How Does a Nerf Gun Work?

Written by lauren vork
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How Does a Nerf Gun Work?

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What is NERF?

NERF is the brand name of line of soft, indoor toys manufactured by the American toy giant, Hasbro. The line began in the 1980s with the manufacture of soft footballs and related toys. It soon branched out into its line of highly popular soft-projectile firing toy guns. These guns gained immense popularity both because of successful marketing strategies and because of their status as a fun but safe alternative to more dangerous hard projectile guns.

Pump Action

All NERF guns fire their ammunition using the power of air pressure. For this reason, all NERF guns employ a manual air pump system. When this device is pumped by the user, it pushes compressed air into a chamber. To a limited extent, the more the user pumps, the more pressure the air in this chamber has, and thus, the more firing power.

Some earlier NERF guns employed a system where projectiles where fired directly through a single good pumping action, but newer guns employ a different system. These toys will have an air-filled chamber connected to a finger trigger. When pulled, this trigger will cause a short burst of fast-moving air to be released from the air chamber into the firing area of the gun.

Pop Guns

Many of NERF's guns are made to fire foam balls and work on a principle very similar to old fashioned cork guns. A ball made of dense foam is placed at the mouth of a cylindrical firing barrel. When high-pressure air moves through this barrel, the ball initially blocks the passage of the air. However, as the pressure of the air builds up behind the ball (this happens in a fraction of a second), it creates enough potential energy to break through the seal created between the ball and the barrel, sending the ball flying straight out at high speed.

Foam Dart Guns

The other types of toy gun commonly made by NERF are those that shoot darts and these use a somewhat more sophisticated system. These darts are light and cylindrical with a hollow inner chamber and are made from a soft foam. However, unlike other foam toys, NERF darts are soft but the air-filled chambers within them are sealed. This means that the inner chamber can be airtight, an essential feature for firing since air will not carry the darts if it can pass through them.

When a NERF dart gun is prepared for firing, it is threaded onto another hollow rod which, when the trigger is pulled, will fire a blast of fast-moving air through the rod, taking the dart with it. The action of firing one of these darts is more immediate than the firing of a ball through a NERF pop gun, since there is very little build-up of pressure inside the dart's inner chamber.

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