I have a little experiment that I want the reader to conduct the next time you go to a Nerf war. When you’re at the venue, close your eyes mid-game and listen to the sounds around you. Does the whirring drone of flywheels drown the rather subdued click-click-bamf of springers? If yes, you’re not alone in witnessing the downfall of the springers across playgrounds, offices, colleges and apartments. There’s no argument that super-stock flywheel blasters have changed the Nerf game to a level at which springers fall short in almost every aspect. People would rather just spam the opponent with a volley of darts than take shots from afar. Nobody has the patience to repeatedly prime the blaster while hiding under cover when they can just hold a Stryfe above their heads and shoot away. The flywheel system had the springers on the ropes, or so it was until the Sentinel was released.
Now I know nobody is a stranger to the Sentinel’s incredible stock performance and compatibility with Nerf darts and magazines. Sure, any Nerf springer can be souped up to perform better, but it wasn’t just about the performance. What mattered more (to me, at least) was that Buzz Bee, the budget blaster brand nobody really compared with the industry standard of Nerf, had made a blaster so good that it instantly became a crowd favourite. Not only that, they continued to belt out great blasters like the Brute, the Snipe, the Destiny and the newly released Thermal Hunter and Monorail blaster. Everyone loves an underdog, and the Sentinel not only represents the resurgent spirit of springers in the community, but also Buzz Bee in general. Let’s get on with the review!
The Buzz Bee Sentinel is part of the Ultra Tek series launched in 2015. Most Ultra Tek blasters feature compatibility with Nerf darts and magazines and have similar range claims as Nerf Elite blasters, only difference being that they actually achieve said range claims. I bought this blaster from Toys R Us in Singapore, where it retails for about SGD 20.
Inside the box is the main blaster, an 8 dart clip and 8 Buzz Bee flat head darts (more on that later). European and Asian market releases have the name Rapid Tek instead of Sentinel on both the blaster and the box, but the blaster is the same.
First Impressions, Aesthetics and Ergonomics
Now the blaster is well-sized for its role as a primary springer class blaster, but its proportions are completely thrown off by the ridiculously tiny stock that is actually 50% of the handle. A lot of people have criticized Buzz Bee and other off-brand blaster manufacturers on their design choices and materials used, and their criticisms aren’t completely unfounded. The quality of plastic is definitely a notch below Nerf’s plastic, and the bendy snap-on pieces and stickers diminish the aesthetic appeal of the Sentinel. What I do appreciate is the colour choice, subdued blues on white with blazing orange and tidbits of grey lends it an austere look, something that represents the Sentinel very well.
The functional bits seem to work well. The metal priming lever is a little hard on the back of my hand while priming but works without any hiccup, and the centre position mag-release is easy to operate with my off-hand while reloading. The unorthodox handle takes a bit of getting used to as you’re supposed to grip the priming lever as well, but isn’t uncomfortable or small. There’s a set of iron sights as well but I’ve never used them due to the tiny stock.
Performance and Use
The blaster works like any other lever-action springer. To load a mag, pull the lever down until it catches, load a magazine of your choice, prime back, and fire once. Repeat the process to fire again.
Now my 60ft test range wasn’t enough for the Sentinel’s far flying shots, and the playground near my house is soggy and muddy due to rain. So the below mentioned range tests are only parallel to ground. In all honesty, that’s all you need to know to get an idea of the Sentinel’s incredible performance.
The blaster was fired with 10 darts, 3 times from shoulder height. Darts used were slightly used Buzz Bee flat head darts. The results are an average of the 3 tests with high, medium and low shots being split 3-4-3.
Parallel to ground
High- 61 feet
Medium- 57 feet
Low- 51 feet
Great stock performance considering flat shots in stock Elite blasters usually top out at around 50 feet.
This is where the flat head Buzz Bee darts were two steps ahead of Elite darts. These darts have a solid rubber head, due to which their cent of mass is shifted ahead to the tip of the dart, giving it a better flight path and thus better accuracy. I could hit a 10 inch wide pillar consistently from about 40-45 feet. I wasn’t too keen on being very precise about the results as variables like wind, dart quality, temperature etc would’ve made it imprecise anyway. Nevertheless, you can expect to get at least half of your shots on the mark with the flat head darts as compared to none with Elite darts.
There weren’t any jams or malfunctions in my rigorous testing and every component worked well. The lever felt easy to use and the breech didn’t jam up on old darts. However, the air restrictor springs weren’t too fond of loose darts and pushed them out, resulting in a misfire. I only had this problem with a certain batch of new Elite darts, otherwise all the other darts fired perfectly fine. The Buzz bee darts provided with the blaster do sting a bit as they have a solid rubber head, and almost half of them have glue around their dart heads, which has been a rather consistently noted issue with Buzz Bee darts.
There are few blasters that change the game, there are even fewer blasters that bring back the game to its old ways, but there’s only one blaster that does all that and has a sub-reddit of its own, and that’s all that needs to be said about the Sentinel. Its without doubt the representation of a watershed moment in foam flinging history. Highly recommended!