When I was a kid, I terrorized my neighborhood with Nerf guns, often making my overly dramatic escape on the sea of a big wheel at the speed of sound (or about as quickly as a five year old can pedal. 8 MPH tops). But as I grew older, I stopped getting Nerf guns for Christmas - my mom probably got tired of hearing the tales of my exploits. Little did she know that I’d get paid to play with Nerf guns in my twenties.
Hasbro (Nerf’s parent company) sent IBT three of their newest models for me to rule the office with...uh, I mean, for me to review as holiday gifts. I may have instigated a few wars amongst colleagues. You’d be surprised what cubicle life does to a writer. So let’s go through the equipment.
First up is the “N-Strike Bow,” a Halloween-colored piece that uses foam darts. The arrows are pushed by a small plastic piston, using tension provided by a light cord. It’s a bit fragile if you’ve got gorilla hands (like I do), but the average adult probably won’t break this, short of an overenthusiastic emulation of Katniss Everdeen. Not that they’d be able to anyway - the foam projectiles aren’t quick are terribly accurate past fifteen feet. Hasbro claims the arrows can go up to forty feet - I managed 36 at best - but don’t expect to hit anything at that range without divine intervention.
But hey - it’s $20! I can’t fault the quickest-reloading weapon here, especially at that price, when it allows you to sneak up behind your boss and nail him in the head with an arrow. Not that you should ever point one of these at anyone’s head. No seriously, it’s printed on the bow. You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.
Next we’ve got the office favorite: the Revonix 360. It’s a chunky pump-action gun that uses a revolver packed with frisbee-like discs, supposedly up to 70 feet. The funny thing is, in our test it actually maxed out around 90 feet. Granted, it’s nigh on impossible to hit that target consistently, but the Revonix makes up for it with its rapid fire function: if you hold the trigger down and continuously pump the slide, you can assault a close to medium range tango and escape before they get more than a handful of shots off.
The design is odd, though - I understand how the slide works and why you have to keep pumping to get continuing fire (unlike a real submachine gun), but it forces your shoulders to move erratically. Prepare to miss often. And when you do run out of ammunition (which won’t take long), you’ll have a hell of a time trying to find it all again. I think I lost five of the thirty discs the Revonix came with.
Still, on balance, it’s the best gun here. At $40, it’s not incredibly cheap, but it’s within reason. And though it’s definitely not the best-looking offering (white with orange flames will go lovely with that flame shirt and fedora!), it can take a beating. If you get a couple of these, you can throw them around a dorm room, generally beat the hell out of them, and they’ll probably be just fine.
And then we have the big boy - the Centurion. I’m not gonna lie, this is by far my favorite design. The red body, silver grip, huge bolt slide and Nerf insignias make the Centurion reminiscent of Mass Effect rifles, and as an unabashed fan of the series, I’m pleased. It also comes with a foldable bipod, which you can use to prop the rifle up on the floor if you’re in the mood for an ambush. The bulky bolt action slide works well here, but it makes you work to load the rounds. That’s not a problem for me, but an adolescent may find it unwiedly.
Then again, the entire piece is a bit cumbersome if you’re not a large person. To put it into perspective: I’m 6’1, and the Centurion is still almost as tall as my legs. There’s a cutout on the butt end of the rifle, used to prop the gun against your shoulder like a real rifle. A nice touch, and a comfortable fit for my adult shoulder. The Centurion is generally far too large for a child, but at least it’s not heavy. Onto the function!
Sadly, this is where the Centurion is a bit disappointing. Hasbro claims the Centurion can fire its bolts up to 100 feet, but we were lucky to observe 65 feet of travel. On the upside, the bolts have small slots cut into to them that produce a nifty whistle as they travel through the air. Kind of sounds like a bomb dropping, and to the Centurion’s credit, it does power the bolts out faster than the other weapons. However, its loading bay was prone to jamming if you went easy on the slide. We actually tore one of the bolts apart.
With all of that, it’s still fun. But at $50, it is a bit of a tougher sell.
The great thing about all of these Nerf guns though - it’ll get your kids moving, and their eyes away from a screen. Sure, iPads are great, and I love Mario too, but electronics won’t beat a Nerf fight in the snow on Christmas Day. Just...try not to shoot each other in the eye.