There is no doubt that football is a popular sport in the US. This sport, combined with the soft, easy-to-catch-and-throw Nerf football, was what almost all Americans’ childhood is made of. Looking at this piece of sports equipment, the US Army saw a solution to their need for an anti-tank system.

A Nerf was Born

Reyn Guyer and his wife, Mary. Photo from

In 1968, Reyn Guyer, who is a toy developer, came up with an idea of balls for indoor use without straining the hands of the players or damaging the furniture that might get hit. He sold the concept to the Parker Brothers, and it hit the world by storm. From there, different Nerf products were developed— all light and bouncy and don’t wreck your house. The Nerf baseball was added to the product line as well. You couldn’t throw a ninty-nine mile per hour fastball with it, but getting beaned by one didn’t break all the bones in your face either.

The Cold War And Soviet Aggression

There were concerns about possible conflicts with the Soviet Union at that time. Very well-founded ones too. The Land Warfare Laboratory (LWL) constantly explored options on how the army could deal with the massed armies of the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact countries swarming into western Europe. They wanted a small, anti-tank grenade to equip infantry with, one that could be effective in immobilizing enemy tanks and armored vehicles.

The Brilliant Idea

LWL thought the best weapon against these mechanized units would be a simple, easy-to-use, hand-thrown anti-tank grenade. Through intense brainstorming (we hope!), engineers’ theory was that a football-shaped grenade would be best in disabling these vehicles at close quarters because “most U.S. troops are familiar with throwing footballs.” They started testing the theory with a hollowed-out Nerf football filled with explosive charges and a detonator. Here’s how (they think) it would work: The now-lethal Nerf-bomb football would spiral perfectly to a tank and explode, damaging it beyond repair and making it useless.