Nerf – too real or just right?

By Michael Vass | November 24, 2008

I was speaking with friends about the state of Black buying power, the economy, and what I noticed about the Audi television commercial when the subject of Nerf toys came up. It may sound odd but it made sense in the course of the conversation. With the holiday season about to go full blast with Black Friday mere days away, there is no end to commercials targeting the latest gadget that a kid today might want. But the question is what are they really getting?

I remember Nerf from almost the beginning. The first Nerf toy I recall was the Nerf football. They were spongy and small, but cheap and useful indoors as well as in the street. You only need to throw one bad pass that hits a car or a window to appreciate the Nerf foam. In the middle of the Bronx playing in the street you are bound to hit one or the other. So suffice to say I have fond memories of Nerf.

And then as I grew up, Nerf grew up faster. And not only for my generation, for all of the ones afterwards as well. Their were Nerf guns of every sort, but at first there was no comparison to an actual gun in any manner. On Saturday I noticed the latest toy commercial from Hasbro, the NERF N-STRIKE LONGSHOT CS-6 Nerf toy for ages 6 and up found at

What the hell has happened. Nerf is selling guns, military guns to kids. The abovementioned toy is a kids version of a sniper rifle. And there is the NERF N-STRIKE VULCAN EBF-25 YELLOW Nerf toy for ages 6 and up found at which I defy anyone from describing as not looking like a SAW or M60 machinegun. And people wonder if kids are getting violent because of video games.

Now I’m not against guns, nor do I think kids shouldn’t be allowed to rough-house. It’s part of growing up and it has it’s own lessons to teach kids. Within reason.

There is a big difference between kids playing cops and robbers, to planning out and executing small squad tatical assaults. There is a dramatic difference of teaching a kid to hunt and respect a weapon and sitting in the backyard with a foam sniper rifle waiting for the neighbor to get home. It’s just wrong. And there is no comparison to when I grew up.

Yes kids live in a world with terrorists, 24 hour news, drive-by shootings, and drug gang wars. Given. Still how helpful can it be when we are arming these children and sending them out to play wargames with weapons fashioned after the military? How can we be surprised when some of these same kids go out and use a real gun?

I’m not blaming Columbine, or the recent double murder committed by an 8 year old, on Nerf. Nor is it guns that I am upset by. A gun is no more dangerous than a rock, until it is picked up with intent. I’m upset with the media and parents.

The media selectively chooses to pick on aspects of the lives of children to blame when something goes wrong. Oblivious to the force-feeding they do in the name of marketing and advertising dollars. They blame video games for more violent kids, while advertising those games and more importantly these real world military assault weapon substitutes. And then say they have no connection to the problem at hand.

And parents that buy these toys for their kids. What are they thinking? That if they give little Tommy a gun similar to the one in their video game, and send them outside to shoot the neighborhood kids, it’s ok because they got him up from the television set? IF that’s the choice, leave them on the video game At least some of those games involve creatures that can never be confused with a human being.

I admit that I like the Nerf Longshot. Then again I am a 40 year old man, that served in the military, and find the resemblence of the toy to a sniper rifle appealing on a level. I can’t begin to imagine what a 6 year old (which this toy is recommended for) is going to think. I can’t imagine how a parent can convince that child that their toy is not like the gun in the attic that looks the same. How they might explain why it’s ok to shoot someone with this rather realistic toy but wrong to do the same with its real counterpart.

I’m not against guns. But I am for the responsibility that goes along with gun ownwership – which in my mind includes replicas and toys made in that same image and style. And I can’t see a responsible way to own these toys and not create a conflict.

I’m single, my friends I spoke with on this subject are all adults some with grown children. None of us either have kids in the range of 6 – 15 or at all. So this is a question we could not resolve. But some of my readers surely do have kids in that age range right now. So I want to know what do you think.

Are these Nerf guns too realistic? Is there a difference in a kid’s mind? Is there a way to play with this toy that is not indicative of harm to fellow human beings? Can young children understand the difference?

Topics: Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

5 Responses to “Nerf – too real or just right?”

  1. M. Vass

    Comment as found at Children’s Health Blog, where I am a contributing author.

    A normal person Says:
    June 20th, 2009 at 12:06 am e
    holy crap.. you’re an idiot. nerf guns of all things. teach them to shoot real guns, and teach them responsibility, don’t try to get pissed at nerf for making something cool.

  2. M. Vass

    Comment as found at Children’s Health Blog, where I am a contributing author.

    Angela Murphy Says:
    August 7th, 2009 at 11:11 pm e
    Yes Michael, it’s totally disturbing. I took my 7 year old son to the toy store today and there was a nerf booth set up in front of the store showing their new line of guns. Two friendly young men with crew cuts introduced me to the products, and helped me find the one that looks the least like an assault rifle for my child to purchase. There was a target range all set up for kids to practice using the guns with. When we got it home and opened the box, I noticed it is set up like a shotgun. Instead of round balls, the projectiles are shaped like bullets. I found this blog by entering the phrase “Nerf + Military” to see if my hunch has any basis in fact. Thanks for your thoughtful writing on the subject.

  3. Moop

    Remember when kids used to use sticks with branches that looked like a handle and magazine as guns? Unacceptible! We should genetically modify ALL trees to produce distinct non-gun shaped branches!

    That’s how stupid you sound. Quit being overprotective.

  4. Michael Vass


    Perhaps if you read more carefully you would understand what I was saying. Then again maybe not.
    I’m not against guns, in fact I’m a 2nd Amendment supporter. But there is a concern, which you missed, about trivializing gun ownership and use – in the minds of 6 year olds at least. That is my concern with these Nerf guns.

    A twig is not a gun. A broom handle is not a gun (for those of us old enough to remember playing with them). Even if used to play like a gun, it is not the same. But a Nerf gun is realitic, as is gun violence these days. Why feed the problem with another source of fuel – the lack of respect for firearms at a formative age?

    Will this effect every kid? No. But it only takes one, and the issue is worth discussing. Which is why I asked parents their thoughts.

  5. David

    First off, the longshot has a pistol on the end, which no sniper rifle ever had, and the Vulcan looks like Maxim, Not a M-249 or M-60. Look here.
    Don’t they look alike?

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