NERF(or sometimes Nerf) is a type of toy, created for safe indoor play, that either shoots or is made of foam-like material. Most of the toys are a variety of foam-based weaponry, but there were also several different types of NERF toys, such as balls for sports like football, basketball, and others. The most famous of the toys are the "dart guns" (also known as blasters) that shoot projectiles made from a different type of foam than NERF foam. Since many such items were released throughout the 1980s, they often featured bright neon colors and soft textures similar to the flagship NERF ball. The product slogan frequently used in advertising was, "It's NERF or nothing!"
The Oxford English Dictionary states that the word is "apparently an arbitrary formation", but adds that it may be derived from the verb "nerf", referring to the practice of bumping another vehicle in racing, which dates to no later than 1953.
The term Nerf is also used as a derogatory verb or adjective. Example: That car is just a Nerfed version of the original.
Parker Brothers originally developed NERF, beginning with a four-inch (102 mm) polyurethane foam ball. In 1969, Reyn Guyer, a games inventor also responsible for Twister, came to the company with a volleyball game that was safe for indoor play. After studying the game carefully, Parker Brothers decided to eliminate everything but the foam ball. In 1970, the NERF ball was introduced as the "world's first official indoor ball". Marketed that one can "Throw it indoors; you can't damage lamps or break windows. You can't hurt babies or old people. The ball filled a strong consumer need and by the year's end more than four million NERF balls had been sold. The four-inch (102 mm) ball was followed closely by a large version called "Super NERF Ball". Shortly after, in 1972, a basketball game called "NERFoop" and the NERF football joined the family. The football quickly became the most popular NERF ball.
The company continued to add to the NERF line until they handed the "ball" to Kenner Products, a sister company, in 1991, when Hasbro acquired the NERF line through the acquisition of the Tonka Corporation. Over the years, the company has continued to expand the line, adding new looks to existing products. The current line of NERF products range from various sport balls, blasters with both dart and ball ammunition, and, now, onto even video game accessories.
Larami Toys was also purchased by and absorbed into Hasbro along with all of their relevant patents around 1996. The SuperMAXX line of blasters that Larami had designed would be rebadged as Nerf brand blasters. One noteworthy patent was for a safety feature that is present in almost all Nerf products today. A valve that closes off the flow of air should anything other than the intended ammunition be loaded. This device is otherwise known to the Nerf community as an "Air Restrictor and is typically removed in order to improve the optimal performance of a blaster.
A NERF Weapon or "Blaster" is generally considered to be anything that launches foam projectiles or is itself primarily constructed out of foam. A variety of ammunition types exist, from foam balls, to arrows, to the most widely recognized small suction cup darts.
Many blasters have been released over the years under a multitude of names, colors and sizes.
The energy needed to fire the foam ammunition is supplied through various different mechanisms.
A NERF war is an organized gathering that primarily involves shooting other people with NERF weapons of varying types, sizes, brands, and levels of modification. Typically in some sort of organized fashion around an agreed upon game type.
NERF has also been mentioned by stand-up comedians, such as Ray Romano, who suggested that cars should be made from the material to prevent injuries in accidents. There is also a "Snurf"-gun mentioned in the User Friendly comic strip, which has been said is a reference to a NERF-gun.
"Dart Wars", a NERF based competition, is played in various high schools across America. These are usually tournament based competitions with teams of four to five students. Dart Wars is usually an underground group, often frowned upon by school administrations and local police forces.
"Humans vs. Zombies", is an increasingly popular game of moderated tag commonly played on college campuses (Originating at Goucher College in 2006). A group of human players attempts to survive a "zombie outbreak" by not being tagged by a growing group of zombie players.