Stockpiling

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.

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18 responses to “Stockpiling

  1. I had the Monster XL! I bought it for the summer camp job. No idea what i did with it!

  2. Patton Oswald has a nice bit on one of his albums about him and his wife having an imaginary baby. One they’ve named “eight hours of sleep every night.”

    Though that’s going to be one hell of a cookout party.

  3. I remember seeing the commercials for these and thinking, “that’s retarded.” Now I kinda want one. Regression, perhaps. But I also have a perfectly legit reason. I always keep a fully loaded Super Soaker in my house. Not for an epic cookout, but to keep my dogs in order. They roll their eyes at my commands, but they fear and respect the Super Soaker. All I have to do is pick up the Super Soaker, give it a pump and those mutts fall into line in glorious silence. With a Shout ‘n Shoot, I could just sit around with it on my head and anytime I yell “No,” flip that badboy on to soak the dogs. That’ll learn em.

  4. Nice!! I’d say keep it in the box. I am hoping that I am able to find a Super Soaker(any one of them), at a yard sale. They were the bee knees back in the day. And that backyard cookout sounds great! But will you be grilling meat? :)

  5. Great post! I know the feeling about the cookout. I’m stockpiling for the Nerf Apocalypse: the day when the Hellmouth opens and the Earth is plagued by demons with foam dart allergies. When that day comes, I’ll throw open my trench coat to expose a neon arsenal that will be my neighborhood’s best hope of survival. It’s good to have dreams.

    In other news, you should totally open it up. I really want to know how effective the mic was. Oh, and that kid in the pic is SO 90s that he’s about to go steal his sister’s slap bracelet before hopping on his skateboard to get some Bubble Tape from the Gadzooks in the mall.

  6. Last summer I dug out my old Super Soaker from the attic. It is one of the CPS models and is pretty darn powerful. My son wanted to try using it and could barely hold the thing. He managed to discover its one weakness too. You are at everyone else’s mercy during the 9 hours it takes to fill the thing completely.

  7. This fine product, the Virtual Boy, and the Power Glove are making me want a huge bowl of Prostars right now. Ah, the early 90s. A golden age of crap.

  8. My brother’s friends tried to make a flame thrower by filling a Super Soaker with gasoline…that ended poorly.

  9. A friend and I were watching the ad for this just a few months ago on YouTube. Those old Super Soaker and Nerf ads typify the X-TREME 90s ATTITUDE!

  10. I have a Shout ‘n’ Shoot II. My mom got it for me at Woolworth’s for $25 when I was…I don’t know how old. 10 or 11. I was born in 1984 and it has a copyright date of ’94, but I feel like we may have gotten it a bit later than that. Surprisingly, you don’t have to yell for the microphone to pick up your voice and shoot water, and it has decent (not outstanding) range. The biggest issue was I would squirt water unintentionally, not thinking to turn the microphone away from my face before bantering. I’m actually probably going to test it out to see if it still works in just a few minutes here. Considering putting it in my family’s yard sale this weekend, but it’s still so cool, and how much could I really get for it at a yard sale? I didn’t realize these were so legendary until today. I actually just checked and found an eBay listing (ended last month) for only the box and instructions, and the starting bid was $19.95. What could the actual toy get me in the right market? And would I actually want to sell it?

  11. I use to have one of these and loved it. I have been searching for another squirt gun for years now I had gotten it in the early 90s actually right before the shout n shoot. I remember my grandparent had gotten them for Easter the year before. all i remember was 2 of them but i think there were 3-4. it was a pistol about 10 inches in length. mine had a purple body with an orange trigger. when you pulled the trigger back the front part would open up in 4 directions and hidden inside was a circular cone of teeth. the gun itself squirted 30ft easily. there was another one i think was green, except instead of teeth it had an eyeball. these guns were tough and quite reliable with a decent sized reservoir . if anyone else has an idea what I’m talking about please let me know. like I’ve said its been easily 5 years since I’ve been looking.

  12. Pingback: 45 Incredible '90s Products That All Boys Will Remember | Sharing Interesting Stuff, Updates News & Free Tips

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