The Best Nerf Gun
We put 22 of the best Nerf guns to the test. Our goal: Find out which ones are the most accurate and easiest to use. After hours of target practice, we found five guns that were easy to master, shoot, and reload every time. The choice comes down to what you value most in battle: stealth or fire-power.
This handgun-style blaster was the most accurate we tested. It's on the smaller side, but that makes it portable — especially when paired with its dart-holding holster. ($15)
N-Strike Elite Jolt Blaster
An even smaller pistol that fits in the palm of your hand. It wasn’t quite as accurate as the Sidestrike but it’s just as powerful ($5).
This fully-automatic machine gun rains 25 darts in seconds. It’s relatively quiet for a battery-powered blaster but that also makes it heavier.
The 5 Best Nerf Guns
Stealthy shooters will want a smaller blaster with wicked accuracy. Our favorite stealth gun, the $20 Zombie Strike Sidestrike Blaster will hit your undead target every time. This compact handgun was the easiest to master — our testers were hitting their marks after just a few practice shots. You’ll have to reload in between each kill shot though, as it only holds one dart at a time. Even so, we like that we could store extra darts in its clip-on holster instead of our pockets.
We also loved the $5 N-Strike Elite Jolt Blaster as a ultra-discreet or secondary dart gun. It’s no bigger than a cell phone, but its power and accuracy is impressive for its size. Because it holds just a single dart, it won’t win you a battle — but it’s so small other players will never see it coming.
If you prefer a Nerf gun that will rain darts on your enemies, the $50 N-Strike Elite Hyperfire Blaster brought smiles to both shooters and those being shot at. Its 25-dart drum was smooth to load and even smoother to shoot, ejecting an impressive five darts per second. Its 4 D batteries do make it eight pounds, much heavier than the Sidestrike and Jolt blasters that are both less than one pound; Amazon reviews reported that it's too heavy for users younger than six.
The Rival series offers fire-power catered to an older, more competitive audience. It shoots out foam balls rather than darts, so they’re less wind-resistant (and more accurate). They shoot out faster than any nerf dart, too — up to 70 miles per hour. Consider it a safer alternative to an airsoft or BB gun. Our two favorites are the Artemis ($45) and the Nemesis ($100).
Rival Nemesis MXVII-10K is the best of the best. Like the Hyperfire, this blaster is automatic, and shooting is seamless — just hold down the trigger as up to 100 darts blast out one by one. It’s battery-powered, so it’s heavier and noisier than the Hyperfire. If you want the same speed, distance, and accuracy in a smaller package, we also like Rival Artemis XVII-3000. This one holds 30 balls, and because it doesn’t require batteries, it's easier to carry. The downside is that you’ll have to pump up the power yourself using a sliding handle under the gun.
How We Found the Best Nerf Gun
A Nerf blaster purchase is often made at face value — it's tempting to purchase the coolest-looking blaster. We wanted to go beyond that impulse buy. The best nerf gun had to be fun to actually play with.
So, how do you measure a Nerf gun's “fun factor”? We spoke with Nerf Youtuber, Coop772 (a.k.a. Frank Cooper), who told us that a fun gun, in essence, needs to have some semblance of accuracy, have a relatively powerful shot with decent range, and most importantly be easy to use (it reloads quickly and won’t jam). No matter how competitive or casual a user you are, these are fundamental traits of a Nerf gun worth your money.
Nerf blasters are designed to mimic real-life weaponry, and they come in diverse designs that emulate the mechanics of actual combat hardware. We started with a list of 39 Nerf guns from all six Nerf blaster lines currently available (leaving out the water gun and toy car lines). Outside of their shape and style, we didn’t know how additional features, like a dart drum or missile launcher, would affect usability, accuracy, or range.
So we broke down the different types of Nerf guns and made sure we brought in a variety to compare:
Pistols and handguns: Typically these smaller guns have the best accuracy and are easy to shoot with one hand. However, they also have lower ammo capacity (1–4 darts) and often require frequent reloading.
Machine guns: These blasters will host a dart drum of some shape that has high ammo capacity (20+ darts) for major fire-power. We found aiming was a sacrifice of this design, however, because the darts usually release in a triangular formation, or the whole blaster is too large to aim at a target easily.
Rifles and shotguns: These are the typically the standard size and shape that comes to mind when you think of a Nerf gun. They can hold anywhere from 5–25 darts and usually have a longer range than the smaller handgun style. Because this style is the middle ground, it tends to get experimental with priming and loading styles, and can require a tougher learning curve.
Crossbow hybrids: We didn’t include any Nerf guns that weren’t true blasters (like bows that load arrows or disc shooters), but these hybrids feature a bow design that shoots darts. We found their accuracy to be better than the machine gun style, and the bow design is a fun spin on the traditional blaster. Their ammo capacity is usually less than ten darts, though, a low number for their larger size.
Each series varies mostly in aesthetics. Take the Doomlands Judge and N-Strike Hyperfire, for example. They’re both machine guns, but the Hyperfire is battery-powered, and half the size. We weren’t sure how those difference might affect performance, so we made sure to test different types of blasters from each series.
We also made sure to test any blaster that was particularly popular, the ones that had 700 Amazon reviews received priority over the ones that had 3. If two guns looked nearly identical, we chose the better reviewed of the two, as comments praising accuracy and range were an indication of quality over notes that complained about jamming. In the end, we ordered 22 of the bestselling Nerf guns to put to the test.
There are several non-Nerf dart gun brands available at places like Target. They can be a few dollars cheaper and sometimes offer features Nerf doesn’t have, like a chain-fed machine gun. However, their build quality isn’t quite as impressive. “Nerf-brand products come with a level of refinement not often found in off-brand options. To a casual player, this refinement may go unnoticed, but the seasoned Nerfer can absolutely feel the difference when operating a Nerf-brand blaster compared to any alternative,” said Cooper. Simply put, they’re not dominating the dart market for a reason, and your money is best spent on Nerf.
We found the Nerf blasters mostly diverged in how easy they were to use.
Accuracy and fire-power mean nothing if the gun is too hard to use. Before we compared stats, we took a close look at qualities like weight and comfort, ease of loading and priming, and whether vanity additions took away from functionality.
The best Nerf guns needed to be comfortable to hold.
A significant portion of Nerf users are children, another portion is competitive Nerfers running around in gear. So weight and ergonomics were critical considerations for the best. Things like high ammo capacities, batteries, and multiple ammo ejection points contributed to a heavier gun. An initially promising contender, the massive $80 N-Strike Mega Mastodon Blaster, was too extreme to be practical. It’s an exciting battery-powered beast of a blaster that holds 24 of the large Mega Darts and takes 6D batteries. Combined with its massive size (this thing comes with a sling), it was way too heavy to handle — like carrying around a small vacuum cleaner. This makes the weapon cumbersome and tiring to lug around, especially for younger users.
It should be easy to prime and reload, too.
Reloading your gun in the heat of is already stressful; you don’t want to waste precious time on a tricky loading mechanism. Take the N-Strike Elite Mega Magnus. Not only was it hard to load, but it was painful, too. It has a three-round internal magazine, so you have to reload by cramming the Mega darts into a tight lip of plastic. It took some finger pinching and dart squishing to get the gun loaded, and we had to do it all over again after just three shots.
Will it jam? Cooper told us jamming often happens when you’re using old, beat-up darts. In our testing, darts only jammed when we improperly loaded the blaster.
We preferred blasters that we could reload and fire without stumbling. The Hyperfire impressed us here. Its 25-dart capacity seemed intimidating at first — we were sure it would take forever to reload a magazine that large. But we were proven wrong. Because the Hyperfire has a twisting mechanism built into the side of its turret, you can reload by twisting the internal drum back, like a conveyor belt.
Often, the coolest-looking features are purely superficial.
Nerf expert, Frank Cooper, told us that, “it's best to avoid the gimmicky features that only look cool on TV commercials or on the blaster's box art but ultimately make using the product unpleasant or difficult to use in reality.”
We found this to be true for several of the blasters we tested. The Zombie Strike Brainsaw Blaster, for example, features a foam chainsaw down the middle of the gun. While it looks cool and definitely sparked our zombie-killing imagination, it forces the darts to shoot from the far sides of the gun, making it impossible to aim. The Rebelle Combow, by comparison, earned a place in our favorites with a bow that's more than just decoration. It can detach from its base blaster and lets you fire darts by pulling back on the bow’s wire: A perfect combination of imaginative features and functionality.
We eliminated nine of our blasters on usability alone, with difficult loading and potential finger pinching as frequent culprits.
- N-Strike Elite – Centurion Blaster
- N-Strike Mega – Mastodon Blaster
- N-Strike Elite – Retaliator
- Doomlands – 2169 Persuader Blaster
- Zombie Strike – Crossfire Bow Toy
- Zombie Strike – Brainsaw Blaster
- Nerf Modulus – Modulus Ionfire Blaster
- N-Strike Elite – Mega Magnus Blaster
- Doomlands – The Judge
Ready, aim, fire.
We set up our testing environment, with colored cups and targets, and evaluated the remaining 11 Nerf guns on how easy it was to aim and shoot accurately. A gun is no fun if its accuracy is a good as a Stormtrooper’s.
We configured cup pyramids of different height and distances for isolate target practice, then took aim at each other in real-life battle. Our group of testers, a mix of beginners and experienced Nerf-slingers, spent a few minutes practicing and getting familiar with each gun to account for a margin of user error and lack of skill. Rather than counting targets or timing a course — usually, your target is much bigger (a human) — we evaluated the guns on whether the ammo went where we expected it to go without excessive aiming or strategizing.
The Rebelle Lumanate and Doomlands Negotiator both fell short here. Both blasters shot either significantly higher or lower than expected: We went through multiple rounds of reloading before we hit our targets. That’s because both guns’ barrels are configured in circular positions, which made the exit point of the dart different every time. Trying to predict that when aiming felt like trouble than it was worth. The Negotiator also had a lot of false starts (darts wouldn’t leave the gun). It required a significant amount of force to pull back the lever to prime the gun, too.
A crowd favorite (533 reviews and 4.3 stars on Amazon), the Nerf Modulus Tri-Strike failed in our shooting range too. It ejects three different kinds of ammo; regular darts, the mega darts, and a missile. Unfortunately, it did none of these things very well. The Mega darts just kind of flop out and the missile had a minuscule range of just a few feet before it nosedived to the floor. On top of that, the magazine that holds the regular darts is hard to remove — you have to pull back hard on little buttons on both side of the gun.
- Rival – Khaos MXVI-4000 Blaster
- Doomlands – 2169 Negotiator Blaster
- Nerf Modulus – Tri-Strike
- Rebelle – Lumanate
This left us with seven of our favorite Nerf blasters that are easy to use, reasonably accurate, and exciting to play with. The best Nerf gun for you (or the person you’re buying it for) will depend on how the blaster will be used and what appeals personally. Whether you’re a casual or competitive Nerfer, you have two options: stealth or fire-power.
Our Top Picks For The Best Nerf Gun
Best for Stealth
Players who like to strategize with stealth and accuracy for the perfect kill shot should consider the $20 Zombie Strike Sidestrike Blaster your new go-to sidearm. Its smaller size may feel less exciting than larger models, but it’s so compact you can toss it into a backpack or leave it clipped to your belt with its holster. Younger kids won't struggle to hold or prime it, either.
It’s a single-loading spring blaster, which means you’ll have to reload it every time and you prime the blaster by pulling back on the top. This way of loading feels more like loading a handgun (unlike the Jolt where you just pull down on a handle rod), and is discreet enough that a glance at the gun couldn’t tell your captors if it was primed or not. While it might feel tedious to reload one dart at a time, the Sidestrike does offer storage for six additional darts on both the blaster and its holster. We loved that we didn’t need to carry those extra darts in our pockets.
After some practice, you’ll be slipping them in quickly enough. It took us an average of five seconds between each shot; to reload, prime, and fire. The Hyperfire, by comparison, will have shot nearly all 25 of its dart in that time. But unlike the Hyperfire, you won’t have to spend a few minutes removing a magazine and refilling it to keep going. This makes the Sidestrike a tool for a calculated shot, but pretty useless in a quick ambush.
Its one-handed draw and easy aiming make up for the slower reloading time. Typically, the sights on Nerf blasters mostly operate as decoration, but on the Zombie Sidestrike, it functions to improve aim. A tilt of the head and lining up of the orange plastic will ensures that you’ll hit your target. Testers agreed this blaster was the easiest to master — we consistently nailed our targets after just one or two shots. On top of that, the gun is made with a direct plunger, an internal tube that launches the dart with a force of air built up in priming. This is the most powerful type of internal firing system, which helped the darts hit their target each time.
The blaster was the only one to come with a holster, a feature that makes zombie slaying feel like a wild west standoff. You can easily hook the plastic holster on any belt or waistband, and the gun slides in and out quickly — like sliding a pen into its cap. Other third-party holster accessories are made of fabric, which means a much slower and two-handed holstering.
If you’re looking for a backup weapon to keep in your pocket, the $5 Jolt is your best bet. Because it’s no bigger than your palm, this blaster works as an extension of your arm — giving the shooter direct control over its trajectory.
It only holds one dart at a time, but that also makes it easy to aim. It’s surprisingly powerful, too. It’s built with the same direct plunger as the Sidestrike, so it’s getting a quick and forceful shove out of its one inch barrel. Unlike the Sidestrike, the Jolt only has one dart and no way to easily store anymore than that. It’s also a bit less satisfying and lifelike to shoot. More like a tiny knockout shot than a serious sidearm.
Best for Fire-Power
To make an impressive entrance into battle, you’ll want this blaster with some serious firepower: The Hyperfire is the fastest Nerf dart blaster available. It’s a fully automatic blaster, meaning you don’t have to prime or pull the trigger for each dart. This is paired with a battery-powered conveyor belt that feeds darts between two flywheels that shoot out darts in rapid succession. About five darts per second to be exact.
That said, you’ll run out of its 25 darts quickly, leaving you exposed to the hoard of enemies you just slaughtered. But reloading is easy if you can find cover. To release the dart drum, you push a small button opposite of the trigger. This placement makes it easy to use the same hand you’re pulling the trigger with to release and reload. The drum will instantly drop free, and has a twisting lever that you pull to load without any forceful springs pushing your darts back out.
The Hyperfire fell short in our accuracy tests; we struggled to hit our smaller targets when we slowed down our firing rate. But testers didn’t mind because of how many (and how fast) it’s firing — we had 25 chances to hit our targets. This makes it great for younger kiddos who won’t bother to aim, or anyone newer to Nerfing. Amazon reviewers note children around five or younger may struggle to lift this eight pound-battery-powered machine gun.
At $50, it might be excessive for a casual user, but testers agreed it was hands-down the most fun.
For even more fire-power, upgrade to a Rival blaster.
The Rival series is a newer, high-velocity Nerf style that uses small foam balls instead of darts. They’re incredibly powerful thanks to a tight coil called a torsion spring. The balls are smaller than golf balls, and they’re as light as a regular dart. When blasted out at an advertised 70 mph, they’ll leave a sting a bit harder than a poke — that's what earns them an age restriction of 14 years old. There are five blasters in this line; two stood out for being particularly easy to load and shoot.
The Nemesis has the highest capacity of the Rival series — it holds a whopping 100 rounds. We loved that ammo is stored in a gravity fed hopper (like a fish tank), and falls through a funnel to a conveyor belt that propels them out of the gun. That style made it the easiest Nerf gun to reload: you just slide open a hatch on the top and dump the ammo in. As you’re shooting, the hopper resembles popcorn in a popcorn machine; occasionally we had to jostle the gun to get all the ammo to fall into the belt. It didn’t happen enough to be called an inconvenience, and its easy reloading made up for any lost time.
Because this one is battery powered, you have to hold down a separate trigger to “rev” it. The Rival Khaos’s revving was so loud it made us cringe. Don’t bother trying to sneak up on your target. The Nemesis, by comparison, sounded more like a hair dryer. Overall, the Nemesis was the best of the Rival series but comes at a premium price of $100.
If you’re intrigued by the next-level Rival line, but the Nemesis is too much, consider the Artemis.
It holds 30 rounds and doesn’t require batteries (unlike the others in the Rival line), making it lighter and cheaper ($45) than the Nemesis. Its magazines are integrated horizontally into the top of the gun, and you load by sliding a hatch open on the top and popping balls into those magazines individually. Testers agreed this was time-consuming but was still easier than the Rival Khaos, that had an entirely separate magazine to load. And once you’re loaded, you’ll be hitting your target with precision and power. It’ll feel something like launching a bazooka, or a powerful t-shirt gun, and we were literally uttering “Whoa”.
Other Nerf Guns to Consider
For fans of The Hunger Games or any imaginative players looking for a break from the combat-oriented world of Nerf, we recommend the Rebelle Combow. Of the three blaster/bow hybrids we tested, the $25 Rebelle was easily our favorite. Not only was it easy to aim, its bow was actually functional. We also tested the Zombie Strike Crossfire Bow, and its “bow” was just a regular blaster with two bow limbs on the side— a huge disappointment for anyone buying for the boy who wishes he was Legolas.
You can also slide the blaster and bow apart for two separate, fully-functional blasters. When disconnected, the bow can be used as a literal bow, you just pull the wire back and release to shoot — no triggers here.
When connected, the Rebelle has a two-stage trigger. Meaning if you pull the trigger fully, it’ll release a dart from the bottom blaster and top bow. But if you pull the trigger halfway, one dart will release from the bow portion, and pulling the trigger the rest of the way will release the blaster’s dart. This gives you a variety of ways to utilize the blaster and switch up your strategy when in battle.
The $20 N-Strike Elite DualStrike is a versatile, handgun-style blaster that holds two kinds of ammo. It’s a bit bigger than the Zombie Sidestrike, but we could still shoot it one-handed, and we liked that it holds up to 6 darts at a time.
Typically, smaller blasters keep it simple with one type of ammo, but the Dualstrike allows you to shoot larger “mega darts” in addition to traditional ones. You simply flip a selector notch on the side of the gun to designate which type of ammo you want to engage. That selector notch moves the air power to the right chamber.
In testing, we found the regular darts to be more accurate because they’re smaller and only have one hole in the dart. The heavier Mega darts have two holes, which diverts air through the top and gives it a wonky trajectory. However, the DualStrike was so forceful that one of the mega darts dented one of our plastic target cups. Nothing to leave a bruise, but enough to let the opposing team know you mean business.
It has the capacity for six darts, so you’ll be reloading a lot less than with the Zombie Sidestrike. Six is enough to get a moving target, and for a second chance at adjusting your aim. And if you’re Nerfing with others who use Mega darts, this versatile gun will make it easy to scavenge the battlefield for ammo.
Did You Know?
You can “modify” your Nerf gun.
Searching Youtube for “Nerf mod” will unearth a whole community that has made a hobby of frankensteining and toolboxing Nerf products. These enthusiasts significantly alter their blasters to optimize its function and exceed age restriction technology. The possibilities are endless if you have the time and technical skills. You can take a blaster apart and add stronger springs to increase range, or cut out air restrictors for more power. Some people will mesh multiple guns together to make a “best of both worlds” blaster. Repainting it to look more space-age or realistic is an easy modification for any skill level.
There’s a real-life zombie war.
And the humans are using Nerf guns. Campus’, neighborhoods, conventions, and communities around the world join in on an advanced game of tag called Humans vs. Zombies. The basics: one Zombies starts as “it” and can infect the humans until there’s just one standing. The only defense the humans have, is Nerf darts, marshmallows, and socks. Yep, socks are used as a “grenade” type of ammo to ward off the undead. So if you’re looking for a way to get competitive with your new Nerf blaster, seek or start a local game of Humans vs. Zombies.
Will you shoot your eye out?
Short answer: Probably not. The original design concept was meant to make an active toy that was harmless enough for the indoors. That said, there’s still a potential danger if you’re shot in the eye (general rule of thumb: Don't throw anything at someone's eyes). That risk is increased, however, when the guns are modified or when purchasing off-brand (and cheaper) darts that tend to be firmer.
Even so, Nerf blasters are certainly a safer choice than an airsoft or BB gun. Take the natural precautions like not playing around breakable objects, ensure the children are using them at a safe distance and with no headshot, and adhere to age restrictions.