I never really put much thought into choosing water guns based on performance metrics. I might normally be inspired by which one looks the coolest or which advertiser grabs my eyeballs more often (looking at you Nerf). After my experience testing these water guns I can assure you that there are major differences in performance as well as best use cases.
Some of these models are great for pools. Or beaches. Or backyards. None of that is really much of a surprise. What I did learn, however, is that some of these are specifically not intended for some of those use cases. Imagine my surprise at showing up to a fancy pool water gun fight (that's a thing, right?) with my new, $174 water gun. Then I spend all day grumbling because I can't even take the thing into the pool.
Or maybe I'm chasing my dogs around the yard, unleashing the moisture apocalypse upon them, but I have to run back to the kitchen sink after every single shot. Ugh.
Well, don't worry about being caught in these dire circumstances. I'm here to walk you through the best, and worst, water guns for your situation. Here we go.
The Super Soaker brand has long been synonymous with summer, water guns and getting super-ly soaked. One important factor in staying in the fight longer is how much water you can carry without having to refill. The Hydra tops our list at 2.1 liters (just over half a gallon) water capacity, which is a third of a liter more than second place (also a Super Soaker), and a whole liter more than the largest capacity of a non-Super Soaker.
If you're determined, you can empty this capacity in under 20 seconds, resulting in the second highest soak factor (CNET's own water gun metric for comparison -- essentially milliliters per second of water expulsion) of 107.11mL/s. Again, third place being also held by Super Soaker, and more than double the soak factor of the next non-Super Soaker unit. What won top soak factor? Keep reading.
This is a larger product, and fully loaded weighs in at about 6.5 pounds. Fun for most people, but might be a bit much to handle for little water warriors.
Yes, it's a water gun. Yes, it costs $174. It's tough to fully condone spending the best part of $200 on a water gun, but it is cool, so I can't stay mad for long.
First, understand that this battery-powered water gun has two different shooting modes. There is the normal single shot (you get 22 of these on a full tank) and there is the PowerShot. By holding down the trigger, the gun charges and issues forth a larger, more powerful blast.
In our tests, we show that the PowerShot takes the water about 11% farther, about 34 feet, 7 inches, versus the single shot at 30 feet, 10 inches. Only the Temi water gun was able to beat the single-shot distance, but Spyra comes away the distance victor with its PowerShot mode.
However, the Spyra Two is at a bit of a disadvantage if you're in a pool or other large body of water. Because of the battery power and other internal electronics, the Spyra Two is specifically nonsubmersible -- you only dip a portion of the nozzle underwater to load it. If you've ever been in a pool-based water gun fight, you know you're pretty much guaranteed to end up underwater at some point. Not a happy ending for a near $200 water gun.
If you have some strategically placed water loading buckets, the Spyra Two would be an amazing edge to a yard-based fight. You're also gifted with a Halo-esque LED tactical display that keeps you apprised of your ammo situation, so you can plan your entanglements around that. Add in the benefit of the PowerShot aspect and the Spyra Two, available in either red or blue, is a shoo-in for best tactical yard-based water gun.
First things first, I bought these by accident. I mean, I meant to buy them, but I misunderstood what they were, and I'm glad I did.
The packaging and the "3 years and up" notations for the very simple plastic guns indicate these are really geared towards a younger audience. But, man, did they totally disrupt our testing expectations.
You can read a bit more about our "soak factor" metric in the how we test section below, but it's basically an indication of how quickly you can absolutely drench someone or something. We take the amount of water that a product can hold, and divide that by the amount of time it takes to deplete that water capacity. Our soak factor is measured in milliliters per second. And if you're looking to drench someone quickly, Temi is where it's at.
Although Temi boasts the smallest water capacity of all units tested, you can dump that capacity in under 2 seconds, resulting in a soak factor just shy of 300. The second place unit, a Super Soaker model, came in with a soak factor of 107.
You'll need to park yourself in or near water to get much use out of these, but that makes them great for pools or a trip to the lake. If you're building your water gun battle arsenal, think of this as the closer range maximum carnage placeholder.
Plus, as a runner up to almost every category that it didn't outright win, the Temi two-pack performed impressively for its price. For $26 you get not one, but two impressively performing pieces of plastic.
This category nearly features two winners, but I dropped the Temi water gun because even though it's great for pools, it pretty much requires a pool to be used. The X-Shot gun, like most water guns, can be filled quickly then the battle can move wherever. Try that with the Temi and you'll be reduced to a single shot capacity.
You'll get one of the best non-Super Soaker water capacities and even with constant firing you'll be drenching your opponents for about 45 seconds. The downside is that each blast doesn't carry that much water, and it's a fairly short trip at that.
However, this gun does boast a 1-second refill time, so you're likely to outlast your opponents with how long you can stay in the fight. That is what makes the X-shot a great option specifically for pool use (or any other body of water, for that matter).
The Kulariworld blaster honestly didn't fare well in our tests.
For starters, its stated capacity is 1,500mL. I found, however, that the actual capacity is about 30% less -- around 1,000mL. It also came in last place in our distance tests, barely passing 21 feet. But there is one aspect of this blaster that I do quite enjoy.
The nozzle is a rotating disc that offers you four different options for spray configuration. There's a single hole nozzle option that offers a standard type water gun spray. You also have both two- and three-hole options that split the spray up, and there's also a flat slot spray option for maximum soak.
Although this blaster wasn't my favorite, I really like this feature, and I'd love to see this type of feature used more often in some of the bigger players.
Other water guns we tested
: Old-school design stands the test of time. It didn't fare particularly well in our testing, having the lowest soak factor overall, but the pressurized shooting design is fun, but may keep you out of a quicker paced skirmish with plunger or automatic options available.
: This was actually a great product, just not a category winner. Third highest soak factor, and was the only gun to actually shoot farther than its stated claims at 30 feet versus 25.
: This gun had one of my favorite looks. It holds a lot of water because it's basically all capacity and no fluff. It doesn't shoot very far in comparison to our other tested units, but it'll keep you in the game for a while, taking about 1 minute, 15 seconds to empty -- even constantly shooting.
: With the release of the Spyra Two this year, we also wanted to compare it to the previous model. In some ways this version can be more useful since it can be fully submerged without all those internal electronics, but as far as performance goes, the new generation wins (other than the LX being able to dump its full load about 6 seconds faster, for a higher soak factor). If you like the look, but don't want to drop $174 on the Spyra Two, The LX is more manageable at $89.
How we test water guns
The nature of water itself makes some aspects of testing water guns a bit difficult, but I feel good about the process overall.
To start, we need to know how much water these things will hold. I do this by weight. Since 1 milliliter of water weighs 1 gram, it's easy to measure capacity with a scale. After subtracting the empty blaster weights, you can see in the table below exactly how the capacities shake out. The Nerf Super Soaker Hydra has the overall largest capacity followed by its Super Soaker sibling. The least capacity was definitely the Temi blaster since it only stores the water for a single burst at a time.
Once the capacities are locked down, I then go through the process of shooting each gun as quickly as possible to find the shortest amount of time possible to empty that capacity. I have help from someone with a timer, and sometimes have to do multiple runs. Sitting around and shooting water guns for a couple of hours nonstop is way more of a workout than i expected.
You can see here that typically, if it takes a long time (over 30 seconds) to empty a water gun, its overall soak factor (capacity divided by empty time) is pretty low. And, although quickest dump time doesn't always mean the highest soak factor, that is exactly how it works out with the Temi. With a moderate one-shot capacity at just over 500mL, the 1.8 seconds it takes to empty gives it a massive soak factor of almost 300.
The Super Soaker siblings come in second and third with similar empty times, but the Hydra's larger capacity gives it a better soak factor. The old school Nerf XP50-AP and Team Magnus guns have median capacities and low soak factors, but keep you in the fight for much longer than their counterparts.
The only other measured test we run is for distance. This one is fairly simple in design, but has a touch of abstractness to it.
Holding the blaster at the same starting point, height and angle, I let out several blasts, usually five, until I am sure than I can't get the water any farther on an outdoor concrete surface, which discolors well with water. I then measure from the starting point to the furthest edge of the water markings -- discounting any stray single drops.
Water gun FAQs
What is a water bullet gun?
Water gel/bullet guns, aka soft gel guns shoot small biodegradable polymer water beads. The beads start out small and dry but before use, you soak them in water so they expand in size to be loaded into the blasters.
The mostly water "gellets" as they are called, dissolve on impact, leaving only water as residue.
How much does the most powerful water gun cost?
Currently, the Spyra Two is the most expensive water gun on the retail market at $174 (plus shipping). Overall, sub-$20 offerings are the cheapest water guns, $20s in the medium range, and the more expensive water guns start in the $30s.
Which water gun has the longest range?
Most water guns boast ranges of 30-50 feet, but in reality, rarely do they shoot farther than about 30 feet.
The Nerf Super Soaker Soakzooka measures about 30 feet, the Temi Super Water-Blaster Squirt Water-Gun comes in at 32 feet and the Spyra Two, in PowerShot mode, measures about 34 feet.