Related Article: Pre-Super Soaker History
Note: Special thanks to L.B., B.J., and J.Z. for their input on aspects of Larami Corp. and Buzz Bee Toys Inc. history.
In the summer of 2003, a new name appeared on the toy shelves in many stores. Water Warriors® brand water blasters, manufactured by Buzz Bee Toys Inc., began to appear at numerous retailers throughout North America. At a time when Super Soaker® was virtually synonymous with any water blaster or water gun, this new, small company seemed to appear out of nowhere, offering an intriguing selection of products more or less on par with the performance of the available Super Soakers® of the day, yet selling at a lower price for comparable items. Of course, though Buzz Bee Toys Inc. was a newly formed company and not known by the public at large, the individuals behind it were actually already very knowledgeable in the area of water blaster design and development.
A Brief History Behind Buzz Bee Toys Inc.
Once there was a company called Larami Corporation. Larami Corp. was founded back in 1959 by Al Davis and Myung Song. While Larami Corp. produced a number of toy products, even since its early days, one of its staple products was that of water guns / water blasters. Products such as the Uzi Water Gun were relatively popular during the early-to-mid 1980s during the reign of motorized water guns. Without a doubt, Larami Corp. is probably best known for introducing the world to the Power Drencher (a.k.a. the Super Soaker) in the l989 / early 1990s. Due to the wildly popular success of the Super Soaker brand of products, Larami Corp. enjoyed a strong dominance in the world of water blasters and larger toy corporations took notice. In 1995, Larami Corp. became a subsidiary of Hasbro Inc., having its name subsequently changed into Larami Ltd. Reportedly under the deal, Larami Ltd. would more or less operate independantly of Hasbro Inc. for approximately 5 years. It was a 5 year deal that ended up lasting 7 years. As the acquisition was completed, the newer generation of Super Soaker-brand models were labeled solely with the Hasbro Inc. name.
Once Hasbro Inc. had completed its acquisition of Larami Corp., a number of former Larami Corp. employees were dismissed as Hasbro Inc. desired to streamline its operation. Having been developing toys, most notably water blasters, for many years already, these individuals who had shared a good history together opted to continue to pursue what they enjoyed, forming a new toy company soon thereafter.
Buzz Bee Toys Inc. opened its doors on May 1, 2002, only a few blocks away from the old Larami Ltd. offices.
Development and Evolution of the Water Warriors® Line
Though offering good value products, the Water Warriors® brand name was all but unknown during their first year of release in 2003, losing the brand name recognition game against the Super Soaker®, and sometimes being mistaken as simply another cheap Super Soaker® imitation. However, word began to spread about these often overlooked water blasters as performing reasonably well, though still considered lacking compared to the golden water blaster age of the Super Soaker® CPS-series of water blasters (circa 1996 to 1998).
For 2003, there were six (6) water blasters for the Water Warriors brand: Wasp, Hornet, Zzapper, Firefly, Lightning, and Blazer. Interestingly, all the Water Warriors blasters, except for the Wasp, feature some form of pressure gauge with a physical sliding gauge for the smaller water blasters (i.e. Hornet and Zzapper) and an electronic pressure gauge for the larger blasters (i.e. Firefly, Lightning, and Blazer). As well, the two largest water blasters employed a novel pressurization technology called "Hydro Power". Unlike the Super Soaker CPS-based blasters, Water Warriors Hydro Power blasters use a rubber diaphragm disc instead of a full rubber chamber. This, together with the electronic pressure gauges, were likely done to avoid patent infringement issues with various Super Soaker patents. The end result, however, were two new blasters with CPS-like performance which were retailing at lower price points. Granted, Hydro Power blasters were not truly constant pressure as streams tended to noticably lose power as the pressure chambers emptied. However, at a time when Hasbro Inc. had just introduced the EES Super Soaker Series of blasters, seeing higher performing blasters for similar prices was welcomed by those who found them.
While 2003 was their introductory year, 2004 was the year more individuals started to take notice of the Water Warriors brand. The number of water blasters in the Water Warriors line more than doubled, but many of the new blasters were simply naming and restyling of 2003 models (i.e. the Firefly versus the Yellow Jacket or the Lightning versus the Piranha). Interestingly, the 2003 models were also still being sold alongside the 2004 counterparts in many stores. The water blaster types new to the line were the Kwik Grip and Kwik Grip XL models which are trigger-based water blasters. As well, a water balloon filling system under the name "No Knot" was also released. The "No Knot" Water Balloon Filler was the first portable pressurized water balloon filling aparatus available that employed use of re-useable valves for sealing the water balloons (the balloons, themselves, were not re-usable). Another interesting model was the Water Warriors Armor-Dillo. Unlike a typical water blaster, the Armor-Dillo was a water blaster that relied exclusively on garden hose pressure to fire. While appealling to some, others found the Armor-Dillo unnecessarily, simply opting to use typical hose nozzle attachments instead.
In 2005, Buzz Bee Toys Inc. introduced a novel air/water-pressurization system deemed Water Warriors® Aqua Master Pre Chargers. This new design split a cylindrical chamber into two halves: one containing pressurized air, the other containing water. These halves are separated by a sliding piston divider. The idea is to first pressurize the rear of the chamber with air by pumping, the pump in water into the forward side of the chamber. By separating the pressurized air from the water, mist shots were all but eliminated. As well, since pressurized air was stored, one only needed to pump a few times with water to achieve maximum pressure and optimum stream performance. The water blasters of differing sizes employed this system: the Argon, Xenon, and Krypton. While this system gave CPS and Hydro-Power-like performance to these air-pressure based blasters, these was also a downside. The first generation of Aqua Master Pre Chargers were known for being prohibitively difficult to pump in water after fully pressurizing the back-side of the chamber with air. Furthermore, the amount of water that could be pumped before the safety release valve kicked in was not as much as similarly-sized CPS or Hydro-Power-based blasters. Some also found the whole concept of having to pre-pressurize a blaster with air before pumping in water confusing. Later generations of the Aqua Master Pre Chargers were made easier to pump after getting user feedback, but despite the novel technology and functionality these blasters offer, their popularity remain only luke-warm. The other novel blaster introduced in 2005 was the Water Warriors Hydra Pak (previously known as the Aqua Pak; it was renamed so as not to be confused with the Super Soaker Aqua Pak reservoir extensions). In a similar vein to the Super Soaker SC Power Pak and Super Soaker SC Big Trouble, the Hydra Pak was an elastic-bladder-backpack-based water blaster. However, unlike the Super Soaker backpacks, the Hydra Pak was filled through a cap and manually pumped to pressurize the blaster. The total volume of the filled pressure chambers is quite impressive and there was also some additional water remaining in the backpack for re-pumping up the PCs if away from a water source for an extended period of time. Water pressure achieved by the dual bladders is respectable, but slightly less than those of the Super Soaker brand, likely due using spherical as opposed to cylindrical rubber bladders. That said, the Hydra Pak holds one of the longest shot times for any stock water blaster on the market, able to continually fire for nearly 3 minutes on its ~1x (30mL/sec | 1 oz/sec) nozzle setting.
In 2006, the Water Warriors line was expanded again with some new designs, many recolorings, and two water blasters in particular featuring novel technology. The Splat Blaster is a quick-to-prime, quick-to-shoot water blaster that is appropriately shaped like a small shotgun. Its pressure chamber is spring-loaded with the trigger serving to hold the extended spring in place until pulling. Unlike typical water blasters, the Splat Blaster's nozzle valve is a water-tight flap that seals closed when water is drawn into the firing chamber. Pulling the trigger both opens this flap while releasing the catch, allowing the spring-loaded chamber to snap quickly forwards. The other novel water blaster for 2006 is the Scorpion. The Scorpion can be considered revolutionary in that it combines the performance of an elastic-pressure "Hydro Power" pressure chamber with the manual-pump-free action of an electric motor. The Scorpion comes with a rechargeable battery pack that powers its internal motorized pump. The pump, itself, is strong enough to keep this water blaster firing until out of water on its smallest nozzle setting. However, the Scorpion also features some larger nozzle settings that work quite well when powered by a fully-pumped pressure chamber. The motorized pump is automatic, turning on when it senses low pressure and shutting off when the pressure chamber is filled. The pump can also be manually turned off as well by toggling a switch. The primary drawbacks with the Scorpion's design are its additional weight due to the motor and battery pack, the louder noise made when the pump is activated, and no means to manually pump if one happens to run out of charge in the middle of use. Granted, the lifetime of the battery pack on a full charge could easily accomodate hours of typical play.
In 2007, the Water Warriors line underwent a stylistic makeover. Water blasters such as the now 4-year-old Blazer and Lightning were being replaced by the newly styled Orca and Tiger Shark, though the Blazer and Lightning could still be found at some retailers. Two other new water blasters were also introduced: the Steady Stream and the Tarantula. The Steady Stream is a novel piston-based water blaster that features a spring-based pressure chamber. Unlike typical piston-pressure water blasters, when pumping the Steady Stream, part of one's stroke goes into pressurizing the chamber, thus making the Steady Stream continue firing momentarily longer after one stops pumping. What this means is that if one were to pump the Steady Stream quickly enough, it was capable of producing a continuous (i.e."steady stream") of water. The Tarantula, on the other hand, requires no manual pumping at all, instead relying solely on its motorized pump to generate its stream. More akin to the 1980s motorized water guns, the Tarantula has no pressure chamber unlike the Scorpion. However, unlike older motorized water guns that had more pulsating stream performance, the Tarantula produces a fairly smooth and consistent stream.
The year 2008 appeared to be a transition year for Buzz Bee Toys Inc. in some ways. Basically, the entire Water Warriors line was given new packaging designs as the original Water Warriors Logo was replaced by a new, more stylized design. There also were a number of new water blasters added to the line, most of them being pump-action piston-based blasters. The only new non-piston water blaster released was the Jet. Aimed at those in the 2+ age range, the Jet is a small, battery powered motorized water blaster, being the baby-brother of the Tarantula, but not coming with a rechargeable battery pack. Instead, the Jet draws power from 3 AA batteries. While its performance for its size is slightly less than comparably sized air pressure water blasters, the Jet is much simpler to use for its target audience. The other new water blasters for 2008 include new piston-based blasters such as the Avenger, M-16, and Hydro Blast.
In 2009, Buzz Bee Toys Inc. unveiled a variety of new models and water blaster technologies. The new 2009 series in the Water Warriors line was the Pulse Series, comprised of the Pulse Blaster, Pulse Strike, and Pulse Master. The entire Pulse Series employs spring-based pressure chambers, virtually eliminating any mist shots, but limited in the sense that their firing chamber capacities are on the lower-side of the spectrum. The other pressurized blasters were denoted as the "Performance Line" and included four new blasters: the Deluge, Equalizer, Renegade, and Vindicator. The larger of these blasters, namely the Equalizer, Renegade, and Vindicator, were uniquely styled, being much more compact and linear in design with pressure chambers in line with the nozzle and the trigger placed on the rear. This means that these blasters are best used two-handed, but have a good, solid feel to them. Of course, performance is what matters and the newest additions perform very well with some streams capable of breaking the 40' mark! Last, but not least, for 2009, are the Power Shots series. While appearing like better-looking squirt pistols, the Power Shot series feature a two-mode trigger: in standard mode, the trigger pulls like any other squirt pistol trigger, but in "Power Shot mode", the trigger exhibits an initial resistance and must be pulled with more force before the trigger moves. The end result is the resulting stream, though containing the same amount of water as in standard mode, is pushed out initially with more power, thus performing notably better. All-in-all, the 2009 Water Warriors line-up really shows how much Buzz Bee Toys Inc. strives to offer the best performing blasters they can within the limits presently imposed by the current economy.
In 2010, Buzz Bee Toys Inc. updated their line with two new offerings: the Water Warriors Pulse Force and the Water Warriors Vanquisher. The Pulse Force functionality is akin to the older Steady Stream, but with updated styling and a better reservoir cap. The Water Warriors Vanquisher, on the other hand, can be considered as the brother of the 2009 Water Warriors Vindicator, but has a unique system to offer better blaster balance as possesses perhaps the largest pressure chamber made-to-date for a blaster of this size! The Vindicator, as with most of the 2009 Water Warriors line-up, is still available as well, making the new models for 2010 a welcome addition to the offerings from Buzz Bee Toys Inc.
However, in mid-2010, Hasbro Inc. sued Buzz Bee Toys Inc. over patent infringement. While the resulting verdict yielded no monetary damages to Buzz Bee Toys Inc., they did agree to an injunction barring the production and sale of all rubber-bladder-based water blasters (their Hydro Power diaphragm system like that found in the Blazer/Expedition and the more complete bladder as found in the Vindicator and Vanquisher). As such, a number of blasters meant to be bladder-based had to be quickly changed to make it for the 2011 season.
In 2011, Buzz Bee Toys Inc. introduced the Water Warriors Ultimate System. Similar to the Ultimate Air Blaster System for foam, the Water Warriors Ultimate System allows water blasters in the Ultimate line to be connected to one another. Unlike the Ultimate Air Blaster System, the Water Warriors Ultimate System allows any blaster to connect to any other on its top or bottom. The connection system is quite stable, able to hold together a decent number of filled blasters together. While the system theoretically allows an indefinite number of blasters to be attached, most users would likely attach no more than three blasters together before the combined system begins to get a little awkward and heavy to hold. There are five blasters introduced as part of the Ultimate System: Ultimate Bandit, Ultimate Outlaw, Ultimate Renegade, Ultimate Explorer, and Ultimate Vanquisher. The Ultimate Explorer and Ultimate Vanquisher were undoubtedly meant to be rubber-bladder based, but as a result of the injuction, both blasters were given internal air-pressure-chambers instead. There were also two other new additions to the Water Warriors line. The Splat Blaster 2 is a pump-action version of the original Splat Blaster with nicer styling and easier blasting action. Also new for 2011 is the pump-action Warlock. Beyond these blasters, Buzz Bee Toys Inc. also opted to do a number of renamed releases with various changes made to some models: The Goblin is a recoloured Stingray, the Hydra is a recoloured Barracuda, the Titan is a recoloured Firefly without an electronic pressure gauge, the Sphynx is a recoloured Lightning without an electronic pressure gauge and converted to air pressure, and the Gorgon is a recoloured Orca without an electronic pressure gauge and converted to air pressure.
In 2012, the Water Warriors line expanded with three new air-pressure-based water blasters: the Viper, Python, and Colossus. The Viper and Python are both pressurized reservoir-based water blasters with the Viper being the smallest while the Python is a little larger and features a nozzle selector with 2 stream settings and 1 burst setting. The Colossus, on the other hand, is the largest water blaster released by Buzz Bee Toys Inc. for 2012 and features the largest single air pressure chamber seen on a Water Warriors-branded water blaster. It, like the Python, also features a nozzle selector for 2 stream and 1 burst nozzle settings. Also released was the Steady Stream 2, but this versions is pretty much identical to the original Steady Stream, but with a smaller reservoir, reduced in size likely as a cost-saving measure. The most notable improvement about the 2012 Water Warriors line is the effort made to improve the blaster ergonomics and looks without sacrificing capacity and performance. While improvements can still be made, this is a positive step in the evolution of this line.
In the end, the Water Warriors line by Buzz Bee Toys Inc. offers great promise in the world of water warfare. iSoaker.com is personally extremely grateful to the members of Buzz Bee Toys Inc. both for the various new products they have created as well as the numerous opportunities they have given. Buzz Bee Toys Inc., as it has since its inception, continues to innovate, creating new designs and employing new technologies in order to produce the best water blasters it can. iSoaker.com is truly grateful for all their efforts.