Update: See also: 2014 Water Gun / Water Blaster Buying Guide
Want the best water gun / water blaster for one's money?
There is much more to determining what the best water blaster is for you than simply which one holds the most water or pushes out the most water the farthest. Beyond raw power and capacity, users must also keep in mind their own abilities and strength versus the weight of a fully-loaded water blaster, how easy it is to prepare before it can shoot, how comfortable it is to hold, and, of course, its price versus its features. While some may feel that price is no matter, most have some level of budgetary constraints.
Wandering the toy aisle, there are a number of water guns and water toys that fill the shelves in the spring and early-summer months. Presently, there are two brands that dominate the water blaster section: the Nerf Super Soaker brand by Hasbro Inc. and the Water Warriors brand by Buzz Bee Toys Inc.
The Water Guns / Water Blasters
The water blasters available in 2013 at various stores according to the companies' websites are as follows (links to iSoaker.com review pages are included):
The most immediately obvious thing to notice from the listing above is that there are more options in the Water Warriors brand line. However, what should be emphasized, though, is that while the above lists are what each brand is making available, no store will carry all of the items and some may prove more difficult to find. With this in mind, this guide will strive to stick to recommendations based on what one will more likely be able to find. Of course, this view is also based on a Canada/US-viewpoint. We are much less aware of which of the above products make it into European, Asian, or Australian markets let alone Central America, South America, or Africa.
Just to be clear, the opinions that follows are based on personal experience. However, since we have experience with more types of water blasters than most, we feel we can offer a broader view. Moreover, we do try to remain as objective as possible on what constitutes a good water blaster. Of course, the following are the opinions of a lone individual - if, after reading this, you yearn for additional opinions, the best place to turn to is the hub of the online water warfare community: WaterWar.net Forums. Check out the posts and threads other members there have made to add to the information presented below. When one has a limited budget, it is always best to get as many opinions as possible and weigh them against your own thoughts and instinct.
Now, onto the guide!
For the Biggest, Most Powerful Water Gun / Water Blaster Currently Available
For older and/or stronger individuals wanting to take hold of the most powerful water blaster that can easily be found in stores, your best bet is to look for the Water Warriors Gorgon (~$24.99-$29.99 USD). The Gorgon's dual-air-pressure chamber system, large reservoir, and 5-option nozzle selector offers the most available power from the listing above. It is on the heavier side when loaded, but it does work well. Of course, priming the pressure chambers with some air before pushing in water will allow this blaster to perform its best. The main problem, though, may be finding this particular blaster since not all the major retailers appear to be stocking it; it is, after all, technically an older model, first released in 2011.
If limiting one's choices to blasters released in 2013 (and therefore are likely easier to find), the Water Warriors Drench 'n Blast (~$19.99 USD) offers the most power, but at the cost of requiring a hefty amount of pumping to build adequate pressure. Unlike the Gorgon, the Drench 'n Blast does not have a separate pressure chamber. Since its good-sized reservoir must be pressurized instead, this means two things: 1) the reservoir cannot be filled to the top otherwise there won't be enough room to build good pressure and 2) a lot of pumps are require to push in enough air to be able to exert the force needed to yield good streams. How many pumps? A 2/3 to 3/4 filled chamber needs a good 100+ pumps. The Drench 'n Blast does perform respectably when properly pressurized, but some may not be willing to exert that much effort.
The runner-up choices are the Water Warriors Colossus ($19.99 USD), Water Warriors Colossus 2($19.99 USD), and Water Warriors Python 2 ($14.99 USD). The Colossus is the preferred pick amongst these three, but since it is considered my retailers as last-year's model, it may not be as easy to locate. It does offer a larger pressure chamber and more power than the Colossus 2 (see: Water Warriors Colossus versus Colossus 2 comparison). On the other hand, the Water Warriors Colossus 2 and Water Warriors Python 2 offer similar power and capacities (the Python 2 holds a little less water, but then again, it is also an overall smaller blaster - see: Water Warriors Python 2 versus Colossus 2 comparison). Some may prefer the Colossus 2 since it does feature a separate pressure chamber, but others will prefer the Python 2's smaller form. While being a pressurized-reservoir blaster, the Python 2 is fairly easy to pressurize and its lack of a pressure chamber also translates into longer shot times.
For Those Not Wanting to Pump-to-Pressurize Their Water Gun / Water Blaster Before Use
Pressurized water blasters, in general, offer more power than pump-action or motorized water blasters. That said, there are those who prefer not to worry about being caught depressurized, instead having water power available with the pull of the pump or trigger.
For Pump-Action Water Guns / Water Blasters
For pump-action water blasters, larger pump volumes typically yield more power. Of course, the pump should be smooth and easy to use since any notable pump lag would seriously decrease one's effectiveness in the field. When it comes to pump-action water blaster, very large-piston blasters aside, the best is the Water Warriors Steady Stream 2 ($9.99 USD). Unlike other pump-action water blasters, the Steady Stream 2 features a spring-loaded chamber that stores part of the power from one's pump, making the blaster's stream last a little bit longer than when one stops pumping. The advantage of this is that some energy that would typically go to waste is store and, more importantly, if one pumps quickly enough, as its name implies, the Steady Stream 2 can produce a stream that rivals a pressurized-water blaster being smooth and consistent unlike typical pump-action water blasters that blast, then pause as the pump needs to be refilled before shooting again.
The runner-up for pump action blasters is the Water Warriors Avenger ($9.99 USD) with its decent-sized pump and choice of three (3) settings. While the Nerf Super Soaker brand released four (4) pump-action water blasters for 2013, unfortunately, all of them suffer from notable pump lag. Hence, while a single shot may seem good, the time needed before a second shot can be done is what pushed these products out of consideration. Initial output may seem decent, but average output drops by40%-50% when you factor in the pump lag.
For Motorized Water Guns / Water Blasters
While the original Super Soaker ended the reign of the motorized water blaster back in the early 1990s (see: History of the Super Soaker), there seems to have been a recent re-emergence of motorized water blasters. The larger ones of the recent crop, like the water guns of the 1980s, make use of 4AA batteries to drive their motors. While typically lacking the power that pressurized or even decent-sized pump-action water blasters can yield, many like the simplicity of the motorized water blaster since all one needs to do is add batteries, fill it, aim, and pull the trigger. These motorized blasters can be aimed better than pump-action water blasters since the user does not need to make any major motions to use them. They do, of course, require batteries to work, thus increasing the overall operating cost of these water blasters.
When it comes to motorized water blasters, the current king is the newly released Water Warriors Hydro Current ($12.99 USD). Offering good capacity in its fixed reservoir, it is able to shoot more water farther than comparable models in the Nerf Super Soaker line (see: Water Warriors Hydro Current versus Nerf Super Soaker Lightningstorm comparison). The Hydro Current's main drawback for a motorized blaster is the fact that both the battery compartment and motor are positioned near to the front of the blaster, making it rather forward-heavy. While easy to use, even for a four-to-five year old, younger users will likely need both hands to balance this blaster well.
The runner-up blasters are the Nerf Super Soaker Lightningstorm ($24.99 USD) and Nerf Super Soaker Thunderstorm ($14.99 USD). Both the Lightningstorm and Thunderstorm appear to use the same base blaster, but the Lightningstorm package comes with a larger reservoir (drum) and a shoulder stock. Which one to choose really depends on price and whether refilling and the added stock make an aesthetic difference to you. As for the Nerf Super Soaker Electrostorm, that is one blaster we tend to recommend against for older users. Still needing 4AA batteries, but offering even lower output and minimal capacity, even when compared to the Nerf Super Soaker Thunderstorm, there are many other blasters that cost less and perform better than the Electrostorm.
For Younger Water Warriors (4 - 6 year olds)
For the young water warrior, going for the biggest water blaster is usually not a good idea since most small children lack the strength and patience to use blasters that require pumping before they can be used or weigh more than they can easily carry. Generally, trigger-based, motorized, and/or pump-action water blasters are preferred. Also, since many parents do not wish for their children to use toys that are styled, even if only-remotely like a real weapon, styling often matters as well.
One definite popular choice amongst both parents and children alike are the various Water Warriors Animal Squirts (~$3.99 USD). Coming in the shapes of a frog, a shark, or a gator. Beyond simply squirting water, these items also open their mouths when shooting. As such, they offer some play value even when not filled with water. Moreover, since many young children like getting wet, but not too wet, the Animal Squirts limited output gets the job done at letting kids know when they have hit or been hit, but without getting anyone too wet too quickly, allowing for longer game times.
For more ambitious young water warriors, the Water Warriors Hydro Current ($14.99) works well. Though typically requiring both hands of a younger child to use, while rated at 5 years old and up, we have seen strong 4 year olds use this blaster without problem. It is a little heavy if completely filled, but definitely not over encumbering. Of course, there is also the Nerf Super Soaker Electrostorm ($9.99 USD) which younger users may find fun to use and not drench as much as the Water Warriors Hydro Current does. Of course, both these options push out much more water than the Water Warriors Animal Squirts so be wary that some children do not take getting drenched too quickly very well.
As for pump-action blasting, the Water Warriors Gargoyle (price TBA) is a nice, light pump-action water blaster that is very easy to pump and use, rated at 4 years old and up. The Nerf Super Soaker Micro Burst is also a fun little water blaster to younger kids to use, but if offers less play time since it carries much, much less water than the Water Warriors Gargoyle.
Of course, there are always simple trigger-based water blasters available such as the Water Warriors Kwik Grip XL series ($9.99 USD for the 4-pack) The primary benefit to choosing the Kwik Grip XL blaster over other novelty-brand squirt pistols is that the Kwik Grip XLs tend to offer better capacity and more general durability.
What we did not dive as deep into the above are discussions the prices of these products. This is partly since retail stores tend to tweak their own price structure based on season, quantities, and demand and partly from finding it difficult to find out the actual manufacturer suggested retail pricing. That said, the Nerf Super Soaker line seems to range from $5.99 USD for the Micro Burst up to $29.99 USD for the Switch Shot. On the other hand, a three-pack of Water Warriors Kwik Grip XPs seem to go for $5.99 USD while the Drench 'n Blast retails for $19.99 USD and the Gorgon for ~$24.99-$29.99 USD. For soaking value for your money, the Water Warriors brand comes out on top for 2013.
In the End
Ultimately, what is the "best" water gun / water blaster for the individual depends just as much on the person as it does on the water blaster model. As different people have varying strengths and preferred water fighting styles, some types of water blasters end up more appealing than other. That said, while we offer our recommendations based on our experiences here at iSoaker.com, there is a whole community of avoid water warriors out there. For those wanting to get second opinions from others on what water blaster they should choose, readers are encouraged to go to the WaterWar.net Forums, check out related threads, and post their remaining questions there.
Now, once the weather permits, get out there and get soaking! Leave NO one dry!