Oh man. Like a lot of parents, I have some ambivalence about letting my son play with toy guns. Are they a stepping-stone on the path to trigger-happy sadism? Or do they offer teachable moments about informed citizenship?
Perhaps it’s stupid to agonize over inevitable boyhood impulses. Such fretting certainly never did anything to curb masturbation. Granted, toy guns can actually make you blind.
With that in mind I contacted Zing Toys, makers of the Air Storm line of toy projectiles. I somehow convinced them that I run a legitimate parenting blog; they in turn sent me the Z-X Crossbow. Lock and load, bitches.
Any misgivings I had about toy guns quickly dissipated when I got my hands on the Z-X. In fact, I would heartily endorse stockpiling all such munitions. Imagine how global conflicts would play out if Zing and Nerf were the leading arms dealers. The Middle East would certainly be a way more fun honeymoon destination.
In operation the Z-X hits all the right notes. Injection-molded plastic makes the crossbow durable yet nimble. The foam suction bolts fire at impressive velocity, landing with an arresting thunk that belies their harmlessness. There’s even a safety, to prevent accidental firing.
A sticker warns against aiming at eyes, people and animals. But let’s face it – boys don’t always heed warnings. Case in point: on the box of Q-tips it explicitly states that you’re never supposed to put them inside your ear. Yet not only do I consistently ignore this warning – at least once a year I insert the Q-tip too far and accidentally touch my brain. I hate that.
Even if your son isn’t prone to frequent bouts of idiocy, it’s only a matter of time before the Z-X technology falls into the wrong hands. Accordingly, I decided a field test was in order. Someone needed to get shot. I wasn’t able to recruit any volunteers, so I had my friend Dan shoot me at close range. Behold:
For the record, my melodramatics were solely a result of anticipation. But none of those arrows actually hurt.
The Z-X Crossbow is fun, safe and curiously thrilling. It’s also a potentially useful tool in teaching low-stakes personal responsibility. If your child misuses the awesome power bestowed by the Z-X, you can confiscate that puppy and get creative with the punishment.
(“Okay, you can have your crossbow back. But first you have to take these pom-poms and deliver an enthusiastic cheer about the dos and don’ts of gun safety. And it had better rhyme.”)
I procured the Z-X, ostensibly, for my son. But given his tender age of two, it would seem I’d jumped the gun, so to speak. Fortunately Zing also sent along their Pop Rocketz, which consist of benign foam darts and a handheld launcher. With a moment’s instruction, even Fox could squeeze off a few rounds, which delighted him endlessly.
His dog was less enthusiastic.