Toy guns, it goes without saying, are a loaded issue for many parents, especially if we’re talking about realistic toy guns.
Some kids love toy guns, which include the ever-popular Nerf guns or paintball and laser tag guns. Toy guns that look more realistic than your average Nerf blaster are required to have an orange tip on both sides of the barrel, to indicate that they’re not real. But the American Academy of Pediatrics cautions parents to avoid things like “toy guns that encourage aggressive play.”
Child development experts surmise that playing with guns can lead to aggressive behavior in children, although there has been no definitive study correlating one with the other. And on the positive side, playing with guns at home lets kids act out their fantasies of being cowboys or heroes in a safe space; they can role play and by getting rid of bad guys, exercise some control over their world. It’s part of running around and playing.
But there’s a fine line between running around and playing with big, bright, modular plastic guns, and the fetishization of gun culture. So be smart. Talk to your kids about guns and the harm they can inflict, and avoid buying any that look like they belong in Lone Survivor.
For parents, that’s easier written than done. Do even a cursory online search and toy guns look appallingly like, well, very real semi-automatic guns. With all that in mind, here some of the most popular toy guns currently available. We made sure to choose models that don’t mimic the appearance semi-automatics rifles, like the kind most commonly used in mass shootings, or make your kid look like an extra in Full Metal Jacket.
Best Toy Guns
The Nerf Lazer Tag Phoenix tagger gun is part of a complete system of blasters. Get more taggers, and you can battle more players. They're loud. They vibrate. And there's a recoil every time a gun is fired.
Kids are enamored with these laser tag guns, which have serious sound effects. There are different settings, based on difficulty levels, and the guns have lights, sounds and vibrations, as well as a recoil when fired. They’re modular, meaning you can keep buying more, and adding more kids to the game.
As the first motorized blaster in the Mega line, the Mastodon fires a payload of 24 Mega Whistler darts from a rotating chamber via an electric motor powered by six (!) D batteries instead of the pump-action mechanisms of manual blasters.
This could either be a good or bad thing, depending on your point of view, but this laser tag set stands out for the ultra-realistic shooting sounds that accompany each setting.
Kids choose from one four settings: Pistol shotgun, machine gun, and rocket. And then, they attack each other. Each laser tag gun lights up and vibrates while shooting as far as 130 feet.
This dart-blaster inspired by Fornite has a detachable barrel kids can customize with the Fortnite spy-l blaster.
Your kids will be dancing the Orange Justice when they get their hands on this Fornite blaster gun. The blaster has an internal clip with a three-dart capacity letting kids fire three darts in a row. It has a detachable barrel to customize for different ways to play, and doesn’t need batteries. And it looks more like a lemon than an actual piece of firepower.
BoomCo's Halo blaster has two firing modes: single and quick-fire. It has a tactical rail, flip-up iron sight, an eight-dart magazine. It has a blasting accuracy up to 60 feet to help kids defeat anyone in their way.
Meant for kids eight and older, the BoomCo (Nerf’s rival) blasts darts up to 60 feet to take down anyone unlucky enough to be in the way. It has a cool, futuristic look, too.
While your son or daughter can have a blast with his or her friends while innocuously winging tennis balls at each other, mornings and evenings you can grab the pup and the unit to get Fido some exercise. Everybody wins.
It’s unlikely that a child will lose an eye with the larger projectile size of a tennis ball. The safety alone is worth the price, but there’s a lot more to love. Accommodating any standard-sized ball, it launches them with a rubber band (read: no batteries) up to 50 feet. Reload by racking back the bright orange charging handle on the barrel’s top and placing the front over the ball. This hands-free loading design makes handling slobbery balls a thing of the past. Bonus: It includes four orbs to get you started—two for your child and two for your dog.
This toy gun's simple pump action is easy for children ages six and up, while the firm foam projectiles travel great distances while bouncing harmlessly off young faces.
The spring-loaded design allows for rapid-fire action of up to 36 feet. Twenty included balls ensure that your child won’t have to call a cease-fire for hours. Our favorite part: The EVA foam is both rigid enough for accurate attacks and soft enough to cause little more than recognition of impact.
The Water Sports stream machine gun disregards all the silly and potentially dangerous firearm silhouettes in exchange for pure water-projecting power. Its streamlined design will be appreciated by your child for its accuracy even as you can rest assured this will never be confused for a real gun. It’s best for children ages eight and up.
The 29-inch barrel acts as a launch ramp for a high-pressure water stream that can tag a fly from 70 feet. While it has to be reloaded after each pump-action projection, the benefit is that is chains your child to a large source of water, ensuring that as long as the battle rages, he or she won’t be straying far from the pool. The polymer shell is impregnated with its color, which ensures that it won’t chip or peel while handling bumps with ease.
For ages six and up, the Toysmith shooter is a ton of fun while posing a nearly zero chance of injuring someone or being mistaken for anything threatening. Its foam discs travel far for fun battles in public spaces as well as around windows and other breakable objects. It’s best for children ages six and up.
Requiring no batteries or built-up pressure, the Zip Shot shooter draws its foam discs down into the chamber with the pull of a fully mechanical trigger. With each pull, the next of 12 included discs drops down, ready to fire a maximum 25 feet.
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