There are countless forms of Nerf Guns, bullets, and accessories available today. Thankfully, the foam bullets don’t pack much punch, so kids can enjoy playing games with the lightweight blasters.
While Nerf Guns are popular household staples for many children, the history of the product is unique. Nerf was not always known for foam bullets and backyard play-fights.
It All Started With Twister
You may be surprised to learn that the same person who invented Nerf Guns also invented Twister.
The popular, body-twisting, color-matching game was the first successful game invention for Reyn Guyer. The American inventor developed Twister in 1967 before starting Winsor Concepts to develop even more games.
The invention of Nerf is something of an accident.
The idea came to Guyer’s team during a meeting while they worked on an entirely different game.
A team member played with the foam rocks from the game during the meeting, sparking inspiration for the whole team. Those foam rocks were quickly developed into foam balls, and Guyer created an entire line of toys and games based on the design.
The Nerf name is a bit of a mystery. It may stand for non-expanding recreational foam.
However, some claim that the name came from foam used to wrap rollbars on off-road trucks.
Either way, Nerf quickly became one of the most well-known toys. Guyer even held onto the original Nerf ball prototype, using it as an ornament for his family Christmas tree.
Nerf Balls Make Their Debut
Guyer returned to Milton Bradley, the household name for toys and games, with his idea for foam games.
While the company previously bought Twister, they were not interested in Guyer’s latest invention. The inventor moved on to Parker Brothers, who saw the appeal of foam balls.
Children could play with these toys inside without hurting each other or property.
The first Nerf ball debuted in 1969 made of polyurethane foam and measuring four inches.
Parker Brothers decided to market the toy as an indoor ball, and it quickly took off in sales. The company worked with Guyer to develop even more foam products, exceeding Guyer’s initial expectations for the toy line.
In 1972, Parker Brothers released the Nerf football, which quickly became one of the most popular extensions of the Nerf line.
The entire product method for Nerf balls had to change to accommodate the size and shape of the football, but the extra work was well worth it in the end.
Nerf footballs were made from liquid foam poured into a mold and covered with a thick shell to aid with throwing and catching.
Also, in 1972, the Nerfoop was released. This hoop resembled a basketball hoop, but on a much smaller scale.
It could be hung almost anywhere, inside or out, and it came with Nerf balls that resembled mini basketballs.
Kids and families everywhere enjoyed shooting hoops and playing a modified version of basketball in their houses and backyards.
Blast A Ball Hits The Scene
Nerf did not release foam-launching weapons until the late 80s, almost 20 years after the line debuted.
The first Nerf gun was released in 1989 with the name Blast A Ball. The toy gun was simple in design, resembling a pop-gun. It could blast foam balls up to 40 feet just by pushing the handle of the blaster and letting air pressure do the rest.
In 1991, Nerf began designing foam arrows, which resemble the Nerf bullets we see today. The Bow’n’Arrow Nerf product featured foam tubes with plastic fins that were shot from an arrow-style toy.
By 1992, Nerf developed a blaster that fired darts similar to the modern Nerf guns.
The Sharp Shooter featured foam tubes that measured 1-inch in width and were hollowed out. The ends had plastic plungers, so the darts would stick to windows or mirrors.
The Rip Rockets Blast Hammer was released in 1993 and featured smaller projectiles called Micro Darts.
The gun was made with a pull-and-release trigger that was easy to use and launched the smaller darts for long distances.
By 1994, Nerf had stepped up their game with the Nerf Action Ballzooka.
The rotating chambers fired up to 15 foam balls in just seconds. This toy also marked a return to Nerf balls with Ballistic Balls as the projectiles.
Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Nerf continued to release toy weapons that were increasingly sophisticated.
The Nerf brand was passed to multiple companies throughout the decades as Parker Brothers was purchased by Tonka, then Tonka was bought by Hasbro. Hasbro continues to hold the brand today.
The Success of Nerf Guns
The Nerf brand has successfully expanded their line of Nerf balls and blasters to include countless toys.
From sport balls to foam bullets, video games, accessories, and more, it is hard to find a kid in America who hasn’t played with a Nerf product.
In 2013, Hasbro even released a line of Nerf Guns targeted for young girls called Rebelle.
From the Zombie Strike series to partnerships with Star Wars and other brands, Nerf continues their success.
In 2019, the brand was valued at $411 million dollars, almost double the 2015 valuation. Older Nerf guns and limited-edition models have even become collectors’ items, valued at hundreds of dollars each.
Nerf guns have an interesting history. These awesome toys have been around for decades and over the years, the toy line has expanded and the company has grown into a multi million dollar empire.
What started out as an idea for foam rocks quickly evolved into a line of products have become one of the most popular toys for kids of all ages.