Since its release in 1969, Nerf guns have been a favorite amongst kids and adults that know how to have fun. While they’re known for their water or dart shooting abilities, the inner workings of Nerf guns have always remained a bit of a mystery… until now.
Overall, there are three methods used to power Nerf guns. Spring-powered Nerf guns use a barrel, piston, or spring. Nerf also has motor-powered and even laser-powered models. However, this is all dependent on the specific Nerf gun model and what it shoots.
Continue reading to learn how most Nerf guns work. It’s an age-old technology with worldwide appeal.
How a Nerf Gun Works Depends on the Gun Itself
Most Nerf guns are “manual,” meaning you load a dart, pull back the hammer, and shoot. If you want to shoot again, you have to load another dart and go through the process again.
Yet, more and more Nerf guns use more sophisticated technology, allowing you to shoot dozens of darts without having to reload.
So, here’s what you need to know:
Some Nerf Guns Use a Spring-Powered System
To understand how spring-loaded Nerf guns work, you’ll need to know these terms:
- Barrel. This is known as “the long part” of the gun. This is the tube that the dart will travel out of when the trigger’s pulled.
- Piston. This is a cylindric component that will force air pressure against the Nerf dart, sending it out the barrel. It’s usually located above the gun’s grip.
- Spring. When you pull the piston back, it’ll rest against a spring. When released, the built-up energy will send the piston forward and force the dart out.
So, when you use a spring-powered Nerf gun, you’ll pull the hammer back that’s connected to the piston. The piston will rest against the spring, which is loaded with potential energy. When you pull the trigger, the spring will release and push the piston forward, relying on air pressure to send the dart out.
Some Nerf Guns Use Motors
On today’s market, some “automatic” Nerf guns (meaning you can shoot multiple darts at once) use motors that operate on batteries. This uses a rotating motor that shoots the darts out at high speeds. Some people have modded their guns to shoot over 50 darts per second. The motor uses a combination of stored energy, gears, flywheels, and copper wires to work cohesively.
Some Nerf Guns Use Lasers
Many people recognize Nerf for being plastic guns that shoot out darts. Yet, this is the 21th century; Nerf guns that use lasers are the next logical step.
The AlphaPoint Nerf Laser Ops Pro is one of the laser-enabled Nerf guns on the shelves. These guns use infrared lights paired with a circuit board programmed to track how many times you get hit, your health, and how many “darts” you have. It also works alongside the Nerf Laser Ops app, which tracks users’ locations while playing. In the app, users can customize their guns and manage how the device keeps score.
So, Which One Are Motorized, Lasers, or Manual?
The following is a simple chart that categorizes Nerf guns by how they work:
You May Need These Things To Get Your Nerf Gun To Work
Stop right there. Before you order a Nerf gun online, some guns need add-on accessories to work. For instance, some products do not come with darts; you may have to buy those separately. Others do not come with batteries––and most Nerf guns that come with batteries will not work without them.
Before clicking “checkout,” ask yourself these things to help you get up and running:
- Does my Nerf gun have a motor or need batteries? Remember: the bigger the gun, the bigger the battery. Many mid-priced non-manual Nerf guns need C or D batteries. Smaller ones usually need AAs.
- Do I need to buy sensors? The infrared lights in Nerf laser guns may use sensors to work or expand their range. Certain accessories can even extend your playing field and options, like the Nerf Elite Digital Target.
- Do I need darts? Some Nerf guns don’t come with darts; you may have to buy them separately. There’s good news, though; most Nerf darts are interchangeable.
Troubleshooting: My Nerf Gun Isn’t Working
You might be on this page because you recently purchased a Nerf gun, and now it’s not working. Unless one of the internal components snapped off and broke, fixing your gun could require:
- A good cleaning. If dirt and particles have built up in the gun’s barrel (or near the piston), this could prevent the gun from shooting.
- The trigger’s stuck. If you pressed the trigger too hard, this could flatten the button. Try using a flathead screwdriver or paperclip to force the trigger out.
- A dart’s stuck in the barrel. Don’t hit the Nerf gun against a hard surface. Instead, use a long skewer, stick it into the dairy, and slowly pull it out.
A Final Word
Long short story: while most Nerf guns work on a spring-powered mechanism, others require lasers and motorists. To learn how your Nerf gun works, read your user manual.