NERF Guns- Not just for kids

Posted on March 21, 2011 by

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NERF came into being in 1969, with a fairly low-key opening- a 4 inch foam ball created by Parker Brothers as a safe alternative toy for indoor play. Who would have thought all those years ago that today Nerf would be one of the biggest, best-selling brands of toy on the market?

Having expanded from simple foam balls to sports toys and then dart blasters, Nerf became the number one option for safe toy weapons under the ownership of HASBRO, but surprisingly enough, the blasters have at least as good as, if not better than, a following among adults as they do children (indeed, it’s curious to note that, while marketed towards children, the guns are clearly build for adult hands). Besides the foam blasters, Nerf also produces a line of foam melee weapons, from swords to battleaxes, and in 2010, HASBRO acquired the Super Soaker line from Larami, adding them to the already hugely popular Nerf line.

There are three distinct groups of adult Nerf enthusiasts, which have a tendency to overlap in some sort of outrageously fun Venn diagram. the first group is the Modders. Modders are people who buy Nerf guns specifically for the purpose of modifying them, either technically or aesthetically, either for their own use or for re-sale to other users. Given the highly customisable nature of Nerf guns, these mods can range from anything as simple as a fresh paint job (steampunk brass is a popular choice), to replacing all the innards with more powerful components, such as stronger springs, and removing the air restrictors, which can often more than double the original range of the blaster, with some guns going from firing foam darts up to 30 feet to well over 70 feet, and even more than 100 in some cases.

The second group is the collectors. I myself am part of this group. There are many things that can be addictive- alcohol, drugs, kittens, but my high of choice is a brand new Nerf gun. There’s something about possessing a small arsenal of plastic weaponry that really makes your inner child fulfilled. Besides the obvious bonus of being distinctly more legal than real firearms, less dangerous than airsoft and BB guns, and darn good to look at, there are many adults who take to collecting and mounting Nerf blasters on their walls. As well as making a very attractive, colourful display that’s almost ironic in itself (wars might be a lot less depressing f everyone’s guns were bright yellow) this also allows for impromptu Nerf battles with anyone and everyone who stumbles across your armory, and I guarantee that even the coldest of hearts can be melted back to childhood by dint of simply holding a Nerf blaster.

Now, the third, and perhaps most (read, only) controversial group of Nerf enthusiasts. The HVZ players. HVZ, or Humans vs. Zombies is a glorified game of tag that’s become popular in many American Universities, and is beginning to develop a strong following here in good old Blighty. The rules of the game are simple- one player is designated the OZ, or Original Zombie. This player must tag all the other players, known as ‘survivors’. The game ends when all the survivors are turned, or when a series of goals have been completed by the survivors. Humans can use Nerf Blasters (and rolled up socks) to fend off the zombies. Any zombie struck by a Nerf dart (or sock) is out of the game for 15 minutes. You might think that’s a long time, but these games can go on for days. Since they mostly take place on University Campus’, players are not allowed to leave during the game, and must sleep in safehouses such as dorms or libraries. Originally invented by Goucher College students Chris Weed and Brad Sappington in autumn 2005, the game has come under a lot of scrunity from authority figures due to several incidents of real-life shootings at Universities, such as the Virginia Tech shootings in 2007, making many people wary of seeing students walking around campus wielding guns (even bright yellow plastic ones for some reason). Despite criticisms that the game is irresponsible, or claims that it induces violent, warlike tendencies in players, it is still widely played and enjoyed, with the Universities of both Birmingham and Nottingham having groups who regularly engage in games.

As a collector myself, and as someone who themselves is just entering the world of Humans Vs. Zombies, it’s really no surprise that these toys are so popular among adults, from the occasional office war of accounting vs. IT, to a couple of friends making a fort in a living room, Nerf guns will always have a special place in my heart.

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