Remember when you had to pull back a Nerf gun's plunger and load a new dart for every single shot? That was a loooong time ago. The new Nerf Rhino-Fire rains down 50 rounds of fully automatic flying foam from its dual drum magazines and twin oscillating barrels.
What Is It?
The Nerf Rhino Fire is US$89.95 auto-firing foam dart gun, unfortunately only available at the moment through Walmart in the US. We'll keep you updated on its hopeful Australian availability as soon as we find out. Until then, just read about it and dream.
First things first: the Rhino-Fire is not exactly meant for your traditional run-and-gun Nerf skirmishes outdoors. It's a hefty blaster that requires six D-cell batteries, and it doesn't come with a strap to keep it aloft. (I added my own.) Instead, Nerf provides a detachable folding tripod, so you can use the Rhino-Fire like a swiveling stationary gun. There's even a pair of handles at the back to help you steady your shots. Just pull down halfway on the two-stage trigger to rev up the flywheels, then let 'er rip with 50 fully-automatic darts.
But unlike previous fully-auto Nerf machine guns, the Rhino-Fire actually kicks arse right out of the box. Where 2008's Vulcan couldn't shoot worth a damn, and the more recent Stampede and Rapidstrike can't reach distant targets, the Rhino-Fire has performance to match its appearance. The combination of 50 rounds of ammunition, a relatively slow thump-thump-thump-thump firing rate and a surprisingly long range actually make it a useful blaster.
Even at range, I found my foes would duck and cover when I started firing, which is exactly what you want from a stationary gun. Hunker down at the end of a corridor in a game of Capture The Flag and your foes will think twice about challenging your position.
Just don't run out of ammo, because you'll be in a world of hurt. While the Rhino-Fire is compatible with all of Nerf's standard-size dart magazines -- from the standard 6-shot clip all the way to the elusive 35-round drums that came bundled with the Raider -- the only ones you can buy a la carte hold a mere 18 darts at most. That means you only get one 50-round blitz before you need to painstakingly switch to a significantly smaller salvo.
The Rhino Strike has perhaps the longest range I've ever seen from a un-modded, fully-auto Nerf blaster, and enough ammo capacity to keep foes at bay. Carrying this into battle makes me feel like Schwarzenegger -- particularly when firing from the hip, though that requires a sling. While great as a stationary gun, though, it's not quite accurate enough (or perhaps it doesn't shoot fast enough) to assault enemy positions on the go. Even when I had a bead on foes and was definitely within range, they were often able to dodge each of my wildly erratic darts before the next one arrived.
Reloading this blaster is a pain. Why doesn't Nerf sell high-capacity drums a la carte? You also need to have two mags loaded into the blaster at any time, because it won't fire with just one. You're more or less defenseless while reloading. Like most flywheel Nerf blasters, it's pretty slow to rev up. If you immediately press the dual-stage trigger in the heat of the moment, you'll waste a bunch of ammo on sub-par shots. Even though the tripod folds up, it sticks out a bit and flops around when you run.
Should I Buy It?
If you're an adult who likes Nerf enough to even consider spending $US100 on a blaster, the Rhino-Fire is seriously worth a look. It's not always as useful as a more portable clip-fed blaster, but it's genuinely good for holding down chokepoints, particularly in games with lots of players. It feels badass to wield. Plus, the Nerf modding community worked wonders with the Stampede and Rapidstrike, so perhaps they can figure out how to increase the rate of fire and rev up faster to hit targets more easily.
If you're an adult buying blasters for a kid, though, your money is probably better spent. You can buy an awful lot of Nerf for that same $US90 without weighing down your favourite niece, nephew, or grandkid, with a giant blaster that requires picking up 50 darts, and painstakingly loading two drums, every time they want to blast someone with foam. For my money, I'd go with the $US40 Nerf Demolisher. It's not quite as badass as carting around a giant double-barrel machine gun, but its assault rifle stylings and underbarrel foam grenade launcher should make for a kid-pleasing alternative.
Special thanks to Bay Area Nerf for hosting the skirmish.