Update: See also: 2014 Water Gun / Water Blaster Buying Guide
Want the best water gun / water blaster for one's money?
As should always be emphasized, 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.
Nevertheless, 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 major brands that dominate the water blaster section, though one has taken the lead in terms of actual performance: the Water Warriors brand by Buzz Bee Toys Inc. and the Nerf Super Soaker brand by Hasbro 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 many options for both the Water Warriors brand and Nerf Super Soaker brand. However, what should be noted, 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. These lists were compiled from each brand's respective website, but we have not confirmed which retailers are selling which of these items. 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 absolutely 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 the newly relaunched iSoaker.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
(*NEW* top choice for 2015) For older and/or stronger individuals wanting to take hold of the most powerful water blaster that can be found in stores, we recommend the Water Warriors Waterlord. The first elastic chamber-based water blaster is many years, the Water Warriors Waterlord also has one of the largest reservoirs for a blaster of its size, performing well, though being somewhat heavy for a blaster lacking a shoulder strap. While functioning well, some may feel that the largest nozzle setting could/should have been slightly larger to provide an even larger drenching option. Of course, perhaps the biggest complaint about this water blaster is the fact that it is only available at Walmart Canada this year. Whether it may appear elsewhere in 2016 is likely, but remains to be seen. Good time to be Canadian, eh? For those with access to this blaster and wanting to find something that performs closer to the golden age of water guns, the Water Warriors Waterlord is the best new choice available in 2015.
(Previous top choice for 2015) For older and/or stronger individuals wanting to take hold of the most powerful water blaster that can be found in stores, unfortunately the Water Warriors Gorgon (~$24.99-$29.99 USD) is no long available. Instead, we recommend the following water blaster models, namely the Water Warriors Python 2 ($14.99 USD) and the Water Warriors Colossus 2($19.99 USD). Though released initially in 2013, they both remain available in retail stores in 2015. 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 features a separate pressure chamber, but others will prefer the Python 2's smaller form and near-perfect balance. While being a pressurized-reservoir blaster, the Python 2 is fairly easy to pressurize and its lack of a separate pressure chamber also translates into longer shot times. In either case, you would still be getting the best blast for your buck.
One runner-up option is the Water Warriors Charger ($14.99 USD) which will give you a solid blast for your soaking needs. Hitting with two solidly performing nozzle settings, while the Water Warriors Charger is not the largest new stock water blaster of 2014, it can easily outsoak any of its competitors at any given time. The Water Warriors Outlaw (not to be confused with the Water Warriors Ultimate Outlaw) is also highly recommended despite being an older model as it holds more water than the Python 2 and performs well, though some may not be as fond of its rear-positioned trigger. While the Outlaw can be used single-handedly by older individuals, younger kids and others may prefer to cradle it.
For Those Not Wanting to Pump-to-Pressurize Their Water Gun / Water Blaster Before Use
Pressurized water blasters, in general, offer more potential 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
(New top choice for 2015) 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 overall choice is the Water Warriors Steady Blast($14.99 USD). Unlike other pump-action water blasters, the Steady Blast, like the Water Warriors 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 Blast 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 Steady Blast also features a nozzle selector with two (2) settings to choose from, offering its user more options in the field. Granted, the actual output of the Steady Blast is a little less than the original Steady Stream 2, but its greatly increased reservoir capacity and choice of nozzle selecion make up for the difference. Admittedly, it would have been even better had the Steady Blast had the output of the Steady Stream 2, but with its increased capacity; perhaps in the next version?
The runner-up for pump action blasters is the Water Warriors Drench Master ($9.99 USD) with its decent-sized pump and choice of two (2) nozzle settings. While the Nerf Super Soaker brand released many, many new pump-action water blasters for 2015, but only a couple appear to be worth while testing. The Nerf Super Soaker Zombie Strike Splatterblast ($19.99 USD) offers four-parallel stream blasting action. 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 by 40%-50% when you factor in the pump lag. Oddly enough, the largest of the 2015 Nerf Super Soaker models, the Nerf Super Soaker Flood Fire($24.99 USD), is the only pump-action water blaster we can think of that required its trigger to be pulled in order to operate! Its other feature, the ability to be attached to a garden hose, is amusing at best, but very limiting in actuality, truly reducing the available output and range a hose with a standard garden attachment can produce. It is unclear why anyone would wish to occupy their hose with a Flood Fire.
For Motorized Water Guns / Water Blasters
Motorized water blasters continue to be fairly available thanks, ironically enough, to the Nerf Super Soaker brand. 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.
(Same as 2014) When it comes to motorized water blasters, the best buy for your money is still the Water Warriors Hydro Current ($12.99 USD), released in 2013. 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 newest motorized water blaster for the Nerf Super Soaker brand was the Nerf Super Soaker Hydrostorm (2014) ($19.99 USD). While the Hydrostorm offers better performance over the older Nerf Super Soaker motorized water blasters such as the the Nerf Super Soaker Lightningstorm ($24.99 USD) and Nerf Super Soaker Thunderstorm ($14.99 USD), it also requires 6 AA betteries, increasing your overall operating costs by 50%, and only manages to match the Water Warriors Hydro Current in terms of output. Moreover, even finding motorized Nerf Super Soaker models is getting harder since they seem to be reall pushing their pump-action water blaster models recently (pun partially intended).
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.
The Water Warriors Power Shot XL (2014), presently sold as two packs for ($4.99 USD), are also a great choice. Being relatively small, trigger operated water blasters, the Water Warriors Power Shot XL is easy to hold and use with younger kids being able to blast them without much difficulty. Their lower output also prevents them (and anything else) from getting too soaked too quickly, particularly if some children may try to use their water blasters in less optimal environments. There are also the Nerf Super Soaker Zipfire (3 pack) (originally $11.99 USD on Amazon). making each Zipfire costing roughly $4 USD, but the Zipfire actually pushes out slightly less water per trigger pull than the Power Shot XL.
For more ambitious young water warriors, the Water Warriors Hydro Current ($14.99 USD) also 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 ($4.99 USD) is a nice, light pump-action water blaster that is very easy to pump and use, rated at 4 years old and up.
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 $4.99 USD for the Zipfire up to $29.99 USD for the Switch Shot with their entire line, except for the Point Break, being either pump-action or motorized. On the other hand, a two-pack of Water Warriors Power Shot XLs seem to go for $4.99 USD while the the Colossus 2 for ~$19.99-$24.99 USD with many high-performing pressurized water blasters available as well as value-priced pump-action water blasters. For soaking value for your money, the Water Warriors brand still comes out on top for 2015.
In the End
Of course, 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 newly relaunched iSoaker.net Forums, check out related threads, and post any unaddressed questions there.
Now, enough with the reading; Get out there and get soaking!