Hello one and all. Welcome to a new feature here on Foam Dart Goodness – blaster theory. In these posts we’ll be looking at a common thread between a number of blasters and analyising it to better understand it. Why would we want to do that? Because by understanding these basic principals, we can apply these theories to any other new blasters that come out in the future. Step-by-step walk throughs are all well and good when you’re new to the hobby, but to learn things yourself you will have to step out on your own and try things for yourself. Hopefully this series will give you the courage/information to have a go at something new.
With all of that said, today we’re going to be looking at Air Restrictors, or AR’s for short. Specifically we’ll be running through what they do, why they exist, how they work, and why we want to modify them. Sound good? Good, lets get to it!
Typically found in spring powered blasters, air restrictors, as their name suggests, restrict the flow of air. Rather than having an open passage for the air to freely flow through, the AR places a series of plastic restrictions in the way. Think of it like putting a turn-style in the exit of a stadium; everyone leaving has to slow down as they head through the turn style.
Why would a blaster manufacturer ever want to do this? Surely this just deceases the power of the blaster? Well, it does decrease power. With the air having to slow down as it heads through the chamber, it eventually hits the dart with less force than if it had an uninterrupted path. Many people seem to think that this is reason enough for manufacturers to install AR’s in the first place; to de-power the blaster so kids don’t hurt themselves with it. While that is a noble idea, to me it doesn’t quite add up. If that was their goal, surely it would be easier and cheaper just to use a weaker spring.
Instead, I would propose that blaster manufacturers install AR’s in their blasters to dramatically improve their longevity. Because the air has to slow down as it leaves the plunger tube, we end up with a small pocket of compressed air sitting immediately behind the AR. Which while still relatively hard, this pocket of air is significantly softer than the hard plastic at the end of the plunger tube. This then protects plunger tube, stopping the plunger head hitting the end of the tube with it’s full force. Yes the power decreases slightly, but if you’re an average 12yr old, the longevity is far more important to you than an increase in power, even if you didn’t know about it.
So how do AR’s work? Well that varies from blaster to blaster but mostly they work via a sprung plug that fills an opening between the plunger tube and the breech/muzzle. Lets have a look at the AR from the Nerf Firestrike as an example.
The grey piece shown here is the plug. With no dart loaded, a spring behind it pushes the plug forward, sealing the air behind it inside the plunger tube.
When a dart is loaded however, the prongs on the plug push it back against the spring, creating an opening for the air to flow forward, expelling the dart.
Here’s what the insides of it look like.
Compared with open. See? Simple, right.
One of the most common modifications promoted throughout the blaster community is the basic AR removal. The technique required varies from modder to modder, and from blaster to blaster, but the same basic principle remains the same. Remove the restriction so we get the maximum possible air flow, and therefore the maximum possible power, through to the dart. As we mentioned above, removing this restriction will remove the possibility of the cushioning pocket of air forming within the plunger, which will decrease the life of your plaster. But we all know this; modifying decreases the life of your blaster – it hits harder, but will die faster.
A somewhat dodgy method, yet still quite effective, is shown below. Here the plug has been removed and the dart peg broken, so the air flow will be significantly improved, but all those dags will hamper flow and decrease power.
Instead, clean it up with a small round hand file. To get the most power, we generally want the biggest opening, with the last restriction, as we possibly can.
This is a Nerf Stampede AR.
Compared with a modified Stampede.
Stock Nerf NiteFinder.
The front of a stock Nerf Jolt.
A stock Nerf Jolt viewed from the plunger. Here we can see the AR (the plug) closed.
Compared with the same blaster where the AR is open.
Or with it removed all together.
A stock Nerf Retaliator.
Compared with a modded Nerf Retaliator.
A stock Nerf Vulcan.
Or a modded one.
Looking at these images, it should be quite obvious as to how an AR works. Combine that with what we spoke about above and we should now also understand why the manufacturer installs them in the first place and why we might want to remove them. This knowledge is not just relevant to one blaster, but instead practically any spring based blaster you might come across. Use it wisely!
Have fun kids.