There are as many types of Nerf darts as there are arrows in Hawkeye’s quiver. There are darts for distance and darts for quick-loading. There are suction darts and darts that glow in the dark. There’s even a dart that whistles, for when you want your opponent to both feel and hear their fate. Now, the iconic toy company has developed a dart that does perhaps the very most important thing: Go where you want it to.
That’s the idea behind the new Accustrike line, which comprises four new blasters and, more importantly, a dart that’s been totally redesigned from tip to tail. The result, as you may have surmised, is the most accurate Nerf dart to date.
If that seems like an overdue point of focus, Nerf’s customers would agree. A deadeye dart has been at the top of their wish list for a long time, says Nerf marketing VP Michael Ritchie.
“One [consumer demand] that’s come up over the last couple of years was that they wanted more precision,” says Ritchie. “There’s sometimes a perception that when you fire the dart, because it’s foam, and because of the years and years of what we’ve created, that it’s maybe not as accurate or precise as they would want it to be,” Ritchie says.
Work on Accustrike began in earnest roughly two years ago-the darts and blasters go on sale next spring-during which time the design team considered over 10 different models for the dart tip alone.
The process of going from concept to projectile isn’t all that different from any other consumer product, although bringing a Nerf dart to life does involve quite a bit more target process. Before that fun can start, though, computers have their say.
“We would start by building a better understanding of influencing factors on dart flight and built prototypes for testing,” say Nerf’s John Lallier and John Falkowski in an email to WIRED. “Then we further revised designs and used 3-D modeling to perform fluid flow analysis and wind tunnel testing on the darts.”
The most important factors to consider in an accurate dart, the team says, are altered airflow and weight distribution. That, and making sure that added stability didn’t result in a dramatic loss of distance.
“We evaluated several different dart tip designs to identify the best performance, and utilized computer dart simulation throughout the design process,” write Lallier and Falkowski. “Modeling and testing were done concurrently throughout the design process.”
The real fun starts with the real-world testing. The team fired over 3,000 darts under controlled conditions, at targets 30 feet away, and used a wind tunnel to assess in-flight performance. The end result? A Nerf dart that fills out your arsenal for when you’re in a close-quarters situation and can’t risk a miss.
And then there are the blasters themselves, each of which has an an-oriented mechanism to complement the true-flying foam ammunition. The $30 N-Strike Elite Accustrike Alphahawk Blaster leads the pack with a five-dart capacity and integrated sight. The N-Strike Elite Accustrike Falconfire Blaster has a sight as well and costs half as much, but you can only load one shot at a time (and keep two in a clip), so make it count. The Rebelle Focusfire Crossbow Blaster has a raised sight, but is mostly cool for being a crossbow. And the $10 Rebelle Truepoint can only handle one dart at a time, but it also features a focused red light that works a bit like a laser sight, which is the most pinpoint feature here.
“We looked for an opportunity to celebrate precision and accuracy in different ways with the blasters,” says Ritchie, though he concedes most of the actual targeting improvements will come from the darts themselves.
A bullseye-focus also helps Nerf live up to the aspirations of its evolving audience.
“Hitting your target, especially with the YouTube videos and the trick shot mentality, it’s even more important than ever,” says Ritchie. We have 180,000 videos that are Nerf-related, and over 95 percent of those are consumer-generated. A lot of that is inspiring kids to make their own content, which leads to an emphasis on hitting your target.”
And, if you’re at the wrong end of an Accustrike, an emphasis on perfecting your evasive maneuvers.