We spent dozens of hours researching Nerf guns before we bought the 11 best models on the market in 2020 for a head-to-head toy blaster battle royale. We carefully inspected each product for the subtleties and differences in features that set it apart from the others. We considered how hard the manual powered Nerf guns are to set as well as the size and price of the batteries for the electric models. We even measured the maximum distance each blaster was able to shoot its projectile. Most importantly, we judged how much fun each model was to use. Read below to see the results of our comprehensive Nerf gun review.
The Best Nerf Guns of 2020
The leading single-handed pistol style blaster without batteries is the Nerf N-Strike Strongarm. It features a flip-out style cylinder that houses the six included darts that will have you feeling like you're the star in an old western film. It is easier to set to blast than many others, making it ideal for kids. One of our favorite features of the N-Strike is if you keep the trigger depressed it can automatically shoot all six darts.
Our only complaint with the Nerf N-Strike Strongarm is that it takes longer to load than many other models. The revolver style is fun, but it could leave you vulnerable to people with Nerf guns that are easier to load in a toy blaster battle. Still, the Strongarm is a great choice for a manual-powered model.
The Nerf Ultra One Motorized Blaster could launch a dart nearly twice as far as the second-place contender, and more than three times as far as the weakest blasters. This is largely a result of the Ultra One darts. They were designed with aerodynamic fronts plus grooves on the back that give them spin like a well-thrown football. The massive drum-style cylinder holds 25 darts, plus there are also holders for four more on each side of the stock.
Unfortunately, the special darts are also a downside. This blaster can only fire Ultra One darts. They're more expensive to replace than standard darts, plus if you're being bombarded with your opponent's different-style darts, you can't pick them up and use them to return fire. Also, C batteries are a bit much to deal with. They're heavy, and with the blaster drawing a ton of power they won't last very long. All that said, the Ultra One Motorized Blaster is pure awesomeness, especially if want a model with phenomenal range.
If you want a Nerf gun for dirt-cheap, the Nerf N-Strike Elite Jolt Blaster is the way to go. It's tiny — it easily fits in a pocket. But don't let it's size fool you. it has a very impressive range. The Jolt definitely reminds us of a certain secret agent's blaster of choice, and is also great for kids who aren't quite big enough to wield the bulkier models.
The main downside to the Elite Jolt Blaster is that you must reload for each shot. In full-on toy blaster combat, this wouldn't be the model of choice. That said, it would be nice to have one hidden in your boot, just in case. Another flaw is that it's a bit hard to set. Even though it might be the right size for a child, you may need to help them blast it — which might not be a bad thing. In general, this is a great blaster at a fair price and is fun for just about anyone.
For all-out toy blaster blitzkrieg, you will want the Nerf N-Strike Elite Rhino-Fire on your side. This battery-powered model has two 25-dart drums that attach to either side of the blaster to ensure you'll be the last one to run out of darts. It can be held either by the rear grip and top handle or mounted on the quick release spring-loaded tripod with rotating pivot. When the thumb trigger is depressed, the barrels alternate, unloading the massive clips at your target.
If you seek a blaster that's easy to transport, hide with, or one that a smaller child can operate, the Rhino-Fire is not the one. This thing is massive. At 34 inches long and 16 inches wide it takes up a lot of space on your shelf or in the toy box. The Rhino-Fire is also very pricey and don't forget the cost of its 6 D batteries. Despite the size and cost, this blaster is the best for defending your fort in a Nerf gun showdown.
For a different style of toy blaster, check out the Nerf Rival Roundhouse XX-1500 Blaster. Rather than foam darts, the XX-1500 shoots foam balls — and they shoot fast and far — one of the best ranges that we've seen. We love the construction of this model. It has five integrated magazines that hold three foam balls each and as the toy is set, its entire front cylinder. Also, it's great that the Roundhouse has a trigger safety lever.
Because the entire front cylinder of the blaster has to rotate every time you want to shoot, the Roundhouse is a bit hard to set and so is not the best model for small kids. The foam balls tend to roll and bounce into odd places even after they've hit the target and are a bit hard to keep track of. Even so, this is perfect for a ball-style toy blaster.
The Nerf Longstrike Modulus has a very inventive design with an array of configurations. It can be used as a short barrel blaster, or you can attach an extended barrel, or then set it up as a bipod with extendable legs to the barrel. The Modulus scope can be attached in any configuration. It includes three six-dart clips, two of which get stored in the stock while the other is attached to the blaster.
The lone complaint about the Longstrike Modulus is that the bolt-action setting on the side is a bit awkward, and definitely slow. If rapid dart deployment is your goal, go with a blaster that is battery powered or a manual model that is easier to set.
When it comes to battery-powered Nerf guns, the Nerf Fortnite SMG-E Blaster is hard to beat, in that it was designed to replicate a model from the actual Fortnite game. With a single six-dart clip that easily loads and snaps into place, you'll spend your time blasting instead of fumbling with darts. Unlike some battery-powered models that have large revolving cylinders, the clip feeds darts straight into the barrel and thus fires quickly. Also good: it uses AA batteries that are readily available in most households and are very cheap compared to the Cs and Ds that some other models use.
Its main downside is the fact that it doesn't have great range. For maximum dart sailing distance with your battery-powered Nerf gun, go with a more powerful model. The SMG-E is best if you want a battery-powered toy blaster that is easy to operate and fires quickly.
The Nerf NER Elite Trilogy DS 15 is a favorite for the simple fact that it shoots three darts at once. Whether you are blasting targets or contending with friends, three darts in the air at once will give you a better chance of scoring. Once you pre-load the five triple dart cartridges, they are stored in the stock of for the next shot. As you set the blaster, using the bottom handle pump, the used dart cartridges pop out of the side of the toy body.
Due note that the Trilogy DS 15 divides the potential energy of a shot into thirds by launching three darts; as a result, it has poor range. Another downside is that you must pack the cartridges with darts before loading them into the blaster. Between the cartridges and darts, that's a lot to keep track of. That said, we think it's a very fun toy, especially if you want to blast three projectiles at once.
The Pokonboy 2 Pack Blaster is perfect for someone who wants a complete battle set in one purchase. This set includes two blasters, plus 30 standard darts and 30 suction cup darts. So you'll never run out of projectiles even if you lose a bunch. Also good: this model holds two darts underneath the barrel for quick reload. This blaster is small — only 8 inches long by 5 inches tall.
The Pokonboy is a single shot, so you have to load a dart and set the blaster every time you want to shoot. Regrettably, during range testing, this blaster came in dead last. Still, it's a great kit for those that want two blasters with a plethora of darts at a decent price.
Power: Manual | Projectile Type: Standard Dart
If you're a Fortnite fanatic and you want a small, affordable toy blaster for fun or as a collectible, the Nerf Fortnite Micro HC-R is a must-have. This bite-sized model has limited edition graphics and a limited edition dart color. Impressively, in our range test it outshot blasters three times its size.
The main downside is that it's a bit hard to set. Although compact, it may not be the best option for children for this reason. Also, it's a bit bulky compared to other micro blasters. Like other micro blasters, it's a single shot which can be a bit of a pain — especially if you only have a dart or two. Nevertheless, we this model is great for Fortnite fans seeking memorabilia with surprisingly impressive range for its size.
Good: BCP Kids Softs Foam Dart Blaster has a removable modular scope, and the clip holds 20 darts, which is one of the largest capacities for a blaster of this style.
Not So Good: The BCP has very poor range for a rifle-style toy blaster. Also, during our tests this model emitted an unusually whiny and annoying sound.
BCP aimed to make a decent toy blaster, but if you seek performance we'd recommend going with a better model.
Why You Should Trust Us
To head up our comprehensive Nerf gun review we used our resident Nerf gun expert Ross Patton. Ross grew up playing with toy blasters and organizing battles with his neighborhood buddies. As an adult, he completed a B.S. in Environmental Science and now has ten years of product testing experience under his belt working on categories such as winter sports equipment, camping accessories, electronics, and power tools.
Here at GearLab, we go a step beyond studying other reviews or trusting the manufacturer's specs and claims — we actually purchase the products from the same retailers as our readers so that we can give them a true side-by-side comparison. We never accept free products or promotional gifts, and we stay true to our authenticity.
Analysis and Test Results
We began by formulating a test plan. In order to provide our readers with the best toy blaster assessment possible, we determined that our score should be narrowed down to three key metrics, in no particular order — range, projectile capacity, and fun factor.
The test plan for range was simple — take the blasters out to the local soccer field on a day with dead-calm wind and see how far each one could shoot a dart. Then we broke out the old trusty measuring wheel and recorded the distance from the furthest dart back to the shooting point.
The Nerf Ultra One Motorized Blaster was easily crowned the champion of this competition. The Ultra One darts have a specially engineered tip and grooves on the back of the projectile that gives them a spiral flight through the air that helps them fly faster and farther than the rest. When we unleashed this beast we were blown away as we watched the darts sail nearly half of the soccer field — the furthest dart that we sent went 135 feet.
Surprisingly, second place for the range assessment was given to the Nerf Rival Roundhouse XX-1500 Blaster — the model that uses foam balls as a projectile rather than darts. We recorded the furthest ball at a distance of 88 feet. Even more impressive was the fact that this is a manually powered toy blaster that really is not that hard to set. The Roundhouse gets the thumbs up from the GearLab crew.
Just behind the XX-1500 in our range experiment was one of our favorites — The Nerf N-Strike Strongarm Blaster. Another manual powered model, we measured the furthest dart projected from the Strongarm to be 77 feet from the point of origin.
If you are deep in a toy blaster clash, it's nice to have extra projectiles ready to go. We considered the number of darts or foam balls that each model has loaded and ready or ready to load.
At the top of the list for this metric is the Nerf N-Strike Elite Rhino-Fire Blaster. With a drum clip on each side that provides a total of 50 loaded darts, you'll be the last one to run out in a contest or battle provided that you don't get trigger happy and unload them all at once.
The Ultra One Motorized Blaster has a 25 dart drum, along with 4 dart holders on each side of the stock for a total of 33 darts that are ready to go on this model. Although the extra darts on the stock will take a few seconds to load, at least they're on hand and accessible.
Another model with a decent amount of readily accessible darts is the Nerf Longstrike Modulus. This toy blaster uses six-dart clips that are easily locked into place and ejected. Best of all, it holds two extra clips in the stock that you can keep pre-loaded for a total of 18 darts ready to blast your target or opposing team.
This metric was our favorite. We took our panel of expert professional product testers, set the blasters out in front of them, and said "have at it" and watched everyone smile from ear to ear. At the end of a full-blown, no holds barred foam projectile battle extravaganza we simply asked everyone which models were their favorites. A few models easily stood out.
It's really hard to beat the Nerf N-Strike Elite Rhino-Fire Blaster in this metric. With two 25 dart drums, a thumb trigger, and a tripod we can't really imagine a toy blaster being much more satisfying to shoot.
Our other favorite model for pure fun is the Nerf Rival Roundhouse XX-1500 Blaster. With the set handle on top and the 15 round rotating cylinder, this thing can send foam balls very far and at a very rapid rate.
Finally, when it comes to single-shot models we love the Nerf N-Strike Elite Jolt Blaster. This tiny blaster has a phenomenal range for its size and it fits in the palm of your hand.
At GearLab, we aim to equip you with the best information possible so that you can make an informed decision before you make your purchases. It is our hope that having read this review you will be able to choose the perfect Nerf gun whether you are looking for the model with the longest range, the largest projectile capacity, or the one that is just plain old fun to shoot. Happy blasting!
— Ross Patton