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Do NOT Paint it Black

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#1 Aeromech

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Posted 05 July 2015 - 01:35 PM

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Paint jobs have long been an integral part of cosmetic modifications of Nerf blasters, both homemade and modified stock blasters. It adds a level of individuality to a person’s blaster or company name if he/she wishes to market them. Legal and practical problems arise, however, when these paintjobs begin to resemble the color schemes of firearms, real or simulated. Metallic, rusted, black, flat dark earth, or military style camouflage paint colorations on nerf blasters are deleterious to the individual, the isolated nerf war, and the hobby as a whole.

Nerf blasters purchased from the store already resemble actual firearms, especially in silhouette, at a distance, or in low light. The Nerf Recon/Retaliator is one such blaster, and one of the most popular to modify into an imitation firearm, due to its’ close geometric resemblance to that of the military M4 carbine or popular civilian AR-15 carbine. The addition of an M16A2 carry handle or simulated carry handle on these toys contributes further to the outline of an actual weapon. Furthermore, tactical accoutrements such as slings, scopes, foregrips, and flashlights are not uncommon sights on todays’ Nerf blasters. These additions are largely innocuous, in that the underlying paint is still bright blue or orange or white, but do not help at distance or in low light conditions. Wars are often fought exclusively in the day, so this is not that big of an issue.

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Figure 1: Nerf Retaliator modified to simulate M4 carbine [3]

The painting of one of these blasters is another story altogether. When the blues and greens and yellows are replaced with olive drab and desert brown and black, the appearance, as well as the law, swiftly changes on these blasters. What was clearly a toy can now be mistaken for a real steel firearm, even at relatively close distances. The same could be said of homemade blasters, which often can be mistaken for improvised firearms by jumpy bystanders with no knowledge of firearms or the strengths of common materials.
But U.S. federal regulations dictate that as long as the orange tip is preserved, the blaster is totally fine in the eyes of the law so long as certain markings are maintained, such as this one:

A blaze orange (Fed-Std-595B 12199) or orange color brighter than that specified by the Federal Standard color number, marking permanently affixed to the exterior surface of the barrel, covering the circumference of the barrel from the muzzle end for a depth of at least 6 millimeters.


So the argument can be made that if the orange tip is preserved, the blaster still falls within legal ground. While this may be true, the spirit of the game, and the perception of it to others changes dramatically. If brightly colored blasters or PVC homemade blasters are left in their original colors, or painted flamboyantly, a passerby to one of our wars will clearly see that these blasters do not pose a threat, and that the players are not looking to intimidate. Now if these blasters are painted black or desert brown, and a bystander sees one or more of these, there is an air of discomfort. To the ignorant, our harmless games begin to resemble para military exercises. Even if legal to the letter of the law, there is nothing stopping a bystander from calling the police, and having the players kicked out of the public playing area under some fabricated charge.

This is a major advantage that Nerf has to airsoft and paintball. The game can be played in a public park, without the investment of expensive equipment or specialized game fields. Even if the game itself is not to be regulated on a federal level, if local parks are made hostile to the wars that are often held there, we would need to relocate. It only takes one arrogant player to talk back to a passerby or one errant dart to hit a passing child to have us vilified. The culture of our game is dependent on the passivity of outsiders, and, as seen in broadcast media, our reputation has nowhere to go but down. If one catastrophe was to take place, our game may very well be regulated, and we don’t need to add any fuel to the fire by painting our blasters black.

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Figure 2: Homemade Nerf pistol with clear plunger tube, and bright color [4]

Imagine if every game was required to be played in an airsoft arena. Months worth of notice would need to be given to arenas, and their schedule worked around. Every game would warrant additional payment to these fields or arenas on top of travel and potential lodging costs for those of us that drive long distances to Nerf. The spontaneous weekend war would cease to exist, and the few large scale wars we do have would be nearly impossible.

The moral of this article is to keep your blasters their stock colors, or paint them, “white, bright red, bright orange, bright yellow, bright green, bright blue, bright pink, or bright purple” [1]; keep them looking like toys. Let’s continue to be those geeks at the park with those weird toys, and not earn ourselves the reputation of troublemakers. Stay safe, stay smart, and Nerf on.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, nor do I profess to have an expertise in the law in any way. I am in no way responsible for your actions. Please consult a lawyer before undertaking such endeavors. This article focuses on United States Federal Law, but the spirit of the argument may be extended to all principalities. For those in the U.S. I recommend glancing through the referenced material, particularly the first.

References:
[1] “Part 272-Marking of Toy, Look-Alike and Imitation Firearms.” Electronic Code of Federal Regulations. 23 Jan 2013. U.S. Government Publishing Office. Web. 2 Jul 2015.
[2] “Penalties for entering into commerce of imitation firearms.” Legal Information Institute. 5 Nov 1988. Cornell University Law School. Web. 4 Jul 2015.
[3] srsim2. "Nerf Paintjobs." deviantart. Web. 5 Jul 2015.
[4] Lucian. "Homemades Picture Thread." Nerfhaven. 27 Oct 2013. IP.Board. Web. 5 Jul 2015.

Edited by Aeromech, 05 July 2015 - 02:02 PM.

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#2 meishel

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Posted 05 July 2015 - 01:46 PM

As much as I think flat black paint jobs look dumb, and open up the possibility of being shot for a Police Officer mistaking it for a real firearm, I don't agree with telling people what to do. However, I think if you're hosting a game in a public place, there should be a "No realistic paint jobs" rule. One person bringing an M-4 clone nerf blaster to a park is all it takes for bullets to start flying, and it endangers every single person in that park. It only takes one incident like this to cause the entire hobby to come under scrutiny. Do what you want with your blaster, but have some common sense. If you want to make an M-4 or AK-47 clone, do it... Just keep it off the fucking field. Don't try to argue legality, or anything. Just keep it off the field unless you're playing on private property and there is no risk of a random passerby mistaking it for a firearm.
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#3 Duke Wintermaul

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Posted 05 July 2015 - 02:43 PM

It's worth mentioning that Nerf does not fall under 15 U.S. Code § 5001, and as such is technically exempt from the orange tip rule.

Should people make replica firearms? No.

Should people keep the orange tips? Yes, I always do.

But strictly speaking there is not legal precedent to force us to follow code. Of course, I don't want to get talked down by armed officers so I always follow the code anyway.
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#4 Guest_TheSilverhead_*

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Posted 05 July 2015 - 02:59 PM

Very well said, Aeromech. After some discussion with local police, they don't like 'just the tip.' There are many angles where the tip of a gun isn't visible to an officer- but the military outline and black body is. Because of this,I inspect every blaster for bright coloration. I don't allow black blasters, with or without the tip. I carry orange duck tape with me to 'toy-ify' any I come across. In other countries (UK, I think) they require not an orange tip, but instead 40% or greater coverage in 'toy' colors like white, green, yellow, etc. This is a great system, one we should all hold to.

This idea of appearing safe to the public bears some extension to the players themselves. After gillie suits and full camo MOLLE rigs causing concern, when I host wars (Average 175 players) I supply a reflective, neon yellow safety vest to every player. They must be worn at all times, so even in low-light conditions, the outline of a firearm won't be cause for concern. We also inform the local security guards and police department in advance, telling them when, where, and how many players. We also notify the public with flyers, posters, and online; which serves the dual purpose of increasing participation and reducing public panic. We've had the police called on us by an uninformed bystander- and the police calmly informed the bystander of the game. No harm done.
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#5 Condorboy

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Posted 05 July 2015 - 07:26 PM

Are you trying to hate on the Rolling Stones here?! (Paint It Black is a song, ya dingus!)

Edited by Condorboy, 06 July 2015 - 08:57 AM.

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#6 sublimedom777

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Posted 05 July 2015 - 08:23 PM

If I may make presumptions for a moment, the message here is less "Don't ever paint your blaster realistically", and more "If you make your toy look like not a toy, don't bring it to these toy-playing events". Using nerf blasters to make props for cosplay and the like is fine, but for public usage it is less than great.

I know that I'm not necessarily the pulse of the community, but one of the things I like most about Nerf is the inherent wackyness. Blasters with antlers, blasters with "marital aids", blasters that look like animals, blasters that make you look like a robot. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a silly hobby. I love nerf because even though it is a "shooting" hobby, we typically don't get realistic. We're the dorks in the public park running around with toys, shooting at each other with ridiculous contraptions and having fun. I don't meant to say fun can't be had while being all "tacticool", but there are other hobbies and venues for that. Nerf isn't milsim.

At the last few big wars I have attended, without fail someone on my team, at the beginning of the day has started with a diatribe about who should cover them, babbling about support fire, and basically trying to set up a nerf S.W.A.T. team. My advice to them is simple.

"Lets just play nerf"
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#7 Langley

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Posted 05 July 2015 - 11:34 PM

There are two problems with painting your nerf gun to look like a real gun: personal safety and public perception.

Personal Safety
If you want to know what the worst case scenario is, ask the parents of Nicholas Heyward, Rohayent Gomez, or Tammir Rice. Many adults and children have lost their lives because of toy guns, some despite having the required orange tip and other bright colors. Earlier this year John Crawford was killed because he picked up a pellet gun off the shelf in a Walmart, and the store owner though he was brandishing a rifle. I personally know of at least one incident where one of our own members had several police officers draw on him while he was range testing a homemade blaster. A neighbor called the police, and they couldn't tell he was playing with a toy in the dark lighting. Having a cool looking nerf gun is not worth your life.

Public Perception
Black guns get nerf wars shut down. At least one campus nerf event was shut down due to complaints about a player with a realistic looking blaster. Several events I've attended have had visits from police due to other park goers complaining that we were playing paintball, airsoft, or carrying some kind of weapons. Even if your blaster looks like an airsoft gun, that can be enough to get your event shut down. If you make park officials, police, or park goers uncomfortable, you make it more likely that the authorities will just kick you out to avoid dealing with it.

This issue with public perception extends to this site. People have strong feelings about guns and gun-shaped objects. When you post all-black paint jobs, you increase the chances that one of our members will be looking at this site at work, or school, or elsewhere and someone who looks at their screen will misinterpret what they're seeing. You make it more likely that a journalist or some other outsider who stumbles across the site causes an uproar about kids weaponizing their toys. Whatever side of the firearms debate you come down on, people loose their shit over guns more and more with each new mass shooting.

In light of this, we (the admin/moderation team) will be instituting a new policy on NH. Any photos of blasters with realistic paint jobs will be changed from embedded photos to off-site links, with a warning linking to this article. We have chosen not to try to censor users or punish them for painting their guns how they choose, but we don't feel that these images reflect well on this site, and we wish to discourage the use of these paintjobs.
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#8 Langley

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Posted 05 July 2015 - 11:43 PM

It's worth mentioning...


No it's not. What is your source? If nerf toys are exempt it is because the designers take measures to avoid being classified as a replica, which I would view as going above and beyond the requirements of that law.

Incidentally there are also state regulations which exceed the federal regulations, such as in NY where an orange stripe down the barrel is required if the gun is otherwise a realistic color (black, silver, gray etc)

Regardless of the law, when you play in a public park the police and park officials can basically do whatever they want, and it is in your best interest to avoid attracting attention or causing them trouble.
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#9 Aeromech

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Posted 06 July 2015 - 12:20 AM

Thank you Langley. In response to Nerf blasters not being covered...

© “Look-alike firearm” defined
For purposes of this section, the term “look-alike firearm” means any imitation of any original firearm which was manufactured, designed, and produced since 1898, including and limited to toy guns, water guns, replica nonguns, and air-soft guns firing nonmetallic projectiles. Such term does not include any look-alike, nonfiring, collector replica of an antique firearm developed prior to 1898, or traditional B–B, paint-ball, or pellet-firing air guns that expel a projectile through the force of air pressure.


(Italics added by user.)

I love this silly hobby. I've made a business for myself and a pretty good portfolio from it, too. I don't want to see it jeopardized by an otherwise well-intentioned person that did not forsee the effect that their actions may have on the public and on themselves.

Edited by Aeromech, 06 July 2015 - 12:23 AM.

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#10 Meaker VI

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Posted 06 July 2015 - 10:49 AM

... I personally know of at least one incident where one of our own members had several police officers draw on him while he was range testing a homemade blaster. A neighbor called the police, and they couldn't tell he was playing with a toy in the dark lighting. Having a cool looking nerf gun is not worth your life.


I have had police show up guns drawn. It was after we'd finished an airsoft battle in my friend's backyard and driveway. We were yelling things that I'd have thought bystanders would have interpreted as 'kids playing with toys,' but obviously not as they told the police they had heard people arguing and then said we had taken guns inside. What they didn't know is that we were actually shooting each other in the street and then put the guns away in our cars and then went inside. It ended well for us as the police had to come to our door and ask about it rather than just showing up and assuming things. Another time was while we were still playing and one of the guys thought the cop was a player and shot the cop. Fortunately, that ended that- the cop holstered his gun having realized we were playing and weren't stalking around with firearms, identified himself as a cop, and ordered the guy out of hiding.

There are several things you can do to preserve your play. One is not to make your blasters realistic-looking - the cops we talked to said they don't buy the orange tip as any criminal could paint a whole firearm to look like a NERF blaster if they wanted.
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#11 Snoop Doggy doge

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Posted 06 July 2015 - 11:54 AM

I fully support and agree this (even though ironically my rets tacticool) but isn't NH global? Orange tips also require a license in Aussie land I believe (weird)

I don't get why in the US you would make a nerf conversion since we have airsoft if you want to be realistic,
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#12 Nakey Boy

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Posted 11 July 2015 - 05:32 AM

Orange tips also require a license in Aussie land I believe (weird)


It's State dependent. For My state:

"In  the  state  of  Victoria,  devices  that  can  reasonably  be  mistaken  for  working  firearms based on their overall appearance (but do not have the functionality of a  working firearm), are classified as imitation firearms. A  Chief  Commissioner’s  Prohibited  Weapons  Approval  or  Governor  in  Council  Exemption is required to possess, carry, use, offer for sale or import an imitation  firearm."

Source: Police Victoria: Quick Guide to imitation, toy and other firearm paraphernalia

First photo on OP would, by nature of it looking tacticool, require a prohibited weapons approval. If it was in Nerf Yellow/Nerf Blue/Hello Kitty Pink/Combination of the 3 colours, it would be ok
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#13 Keska

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Posted 13 July 2015 - 03:05 PM

Would this sort of "steampunk" look be acceptable, or is it too realistic?

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#14 Langley

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Posted 13 July 2015 - 10:52 PM

Would this sort of "steampunk" look be acceptable, or is it too realistic?


Seems okay to me, if somewhat on the fringe of being acceptable. I'll let the hardcore milsim-haters weigh in.
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#15 xXhunter47Xx

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Posted 20 August 2015 - 01:07 PM

Would this sort of "steampunk" look be acceptable, or is it too realistic?

snip



Seems okay to me, if somewhat on the fringe of being acceptable. I'll let the hardcore milsim-haters weigh in.


Same. The bright blue and bright orange are very distinct and distance the toy from looking like a real gun IMO. Although the brushed metal color does make it look firearm-ish, when you're holding it the primary colors that show are the orange and the blue. Just don't holster it.
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