Warning: this is not a typical product review for DC Metro Mom. We're far more comfortable with the ins and outs of strollers, potty seats, and the like...but the fact is that adorable toddlers do eventually morph into far more complicated animals called tweens and teens. And, as I am learning, the older my sons get, the more daring their choice of leisure activities, not the least of which is a keen interest in guns. If you have a no gun policy in your household and want to stop reading right here, I understand and respect that. But if you are searching for ways to accomodate your child's interest in guns and your safety concerns, read on.
After struggling with the concept of guns as toys over the years, I've gradually slid down the slippery slope of toy gun ownership from water guns, to laser guns and nerf guns. But apparently my reluctant concessions weren't enough because now my 11 year old son is clamoring for air guns and paintball guns.
Some older boys in our neighborhood (ages 12-15) own air guns, which fire a hard round plastic pellet at an alarming force and speed. I've seen one boy in our neighborhood who got a pretty nasty welt and cut on his forehead from one of these guns and determined that it was in no way appropriate for kids to be running loose with them. So, thumbs down on the air gun kiddo.
I was also not interested in having a paintball gun in the house. These are powerful devices that can produce pretty large bruises. I saw my husband's bruised back after an unpleasant law enforcement training exercise and determined that although less powerful guns are used on recreational paintball fields, it wasn't a great option for a kid. In addition to being messy, many paintball guns also require batteries and/or CO2 cartridges to create a firing force. With the potential for bruises and mess, these more serious paintball guns are better used on a closed playing field, not in our backyard.
So my child and I had reached an impasse. That was until I received a serendipitous request from JT SplatMaster to review their new product. The JT SplatMaster is basically an entry level "paintball marker" that is safer and cleaner to use. The capsules are nontoxic and biodegradable soft marble sized balls that produce a satisfying orange gooey splat on impact without inflicting bodily harm. So, with appropriate eye protection and supervision, I was ok with my son trying it out.
What we received in the mail was a red JT SplatMaster z200 shotgun, plastic target, plastic "grenade" filled with capsules, and googles.
I was glad that the JT SplatMaster was red...some of the air guns and paintball guns I've seen are far too realistic looking. The packaging also includes several pages of directions and safety instructions which I recommend having your child read first and then go over verbally with you. Once the safety instructions were understood and goggles were on, I let him load the capsules. Although the loading seemed tricky to me, my son (suspiciously) had no trouble with it. After loading we headed outside for some target practice. He was happy to shoot at the target and liked the splat of the capsules against a tree, but it wasn't long before his mind digressed to speculation on how it would feel to get hit by a capsule or, better yet, how fun it would be to hit someone else with a capsule.
Which leads me to an important point: the JT SplatMaster is labeled for children ages 9+ and is "NOT A TOY." But obviously, if you are 9, 10, or 11 years old you are definitely going to use it as a toy and are probably going to want to shoot your little brother and/or the family dog. Therefore, in order for it to be safely used, anyone in range should be wearing eye protection...and the dog is best kept indoors. I would also recommend gloves and protective clothing. Although the orange goo is nontoxic and biodegradable, it does contain a warning about one or more chemicals used that warrant washing hands after handling.
Fortunately, as promised on the packaging, the orange goo easily washed away with water and did not leave any traces on our deck, trees, or other objects hit. It also didn't leave any stains on his clothing after being washed. The capsules are soft (which is part of the reason they don't hurt on impact) but that meant they were prone to rupture if not handled carefully.
All in all, the product is a good compromise for an older child that has outgrown his nerf gun but is too young to be let loose with a device that could cause injury to himself or those around him. There are plenty of fun target activities, team games, and obstacle courses recommended by the Game Play section of the JT SplatMaster website. However, part of the appeal for me of the nerf and water guns is that the kids can pretty much safely run around without parent supervision and the JT SplatMaster doesn't quite fall under that category. Parental supervision is recommended for children under 18 using the JT SplatMaster. Although the capsules won't hurt much, you'll want to supervise to make sure safety goggles stay on and safe distances (at least 10 feet) are kept between combatants. This would definitely be a fun outdoor activity to play with Dad so I would consider getting another JT SplatMaster so that they could play together (and get me off the hook for supervising).
In addition to being good for backyard fun, some local paintball fields have special JT SplatMaster events with organized competitions and obstacle courses.
The JT SplatMaster is sold in the sporting good section at Walmart for $39.99. A 500 count of capsules is $15.99 and goggles are $19.99. The z100 pistol is sold for $19.99. To learn more about JT SplatMaster visit their website at jtsplatmaster.com.
Disclaimers: Although JT SplatMaster provided me with the product at no cost, the information and opinions in this review are entirely my own and do not represent or reflect those of the company. Please observe and obey all local, state and federal laws concerning the purchase, use, storage, and transportation of paintball markers.
Image Credit: jtsplatmaster.com
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