Orbeez guns, or as they are more commonly called – gel blasters – are a safe yet fun toy for children and adults alike.
Orbeez guns work a bit like like a Nerf gun, except that they use small gel balls as ammunition instead of Nerf darts. They are usually powered by built in lithium ion batteries, with some models being manually charged.
Other Names That Orbeez Guns Are Called
Orbeez guns go by many names, the most common by search volume are as follows:
- Orbeez gun
- Gel blaster
- Water bead gun
- Orbeez blaster
- Water gel blaster
- Hydrogel blaster
There are also many other names for the same product, as there is no fixed definition as to what an Orbeez gun is called. Generally speaking, they all use the same sort of mechanism and also use the same or similar ammunition (a small gel ball such as an Orbeez bead or a water bead).
Please note, for this article we will mainly use the terms Orbeez gun or gel blaster but in doing so we will be referring to all types of guns that fire gel balls. This is because they are pretty much the same thing to most people.
What Ammunition Does An Orbeez Gun Use?
This is actually not as easily answered as it would seem.
As mentioned, the term Orbeez guns can also refer to water bead guns, gel blasters or similar. Whilst these are all in the same family of toys they may use different sized ammunition as there are a wide variety of manufacturers.
They all use hydrogel beads for the ammo, but the size of the beads as well as the physical structure of the beads can vary depending on the model.
The Size of the Ammunition
Most Orbeez guns will use a 7 – 8mm (approx. 0.3 inches) bead size. This is the smallest size and is quite firm. These hydrogel beads won’t break apart easily.
Other models use larger 10mm (approx. 0.39 inches) beads. These beads are a bit softer and there is more chance of them breaking on impact.
It’s important to make sure you have the correct ammunition for your gel blaster. If you use a size that’s too large it won’t fire, or will fire broken bits of hydrogel everywhere. However, if you go too small then the beads may not shoot as far and the blaster will be less accurate.
The Physical Structure of the Hydrogel Beads
Generally speaking, the smaller the hydrogel bead (or Orbeez bead if you prefer the term) the harder and firmer its structure. Large beads will break apart much more easily when compared to small ones. However, some manufacturers sell ‘hardened’ beads, which are very firm and are more akin to airsoft pellets.
Other Names That Hydrogel Beads Are Called
The ammunition for gel blasters (Orbeez guns) also goes by a number of different names. These include:
- Gel balls (most common)
- Hydrogel beads
- Hydrogel water beads
You will also find that simply searching for water beads or Orbeez will bring up possible ammunition options, but be aware that a lot of these options won’t be suitable (either too big to fit in the blasters, or not strong enough to survive being fired out of one).
How Is the Ammunition Prepared?
Once you have your Orbeez gun and ammo on hand, you need to soak the beads for a period of 4 to 6 hours. It’s best to use distilled water for best results. The beads will enlarge in size over this period of time.
The beads won’t grow any larger than they are specified to grow to, so you can leave them soaking overnight or longer if you wish.
Be aware that differing water quality can affect the size the beads grow to. Distilled water will allow the Orbeez to grow to their full size and filtered water will allow them to grow almost to their full size. However, tap water can have quite varied results as the quality of tap water is different depending on where you live.
Tap water with chlorine and other elements in it can cause the beads to grow to perhaps 80 to 95% of their specified size. Perhaps even smaller if you have water as bad as it was in Flint, Michigan!
How Are Orbeez Guns Powered?
Most Orbeez guns are powered by built in lithium ion batteries. These are generally easily accessible and replaceable, which is useful as they will eventually be recharge cycled to death (just like a phone battery will eventually die).
The most common voltages for gel blaster batteries are 6V, 7.4V and 11.1V. Higher voltages provide more power to the Orbeez blaster. Some users like to swap out lower voltage batteries with higher voltage ones to increase the rate of fire (and sometimes, to a small extent, the velocity is increase too). Be aware that in doing so you may damage the electronics inside.
If might be wise to purchase spare batteries so that you don’t have to stop playing when the battery needs recharging.
Some models are manually powered. These models often use a pump action or similar motion which primes the spring inside (it’s this spring that then shoots the bead out of the gun once you pull the trigger).
What are the Best Beginner Orbeez Gun/Gel Blasters?
We’ve decided to lay out the best beginner gel blasters, as opposed to the best gel blasters overall due to the cost of top tier models (which can set you back hundreds of dollars).
The best beginner models (in our opinion)are the Runqi P90 gel blaster and the Anstoy AEG AKM-47.
Runqi P90 Gel Blaster
The Runqi P90 gel blaster (Orbeez gun) is probably the best value for the money blaster for a beginner. Modelled off a real P90 submachine gun, this blaster features a built in infra red laser and a magazine capacity of 250 hydrogel beads.
Battery: 6V 700mAh ni-cd battery
Range: 20 meters
Ammo size: 8-10mm (note that some stores state it uses 7-8mm, please check the correct size before buying the gel balls)
Colour: Usually black or graffiti (other colours are also sold such as white, yellow)
You can expect the battery to last up to 3500 shots when fully charged. Upgrading the battery to a greater voltage may be possible. 7.4V or 11.1V batteries allow for a faster firing rate. You can also upgrade the capacity of the battery for longer run time.
Note that there are other models of P90 gel blasters sold, such as the Bingfeng P90 gel blaster. The specs differ when compared to the Runqi model.
You can pick up the Runqi P90 gun from most online marketplaces. Try eBay or Aliexpress (we checked out Amazon too but couldn’t find it there). Expect to pay $50 to $100 USD depending on the seller. The reviews for this blaster are generally good.
Anstoy AEG AKM-47
The Anstoy AEG AKM-47 gel blaster (Orbeez gun) is currently the best available model that’s available through Amazon. With its grenade shaped ammo magazine on the top, this model certainly looks more like a toy when compared to others.
Battery: 7.4V 1200mAh li-po battery
Range: 20 meters
Ammo size: 7mm
Colour: Red graffiti, yellow graffiti, green graffiti, blue graffiti (other colours may be sold too)
You can expect the battery to last at least 2500 shots when fully charged. It is likely that the battery will last longer than this but we did not test it past this point.
It may be possible to upgrade the battery to 11.1V for a faster firing rate. Note that the firing rate is already very fast, and going any faster may cause damage to the blaster.
Part of the reason we included this Orbeez gun as a great option for beginners is the fact it’s made by Anstoy (a reputable Chinese brand). The quality tends to be good, and customers are generally happy. Expect to pay $60 to $100 USD through Amazon, or you can directly purchase it from the supplier (https://www.anstoy.com). It might also be available on eBay and Aliexpress.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Are Orbeez Guns Safe?
With the right precautions they are perfectly safe. Most will shoot Orbeez in the 150 to 300 feet per second range and so long as you’re wearing eye protection you should be fine.
Expect to feel a slight ‘pinch’ if you’re hit by one of the weaker models, and maybe more of a small bruise if you’re hit with one of the more powerful models.
Still, hydrogel beads are nothing when compared with paintballs which are much more likely to leave large bruises.
As mentioned, eye protection is important. Your eyes are delicate and can be damaged if hit by a hydrogel bead.
Are The Lithium Ion Batteries Safe?
As with everything, this depends on the manufacturer. If you’re worried about a potential battery fire then make sure to remove the battery before storing your Orbeez gun. You can put the battery somewhere safe.
What About Shipping Lithium Ion Batteries From Overseas?
Many Orbeez guns that have lithium ion batteries that are shipped from overseas by air or sea freight can cause issues. As mentioned above, lithium ion batteries can be a minor fire hazard and many airlines won’t allow them to be shipped without paperwork proving that they are safe.
You may have to pay extra to have your goods shipped by DHL or a similar premium service (which is more lenient with potentially dangerous goods).
How Long With My Lithium Ion Battery Last?
This is a case of asking how long is a piece of string… There are so many factors at play that it would be impossible to say. You’ve got to account for the type of Orbeez gun, the number of beads fired, the battery size and health, as well as other factors.
Your best bet is to test it yourself by charging your battery to 100% and firing consistently until the battery is drained. Be aware that draining lithium ion batteries completely can damage them.
Can I Swap a Low Voltage Battery With a High Voltage Battery?
In general, you are able to swap out low voltage batteries with higher voltage ones. This will provide your gun with a faster fire rate. Some potential negative side effects of this include misfires and motor burnout (from being run outside of the correct voltage range).
You may also see a slight increase in the FPS (feet per second) of the hydrogel beads. However, the spring (which is what shoots the beads out of the gun) has the largest effect on FPS.
Can I Buy Spare Parts for My Gel Blaster/Orbeez Gun?
This depends on the model you’re using. Most shops will be able to source spare parts, but this is less likely to be the case for cheaper models, which are more of a throwaway item.
You should easily be able to purchase more batteries, and will of course have no issues buying more ammunition.
Is There Any Danger if the Beads Are Swallowed?
There is no danger if the hydrogel beads are swallowed. They are made from sodium polyacrylate – a non toxic material. Your body won’t digest them and they will safely pass through the human body.
If you read reports about Orbeez or water beads being you should know that this almost always refers to larger beads (bigger than 10mm) being eaten by young children (larger Orbeez/water beads are a choking hazard).
Will Gel Blasters/Orbeez Guns Be Banned in the Future?
Sadly, there a few countries that have banned gel blasters. The most significant is Australia, which has banned them in most states due to their likeness to real firearms.
The majority of countries still allow you to own one without any special permits.
It’s unlikely that the USA will ban them going forward, as the USA has relatively lax gun laws. You may find other Western countries limiting or banning them entirely if their popularity takes off.
If your country has already banned airsoft, then there is a good chance gel blasters will be banned at some point too.