One of the first blasters to be released under the then-new Nerf Mega product line in 2014, the Nerf N-Strike Mega Thunderbow was a large, ungainly bow with an advertised range of up to 100 feet. And while it didn't win any beauty contests, the Thunderbow hit a fairly amazing 110 feet with dart velocities of 75 feet-per-second in our tests, putting at or near the top of stock blasting performance in those two categories.
Now, for 2016, Hasbro has released the much smaller, more affordable Nerf N-Strike Mega Lightning Bow as a follow-up. But in making their Mega bow more compact, we discovered some of the original Thunderbow performance was lost, as well.
More Approachable Sized Bow
Before we dive into details regarding how the Lightning Bow did in our performance tests, it's worth talking about how Nerf has made their newest Mega bow more approachable. For starters, the Lightning Bow is significantly smaller, lighter and more well-balanced than the Thunderbow, giving it a much less intimidating appearance. It's a look we quite like, actually, even if the predominantly white-colored body initially felt somewhat left-field versus the mostly red-colored Mega products we've seen to date. We also like the clever design details like the front of the bow arm acting as a second handle for carrying and the fact that the built-in scope is exactly the right diameter to hold a spare Mega dart (in addition to the convenient clips on the body).
Reviewing the Bow
On the other hand, the Lightning Bow's minimized size and unique details mask some more significant design oversights. First and foremost, the Lightning Bow creaks and bends as the bowstring is drawn, most noticeably in the grip--it felt as though the plastic seam in the plastic body casting where the two halves come together was opening and closing slightly during each pull.
And then there's the fact that for all its compactness, the hand-grip on the Lightning Bow is huge--it's great for adult hands (possibly one of the largest grips we've ever felt on a toy), but it seems at odds with the more "Thunderbow-Lite" aspects that would otherwise have made the Lightning Bow a great option for younger enthusiasts. And then there's the (unfortunately common) lack of decoration on the reverse side of the bow, lending an "unfinished" feel to the blaster that seems out-of-character for a semi-premium brand like Nerf.
Of course, few of these details would carry much weight if the Lightning Bow managed to perform at a level similar to it's older, larger sibling. Unfortunately, it doesn't. Over a series of 20 shots, we averaged a dart velocity of just 58 feet-per-second, with a high of only 67 feet-per-second (this is usually where Nerf products average), and a low of an abysmal 36 feet-per-second. Contrast that with the Thunderbow, which averaged a significantly healthier 75 feet-per-second. However, we found that, unlike some string-touting blasters like the Thunderbow, the Lightning Bow's performance was indeed affected by the draw of the bowstring (the upper portion of the string is fixed, but the bottom, which runs back up and through the handle, is not).
The more we drew back on the string back, the faster the darts would fly (up to a point). And we also noticed that, unlike the Thunderbow which exhibits a slight firing delay, the Lightning Bow fires immediately upon string release--even if that release isn't at full tension. In other words, the Lightning Bow functions more like a real bow, and is not a re-shelled Mega BigShock, nor is it fair to call it a scaled-down Thunderbow. This semblance of authenticity, however, does not translate to improved performance.
Some blasters we test look and feel pretty cheap, but perform way beyond expectations. Other blasters don't perform so well but are still really fun to use (and look cool doing it). The Nerf N-Strike Mega Lightning Bow falls somewhere in the middle. The compact size and overall look is appealing but is betrayed by a flexing body and a lack of deco on one side.
Similarly, the meaty hand grip was enjoyable for adults to hold, but is borderline too large for kids. Likewise, the real bow action is cool--and we're happy to see it's not simply a re-shelled Mega BigShock--but the actual performance of the Lightning Bow is mediocre for a modern blaster (not to mention the fact that the string snaps back and hits the user's wrist at every pull, which gets tiresome). And that all leads us to say that while we liked how the Lightning Bow looked and felt, it's lower-tier performance and quirky character traits kept us from ever feeling truly enthusiastic about it. It's an interesting product to have as part of a larger collection, but more for its unique design than for how much fun it is to actually use.
- Much more compact--and significantly cheaper--than Hasbro's other Mega bow
- Unlike many "faux bows," this one has realistic drawstring action
- Nice look and feel, with clever design touches
- Somebody flexing and creaking upon drawstring pull, along with a lack of deco on the reverse side betray typical Nerf brand attributes of semi-premium quality
- Handle may be too large for children; drawstring snaps against wrist on every pull
- Sub-standard performance for an Elite-level product (much less Mega)