There are few things more enjoyable on a hot summer's day than an epic water gun battle with some friends. In the end, everybody wins, because everybody gets soaked and cools down. But you don't want to be caught with a crappy gun; then you'll just be the guy that everyone else gangs up on. We here at Gizmodo don't want that to happen to our beloved readers, which is why we took on the horrible, difficult task of
playing with testing five of this season's hottest water guns under $20 to find out which one is going to give you the most splash for your cash.
We tested five guns, the Super Soaker Sneak Attack 4-Way, the Sizzlin' Cool Steady Stream, the Water Warriors Motorized Tarantula, the Super Soaker Quick Blast and the Banzai Color Stream Blaster.
It should be noted that each gun has its own gimmick that it uses to try to sell you on it while you're wandering the aisles at Toys R Us or Target or wherever it is you purchase your weaponry. By far the most useless was the Color Stream Blaster, which comes with little cartridges of dye that turn the water various colors. This means that after you have a water gun fight, your victims will need to go take a shower and do laundry. That seems like it'd be less fun, not more, so we ignored those things altogether.
Much more fun were the nozzles on the Sneak Attack 4-Way, which let you change the stream by twisting the front of the gun. You could do a thin, powerful stream, a broader misting stream, or fire sideways in either direction. Let me tell you, there are few things more satisfying than saying "Hey, check this out!," pointing the gun off in the distance and then pegging your friend point-blank in the face with a sideways shot. It never, ever gets old.
For the official testing, we first measured the distance that these things can fire compared to their box claims. You never want to be hit by someone you can't hit back because your gun sucks and you're too far away. Surprisingly, the claims of distance made on the boxes was often wildly inaccurate. The Super Soaker Quick Blast, for example, claimed to shoot 25 feet, while we could barely get it firing past 18 feet. The other Super Soaker, on the other hand, claimed a paltry 20 feet, but in practice the thing shot nearly 30 feet (the best of the bunch).
We then wanted to know just how much pain could be inflicted with a shot to the face from each of the guns. Luckily, Summer Intern Dan was there, so we set him up facing the camera and took turns blasting him in the face from a few feet away, recording his reactions. The most painful shot was the Sneak Attack due to its powerful blast, with the Color Stream Blaster and Quick Blast each delivering paltry bursts that he could barely feel.
So what gun do we recommend for your next battle? Well, the Color Blast is a decent gun if you ignore the, you know, color element, and it comes in a two pack, which is nice. However, you feel like you're paying extra for something you won't use, so unless you really want to spray red water at someone, I'd recommend passing. The Tarantula just felt like cheating due to its rechargeable battery that removed the pump action from the mix, and it's a pain to have to rejuice a water gun between uses. It has a huge tank and a decent distance, but for $20 it's definitely the most expensive gun, so it's hard to recommend.
The Super Soaker Quick Blast was definitely at the bottom of our list, with a pathetic stream and a cheap-feeling pump. It doesn't hold much water, either, and whoever got stuck using it during our battle royale was at a serious disadvantage. Avoid it if you can.
The Steady Stream, the cheapest of the guns, was actually our runner up, surprisingly. It doesn't have any real gimmicks to it, but it's a solid gun that fires a good distance and is fun to use, especially for the price.
At the end of the day, however, there was a very clear winner amongst our array of weaponry, and it was the Super Soaker Sneak Attack 4-Way. It shot the farthest, had the most fun gimmick, had a respectable capacity, inflicted the most physical pain on our enemies/intern and was one of the cheapest at under $10. It feels solid in your hands and is just the most fun gun out of all of the models we tested. And really, if a water gun isn't really fun to use, it's doing something wrong.