Whether you are a kid, or just a kid at heart, beating the heat with a water gun is an entertaining way to spend a hot summer afternoon. There are a slew of these liquid-dispensing contraptions out there; which one delivers the best blast for the buck?
Water gun reviews
While we found a couple of older comparions reviews (see below), they are out of date. So instead, we checked out user reviews. The Nerf Super Soaker series easily gets the best reviews, but not all of the water guns in the Nerf lineup get good reviews. The Nerf Super Soaker Point Break (*Est. $6) is the cheapest in the line. While most reviews say it shoots water pretty far, several complain that the blue paint used on the handle comes off on their kids' hands, and several owners say the gun leaks. But quite a few like that it shoots far -- around 20 feet in some reviews.
The Nerf Super Soaker Thunderstorm Blaster (*Est. $20) is one of Nerf's new water guns that uses battery power to save you from manually pumping to work up the pressure. In addition, the Thunderstorm Blaster uses Nerf's optional clips (*Est. $5 each) -- that means you could fill all your clips with water and keep feeding them into the gun. On the upside, most seem to like the clip idea, but buying the extra clips can get pricey, and the water stream itself is more of a concentrated stream than a spreading spray.
The Nerf Super Soaker Tornado Strike (*Est. $20) also can use the optional clip, but does require pumping. The Tornado Strike promises a more sophisticated stream of water -- the box promises some kind of "helix" water spray. Owners are mixed about this water gun as well, though. Most say the spray is more of a cone than a helix, and that while using the clips gives you quick access to more water, you only get between 6 and 10 sprays from each clip before you're out of ammo.
A less expensive version, the Nerf Super Soaker Scatter Water Blaster(*Est. $10) actually seems like the best of the bunch for most kids. Advertised as a gun that can shoot up to 25 feet with five separate streams of water smacking your target simultaneously, this blaster uses a pump handle to soak its opponents. User reviews on Amazon.com commend the gun for its ease of use, accuracy and love that it shots out five streams.
And several owners at Amazon.com thing the Super Soaker Hydro Fury 2-Pack (*Est. $17) is a good deal. These water guns are small and easy to hide (for a sneak attack on dad), and all say their kids had a blast with them. Only one owner didn't find them powerful enough (but he was trying to use them to scare off pigeons).
As for other brands, there just aren't enough reviews to come to much of a conclusion. For use in the pool, parents say the Max Liquidator Eliminator (*Est. $9) works well, and some appreciate that it doesn't look like a gun. Parents say this toy is easy to refill under water in the pool. Essentially, this toy has a plunger that you pull back to fill, then push in to eject water.
Got any favorite water guns? Let us know!
"Expert" sater gun testing: A bad deal for the poor intern
A few respectable publications go beyond the fun factor and have made a true science of testing and measuring the quality of water guns. Unfortunately, all of these tests are few years old so the models that are referenced are obsolete and no longer available for purchase, but the methods are still worth noting as we approach this year's top water gun.
Gizmodo has a clear goal in its water guns tests: find an epic water gun that isn't "crappy." In its "Water Gun Battlemodo Royale," staffers tested out four factors: is the gimmick used to sell the gun true; the capacity of the gun; the advertised shooting distance vs. actual tested distance; and, the best of all, the "Face Pain-o-Meter." The latter of these factors was tested by shooting an intern in the face with each gun and monitoring his reactions to see which wave of water was most powerful and thus, most painful.
Slate also did another scientific examination on this aquatic-blasting weaponry. In what Slate calls a "battery of tests," several water guns were measured for strength; ease of use and, of course, their fun factor. Also noted along the way was the range, number of rounds shot before a water refill and unique features. Each gun tested was given a rating of six to one stars.
The standout water gun at both Slate and Gizmodo, as well as in another test from Popular Mechanics, was the Water Warriors Tarantula. This particular model is no longer manufactured, however.
The beginning of water gunning
Since the early days of water guns, models have certainly evolved. One of the first water guns around was the cast-iron USA Liquid Pistol from the late 1890s. According to Popular Mechanics, this water gun (and similar models that were released before the turn of the century) used a squeeze-bulb-style rubber bladder to draw in water and squeeze it back out. These early water guns had to be refilled after every shot -- there wasn't a reservoir or holding tank for extra water.
The first plastic water guns used a trigger pump - the same type of basic apparatus in a spray bottle. While a vast improvement from the original, these can be classified as more of a "squirt" gun, since they don't do much to project water.
Today's super soakers more sophisticated pump action to build up pressure, and some use batteries for extra oomph. Watch these hefty bad boys in action in this fun and quick "history" lesson of the water gun on the Ellen Degeneres Show.