The Shout ‘N Shoot was a voice-activated water gun released by CAP Toys in 1994. Back then, it was a water gun from the future, a hands-free, multi-directional electronic water gun. Except now we’re in the future, and there’s nothing like it. The Shout ‘N Shoot was ahead of its time, but it was also an idea precisely of its time: the 1990s.
I can’t believe I found one the other day, unopened and never used at the thrift store. When I saw the box sitting there on the shelf, my heart skipped a beat. But then I assumed the box probably contained a couple loose, damp-smelling hoses and broken headset pieces scattered in the box. Nothing to get excited about. Instead, upon inspection, I saw the toy had never even been opened. The neon green hoses were still twisty-tied up and wrapped in plastic. It was amazing. No, it was more than that. It was beautiful.
And it was only four bucks. There’s totally a collector’s market for vintage Super Soakers and other old water guns. I knew I could make a couple bucks selling it, but I wanted it for the personal collection. Never mind that I already have a small arsenal of vintage Super Soakers. I’m stockpiling. For the coolest backyard cookout ever. EVER. Where friends will come over and be handed a vintage water gun upon entering. Never mind that I fantasize about having fancy parties all the time even though I’m really a curmudgeonly reclusive person who writes in the basement.
Or I’d get it “for the kids.” That’s my new license to buy anything I want with zero guilt. For the kids I don’t have yet. But the wife and I are starting to think about having a baby. We’re in that stage where we say it out loud and introduce it into conversations to make it seem like something normal and realistic, instead of something absolutely terrifying and abstract. Or at least, that’s the stage I’m in. The wife is in the stage where she sighs at babies and small children and tiny socks. I’m still in a stage where everything that comes out of my mouth has utter disregard for basic sentence structure and ends with a question mark.
“Yeah maybe? We’re kind of in that starting stage? Where like maybe we’re starting to beginning to planning for something involving something like that? You know?”
Never mind that annoying drumming sound in my brain that just keeps saying TINY HUMAN BEING THAT YOU WILL BE RESPONSIBLE FOR FOREVER. TINY HUMAN BEING THAT YOU WILL BE RESPONSIBLE FOR FOREVER.
AND THEN IT WILL TURN INTO A BIG HUMAN BEING.
So yeah I’m going to be over there in the corner rocking to myself, fantasizing about that cookout party. I’ll have the Shout ‘N Shoot gear firing on demand from my head, and I’ll also be blasting away with a Super Soaker in each fist. It’s going to be so bad ass. FIRE! FIRE! FIRE! FIRE!
The history of water guns is a surprisingly menacing one. Up until the 1980s, water guns were simple squeeze pump plastic toys. Then a NASA engineer, a man named Lonnie Johnson, came along with an idea for a new type of water gun that used a battery-operated electronic motor. These electronic motorized water guns called Entertech, and released by LJN in 1986. At one point, the Entertech guns were even tied-in with Rambo due to the popularity of the film. Kids went bonkers for them.
The only problem was that they resembled actual uzis and machine guns. There were at least three incidences where people, including a child, were mistakenly shot by the police for posing a threat. Then there were criminals robbing stores and banks with them. Realistic-looking water guns were subsequently banned, mandating that all toy guns have neon and bright color schemes.
Then Johnson came up with another idea for a water gun: one that involved a pressurized air system. The first Super Soaker, the SS-50, was born in 1990, and was able to shoot water in a powerful continuous jet stream. By the summer of 1992, Super Soakers were the most popular and fastest-selling toys. They sold in the millions. Stores couldn’t keep them on the shelves.
From there Super Soakers only grew in popularity and size. Some could blast water up to fifty feet and could hold the amount of water equivalent to a small aquarium. The tanks were so large, kids could barely carry them. They required over the shoulder slings and belts to manage the weight of the water, leaving welts on the skin. These were no squirt gun fights. Shit was like ‘Nam.
Then the Soakers grew in controversy. As children begged and clamored for them, parents began to panic—because parents always freak out over insanely-popular toys.
“The Super Soaker craze may be the latest sign of a jaded society’s need for ever-increasing thrills: more drug use, more transvestites on Donahue, more fire power in our water guns,” one newspaper in Boston breathlessly wrote.
There was even an incident involving a Super Soaker filled with bleach and a drive-by bleaching of innocent bystanders who had their eyeballs burned out. This caused many cities to outright ban the toys.
And yet somehow, the water gun—and a generation of violence-craving fiends—survived. There are still some great water guns out there, including electronic ones that can shoot multiple bursts per second. Check out these Waterguns at ToySplash.
Even so, today’s Super Soakers are emasculated in comparison, with smaller water reservoirs, less-powerful air-pressure pumps, and far less range. This has opened up a market for vintage Soakers. The “Holy Grail” of Super Soakers, the beastly “Monster XL” from 1999, regularly goes on eBay in the hundred or two range.
There were dozens of imitators with different gimmicks. I even reviewed one of these knockoffs way back in 2009 when I found an unopened Super Stinker water gun.
I guess it’s just my luck—or fate—to find and review unopened Super Soaker knockoffs. Which brings us back to the Shout ‘N Shoot:
It was definitely one of the more inventive and cool knockoffs. A voice-activated, hands-free water gun. It even won some awards because it enabled kids with certain disabilities to play with water guns, too. Like I said, a water gun of the future. But just like flying cars and food in capsule form, perhaps it was just too futuristic for us Luddites.
The Shout ‘N Shoot had two parts: the water reservoir that attached to your belt, and a head set, connected by a neon green tube running between them. The headset had a small cannon that could adjust and shoot in multiple directions which triggered upon voice/sound into the headset’s mic. The thing required six AA batteries.
The commercials made the thing look super rad, showing kids perched in trees guerrilla-style and soaking their victims with gallons of unrelenting water. In real life, the Shout ‘N Shoot’s range probably wasn’t quite as impressive, and you probably looked like a chump running around with water-squirting head gear on.
Like most toys, the Shout ‘N Shoot was probably cooler in lore than it was on the playground. Yet there was always some story about that one kid who had one somewhere. Perhaps that kid even went down in the local history books of modern water warfare on some hot summer day. Like every kid, I’d wanted one too, but suspected it probably sucked. The mic probably didn’t pick up anything unless you screamed your throat raw, and the water probably only spit out in a feeble little stream.
As tempted as I am to rip open the packaging and settle the decades-old mystery once and for all, I think it’s better to let it remain a playground legend. And anyway, it hardly seems worth it to rip open plastic that has remained intact for the last eighteen years for something like that.
But maybe one day, if I ever throw that cookout party. Or maybe one day, for the kids.