The Physics Behind NERF Bullets

Nerf Vulcan 470x399 The Physics Behind NERF Bullets

NERF Vulcan

Non-Expanding Recreational Foam. NERF. Nerf. Call it how you wish. This toy line created by Parker Brothers (and now owned by Hasbro) has fascinated kids of all ages since the 70s and continues to be a rather popular choice these days. In fact, I have been frequenting toy stores recently, and I was really surprised to see all the different kinds of NERF guns available. I am not complaining, but I kind of miss those good old days when a simple gun (the toy kind, of course) was all that was needed.

Anyhow, with countless people having fond memories of NERF (not to mention people who continue to create new encounters with the toys), I thought it was brilliant that Rhett Allain of Wired1 conducted his own study regarding the physics behind NERF bullets.

While we all know that NERF guns just might be the safest – not to mention most fun – toy guns there are, I am sure that there are parents out there who still have safety concerns. With the guns getting bigger and more complicated (some spewing out bullets in quick succession), there is a practical application for Allain’s study. Then again, figuring out the safety issues should be done by the designers and testers as Hasbro. Let’s just talk about Allain’s report for the sheer fun of it!

Armed with a belt-fed NERF gun (naturally), a video camera, and Tracker Video (for analysis), he had some fun shooting the gun. Analysis came after, to determine launch speeds and other physic-ky data. The results? For the one shot, he got an initial velocity of 8.73 m/s. That’s not enough to seriously hurt someone, is it? (Ergo, NERF guns are totally safe.) Here’s the graphical representation of the data.

X Position 470x400 The Physics Behind NERF Bullets

X Position

He also did other tests firing two belts’ worth of darts and got an average of 10.4 m/s with a standard deviation of 1.5 m/s.

X Velocity Two Belts 470x355 The Physics Behind NERF Bullets

X Velocity Two Belts

Another interesting result: the angle of the gun didn’t make much of a difference.

As I said, you might not be able to use the data in a lot of practical applications (except for convincing the “adults” that NERF guns are cool and safe toys), but it’s still fun to look into the details.

Oh, and in case you want to do your own tests, here is the video which Allain took.

Photo via animakitty

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About Noemi Tasarra-Twigg

Freelance writer and wannabe beach bum; ditched her day job as an English teacher for writing and has not regretted it a single bit. When not writing, Noemi can be found on the road, hoping to encounter the dragon of her dreams. Yes, she's into fantasy novels, gadgets, and practically anything that catches her interest. Shiny!

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