A Short History Of Nerf Innovation

You might not realise it, but Nerf is a nearly 50-year old brand. From soft foam footballs to the latest in high-tech dart blasters, the history of Nerf is one of constant development and innovation. Here are Nerf's greatest hits and most important toys, starting in the year that humankind landed on the moon.

Welcome to Gizmodo's Nerf Week! We're celebrating everything Nerf, from innovation, to history to the awesome blasters you can get right now. It's time to lock and load.

Way back in 1969, the original Nerf toy was a 10cm round ball that its inventors, (The Parker Brothers)claimed, wouldn't break windows or lamps or accidentally hurt participants. (We've put that claim to the test a few times and found it wanting, but the fact remains that throwing that cricket ball was a much worse idea. Sorry Mum.) Throughout the '70s and '80s, Nerf made baseball, basketball and soft football toys — nothing too exciting.

The word nerf has always been associated with safety, too. We use it all the time to talk about strategy changes in online competitive games that reduce the power of a particular item or team or weapon — only because they're too good in the first place. That's a pretty big badge of honour for Nerf over an entire 50 years of history.

It wasn't until 1991 or thereabouts, though, that the world was introduced to the utterly iconic (non-blaster) Nerf toy that we all know and still love: the Vortex. The Vortex was Nerf's football writ large, with a tail that guided it to stay straight during flight and an air passage that meant it whistled when you tossed it into the air — or, if you're like us, you'd fling it as fast as you could without breaking your arm to make it scream.

Also in the early '90s, Nerf built the first couple of gadgets that would be the precursors to its often-imitated, never-equalled Nerf blasters: the Bow 'n' Arrow, the Master Blaster and the Ballzooka. The bow shot the closest thing to what we know Nerf darts as in the new millenium, while both the others used small, round foam balls — the Ballzooka had a pump action that meant you could blast out ball after ball and keep any foe pinned down.

The first Nerf blaster as we know it today was the Sharpshooter in 1992, a small handheld blaster that had a pull-ring on its back and stored extra darts above for easy reloading.

And since then, Nerf has only become more hardcore. A constant stream of different blaster designs like the N-Strike Elite line have made new advancements in the accuracy of darts and the speed with which players can blast them out one after another. MEGA darts are even larger than regular Elite darts, and whistle as they fly through the air. In 2008 Nerf introduced the Vulkan, a motorised blaster that even had its own tripod stand. In 2009, things got serious. In the US, Nerf had its own world championship, bringing together hardcore dart-blasting fans in a custom-made, brightly coloured battle arena to compare their accuracy and skill.

Nerf's Rebelle line of blasters and bows, joined the world around the same time that Hunger Games and the Tomb Raider reboot game did; bow enthusiasts rejoiced and girls and boys that liked Rebelle's pink and purple colours rather than the blue and orange of regular Nerf had a new range of blasters to accessorise with. Trust us: we think some of the Rebelle line are the best looking blasters that Nerf currently builds.

And since then, the company has jumped on the relatively new popularity of the zombie genre, with its Zombie Strike series of blasters and crossbows taking some serious inspiration from The Walking Dead, Zombieland, Left 4 Dead and other purveyors of the finest shambling rotting undead corpses. When you pick up a Zombie Strike blaster you can expect to see battle damage and tape wrapped around handgrips, with the darts also standing out with a lurid green tip.

One of the newest lines for Nerf, though, is Modulus: a series of dart blasters that are massively customisable. A couple of different Modulus variants — powered and pump action — are sold in Oz, and there's a range of different accessory packs that add things like long range barrels, scopes and sturdier stocks to your toy. And, of course, it's a long-running Nerf trend that you can jam just about any Nerf magazine into any blaster — so you can customise any of your choices with a massive 25-dart drum from the top-of-the-line Hyperfire.

In 2017, the latest innovation is Accustrike. Accustrike is a series of darts and blasters that have been redesigned for more precision targeting. They also fly more smoothly and further — especially if you're blasting one after the other. The foam dart nerds at Nerf even wrote a paper on their testing methodology and the results are clear: compared to its own Mega and Elite darts, as well as the competition, Accustrike is the absolute best you can get right now for putting rounds on target over and over again.

Based on the last five decades, Nerf has made some really high-tech toys for us to play with. We very much hope this innovation keeps up into the future, and we can't wait to see what Hasbro comes up with next.

Nerf N-Strike MEGA DoubleBreach Blaster: Gizmodo's First Look

"I like to keep this handy, for close encounters."

Nerf's N-Strike MEGA DoubleBreach is an oversized, overpowered hunk of dart-blasting magnificence. It's enormous in every dimension, and the MEGA darts that it fires are equally big. If you've ever wanted to look like an ultimate badass swinging around a giant handheld Nerf blaster, this is your new go-to choice.

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