There's something about the stored energy potential of a rubber band that no male can resist. Even at a young age, it doesn't take long for a boy to figure out that a rubber band can be turned into a weapon. And so it was with Benjamin Stack, inventor of the Precision RBS (Rubber Band System) series of rubber band launchers, which are being billed as a superior alternative to traditional, Nerf-type foam blasters.
Ok, we've seen attempts at rubber band type blasters taking on Nerf before, even as recently as 2 years ago with the failed Tek Recon line of products that likewise used a form of ammunition that was basically a glorified rubber band. And while the Tek Recon blasters themselves were widely regarded as sharp-looking and well-branded, the universal criticism was, ironically, those round, rubbery bands used for ammunition. Every shot was nearly invisible to track, and the rounds hit with little impact over distance. In short, the Tek Recon series looked great, but simply wasn't much fun.
Which brings us back to Ben's invention, the Precision RBS blasters that will be available on store shelves in the spring of 2016. Ben's vision for Precision RBS as being a superior alternative to Nerf stems largely around the fact that Nerf blasters use poorly balanced foam darts which almost never fly straight, taking some of the fun out of using them.
It's a design flaw that Mattel has seized upon with their expanding line of BOOMco blasters and their super-accurate plastic darts, and which even Nerf has recognized is an issue (to the extent that they released their new Nerf RIVAL line of high-powered blasters with an all-new type of foam ammunition which, ironically, doesn't fly straight either).
Ben used the accuracy issue to drive the point home during a presentation he gave to toy industry veteran Alan Dorfman, President of Super Impulse USA. During the demonstration of his Precision RBS prototypes, Ben hit a target three times in a row, while darts from a Nerf blaster used for comparison were "flying left and right," according to Dorfman. That moment sealed the deal for Dorfman, who partnered with Ben to bring his Precision RBS prototypes to life.
The partnership between Benjamin Stack and Alan Dorfman has resulted in a series of three new Precision RBS blaster models, which are described by the company as follows:
The lightweight Talos holds up to 20 rubber bands in two sizes, launches up to 30 feet and includes a built-in extender for even more power when you need it. It’s perfect for quick, smooth action.
MSRP: $14.99, Ages: 8+
The Chiron has storage for up to 100 rubber bands, so you’ll never run out of ammo! Other features include the quick-loading design and a release option to separate into 2 completely different RBS Shooters, including a hand launcher. You’ll dominate your opponent with tons of ammo power!
MSRP: $19.99, Ages: 8+
Nothing surpasses the Hyperion: with pinpoint accuracy and extended range! Capacity to hold three different band sizes, with extra side storage. Plus Hyperion has an unbelievable BURST feature and can launch 14 bands at once!
MSRP: $24.99, Ages: 8+
The Precision RBS blasters aim to bring "safe and intense fun, with more ammo, more power and more accuracy than any other launchers currently on store shelves," according to Super Impulse, the company behind the new product line.
It's too early to tell whether the improved accuracy and short-range power of a rubber band gun like the Precision RBS can overcome limitations like a 30-foot range (approximately 1/3 the range of the newest Nerf models), not to mention the issue of the projectiles disappearing during flight, and the lack of mass in the bands that renders them painless over distance. The latter point being especially ironic, given that, over short distances, we expect the Precision RBS series will pack enough power to given some parents pause.
But whether the Precision RBS sets the category on fire, or whether it becomes another alternative blaster pipe-dream, the fact that inventors like Ben keep refining the basic rubber band gun certainly gives one reason to think there must be something to the idea.
At least, that's what my rubber band shooting inner 10-year-old would say.