A new Estes E2X kit for 2004. It's a single-stage 3FNC, using TTW fin mounts, numerous plastic parts for quick assembly, and parachute recovery.
Components in this kit include:
I purchased this kit at Hobby Lobby, as part of a buying frenzy spurred on by a "50% off" internet coupon.
The assembly instructions are what you'd expect from Estes: clear and well-illustrated.
One would expect an E2X kit to go together very quickly ("shake the box", to borrow a term from model railroading). If it weren't for the fit issues I describe below, that'd be the case with the Bandito.
Assembly starts with the motor mount. You glue together two plastic parts, and then glue those to the bottom of the cardboard motor mount tube, then glue the plastic motor block to the top of the tube. Once those are dry, you glue three plastic frames to the outside of the tube (these act as both centering rings, and anchors for the fins and launch lug).
Once the motor mount is dry, you are instructed to glue it inside the body tube, making sure that the slots on the mount are properly aligned with the slots on the body tube. Be careful--you're lining up the slots for the launch lug, too, and there is only one alignment that will work.
It was at this step that I ran into a problem -- when attempting to dry-fit the motor mount, I discovered that it was much too wide for the body tube. It took a considerable amount of sanding to get the mount to fit without distending the tube.
Rather than use friction fit or a motor hook, the Bandito features a plastic motor retention ring that screws onto the motor mount. Unfortunately, even with an engine in the mount, the ring is a loose fit--I have a suspicion that all the sanding I had to do to the motor mount to get it to fit in the body tube took off some of the "thread" for the ring. I'll likely either tape the ring in place, or just chuck it and use a friction fit. (One nice thing in this kit is Estes provides a spare retention ring!)
Once the motor mount is attached, you glue the fins into their slots (definitely a tight fit, but they did fit) and then the launch lug. The lug is a one-piece plastic affair, with two separate "lugettes" about 3/4" apart, connected by a thin strip of plastic. There are two little nubs on the underside of this lug, which fit through slots on the body tube, and thus fit snugly against struts on the motor mount.
All of the assembly up until this point recommends using plastic model cement. I continue to be a little dubious about attempting to "weld" plastic to cardboard, so we'll have to see how well this holds up.
After this, you assemble the nose cone, attach the shock cord (I replaced it with a longer bit of sewing elastic) to the inside of the body tube via the traditional Estes 3-fold paper mount, and finally attach the shock cord and parachute to the nose cone (I added a snap-swivel to the parachute). I was a bit surprised to see a parachute in this small a rocket--I have a feeling I'll be cutting a spill hole, at a minimum.
Finishing consists of applying the self-stick decals. There's one longish decal with the name of the rocket that goes on the body tube and 6 smaller decals for the fins (one for each side). The color scheme is pretty sharp-looking (black and green rocket, yellow and red decals).
Unlike the depiction on the stuffer card, the fin decals aren't long enough to run the full length of the fin -- if you start the "top" of a decal near the front of the root edge of the fin, the "bottom" of the decal won't make it to the bottom of the fin (it'll be about a 1/4" short).
The side of the body tube without the Bandito logo looked a little bare, so I cut the Estes logo out of the decal sheet (it wasn't pre-cut, so it likely wasn't intended to be used) and slapped it on there.
Construction Rating: 2 out of 5
I launched the Bandito on an Estes 1/2A3-2T. When I went to install the engine in the rocket, the bottom ring of the engine mount snapped off. Now well and truly annoyed by this rocket's engine mount, I decided to just go with a friction fit of the engine -- in fact, the engine mount was so tight that I didn't even need any tape to get a tight fit of the engine in the mount.
The flight itself went better than I was expecting -- it flew quite straight, and even on the tiny 1/2A, got some good altitude.
Unfortunately, the parachute didn't fully deploy, and the rocket had a fairly hard landing. It landed on one fin, burying the fin in the soft ground in a sort of reverse lawn-dart (though the fin wasn't damaged). When I recovered the rocket, I also saw that the nose cone had come apart on the shock of landing, and will need to be re-glued.
Flight Rating: 3 out of 5
PROs: theoretically quick assembly, extra motor retention ring, nice color scheme and decals.
CONs: poor fit of motor mount inside body tube, poor fit of motor retention ring, short shock cord.
In short, I ended up with a nice little rocket but you shouldn't have to fiddle that much with an E2X kit.
Overall Rating: 2 out of 5