Recently my two sons and I thought it would be great fun to each get a NERF gun.
We had an older one kicking around. It was time to upgrade.
We fired up Amazon and… were overwhelmed.
There are a lot of options and designs. It’s kind of like the Super Soaker; so many to choose from.
My brain wants to categorize everything. We spend the better part of an evening researching and comparing NERF guns on Amazon. In time, I had a pretty good understanding of our options.
We opted for a fully automatic version which turned out to be a big mistake. It jams all the time. All three of them do. I’m about to buy some manual models.
This article sets out to help you get a handle on the different types of NERF guns. I don’t go so far as to suggest a better type over another. They’re all different. I haven’t tried them all but we are definitely in need of a set of guns that don’t jam.
Table of Contents
- 1. Fully Automatic (motorized via battery-powered)
- 2. Pump-Action Rifle
- 3. Handgun Style
- 4. Mega Blasters
- 5. Mobile weapon
- 6. Ground-Drone Striker (remote-control toy gun)
- 7. Sniper Style
- Additional buying considerations
The Different Types of NERF Guns
1. Fully Automatic (motorized via battery-powered)
Probably one of the most popular options, based on how many different models there are that fall into this category is the fully automatic, battery-powered type.
These suckers often need 4 D-batteries although some take AA batteries.
Can little kids hold them? It’s not easy. Our 5-year old struggles with the one we have (pictured below). It’s not the weight but the size.
How far do the bullets shoot? The boxes say 80 to 90 feet. Not so for us especially for our drum loader. Some bullets flew great but many don’t.
The clip-style (see below) is far more consistent. I never measured the distance, but it’s pretty good.
Sub types within the category
The drum style holds the bullets in a drum. As you pull the trigger, the drum rotates lodging another bullet into the chamber and firing. This happens very quickly.
I like the drum configuration below the gun which can double as a base to set it down and fire. It’s much better IMO than the models with the drum on the side which makes it a bit ungainly.
Does it work?
Not so well, at least the one we got, which wasn’t cheap, didn’t work so well.
The clip style stores the bullets in a clip that plugs into the gun. A spring-loaded elevator pushes the bullets into the chamber as it fires.
Does it work?
Yeah, it works pretty well. We have this type as well (the first type we got) and for the most part it doesn’t jam… at least it doesn’t jam anywhere nearly as much as the drum style.
In theory, this is awesome. We bought three auto-loading, drum, battery-powered guns. Boy, were we excited. I was most excited about the auto-load feature because loading clips bullet-by-bullet isn’t fun.
The Infinus Nerf N-Strike Elite Blaster autoloads. It sucks the bullets in from the rear and lodges them into the drum.
The auto-loader works well.
The trouble arises when you start firing quickly. I suspect it’s the drum style clip that is the problem and not the autoloader.
Are the fully automatic types worth getting?
Yeah, but we’ve had a much better experience with the regular clips than the drum clips.
My overall thoughts about the motorized models:
We have one model that works great and one that doesn’t. You also have to keep in mind that there is a slight delay (1 second or so) between firing up the motor and the gun fully ready to fire.
2. Pump-Action Rifle
Our next batch to purchase is a pump-action type. I have a hunch these will perform better as in not jamming as much.
Like the motorized variety, pump-action models come in both drum or regular clip styles.
How far do the pump-style models shoot?
They too claim to shoot the bullets 90 feet which means you aren’t giving up distance by going with a pump-action gun. In fact, I suspect (soon to find out) that the pump-action models more consistently shoot further.
I also suspect that you’ll get more out of each shot. Since you have to pump for each shot, you’ll be more judicious and possibly get better results. Your bullet cache will last a lot longer too. Better yet, you’ll go longer before you have to reload.
3. Handgun Style
I’ve yet to try the handgun style. Perhaps a good backup to have on you but if that’s all you have and you’re up against assault rifles, your chances aren’t great.
But, I totally see the appeal for target practice. They’re a lot easier to manage and load than the full on rifles.
While a handgun wouldn’t be my first choice, it would be fun as a secondary option whether additional options during battle or target practice.
The example handgun above holds three bullets. Some accommodate more and some only one at a time.
4. Mega Blasters
Mega Blasters are ultra-powerful Nerf guns. The one above claims to fire up to 100 feet. It requires 6 D batteries.
They’re huge. Designed for blasting lots of bullets fast.
Design-wise, you can spot what I call a mega blaster when it has a handle on top. It’s not designed to be held like a regular rifle but instead held lower from the top.
You’ll also notice there’s base below the massive drum which makes it possible to set this blaster down on something.
Because it’s so big you won’t be all that mobile. It’s not my first choice for a battle outside where you’re running around.
5. Mobile weapon
I don’t really see the appeal of a scooter with a Nerf gun mounted but it’s an option.
It looks like a recipe for disaster. Kids who ride these things can barely do that let alone also shoot a toy gun at the same time.
We don’t have this but apparently it shoots bullets up to 40 feet.
6. Ground-Drone Striker (remote-control toy gun)
If winning a battle via remote control is more your style, the TerraScout Recon Nerf Toy RC Drone N-Strike Elite Blaster is for you.
The remote includes a screen with live video feed so you can see where you’re going and hunt down your targets. The drum is impressive holding 35 bullets.
7. Sniper Style
Last but not least is the sniper style Nerf gun.
Of course you can buy a sniper style for those who like to perch in one spot and pick their opponents off one by one.
The sniper-style is defined by the bipod legs that are used for setting the rifle down on a surface just like a regular sniper gun.
The clip only holds a small number of bullets. This type of gun is for careful shooting instead of spray n’ pray blasting.
The barrel is longer as well for better accuracy and distance (the one above claims to shoot 100 feet).
Additional buying considerations
These toys aren’t cheap. I know because I’ve bought several.
- Most expensive not necessarily the best
This was my big mistake. I opted for more expensive model hoping it would work flawlessly. It didn’t.
That said, expect to drop somewhere in the range of $50 to $100 per gun plus extra bullets, batteries and goggles. There are additional accessories you can buy but I didn’t bother.
2. Buy additional bullets
Most of these toy guns come with some bullets but it’s not nearly enough. Read about how many bullets you should get with a Nerf gun here.
3. Bigger isn’t better
This is particularly for kids. If it’s too big, smaller kids will have a hard time holding it, carrying it and using it. For them too much size ruins the game. Again, I know because the one I recently bought for our five-year-old is too big.
4. You’re gonna spend time unjamming these things
If you have young kids, it’ll be up to you to fix bullet jams. I spend half the time trying to pull out jammed bullets. I wish they’d design these things so it’s easier to access the inner workings to retrieve jammed bullets.
5. Throw out damaged bullets
The bullets are foam. This is obviously a good thing. They don’t hurt (our kids must wear safety goggles when playing with these toys).
Because they’re foam, they get damaged easily. Damaged bullets are more likely to jam. Make your life easier by getting rid of damaged bullets.
6. Regular clip performs better than drum clips
I say this with a huge caveat in that between the one drum gun and one regular clip gun we have, the clip gun works better. Both are motorized. The clip gun cleanly shoots an entire clip consistently. The drum clip guns jam all the time.
7. Load up on batteries
These toy guns do not come with batteries. No surprise there. Most battery-powered toys don’t. When you buy, note the types of batteries it needs and buy a ton of them. These things rip through batteries like crazy.
8. Don’t forget safety goggles
While you’re filling up your cart with batteries, don’t forget to buy some safety goggles. While these bullets are pretty much harmless, any projectile could hurt an eye. It’s very unlikely but not worth the risk IMO.
You can say “no head shots” all you want but we all know how well that rule is followed. How on earth does any kid avoid head shots with a massive blaster spitting out dozens of bullets per minute. Ain’t gonna happen.