Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Stock Class Ammo Roundup [HIGHLY OBSOLETE]

Warning: This is not current information. 1.5 years is geological timescale in terms of superstock.

In this post I will attempt to make sense of the various options available to the player. As OldNoob said, we are in the golden age of darts, and what to buy can be confusing at times - yet with the field slowly wising up about ammo, staying current and not shooting junk is ever more important to success on the field.

My goal is not yet to put up a wall of data. That has been done, by the likes of Blasterlabs and BAN, with tables of masses, chrono numbers, balance information and general observations. What I want to do is address practical use and my experience in the field. The data is coming in v3 and beyond, and I will be posting about accuracy test procedures separately in the future as well.

Also, this post is solely about .50 (12.7 mm) caliber, full length (72mm), darts with tips of equal or lesser diameter than the foam. These are used in stock class magazine-fed applications, and are the only place posts like this are called for.

Part 1 - Dart Information

Here darts are scored on six basic parameters: accuracy, range, cost, reliability, quality, and convenience. These are plotted on a radar chart, which turns magnitudes of variables into distances along a plurality of axes, creating a unique polygonal visual to represent a combination of characteristics.

Included are the links to the review posts - for your online darts, the seller link is in there, as is the chrono shoot.

Hasbro Standard Elite

Mass: 1.0g (NOM), 0.9-1.1g (Typ)
Bore Match: .500"/.530" (Typ.) (Spring/Airgun)
Long Barrel Compatible: Avoid
Average Cost/round: 0.27 USD

QC Score: 4
Reliability Score: 2
Range Score: 5
Stability Score: 3
Convenience Score: 5

Review Post: None

We are all familiar with the Elite. They are the standard usually used to chronograph guns for modding and safety reasons. You get a little packet of them with every Nerf brand gun, they are available anywhere, and most casuals and even fairly serious players use them. There is not a modern nerfer alive who plays stock class and hasn't shot Elite before. In some ways these have excellent design and quality, but they are a mixed bag, and definitely not recommended for serious players - they are like Walmart-variety airsoft BBs.

The tip consists of a short core/"squib" attached to a hollow dome, both composed of molded thermoplastic elastomer. Foam is quite un-noteworthy, and while it is consistent in size, it is not of great durability. Tip bonding is excellent, however. Ballistically, the Elite is the standard 1.0g mass used in modern stock class, which is well matched to sub-150FPS applications. Range is generally good. Elite is a nice shooting dart, like its ZombieStrike cousin.

The shortfalls of this round are twofold: one, it is extremely lacking in accuracy at anything over about 80FPS, so that range goes somewhat to waste; and two, most serious of all, reliability is average on new ammo and poor once use takes its toll. The tips are extremely tacky rubber, and are amazingly good at sticking to mag bodies and feed system components and causing jams. The foam contributes, by rapidly losing its rigidity and readily crushing from follower pressure. Elite is a round that will get you tagged/shot a lot and tends to end in colorful language being used ahead of its name.

A consideration some of you old veterans may be familiar with is that of the tip code. Hasbro ostensibly has multiple production lines or plants for darts, which each have their identifying letter that is molded in somewhere on dart tips they produce. End result, not all blue Elites are created equal.

L-R: A, T, W, Early J, Late J, K.

There are subtle differences in the compounds used, the foam durometer and the like. However, nowadays, Hasbro has their act mostly together and are making almost the same darts - code shopping is a thing of the past. Only one major consideration with tip codes makes itself clear to me: K-code is the worst of them all for reliability in the past, and lately, if you buy Elite it will be K-code.

Conclusion: 'Leets are for noobs! Use Elite in your revolvers, shotguns, and single-shots; and use it as much as you want for testing and casual games. Hell, use it to deliberately cause malfunctions in training, so you can practice recovering and transitioning. You probably have a lot of it that you get with guns or pick up on the field and don't want - I do.

Just don't use it where it matters unless necessary, and don't go out of your way to buy it - especially with it being among the most expensive ammo out there at 27 cents a round in bulk, and 33 cents in 30-packs.

Hasbro Elite Universal Suction

Mass: 0.9g (NOM)
Bore Match: .500"/.530" (Typ.) (Spring/Airgun)
Long Barrel Compatible: Avoid
Average Cost/round: 0.33 USD

QC Score: 5
Reliability Score: 4
Range Score: 1
Stability Score: 5
Convenience Score: 5

Review Post: Initial

This was a somewhat innovative product introduced to replace suction micros in Hasbro's dart line and combine suction tips with maggability. They don't happen to deliver on the suction aspect very well - but what we care about is everything else.

These get slightly nicer, denser foam than Elite, and due to the tip design, are extremely stable even at the extreme end of superstock velocities. Their accuracy is legendary - and otherwise, they are a solid, trustworthy dart with good reliability and build quality.

The shortfalls are range, flywheel durability, and cost. The low mass and draggy tips make them fall right out of the sky; I was barely getting 60 feet flat before they hit the ground when shooting 120FPS from shoulder height, and downrange velocity was correspondingly lower than many other darts. The rebated tip design means flywheels burn the foam down rapidly and after a few shots you aren't going to have consistent velocity anymore, and that is a shame, since they cost 33 cents a pop, in line with the longer-lasting and farther-flying ZombieStrike Elite.

Conclusion: These have their place - absolute maximum accuracy you can buy at any box store. My rule of thumb for their range problems is that if you would play a game with a factory 70FPS gun, you will be fine with these - just don't expect your hotter guns to have all their reach when shooting them.

Hasbro ZombieStrike Elite

Mass: 1.0g (NOM), 0.9-1.1g (Typ)
Bore Match: .500"/.530" (Typ.) (Spring/Airgun)
Long Barrel Compatible: Yes
Average Cost/round: 0.33 USD

QC Score: 5
Reliability Score: 4
Range Score: 5
Stability Score: 3
Convenience Score: 5

Review Post: Initial

Ah yes, the classic competition grade superstock dart. You have probably heard of them, and heard the hype.

These are a close relative of the pedestrian and annoying Elite dart - they are a rebranded version in different colors. The tip design is identical, and for the most part, so are the ballistics when in new condition. The difference is that these, for reasons unknown, get perceptibly stiffer and tougher foam and slicker tips, and better assembly quality with less stray glue. The results, namely a low malfunction rate and long-lasting sweet-shooting performance, speak for themselves. ZS Elite is the first choice of the Florida 501st for dealing with the worst HvZ situations in the Southeast.

You can count on it to be there with consistent performance, which cannot be said of any of the cheaper darts, and you can get them right off the shelf to get out of a bind. They are a cool, easily visible green color and don't tend to vanish as easily as dark blue foams.

Being Elite derivatives they do not have amazing accuracy, however, and their cost is high at 33 cents per shot. When you start getting serious with a bunch of people running these at 10rps, ZS Elite is a pain in the wallet. And the tips are still rubber, so if you don't pay attention when loading mags and let tips scrub, you will still jam.

Conclusion: Accept no substitutes. If you have to buy your ammo in a store, these ARE no more expensive than 30-packs of crappy Elite, so definitely buy them!


Mass: 1.2g (NOM), 1.15-1.25g (Typ)
Bore Match: .500"/.530" (Typ.) (Spring/Airgun)
Long Barrel Compatible: No
Average Cost/round: 0.10 USD

QC Score: 4
Reliability Score: 4
Range Score: 4
Stability Score: 4
Convenience Score: 3

Review Post: Initial (Yutoys Blue), Field Test (Yutoys Blue), Initial (BW12 Forest Green)

This tip design was created by the Chinese community as a cure to Elite's accuracy problems about a year ago, and put into mass production and factory-direct sale. By eliminating the hollow dome and replacing it with a phalanx of soft rubber bristles that absorb impact energy just as well (or even better, based on pain comments) and put more mass close to the aerodynamic front surface, the koosh dart offers greater stability.

The Achilles' heel of the koosh dart has historically been quality control. Reports of undersize foam and poor tip bonding plagued the dart in its first year. Many of these were associated with the early production koosh, which had a slick, vinyl tip and came with extremely weak glue. These have been superceded by a second dart with a rubber tip and better bonding, and most foam diameter problems have been eliminated.

There are two main popular eBay sellers from which to obtain them ("beautifulwoman2012" and "yutoys"). Nowadays, both stock newer-production darts. I prefer yutoys and have received the most consistent and good quality darts from this seller. My most recent batch as of a month or two ago has had no glue failures and no objectionable amount of excess glue. BW12 offers a number of foam colors. Unfortunately, some of the foams are poor quality. Avoid the "black green" (forest green) and orange, which are weak, soft and undersize. The black is poorly known and has one report of inaccurate darts (not that black foam is a good idea, you will lose these quickly). The blue, yellow, and apple green foam have been reported to be fine. Also, some darts stocked by BW12 around early 2015 had excess glue not wiped off which has to be manually removed.

Unfortunately, tip glue is still an occasional trouble source. Be prepared to glue a few tips on now and then and keep some contact cement and CA glue handy.

Performance is quite decent. The ballistics are much more tolerable than is the case with USDs; range is decent, while accuracy is far from perfect but far superior to Elite at 50' plus. Count on hitting human-sized targets there. Reliability is on par with ZS Elite and other common choices. The better types of foam are comparable to Elite. Flywheel wear problems are greatly reduced as compared to the USD.

Conclusion: The koosh is a solid choice at 10 cents per round and gives a substantial ballistic edge over Elite-shooting opponents.

Voberry "High Quality"

Mass: 1.4g (NOM)
Bore Match: .530"/.???" (early); .500"/.530" (Typ.) (Spring/Airgun)
Long Barrel Compatible: Avoid/Unknown
Average Cost/round: 0.09 USD

QC Score: 4* (*Watch out with eBay sellers)
Reliability Score: 5
Range Score: 4
Stability Score: 3
Convenience Score: 3

Review Post: Initial, Field Test

This dart derives its name from the company that popularized it, at which point it was sold on Amazon. The tip is Elite/Streamline-like, but is composed of a slick compound, heavier, stiffer, and has a longer core. Being a 1.4g mass, these shoot differently than your standard 1.0g, and you will lose a few FPS. Accuracy is somewhat questionable - these shoot a bit like Streamlines, but in my opinion and others, their behavior and practical accuracy is preferable to Elite, particularly used Elite.

The darts sold through the original "High Quality" listing on Amazon have a larger foam diameter than the industry average, though they are generally compatible with stock .50 cal barrels; and have well-adhered tips. In general, experience is that these are a trustworthy dart. The foam stiffness and durability is excellent and the slick tips offer unparalleled reliability.

The same dart is also sold generically and under other names - these are the second most common "7.2 cm knockoff elite" after the notorious FVJ. This post is outdated, but covers identifying the FVJ and Voberry visually. Beware QC problems with these sellers; undersize foam and poor glue have been encountered. In addition, I have encountered these darts with overly hard (painful) tip compounds and Elitish foam in the field. These, in cold weather, can malfunction a flywheel gun (the slick, hard tip will just sit there and burn rather than being launched). Their source, however, is unknown.

Recently, a version with glow foam has been introduced for use with tracer systems. However, my point about no multi-color Voberries stands as of the time of this update. If not blue and fluorescent white only, it is probably a FVJ listing.

At 9 cents a pop with high durability, these would make great rental ammo and are ideal for HvZ service in which ballistics are secondary to reliability and being able to shoot freely.

Conclusion: As with Koosh, keep your head on a swivel, do your homework, and pay attention to community trouble reports BEFORE you buy - I cannot promise you anything about Chinese sellers - but the price point and build quality of the Voberry HQ's I reviewed are notable. You could have a lot of game time for very little money with these.

Part 2 - Why is my dart not mentioned?

There are a few rounds that got excluded from the above overviews for various reasons.

Universal Suction Clone (USC) - New and Untested

These are another Chinese dart, similar to a Hasbro universal suction. Based on the third party review here, they are magfed compatible, high-quality, and accurate, but they are expected to have the drag issues of the USD. Plus, the behavior with inner barrels is something I would question.

PrimeTime/Zuru Super/Xtreme Dart - Not strictly magfed compatible

This interesting little round (actually 2, which are extremely similar to the point I don't try to distinguish them) ships with such products as the well-hyped third party out-of-the-box chrono hero, the Dart Zone (Ummm... What?) Scorpion, and many of Zuru's recent X-shot bundles. This is a light (0.8g), EVA-padded, unstable dart with a nonstandard short foam. At 100+ fps it tends to veer severely, randomly and hilariously off target. It's a fine quality dart, if you run a springer or a flywheel gun that can handle the short foam and you are satisfied with the external ballistics, go for it.

Full Vinyl Jacket (FVJ) - Safety/field legality problems

This dart recently appeared on the market and seems to fill the shoes of the old notorious cheater-length plastic tipped junk darts. Like those cheaters, these have hard, rigid tips - though perhaps a bit less hard and dangerous from some accounts. Keep them away from HvZ and other non-eye-protection events as they are not typically considered "stock class safe". They also have foam QC problems, tending toward undersize like some koosh dart foam, and sometimes tip glue issues as well; and remember that the more rigid the tip, the worse the shock your motor bearings take on every shot. They are, however, very stable and capable of extreme accuracy. 1.3g.

Sizzliz/"Multicolor"/"4 Color" - Not strictly magfed compatible

These early aftermarket darts have foams too short (typical of first-gen cheap darts "cheating" on materials costs only to later realize the lost sales) to be a sure thing for magfed players. They are hollow dome tips, and quite safe, with decently fitting foam - but they are very inaccurate and whirlybird readily.

Hasbro 1.3g Streamline - No Longer Available

You veterans will remember the days when this dart was the backbone of stock class (before it was called stock class, or distinct from a lower mod-ness level of NIC). However, it is dead and gone. Plus, even at its best, such as the legendary W-code Whiteout and Firefly tracer, it was inaccurate as hell - about like used elites. Or worse.

Part 3 - It's about the player, not the dart!

Here we move from analyzing products to analyzing needs for products - plotting them with the same radar charts using the same basic parameters as before.

I consider stock class nerfers to be broken down into 3 categories:

  • HvZ Players - play Humans vs. Zombies, and other long-term, scenario games, usually with dire consequences for a mistake or failure; and tend to be using guns against melee opponents in close quarters. Tend to be decently dedicated and willing to buy ammunition online.

Range and accuracy are lesser concerns due to the nature of engagements - but reliability is of extreme importance, and as to quality, there isn't much room for bullshit at all. You don't want to take risks ordering potentially flaky ammo from a sketchy seller, but the benefits are highly tempting. Cost is a major but not extreme consideration, as while more ammo is the name of the game and broke college students like me are typical demographics, recovery rates are relatively high (with zombies usually policing darts as they play and event organizers typically helping return darts to their owners). Convenience is still a consideration, as sometimes ammo is an urgent need and you have to turn to the big box store.

Recommended Ammo: ZombieStrike Elite, Koosh

  • Superstock Players - play force-on-force games, similar to airsoft or paintball games; refers to the serious players of such gametypes, inclined to use upgraded/high-end guns and significantly invest in gear. Often crosses over with HvZ playerbases.

Since enemies now shoot back and most fights happen at 40-50+ feet, range and accuracy are prime considerations. Reliability and quality standards can be relaxed slightly, as you can typically just respawn if you jam and die and games seldom last more than an hour; which is annoying, not life-altering as in "two respawns per year" HvZ. Convenience is ratcheted down a notch, as most players are even more serious about gear than HvZers and can plan ahead an online ammo purchase. Cost is of maximum importance, as you typically do the most shooting when fighting ranged opponents, you usually play more games than you play HvZ missions, and many common scenarios can see darts go hurtling off into the abyss never to be seen again.

Recommended Ammo: Koosh.

  • Casual Nerfers - These are "everyone else". Office warriors, collectors, fans, enthusiasts, children, parents... Mostly, these guys don't mod or use 100FPS+ guns, don't shoot as much, and don't demand as much from their gear. They don't have the room to benefit from optimum range, or have a need for real-steel-esque reliability, but they do want consistent, accurate darts that work without hassle. An online ammo order is probably a big deal and brick-and-mortar availability is a huge plus.

Recommended Ammo: Universal Suction, ZombieStrike Elite, Standard Elite.

In Conclusion

As you can see, there is a lot to the stock class ammo field.

While I have my reservations about low-cost bulk dart suppliers, do not be afraid of them. The koosh in particular has emerged as a contender and continued gaining superiority in the superstock world as its issues are solved. Nowadays, I shoot koosh for every gametype, and the only reason I shoot anything else is that I have other junk ammo to burn and not enough koosh.

I do greatly look forward to shooting and testing the new K-Force. This dart has the potential to really shake things up.

Update - 04-17-15 - Edited, updated koosh and voberry section, added USC link


  1. Replies
    1. I wish I could plus one this. Exactly how I feel too. Very well done.

  2. Definitely sharing this with the Tactical Tag page. Awesome writeup.

  3. I found this disappointing. Very little mentioned on the orange streamlines and the chinese knock-off blaster darts and suckers. And nothing mentioned on any of the older darts like Whistlers, camo Whistlers, Suckers, or the variety of compatible BuzzBee darts.

    I've still got hundreds of the old darts (read, pre-elite stuff) and the variety of nerf-compatible BuzzBee darts, and i'm sure most nerfers do. Why ignore them?

    1. This post is aimed at active players intending to buy ammunition. Darts that cannot be presently obtained in quantity for a reasonable price, then re-obtained during the foreseeable future, are irrelevant. Existing populations of obsolete darts are not a viable source of resupply and the only users of those are going to be those who own them already, hence no need for a review.

      A typical HvZ or stock class player, for reference, fires many thousands of shots on the field and must replace several hundred darts per year. We are not dealing with mere handfuls of darts counting for anything, or with darts lasting more than a year at absolute most.

      In addition, streamline is quite worthless at useful velocities nowadays. Mostly, all it does is whirlybird. You may find it NOS on ebay or in some dusty old store, but I do not recommend anyone buy it. There are much better rounds for the price.

      Micro darts (i.e. the Buzzbee suctions and Sonics you mention) are outside the scope of this post, which is directed at **magazine-fed** players. For several reasons (including inherent high stability of all the micro designs on the market, and lack of reliability concerns with the revolving and muzzleloading guns that shoot micros), there is no need for a post of this scale. Micro applications have also been phased out along with the darts by Hasbro Nerf itself, and a lot of serious players follow, and use magfed-compatible ammo in their pistols as well. So, the micros are a minor concern.

      I have reviewed some micros individually in the past, and may do a test shoot (with upcoming accuracy data) for the Buzzbee micro. In addition I have old stock of W-code Whiteout Streamline and may do a review and test shoot of those too, for historical interest alone.

    2. Noted, however i disagree that their being old and generally difficult to source (if not impossible) means there is no need to review them. Many older Clip System blasters are either not compatible with Elite darts or just don't perform as well (when the blaster is unmodified).

      Also, this post has much more potential than simply being restricted to CS compatible darts and written towards HvZ players. Even as a HvZ player though, myself and many HvZers i know avoid relying on mag-fed blasters due to the amount of time taken to scavenge darts and refill those mags during long-running matches. Front loaders are more efficient as they are easily topped up from a pouch of loose darts as you walk or jog. The downside being the "zombies" can see better than you how many shots you have left.

      My point being, front-loading blasters are very viable HvZ blasters, and there are non Nerf branded darts that perform quite well in these, such as the [url=http://www.mrtoys.com.au/?Outdoor-Sports-Gyms-Pool-and-Water-Toys/Dart-Guns-And-Target-Games/Air-Warriors-51-Foam-Darts-Refill-Pack;Item;19700&gclid=COueqPrbxMICFUJvvAodObUAFw]Buzz Bee Air Warriors suckers[/url]

      I also disagree with your assertion that the cheap Chinese darts often sold with the knock-off's are inferior or generally difficult to source. One look on Ebay will show they are easily and cheaply available in bulk quantities, and for blasters which would benefit from a slightly larger diameter foam these are excellent. I personally used to use a Photon Storm (the one that looks like a M4a1, and which these darts are supplied with) for many events, and it proved superior to the semi-automatic Nerf brand flywheel blasters available at the time.

    3. Look, I understand there is a fairly major difference of opinion and attitude between us, and I am guessing it has a lot to do with the level of competition and seriousness in your locale, but from where I view the stock class and hvz community, which is central Florida, USA, the hobby has moved on years ago from some of this stuff and the level of performance it offers.

      That includes Streamlines, and old gate-pushback Nerf magfed springers. All phased out years ago, because modern stuff (stock guns, upgraded guns, darts...) absolutely flattens them in every imaginable way.

      "...and written towards HvZ players. ...myself and many HvZers i know avoid relying on mag-fed blasters due to the amount of time taken to scavenge darts and refill those mags during long-running matches. Front loaders are more efficient as they are easily topped up..."

      HvZ and stock class players.

      Why try to make this into a "magfed versus load-on-the-fly" argument? That is outside the scope of this post, but I do have some scavenging related stuff for the future.

      I'm catering to player needs. Most serious stock class and HvZ players use magfed equipment. Also, magfed equipment is where all the reliability and accuracy-tradeoff concern comes from. With muzzleloaders, any dart that seals the barrel will fire, and nearly any micro dart (including that Buzzbee suction) can be dead-nuts accurate at stock class velocity. Plus all the micro darts on the market now are a sure choice. There is _no need_ for an exhaustive post - if you are a user of revolvers and muzzleloaders and a buyer of micro darts, it's a very simple matter.

      I will look into the "knockoff" darts - but you are the first to ever speak in favor of them. Mostly I hear about poor quality and undersize foam, whirlybirding, inaccuracy, short foam length, poor range, hard tips etc. and at best I have heard people call certain of these darts Streamline clones. Most of them seem to be unchanged since 2010. Do you have a specific dart that you think could be useful to a modern player?