, featuring a blaster convention, their own HvZ games, and even a mod party. In August, APOC took place in New Jersey, bringing in over 80 players from all over the East Coast. But let’s not forget that these events can only happen because of local clubs that allow community members to play all year round and keep our hobby alive.
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We get new blasters every year, but holy cow, did we get a great lineup of new blasters for 2022 from big companies and community members‽ From Nerf, I think the only notable offer this year was the Motoblitz, a re-shelled Rayven with an air-powered shotgun as a masterkey. By far, Dart Zone and Adventure Force had a great lineup of blasters that achieved performance at the community expectations of 130 FPS to even pushing 200 FPS. All the new blasters from them were revealed at FoamCon this year. We got upgrades to old blasters in the form of the Dart Zone Pro Mk 1.2 and 2.1. Under the Adventure Force Pro line, we got the Deuce Pro -- a short dart six-shot revolver, and the Jurassic Pro -- a bolt action sniper. The Dart Zone Max line introduced us to the Dictator -- a short dart pump-action mag-in-stock blaster, and the Tomcat -- a pump-action blaster with a 50-round short dart drum. That’s six more blasters that perform very well out of the box.
At FoamCon, we saw the debut of the Game Face Trion, a short dart-exclusive, talon-compatible, pump-action springer with included spring spacers that allow it to perform at 130 FPS, 160 FPS, and 200 FPS for only $80. We also got the Worker Nightingale, a micro-flywheeler with new slim angled talons, becoming a community favorite.
Speaking of the community, the hobby also came out with a ton of new designs. Shellington released the Wingchester and Wrenfield -- their shell-ejecting lever action and bolt action blasters, Sillybutts came out with his Lever Action Blaster (SLAB) and magwell-folding SillyPistol, and Eli Wu showed off his Impulse and Momentum designs.
Impulse included, 2022 saw the emergence of high-performing AEBs (Automatic Electronic Blasters) for the first time. At the start of the year, we got the QWK Challenger Mk3 and the Edge, and while they did work, both blasters cost over $200 and had some problems, including parts breaking, proprietary magazines, and being very picky with darts. But, the saving grace of AEBs this year was the Colonel Wasp 76.
The CW76 is an open-bolt blaster that uses worker Talon magazines, shoots over 200 FPS, and costs about $175. Compared to the Challenger Mk3 and the Edge, the CW76 performed consistently well with only a few failures. This is a pretty good start for the first year of seeing AEB short dart blasters, and others are already working on new blasters. The Storm FB1 by SweetHeart Toys looks pretty good, and Sillybutts has a proof-of-concept AEB where he used a power drill to prime the spring and fire the blaster. I think it will take at least two years before we get sufficient support for AEBs, but it is super cool to see what we got this year alone.
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2022 also brought some great new barrel attachments in the form of Bearing SCARS or “BCARs” and Tracer units. BCARs are a new type of rifling attachment that uses Bearings instead of strings. The bearings are offset to give the dart spin, and because of their low friction, the darts only lose around 5 FPS compared to the 15-20 FPS loss of string-based SCARs. I switched to a CrimsonContraptions BCAR this past fall, and it makes my TalonClaw feel like a completely new blaster.
Next, we have Tracer Units. Tracer Units are barrel attachments with UV lights that charge up glow-in-the-dark darts as the dart passes through, and they can also simulate muzzle flash with LEDs. Tracer Units from T238 and Black Raisins also have versions with a BCAR built in, so you can have the tracer lights and still get the accuracy you want from your springer. Black Raisins also has a Flywheel version with a larger inner diameter barrel, so you don’t lose any performance from barrel drag. Though they have a niche use, we have something new and very cool, and I hope to see more accessories like this in the future.
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We also saw a lot of movement to establish a competitive scene within the hobby, and The Dart Zone Pro Tournament was the main one this year. With a $15,000 prize pool and using a 5v5 community-developed game, the DZPT was the first of its kind for our hobby, bringing players from all over the USA and even some from outside the country. Granted, there were some caveats working with Dart Zone as a major sponsor, but the event went to completion, with Rochester Radioactive taking first place. It wasn’t a perfect event by any means, but it grew a lot of interest.
Then, around August to September, SpeedDart International presented their competitive game format. SpeedDart uses a smaller field and more cover, allowing for more intense engagements; we already have another article on the site if you want a more in-depth read. SpeedDart is working out of Singapore, but they have been working with local clubs in the US and some European countries to host their clinics and scrimmage games. They also recently announced that a US Championship Tour is happening on June 3rd and 4th in New Jersey. It has been very cool to have been a part of and see the effort being put in to legitimize a competitive aspect to our fun and goofy hobby.
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Closing 2022, there’s been a lot of changes and additions in the community. Captain Slug, famous for the Caliburn, is on hiatus for personal reasons, and Orion Blasters has stopped production of Lynx hardware kits to focus on designing blasters. Out of Darts has taken over the production of Caliburns, TalonClaws, and Lynxes, offering hardware kits, DIY kits, and complete builds at competitive prices with the high print quality of their Prusa farm.
Additionally, OldFusionDesigns created Flycore, a self-contained piece that does all the work of housing flywheel internals. It can use any size of flywheels, uses hobby standard talon magazines, and has a full-auto N20 pusher mech, allowing for a wide range of performance and Rate of Fire. The Flycore was made to have all the internals of a flywheel blaster done already so that community members could design blasters around it. OldFusionDesigns themselves came out with their Quik and Meowser pistols, and other creators are already taking advantage of the platform -- like with the GKUzi and a Kriss Vector.
Speaking of Flywheels, Banned Blaster’s Banshee wheels and motors have made leaps and bounds to get all Flywheel blasters to 200 FPS. They offer cages for Stryfes and Rapidstrikes, the Dart Zone Pro Mk-3, Spectrum, Gryphon, and the Rayven. These cages can all achieve 200 FPS with a single stage. Even Rayven performs similarly, which we all thought would be impossible. Banned Blasters has even made dual-stage cages that can reach 250-300 FPS. Forget about power creep; this is more of a power stampede!
This year we also saw a 3D-printed community design become a fully licensed injection molded product in the shape of Shellington’s Wrenfield becoming the Kirin Type-A by Phantom Tech. Big congratulations to GDOP and MrHeathPants.
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This article hardly even covers all of the major community events of 2022, and I’m sure there are plenty of things that I missed, but I still think this was a thorough look at what we all got this past year. Moving into 2023, make some space on your calendar for Ragnaroktoberfest returning in October and Maryland Mayhem happening in April. Both events will feature HvZ, Casual games, and Competitive 5v5 events. 2023 will also see the release of a lot of new blasters. The Worker Harrier is an injection-molded springer with brass inserts that can reach up to 300 FPS, and the Game Face is currently shipping out their Trion preorders. Community-wise, Momentum is hoping to be released in Q1, and tons of other designers are working on getting their own products out in the wild. I’m already making plans for new blasters and going out to more community events in the coming year. I hope everyone else had a great 2022, and I can’t wait to see what 2023 will bring us. - FoamShepherd