Since the introduction of the first foam ball shooting blaster in 1989, the name “Nerf” has been synonymous with harmless, foam-based weaponry. But in 2014—some 25 years after the original Nerf Blast-a-Ball hit the market—famed toy maker Mattel introduced BOOMco, the first true competitor to Hasbro’s decades-long, Nerf-branded dominance of the blaster market. Unlike many other, value-based blaster brands that have come and gone, BOOMco blasters haven’t been designed to capture Hasbro’s leftovers.
Instead, Mattel is aiming their BOOMco blasters squarely at the Nerf shopper, even going so far as to steal shelf space at major retailers where Nerf once owned virtually the entire category.
How is BOOMco different than Nerf?
Although BOOMco blasters and Nerf blasters share a vaguely similar “toy gun” appearance with brightly-colored plastics and “extreme” lifestyle branding, there is one significant difference—BOOMco blasters use a unique, plastic-bodied dart with a tip made of their proprietary “Smart Stick” material. This unique construction makes BOOMco darts ?durable, accurate, and able to stick to Mattel’s Smart Stick Targets (or coated photo paper, we found), but it also means that BOOMco darts are NOT in any way compatible with Nerf blasters. This is a point that bears repeating—Nerf guns and BOOMco guns use entirely different forms of ammunition, so they are not in any way cross-compatible.
For those who already own a large arsenal of Nerf products, this has been the most significant hurdle to BOOMco’s success. But for those who aren’t already heavily invested in Nerf, or those who are open to trying something new, they may find much to like in what Mattel has accomplished.
Does BOOMco perform better than Nerf?
In some ways, BOOMco blasters DO perform better than comparable Nerf blasters, but it depends on your priorities. We did a random sampling of 6 BOOMco blasters and 6 Nerf blasters and found some interesting results. Overall, we found that most BOOMco products don’t shoot quite as far, nor do BOOMco darts fly quite as fast, as comparable Nerf products. However, BOOMco blasters seem to often feature unique designs, and in many cases, these designs allow them to fire a series of darts much more quickly. For instance, the BOOMco Rapid Madness can fire an amazing 10 darts per second. The fastest, non-modified Nerf product we tested—the Elite 2-In-1 Demolisher—topped out at 4 darts per second.
BOOMco Mad Slammer
BOOMco Rapid Madness
BOOMco Twisted Spinner
Nerf Elite CrossBolt
Nerf Elite Demolisher
Nerf Elite Rapidstrike
Nerf Z.S. Doublestrike
Nerf Z.S. Slingfire
Nerf Rebelle Rapid Glow
Range = Maximum distance in feet with a moderate arc
Velocity = Dart muzzle velocity in feet per second
Rate-of-Fire = Darts shot per second
One of the most striking results of our BOOMco vs. Nerf findings concerned shot accuracy. We found BOOMco darts to be considerably more accurate over their flight paths than comparable Nerf products. Indeed, the stiff, durable BOOMco darts were significantly more accurate than every foam-based Nerf dart we tested with every blaster we had available from each brand. And while we’re on the subject of darts, it’s worth noting that BOOMco darts are very durable, since they’re made with a stiff (but bendable) plastic that doesn’t break down or come apart like traditional foam darts. The Smart Stick tips of BOOMco darts are a little gimmicky, and they don’t work on most surfaces, but then again, most Nerf darts (suction and Velcro-tipped ones, excluded) don’t stick to anything, either.
So, which blaster is better—Nerf, or BOOMco?
If you’re a Nerf fan with a huge arsenal of Nerf products, and/or if you’re just getting into toy blasters and want to know what all the fuss is about, you can’t go wrong with Nerf. More than 25 years of continuous refinement has resulted in blasters that arguably look better than anything else on the market, with a huge fan base of Nerf enthusiasts ready to trade darts or modify blasters, and a broad product line that includes everything from zombie-themed weapons to blasters made just for girls. Everyone knows the Nerf name, and we’ve seen some future products that look absolutely amazing.
But for our money, Mattel’s BOOMco brand is the one to watch. Without the shackles of history to worry about, Mattel’s designers were free to develop darts that perform better than anything else on the toy blaster market—they fly straight, they last a long time, and their slightly smaller size allows you to carry more at one time. And while the initial line-up of BOOMco products was a little on the small size and somewhat underpowered for older enthusiasts, they have quickly dropped under-performing designs, with recent examples that are every bit the equal of what Hasbro is putting out under their Nerf label in terms of aesthetics, uniqueness, and fun (even if enthusiasts haven't quite seen as much modification potential just yet).
So, if you are a Nerf fan (or you’re shopping for one), you still can’t go wrong with the vast majority of Nerf products. But if you’re just getting into the hobby, or if you already have lots of blasters but are open to trying something different, we don’t think you’ll be disappointed by what Mattel is doing with BOOMco. Nerf says it’s “Nerf or Nothin’,” but BOOMco will tell you they “Blast Better.” And on that last point, we wouldn't necessarily disagree.