F2A Exclusive: Q&A with Ben Stack, Inventor of the Precision RBS
Vas The Stampede
Many thanks again to Super Impulse and Precision RBS for the samples, and this Q&A with Ben Stack, the inventor of the Precision RBS Launchers! I met Ben at New York Toy Fair, and followed up in email with a series of questions. I thank him for the time he took to answer them. His responses are in bold.
|Ben on the right, at New York Toy Fair|
– What did you study? Feel free to share a little info about yourself such as hobbies and experience in toy industry.
I most recently went to school for product design, but I had a bit of a background before that in engineering from various hobbies and jobs making things. I’ve dabbled in robotics, carpentry, soft goods, and yes, many years of projectile launchers and other homemade entertainment.
– How long was RBS in development?
It’s hard to say when Precision RBS as a potential product line really started. I’ve been launching rubberbands since I was about 6 when my brother and I made clothespin launchers with my father. That’s when I accidentally discovered the “rifling” or “spinning” technique that Precision RBS still uses today.
In high school, after making dozens of launchers in middle school, I set out to really perfect a modular, high performance series of launchers. In college, I took the concept to a more finished state as my thesis project, where I was connected to SI and we then spent another busy few months converting the line to a robust injection moldable ABS design. Taking out the off years in between, I’d say there’s at least 5 years of my own development work in these 3 products we have now.
|The core pistols of Precision RBS launchers|
– Can you talk about what inspiration you drew on for the look of the RBS shooters?
Precision RBS from the start was conceived as a skill toy that you could actually use safely in public without any worries. This meant throwing the visual concept of a “gun” out the window and really striving for something cool that wasn’t threatening. Science fiction and sports equipment was the only place you could find that. I went through hundreds of renderings, color combinations, and graphical applications before settling on what we have today.
– Why rubber band ammo? What advantages do you find there vs other mediums, and how is RBS different from what is out there currently, including among other rubber band shooters?
|The Hyperion: note the included pack of all three rubber band sizes.|
Rubber bands are cheap, plentiful, multi-use, accessible to anyone anywhere, versatile, but most of all accurate! What fun is trying build your skills launching projectiles if you’re not going to reliably hit what you’re aiming at? Rubber bands are just the most amazing indoor target practice ammo. Rubber bands don’t bounce and roll away into dark corners either, to be forever lost. Rubber bands don’t get crushed if you step on them. They actually are affected by wind less than foam too, as the cross section density is higher.
The main thing holding back rubber bands all these years has been accuracy and range, and I think we’ve finally cracked it. When properly “rifled”, 117 rubber bands can reach out to 50 ft with a shot grouping well inside a standing silhouette. Inside of 30 feet, the grouping gets down to about 6 inches across. Fly hunting starts happening at around 8 feet.
Finally, and this is one that tends to get overlooked, escapement rubber band launchers basically act like a beautiful hybrid between flywheel and springer launchers: high rate of fire without any rev-up time or pumping. Your ROF is practically unlimited, it’s however fast you can pull the trigger. Just like flywheel blasters, you never have to readjust your sight picture until your launcher is empty.
I want to emphasize: Rubber bands shine when the target is behind cover and the window of opportunity is short.
As for other rubber band launchers out there, we’re committed to using all standard sized rubber bands so you have the option of refilling in bulk at office supply stores. On top of that, we’ve packed in just so many features unique to my rubber band launchers I’ve designed over my life, like the ability to always launch and store multiple sizes of rubber band, and the modular “barrel” lengths (wow, a barrel that actually does something?).
– Do you recommend certain shooters for certain ages?
Not really! It’s the band size that makes the difference. All of our precision RBS launchers are safety tested for ages 8+ and have been play tested by all ages, but loading size 117 bands can be more difficult for young kids. It’s not that it takes a great amount of force to draw the band back, but more that it is a long draw length, almost 24 inches. It usually just means younger kids have to brace the launcher against the ground to load it.
What’s really awesome with rubber bands is the size of the band really makes a performance difference.
Size 117 bands reduce the number you can load at one time down to 6, but increase range out to 50 feet with high accuracy. The size 33 is the sweet spot for indoor play in the middle, giving medium range, about 35 feet, and around 8-10 in loading capacity. Size 16s are for quantity over quality, giving you up to 12 shots with around 30 feet of range and close-in accuracy.
– How many designs do you have in mind past the launch?
Oh wow, so many. I have a lifetime of folders for this stuff. These first 3 are the basic, “standard issue” series, and we’re starting to get more specialized in next year’s line.
– I noticed a holster, will those be available as well in the future?
I definitely had holsters in mind when I designed the core “pistol” style launcher, but we’re not sure how it would fit in the line yet. It might be soon, it might be later. We’ll see how it works out.
– What is your favorite feature about any of the blasters?
I have a soft spot for Chiron in general as it was the first Precision RBS launcher that I concepted in high school for high speed play. It’s designed to be versatile, able to take on both long ranged Hyperion and high capacity dual wielders by maximizing size 33 reload rate with the Quick Loader, and able to launch the 117 bands with the hand launcher. Masters of the hand launcher should be able to pickup, load, and launch 117 bands in a single motion, which can overwhelm the slower-to- load Hyperion, and out-range the smaller two bands.
Lots of info and insight, thanks again to Ben for taking the time to answer my questions! I’ll be updating this post later today with some additional video on the Precision RBS launchers, but until then see you next time. If you haven’t already, don’t forget to check out Part 1 here.
Precision RBS Firing video playlist here: