We’re hearing a lot lately about how America is obsessed with guns. While that may be true, according to Thinknum data not all of the guns we’re obsessed with actually kill or even hurt people. Enter the Nerf N-Strike Elite Strongarm. This toy guy has been near the top of Amazon sales rankings for toys for a record 207 weeks, putting it in the league of such cultural mainstays as Jenga and Cards Against Humanity. In fact, we’re willing to bet that this single product accounts for a nifty portion of Nerf’s $400 million annual revenue - at least as far as Amazon is concerned.
So what’s so special about the Nerf N-Strike Elite Strongarm? Originally released in 2013, its rotating barrel design gives you six-shot, rapid fire capabilities, and it launches foam darts to up to 90 feet. Plus it’s cheap: Amazon currently lists the blaster at a party-friendly $12.99. And as anyone who has ever worked in an office can attest, Nerf products present an effective and safe means of interpersonal conflict resolution. Let’s face it, sometimes actions speak louder than words, and sometimes pinging Scott from marketing in the head with a foam dart as he comes out of a meeting gets your point across clearly (and from clear across the office cubicle farm).
Over the years (Nerf debuted in 1969, and has been owned by Hasbro since 1991), and especially since the internet, Nerf has amassed a large following of dedicated, sometimes nerdy enthusiats. And unlike the testosterone-fueled, aggressive tactical cosplay bro-downs of the Airsoft and Paintball worlds, Nerf’s relative safety makes it a bit friendlier. Nerf shooters aren’t playing serious army battle simulations; they’re just playing. The guns, or “blasters,” as Nerf calls their dart-shooting products, are chiefly marketed towards kids, with some products appropriate for children as young as five. But clearly they’re fun for a much wider audience.
In 2008, FunnyorDie.com featured a short video called “The Great Office War” in which an IT department battles the sales department in an epic all-office battle. This idea of a Nerf War (as enthusiasts refer to a spontaneous Nerf shootout according to a Wikipedia entry that may or may not have been written by Nerf marketing) is so popular that it's spawned a sub-genre of light-hearted action and first-person-shooter videos all featuring Nerf weapons.
In many respects, these videos are example of life imitating art: The first actual Nerf first-person-shooter was Nerf Arena Blast, released in 1999, and in 2008 EA released Nerf N-Strike before the popular follow-up 2009 release Nerf N-Strike Elite.
Astoundingly, it appears that Nerf has discontinued the Strongarm - based on stock levels, as much of Amazon’s competition appears to be sold out. Clearly this may account for some of the popularity on the online retailer’s site in what appears to be a scramble for inventory, but being fun and cheap has got to count for something.
The toy is still listed on Hasbro's site, and we reached out to them for confirmation of the Strongarm's status, but haven't heard back yet. We'll update here when (and if) we do.