Nerf Sniper Rifle
February 19, 2008

My first Nerf basketball hoop, back around 1972 was not a whole lot more than a wire about the thickness of a coat hanger (a wire one, of course, not that plastic crap we have now), with some yo yo string to make a net. The foam was so lightweight you could hardly shoot with any kind of accuracy at all.

I loved it. A ball I could throw in the house!!

Soon thereafter, my dad brought home another Nerf product. This was a foam plane. Think paper airplane "grown up" a wee bit. Another toy I could throw in the house without getting into too much trouble, although my mom cringed every time, I think. I had friends who had the little Nerf "cars" as well.

Eventually there was the obligatory extra Nerf balls ... Nerf football ... and then Nerf got really cool. Nerf ping pong! You could set up the Nerf ping pong on ANY table and not damage it. Nerf pool! One of my all time favourite games ... and we had never had a pool table. Once again, you set it up on a regular table and played without damaging it. Nerf "air" hockey! Eventually there was even an outdoor set which included Nerf badminton, volleyball and "tennis." Nerf mini-golf.

Of course, there were then Nerf soccer balls, different kinds of Nerf basketballs, included correct weight ones to use outside.

So far as I was concerned, Nerf could do no wrong. Their toys were creative and fun.

Then came the Nerf bow and arrow set. Crossbow. These were also fun ... shooting darts at targets. And then Nerf "guns." Nerf tag. All good fun.

But over the last five years or so, it's gotten completely out of hand. Nerf has turned more and more to only weaponry, various styles of guns. This past year, in my opinion, given the number of school shootings the U.S. has experienced, Nerf has gone too far.

Their new N-Strike Longshot is, plain and simply, a sniper rifle for children.

I don't want to hear "we make what people buy." Children do not need play sniper rifles which actually fire 35 feet. Children do not need a play sniper rifle with a targeting scope to increase accuracy at 35 feet. Children do not need 2 quickload ammunition clips to increase their firepower.

Now look. If we're talking about adults playing with it ... I have somewhat less of a problem. I own two airsoft pistols and an airsoft "machine gun" (sadly, not an automatic, though). I enjoy playing target games. I have no issue with people who hunt and eat what they kill (or sell the meat to others).

But if we are serious about reducing gun violence in schools, then I'm not sure children should be practicing with toy weaponry which can hone rapid-fire skills.

A sniper rifle has one clear purpose. Long range assassination. I do not want my child on the ground, N-Strike Longshot set up on its fold-down bipod (for stability and better accuracy) and practicing sniping. Now, my kid grows up and goes into the armed forces and wants to be a sniper ... you know, I may not always agree with it, but there is a serious purpose for that. I'm fine with an adult making that decision. Police snipers ... there are damn good reasons for those. That's fine.

My 10 year old laying down in the backyard firing at the dog? No.

I know about Nerf Wars and Nerfers. As with airsoft wars and bb guns wars and paintball, there are fun war/shooting games you can play.

The difference is that airsoft guns, BB guns and paintball guns are all marketed in the sporting goods section ... there are restrictions and most parents (certainly not all ... and I've heard plenty of abuse of the system) but most parents treat the stuff as equipment that needs some rules. You really need safety gear to play paintball and while sure, your 15 year old can get away without it in the back lot, if the kid wants to go to a paintball tournament, the kid will have to wear the gear. It's a sport with protective gear. Got it. BB guns and airsoft are a little different, but most parents tend to treat them with some amount of respect.

Nerf guns are sold in toy stores and the toy aisles. Their name at one time meant Nerf basketball and safe indoor toys. Even some of the first dart weaponry was kind of a safe, indoor extension of squirt guns or cops-n-robbers.

Now they have gatling guns and automatic revolvers.

And a sniper rifle.

Look at the commercial. (Will pop up in new window)

Now, the Nerfers are modifiying their Nerf guns ... I've seen several people who have developed darts which are more accurate and fly further. There's a way to modify the guns to get better airflow to the darts so they will fly further and faster.

I do not have an issue with this. I love playing paintball, and Nerf Wars sounds like fun to me, too. It can be cathartic to play such games ... but they can also attract unstable people as well.

I do not have a problem with Hasbro/Nerf marketing directly to the Nerfers. Perhaps actually making Nerfer guns for the sport. But sell them in the sporting goods section. Sell them next to the paintball guns and the airsoft pistols. Because even though the modified guns are safer shooting darts than a paintball or airsoft weapon ... they are still weapons. Give parents that much of a reminder that the kid is not idly looking at some funny little foam version of a squirt gun. Shoot, develop a new logo for Nerfer Guns or Nerfer Wars. Something, anything to remind people that these are not the little foam balls we threw into a wire hoop. A new logo will help parents and kids differentiate between the inaccurate, low-powered toys that kind of throw darts around ... and the more accurate, more powerful guns which shoot darts.

A subtle difference, perhaps. But if we are going to squawk about our children shooting each other ... I feel it's a step we need to take. One that might remind us to look at ourselves and our lives and lifestyles ... and reflect on what we're really teaching our children - that we are paying attention to them and their interests ... and that we are teaching limits and boundaries ... and the morals we want them to espouse.

This, for me at least, is not about left-wing/right-wing. It's not about gun control. It's about taking responsibility for our actions on a personal level (really thinking about our children and their toys) ... and most especially, about corporate and marketing responsibility.

If you didn't view the commercial before, please take the 30 seconds to view it now. Do you want your child practicing to be a sniper?
Look at the commercial. (Will pop up in new window)

NOTE:
Okay, I'm tired of all of the comments from the 10-12 crowd defending their right to have a TOY sniper rifle. Particularly the illiterate bullshit.

So here's the deal, once more, with feeling:

I'm NOT saying these should never ever be made. I am saying they are a sporting goods item, NOT a freaking TOY. There's a difference in mind set. I agree they're kinda cool. I play airsoft, I play paintball. But unless it's under controlled circumstances, there is NO reason for a CHILD to have a sniper rifle. If you're a Nerfer playing a SPORT called Nerf Wars, there IS a reason. Fine.

But a toy is a different thing from a piece of sporting goods equipment.

Comments are now closed because I'm sick of whiny tweens and illiterate teenagers whining. Discussion is fine. My tolerance for whining, however, is negligible.

Posted by Red Monkey at February 19, 2008 5:41 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |

 

Momo Fali said:

Yikes. I find this disturbing.

February 19, 2008 11:12 AM

 

PandoraWilde said:

Cool guns!

But I'm an adult. I'm not a kid. I have enough common sense to use these safely. Kids just don't.

And do we really need them playing Commando? Granted that the same arguments about kids pretending to be wizards and warriors by playing Dungeons and Dragons can apply, but D&D had a dice-based combat system, NOT a fucking detachable scope and clips for your pretend gun!

This isn't a kid's product. Sure, they'll love it and so will their parents but look at the ammo--how hard does that actually hit the target? Especially if the target's an eye?

Your idea would save this toy--I wonder how long it'll be before the complaints start?

February 19, 2008 1:26 PM

I don't like guns. At all.

February 19, 2008 3:51 PM

 

Joe said:

I think they rule and kids are ok as long as the parents have fun with them and teach safety. Candidly, I have the revolver and the gatlin gun and a little mini gun. My daughters love shooting the darts at the duct work in our unfinished basement, we just do target practice. I don't tell them that we are shooting people or anything, just innocent darts suctioned against metal duct work...and sometimes the windows upstairs.

February 20, 2008 11:37 AM

 

BusyDad said:

I guess I'm just old school, but I played with ultra realistic guns when I was a kid and turned out ok. These were the kids that cops would take you down for these days.

I really don't think it's toy guns that cause school violence because in the 70s and 80s you could buy totally realistic guns that today would cause picket lines outside of Target.

That being said, I have to chime in about how cool these guns are (yes, we have one, could you guess?). My son like to snipe his bionicles off the couch. The rule in the house is not to ever point a toy gun at an animal or person (basic respect reasons rather then it'll cause him to shoot up a school). But in sanctioned battle time he can shoot at me, and I him.

It all comes down to parenting. Being involved in your kid's life. Teaching him basic respect for people, animals, property, feelings etc.

Cool toy guns don't cause crime. Detached, uncaring parents do. That is my strong belief.

But in all honesty, these things don't fire that well. My kid is already bored of it.

February 20, 2008 4:53 PM

 

Xeno Nuggets said:

Give a child a toy gun and he has a toy gun.
Give a child a stick and he has a toy gun.
Personally I have had a far more enjoyable experience on the receiving end of a toy gun then I have had from a stick.
Foam bullets don't sting quite as much as sticks do.

The gun itself is not cause of violence it is only the tool used to create it. Even if you took away that tool, those intending to inflict pain and suffering on others will only find another method to do so.
Plus I for one have never been able to see the world in just black and white. I have only ever been able to see it in shades of gray. So to simply blame bad parenting seems a little foolhardy to me.

Red Monkey says: you've missed my point entirely! Playing with toy guns is a fact of childhood life for every child I've ever met. And yes, they'll play with stick guns and finger guns and I can recall building "guns" out of tinker toys. However, there is no call for a child to have a sniper rifle. That's not the type of gun that you do sports shooting with. It's not the type that you hunt with. It's the type used for one very specialized military or police action: taking out a very bad person in order to protect a lot of people.
Nerf wants to make toy guns? I am a little squeamish about them being sold in the toy aisle, yes. It didn't really bother me until recently when they've changed their ad campaigns to something approaching a sport/mock war scenario. They want to hit that market? Fine. But they really ought to market the product differently. It's a sporting goods "toy" at that point, safer than paintball and BB wars, but still in the realm of sporting goods - not toys.
There's nothing wrong, in my opinion, with teaching older children the sport of target shooting or skeet. It's a fun skills-based sport. However, there's no point in arming children with sniper rifles, Nerf or otherwise. To my way of thinking, yes, equipping a 10 year old with a Nerf sniper rifle is bad parenting. Not because the kid has a Nerf gun - but because of the type of gun it is. And I say that having already had this discussion with a dear friend who bought that gun for his 10 year old. That child is not mature enough to handle it - first thing he did was lay in wait and pick off his aunt the moment she walked in the room - after a long discussion about how he was to never even point the thing at a person.
April 7, 2008 4:29 AM

 

Xeno Nuggets said:

Firstly, I don't think I missed your point. I got it. I just failed to agree with it.

Secondly, I still see these Nerf guns as toys. They fire foam darts with a rubber or Velcro tip. The overall damage that these items inflict is next to nothing. The welts and bruises that I have sustained from a friendly game of paint ball however tends to make the distinction pretty clear.

As to your claim that the Long Shot is a sniper rifle for kids with no civilian counterpart to somehow validate this design, I think you should go take a closer look at what the people who hunt are using these days. The optics alone are reaching a near military grade.

But even if the Long Shot is a sniper rifle for children the fact remains that the gun itself won't make the child want to climb to the top of the local water tower in order redecorate the city streets with corpses.

Also the sniper rifle is in the very least a skill based weapon. You wait, line up your target, figure in the wind and distance, control your breathing, and then fire. The sniper rifle is a weapon that requires patience and discipline to become good at.

As to your friend's child whom shot his aunt with a Nerf gun. I don't see any way of weighing in on this one effectively. I don't know the child in question or the methods used for disciplining him. As far as I can tell giving this child a spoon might be a grievous error, no matter how long a talk you have with him. Or maybe he fully weighed out the pros and the cons before making his now infamous shot. I don’t know. But I highly doubt that this Nerf gun will be the thing that turns him into a raving loon with an itchy trigger finger.

Red Monkey says: With the last paragraph, you begin to make the same point as I do. Nerf guns are not inherently bad things. I don't say that they are. I worry about a culture of violence and parents who don't think about their kids' games and toys. To me, a responsible company would move Nerf guns to a slightly re-designed brand as a reminder to parents that this is a skillset, not "just" a toy. However, I think responsible parents can get their kids BB guns, Nerf guns, paintball guns, Airsoft guns and still raise a perfectly healthy kid who's not going to climb a water tower. We are seeing more and more frequently parents who are at fault for not paying enough attention to their children and their children are acting out in very violent ways. If these kids are used to playing with violence, if they are angry and frustrated, if they are on the edge, they are more likely to act out violently. Are Nerf guns or BB guns to blame? No. There are thousands of kids who play with toy guns with no acting out violently. HOWEVER, I find it irresponsible to market Nerf guns as TOYS. Yes, I'd rather get hit by a foam dart than even a plastic BB from an Airsoft, but it doesn't change the fact that these sporting goods items need a little more supervision and forethought than buying a Nerf basketball hoop.
Beyond that, I think we may just have to agree to disagree.
April 7, 2008 8:33 PM

 

Joey said:

Nerf is awesome I love it and im 13 so Please stop being so paranoid. If a kid is going to kill somebody its not because they nerf.

Red Monkey says: You miss my point, Joey. I agree, Nerf does not cause any kid to kill somebody. However, Nerf guns are not precisely the same thing as a carefree toy.
August 17, 2008 1:25 PM

 

DanielFlores said:

Uh, yes they are. Honestly, it's not like the darts spray out blood on impact or have muzzle brakes, or something. It's a long distance rifle. Why not add a scope to it? Oh no! All of a sudden it's become a training device for a future assassin. Please.

October 1, 2008 4:32 AM

 

Matthew said:

I think it's also that kids are learning ways to modify there Nerf guns. Say you add a stronger spring a pvc pipe for a barrel and make different darts that can actually hurt or injure some one? Also what if a kid spray paints a gun so it looks comepletly real? Police may shoot the kid on thinking he has a real gun. So parents should be cautiond on what the kids do with the gun.

Sorry for the typos i'm only 11 years old

October 5, 2008 10:21 AM

 

Erik said:

In response to what Matthew said: I think we'd better define "kids" here. Do you mean 11-year-olds? Fine. Though no, no one is making darts that actually injure people. That would be contrary to the idea of the game, kids who want guns that hurt play paintball.

Thing is, the 11-year-olds aren't the kids who are going to the plumber's section at the hardware store and buying stuff to mod their guns, or making their own darts. As a member of a nerf league, the only modifications most people do are adding rubber bands here and there on the smaller guns.

The people who are doing the modifications are older, from the teens into college age and beyond, some of whom you may call children but who are mostly to be rightfully considered adolescents and adults, which is not the same as preteen kids. And they're able to handle themselves. I've met unstable, creepy people who play combat games. But not nerf; as a whole, nerf is most attractive to the people who just want to have fun. The more violently inclined tend to be swayed more toward harder-hitting airsoft and paintball.

As for Red Monkey's point, kids have been playing with toys that simulate every kind of combat weapon for as long as we've had toys, whether prefabricated or imaginary. Maybe it's disconcerting to you to see kids playing combat-based games, but it's completely natural. Our own society is just a few hundred years past a world where violent death was a potential reality at pretty much any time, and violence was not looked at with such shock and horror. Violence was and is a part of being a living creature. Violence, real and simulated, is something that is natural and healthy in the right situations. Have you met many kids who didn't play violent games? It's instinctive and it builds skills for life that would have seemingly nothing to do with violence.

I'm in agreement with Xeno Nuggets in saying that parenting is a far more important factor in whether or not a kid ends up being screwed up enough to shoot up a school. And by this I don't mean by being restrictive and suppressing a child's natural urges; I mean by acting sensibly and setting a good example of how to handle those urges. A young child can, in fact, understand that shooting soft foam darts at someone who is then "out" and shooting metal bullets at someone who is then injured or dead are very different things. Maybe not if the parent just plops them down in front of a TV all day where they see people getting shot all the time like it's no big deal, but again, that's a parenting problem, not something that results from letting a kid get a nerf gun that'll give them an advantage against other players.

October 6, 2008 5:13 PM

 

hiro said:

I think there pretty neat I may get one its not all bad actualy I think I had one when I was small they dont shoot out hard at all but these are new and hi-tech they have a accuarcy of how hard i think u can shoot them but they have warning that any injuries arent there fault.sorry only a tipical 10 year old

October 29, 2008 12:26 AM

 

Tim said:

in response to something you said to Xeno Nuggets, or to joey, or to anybody who you try to make your very paranoid point to.

most kids, dont buy these guns for themselves, their parents buy them for them. NERF markets sniper rifles not because of they think the sniper rifle will turn kids into child killers. they market the sniper rifle, because sniper rifles are cool. plain and simple they are cool. And so if NERF says they are selling their "toy" guns because they make what people buy, it makes sense. No kid wants a musket NERF gun, they obviously want whats new and cool. Instead maybe some of those kids will wait till they can buy a real sniper rifle, and since they werent taught what not to shoot a from a young age, they take it to school to show to there friends, and see if they can "snipe" the teachers from across campus. im not saying thats how it works, but NERF guns are toy guns. and the sniper rifle is a cool NERF gun, if you dont feel like letin your kid have one fine, just dont bother the rest of us with your nonsense

November 30, 2008 9:59 PM
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