To appreciate how to improve the effectiveness of a blaster, one should start by understanding how various water blasters work (See Soaker Technology: Basics). Armed with basic technological knowledge, the following recommendations on how blaster performance can be maximized and/or improved will make more sense. This article covers some basic concepts and usage tips behind maximizing soaker performance. Links to further reading are also provided.
:: Basic Soaker Use Terminology
There are many common (and not-so-common) terms used when talking about soakers and water warfare in general. For a more complete listing, see the Glossary. For the purpose of this article, though, there are several terms that should be familiar.
- Air-Shot: The action of pumping up a water blaster when its reservoir is empty and firing out he compressed air.
- Aperture: The opening where water is fired from the water blaster. See Nozzle
- Back-Up: This term may refer either to an additional blaster used when one's primary blaster runs dry or it may refer to an alternate water group that will come in to support during an attack.
- Burst: A short stream duration fired from a water blaster. Also see Short Burst
- Compression Chamber: See Pressure Chamber
- Dry-Shot: See Air-Shot.
- Fast-Fill Device: See Q.F.D.
- Firing Angle: Angle difference from horizontal at which a soaker will fire correctly (i.e. without sputtering)
- Firing Chamber: See Pressure Chamber.
- Grip: The part of the water weapon held onto by one's hands. On most water blasters, there are two grips: one where the trigger is and one for the pump.
- Handle: See Grip.Some of the newer water blasters have an additional handle on their top for carrying purposes.
- Hydro-Power: Term used in Water Warriors Blasters by Buzz Bee Toys Inc. that use a rubber diaphragm technology that yields similar performance to CPS-class blasters
- Mist-Shot: What happens when more air than water is fired from a pressurized firing chamber.
- Nozzle: The part of the water weapon which has the aperture. Some Super Soakers(tm) have changeable nozzles.
- Nozzle Rating: Nozzles are rated on iSoaker.com based on their output in oz./sec. A nozzle with an output of 1 oz./sec is rated as a 1x nozzle.
- Output: The rate of water delivered by a blaster per unit time. Output is typically reported as mL/sec or oz./sec.
- PC: acronym for Pressure Chamber
- Pressure Chamber: The part of the water blaster which is pressurized to allow the weapon to fire. Some water weapons have separate pressure chambers while others use the reservoir as the compression chamber.
- Pump: The part of the water blaster which, with a little bit of arm motion, pressurizes the compression chamber of the water blaster.
- Pump Volume: The total amount of water moved from the reservoir to the compression chamber with one full pump. (Note: Not all water blasters pump water thus preventing their pump volumes from being measured accurately)
- Q.F.D.: Acronym for the Quick-Fill Device(tm). This device attaches to a standard garden hose allowing all Super Chargers(tm) Super Soakers(tm) to be refilled quickly.
- Reservoir: The part of the water blaster which holds the bulk of the water/ammunition. Some soakers have multiple reservoir options while others have no external reservoir.
- Riot Blast: Term associated with some water blaster nozzles which can be removed or modified such that the water blaster fires a burst of water instead of a stream. Less distance but greater area covered.
- Shielding: Any portable piece of equipment which can be used to deflect blasts of water coming in one's direction.
- Shield/Shielding: Device used to block/deflect incoming water streams/balloons.
- Short Burst: A controlled, non-complete utilization of the pressurized water in a blaster to yield a short, but solid stream of water. Short bursts are best used when trying to conserve water.
- Shot Time: Duration a blaster can fire before its stream begins to drop in strength.
- Sniping/Snipering: Surprise, long-range attack from a blaster from a hidden location.
- Soaker: Alternate term to Water Blaster
- Strafe/Strafing: 1. Spraying an area with multiple-beams of water. While this technique lowers accuracy, it does increase the likelihood of hitting a target; 2. Side-stepping while firing (as is performed in most FPS computer games)
- Strap: Part of some SuperSoakers(tm) which allows them to be carried without needing to use one's hands. Straps can also be added to virtually any Super Soaker with a little tweaking.
- Super Soaker: The general term used for most of the water blasters Larami Ltd. makes.
- Target: The object one wishes to unleash a volley of water at. Could be inanimate or human.
- Trigger: The part of the water blaster which, when pressed/pulled, unleashes the pressurized water from the aperture.
- Water Blaster: The proper term for referring to a Super Soaker® or other potent water weapon.
- Water Gun: Older term denoting hand-carried water dispensing devices.
In all cases, a water blaster must be filled before being used. This may seem an obvious point, but how a blaster is filled will affect the methods that can be used to fill it more efficiently and effectively. Different blasters are filled by different means. This section will outline some of the common blaster-type filling procedures and give pointers on things on consider.
Filling Syringe/Piston-Based Blasters
Syringe/Piston-Based blasters are those that need to have their nozzle dipped into a volume to water and then have their pump extended in order to fill their firing chamber. Two main points should be remembered when filling such soakers: i) there must be enough water and the nozzle must be deep enough such that no air is drawn into the firing chamber when loading; ii) any air drawn into the firing chamber should be purged (see Priming section). The speed at which a syringe-based soaker can be loaded is dependant on the strength of the user and the diameter of the nozzle opening. Attempting to fill such blasters more quickly than water can enter the nozzle will cause the formation of a partial vaccuum, but no increase of loading speed. If the nozzle is brought above the water surface while there is still a partial vaccuum in the firing chamber, air will be drawn in much more quickly than water to fill the void, thus reducing the amount of usable water in the chamber. To avoid this, if one needs to remove the nozzle from water or if the available water has run out, the filling motion should be stopped to avoid drawing in air.
Filling Pressurized Reservoir Blasters
Pressurized Reservoir Blasters are perhaps the most difficult type of soaker to fill optimally. It has been found through experience that pressurized reservoirs should not be filled beyond their 2/3 to 3/4 of full capacity level. The logic here is that there needs to be enough air volume in the reservoir such that as the compressed volume expands as water is released, the available pressure does not decrease too quickly. At the same time, one wants to maximize how much water is available. For bottle-based reservoirs, one can measure the total volume with a measuring cup, then fill the reservoir to the 2/3 or 3/4 level; assuming the reservoir is transparent or translucent, a mark can be put on the reservoir's exterior as the optimal fill line. For opaque reservoirs, one must either get accustomed to its weight when optimally filled or have fill-bottles with the optimal volume of water marked to assist when refilling. For capped-reservoir blasters, it is more difficult to fill these optimally. The simplest solution is to use a defined fill-bottle with the optimal volume level marked on the bottle to pour into the reservoir when refilling. To maximize stream performance, it is always better to overestimate how much water one has put in and fill too little than fill too much, not leaving enough volume for pressurization.
Filling Separate Pressure Chamber Blasters
Separate Pressure Chamber Blasters, both air-based and CPS/Hydro Power-based, should have their reservoirs filled completely. However, if the water blaster uses a non-divided air-pressure-based firing chamber (i.e. there is no physical separation between the pressurized air and water in the pressure chamber), the soaker should first be pre-charged (See Pre-Charging section). When filling the reservoir, on some water blasters, the reservoir should be angled and/or rocked gently during the filling procedure to release trapped air bubbles and make use of all the available internal volume. Once the water blaster reservoir is filled the first time, the soaker should be primed (See Priming section), have its pressure chamber maximally filled with water, then the reservoir should be topped off. Following this procedure maximizes the total water capacity available in a water blaster while not sacrificing its performance. Proper precharing and priming, however, is the key to ensure performance is at its peak. These actions are also referred to as pre-loading a water blaster.
Filling Hose-Dependant/Q.F.D.-Based Blasters
If a blaster is fully dependant on a hose to work (i.e. most Speed Loaders and Super Soaker SC blasters except for blasters like the SC 400), a hose with adequate water pressure and a QFD/Fast-Fill device are required to load the blaster. Optimally, after initial filling, the water blaster should be primed (See Priming section), then filled again to top off the pressure chamber. For blasters like the SC 400 or XP Triple Play that use an air-pressurized-reservoir system, such blasters do not and should not undergo the priming procedure.
Pre-Charging is the term used for pumping in air into a separate air pressure chamber to incease its empty/resting level pressure such that subsequent water being pumped into the chamber will experience higher starting pressures, resulting in less stream dropoff. The drawbacks to pre-charging are that it does slightly reduce the amount of water that can be pumped into the pressure chamber before the pressure release valve is activate and if the wrong angle or too much water is expelled from the pressure chamber, misting and loss of pre-charging is possible.
Pre-Charging Separate Air-Pressure Chambers
To precharge a separate air pressure chamber, the blaster should be pumped either when the reservoir is empty or at an angle that the reservoir's intake is not beneath water and can only draw in air. For blasters with a pressure gauge, pre-charging the pressure chamber to 1/4 to 1/3 maximum pressure is adequate for a good performance boost; too much pre-charging reduces shot time too much. For blasters lacking a pressure gauge, the number of pre-charging pumps must be optimized through trial and error; 20 to 30 pumps if a good starting point in general.
Pre-Charging Aqua-Master Pre-Charge Systems (Water Warriors)
The Aqua-Master Pre-Charge system by Buzz Bee Toys Inc. has a specialized pump-toggle system that allows either water to be drawn from the reservoir and pushed into the front of the pressure chamber or for air to be pumped to the back of the pressure chamber. To maximize the pressure, after the Aqua-Master button is pressed to select air pumping, the trigger of the blaster should be pulled so that the separator will slide all the way forward, allowing the majority of the chamber to be pre-charged. Pumping needs to be continued until the Aqua-Master button pops back out. While this maximizes pressure and stream performance, the problem is that a fully pre-charged chamber can be extremely difficult to pump in water into the other side of the chamber. To reduce the level of pre-charging, the pressure release button can be pressed to let some of the air out. To pre-pressurize the Aqua-Master system more consistently at a lower maximum pressure, the blaster should first have its reservoir filled with water. If the pressure chamber divider is not completely forward,the Aqua-Master button should be pressed, the trigger held down, and the blaster pumped to push the divider forward and until the button pops back out. After that, the pressure release valve should be depressed and water should be pumped into the forward part of the pressure chamber. As more pumps of water is pumped into the pressure chamber, the maximum amount of pressurized air volume will be lowered. After some water has been pumped into the chamber, the Aqua-Master button should be pressed in again and the rear of the pressure chamber can be pressurized. Users should experiment with how much water should be in the pressure chamber before charging the chamber and allow one to pump in water more easily while not losing too much in terms of stream performance. While subjective, iSoaker.com does not recommend going beyond the halfway mark in the pressure chamber, otherwise blaster performance will end up significantly hindered.
Priming of a water blaster refers to preparing a blaster for optimal performance. Priming needs be performed at least once after first fill and perhaps after refilling depending on the type of blaster.
Priming Syringe/Piston-Based Blasters
When first filling a syringe-type soaker, some air will likely be trapped in the firing chamber. Though some may feel this trapped air is minimal, trapped air will reduce the initial force the user can apply onto the water in the firing chamber, thus reducing both firing volume and stream performance. To properly prime a syringe-type blaster, after the blaster is first filled, the blaster should be tilted, tapped, and/or shaken with the nozzle pointing upwards, then the blaster should be fired to expell out any air. This should be done a couple of times. Once primed, the syringe-based water blaster should never be filled in a rush to prevent air from being drawn into the system, thus negating the act of priming. Priming, thus, should only be necessary once per battle and/or whenever the user feels that some air may have accidentally entered the firing chamber.
Priming Pressurized Reservoir Blasters
Little can be done to prime a pressurized reservoir blaster due to the nature of the design. At best, after the blaster is filled and fully pressurized, a short tap shot should be done to load the tubing between the reservoir and the nozzle with water. This action allows for quicker blaster response when needed during an opponent engagement. As all pressure must be released through the nozzle in order to refill, pressurized reservoir blasters must be primed after every refill.
Priming Separate Air-Pressure Chamber Blasters
In general, separate air-pressure chamber blasters should be pre-pressurized (See Pre-Charging section). Priming is then accomplished similarly to a Pressurized Reservoir Blaster by pumping up the pre-pressurized pressure chamber with water, then giving the blaster a quick tap shot to load the tubing between the pressure chambers and the nozzle with water. Unlike pressurized reservoir blasters, priming is not needed again after refills since separate air-pressure chamber blasters do not need to be depressurized for reloading. However, priming (and pre-charging) is necessary in the event of an accidental mist-shot.
Priming CPS/Hydro Power Chamber Blasters
To prime a CPS/Hydro Power blaster, its pressure chamber should first only be partly filled with water (note: the pressure chamber can be completely filled, but this is unnecessary). Once filled, the blaster should be tilted, tapped, and/or shaken to dislodge any air bubbles trapped within the pressure chamber, then the blaster should be tilted upwards and fired to expell out any trapped air and fill the tubing between the pressure chamber and nozzle with water. This action should be repeated a couple of times to remove as much air as possible. Once primed, a CPS/Hydro Power blaster does not need to be re-primed unless air is accidentally pumped into the pressure chamber when the reservoir is low on water.
.: Targetting and Aiming
To score successful soaks, one needs to have a solid understanding and feel for how one's blaster behaves. Different water blasters, even of the same make, have slightly different performance levels. Even with a properly filled, charged, and primed water blaster, there are a number of factors to consider when firing in order to have the highest chance of successfully soaking one's target.
- Nozzle Setting - if a blaster has only one nozzle, this point is moot. However, for blasters with a variety of nozzles to choose from, knowing which one is selected and how it performs will affect one's ability of soak. Stream nozzles offer more range while patterned nozzles may cover more area (though typically at the cost of range).
- Nozzle Performance - different nozzles on different soakers perform all slightly differently. Common differences include how laminated a blaster's stream is and whether the stream fires straight or has bias towards a particular direction. Familiarity with a water blaster allows one to discern these differences such that one can compensate for them when aiming and soaking.
- Range - the range of a particular nozzle setting is affected by stream lamination, stream thickness, and the power behind the stream. Effective range will determine whether a target is close enough to be effectively soaked or not.
- Output - a nozzle's output affects range and, of course, rate at which a target can be soaked. Depending on how long a target will remain within range, a blaster's output will determine how much water can be maximally transfered assuming the shot hits.
- Effective Output - a nozzle's effective output refers to how much water can actually be transferred to a target. This depends on stream shape, proximity of target, and force of the stream. Fan and shower-type nozzles have large outputs, but at larger distances to the target, the effective output drops as the target ends up only occupying a fraction of the area the stream actually covers. Forceful, thick streams have higher output ratings, but their effective output can be less due to the deflection of parts of the stream upon target impact.
- Stream Speed - the speed water travels once it has left the nozzle varies over the course of flight. Stream speed is related to output, nozzle diameter, stream lamination, and range when fired level.
- Target Size - simply put, larger targets are easier to hit than smaller ones
- Target Shape - broad targets are generally easier to hit than slender targets even if both cross-sectional areas are the same
- Target Speed - slower moving targets are easier to follow and soak than fast moving ones
Some people use the terms of aiming and targetting interchangeably. Here, we will discern between the two by defining aiming as the act of guiding one's water blaster in order to maximize the likelihood of soaking a target while targetting is the act of selecting who or what to aim at. By this definition, effective targetting involves being able to quickly process information regarding potential threats, allies, other hazards, and neutral objects within one's view. As targetting is not blaster dependant, per se, (though a blaster's range does determine how many possible targets are soakable) it is only defined in this article, but will be discussed further in water-warfare-oriented articles in more depth.
Successful aiming involves knowing how a blaster's stream performs, knowing how to quick gauge the speed and distance of a target, and knowing how one's blaster's position relates to one's stance/view to compensate for the difference. Generally, the closer the nozzle position is to one's line of sight translates into improved aim. Granted, for water blasters, the arcing nature of water streams reduces the benefit of aligning a water blaster with one's line of sight. As well, while angled shots (up to 45-degrees from parallel to the ground) offer increase range, such shots take significantly longer to reach the end-pointing meaning that a target may have moved out of position. When attempting to soak targets further out, one must adjust one's aim to compensate for the prediction motion of one's target related to how long it would take one's blaster's stream to reach the expected end-point. This is often referred to as leading the target.
.: Firing the Water Blaster: Burst vs Tap Shots
During combat or even when just training, there is often no need or benefit in firing complete full bursts as this will drain one's soaker more quickly while not yielding the same gain in soaking. Even if a target remains in range for the duration of the shot, a full burst, emptying a blaster's pressure chamber, and/or firing until pressure is depleted does not soak as efficiently due to stream splashback. To maximize water delivery while minimizing waste, it is best to use shorter bursts or even tap shots.
Short bursts involve firing a blaster for only a partial duration of its available shot time, but long enough to produce a solid stream. For a syringe/pump-action blaster, a short burst would be defined as compressing the pump only partway, but long enough to produce a solid stream. The blast from a short burst should still be able to reach 80%-100% of a stream's maximum range while using 1/4 or less of the available pressure. For pressure-based blasters, this means much less pumping is required between shots in order to maintain full pressure; for pump-action blasters, this allows a user to fire multiple times before needing to refill the pump. In the event a target has dodged or moved out of range of the attack, only a small amount of water and pressure would have been lost and the user can quickly readjust aim and position to attack again without leaving himself/herself vulnerable. Moreover, short burst impacts on a target lose less liquid due to stream splashback, thus delivering a higher percentage of the stream onto the target; multiple short burst strikes onto the same target is a much more effective means of soaking than a full burst.
Multiple short bursts fired in quick succession allow the user to see and consequently adjust one's aim when attempting to strike a target. This is particularly useful if the target and/or the user are moving, though for even better water conservation, taps shots would be more recommendable.
For sake of clarity, a full burst is not necessarily equivalent to draining the pressure chamber or firing until pressure is depleted. A full burst refers to a stream duration long enough such that the end of the stream can reach maximum range while water is still exiting the nozzle (Note: for some blasters, this is not actually possible as their shot time is too short that the pressure chamber drains before the stream reaches maximum range). As noted above in this section, there are few times that warrant the use of a full burst attack. Full bursts allow targets at the furthest extent of a blaster's range to be attacked, but attempting to soak at maximum ranges reduces the likelihood of a successful soak. At closer ranges, the longer duration of a full burst can increase the chance of a target to be hit by the stream, but this comes at the cost of more squandered water. Since more water is used, for pressurized blasters, more pumping is subsequently required to repressurize the blaster after the attack.
Full Tank Shot
A blast completely draining the bulk of the available pressurized water is what defines a full tank shot. For pump-action blasters, a full tank shot refers to squeezing the pump until there is no water remaining; for pressurized reservoir blasters, a full tank shot refers to firing until pressure drops below 70% strength; for separate pressure chamber blasters, a full tank shot refers to firing until the pressure chamber is completely drained. There are few occasions that justify the use of a full tank shot. Such blasts are mostly reserved for water warrior novices and humiliating taunt soakings. As already noted, multiple short bursts are more effective at truly soaking than full bursts or even full tank shots. However, if one's opponent is in a vastly inferior position and/or skill level, a full tank shot can be used to assert one's true and utter domination. Of course, a full tank shot also leaves one's completely vulnerable after as one has drained one's available pressurized water, thus if a full tank shot is to be used, one had better be sure one that no immediate counter-attack is possible.
As its name suggests, a tap shots are generated by tapping/quickly pulsing the trigger valve open and closed. The resulting stream is even shorter than that of a short burst. Because of the particularly short duration of this type of shot, the effective range of the shot lies within 50%-80% of maximum stream range depending on the blaster's output and nozzle selected. Tap shots excel at conserving water with those proficient at tap shots able to pull off 5 or more shots using the same amount of water as used in a single short burst. The brevity of the tap shot allow one to easily do multiple trial shots to adjust one's aim before opting to do a longer burst once a successful attack can be virtually guaranteed. Tap shots are not without their limitations, though. Range is partly sacrificed as tap shot streams tend to be less coherent due to the quick opening and closing of the nozzle valve combined with a lack of overall mass of the stream. As well, as tap shot stream behaviour is slightly different to longer-lasting streams, a slight adjustment is require to one's aim when switching between tap shot attacks and longer burst attacks.
.: Emptying the Water Blaster
After use, all water blasters should be emptied to reduce the likelihood of mould growth and prolong the life of the soaker. Depending on when one expects to use a water blaster again, amount of care and thoroughness when emptying a blaster is needed.
After Every Battle/War
No matter what the blaster is or what pressurization method it uses, blasters should have their reservoir(s), pressure chamber(s), and internal tubing drained and flushed with some air.Blasters should never be left pressurized for extended periods of time (i.e. longer than a couple of hours).
- pump-action blasters should be dry-pumped a couple of times with their nozzle facing downwards to reduce the amount of lingering water in the pump chamber
- pressurized reservoir blasters should be depressurized, then opened to completely drain the reservoir of any unusable water. After, the empty reservoir should be repressurized and the blaster should be dry-fired a couple of times to flush the tubing of water. Lastly, the reservoir should be left open to dry.
- separate firing chamber blasters shoud be depressurized with their reservoir opened and emptied. Air should be pumped into the pressure chamber and the water blaster should be dry-fired a few times with the pressure chamber's opening pointing downwards (Note: for blasters like the XP 150, the blaster should be held level to the ground when dry-firing whereas for blasters like the CPS 1000, its nozzle should be pointed downwards as its CPS pressure chamber is mounted with its opening pointing forwards). Lastly, the reservoir should be left open to dry
If one is participating in a multiple-day war where attacks can occur at any time of the day or night, clean water can be kept in the reservoir of the blaster, but soakers should not be kept pressurized. Pump-action blasters are better used for long-term quick-response blasters.
Long Term Storage
If a blaster is going to be stored for extended periods of time (i.e. longer than a few weeks), a thorough drying procedure is recommended for better blaster care. As is done after every battle, blasters should be depressurized and their reservoir drained. If the general water sources used contain a lot of dissolved minerals (i.e. hard water, chlorinated water, etc.), a blaster should be filled and rinsed with clear, distilled water a couple of times to reduce the chance of mineral build up in any of the internals.
- pump action blasters should be kept overnight in a safe place with their pump extended and nozzle pointing downwards. The next day, the blaster should be slowly pumped to expell the residual water from the firing chamber. Optimally, pump-action blasters should be stored with their pumps just slightly extended by 0.5-1.0cm. This reduces the likelihood of the pump sealing itself closed.
- pressurized reservoir blasters should be kept overnight with their reservoirs open and nozzles pointing downwards. The next day, the reservoir should be closed and the blaster partially pressurized while keeping the nozzle pointing downwards, then any remaining water expelled by pulling the trigger. Pressurized reservoir blasters should be allowed to dry at least one more day before being stored. Optimally, pumps should be left partially extended (0.5-1.0cm) when storing. This reduces the likelihood of the pump sealing itself closed.
- separate firing chamber blasters should be pumped a couple of times upsidedown with trigger pulled to push residual water from the pump into the firing chamber and out the nozzle. After, blasters should be kept overnight with their firing chamber opening pointed downwards and with reservoir open. The next day, the blaster should be partially pressurized while keeping the firing chamber opening pointed downwards, then any remaining water expelled by pulling the trigger. The blaster should be turned upsidedown again and pumped with trigger depressed. The blaster should be kept again overnight with pressure chamber opening pointed downwards, then air-fired the next day to further dry the pressure chamber. These steps should be repeated until virtually no water is being expelled during the air-shot step; this may take 2 to 3 attempts. Once the blaster is adequately dried, it can be put into storage. Optimally, pumps should be left partially extended (0.5-1.0cm) when storing. This reduces the likelihood of the pump sealing itself closed.