Most people think of Nerf as the maker of toy guns for kids who want to play cops and robbers. They don’t realize that there is a huge community around the world that participates in get-togethers that range from small skirmishes to highly organized (and high pressure) battles/competitions that are organized by Nerf groups or Nerf itself. Nerf is obviously aware of this and has released blasters (not “toy guns”) specifically for those competitions. There are actually Nerf blasters that are released specifically for Nerf battles and competitions, some of which are pretty highly powered (and should only be shot at people who are wearing the appropriate gear). Those blasters are listed as safe for 14-year-olds and older on the box in the United States, but even with that suggested age on the box, some countries (like Australia) have banned the sale of blasters like the Rival series because they are simply too dangerous for children.
One of the places that the Nerf faithful organize online is Reddit and so we wanted to find out which blasters they thought were the best. That question in and of itself showed just how little we knew about this amazing community, as “best” depends on a ton of variables, variables that we didn’t realize exist up until recently. Luckily, (most of) the /r/Nerf community on Reddit was extremely welcoming, kind and awesome and helped us learn a lot about not only the different blasters out there but also just how amazing, well-organized and widespread the Nerf community is. So, without further ado, here’s 15 of the most regularly utilized Nerf Blasters by the Nerf community according to /r/Nerf on Reddit.
20. Action (Vintage) Crossbow
We asked /r/Nerf (A Nerf sub-Reddit on… Reddit) what the top Nerf blasters were and that opened a gigantic can of worms as that was such a broad question for them. The immediate responses (outside of the ones that were hypercritical of writers who had asked that question in the past and basically burned them) was if we could refine that question. Once we did that (to what the best blasters were generally or in battle) one of the most helpful Redditors was none other than /u/ThunderKrunk.
Luckily he was in a good mood because he brought us one of the most amazing and interesting blasters, one that many a Millenial has a strong emotional attachment to, and that’s the Crossbow that was released in 1995 under the Nerf Action series. The Crossbow comes with five Mega Darts (Also known as a “Sucker Dart” due to the suction cup at the front of the dart itself) as well as three arrows. While it seems antiquated nowadays and has value mainly in the sentimental arena, it’s actually a pretty well rounded blaster (if you can even call it that as it’s more of a crossbow (whereas a blaster is a gun, but that’s the newb in me talking)) as it can hit enemies from afar which can come in handy in battle if/when people on your team can protect while you’re sniping people with arrows. However, if your friends either die or bail on you, you’re also able to protect yourself up close by shooting those Mega Darts and hopefully hitting someone right on the glasses so you have proof of their demise and your amazing aim!
The Tri-Strike surprisingly was only suggested by one Redditor, /u/kna5041, as from the view of a layman it seems like it’s ability to fire more than one projectile would come in handy during a battle. Part of the Modulus series, which is a series that, like its name suggests, focuses on the ability to modify the blasters in this series. While other series have some variation of the following, none seem to match the Modulus series in terms of sheer customization. The Modulus series has multiple tactical rails, barrel extensions, detachable shoulder extensions and accessories. Out of the box though, the Tri-Strike also lives up to its name as it fires two types of darts and a missile.
Beyond that, it has to be one of the best out of the box blasters as it comes with a Mega Dart barrel extension, a clip that holds ten darts (Elite), four Mega Darts, one Elite Missile and a Mega Dart Barrel Extension. If you landed the “Value Pack” you’d also receive a Missile Launcher Stock, two extra Elite Darts, a Grip Blaster, Tactical Light and Targeting Light Beam. That’s an amazing set of accessories and if we had asked Reddit which blaster was the best value or best straight out of the box blaster then you’d have to have thought that this would be near or at the top of the list. While it isn’t a (semi)automatic blaster it can be primed to slam fire, which definitely makes this a great blaster (which probably means that if you’re out there with the value pack version of this blaster then you’re just raising a gigantic flag that reads newb (no offense to /u/kna5041).
The first entry on this list that was a part of the Vortex series that was released in 2011. The Vortex series was a group of blasters that relied on discs rather than darts, which were advertised as a new technology (rather a “never before seen” technology of “XLR Disc technology” (which was also known as a Xtra Long Range Disc which basically explains the benefits of using a blaster with this technology)). The XLR Discs are a lot thicker than other discs and are only compatible with Vortex series blasters. While you’d think that the thickness would sacrifice distance for durability, it’s actually the opposite. The discs, that resemble mini-frisbees, also rebound off of walls/objects if they miss their target and thus can actually ricochet and hit an opposing player, which gives them an advantage that most every other blaster doesn’t have.
The Proton (and other Vortex series blasters) were the first Nerf blasters to use torsion springs, which are a variant of the typical springs used to power many Nerf blasters. Torsion springs are powered by… You guessed it, torsion, which is a source of power that comes from twisting. In this case, a spring is twisted around a spiral or coil, and it releases it’s energy when it untwists, which happens when the trigger of the Proton is squeezed. That provides more power than a typical spring and was also used in the 2014 Zombie Strike line, the Multishot Madness and Light It Up sub-series and most recently the RIVAL blasters.
17. Kenner Arrowstorm
If you like the long-range capabilities of the Crossbow (number 20), then you’ll love the Arrowstorm. While it was only mentioned by one of the multiple responders on Reddit (thanks again /u/ThunderKrunk!), it’s worth adding to this list as it’s just really, really bad ass and because ThunderKrunk has the best username of all-time. The Arrowstorm is also known as the Arrowstorm Gatling Unit, which is pretty redundant as it’s shorthand name explains what it can create, a storm of arrows (just look at that picture). It’s also known as the Firestorm outside of North America, which is only an apt name if you’ve been hit by lightning while firing.
When it was first released in 1993 it was one of the largest blasters ever created by Nerf, which can become an issue in battle as it is a definite two-handed blaster (especially for younger foam warriors). It does pre-date the actual addition of triggers on blasters, though it does have a trigger well. Again, while it was only named by one Nerf aficionado, it was actually once considered to be one of the, if not the, best blasters ever released by Nerf community (in the late 90’s). That came from its combination of its power, performance and great design as well. However, considering that blasters didn’t even have triggers when it was released, it’s also not hard to see why it’s been mostly forgotten by Nerf fans (not named ThunderKrunk).
The Nemesis blaster is part of the Rival series, which is a “professional” series of blasters in that they were released solely for Nerfers (Nerf Herders?) that participate(d) in battles and competitions. The Nerf community is one of the more well-organized groups out there, as the sub-Reddit of almost 25,000 “foam warriors” proves, with communities/groups that exist in pretty much every major market/city across the globe. Those communities get together either for Nerf or self-created battles or competitions and with Nerf realizing that they attempted to capitalize on it by creating blasters that could be used for those battles straight out of the box.
The Rival series (that the Nemesis is a part of) is a result of that and that’s why it was listed on the Top 10/15/20/25 lists of three different Redditors who answered the question of what their favorite competition blasters are (those Redditors being /u/nerfcharmap, /u/TheMysticChicken11 and the omnipresent /u/ThunderKrunk). It was nerfcharmap who helped put it in perspective by stating “for unmodded stock blasters, go with either the Nerf Rival lines or clones like Buzzbee or Zuru… Any of the following are good:…Nemesis (super high capacity)…”. For those that are new to the Nerfing game, it sounds like the Nemesis is a great fit because it’s ready to go straight out of the box, and it’s extremely powerful (as are all the Rival series blasters).
Beyond that, you don’t really need to be the best at aiming with the Nemesis as it has the highest capacity of not only any blaster on this list (if you’re rocking the MXVII-10K) but the highest capacity of any blaster period, with the Nemesis Hopper which is a magazine that holds 100 High-Impact Rounds. On top of that, it’s a fully automatic blaster, so you’re firing what feels like a never-ending supply of golf ball like rounds, which has it’s advantages when you’re new to the game or really regardless of how long you’ve been engaging in Nerf battles. It’s actually surprising that the Nemesis didn’t get more shout-outs with that in mind.
15. The Deploy
If you’re not familiar with Reddit this first entry will really explain the two sides of what is really one of the best websites/communities out there. When posting about this article, asking the /r/Nerf community which was their favorite blasters, more than one person responded with two words: “The Deploy”. After a few minutes, someone else responded with a list of blasters while also pointing out that The Deploy is considered the worst blaster perhaps ever and that the people that told me that were trolling me. That’s Reddit, it’ll nearly simultaneously make you question/restore your faith in humanity (that should be their tagline).
What makes the Deploy so terrible? The pump-action blaster is bright yellow and orange, which doesn’t help, but it looks like a shotgun and makes you think that it’ll actually hurt should it’s dart actually hit you. However, the range of the Deploy leaves a lot to be desired as does its internals (it’s a reverse plunger system). One Nerf fan summed it up pretty well by stating that “It’s a big and expensive gimmick, basically. And it is a reverse plunger. And a lot of them have performance out of the box.” So, it sounds like the Deploy was hit-or-miss coming out of the box, which is incredibly ironic considering. So, Deploys are mainly used for spare parts by modders these days, a rare black eye for Nerf but a great way to start this list by showing how Reddit operates!
14. Apollo (XV-700)
The first Rival series blaster on this list is the Apollo (XV-700), which is a single fire blaster that was released at the end of 2015. It may be surprising to see a single fire blaster on this list, considering there are others that can either automatically or slam fire what would feel like an endless amount of darts. The Rival doesn’t actually use darts but instead uses “High-Impact Rounds” which are known as foam rounds, rival rounds or team red/blue rounds because… You guessed it, they’re round.
They actually resemble yellow golf balls, as they are covered in small dimples (which helps them be more aerodynamic and accurate) and they are also made of high-impact foam. It comes with a seven-round clip (which can be expanded to a 12-round clip) and rarely jams because it’s shooting balls instead of darts. That means it’s one of the most reliable blasters on the market which is extremely important when it comes to competition. It also has a safety on it because it’s really, really powerful (its value pack comes with what looks like a paintball mask) and it can also be fired in bursts if it’s primed more than once, which helps with the single fire “problem” and makes this gun such a great blaster (you can even add a pump kit which makes it absolutely terrifying on the battlefield).
13. Hera (MXVII-700)
Like the Apollo, the Hera (MXVII-700) is part of the Rival series from Nerf that was explicitly made for competition and combat. Perhaps because of that, it was listed as a top blaster by three Redditors (/u/nerfcharmap, /u/SearingPhoenix and fan favorite /u/ThunderKrunk). It was /u/SearingPhoenix who laid out the cost of what it’d take to join a group (equipment wise). Beyond simply owning a blaster, there is a decent amount of gear that you’ll need on top of whatever you spend on a modding kit for said blaster. Phoenix puts the cost at a range of between $150 and $300, but don’t worry, you’ll be able to loan a lot of that from the group if you can’t afford that amount right away. The Hera itself would run around $100 and gets the nod above the Apollo as it’s a much easier weapon to use, especially for a newb.
While you can mod the Apollo to increase its rate of fire (pump kit!) or even get it to fire in bursts by priming it more than once, it’s just easier to have a base blaster that’s semi-automatic like the Hera. Like the Apollo, the Hera uses the High-Impact Rounds that resemble little yellow golf balls, but unlike the Apollo, the Hera has a decently large clip (The Hera’s clip holds 12 rounds to the Apollo’s 7) out of the box. The Rival is, again, made for competition and because of that, it comes with two different colored banners (blue and red), which can attach to the blaster to let people in battle know which team the player is on. However, I’m sure that the barrage of yellow balls coming one’s way will let them know well before they look over and see a red banner underneath the blaster!
12. Alpha Trooper (CS-18)
If you look at the picture of this blaster (like the one above), even as a newb to Nerf culture, you can tell that the Alpha Trooper is an amazing blaster (especially if you haven’t really looked into Nerf blasters since the 90’s). The Alpha Trooper seems to be one of the more versatile blasters, as it has both an 18-dart drum (as opposed to a clip based system) that allows the user to refill less frequently, something that is obviously a pretty big advantage when you’re in the middle of a battle. Because of that, also, the user is able to slam fire the eighteen streamline darts (slam firing being the ability to fire more rapidly than you otherwise would, giving the blaster some semblance of automatic/rapid fire) while also maintaining most of the accuracy and distance that they would’ve had if they fired normally.
Perhaps the most popular reverse plunger blaster (or the only popular one), the modding community has released two different kits for the CS-18, despite their typical avoidance of blasters with reverse plungers. If that isn’t a testament to this pump action blasters ability, I don’t know what is.
11. Alpha Trooper (CS-12)
The Alpha Trooper CS-12 was the next step in the evolution of the Alpha Trooper series and beats out its predecessor (number 12 on this list) mainly because of the love that the Reddit community gave it. Reddit users RedneckNerf, kna5041, ThunderKrunk and aarondoesnerfstuff all highly recommended the Alpha Trooper (from the N-Strike Elite series). /u/ThunderKrunk even named it as his top blaster (on his really awesome top 25 list) and when you look into the CS-12 it’s not hard to see why.
The CS-18 is one of the only (if not the only) reverse-plunger powered blasters that people use in battle and that people who modify blasters even mess with, to begin with (there are actually two official modding kits out there for the CS-18). That’s because it’s an amazing blaster that can slam-fire 18 darts and while the CS-12 “only” has 12 darts (hence the name(s)), it took all the good things from the CS-18 (like the ability to slam-fire) while removing the negative aspects of it (like the reverse plunger system). The CS-12 uses a direct plunger system which is preferred by battlers and modders as it is a lot more powerful than the reverse plunger system. Ironically, the reverse plunger system actually replaced the direct plunger system (although the N-Strike Elite blasters have brought back the direct plunger), even though the CS-18/CS-12 did the exact opposite of that.
While there was some pushback from the Nerf sub, most were very nice and helpful and one of those people was Reddit user /u/aarondoesnerfstuff. He provided a list of his favorite blasters and the numbers twenty through ten were mostly similar to what is on this list, but once he hit ten through one, things were a bit different as every single entry was the following: “…Hammershot, Stampede, Swarmfire, Swarmfire, Swarmfire, Swarmfire, Swarmfire, Swarmfire, Swarmfire, Swarmfire, Swarmfire, etc.”
So, what’s so great about this blaster? First off, the Swarmfire is a fully automatic blaster (released in 2011) that was part of the Dart Tag Series (The Dart Tag being a now discontinued sport that Nerf created that held tournaments from 2009 to 2011). While I didn’t specifically hear why /u/aaron loved the Swarmfire so much, it’s not hard to see why as the blaster is the Tommy Gun of blasters and is named SWARMfire for a reason. It’s essentially a mobile/miniature turret that holds twenty darts, and thus can shoot twenty darts in a matter of a couple seconds.
The one drawback is that its shell (like the other Dart Tag blaster) doesn’t have a tactical rail and thus modding is extremely difficult. It is pretty bad ass without it’s shoulder stock, though, as you can basically wield a barrage of darts with one hand (or if you’re feeling saucy, wield two (if you’re not in a battle, of course) and let your little brother know who’s boss, 40 times). Another great feature is that you can leave it on and the batteries won’t drain (which is huge) as it only uses battery power while firing, on-top of that it’s also the first blaster to use the larger C battery, which means you won’t run out of juice mid-battle.
Nerf’s Flywheel is one of the best representations of the diversity that exists from blaster to blaster and a good representation of some of the issues that came up on Reddit during the discussion that lead to this piece. The question posed was which blaster(s) are the “best”, which is clearly a super broad/vague question. Nerf has such a broad range of blasters and so you really need to specify exactly the type of battle you’re talking about when asking questions like “Which Nerf Blaster is Best?” (by adding or asking “At what?”).
The Flywheel is a great example of that as it actually has two spinning mechanisms that propel darts a lot like a pitching machine or one of those football machines that emulate punts. They can be both semi-automatic or fully automatic (thanks to a third spinning wheel). That means that the Flywheel also is a great representation of the modding community that exists within the Nerf community, as it is one of the top modded blaster out there (with the addition of that third wheel), making it incredibly dangerous to go up against in battle. So, if you see someone with a Flywheel in battle, it’s best to probably run the other way as it’s most likely modded and thus capable of ending your battle.
Like the Deploy, The RapidStrike is another great representation of the diversity that exists in the Nerf community but instead of identifying trolls, it’s actually one of the better blasters when it comes to modding one’s blaster. Modding, or moderating, is something that sets Nerf apart from its competition as some blasters have what are called rail mounts, which are attachment points on the blaster that allow the user to alter the shape and function of the blaster. You can add all sorts of really great stuff, like an extended stock, barrel attachments, scopes and more.
The RapidStrike is great for modding outside of its rails as it’s a fully automatic battery-powered blaster with a shoulder stock and huge clip of 18 darts. According to /u/RedneckNerf, the RapidStrike can hit 175+ FPS (Feet Per Second), which is amazing as the typical Nerf blaster (out of the box) typically hits anywhere between 50-75 FPS!
According to /u/SearingPhoenix on Reddit, the Nerf Hammershot is “arguably the best one-handed springer”. A “springer” means that the Hammershot is spring-loaded, however, it also is hammer-action blaster. The Hammershot has a “brother” blaster, which is called the Rebelle Sweet Revenge and while it is called a brother blaster, the Rebelle appears to be a blaster that’s geared towards women while the Hammershot is the more masculine of the two as it rocks faux-wood on its handle. There’s no better feeling that dual-wielding two Hammershots, especially as the ergonomics of the Hammershot were mentioned a few times by Redditors.
The Hammershot could be called the HairTriggershot as well, as it does have a pretty sensitive trigger that can result in accidental fires (nothing worse than committing suicide during a massive battle!) but at the same time that sensitive trigger makes it so the wielder can fire as quickly as they can repeatedly pull the trigger. What’s cool about the Hammershot also is that it was originally released as a Target exclusive that focused on being a “Zombie Strike” blaster.
If you’re not familiar with the Nerf communities protocol, they have all sorts of different games when it comes to their get-togethers and one of those games that are really popular on college campuses is Humans vs. Zombies. Because the rules typically state that you can’t use a modified blaster, Hammershot is a great choice for this game and should keep you from really wanting some brains.
6. The Longshot
The Longshot was a blaster that came up nine separate times in the thread that was on the sub-Reddit /r/Nerf. There are actually two versions of this iconic blaster, the first of which was the Longshot CS-6, which was released in 2006. Then there’s the Longshot CS-12, which was released in 2015 as part of a Zombie Strike “Z.E.D. Squad”. They actually look fairly different, but at least according to the experts on Reddit, they’re “functionally identical”. Beyond that, the blaster that was considered one of the best to use in battle only over about ten years ago is now basically too far behind in terms of tech and functionality. Both versions are clip based, with the CS-12 coming with a 12 dart clip and the CS-6 coming with a 6 dar… Wait a minute! It’s so obvious now! They both come with a scope (hence the name), as well.
There are some differences, though, most of which are aesthetic (as a matter of fact the CS-12 didn’t include any performance improvement over the CS-6). Beyond that, the CS-12 didn’t include a front blaster like the CS-6 did, which is actually super important when it comes to battle as the front blaster (which is a barrel extension) can be removed and used as a secondary/close up blaster. That having been said, the CS-12 is compatible with barrel extensions so it’s sort of a moot point. The CS-6 was the first clip based blaster, which is probably why it still is regarded (9 times) as one of the better blasters out there.
Simply put, the Titan is a beast. It’s a pretty big, air-powered blaster that resembles a rocket launcher but does much more than that. In this case the rocket in this launcher is called a “Mega-Missile” that does make you feel like it’s a one shot deal (it is and it isn’t), depending on how you modify it, you can actually fire a wide variety of darts/ammunition from the standard Nerf dart (which was highly recommended by Reddit user /u/irishjoshplays), which combined with the power of the air-tank powered Titan makes for something truly amazing to even things like Vortex (Which is that series of Nerf blasters that shot discs a great distance).
Beyond that, you can add shotgun attachments or a four-pronged attachment that allows for four Mega-Missiles to be fired at one time! You can overcome some of the negatives (like the amount of time it takes to pump it) by removing and replacing the air tank and replacing the cylinder with one from another blaster and using a small bike pump. If you’re looking for a project (or three) and an extremely powerful and flexible option for your first/next battle, the Titan is worth the little time and money that you’d put into it when you’re taking out four enemies with one Mega-Missile a piece (or one with all four, if you’re feeling like bruising some ribs).
When the question was asked on Reddit which blaster was their favorite, the one blaster that came up more than any other on this list was the Nerf Stryfe (Which was part of the N-Strike Elite series back in 2013). Even as a layman, it’s not hard to see why the Stryfe was so well received as it came packaged with Elite Darts, which have major advantages over regular darts.
First, they weigh less and are much more aerodynamically stable which means that the more powerful (or longer FPS range) that a blaster has, the better these darts perform. Beyond and because of that, they seem to shoot a lot farther than regular/streamline darts even with regular close-range blasters, while giving them a boost of up to 75-feet per dart. Basically, if there’s a metric when it comes to darts, they’re the better option. The blaster itself is battery-powered and can be modified to run on a lithium-ion battery, upgraded motors and even a flywheel set-up that can boost the range to 175 FPS. That’s insane and amazing, like Vincent Van Gogh and Jim Carrey.
When people mentioned the Stryfe on Reddit they often mentioned the Rapidstrike right after/next to it. That’s because they’re both battery powered and really great options for modders. Beyond that, though the RapidStrike is “easily the best Nerf-branded full-auto platform out there” according to Reddit user /u/SearingPhoenix. It was actually named as the best blaster, too, with Reddit user /u/RedneckNerf saying that the best blasters were “RapidStrike, Stryfe and Hammershot, in that order”, but that’s not in regard to the blaster that comes out of the box, but like the Stryfe, what modders are capable of doing with the RapidStrike.
Apparently, there’s a ton of aftermarket parts available for the RapidStrike and that’s a large part of its appeal, as you’re able to mod without much hassle (or money, considering the concept of supply and demand). When you add a lithium-ion battery and a better motor that can send the Elite version’s darts 175 FPS. The fact that it comes with an 18-dart clip also really makes this the perfect weapon for any type of battle you’re about to enter (Man vs. Zombies, 3×15, etc.).
If you’re a gamer you’ll be familiar with the guy who always snags the sniper-rifle and posts up, waiting to pick off the enemy one-by-one. That same concept applies in Nerf battles as there is a Nerf sniper rifle, and its name is the Nerf Longstrike (CS-6). It’s also referred to as the Sniper Shot CS-6 (in Japan, for obvious reasons), it was released in 2010. A high-powered spring based rifle, it came out of the box with a detachable barrel, a sight that can flip up during close combat, a six dart clip and streamline darts.
What’s great about the barrel is that it has two tactical rails on it which allow for modifications like grips or lights (nothing says hidden sniper like turning a light on). If you want to pretend you’re in World War II, you can enter darts one-by-one to increase the range of the blaster, otherwise, you can also increase the range by removing the barrel and attacking your enemy close up. Just make sure you turn the light off.
Even as a newbie, it’s not hard to understand that the Nerf Retaliator is the most bad ass of all the blasters. It’s essentially a shotgun, especially if you use the tactical rails to add a shotgun grip. Beyond how amazing it’d be to cock your blaster single-handedly like Sara Connor at the end of Terminator 2, the Retaliator apparently has one of the more amazing ranges of any blaster out there. It’s been said that it can send Elite darts over 200 FPS, so imagine getting hit with that dart when you’re only a fraction of a second away.
The initial Retaliator was released as a new and improved version of the 2008 N-Strike Recon CS-6, with many differences but the same barrel extension. Because of its popularity in the Nerf community, it was re-released in 2014 as part of the Elite series, which meant improvements not only in the darts but also with its internal mechanics. It is no longer being made but is still a favorite in the community despite the fact that it was replaced in 2016 by the N-Strike Modulus Recon MKII.