At TRU today, I saw another Elite blaster that was new to me, the Rough Cut 2x4. This is the oddest-looking blaster, it's essentially a sawed-off shotgun in the back and then the front looks the old Hornet 6-shot with 2 rows of darts. The Rough Cut however is an Elite and under the "Multishot Madness" banner as well, the gimmick is that it fires 2 darts per trigger pull, and to be honest it looks a tad awkward. $20, I say too much.

At Target I saw another new Elite, the Retaliator - I hadn't seen it before, so it's new to me anyway. It's obviously the successor of the Recon, uses the same pistol design with a few changes, identical barrel, a new 12-shot clip which looks kinda not great and seems like a waste of resources to develop that instead of just include either 2 6ers or an 18, and it's sporting a new stock and a new forward grip.


Also, I had been looking for the Strongarm again and just about given up when there was 1 Strongarm out of location right as I was leaving the toy area altogether, so I bought it. $13 at Target. Fully loaded, it's 14 ounces, 2 ounces lighter than my fully-loaded Maverick. While looking like a longer blaster, the Strongarm is not even a full inch longer than the Maverick. Despite the cylinder looking much smaller, it's the same diameter to the centimeter, so I guess looks can be deceiving, the 2 blasters are the same width and their widest, but the Strongarm looks sleeker.

It looks pretty sharp, there's a lot of sculpted detail at the front simply to look nifty, and where the Maverick has a lot of sculpted flat-head screw details of differing sizes the Strongarm has hex-screw details. The Strongarm's cylinder hinge unlock button is a streamlined 3-channel design that calls back to the Maverick as well. The slide is a bit beefier than the original, although shorter top-to-bottom and there's no sculpted detail under it. The Nerf logo is on the opposite side of the slide from the Mav, as are the warning and copyright texts - the copyright date, btw, is 2011. The back of the slide and the bottom of the pistol grip both sport loops for carabiners, but I think using either would be a mistake - the slide isn't as strong as the Mav so it'll bounce around and probably ruin the slide mechanism over time, and the one on the grip a carabiner would jab into an adult's palm attached to that spot.

The right backside of the muzzle is open, this turns out to be so that your darts don't get fully ruined if they don't clear the muzzle all the way since the cylinder rotates after each shot, this is probably also why the cylinder doesn't extend past the front of the darts.

I'll be honest, in terms of use, in virtually every way this is an improved experience from the Maverick. The grip has a very slightly nicer ergonomics, without a pommel knob and various pronounced grip textures of the Mav, as well as a larger trigger guard area, the Strongarm is a more comfortable hold (although the Mav has a more rounded space for the middle finger under the trigger guard). The weight distribution is better too, the Mav is a tad too nose-heavy where this is balanced over the trigger guard. The trigger pull is a bit lighter, and it's about 2/3rds the distance; the slide distance is the same but a bit lighter as well, and unlike the Mav the Strongarm makes a clear click sound and feel when the slide is properly primed - I can't count the number of friends who have tried the Mav and had the slide not engage. The cylinder breaks from the body much further, where the Mav exposes just 2 dart chambers the Strongarm exposes twice that many with full access and you can see 5 chambers; the cylinder while broken out and spun also ratchets, and that ratcheting seems to be purely for the "clack clack clack" sound experience of spinning the cylinder as the mechanical elements are all handled by the body. Oh, and of course the Slamfire works great, I could not get it to misfire or misbehave no matter how fast I pumped the slide.

With the Strongarm, perhaps the biggest functional improvements over the Maverick deserve their own section as I haven't mentioned them yet:
- the chamber load status can be seen from the back of the cylinder when broken out, when you're spinning the cylinder it's not just for pretend anymore;
- there are real sights instead of the crummy tac-rail sights on the Mav, here you not only get a V rear sight but a square U sight at the front of the slide, and an orange A front pin sight, so "building the castle" has never been easier, assuming you care about proper sighting with a Nerf blaster;
- the rear of the slide exposes a slit that displays whether the blaster is primed or not via an orange panel that raises and lowers.

Where the Maverick still has it over the Strongarm is looks with its "semi-automatic meets revolver" styling and just more detailing in general; a fully enclosed cylinder; the cylinder's outer two chambers can be reloaded without breaking the cylinder; and a cylinder that rotates with a trigger pull whether or not the blaster is primed.

These differences come down to personal tastes whether they're good or bad changes: the Maverick is louder in priming and firing; and the Mav ain't covered in digital camo pattern.

The Elite darts that come with the Strongarm are a big darker foam than the Triad darts and the 30-pack darts; the Strongarm darts' orange tips a bit duller than others. Also, one of the darts my Strongarm came with was a defect, had a mold flaw that looks like a big crack in the orange tip so it doesn't fly straight (although distance seems unaffected) - the crack gives it some visual style, but it's out.

In terms of aim, the Strongarm is so accurate that when I tested it against the Triad firing at the same target, the 2 blasters' darts hit the same spot at the same time like a V, that was darn impressive. Of course, individual dart issues create individual performance issues so since there's no barrel, only a muzzle, dart issues will have free rein to do what they want, but in general it's a straight shooter.

Overall, yes the Strongarm's not as rough and tumble-looking as the Maverick, but don't discount this blaster, it's got all of the Maverick's strengths in an Elite package and none of its performance drawbacks, all while being 2 ounces lighter and better balanced. The Strongarm also has a few features the Mav lacked, and enjoys styling cues that are direct homages to its illustrious predecessor. A definite recommend.