Shot-BladeReview date: 13 January 2003. Last modified 03-Dec-2011.
The "flying disc gun" is a distinct genre of toy. A lot of them have come out over the years. Some shoot mini-Frisbees that pop out from between sprung jaws like a watermelon seed pinched between your fingers. Some are semi-auto. And there are full-auto electric versions as well.
All of them have absolutely atrocious accuracy. This may be associated with their apparent ability to open a one-way portal to another dimension, which is where their ammo goes, at least one shot out of three.
And then, there's this.
It's called a Shot-Blade.
The Shot-Blade's a monster compared with every other spinning-thing gun I've seen. It's about 46cm long (18 inches), and it weighs about 655 grams (1 pound, 7 ounces). And it looks like a Star Trek riot gun.
(OK, arguably that position's been filled already, but the Shot-Blade is safer to play with indoors.)
Or maybe the Shot-Blade looks more like the last thing a triffid ever sees.
Either way, it's got the average plastic ray gun beat.
I'm told that for "contractual reasons", the almost identical Shot-Blade page on RLT's BackyardArtillery site lists the Shot-Blade for five bucks less than it costs at shotblade.com. It's on special on its BackyardArtillery page, but not on the other one. If you actually order a Shot-Blade from either page at the moment, though, you'll get it for the reduced price - $US24.95.
If you're reading this a while after I wrote it, the Shot-Blade may be back up to its $US29.95 list price. Extra packs of 30 ammo-thingies will cost you $US4.95. All prices exclude shipping, but RLT don't charge outrageous amounts for delivery.
Even at $US30, the Shot-Blade is good value. It's easily the best disc-gun-type toy I've ever played with.
How it works
The Shot-Blade's mode of operation is simple, but it's got a surprisingly refined mechanism.
To cock it, you rack the front slide back, and then let it return. This stretches a beefy spring inside, which is attached to the blade launching mechanism.
When the gun's cocked, you can drop a blade onto the hexagonal peg that's now appeared at the back. Now aim, pull the trigger, and you'll create a satisfyingly loud noise as you send the blade spinning out into space.
The Shot-Blade spins its projectiles very quickly, but it doesn't actually shoot them terribly fast. I clocked level shots at around seven metres per second, for the first seven metres at least. The rapid spin means the blades hold their speed as well as a flying disc, though, so you can get surprising range out of them if you shoot carefully.
(I accidentally put the blade in the above picture on the peg upside down, by the way. The blades are flat on the bottom and curved on the top, to generate lift. The "Bernoulli effect" as far as wings go may be largely nonsense, but spinning flying toys often depend on curved-top, flat-bottom airfoils.)
A generous 30 blades come with the Shot-Blade. My review unit had them in this neat little plastic box with belt loops on one side, but the current production run apparently only gives you a plastic bag. Live with it.
The three-winged blades have a lot of lift. Aim upwards and they come back, just like the lightweight tri-blade "beginner" boomerangs they resemble. Aim at an angle and you can shoot a three-winged blade around a corner.
The more ferocious looking five-winged blades curve less drastically, and weigh more, so they're a better choice for long range shooting. They also stand a decent chance of hooking onto a net target, though all you get with the Shot-Blade is a fold-up cardboard target.
All of the blades are very light and present bluntly curved edges to anything they hit, so it's pretty darn hard to hurt someone with a Shot-Blade. Get shot in the eye at close range and you may be unhappy for some time, but generally speaking this thing's only slightly more dangerous than a ping-pong ball gun.
Once the Shot-Blade's cocked, the front handle's returned by a weak second spring, which can't overpower the rubber band I'm using here to keep the handle back. The Shot-Blade's actual draw weight is a few kilograms, though; a little kid couldn't work it. Which is probably just as well.
I held the front handle back for the above picture so you could see the safety interlock on the front of the Shot-Blade. The interlock locks the trigger whenever the front handle isn't all the way forward, so you can't fire the gun with the handle positioned to be struck by the launching mechanism. This is a neat feature.
There's also a push-peg safety catch behind the trigger. The peg was hard to move in the Shot-Blade I got for review, but it'd loosen up with use. And, again, a stiff safety is actually a good thing if you want to prevent tiny fingers from getting mashed by your toy.
The Shot-Blade also, by the way, comes with an adjustable shoulder strap that clips onto the loops on the ends of the gun. The strap can be extended to a generous 120cm or so (four feet), so it's quite useable by adults.
The Shot-Blade feels sturdy when you use it. I wondered whether it was actually solidly built inside.
It's entirely held together by good old fashioned steel screws; no glue, no clips.
The main firing assembly, with its chunky main spring and an impressive set of black rubber buffers to stop the gun knocking itself to pieces.
The launcher sled's peg is pushed down by a ramp inside the Shot-Blade's body at the end of its run, to release the shot. The side of the launcher peg has gear teeth on it...
...which engage this rack on one side of the gun's body; that's what spins up the blade.
The rack's made of rubber, so anything that jams the peg's rotation shouldn't do much harm.
Reassembling the Shot-Blade was rather harder than taking it apart, for reasons which should be familiar to anyone who's tried tinkering with mechanisms that involve springs. It wasn't a nightmare, though, so anybody who needs to open their Shot-Blade to remove the spaghetti their toddler fed into it should be OK.
The whole Shot-Blade launching mechanism is massively overbuilt, when you consider the ammunition it's firing. The boomerang blades are about 6cm tip-to-tip and only weigh about one gram, and the 7cm-diameter "spider" blades weigh about four grams. Perching one of these featherweight blades on a great big aircraft-carrier-catapult sled of a launching platform that's accelerated by a hefty spring, and then sinking almost all of the spring's energy into the rubber buffers at the end, is about as efficient as using a giant four-wheel-drive vehicle to transport one small human around a city.
But the Shot-Blade launching system achieves two things.
One, it feels bad-ass.
Clack-clack! Sproing-WHAM! Yeah!
Two, it spins up the blade it's launching in a predictable way every time. This means the Shot-Blade, unlike every other disc-gun, is actually somewhat accurate. With a bit of practice, you can shoot boomerang blades with one hand and catch them with the other, without moving. Well, as long as the wind's not blowing.
So - it's solid, it looks cool, it shoots fairly straight, and it feels a lot more dangerous than it actually is.
At $US30-odd plus shipping, the Shot-Blade's a great toy. Highly recommended.
Here's my first toy-guns-and-stuff review.
And then, there's these.