Here are some results of my test of the Zoom-O Catch and Fire motorized ball launcher gun from Blip, Inc.
If you are looking for a quick intro on this toy you can go here.
In this post I comment on Comfort, Noise, and Shooting. Then I talk about everything I’d like to change about this toy in Modification Notes.
It is so uncomfortable to hold and shoot. It has too much weight in the front which you end up supporting with you index finger. Meanwhile you can barely get the rest of your hand around the second fat trigger. Even when you pull the second trigger it only moves slightly. My hand cramped up in a few minutes. If I had trouble with it I can’t imagine how a 6 yr old would manage.
In the sequence of photos above you’ll see my ring finger squeezes the bottom trigger first, then my index and middle squeezes the top trigger.
The motor makes the usual racket although it seems a bit quieter than the motor of the simple ball launcher. But you now have the added loud noise of the trigger. It’s spring actuated so it snaps back hard each time you shoot a ball, ready to load the next. I am not sure how necessary that is. Its also powering a simple mechanism that holds the previous ball and advances the next one it when ready.
Here is some footage of the trigger mechanism.
Aside from the uncomfortable grip it seems to shoot well and it doesn’t seem to get jammed up.
There are two “chutes” in the hopper. Take a look at the first photo above. It shows a ball sitting in the chute on the right and another on the left. The chute on the left leads balls freely to the plunger. The chute on the right is where the remaining balls get advanced over to the left after each pull of the trigger. At that point (as seen in the picture) it is possible that the mechanism will push one ball over to where another ball already is. It can jam there, but it doesn’t seem to happen usually. You can always just shake the gun to loosen them up. That is something that is actually mentioned on the instructions as a “tip”.
I thought maybe the open chute would allow a semi automatic action letting off rounds quicker, but there is yet another mechanism involved. There are two spring loaded prongs between the ball and spinning wheel. See the two pictures here.
As you pull the trigger the ball is pushed by the plunger against these small prongs until it is grabbed by the wheel. I guess it keeps the ball from just rolling into the wheel. By using the trigger the idea is to control when each shot gets fired more precisely than just waiting for gravity to advance the ball.
Here is what I would change on this design.
I wish they would have at least kept the motor trigger a simple button instead of a trigger, maybe even a slide switch to turn the motor on or off with your thumb. Or you could probably use your other hand to reach a switch near the barrel. Given the imbalance of the gun you’d probably need both hands anyway.
You could also allow the bottom trigger to depress all the way so your fingers are comfortably wrapped around the handle. Or make that trigger only 1/4 inch long.
Better yet it should me integrated into the one top trigger. Hold it half way to activate the motor and then pull all the way to trigger the ball. Similar to focusing with a digital camera. Or two speeds on a power drill.
It could also use some contour shapes in the handle for your fingers to work with. If you reduce or remove the bottom trigger you can at least wrap your fingers around the handle and support the weight while your trigger finger moves around.
If you are using the plunger to advance the balls to the wheel you might try gluing a layer of rubber or foam behind the plunger so the sound is muffled a bit when it smacks back against the plastic body. The weird thing is there is a layer of foam or something on the face of the plunger that touches the ball. I am not sure what that is for.
For the motor sound, the best thing to do is make sure the wheel is perfectly symmetrical and well balanced. If you can do that you will reduce a ton of vibration and therefore noise. Or you can try using a quieter motor with better bearings. You might even try a brush-less motor if you don’t mind the extra cost and can find a place for the electronic motor driver. Lastly you should do what you can to insulate the motor vibrations from the body better.
I don’t know what could be done about its weight balance. The motor is in front of the handle, but I think most weight is coming from that big catcher. Maybe they should find a way to bring everything backward a few inches. Nothing wrong with the hopper being farther back above you forearm. Maybe also get the motor above your hand. Actually just rip off that catcher, you probably will never use it anyway.
My original wish was for a ball launcher that fires one round after another machine gun style. Maybe there is some way to modify the chute that guides balls to the chamber so they flow naturally. maybe just one chute not two. Then the trigger get just open those two little prongs which allow the ball to hit the spinning wheel and take off. Then when you want to stop firing you release the trigger and those prongs stop the balls before the wheel. You may have to have the hopper or chute be more vertical so gravity helps push the balls toward the wheel. You can look at paint ball guns for reference.
Unfortunately this probably means that there is some delay between when you pull the trigger and when the ball shoots out. But maybe there is a way to allow both types of shooting. Maybe the plunger can still be used optionally when you only want to shoot one or two rounds.
One way to do this is to have it so the first shot is by way of the plunger. After the plunger snaps back as usual it leaves the firing chamber open and because the prongs are connected to the trigger they also stay open as long as the trigger is depressed. Now the balls can just roll into the spinning wheel like they can in the original ball launcher.
A quick thing to try is just removing the two prongs and see what happens.
Next thing to do is to dissect the toy and see its parts.
After that maybe I’ll try a modification.
Why don’t you vote on what you would most like to see changed on this toy. I will then try to work on whatever is most popular.
More to say? Leave comments below.