When I’m called off I got a sawed-off, squeeze the trigger and bodies get hauled off

One of the things you assume when you move to work in Silicon Valley is that everybody’s got two Nerf guns in the desk drawer.  At least that’s what I assumed, based on the available Internet literature and stereotypes and the fact that ThinkGeek has a whole section for “Cube Warfare” in their catalog.  I myself had one of the old air-pump Larami foam-dart rifles in grad school, the early Super Soaker-derived model with the rotating eight-barrel drum up front and the huge air tank, firing darts the size of a Vienna sausage – it was the natural evolution of the arsenal of water guns I carried through high school (and less effectively through college, just in case an actual college campus broke out).  In fact, a second, lighter model may to this day repose in an abandoned locker in Sarratt…though I kind of doubt it.

I bought a Nerf blaster or two from ThinkGeek during the DC days, but to no apparent purpose – they were still the air-pump kind and were somewhat less than effective.  It wasn’t until the brief sojourn at Cupertino Hexachrome Fruit that I picked up the first generation Nerf Maverick, the big blue revolver that may be the most famous and successful Nerf gun of all time.  And when I got to my current job, and found that everyone really did have two Nerf guns in their desk, I realized I would have to step up my game a little.

A Nerf gun isn’t like a real gun in some important ways.*  For one, you can’t actually injure anyone with it in any meaningful way and it won’t really deter robbers or carjackers.  For another, barrel length isn’t that big a deal.  In a real gun, a longer barrel means more time for the exploding gases from the gunpowder to propel the bullet down the barrel, meaning more acceleration, more power, and more accuracy.  Which is why soldiers carry rifles, not six-shooters.  This is not such a big deal with a Nerf gun, because you’re not dealing with a projectile snug to the whole length of the barrel in most cases (and even if you were, it’s not rifled to impart spin or anything) – and in fact, most Nerf guns are loaded by merely sticking the dart in the front of the gun.  There are repeater Nerf guns, like the aforementioned Maverick, but they are either revolvers limited to 5 or 6 darts or clip-fed systems that have a propensity to jam with anything other than brand-new darts.  There are also fully-automatic Nerf guns, but they tend to be expensive and ridiculously heavy owing to the weight of the batteries that drive them.

So in the grand scheme of things, if you want something suitable for office warfare, the Maverick is your only option.  I have two – the original at work and a clear plastic one at home, held in reserve against the day I need to manufacture something steampunky for Maker Faire. (Taking apart a clear Nerf gun and painting it from the inside gives you a nice glossy look that won’t rub off.)

What about that second piece, though?  After all, for the most part, your best option in office cube warfare is the New York Reload – when your gun’s empty, pull out a new one and keep going. (No lie, police gunfights in the early 20th Century in New York City usually ended with as many as fifty empty revolvers strewn around the scene of the crime.)  So if you have a muzzle-loading Nerf gun and barrel length isn’t important, the obvious consideration is this: how to keep it small yet ergonomically viable and still have some pop?

The solution is the apparently all-new Nerf Jolt EX-1, which for a mere $6 may be the most innovative and useful Nerf blaster since the Maverick.  It’s tiny – calling to mind nothing so much as the Noisy Cricket wielded by Will Smith in Men In Black.  But unlike every other Nerf blaster ever, they’ve actually made the grip of the gun useful – that’s where the spring and plunger are, with a handle that pulls down from the bottom of the grip to cock the spring.  Meanwhile, the top of the gun is nothing but the minimum necessary barrel to hold one dart with the rubber tip sticking out.  The whole thing is barely four inches long and disappears in, say, the hand warmer pockets of a fleece jacket.  But stick a whistle-tip Nerf dart in it and you can shoot to point of aim from a good ten paces.  In casual practice, I hit the center of mass on the water cooler from 25 feet away with ten straight shots.

So next time those hoodlums from the Data Center come charging across the hall, or you see your designated zombie target coming out of the cafeteria, or the cat’s about to climb onto the counter and eat directly out of the stewpot – forget about the oversized video game weapons that are 90% plastic and empty air.  Lose the big green nerdy-pistol and get yourself a Jolt.**



* It’s not irony, it’s providing explanation for my Vol readers.  If any.

** Tommy Lee Jones gets a nickel.

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