The Best Nerf Guns of 2021
The Nerf N-Strike Strongarm Blaster is the leading single-handed style toy blaster that doesn't use batteries. 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 ideal for kids being that it's easier to set to blast than many others. One of our favorite features of the N-Strike Strongarm is if you keep the trigger held down, 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 toy blasters 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 darts on the Ultra One. They were designed with aerodynamic fronts plus grooves on the back that give them spin like a well-thrown football. The drum-style cylinder is massive, holding 25 darts, plus there are also holders for four more on each side of the stock.
Unfortunately, this blaster can only fire Ultra One darts, which are 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 heavy, and since the blaster draws a ton of power, they won't last very long. Having said all of that, the Ultra One Motorized Blaster is pure awesomeness, especially if you want a model with a phenomenal range.
If you want a toy blaster 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 its size fool you; its range is very impressive. The Elite Jolt reminds us of a particular secret agent's blaster of choice and is also great for kids who aren't quite big enough to handle 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 an all-out toy blaster assault, you will want the battery-powered Nerf N-Strike Elite Rhino-Fire on your side. With two 25-dart drums that attach to either side of the blaster, you'll for sure 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 a rotating pivot. When the thumb trigger is depressed, the barrels alternate, unloading the massive clips at your target.
If you want a blaster that's easy to transport or hide with, you'll probably want to select a different option. The Rhino-Fire also isn't the best for small children. At 34 inches long and 16 inches wide, this thing is massive and takes up a lot of space on your shelf or in the toy box. It's also expensive, even more so when you factor in the cost of its six D batteries. Despite the size and cost, this blaster is the best for defending your fort in a toy blaster showdown.
For a different style of toy blaster, check out the Nerf Rival Roundhouse XX-1500 Blaster. Instead of 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 is loaded. Also, it's great that the Rival Roundhouse XX-1500 has a trigger safety lever.
Because the entire front cylinder of the blaster has to rotate every time you want to shoot, the Rival Roundhouse XX-1500 is a bit hard to set, and so it is not the best model for small kids. After the foam balls hit their target, they tend to roll and bounce into odd places, so they can be 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 slow. If your goal is rapid dart deployment, it will be better to go with a blaster that is battery-powered or a manual model that is easier to set.
When it comes to battery-powered toy blasters, 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 less time fumbling with darts and more time blasting them, instead. 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 toy blaster, 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 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.
The Trilogy DS 15 divides the potential energy of a shot into thirds by launching three darts at once. As a result, it has a 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 still 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. Even if you lose a bunch, you'll never run out of projectiles. Underneath the barrel, this model holds two darts, perfect for quick reloading. 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. But for those that want two blasters with a plethora of darts at a decent price, this would still be a great kit.
If you're a Fortnite fanatic, the Nerf Fortnite Micro HC-R is a must-have. It's a small, affordable toy blaster that's great for fun or as a collectible. 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 it's compact, for this reason, it may not be the best option for children. Compared to other micro blasters, it's also a bit bulky. 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, this model is great for Fortnite fans seeking memorabilia with a surprisingly impressive range for its size.
The great features of the Best Choice Products Foam Dart Blaster is that it has a removable modular scope, and the clip holds 20 darts, which is one of the largest capacities for a blaster of this style.
The disadvantages of the Best Choice are that its range is very poor for a rifle-style toy blaster, and during our tests, this model emitted an unusually whiny and annoying sound. This company aimed to make a decent toy blaster, but if you seek performance, we'd recommend going with another model.
Why You Should Trust Us
To head up our comprehensive toy blaster and blaster review, we used our resident foam dart weapons 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, has ten years of product testing experience under his belt, and is a Senior Review Editor at TechGearLab.
Our testing process begins with extensive research to find the top products, then purchasing those contenders for hands-on testing. In this category, we purchased 11 toy blasters for our head-to-head comparison. We then put each product through the paces, testing key performance attributes like range, projectile capacity, ease-of-use, and fun factor to rate and rank each product. After our extensive testing, we pick our favorites and explain why they're the best to help you find the very best product for your needs and budget.
Analysis and Test Results
We began by formulating a test plan. 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 firing 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 tips of the darts on the Ultra One are specially engineered, and the grooves on the back of the projectile give 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. The furthest ball we recorded traveled a distance of 88 feet. It's even more impressive that this is a manually powered toy blaster that is not that hard to set. The Roundhouse gets the thumbs up from the GearLab crew.
Just behind the Rival Roundhouse 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 as long as you don't get trigger happy and unload them all at once.
The Ultra One Motorized Blaster has a 25 dart drum, along with four 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, provided them eye protection, set the blasters out in front of them, 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 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, the Nerf N-Strike Elite Jolt Blaster was our favorite. 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 data possible so you can make an informed decision before you make your purchases. We hope that having read this review, you will be able to choose the perfect toy blaster for your needs and budget, 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.
— Ross Patton