We purchase every product we review with our own funds—we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
At some point in your life, you’ve probably played with a Nerf product, whether it was a suction gun, foam torpedo, or football.
Few toys bring about joy for kids and adults like a Nerf gun. It’s one of the rare “fun” products that has managed to capture the imagination and spirit of people for nearly half a century.
The first Nerf gun was launched in 1969. To this day, you’ll see photos and videos of office workers engaging in Nerf gun battle.
With so many different Nerf guns on the market, you may find it difficult to decide which is best for you. That’s where we come in!
At BestReviews, our goal is to provide consumers with honest, unbiased reviews of the best products available. For this reason, we never accept free manufacturer samples. We buy products off of store shelves just as you do, and we scrutinize them for quality.
So load your barrel, agree to not aim for the face, and be mindful of the pictures on the top shelf as we review tips and info you need to find the best Nerf gun.
When you’re choosing a Nerf gun, you should examine the make as if it’s a real gun — to a degree, anyway. Much like real guns, there are different benefits and drawbacks to each product. First and foremost, you must decide whether you want a manual loader or an automatic.
A manual Nerf gun requires you to load each bullet individually. The Zombie Strike on our shortlist is an example of this type of gun; the ammo is stored in the butt end, and you must pop each piece in.
An automatic Nerf gun, by contrast, has small cartridges into which you load the ammo ahead of time. As you engage in battle, rapid fire mechanics take care of the rest. If you’re interested in an automatic, consider a product like the N-Strike Elite.
Automatic guns usually implement large clips of ammo — some as an attached case (you load your ammo into the side where it’s stored) and others as an attachment (you pre-load your ammo into a cartridge and attach it to the gun after).
Torpedoes and missiles can add even more weight than bullets to your nerf gun.
This is one of the few instances where the size of your weapon needs to be taken into account. Weight matters when you’re in the heat of battle. No matter what kind of gun you choose, they’re all made of plastic, and they all gain weight as you add more parts.
If you’re looking for something lightweight that doesn’t require much muscle, the Zombie Strike is your best bet. The design is that of a shotgun rather than an assault rifle or cannon, and it’s self-contained with not a lot of ammo to carry around. Another product to consider is the Modulus Tri-Strike. This gun can be taken apart and rearranged in different configurations, which means you can create a lighter weapon from its parts if you’re so inclined.
The ammo you use adds weight to the gun, even if you’re just using foam darts.
The type of ammo you use depends on the kind of gun you purchase, but for the most part you’ll only be dealing with three specific types. Here are the most common choices.
Most of your ammo will be roughly four to five inches in length with a one-inch diameter. This makes the ammo easy to fire but also easy to lose. It’s not uncommon to find a random dusty dart wedged behind a piece of furniture months after it was “lost in battle.”
A tip for parents: if you know for a fact that your child is prone to losing things, we advise buying extra ammo just in case.
If your goal is to go in and wallop everyone in a single spray, you have two options: standing still and blasting everything in sight, or running around so you get plenty of shots.
If you choose to stand still, you can’t go wrong with the Elite Rhino-Fire Blaster. It has a double-barrel blaster with two drums that hold 25 darts each, and it’s an automatic. The barrels alternate so as not to jam up, but for the most part, you’re staying stationary.
If you want to move and have plenty of shots, the Elite Rampage Blaster is the way to go. It’s only a single drum, but that’s to give you mobility so you can run in and nail your target quickly and efficiently.
There’s a fundamental psychology behind Nerf games: they’re meant to be “close combat” situations where you engage with each other as you play. There’s no real fun shooting people from great distances only to run and gather your ammo and try again.
When you’re in a Nerf fight, range means everything! Whether you’re on a playground, in a backyard, or out in the woods, range gives you a tactical advantage to where you can hit your opponents from afar before you go charging in.
Many Nerf guns can produce enough of an air blast to catapult a dart 75 feet. That’s a lot of space. But that kind of range is more attainable in an automatic gun, whereas a manual gun will requires a little more aim and luck, since you’re doing one dart at a time without rapid succession.
Nerf’s foam darts range in size, but the standard is one inch. This is done so that savvy parents can buy multiple guns that use the same ammo.
The ultimate problem that everyone eventually encounters is reload time. It’s usually customary to call a time-out while everyone gathers up darts and reloads. But if you’re in the middle of a game and there’s a time crunch, consider your other reloading options.
Both of the guns with drums on our shortlist (the Rhino-Fire Blaster and the Rampage Blaster) may be awesome, but the drums themselves are a pain to reload, not to mention hooking up properly to fire again. Same thing with the clip attachment that you have to reload first before adding it to the barrel. If you need something quick and easy, best bet is the Zombie Strike, which is configured like a shotgun. The Modulus Tri-Strike is also great in a pinch, depending on how you’ve configured it.
The Modulus Tri-Strike is a great multi-use weapon that kids will get a kick out of using and adults will have fun changing up.
Speaking of configuration, many of the guns we’ve discussed are self-contained. Only one gun in our product matrix allows for customization: the Modulus Tri-Strike.
You can disassemble this gun and make it into whatever primary weapon you need. For example, you could:
Some guns can be configured into a mounted weapon. This is a fun option to have if you know the gun is going to be used in more imaginative ways.
If you’re a parent, one of your big concerns right now might be the potential for damage to your (or someone else’s) property. Fortunately, a Nerf gun isn’t likely to put holes in walls or break giant windows or dent anything. Have you ever heard someone use the term “Nerfed” when talking about something being made effective? This is where that term came from.
However, that doesn’t mean a Nerf gun couldn’t aid in damaging property. A flying dart could knock over a picture frame or an object on a shelf. If you’re going to buy a Nerf gun, you must surrender to the possibility that someone may miss their target and hit something you don’t want them to hit.
It’s up to you as a parent (or an adult having fun) to set rules regarding where a Nerf gun can be used. Keep in mind that these are usually outdoor toys.
One of the perks of Nerf products is that everything is relatively cheap. Even if you got for the top of the line (which, in this case, is the Elite Rhino-Fire Blaster), the most you’ll likely pay is around $70.
Everything else falls in the $25-50 range, depending on what kind of functionality you want. The best Nerf gun for your money at the moment is the Zombie Strike, with the Modulus Tri-Strike as a close second because of its changeability. But that’s all based on price. Ultimately, the best Nerf gun for you is the one that best suits your needs.
Some secondary websites sell Nerf guns that have been “modified.” In other words, the seller has cracked open the case and added a few extra toys to make the darts fly faster and hit harder. We don’t recommend purchasing these items for children.
Before you rush off to buy a gun, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind:
Q: Is there any possibility of injury?
A: The darts themselves do pose a potential choking hazard, especially for little kids. If aimed close enough, you could give someone a black eye. But we’ve never heard of anyone being cut or badly harmed by these darts.
Q: How long will the ammo last?
A: Everything made of foam degrades with time and use. In the case of Nerf, it depends how often they’re used and what conditions they’re put through. If they’re left in the rain or crushed under something, there’s a greater chance they will fall apart. Just be sure to take care of them.
Q: Does Nerf ever discontinue their products?
A: Yes. Eventually, your gun will be discontinued for a new product. However, there is one silver lining to this. The darts that were manufactured for guns going back to the mid-80s still work in guns designed today, because the technical design of the darts hasn’t changed. So while the gun may go away, there’s no reason you won’t be able to use it years later with the next round of Nerf products.
If you’ll be carrying the gun around as you play, keep in mind that you’ll be toting your ammo, too.
At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.