For over a century, the toy gun has been a staple of kids’ choices. From rudimentary cap guns to realistic toys that resemble real military models, the toy gun has come a long way. However, one thing hasn’t changed—the excitement of acting out a shootout and taking on the role of a heroic rescuer (or despicable bad guy).
Toy guns are still one of the most popular kids’ toys out there, despite occasional controversy about whether or not it’s appropriate for children to play with toys that mimic real-life violence. There are even guns that fire live ammunition that is suitable for kids, such as the Air-Soft models from Red Ryder.
There is a vast variety of toy guns out there, both in physical toy stores and online shops, for kids of all ages, aesthetic preferences, and play types. Here is your guide to finding the best type of gun for the kid in your life.
Once you’re ready to buy a present for the kid you are shopping for, check out US-Reviews for the definitive guide to online shopping platforms, from real customers just like you.
What’s In This Blog?
Toys have come a long way over the past few years, and just searching for a simple toy gun set can turn into a confusing odyssey through many different types of guns. Luckily, our blog has a guide to the different types of toy guns, including which age groups they are most appropriate for, and the best shops for kids.
Here is what to expect from the blog.
The History of Toy Guns
Types of Toy Guns (by Shape)
- Realistic vs. Unrealistic Toy Guns
- Toy Pistols
- Toy Machine Guns
Types of Toy Guns (by Ammo)
- Soft Bullet Guns
- Live Ammo Toy Guns
- Non-Bullet Toy Guns
Where to Get Toy Guns
History of Toy Guns
The history of toy guns probably dates back along to the history of real guns. Kids love imitating adults, so when the first fire lance was invented in medieval China, there were probably kids running around with bamboo sticks pretending to be soldiers like their fathers. However, the first commercial sale of toy guns was documented in the United States after the Civil War. The end of the war was great for everyone except for weapons manufacturers who were afraid of going out of business. Gun factories pivoted to making toy cap guns. These toys took off in the early 20th century when movies, TV, and radio popularized the Western.
Around the same time, toy guns that could fire ammunition, such as pop guns and air rifles, also became popular. These toys were so widespread that many states had laws regulating their use in the late 19th century. As far back as there are toy guns, there are also worried parents concerned that kids will shoot their eyes out, to quote the famous refrain from A Christmas Story.
While the first toy guns were designed to look just like the guns that adults used, later in the 20th century, toy guns became brighter and more childlike. Perhaps the best example of this is the Super Soaker, the iconic water gun that comes in bright, garish colors, and is now one of Nerf’s best-selling toys.
Today’s toy guns run the gamut from hyper-realistic models of modern models such as AK 47 toy guns to bright, colorful models.
Types of Toy Guns (by Shape)
With so many toy guns out there, it can be hard to keep them straight. There are a few different ways to classify them. One of the most popular distinctions is shape. Toy guns can be realistic models of existing adult models or unrealistic toys.
Realistic vs. Unrealistic Toy Guns
While some toy guns follow existing models of guns, others go away from the realistic model altogether and try to make guns that are as cartoonish, youthful, and fun as possible. Usually, guns that don’t shoot real bullets veer the most towards fantasy. You’re likely to find paint, splatter, and water guns in bright colors from pink to vibrant orange.
Homemade toy guns are usually the most unrealistic, but they come with the extra satisfaction of personalization. Historically, wooden toy guns were common toys, particularly in the country.
Today, a tongue-in-cheek homemade, unrealistic toy gun model is the Monster gun. Made by taping cans of Monster energy drink together in the shape of a machine gun, this tongue-in-cheek toy spawned its Internet meme and subculture.
Pistols are small firearms with a short handle and barrel. Usually, they’re designed to be held in one hand. One type of pistol is the revolver, a handgun with a revolving chamber that can fit several bullets.
Toy gun revolvers are very popular thanks to their popularization in pop culture. Kids pretending to be police officers or cowboys love these guns. You can even find special toy gun sets online that look like a sheriff’s gun. Toy pistols are a great choice for kids that like to play dress-up and act out scenes.
For slightly older kids that want a toy handgun, you can get a realistic Glock toy gun.
Toy Machine Guns
While toy pistols often play on nostalgia for early lawmakers, toy machine guns occupy the other side of the spectrum. These are toy guns that are made to resemble real, modern guns that soldiers carry. Common types include the sniper toy gun and the M16 toy gun.
Realistic toy machine guns are more appropriate for older children as younger children are more prone to confusing realistic toys with actual guns. Young children might also not be ready to appreciate the realism that manufacturers put into these toys.
Types of Toy Guns (by Ammo)
Another way of classifying toy guns is by the ammunition that they shoot out.
Soft Bullet Guns
A soft bullet gun, sometimes called a shell-ejecting toy gun, is any toy gun that shoots out foam bullets or darts. These guns are popular because they mimic the action of shooting without actually endangering anyone.
Nerf is the most popular manufacturer of soft bullet guns.
Live Ammo Toy Guns
Some toy guns shoot real bullets. Air rifles are the most common starter guns for children learning how to shoot. Air rifles are guns that fire pellets using compressed air. These pellets are far less dangerous than real bullets. The guns are lighter and more maneuverable, making them appropriate for smaller humans.
Although air rifles are toys, they are not completely safe. Kids can still hurt themselves, so only give this toy to an older child and only allow them to use it under adult supervision.
Non-Bullet Toy Guns
For some kids, the most fun guns are ones that don’t shoot anything resembling bullets at all. The most common type is a water gun. Besides guns that shoot jets of water, you can also find modern water guns such as the splatter ball gun, which shoots water gel packs through a battery-powered mechanism.
Very young children will probably get a kick out of a bubble gun, which shoots soap bubbles into the air (and parents will enjoy not having to blow through a hoop until their lips and lungs get tired).
One of the newest types of toy guns is the lollipop gun. This type of toy shoots candy. It usually comes in soft pastel colors and details resembling an anime cartoon.
To prove that toy guns are not just for kids, just look at the money gun. This type of gun has a slit for shooting out paper (including but not limited to money, including Monopoly money). Spice up your next bachelorette party or family reunion with a machine that makes it rain!
Where to Get Toy Guns
Now that you’re inducted into the world of toy guns, where can you get this magical toy that leads to hours and hours of fun? The answer is pretty much everywhere. Despite the years-long controversy around selling toy guns, many popular retailers still sell these gadgets.
You can get toy guns in popular toy stores such as Big Lots. Many department stores and big box stores with toy departments, such as Walmart and Target, also sell toy guns. Some Walmarts also sell live ammo guns that work as toys, such as air rifles, depending on local laws (although in most places you’re better off looking at an actual gun store).
If you’re looking for a more specialized model of a toy gun, such as a lollipop toy gun or a money toy gun, then you’re probably better off looking online. From online shops of popular retailers to specialized sites just selling toy guns, the selection is better on the Internet. However, be sure to check out online shopping platform reviews before parting with your well-earned money.
Even with competition from video games and smartphones, toy guns are still a great toy for the kids in your life. Pick the right model and you can keep them entertained for hours on end as they play pretend!