Preamble: Though perhaps a little late in the year, I've been meaning to write up this article for some time now. Next year (2013), I'll work on pushing up this sort of summary article sooner. That said, while it is "off-season" for the Northern Hemisphere, it's the start of "on-season" for the Southern Hemisphere and this info may still prove timely for some.
The Newest Stock Blasters in 2012
There were a decent number of new stock water blasters released in 2012. While there are undoubtedly some smaller brands that I've missed, the two major brands, Nerf Super Soaker and Water Warriors, are covered fully in this article.
For Hasbro Inc.'s Nerf Super Soaker brand, there are three new blasters:
For Buzz Bee Toys Inc.'s Water Warriors brand, there are four new blasters:
It should be noted that there were also a number of Nerf Super Soaker branded accessories released, but as they are not water blasters, they are not being discussed further in this article.
The section will provide an overview of each of the blasters. For a full review, follow the links provided.
The Micro Burst is the smallest of the new 2012 Nerf Super Soakers. Small enough to fit into most pockets, this blaster is pump-action, thus cannot produce consistent streams. Its small size also means limited capacity. While it can achieve decent performance for its size, being such a small blaster, its primary use is at best for back-up or for teasing someone with a little water. The biggest drawback is that this blaster much be used two-handed due to its pump design; forget about trying to use this blaster in conjunction with another.
The Electrostorm is not much larger than the Micro Burst, but it features a motorized pump as opposed to the Micro Burst's two-handed manual pump. That said, due to the small size of this blaster and its motor, it achieves shorter ranges than the Micro Burst and has an output of a mere 5.0 mL/s. Its reservoir is slightly more than that of the Micro Burst, but being such a small blaster as well, don't expect to significantly drench someone with this blaster, even if you somehow manage to fully unload the full magazine on them. It should be noted that while the Electrostorm appears to have a clip-like reservoir, it is non-removable. Its saving grace is the fact that, being motorized, it can be used single-handedly, allowing one to dual-wield two Electrostorms (or another motorized water blaster) if one wishes. Then again, given its low range and output, I'm not sure why you would.
The Nerf Super Soaker Lightningstorm is the largest of the Nerf Super Soakers released for 2012. On first impression of the fully assembled blaster, the Lightningstorm looks like a serious water blaster for the avid water warrior featuring a large, swappable drum magazine, a detachable shield and shoulder stock, and great styling as well. However, upon closer inspection, one will realize that the Lightningstorm is actually merely a Nerf Super Soaker Thunderstorm (2011) with the additional shield and shoulder-stock with no notable improvement in power. While its capacity is increased over the Thunderstorm's 275mL (the Lightningstorm holds 1235mL in its drum), output and range remain low pushing only a mere 9.0mL/s (a rating of 0.3x). For a blaster this large, one would expect higher performance, but sadly this is not the case here. While perhaps great for roleplaying, the Nerf Super Soaker Lightningstorm's value in the water warfare field is exceedingly limited.
The Viper is the smallest of the new Water Warriors blasters for 2012. It is a simple, pressurized reservoir water blaster that performs very well for its size. Smaller than the fully assembled Nerf Super Soaker Lightningstorm, it holds ~400mLs in its reservoir (need room for air) and pushes out water at a rate of 46mL/s. Great for scouting or as a solid backup blaster, the Viper may seem a little thinner than older models, but it feels great and performs well.
The Steady Stream 2 is a revised version of the original Steady Stream (2007). The Steady Stream's key feature is, while being a pump-action water blaster by nature, it has a spring-loaded pressure chamber than partially stored part of each shot, allowing the blaster to push out a stream for a little more time after one finishes pumping. The end result is a pump-action water blaster that is capable of producing a solid stream is one pumps quickly enough (no other pump-action water blaster can do this no matter how quickly one pumps). That said, the only real difference between the newer and older models of the Steady Stream is their colors and shape of their reservoir. The newer Steady Stream 2 holds on 820mL versus the original's 1090mL. Nevertheless, the Steady Stream 2 still provides great performance and capacity and would serve one well even in light to medium engagements.
The Python is the second largest Water Warriors water blaster released in 2012. This blaster, like the smaller Viper, uses pressurized reservoir technology, but features three distinct nozzle settings to choose from. Its two stream settings offer a good mix between harder hitting (61mL/sec) versus water saving (36mL/sec) while its burst setting increases output (65mL/sec) and area covered while not sacrificing too much in terms of usable range. Usable capacity for the Python is on the order of ~1.1L (need some room for air). Being a longer blaster is a trigger positioned closer to its back, the Python is better held using two hands though it is possible to wield it single-handed once it is fully pressurized. Respectable capacity combined with good output make the Python a good choice for all but the heaviest of water war engagements.
The Colossus, as its name suggests, is the largest of the Water Warriors water blasters released in 2012. Granted, the Colossus, while being large, is still more slender and smaller than some older Water Warriors models such as the Water Warriors Gorgon. Where the Colossus beats most other recent air-pressure blasters is in its colossal-size of its pressure chamber, holding roughly 540mL of pressurized air (this actually means the total volume of the PC is likely 25% larger than the pressurized portion). Like the smaller Python, the Colossus also features three nozzle settings. The two stream settings offer some flexibility (output of 55mL/sec for the smaller setting and 67mL/sec for the larger setting). The Colossus' burst setting offers a bigger punch, pushing out 99.5mL/sec while only losing ~0.5m of effective range. Moreover, the Colossus' more sculpted, mid-positioned grip and minimal approach do design make it a well-balanced, lean blaster packing good power for its size. Perhaps the only drawback to the Colossus' design is their choice to enclose the trigger/grip area by having the bottom piece of plastic; while this may confer some additional stability, it also means those with larger hands may find the space a little cramped. Overall, the Colossus is a great blaster offering solid performance and good capacity, useful in pretty much any water war one may find oneself in.
And the winner is...
Without a doubt, the Water Warriors Colossus is the biggest and best blaster for 2012. Its stats speak for themselves in terms of power, capacity, and performance, and its design makes it easy to use and wield. The Colossus should meet the general needs of any avid water warrior.
The Water Warriors Viper, Water Warriors Steady Stream 2, and Water Warriors Python are also good choices as well for lighter engagements. Unfortunately, the Nerf Super Soaker line of 2012 leaves a lot to be desired, their largest blaster, the Nerf Super Soaker Lightningstorm, performs worse than the smaller Water Warriors Viper.
All that said, the future remains bright for the world of stock water blasters. While 2012, itself, is drawing to a close, this also means that the newer 2013 water blasters are just around the corner. Here's to hoping that the Water Warriors brand continues to grow and improve and for the Super Soaker brand to return to making the sorts of blasters that made them a household name in the first place.
Soak on and leave NO one dry!