Inside the Nerf War

Go behind-the-scenes with a team competing in the annual Bowie tradition


Dylan Ebs

The results of the 2022 Nerf War starting from the second round, as of April 13.

Izzy Rejino and Natalie Cullen

Dylan Ebs, Feature Editor

Before senior Nick Roberts goes home every day, he calls his sister to check her surroundings outside. Her task is simple; look for any opponents waiting to eliminate Roberts. Roberts’ task? Try to get to his house before his opponents do, and eliminate any who might cross his path.

Roberts is a member of the Pistol Packin Never Lackin Bitch Smackin Killas (PPNLBSK), just one of 64 teams competing in the Bowie Nerf War. Started in 2019 by alumni Riley McIntyre and Teagan Lopez, the competition features 64 teams consisting of five members each. Every team pays $25 to enter, with the winning team receiving $1000 and the second place team receiving $400.

Each team draws an opposing team in the first-round. When the round starts, it’s go-time. The team with the fewest members eliminated at the end of the week advances. Competitors arm themselves with Nerf guns, aiming to eliminate their opponents and advance to the next round.  

PPNLBSK was assigned their first round opponent, Team 5 Alive, and from there, it was time to plan. They began researching their opponents, scouring the internet for any potential clues to locate their targets. Off-periods turned into planning periods for PPNLBSK, as they would often use the time to discuss their strategy for the tournament.

“We ask around, get addresses, and then we drive past their houses to see if there’s any good hiding spots,” Roberts said.

Certain areas are off-limits, though. All Austin ISD property, Bowie events, workplaces, and places of worship are designated “Safe Zones” where participants cannot be eliminated. Participants can be eliminated at their house if their opponents receive permission to enter, which teams have used to their advantage.

“The American nuclear family usually fosters lots of resentment, especially in infantile years of a sibling, so we can exploit the relationships that these kids have with their brothers and sisters to our own advantage,” PPNLBSK member and senior Will Weber said. 

The members of PPNLBSK knew that if they wanted to win the war, they had to stay connected and organized as a team. 

“We have a team meal, we strategize, we talk about implementation and execution,” Weber said. “Put simply, we gameplan the hell out of it, then we just execute because that’s what we’re best at.”

The team has taken extra safety precautions to protect themselves from being eliminated, like parking in the garage instead of the Bethany Lutheran Church parking lot. Wolftrap Drive, which connects Bowie to the church parking lot, is not a safe zone, so teams have eliminated opponents walking to the lot.

“You never really know what happens,” Weber said. “There’s always this palpable tinge of what to expect and you don’t know if they’re trying to camp you out at the same exact time you don’t know where they are. You don’t know when they’re coming back. You don’t know when this is going to end. So you just have adrenaline pumping through your system the entire time.”

PPNLBSK had little trouble winning their first-round. One after one, the team took out their opponents. Outside their houses. At their bus stop. No area was safe for Team 5 Alive.

PPNLBSK tried to eliminate the last player on Team 5 Alive, but fell just short. Two PPLNBSK members were eliminated, but it didn’t matter. The clock hit midnight on Sunday, and the first-round was over. With a 3-1 score, PPNLBSK was moving on.

“One of them staked out one of our group members’ houses,” Weber said. “Another group member, thinking he was safe, tried to pump gas into his car at night and actually got ran up on at the gas station by the opposition. You’re quite literally never safe no matter what day it is, no matter what time it is.”

But despite their first round win, it wasn’t time to celebrate just yet. Their next opponent, AWTB, consisted of five seniors who would prove to be tougher opponents than Team 5 Alive.

“[AWTB] is definitely much, much, much more invested in the Nerf War than the first team was and their hardware is quite simply unmatched,” Weber said. “We just have to outplay them. We have to play tactically.”

Several members of PPNLBSK and AWTB are on the lacrosse team, which created an interesting dynamic at practices.

“There’s back and forth at practices and then you just have to get home quick,” Roberts said. 

Despite that, members of PPNLBSK assert that the competition is all in good fun.

“I like that the Nerf War tradition gives people the opportunity to meet new people as you compete against different teams,” Roberts said.

Defeating AWTB was easier said than done. Weber, who would walk to school via the greenbelt behind his house, was eliminated after an AWTB member saw him as Weber was walking to the trail. Roberts’ Nerf run ended after he was eliminated outside Tropical Smoothie Cafe. Their team captain, junior Gabe Watts, got eliminated in the church parking lot. By Sunday, April 2, all five PPNLBSK members were out. 

Even though the result was disappointing, the experience is a memorable one, especially for seniors enjoying their final months of high school.

“The Bowie Nerf environment is a very fun one,” Weber said. “It’s not toxic. It encourages healthy competition, which fosters a spirit of camaraderie throughout the school.”