History of Water Warfare
Perhaps the origins of water warfare can be traced back to a long time ago when people and even animals needed something to cool off in the summer. Back then, it was probably mostly cupped hands holding water, and perhaps moved up to cups, buckets, etc.; attacks that are still used today. Soaking was often for invoking responses, pranks, and “for the lolz”. Either way, the idea of soaking others with water or just plain splashing around is nothing new.
Fast forward years later, and we start seeing balloons being filled with water. Eventually, perhaps around the early 19th century, the squirt gun was invented.
The Squirt Gun
The mechanics of early squirt guns were not much different from modern, dollar store plastic squirt guns. They are operated by a pump behind trigger to create a small, short ranged squirt. Nearly all of the early 19th century squirt guns were made of metal since plastic was not available. They were typically modeled after real firearms at the time, and may have been used by police as a deterent. Later on, plastic squirt guns were being made, which were mostly in the form of goofy shapes, such as animals, cartoon characters, etc. As the 70’s came, realistically styled black-painted squirt guns became popular as toys. The motorized squirt gun was also developed; particuarly notable was the Larami Uzi which was a replication of the actual Uzi submachine gun. Motorized squirt guns were easier to operate (due to a simple on/off trigger instead of making the trigger the pump) and shot slightly farther than conventional squirt guns, and were also automatic. Unfortunately, the realism was becoming a problem, since people who were brain-dead enough to brandish the toys in public as real weapons were getting shot by the police. Squirt guns reverted back to bright colors and their popularity went down slightly, taking a sharp turn at the coming of the Power Drencher.
First Super Soakers
While there was a backpack pre-pumped air pressure blaster made in 1977, it was not very powerful and could not be pumped while firing, and would not become well-known for the legacy of powered water blasting. The first powerful air pressure blaster started when Lonnie Johnson, an aerospace engineer, was experimenting with some kind of pressure storing system when a large water explosion occured. This gave him the famous air pressure layout and he put aside his work to design what would be called the Power Drencher. After some trouble, a company finally agreed to mass-produce them after a demonstration of one of these guns at a meeting, when a prototype blasted a stream well across the board room. Later on, the Power Drencher was renamed to the Super Soaker 100, and the first series of soakers took their place on the market in 1988. At a time where water guns were expected to look realistic, the Super Soaker 100 looked goofy, but that was no matter because its performance made almost everything else seem like crap. The SS100 was eventually renamed to the SS50 and the SS100 name was reassigned to a larger version of the blaster that also featured a seperate air chamber. More models, such as the well known SS300, which was the first soaker with a backpack, were also produced. The SS300 was the most powerful air pressure model ever produced, comparable to homemade air pressure blasters and CPS’s. While many original SS’s were weak even compared to newer blasters (after the CPS age), and not to mention flimsy, they were still enormously popular, and Larami went on to produce the next line of Soakers.
Meet the Constant Pressure System
Spherical CPS bladder being power-modded
The release of the CPS 2000 sparked another era of new water blasters. The constant pressure system used a thick rubber balloon-like material instead of air pressure, which resulted in, as the name implies, constant pressure throughout a shot. (details on this are in the workshop section) This made it much easier to pump the high-powered soakers, and a lot less space was needed for higher water capacity and more power. The CPS 2000 was the first one on this line and had the best range, output, and power of any soaker ever produced, and nothing more powerful would ever be produced later, making the CPS 2000 highly sought after by both warriors and collectors. However, the shot time was, initially, one second, while the second mark shot for 4/5ths of a second. In that time period, the blaster discharges just shy of a liter of water over 50ft, easily able to completely and instantly drench anyone unfortunate enough to be in range. The cost of this power is over 20 pumps meaning that conservation was imperative. Later, the CPS 2500 replaced the 2000. It was slightly less powerful but had a much needed nozzle selector, allowing for smaller nozzles that conserved pressure and water. Later, smaller CPS models were being produced that still had decent power and range, but lacked the larger nozzles and for many blasters, the capacity. Still, these soakers were easier to pump and had nearly 3-4 times more shot time, and were still very potent in soaking power.
The CPS 1000 was the first smaller soaker, while the CPS 1500/1700 was notable for being powerful for it’s size. At the same time, the smaller air pressure soakers were still selling since even the CPS 1000 was too large and hard to pump for small kids. The Super Charger line was developed around this time as well, which were less powerful soakers that could be pressurized and filled by a hose adapter. (most SC’s were also CPS based but somewhat smaller and weaker) Eventually, the Monster series was introduced, which can be best described as SC soakers on steroids. The SC functuality also made its way to soakers like the SC Power Pak, which were nothing more than pressure chambers and a firing valve. (meaning it must be filled at a SC adapter and cannot be filled without hose pressure) The CPS 3200, a large soaker with a 2 gallon backpack, also had SC functuality but it was only for filling the backpack. (the pressure chamber was too powerful to be charged by a hose instead of by pump)
The Monster series focused on size once again. While none of them were as powerful as the original CPS 2000, the Monster XL is notable for being the largest stock soaker every produced, as well as the non-backpack soaker with highest capacity. (the CPS 2700 coming close in 2nd here; the XL has a smaller reservoir but a large >1L pressure chamber system, which boosts the overall capacity) The XL had 2 nozzle selectors, so 2 different nozzles could be used simultaneously (though the XXP 175 and 275 were the first to do this), and also had a bipod, which was never seen on other soakers. The nozzles total up to 11 different combinations of settings. Moving on, some lower sized and lower powered soakers were being designed again in 2002. This is also when the Max-D line came out; air pressure soakers which use different trigger valves and had better performance than the XP’s. The Max-D line used valves that allowed for better flow, but were restricted to small diameters, which inhibits performance on blasters demanding higher flow.
The Decline of the Super Soaker and emergence of Buzz Bee Toys’ Water Warriors
While soaker quality slightly went down in 2002, the new releases for 2003 had absolutely nothing worth using at all. Around here, Larami merged with Hasbro completely and, along with other issues, produced mostly low powered air pressure and piston pressure gimmick guns with lights and sounds in 2003. (Known as the EES line) Buzz Bee Toys, with many former engineers from Larami, started producing their own water guns; the Water Warriors line. Not long after, their line of blasters were starting to compete with the Super Soaker, which still does today. In 2004, the SoakerTag line was introduced and the CPS 4100 was re-released with a very weak trigger piece that was designed to break after a few uses. The blasters were a bit better at this time, and BBT also started producing more blasters.
In 2005, the CPS pressurization method reappeared in the Flash Flood (which easily became one of the most popular blasters for the next few years), and BBT also made their own CPS method which is inferior to Super Soaker’s, but was used to avoid potential conflicts with a few CPS patents. (patents that did not apply to CPS in general) In 2006, the Max-Infusion line from Super Soaker came out, featuring the first interchangable backpack systems for soakers. Unfortunately, none of their packs were very large, they only lasted long because of the soakers’ low output. (compared to that of the CPS line, who’s reservoirs were often larger than the backpacks they sold) 2007 saw some more blasters from both BBT and Hasbro, most of them being similar to soakers from before with different features. Of course, it’s important to remember that previous years’ soakers were also often being re-released. The Flash Flood will be available for it’s 5th year this summer due to it’s high popularity.
Water Warriors Orca 2008
<pIn 2008, Buzz Bee re-released several of their 2007 blasters with some improvements, such as being less prone to trigger problems and doing away with the Orca's inverted cap. Hasbro followed with some fairly low-end piston and air powered blasters. One of these is the Bottle Shot, a somewhat weak piston blaster that was the first to be designed to support water bottles and can hold any bottle that threads into it. 2009 saw the re-release of the Super Soaker 50 20th anniversary edition. The re-release was more powerful though slightly less true to the original design, featuring a cap instead of a twist-off reservoir possibly to save costs. (though most would agree that the cap is a much better way of refilling) Hasbro didn't release anything else new, but Buzz Bee Toys followed with several new, more powerful blasters.
The Pulse Master was a new experiment with a different power chamber: one powered by a spring and a piston instead of traditional air and rubber bladder systems. The spring powered system was used before in piston blasters to produce continuous streams, but this was the first time it was used with a trigger. However, spring powered pressure chambers exert a lot of force into a more concentrated area, requiring better structural design and limiting the possibilities. They also tend to be restricted to low water volumes which made the Pulse Master more difficult to use. In short, it had the shot time of a CPS 2000 and the output of a CPS 1000. (though is probably a lot faster to pump up)
The Vindicator was the real deal of BBT’s 2009 offering. This blaster was BBT’s first to use a true CPS bladder, which was roughly on-par with the CPS 1000, a first since the Flash Flood. The Vindicator featured a merged reservoir with the pressure chamber enclosure, and the bladder expands into the reservoir so that topping it off after initial pressurization is no longer necessary to maintain maximum capacity. The disadvantage to this is that air is not able to replace water as quickly when the blaster is fired, creating a sort of suction that can slow down the bladder. However, the benefits were worth it, as it appears that the new layout saved a lot on material costs which was imperative due to the economic recession of 2009.
Other blasters BBT released on 2009 also used efficient layouts, avoiding extra pipe bends that go from the pressure chamber to the nozzle and not having intake tubes in the reservoir which also improves efficiency and performance. It is also worth noting that they did away with the “Electric Power Meter” on the new blasters (which was not useful as it did not indicate specifically how much pressure is in the blaster at a given time), though the re-release of the Blazer from 2005 still featured it.
In 2010, Hasbro handed the Super Soaker brand to the Nerf design team. The new Super Soakers of the Soaker Wars line feature the detatchable stocks and tactical rail from N-Strike Nerf blasters, and their design is fairly streamlined. Of course, the new blasters were mostly useless for many water wars as none were designed for very high-level wars. Buzz Bee Toys released just a few new blasters, which included several new Pulse series blasters and the Vanquisher, a supplementation to the Vindicator which features a more balanced grip for the user’s firing hand. Unfortunately, the Vanquisher lacks a large nozzle and only comes with 3 nozzle options. This can be fixed by drilling out the fan blast nozzle, which is not particularly useful anyways.
Before the end of the year however, Hasbro filed a patent lawsuit against Buzz Bee Toys. The details were not released, but Hasbro won the case. While availability for all blasters in 2011 has not been revealed, the patent issue was likely about CPS. Buzz Bee Toy’s new blasters appear significantly smaller and less potent than before, though they will still have older, larger blasters (such as the Orca or Pulse Master) re-released in 2011. Nerf is releasing the HydroCannon, the successor to the Flash Flood which has a few advantages over it, as well as a few disadvantages. It appears that the HydroCannon may be the only Super Soaker of 2011 that will be particularly useful. The HydroCannon appears to hold promise for modification.
History of the water warring internet community
Around the early 2000’s, with the advancement of the internet, some fans set up sites dedicated to soakers and water warfare. While most of the sites had reviews, forums, and fairly good information, some users went farther as people were discovering how blasters worked, how to modify them for more power, and how to build homemades. Thanks to the power-mods developed over time, CPS blasters became even more powerful than they already were. However, such mods are less practical on modern blaster designs due to their weaker internals and small, relatively poor design. Still, there are many basic but effective mods that work on just about any blaster, such as the backpack capacity expansion, nozzle drill, or the pressure relief valve removal. For homemades, powerful designs have been devised out of PVC and while developing a practical, ergonomical homemade is difficult, homemades generally are the most powerful water blasters due to its DIY nature. (i.e. The builder can choose to have larger pressure chambers, and PVC is very strong and able to handle higher pressure.) Other homemades devised include high-range pneumatic water balloon launchers (ranges of 400-500ft are not uncommon) as well as high-powered air-water cannons, which are basically air pressure blasters on steriods where a piston inside a long tube is used to seperate the air and water. Both high-powered PVC systems usually depend on a bike pump or air compressor and are typically operated with at least 60 PSI. The low pressure dropoff concept, developed by Ben of Super Soaker Central in 2008, is slightly based off the Supercannon II design with the piston seperating the air and the water. (The Supercannon II is the most powerful homemade ever devised, setting the record at 78 feet of max. range.) However, it is designed for practical use instead of just one shot, which is shown by the fact that it has a pump instead of just being a pressure chamber and valve. Also, the pressure system gives much more room for air, which lowers the dropoff to the point where it’s as good as CPS. The downside is that the design of providing extra space for air demands more PVC and is heavier.
HBWW’s Breech-loaded Pneumatic Water Balloon Launcher
Homemades appear to hold some of the future for enthusiast water warfare. However, CPS class blasters still appear on eBay, but prices are difficult to predict and various tricks are needed to find certain blasters at good prices. I’ve seen CPS 2000’s (MK I) go up past $300, and Monster XL’s go for around $200. At another time, I saw another XL go for $15. For now, the community has to stick with the best they can muster up, as the current water blaster market does not provide water blasters of sufficient performance for water wars that involve homemades, hoses, and CPS blasters.