In my first post on darts, I discussed the various official Nerf darts you can buy off the shelf in stores. But as you become more invested in the Nerf world after a few wars, you start to crave better alternative ammunition.
Luckily, there’s a plethora of off-brand dart choices that are not only compatible with Nerf, not only drastically cheaper than official darts, but are in many cases of better quality! Here we will break down the options I’ve personally tested.
Most off-brand Nerf darts are supplied by a small number of Chinese manufacturers and sold by a large number of Chinese sellers online. This can make it difficult to know exactly what you’re getting. On both Amazon and eBay multiple companies often use the same set of images that may not accurately represent the real product.
Third party dart manufacturers get around patent legality issues by (apart from being based in the land of copyright infringement) changing the tips of the darts to be different enough from Hasbro’s design. The dimensions of the actual foam aren’t (to my knowledge) patent protected, so they are free to sell what they advertise as Nerf-compatible darts as long as they use their own tip design. And it’s the tip that differentiates the darts I’ll be discussing here.
But before we get into the Chinese versions, let’s talk BuzzBee. I mentioned in the Nerf sniper rifle article that the discount toy brand has wisely made both their darts and magazines cross-compatible with Nerf products going forward. This means their darts and magazines can be used in Nerf blasters, AND Nerf darts and mags can be used in BuzzBee blasters. And strangely enough despite their lower price, BuzzBee “long distance darts”, with suction tips, have slightly better flight characteristics and denser foam. They also make a MEGA-sized dart (and blaster) that they call “XL distance darts”. I haven’t used these, but I’m told they are better than official MEGAs.
If you’re looking for cheaper Nerf dart alternatives and are in the hurry (there’s a war that night), BuzzBee is a good option in a pinch. One caveat: I noticed that in some clip-fed springer blasters like my Retaliator, the feeding mechanism was taking little chunks out of the foam near the tip.
On to the Chinese stuff…
You can see the aforementioned BuzzBee long distance dart on the right. Starting from the left, we have “Koosh” darts.*
* Important note: The names assigned to Chinese darts are not official; they were created as shorthand by the Nerf Internet Community. Typically, searching online retailers for these names won’t get you anywhere.
So named for their Koosh-like bristled tips, these are the most popular alternative dart type in the Nerf community. The most reputable seller is an eBay account called Beautifulwoman2012. The foam on these is nice and firm, and while the thickness does vary from dart to dart, the overall thickness is better than official Elites, meaning the darts themselves hold their shape better and therefore fly straighter. These are among the most accurate Nerf darts on the market. They’re also available in many different colors, including Elite blue.
As you can see in the picture, the length varies somewhat dramatically from dart to dart. Loose manufacturing tolerances like this are common among all third party manufacturers. It doesn’t typically effect their usability.
However, the major flaw in Koosh darts is that the tips are often not secured very well to the body of the dart. You’ll often find excess glue in a ring around the tip, and sometimes barely any glue on the inside keeping it secure. In the last Nerf war, we found lots of these Koosh tips laying around after the battle, liberated from their foam. This can lead to some pretty nasty jams in some blasters, particularly the Crossbolt. Allegedly, the newest batches (Gen 3) currently being sold on eBay have improved tip adhesion.
Next we have Voberry. Of all the off-brand darts, these are the closest in look and feel to real Elites. Note the side by side comparison in the image above. While the tips are a bit longer, and taper a bit more at the end, they are a similar consistency to Elites, using hollow rubber and even including the little air hole. The foam thickness and density are similar to Koosh, with similar accuracy. I haven’t done extensive comparison target shooting with these, but the popular opinion is that they are slightly less accurate than Koosh, but better than Elite.
Voberries are also available on eBay, but more appealingly, on Amazon through various sellers. Finding them can be a challenge however, due to the already stated habit of several sellers using the same pool of product images. Sometimes darts that appear to be Voberry in the photos end up being a different type. I can only personally vouch for the SEVEN brand. I ordered from them and indeed received Voberry darts.
The last type, second from the right in the top image, are Full Vinyl Jacket, commonly referred to as FVJs. These are slightly controversial, because the tips are made of solid plastic or plastic rubber. This makes them a little heavier, which means they fly straighter but not quite as far, and more importantly, they have the potential to really sting. Flung from a modified blaster, FVJs can leave welts (I’ve seen this in action). If your Nerf army is all adults, they may actually prefer these. It definitely cuts down on unnoticed hits, because you can feel the impact through clothes. I do NOT recommend these for children.
There are a few other versions out there, like these ACC “nipple” darts that recently appeared, but I haven’t tried them myself.
Of the four dart types discussed here, I recommend Voberry the most, although Koosh and FVJ are very close seconds. I used to recommend Koosh exclusively, but I’ve cooled on them due to the tip detach issue. FVJs are a tad too dangerous for my liking, and BuzzBee are too slight of an improvement over official Nerf to be a go-to. Voberry has a great cost to quality ratio, and are waiting for you on Amazon.