As a kid, I strapped a Nerf gun to my bicycle so I could dive bomb the neighborhood kids, while traveling—I imagined—at five times the speed of sound. As an adult, I’ve carried a foam-firing blaster to no fewer than three jobs. But a funny thing happened last year: I realized my old guns weren’t any good anymore.
They hadn’t worn out. (Well, most of them anyways; my Sharpshooter II was toast.) It was just that toy blasters had evolved when I wasn’t looking. Now, they shoot farther, faster, and lay down more fire than ever before. You can buy a freaking fully-automatic Nerf machine gun now. I clearly needed to up my game. But how to arm myself?
Update 9/2015: We’ve updated this guide with Nerf Rival, Modulus, Rotofury, the BOOMco Spinsanity 3X, the BOOMco Halo collection, and much more!
War has changed. I’ve found that whether you’re wresting control of the office from nefarious colleagues or dominating friends at the park, a single-shot sidearm won’t cut it anymore. The wonderful part about foam warfare is that you can dodge bullets like Neo in The Matrix. The hard part: so can anyone else. Since statistically, you’re going to miss most of the time, you need a blaster with lots of shots, or one that can pick off foes before they get close. So I went looking for the fastest, most accurate Nerf guns that don’t require constant reloading.
Darts, compared. Nerf Elite darts (center) are currently the most common.
The other thing I discovered is that it’s not “Nerf or Nothing” anymore: some toy weapons from rival companies are worth checking out. I actually found Mattel’s straw-like BOOMco darts superior to Nerf in important ways: they’re heavy enough to stay on target and retain their shape after abuse, unlike Hasbro’s deterioriating foam.
I took my blasters to actual Nerf wars hosted by Bay Area Nerf. I made new friends, and I shot them with toy guns. These are the blasters that served me best.
The $32 Nerf Demolisher is my go-to recommendation for any serious Nerf war. It’s a semi-automatic assault rifle with a 10-dart clip and a bonus underbarrel grenade launcher. Like some of Nerf’s other blasters, it uses four AA batteries to drive a pair of flywheels which spit out a dart each time you pull the trigger. But the Demolisher shoots further and more accurately than any other flywheel blaster I tried. It’s also one of the best built, with smooth triggers and a grip comfortable enough for adults. Unfortunately, it’s also extremely noisy: you won’t be sneaking up on anyone while the flywheels are revving.
I haven’t actually hit anyone with the foam grenade yet, and I doubt you will very easily, but it’s a nice big projectile that can force foes to dodge while you pepper them with darts instead. Just know that you’ll need to buy some additional 18-dart clips ($10 each) to keep this blaster fed.
Yes, it’s pink. Get over it: the $30 Rebelle Rapid Red is one of the best toy blasters ever made. Like the Demolisher, it’s a semi-auto clip-fed flywheel blaster that takes 4 AA batteries, except you can use it one-handed. Or why not one in each hand to dish out double the damage? It’s the same idea as the cheaper $20 Stryfe, but I found it smoother, quieter, and more accurate. When I ran with a Stryfe and a Rapid Red side by-side, I hit foes far more often with the pink blaster.
Plus, the Rapid Red comes with a genuinely useful 12-shot clip. The Stryfe’s bundled 6-shot mag is too small to be much good in battle.
The problem with flywheel blasters is that they’re noisy. You can’t sneak up on anyone. But the $25 Nerf Rival Apollo uses a good ol’ spring-loaded mechanism. You can’t use the same Elite darts as everyone else, but what you trade in easy reloads you’ll make up in accuracy: the little yellow Rival balls shoot hard and fast enough to stay on target longer.
Plus, the magazines are excellent. You can pick up ammo right off the ground with the magazine itself, and carry more of them than dart mags due to how small they are.
I wouldn’t actually recommend an Apollo over our previous pick, the $20 Nerf Elite Alpha Trooper. The EAT is a fantastic blaster which uses the same darts and clips most Nerfers are used to, and is easier to fire repeatedly. But it’s pretty hard to find. And I’d definitely recommend the Apollo over the $25 Nerf Retaliator, the only decent clip-fed blaster left without a noisy motor. If sneak attacks are key, the Rival is what you need. [Full review]
Maybe you don’t want a clip-fed primary blaster. Maybe you want to be able to just scoop darts right off the ground, shove them into your blaster, and fire. The $35 Lawbringer might be a bit expensive, but it’ll let you do it in style.
Unlike our previous pick, the $20 FlipFury, you only need a single hand to fire each of your 12 shots. It’s the same mechanism as in the Hammershot we recommend below. Just pull back on the hammer with your thumb, pull the trigger to fire, and repeat till foes are gone. Plus, you can store 12 more darts—a full reload—in the built-in stock. And use them akimbo.
If your primary blaster does use clips, you’re going to want a sidearm when those clips inevitably run out. If your primary blaster is noisy and you see an opportunity to sneak up on someone, you’ll need a backup gun. I’d pick the $15 Nerf Hammershot. It’s one of the best designs Nerf has ever conceived: a five-shot revolver that only requires a single hand to operate. Which means you don’t have to drop that primary blaster when you pull out your backup.
If you can find it, you could pick up a Rebelle Sweet Revenge instead: the only real differences between the Hammershot and Sweet Revenge are slightly different ergonomics, and the fact that the pink gun comes with a (cheap plastic) holster in the box. You can buy an excellent Hammershot holster from Narrowbase, though.
I hit more foes with this single-shot muzzle-loading handgun than every other BOOMco. blaster combined. That’s because it’s the Noisy Cricket of the toy blaster world, with an unbelievable amount of power and unheard-of accuracy for its size.
Foes would stand still when I pulled out the diminutive pistol out of a pocket, figuring there was no way in hell I’d be able to reach them with a dart. But sure enough, the $10 Farshot lives up to its name. Only heavily modded Nerf blasters will be able to touch you at the distance you can snipe them from. For the price and size, it’s worth carrying a Farshot into battle even if nobody else is using BOOMco. darts.
Plus, you can pick ‘em up these days for under $5 a piece. No brainer.
It’s not a gun. It’s not a bow. It’s a slingshot, I guess? Regardless, it’s hands-down the best toy weapon for picking off foes at a distance. The $15 Zing Sky Ripperz gives you three foam-tipped whistling arrows and a bungie cord rated to send them soaring 250 feet into the air. Which translates to accurate ranges of over 100 feet, according to Blaster Labs. I didn’t do any scientific testing, but I can tell you that they go the distance, and they go where I aim. Using ‘em in battle is strictly for adults, though: they hit hard enough that I’d think twice about giving them to a kid.
Expensive? Yes. Impractical? Perhaps! But there’s nothing like raining down 72 rounds of flying rubber death from dual drum magazines. If you can afford the $80 BOOMco Colossal Blitz and your top priority is looking cool, accept no substitutes.
Sure, that’s the same thing we said about the $100 Nerf Rhino-Fire last year, but the Blitz is way better. More ammo, a higher rate of fire, a real trigger, and the ability to reload as you go. This is the squad automatic weapon of choice for your next full-scale battle. If you can afford it, it’s worth using BOOMco. [Full review]
BOOMco. Halo Needler (added 9/2015)
Nope. Nope nope nope nope nope. A great prop, but not something you’d take into battle unless you’re part of a LARP. [Review]
BOOMco. Halo UNSC SMG and Covenant Carbine (added 9/2015)
If you are (or have) a kid with small hands, these are pretty neat. Not competitive against the best Nerf blasters, though, and too small for adults. [Review]
BOOMco. Halo UNSC M6 and Covenant Plasma Overcharge (added 9/2015)
Excellent single-shot pistols for $13 apiece, and they look great too. But they aren’t as pocketable as the Farshot. [Review]
BOOMco. Rapid Madness
The $50 Rapid Madness is the most solidly constructed toy blaster I’ve ever used, and its 20-dart clip-fed barrage is guaranteed to take out targets at close range. But reloading means pumping the hefty priming handle sixteen times and inserting the clip just right.
BOOMco. Spinsanity 3X
It jams like mad. ‘Nuff said. [Full review]
BOOMco. Stealth Ambush
At first it seems like the best thing ever: a clip-fed, far-firing semiautomatic blaster complete with a hidden three-dart shotgun that springs to life when you need it most. In reality, the only one who’ll be surprised by the Stealth Ambush is you. Its undersized eight-dart clip is empty in no time flat, and the poorly planned “Ambush” was often sprung even when I didn’t want it to.
BOOMco. Twisted Spinner
I couldn’t reliably hit a target with the Twisted Spinner from ten feet away. The blaster forces you to pull its two handles together to fire any of its eight darts, which means zero stability.
The whip-like ratcheting action of this $15 blaster is pretty cool, letting you cock the oversized pistol with a single hand. But what’s the point when you can’t fire a second shot without a second hand to load a dart into the muzzle?
BOOMco. Dynamag (added 7/2015)
A pistol that can fit giant BOOMco clips? Sign me up! That’s what I thought at first. Sadly, the Dynamag can’t reliably cycle a 20-shot clip, to say nothing of a 40-shot one, and you can’t see where you’re aiming because they block your view. Mediocre range, too.
Buzz Bee Toys
I couldn’t get excited about a single blaster from this brand. All of them look utterly cheap. We’ll update if or when Buzz Bee comes out with a blaster which the community can easily recommend.
Dart Zone Covert Ops Scorpion
For just $20, this tiny belt-fed gatling gun fires 20 fully automatic darts farther than you’d expect. Shame so few of them went where I was aiming. Also, the darts are ridiculously cheap, and my Nerf replacements didn’t fire reliably.
This semi-automatic clip-fed flywheel blaster is quieter and better constructed than the Demolisher, but doesn’t shoot quite as far. Nerf charges a crazy premium for its terrible built-in camera and solid build quality: $80!
Nerf Crossbolt (added 4/2015)
The $25 CrossBolt is actually a good pick! It shoots as far as any other unmodded blaster, takes clips for high ammo capacity, and is actually one of the most accurate clip-fed gun I’ve tried. Great for sneaking. It’s just a little unwieldy and slow to fire repeatedly.
Costs more than the Hammershot at $18, but you can’t prime it with just one-hand and you only get four shots instead of five. Cool design, though.
Nerf Doominator (added 9/2015)
24 shots from 4 rotating barrels sounded seriously awesome. The capacity of a clip-fed blaster plus the ability to reload new darts off the ground. But the mechanisms feel weak and don’t always line up properly. I expected more for $40.
Imagine if the Hammershot was tiny, but only had two barrels, and the darts fell out easily, and they didn’t shoot very far, and the blaster felt cheap and unsatisfying, and generally everything was terrible.
Nerf Elite Alpha Trooper (demoted 9/2015)
Good luck finding one. If you do, buy it right away. It’s the best clip-fed blaster ever made that doesn’t use noisy motors to give away your position.
Nerf Elite Firestrike
A satisfying, comfortable, accurate single-shot pistol that’s small enough to fit in a pocket. But it’s not as accurate or satisfying as the BOOMco. Farshot, and you can’t prime it with one hand like the Hammershot.
Nerf Elite Rayven
Another semi-auto flywheel blaster with a cool bullpup design, and which shoots 18 glow-in-the-dark darts from a battery-powered clip. Not bad for $35, but can’t stand up to the Demolisher for $5 more.
Nerf Elite Retaliator
A spring-loaded, clip-fed alternative to the Rampage or Elite Alpha Trooper, it’s a decent value at $25 with a 12-shot clip. But racking back the slide is slower and awkward compared to those other toy weapons.
Nerf FlipFury (demoted 9/2015)
Formerly our Best for Running and Gunning, this $20 blaster lets you swap between two six-shot turrets with the pull of a trigger, for 12 darts in total. But it takes two hands, where the Lawbringer only requires one.
Nerf brought back this bolt-action clip-fed design for 2014, but without improving how well it can shoot. Blaster Labs measured terribly short ranges for what’s supposedly a sniper rifle.
For some reason, this last-gen six-shot revolver is still on sale. It was a pretty iffy gun when it came out and is still pretty iffy today. It’s been made completely obsolete by the similar Strongarm, anyway.
Nerf Mega Centurion
How far would you expect a giant Nerf sniper rifle to shoot? “Not as far as many Nerf pistols” is a terrible answer. User reviews also complain of frequent jams, and it doesn’t help to have interchangeable clips if you can’t buy any extras.
Nerf Mega CycloneShock (added 4/2015)
If you want a Mega blaster, the $15 CycloneShock is the only one worth a second thought. This giant hand cannon holds more darts than any other Mega, and it’s so satisifying to shoot. Still, it’s wildly innaccurate, tough to reload, and darts can easily get jammed as the barrel rotates. Perhaps The Best Dueling Pistol?
Nerf Mega Magnus
This giant honking pistol makes me feel like Judge Dredd. “I AM THE LAW.” But it only holds three giant honking Mega Darts, and is super awkward to reload. Fun for dueling with a friend, though.
Nerf Mega Rotofury (added 9/2015)
This $35 blaster is beautifully built, with a smooth, satisfying action and super comfortable handles for adults. It’s the first Mega blaster that makes a lick of sense, since it holds 12 darts and can fire them rapidly. But two hands for 12 inaccurate shots still isn’t competitive.
Nerf Mega Thunderbow
The furthest firing official Nerf gun yet, you can get some serious range from this giant $40 blaster. What’s harder is hitting your foes: the Thunderbow doesn’t actually fire the instant you loose the string, and it’s tough to aim. I’d get Sky Ripperz instead.
Nerf Modulus ECS-10 (added 9/2015)
Basically, it’s a Demolisher with loads of accessory rails (and optional accessories) instead of the underbarrel rocket launcher. Buy a Demolisher instead. [Review]
Unlike most other flywheel blasters, the $40 Rapidstrike is fully automatic. Comfy handle and retractable stock, too. But out of the box, it fired SLOWER than my semi-auto toys. Unless you have the soldering skills to mod it, the Demolisher’s a better choice.
Nerf Rebelle Messenger
Another great $15 pistol that requires two hands. Less comfortable than the Firestrike, but you get three shots before you need to reload instead of one. No reason to pick it over a Hammershot or Sweet Revenge unless you need concealability.
Nerf Rebelle 4 Victory
Not only can you get off four darts with just one hand, it’s smaller than the Hammershot and comes with its own holster. Performance is a little inconsistent from barrel to barrel, but for $15 it’s a good alternative.
Formerly our pick for The Most Badass, the $100 Nerf Rhino-Fire deals death from dual drums and twin oscillating barrels. But the $80 BOOMco Colossal Blitz is the Rambo M60 to its slow, stationary turret. [Review]
Nerf Rival Zeus MXV-1200 (added 9/2015)
$50 for a pretty slick looking semi-auto flywheel blaster... that holds a maximum of 12 shots at a time and requires 6 C batteries. A little heavy and awkward to reload. Until Rival catches on, I’d stick with darts instead of balls. [Review]
$20 Nerf shotgun that holds eight darts and can fire one or two at a time? Sounds great! But unless you cock the gun just right, it refuses to fire. You just stand there with a stupid look on your face. The darts can fall out of the barrels when you run, too.
Another Nerf shotgun that fires three darts at a time from special “shotgun shells.” You only get three in the box, although you can buy more. I’ll take clips any day of the week.
I had high hopes for this lever-action spring-loaded clip-fed rifle, but it’s not terribly great. The lever’s too flimsy to use one-handed, reloading is awkward, and it only comes with a measely 6-shot clip for $25.
A weak and bulky five-shot revolver that requires two hands instead of one. It comes with a “silencer” and a folding stock, but you will be better off with a Sweet Revenge or a Hammershot.
A $20 flywheel blaster that doesn’t take clips, with a cool detachable stock that holds ten darts. Both make it easier to reload on the fly. But the noisy motors have an on-off switch instead of a trigger, so they’ll always hear you coming, and it doesn’t shoot far.
The more reliable follow-up to the Maverick, it’s a $13 six-shot revolver that’s giant, chunky, and requires two hands to prime. It feels cheap and hollow, and doesn’t have nearly enough power for the size.
The super popular Stryfe seems to have vanished from the market, but it’s a great alternative to the Rebelle Rapid Red if you can find one. I didn’t find it as smooth, quiet or accurate, though, and its 6-shot clip is puny. You’ll want an 18-shot one.
Nerf Thunderblast (added 9/2015)
A $25 rocket launcher that works the same way as the one built into the Demolisher. Pretty cool that you can fire it over a shoulder like a bazooka. Good luck hitting anyone, though.
Like the Messenger, you get three shots without reloading, but you still need two hands to prime. It’s also harder to aim and not as easy as you’d think to pocket due to the bulging design. Not bad for $7, but not the best either.
Nerf Vagabond (added 9/2015)
Six slow shots that require two hands to fire, and you can’t even pump the handle quickly without it jamming. Forget about it.
Nerf Vortex Series
Hasbro’s line of disc-based blasters, which seem to be dwindling as of late. A few, like this Fusefire, are still widely available, but most require you to load one disc at a time and convince your friends to buy them too if you want to trade fire.
Zing Firetek Bow
I’d hoped this would be an even easier-to-aim version of the Zing Sky Ripperz, but the arrows don’t fly nearly as far. They do, however, have little red LEDs that can make them glow in the dark.
Guardians of the Galaxy Star-Lord Quad Blaster and Captain America Stealthfire Shield
No. No. Only if you’re into cosplay.
Seriously, these don’t shoot worth a damn.
12/18/14 - Original post
4/2015 - Nerf FlipFury named The Best for Running and Gunning. Added Nerf Crossbolt, Nerf Mega CycloneShock, Nerf Rebelle 4 Victory and BOOMco. Dynamag to The Rest. Also, I recently managed to hit someone with the Demolisher’s underbarrel grenade launcher. Score!
9/2015 - Nerf Rival Apollo named The Best for Sneak Attacks, Nerf Lawbringer named The Best for Running and Gunning, BOOMco Colossal Blitz named The Most Badass. BOOMco’s Halo collection, Spinsanity 3X, Nerf Doominator, Elite Alpha Trooper, FlipFury, Mega Rotofury, Modulus, Rhino-Fire, Rival Zeus, Thunderblast, and Vagabond added or demoted to The Rest.