It’s no secret that firearms are a massive part of American culture--though the real things are hardly kid--friendly. Luckily, there are multiple promising faux-firearm options for youngsters to have some harmless fun.
Whether it be rapid-fire dart guns, refreshing water guns, potentially-stinging rubber band guns, or sugar-launching marshmallow shooters, the options for toy guns to buy or make are almost as unlimited as the amount of play they bring.
Dart Guns - “Nerf or Nothin’!”
Neon orange-and-yellow Nerf blasters might be the most immediate thought that comes to mind at the words “toy gun.” However, dart guns come in a wide variety of models, dart types, and prices.
Dart-shooting toy guns boast an aerodynamic projectile, which means they can achieve moderate distance without a particularly heavy round. Most darts are constructed of foam. The classic model “bullets” model has foam cylinders with a tip of rubber or plastic. More modern versions come in spherical rounds for even higher-velocity shooting.
At an average of 1.4 grams for a single round, the munition for these mock-guns for kids is sure to be harmless, while also maintaining moderate accuracy.
Nerf toy guns are optimized for firing and fast-paced shooting, which can lead to these smashable projectiles ending up in the oddest locations. Like socks in the dryer, the little darts seem to have a penchant for slipping into the obscure or hard-to-reach hiding places.
Parents can, however, leverage this scavenger hunt to their advantage: Have some bonus, energy-burning victory by assigning cleanup of these foam darts to the young heroes. Crawling under couches and delving around desks to retrieve rounds makes a great activity to tire-out shooters of all ages.
Water Guns - Hydro-Blasters to Cool Off Faster
Also owned by a Hasbro company, Super Soakers dominate any discussion about water guns. Though they can range in sizes from dollar-store “pew-pew” toy guns to weapons of aqua-destruction, they’re an all-time favorite to “beat the heat."
Water gun munitions are best suited for outdoors. While a pause in play is, of course, inevitable to reload, these toy guns do not require their carriers to scour for the old shots in order to fire new ones.
When ammunition is abundant and there’s no such thing as picking up after the last game, the only thing to worry about is making too much mud.
Unlike dart guns, the rounds of a water gun aren’t measured in grams, calibers, or types but simple volume. It’s important to account for the weight difference of a “fully-loaded” Super Soaker vs an unfilled toy gun. Little arms might be able to carry the empty “mega” size blaster in the store, but they’ll be able to maintain their agility in any given water war with an appropriate size-to-weight ratio with a full “water magazine.”
Marshmallow Guns - Sweet Fun in a Sticky Situation
Marshmallow launchers might have a number of manufactured options, but a major part of the fun comes from making one of these PVC firearms with materials you’ve picked up from the hardware store.
Building a toy gun from scratch might seem like a daunting ordeal, but getting to customize your own sharpshooter can be sweet and satisfying in equal measure. These launchers typically have a straightforward mechanism, but they are anything but boring.
The marshmallow round is usually launched through the wielder’s own lung power. Being lung-powered and having an effectual sugar-sponge as a projectile, marshmallow guns can be great fun, with minimal risk of harm.
While dart guns are often spring-powered and water guns generally rely on hydraulics to spray, a DIY marshmallow gun is manual. The “airpower” operation might wear down the lungs particularly quickly--especially if the marshmallow war requires a lot of running.
If lung-powered marshmallow toy guns are not your cup of hot chocolate, some manufactured models employ a mechanism that’s less taxing on the lungs with a pump or spring action to fire the sweet, squishy projectiles.
Rubber Band Guns - Elastic and Launch-tastic
Rubber band toy guns uniquely employ the elasticity of rubber bands and the tension they can create in order to launch projectiles.
The potential energy of a stretched rubber band can send a small projectile--or even just the band itself--surprisingly far. Take care, however: of the toy gun types discussed so far, this “shot” type might have the most potential for pain or injury.
The other drawback to the rubber-band shooter is similar to the end-result of dart guns: the clean up.
Rubber bands themselves are cheap, and nearly any shape or size can be loaded into the wooden firearm, but picking up the pieces of a battle after it has finished might prove frustrating, especially without the bright colors of foam darts to help.
Nevertheless, their simplicity to build and operate make rubber band shooters a staple in a kid toy gun “arsenal.” Oftentimes, the main body of the firearm is constructed of wood, and the moving parts are molded from durable plastic.
It’s easy to find online videos that demonstrate how to use everything from complex materials engineering to just two of your fingers to create some launchable entertainment.
A floppy rubber loop isn’t the most aerodynamic of projectiles. However, the sheer force that goes into launching one of these latex bands is enough to make its shape zip through the air over a short distance.
Though a rubber band gun might seem underwhelmingly basic when pitted against high-capacity dart guns for kids and instant-drenching water toy guns, their special ammunition is some of the cheapest, most accessible, and effective.
So, go ahead and choose your favorite. Grabbing some toy guns for fun means this Independence Day--and all summer long--kids can celebrate their 2A rights to life, liberty, and the projectiles--woops; that is “pursuit”--of happiness.