Nerf Hyper review: where the rubber meets the foam

Nerf is synonymous with foam foam balls and foam darts for nearly 30 years.
Hasbro, the owner of Nerf, had a different idea for its Hyper blasters. A small group of engineers was tasked with developing a smaller projectile from a new material to increase their performance. The team came up with a small ball of thermoplastic rubber elastomer, effectively making it rubber.

Before they could create the ball, the company's designers had to design a new set blasters that would actually fire projectiles. They also developed the $30 Hyper Rush-40 and $40 Siege-50 rounds.

This could be the reason they don't work well.

They have been tested in my backyard and local park. I was able to test them this month at a Nerf war. They are not recommended at all, honestly. I'm still not sure if it is because the ammunition has fundamental limitations or if this first wave just missed the mark.

Lets discuss.

Reality vs. dream

As a child, Nerf guns required that you reload every shot. You can only do so much with the largest, bulkiest, and most accurate two-handed toys. As an adult, I was amazed at the five-shot revolver that you could use to prime your gun with your thumb. However, you would still need a drum magazine to feed more than 18 darts per rifle. The company released the $100 blaster in 2017 that had enough ammunition to keep a fort occupied. It used a massive hopper-fed system that contained 100 rounds.

Nerf's new Hyper ammo is small enough to fit 40 shots in a pistol, 100 into an SMG-sized gun, and paintball-style canisters for topping up. It sounded amazing. We would finally be able fight without worrying about what the next reload will bring.

Instead, I am constantly pondering whether my blaster will actually fire when I pull the trigger.

No matter which model you choose, the integrated ammo boxes of the Rush-40, Siege-50, or Mach-100 all depend on gravity to feed rounds into their chambers. These rounds don't always want to go inside. They might not be able to reach the chute if you stuff 40 small yellow balls in a Rush-40 or 50 into a Siege-50. Even if they don't, they must slide down the slope at the right speed to reach the inner chamber. You can mess it up and you will not get the trigger. My best strategy so far has been to aim the blaster at the target, but not to the ground. This is a disadvantage in Nerf battles that are fast-paced.

Even though the Mach-100 has a mechanical agitator and conveyor belt that keep the balls moving, this can cause problems. The supposedly full-auto blaster will often only pop a few balls at once, then pause, then come out with two or three balls, sometimes with a drastically reduced range.

Even when they fire, you shouldn't expect them not to aim at the target with their built-in aiming sights. The Rush-40 pistol and Mach 100 SMG are particularly curved, meaning that your shots will almost instantly curve to the ground. This forces you to aim higher than your target, and rain down balls. This was how I got some tags.

It is also a mystery to me why Hasbro made paintball-like pods and hoppers for quick refills, but not giving them a chance to mate. The canisters are cleverly attached to blasters' built-in rails. I end up dumping a lot of them on the ground every time I pull out one of these canisters. Rob Maschin, a designer at Hasbro, says that the team would love to see this change in the future.

It's a shame because these Hyper balls are some of the most powerful projectiles Nerfs have ever made. They are the same dimpled shape of the foam Rival balls but the TPE rounds fly farther and denser. They are easy to clean, easy to pick up with a small nuts gatherer, and easy to spot on ground because of their bright yellow color. They are not biodegradable, so if someone is lazy, there's no word.

Greg Nyland, Nerf brand manager, told me that we made about a dozen colors and then threw them into the back yard to see which one popped. They are smaller than Rival but catch my attention from afar.

Because they are UV-reactive, you can use a dark light to locate them at night. Although they bounce all over and can roll around, I have never had any problems finding them in dark grass. They would fall into tiny pockets of turf so I had to be looking at the right angle.

Not only are they more powerful than any other Hasbro product you can buy, but also the blasters can produce these rounds much faster. All three blasters exceeded 100 feet per seconds on my chronograph. The Rush-40 and Siege-50 both regularly crossed the 115 foot mark. While the balls did indeed dive into the ground when fired flat, I was able to measure distances up to 150 feet using my distance measuring wheel.

I used the Hyper Rush-40 to get an idea of the performance difference. The Rush is basically a Kronos, but with new projectiles. The chart shows that the Rush's maximum range is far greater than the Kronos', but it does not have the same range when shot flat. Although I can hit some things with the Kronos, Hyper is not as easy to use.

Nerf Hyper Range Blaster Distance (flat), Distance (angled), Blaster Distance(flat), Blaster Distance (20-55) Rush-40 40-55 Rush-40 40-55 Rush-40 40-55 Rush-40 40-55 Rush-40 40-55 Rush-40 40-55 Rush-40 40-55 Rush-40 40-55 Rush-40 ft 60-65 ft 80-10 ft Rival Kronos 60-60 ft 120-15 ft DZ Conquest Pro 60 70 ft 120 -145 ft Mach 100 ft ft ft ft ft ft ft ft ft ft ft ft ft ft ft ft ft ft ft ft ft ft ft ft ft ft ft ft ft ft ft ft ft ft ft -100 45-80-135 ft

But range is not the only thing. I was tagged and the Hyper rounds hit harder. They are faster than Rival rounds and don't loft in the air as well, making them harder to dodge.

Hasbro has omitted a feature that would have helped with range and lofting, a rubber nub called a "hop-up" which adds backspin to a ball and takes advantage of the Magnus effect. The Mach-100 and Rush-40 don't have a hop-up despite being based on Rival blasters (the Rival Kronos, Rival Perses). My hop-up was not working, even though it worked on the Siege-50. Some Nerfers have created 3D printed Rush-40 aftermarket hop-ups that improve accuracy. It is likely that future Hyper blasters from Hasbros will be 3D printed.

Although I'm not sure why Hyper rounds eat so poorly, I do have an idea. Hasbro made them soft to make them safer. They could jam blasters, I think, if they didn't have the Hyper hoppers tilt down-to-load feeding chutes that ensure that only one round is chambered at once.

It's complicated. It's not easy. If Hasbro had made the foam Rival balls smaller, it would have also been lighter, which can be detrimental to speed and accuracy. To fix these things, you can make them harder. As Bob DeRoche, a Hasbro veteran engineer, explained, every blaster made by the company must meet its Kinetic Energy Disbursement standard for safety. You must meet the KED number based on speed, weight, diameter, and how much it disperses. He says that if it is below that, it will not hurt your eyes, but it won't cause any discomfort.

Technically, each Hyper blaster includes a pair safety glasses. This is a first for Nerf products, I believe. There are also prominent warning labels regarding wearing them in the field. The primary safety mechanism was the creation of a TPE pellet with the correct squish. However, the blasters had to be developed simultaneously so that the squish could be built. DeRoche says that we didn't have the luxury of time. We were still trying to get to the end of the round when we got the samples.

Hasbro chose to start with hopper fed blasters, rather than compression feeding systems such as a spring-loaded magazine. Nyland says we shouldn't exclude other feeding mechanisms. This is based on the incredible growth of Nerfs Rival line since 2015. He has a point, I must admit. The first Rival blasters were a great product. However, their small magazines and poor ergonomics only a few years later made them far less effective. It would be great to see Star Wars, Halo and Overwatch blasters with co-branded branding that can hold a decent amount of shots. But, I am curious if the gummy rounds could work in an enclosed area.

The competition

These issues are not the reason to avoid Hyper. Hyper isn't competitive.

Hyper requires you to purchase a brand new, unproven ammunition type. Hasbros expects teens and young adults that Hyper will be the preferred blaster for sporting-grade Nerf. To be more competitive in Nerf, the sporting side of the Nerf community has been using half the length of Hasbros blasters for years. In fact, nearly all players at my last Nerf War had at least one short dart blaster.

Modern short darts by brands such as Worker and Dart Zone fly so well you can hit everything you aim for. These darts are also very affordable, at around 8 to 10 cents per dart compared to the 15-21 cents that you'll pay for a Hyper ball.

You don't have to purchase the 3D printed blasters that we showcased here to start, as Dart Zone, a new competitor, makes it easy to play short darts. For the same $40 youd pay for Hasbros Hyper Siege-50, you could hit up a Walmart for the similar pump-action-shotgun-esque Dart Zone Conquest Pro instead, and have 15 darts that actually fly where you aim them with just as much power and without the feeding issues. You can buy a pair or 100 more darts for $10, as opposed to the $12 price (on sale!). For 50 Hyper rounds, you can get a whole canister.

Although I was able keep some foes under control with the Mach 100, I also got tags with the other members, I spent the majority of my time wishing that I had something more reliable.

The biggest problem I don't understand about Hasbros foam-flinging strategy, is why it allowed this competition to go unchecked instead of making better darts. Nerf popularized the foam dart 29 years ago. However, the competition's short darts and full-length darts fly better than any Hasbro projectile. Maybe it's for safety or fun. I do recall a time when darting darts Matrix-style was an enjoyable part of the game. Walmart is happy to sell Dart Zones that are more powerful and precise blasters and doesn't require safety glasses.

Perhaps Hyper will be our surprise, but after the slow start and the forgettable Ultra 2.0 and Elite 2.0 lines of Hasbro (both which performed worse than other blasters in a variety of ways), I hope Hasbro will reconsider how it can compete.