Monday, March 25, 2013

The Flywheel Debate: Part 1

Flywheel Driven blasters have been around for awhile, but they're still pretty new to the Nerf lineup.  With the Barricade's successful release in 2010, they've released more blasters using this simple firing system.  These blasters, like the Rayven, Nitron, and Stryfe, have also been successful on shelves.

Haters are always gonna hate, though.  There are clear advantages and disadvantages to having a Flywheel-based system.  I figured, now that we're a few years deep into the Flywheel System with Hasbro's Nerf blasters, we could break down the obvious features of the Flywheel that make some folks adore them and others want to give them a bath in Kerosene.
The Cons:

  • Noisy!  Flywheel Motors tend to emit a lot of sound.  Not only does this kill any stealth you may want to achieve during a game, but it can also distract the user from others approaching.
  • Less Mod Potential.  Most Flywheel driven blasters are limited by what you can do to increase performance.  Voltage Modifications lie at it's core, and there's a limit to what you can do, especially if you don't want to burn out the motors.
  • Wheel Lag.  When you first start up the blaster, the flywheels need to get up to top speed, which can shave a second or two off of potential reaction time in some situations.  There's also that lag between shots of recovering flywheel speed in-between each shot.
  • Semi Auto Only.  With the exception of the Nitron, Flywheel Systems haven't been designed with a Full Auto function.  It can get tiring, especially on higher capacity blasters, shelling out each dart individually.
The Pros:
  • Compact Design.  There isn't much to a Flywheel-driven system, so even if the blaster is quite large, minimization isn't too far off to help you cut it down to whatever size you need.
  • Quick and Easy modification.  As long as you've got higher voltage batteries to hook up to your Flywheel-driven blaster, it's really simple to increase performance.
  • Less Frequent Jams.  While it still happens, flywheel systems tend not to jam darts as much as others. Even darts that have been partially damaged or bent tend to at least leave the barrel (though they're usually not very accurate when they leave the blaster!)
  • Consistency.  As long as the flywheels get back up to full power after each shot, these blasters tend to have a more consistent range than other blasters.
  • Ease of Operation: turn it on and fire!  With one hand operating the blaster, your other hand is free to do other things like recover darts, fire a second blaster, or give your nearby teammate a high five.
This is only Part 1 of my breakdown of the Flywheel blasters.  Now it's your chance to weigh in on comparing the Pros and Cons of Flywheel blasters that I may not have considered.  Next week, we'll reconvene and break this down more based on your input as comments to see what it is that divides folks so much with the Flywheel blasters.

See PART 2!


  1. Awesome piece, my only criticism is that its too short!!! Rant some more :D I made a cup of tea especially for this article :P

    Brilliant piece, well thought out and btw don't forget you can upgrade the motors. Bit of a mission and something for advanced modders, but that has yielded awesome results (see Coop772 Stryfe and Bobololo).

    If it's cool with you, i'd love to share with with my readers? Oh and belated congrats on the engagement, very happy to hear it :)

    1. In case you don't know, Coop772 and Bobololo are not the originators of the motor replacement. Azrael is, and Oreo perfected it. They aren't on YouTube, so most people probably haven't heard of them. They are on Nerfhaven. Coop772 and Bobololo are mostly just copycats that uninformed YouTube whores like sucking on.

    2. Who cares dude? He was just giving an example. It seems like you love sucking on the balls of these Nerfhaven modders. See how that sounds, its just lame dude.

    3. You're more than welcome to get more folks to join in the discussion, MLD! I'm trying to get as many opinions about these blasters as possible to get a feel for where Nerfers are at with Flywheels. We know there's two sides to the coin, but I'm curious about the balance between fans and haters of the Flywheel.

    4. Just for the record...

      - The concept of a motor swap is generic. It was not originated by any of us. No one has the right to credit grab the origination of "THE motor swap".

      - There are multiple motor swaps in common use.

      - Coop DID originate one such swap, namely the use of 180 size RC motors ("stretched 130" or "helicopter motors" to nerfers). Bobololo did not, though he built a swap gun. No problem, because he doesn't claim he did originate the mod.

      - Azrael and oreo originated Solarbotics RM2 and Tamiya Ultra Dash swaps. Bobololo did not, though he built yet another swap gun. No problem, because he doesn't claim he did originate the mod.

      - I originated the Barricade motor swap, which was the first popular and successful 130 motor upgrade option.

      - A fellow HVZ guy at UF who is not active in the NIC created the first Banshee conversion using huge 300 series motors back in 2010. The lineage of these goes way back before SGnerf's failed tamiya swap, before anyone in the NIC knew a flywheel from a dumbbell.

      I think that settles all the motor misconceptions.

    5. Since the moment I purchased my first Alpha Trooper, I have never bothered to consider a flywheel design to be a valid option. But, due to a recent accident disabling my left hand almost completely, I have been reconsidering the flywheel as a valid alternative to not participating in the office NERF battles and HvZ-styled events that I was getting involved in last year. Needles to say, I'm looking forward to reading Part 2.

    6. flywheels are the best blasters when theres lots of players but sometimes the flywheels emit a plastic burning smell

  2. Flywheels certainly don't have "less mod potential" in my book. They can compete with any other stock class/HVZ type guns for velocity, and that's with stock motors being used in an entirely reliable manner. Often, that is achieved more easily and cheaply than with springers. Furthermore, no one said you have to use the "limiting" stock motors.

    Reaction time is another area where I will defend flywheels. Those powered by 130 motors will always take a fraction of second to wind up to a usable speed, but a Rayven or Stryfe (or anything else with a grip switch) with good wiring and batteries and Barricade motors is close to non-limiting. Once again, more advanced mods like my Banshee and Cyclone conversions can completely remove the reaction time. Those mods are not for everyone, but the potential is there and has to be considered to be fair.

    Overall, I would consider flywheels as moving the necessary modding from mechanical aspects of the gun to the electrical system.

    Full auto may be coming soon with the Rapidstrike.

    Noise is not that bothersome to me. While a loud revving noise may give away a shooter using a fly gun, springers have a report (especially ones that shoot as fast as the loud flywheels). It doesn't matter whether it's a screaming Rayven or a chugging Stampede, it's still loud.

    1. Excellent points! I'll have to consider all the great mods that are out there as proof debunking the "less modding potential" claim I made.

  3. The main problem that I have with flywheel guns is their noise and latency, which makes them pretty useless in indoor wars, unless you're charging someone with them, and hence, not worried about stealth. When I am in an indoor war, I often come across someone waiting behind a wall, and by the time that my flywheels spin up, they have heard me and turn the corner. (Of course, I can't have my flywheels on all the time, because people would then hear me.)

    I also don't like the way when you increase your motor speed with over-volting it or a motor replacement, it starts burning foam off the darts.

    For these reasons I prefer springers, because they can instantly fire when I see my prey, and because they do not alert my prey of my presence with their noise.

  4. The noise isn't necessarily a bad thing; if used in the proper situation, you can use it as a fairly effective distraction or intimidation device.

    1. Yes, I agree with this. For example when I rev my Rayven, my opponents take cover because they know I can start shooting at any time. This provides suppression without even having to fire a round.

      Also, my friends and I like to play at night so its harder to track darts (not using glow darts). As it is difficult to tell when a revved flywheel blaster is actually being fired, it becomes difficult to dodge the darts.

      In said nighttime battles, it is also more difficult to pinpoint where the drone of flywheels is coming from, especially when moving; where as with the report of a springer, it is relatively easy to identify the point of origin.

      As triangle suggested, it can also be a good distraction. I've effectively used a "flashlight fish" tactic where I revved the motors for a couple seconds, moved the revved them again and so on to confuse enemies and allow my teammates to complete their objective. This only worked for a short time before the enemy caught on. From the on the basic decoy was my major role.

    2. Yeah. I was intimidatin' people by usin' a barricade with a recon lite on it.

    3. There's a lot of great in-game references being made. When "Part 2" gets published, there's a lot to be said for how folks use these blasters to their advantage in actual games.

    4. When we first started the Nerf wars in our office a few years back, most of us were armed with Mavericks. We would always dive for cover when the VP would come out of his office revving his Tommy 20. There is something to be said for the intimidation factor of a flywheel.

  5. I've been pondering the noise issue and if these things can be made more quiet somehow. Noise is fundamentally transmitted by vibration, so strengthening the shell and putting some sort of grommets and maybe even a rubber (or silicon?) seal where the shell comes apart seems viable and promising, but I haven't had the free time to try it out yet. DynaMat makes a spray (used on car stereo systems to reduce vibration and improve sound) that I think would be viable, and truck bed lining may work as well.

    I have theorized that this will cause a lot more noise to come out of the barrel since the sound would basically be directed that way kind of like a speaker, so this may mean that a silencer of some sort could be effective (with something like foam rubber or other sound deadening material inside). I need to build this and see, but an actual working and effective silencer for Nerf blasters would just be awesome.

  6. I'll just put in my opinion:
    -Noise: pro/con - intimidation and fear factor, distraction/diversion, gives away position
    -Revving up: con - requires max rev for max power, rapid fire reduces range
    -No need to prime/chamber: pro - allows faster ROF (semi or full auto), wieldable with one hand which allows for greater maneuverability, multitasking (e.g. picking up darts), reduces potential for jamming and misfiring (firing mech is much simpler)
    -Battery operated: pro/con - easy to mod for higher ranges if desired, lose range over frequent usage (batteries lose charge)
    -Flywheel firing mech/electronically powered: pro/con - less complicated mechanical internals to break/damage, more electonic components that may be damaged, reliant on electronic components so loss of power renders blaster useless, can work with slightly damaged blasters, easily converted to use stefans

    There may be more points I've missed but if so I'll add another comment.

    1. The more I read folks' reactions and opinions, the more I see how complex this breakdown of the Flywheel Blasters is becoming. There's so many different sides to look at this. I think that's why I enjoy the topic so much.

  7. ok here's the kicker all blasters have cons, high powered springer's usually have limited shots (im taking rscb's and the like into consideration) they have prime time, as well as the nice noise it makes as the plunger rod hits the front, this leads to accuracy being the main money maker because after you fire they'll know where you are.
    air blasters are quieter (which i like) but there is still the noise of pumping as well as time if you're not using a 2 way pump to deal with (or compressor) and yet again usually limited shots (because we all want 100ft range).
    flywheel blasters have the noise from the beginning which is true, but its hilarious making someone run for cover when you're out of ammo+ dual wielding like a boss (btw there was a guy on nerfrev who made a tommy 20 +100ft)
    In conclusion each blaster has a noise factor its just adjusting your play and tactics to suite each noise.

  8. To clarify the mod potential a little further, upping the voltage is easier than hunting for and purchasing a compatible spring with a higher load force, and there's no need to reinforce flywheel blasters no matter what you do.

    However, if you up the voltage too much you'll burn out the motors. This is where flywheel modding gets more expensive than spring modding.

    When you have the flywheels spinning so fast, the flywheels also have less time to properly grip the darts. Modifying the flywheels themselves could remedy this. Also, stronger motors sometimes come in larger sizes than can be accommodated by the housing, so you have to cut a hole and if you don't want to have a big loud hot spinning motor sticking out of your gun you have to fashion an integrated cover.

    That said, my opinion is that they fall under the SMG classification, if compared to real life weapons. They'll get even closer if Hasbro automates the trigger pull (flywheels just push the dart into the chamber when you pull the trigger). But this could also result in higher rates of jamming, it remains to be seen.

    Weighted flywheels might reduce the energy loss caused by rapidly firing darts, but the spool lag would increase.

    I actually see the varying energy transfers that flywheels offer as a FEATURE, not a handicap. What other blaster can boast the ability to control how hard a dart is fired, other than flywheel blasters?

    1. I agree on all of your points, though I have yet to manage to burn out the motors on my Rayven and I'm using 14.4V of RC battery packs with it, with all the resistors etc removed and the only thing that bothers me about that is the "old electric heater" smell that comes out of it while revving.

  9. As a new Nerfer, I'd say there's one thing above all others that makes me prefer spring/air blasters over flywheels: the nice satisfying "thunk" or "pop" that a spring/air blaster makes as it sends off its dart. There's a nice "gunniness" (for lack of a better word) to it that's missing from a flywheel, which to me conjures up images of pitching machines and Hot Wheels tracks rather than weaponry.

  10. At the moment my favourite blaster in my arsenal is my Stryfe (orange-trigger), so I'm leaning in favour of flywheel. But when compared to a Strongarm (grey-trigger) there is a definite loss of accuracy in the Stryfe, even though it is US-grade Elite not AU-grade. As far as I know all flywheel blasters have this problem, so you may want to mention accuracy at one of the cons. I am aware that a Retaliator barrel may improve the accuracy, but I don't have one so I haven't been able to test it.

    IMHO, the fire-rate once charged makes up for the charging (spinning up the wheels) time, but it depends on how you play.

    Speaking of fire rates, the leaked Rapidstrike is meant to be full-auto and is presumably flywheel, so that can fill the dart-slinging void created by the disc-tossing Nitron.

    Oh, and flywheels and springers are all fine and dandy, but what about pressurised blasters? The Rapid Fire when used correctly can dominate multiple opponents, so I'd like to suggest you consider pre-pumped, pressure vessel blasters in the Part 2 post. It does seem like Hasbro are moving away from this firing mechanic though, I'm not aware of any that have been released since the Magstrike.

    1. I'm starting to hear a lot of feedback from other nerfers that the Rayven is actually a little more accurate than the Stryfe. Not sure why, but I've tried both and don't really feel a notable difference. Check the dart tips you're firing too. Js and Ws are some of the best you can get, while Ks and As tend to perform subpar.

      I think Hasbro should take a page from CO2 guns and create a blaster with exchangeable metal bladders. A pain in the ass to pump, but potentially good fun. Battery-less rapid fire.

    2. That could be due to the longer barrel. I just checked, my darts are Js and Ks so perhaps the Strongarm was using Js while the Stryfe had Ks, but I picked out the darts randomly so I'd assume that they would have both had a mix.

  11. I am an avid HvZ player. I personally love fly wheel blasters. My main is currently a modded Rayven. I think that one thing you missed is battery life. Over a week long game, the batteries start to drain, and the performance goes down. Also, the noise can be a pro in some situations, such as scaring off a lone zombie.

  12. I honestly think it comes down to what your tryen to accomplish and where you plan to fight it out.
    In tight hallways these flyweel guns are scary, and make the best rush guns ever, bar none. They make good hold out guns and can stop rushes dead in their tracks almost effortlessly. A spare battery or two is the only small cost to reliance, but hey pockets are made for a reason. At my college a few people rock these flywheel blasters and they have their advantages.
    Same time however, If yea hear them you can lay up an ambush, but thats all your skill. Then theres the longer distances, and 2 well placed shots can trump a rain of darts...Unless you cant hit for anything that day anyway.(It happens to everyone)
    In my opinion (that probably doesnt matter) I feel it comes down to three things. Playstyle, how you like to run. Scenario, were you are during the engagement. Familarity, need to know how your blaster likes to work if you hope to hit anyone at all anyway.
    Can't wait to see the rest of this!

  13. The main allure of flywheel powered blasters, to me personally, is the ability to fire in rapid succesion by simply pulling the trigger. With the added fact that simple modification to the blaster can propel the darts at long distances, the 'reving' sound of the blaster may be irrelevant at the distances.

    Mostly playing in team based objective game types, a sound of a blaster is easily dismissed for a team mate rather than an opposer. Carrying multiple clips while in use makes reloading tremendously less tedious than front loading (taking in account that the clips are preloaded as to crouching behind cover loading darts into your clip).

    That and the fact you can dump your darts at 90'.

  14. I'm not sure if anyone has pointed out this advantage of flywheel blasters, but it definately is a pro that you can eject a clip any time (either to reload or to check your ammo status) while with plunger blasters you have to move the boltsled back first (with the Stampede being the only exception I can think of).

    i'm not sure if it's worth being in your list, but it does change how I handle blasters...

    1. i can counter that statement with 1 title stampede ECS

  15. Here comes a long post

    Well, ‘Zook, it seems you have thrown yourself into the middle of this fray. Flywheel blasters: the “age-young” debate. Whether tis nobler in the game to have the loud screeching of fear and warning, or to keep arms of the past and observe the sea of change. Really, this debate comes down to preference. How do we differentiate? How do YOU choose?
    Quick history lesson:
    In 2010, Nerf threw its hat into the ring of existing flywheel DART blasters with the Barricade. They had worked with flywheels prior in the ball blasters. Buzzbee and Airzone had already proven that flywheel blasters worked and could have a niche in the nerfing community. Buzzbee kept things even with the URB and Tommy lines – and their derivatives. Even the Powerstrike 48 is still hailed as one of the best HVZ blasters ever due to its overwhelming storage and usage. The Barricade was Nerf’s own take on what flywheels could be, whilst taking tips from the competitors: semi-auto, circular drum to store darts, pistol/ or smaller. We now had an opportunity to actually dual wield blasters and not have to deal with the awkward priming issue.
    I personally thought all of these early designs were flawed, particularly in the ergonomics department. Some blasters were bulky with small handles, some blasters just didn’t hold well at all. The Barricade for me was simply too large to use as just a pistol.
    Then the modders came to town and changed the game. We asked, “how about we fit a clip into the barricade?” and it happened. SGNerf and others outfitted their Barricades to accommodate the existing CS system clips. SURE, let’s throw a raider drum in there. Suddenly, we had semi-auto, easy-reload, simple blasters. What was this new frontier about to lead us to?
    The answer lies in the Rayven. For many people, it came as the answer for a request to see a bull-pup style blaster. For others, it was the answer for a clip fed barricade straight from the manufacturer. It also solved many of the ergonomics issues faced with earlier blasters and was very well accepted. It also fit in very well with the existing high ROF blasters such as the Raider and Alpha Trooper. It has easily become one of the most popular “new” blasters for HVZ.
    And here we are today, the elite line taking off. The Stryfe is essentially what we have been doing for years, a clip-fed Barricade, but better. The Stryfe and Elite Rayven in stock, in use, modifications running wild, with the promise in the future of a full-auto flywheel. The Stryfe and Rayven are truly universal platforms: comfortable, adjustable, accessorizable, customizable, with all of the mods to boot. A well modded Rayven or Styfe can easily achieve 90+ feet and 100+fps. What is the NIC supposed to do with that?
    The true driving force behind the flywheel kick has been OUR demands. We essentially asked for improvements, for new blasters and Nerf responded. Maybe not in the way all of us would have liked, but they responded. High ROF, check. Semi-auto, check. Clip-fed, check. Customizable, check. Promise of Full-auto? Almost check. Nerf went the most economical way to meet our demands: they designed around simple system, that was easy to maintain, clean, and meets our needs.
    I for one have enjoyed the heck out of my new flywheel blasters. I was never really sold during the Barricade years, but when the Rayven came out, then the Stryfe and its mods? I can certainly go for that.
    Let’s keep this straight: I am a modder, and unless I can doctor up my blasters, they aren’t much fun to me. I love fiddling and playing with the internals to see what is possible. As a result, I love my flywheels because their modded forms are amazing. My Stryfe is a terror to all who meet it. My Rayven is a trusted friend and companion, with a slight ozone odor. I also plan to purchase the Rapid Strike, and give it a nice home and make over.

    TLDR; Flywheel blasters are a lot of fun. They have come a long way and are worth a look now, at least once!

  16. Did anybody mention dual weildability as a pro to compensate for some of the other cons? Dual weilding Rayvens is very functional. Dual Stryfes with Raider drums could easily rule the field for a while!

  17. this talk of dual wieldability and intimidation makes me think of when i was dual wielding stampedes, stampedes are electric plunger blasters, and still dual wieldable, it was so much fun charging in with 2 stampedes inacurate but u gotta admit a guy charging at u with 2 stampedes firing and exra mags to boot is scary as hell.

  18. At a war two days ago we were all using pretty heavily modded blasters. For one round a guy pulled out a flywheel blaster, and never got anyone as a good 100+ firing springer or air blaster can always pick off a flywheel sprinter before he can get close enough.

    1. Well he could just run faster... =P But if you're playing with heavy mods then why not crank up the voltage and get 80 feet out of it.

  19. Honestly the only thing that's a con for me for flywheel blasters is the fact that they're battery-operated. I'm a fan of manually priming blasters and the concept of blaster that only uses battery power for light beams baffles me. There's just something good about a natural, manual prime to me.

    1. I agree. I still love my Stryfe, mind you. But the manual pump is a plus IMO. I'm still waiting for the pump-once-prime-all revolver I've been dreaming of though, so for my semi-auto needs I turn to flywheels.

  20. just a 2 cent thought, has anyone seen the launch n attack dual destroyer?
    range is boasted of being 40-45ft out of box (prolly angled) but the main draw of it is it can fire 3 rounds at once and its a flywheel with a manual prime.

    imagine if you will upping the voltage so 80ft range is possible while firing 3 rounds per prime, btw it runs 36 rounds :)
    Its a true halfbreed for all intents and purposes

  21. I find flywheels to be more useful than springers when you need faster rate-of-fire. I don't bother with Trustfires since I can't buy things online, though with the spinup and per-shot slowdown I've heard about with Trustfires I think my method of strapping two 7.2V RC packs to my Rayven works pretty well, since they can provide a MUCH higher current than even unprotected Trustfires can due to their higher storage capacity. More current means the motors slow down less between shots, and take less time to spin up; it hits stock ranges almost instantly and only loses a few FPS if rapid-fired for a few seconds. It also has the intimidation factor of sounding roughly like a chainsaw while spinning up, which usually gives time to get it completely up to speed and take aim.

  22. Andy W

    The benefits of Flywheel blasters depend on three factors:
    - Player style; the NERF club a play as part used have a guy with an over voltaged Rayven and he carried two sets of dual 18 round jungle clips. He would aggressively charge at the other team and on few occasions took out the entire other team (up to 5 / 6 players). The noise produced by his flywheel blaster was not an issue, in fact as few people have mentioned already it had an intimidation factor/suppression for some players. The NERF club plays in large hall with inflatable paintball barricades.
    - Availability of darts/discs; you need a large disc/dart supply to get the full benefit of a flywheel blaster due to their rate of fire and generally lower of accuracy. Going back to the above example because our club has a large stock of darts this player could carry as many darts as he had clips to fill. If the darts/discs were not available in such large numbers his flywheel driven Rayven would not have been nearly as effective.
    - Game type; I use a Stryfe for all HvZ games and it is excellent. The rapid rate of fire, no need for stealth, ease of reloading combined with the compact size makes it the only choice. However, for a game type such as “6 shot elimination” the flywheel blasters are not a popular choice.

    I have always considered the flywheel based blasters to be the SMG of the NERF armoury. I have not used a Hailfire so cannot comment on it. What are people’s thoughts on the Vortex Nitron as it is flywheel based Blaster? It does not have the rate of fire of most flywheel based Blasters plus it has a much longer range.

    I am not sure if these NERF Blasters are worth a mention in this debate, but the Dart Tag Speedswarm/Swarmfire are automatic Blasters. I own a Speedswarm and it is an excellent blaster, good in HvZ too.

    1. Considering that they're still plunger-system blasters, they're not really part of the debate of how folks feel about flywheels. Although IMHO, I loathe the Speedswarm for ever inch of it's poor mechanical design, the other 7/8ths of your report is more than refreshing to hear your accounts of actual gameplay!

  23. flywheel blasters can have a very good firing rate, but the quicker you fire the accuracy and range drop remarkably.

  24. Flywheels can't 'dry fire.' That's one of my favorite features. Pulling the trigger when the blaster is 'primed' (motors spinning) and has no dart in the chamber doesn't hurt it, even if it is highly modified.