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Contributed by Rich DeAngelis
The Estes Bullpup 12D is a sport-scale model of a 30-some year old air-launched guided missile. The real thing came in several varieties that outwardly appear different; the 12D is just one of those types. The real thing was guided by a "pilot" who remotely steered this missile onto the target. This particular model of the 12D is a relatively small "Alpha" sized rocket, just over a foot in length but a few ounces more in weight and wider in diameter. I would have to say while this Estes implementation of the kit is not bad, it is lacking in several significant ways for me so I can only give it a moderate endorsement, unless it would have proved to fly particularly well.
It is heavy, and although it flew OK, it did not achieve very significant altitudes. Granted, I did add a small payload section, but that added only 2 inches to it's length and 13.4 grams of weight, or just under 17% weight. I don't dismiss the results of my flight tests because of the payload addition; I have done this modification to all my rockets that didn't have an included payload section, and so I think it is fair to compare the performance of this kit with the many other kits I have built. I suppose the performance loss was partly because of the 13 grams of clay noseweight from the kit, which of course is needed to keep the length to scale and remain stable, and partly due to the weight of the plastic tailcone. As can be expected, there is a performance penalty for being a scale model. To be fair, perhaps I didn't need to add the clay since I added the equivalent amount of weight just below the nose. However, I would rather have it over-stable than have it wreck on its maiden flight. Regardless, my reservations with this kit is not with the flight performance so much, and not with the quality of the parts, but in the choice of parts used in this particular design.
The supplied parts were all good quality, as I come to expect from Estes. However the overall kit has several flaws in my opinion. First: the use of tacky-looking stick-on decals instead of waterslide. Second is Estes insistence on using a way-too-short rubber shock cord attached with glue to the body tube. Third, the lack of a motor clip when this model can easily use one. Concerning the stick-on decals, I assume the self-stick-on kind is easier for younger kids. If they want specifically to make these kits extra kid-friendly, they should just say so on the package and catalog. It seems it's always a suprise with Estes as to which kind of decals you get! To be fair, for stick-on decals they are pretty good, they are thick enough to not wrinkle easily, seem to have a strong adhesive, and appear to have a tough, glossy finish to them. (...but I still don't like them!)
Where Estes does excel is in the included instructions, the quality of the molded nose cone, and many other parts such as the parachute material. The balsa and body tube(s) were pretty good, and that is what I have come to expected from an Estes kit. They were nice enough to include an already built parachute, however I like to use longer shroud lines because they seem to work better for me, so I tend to re-make them anyways. Two of the design features I like in this smaller rocket kit are the boattail which looks sharp and does a lot to reduce drag, and the reasonably wide body tube.
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