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“Walk softly and carry an inflatable tank division, I always say.” — Col. Nathan R. Jessup at a pool party, probably.
It’s a bright summer day and you stand at the edge of the lake catching your breath, squirt-gun in hand. The battle has been fierce. The gun is empty, but you figure it’s not worth a reload. After all, you’ve just decimated your children in a frenzied water-battle-royale. You feel pretty good about yourself, despite the fact you’re 37 years old and they are 5 and 8 respectively. You feel bad about some of the “water-atrocities” you’ve committed in the last hour, but you shake it off because the little punks shouldn’t have talked so much smack. No, the day is yours and they’ll think twice before messing with their old man again.
Before you can head to the cooler for a victory beer, something olive green catches your eye. You turn just in time to see a giant inflatable tank round the far corner of your dock. Your son grins maniacally from behind the cannon. Behind him, your daughter points an accusing finger at you and then drags her thumb slowly across her neck. You turn to run, but the tank pivots faster than you can maneuver — and before you can yell, you’re blasted with a thick stream of ice-cold lake water. You die in a very dramatic fashion, because after all, they’ve earned it. You are drenched, but proud. Your children brought a tank to a gunfight and achieved fire superiority. What more could a dad ask for?
As a former U.S. Army cavalry officer and self-identified man-child, I was given the distinct honor of testing out the Pool Punisher inflatable tank which, at just $89 on Amazon, might be one of the most unique water toys we’ve ever seen. Though there are many subtle differences between the Pool Punisher and the M1 Abrams tanks I was trained on, I found the former to have many competitive features. And despite the two types of tanks serving vastly different missions — one of death and destruction and the other of summertime fun — I found the Pool Punisher even outperformed the Abrams in multiple categories.
The Pool Punisher arrived deflated and boxed in a one-foot by two-inch package, making it easy to sneak behind enemy lines. The first thing one might notice on the packaging, aside from the flashy image of the inflatable tank shooting a fire-hose gush of water, is that the designated age range for this weapon-of-water-war is from ages 5 to 35. Why folks above 35 are not recommended is beyond me — perhaps it is too much excitement for our weakening hearts — but I am 37 years old and I decided to throw caution to the wind and use it anyway. I write this fully acknowledging I’ve waived all legal rights if my heart explodes from pure joy during its next use.
Inside the box, the water tank is flattened and folded neatly inside a thin plastic bag, accompanied by the pump-action water cannon that will ultimately be inserted into the tank’s gun barrel. The pump-action water cannon is made of molded plastic and seems to be pretty durable, though I would avoid striking it against any hard surfaces or torquing it too hard once it’s in place. From the back of the cannon extends several feet of clear plastic hose, which is intended to hang down and siphon pool/lake water into the cannon when pumped.
The tank itself is made of durable vinyl material and is divided into three easy-to-inflate sections. The lower section, which makes up the tank’s hull and treads, measures 61 inches long and 43.7 inches wide and sits surprisingly high off the ground (23.6 inches). The upper tube, making up the tank’s turret and cannon, has an interior diameter of 31.5 inches, making it a comfortable fit for the full age and weight range, with the box indicating a maximum weight at 300 lbs. Finally, the seat platform inside the tank inflates to create a touch more rigidity and buoyancy, not to mention cushioning your bum over rough terrain. All three tubes are quickly inflated through standard valves. Using an electric pump, we were able to inflate the entire tank in just under eight minutes.
Inside the tank, there are three holes cut into the interior platform. The two larger holes allow the tank commander to dangle his/her legs into the water, which is the sole source of the tank’s aquatic mobility. The third hole is for the siphon hose attached to the water cannon. The pump-action water cannon inserts easily into the inflatable gun barrel, while the suction hose dangles in the water beneath. Charging back the cannon’s handle creates a vacuum, which sucks water into the hose and cannon barrel. The water is then expelled from the cannon at high velocity as the handle is pushed forward. My children quickly became sick of me yelling “LOAD SABOT!” every time I drew the pump handle back.
How we tested the Pool Punisher
Though the Pool Punisher is primarily intended for pool use, the family and I decided to put it through its paces on Croton Pond in sunny Michigan. The first thing we tested was the tank’s stability in the water. As stated before, the tank sits surprisingly high and I was concerned, being over six feet tall, that a high center of gravity might make the tank easy to overturn. Surprisingly, this was not the case at all and, given the tank’s wide base, it took considerable effort on my part to rock the tank enough to flip it. (Note: It takes considerably more rocking to flip an Abrams.)
The next thing we tested was the shooting range of the water cannon. The box advertises a cannon that shoots water up to 50 feet. To test the range we placed the end of the cannon so that it was even with the end of our sea wall. Shooting along the wooden sea wall, we were able to easily identify where the farthest droplets fell. The best shot we could manage measured out to 30 feet, which I still feel is an exceptionally good distance, but nowhere near what is advertised. Perhaps someone with bigger biceps could’ve coaxed more distance out of the plastic gun or perhaps it was because we were in a lake and not a pool. Maybe the sand and debris from the lake affected the distance. I don’t know. I’m not a spray-ologist.
After the spray test, my family and I spent the remainder of the day beating the absolute tar out of this inflatable tank. Here are some of the things we found.
What we like about the Pool Punisher
Lethality: If Frank Castle went to a pool party (which he wouldn’t), this would be his weapon of choice. The 120mm, smoothbore cannon on an Abrams tank has a maximum effective range of about 3000 meters, making it ideal for picking pesky enemy armor and fighting positions off from distant ridgelines. As stated earlier, the pump-action water cannon on the Pool Punisher advertises a max effective range of 50 feet, though the max distance we were able to achieve in our test was 30 feet. Even with the distance shortfall, the length and density of the water stream makes it ideal for clearing pesky children off from the side of a pool or the end of a dock.
Durability: The Pool Punisher is made of heavy-duty vinyl and is well sealed at the seams. After five hours of continuous battering, bouncing, and flipping, we saw no loss in air pressure and had no issues with holes or leaks. Unfortunately, we weren’t unable to test the Pool Punisher against some of the weaponry one might use against an Abrams (i.e. rifles, RPGs, anti-tank mines, etc). Apparently, my neighborhood has ordinances against those sorts of things.
Maneuverability: Unlike a real tank, the turret of the Pool Punisher does not turn independently of the hull. This, however, is made up for by how easily the tank turns. Seriously, the thing turns on a dime. With the quick kick of the feet, the driver can turn the tank toward its desired target, making the twisting turret unnecessary and far surpassing turn speed of the tread grinding Abrams (plus you never have to worry about throwing a track, which any tankers out there will tell you is a giant pain in the ass).
Agility: Since we tested the Pool Punisher in a lake instead of a pool, we were able to put the tank up against some pretty large waves. Passing speed boats churned the water and the tank took the waves head-on, cresting each one with ease and bringing its hull down hard like a real tank maneuvering through ditches and gullies.
What we don’t like about the Pool Punisher
Weapons malfunctions: Like a dud round, the hose on the water cannon becomes kinked rather easily, which is hard to avoid when pulling the cannon handle back to max capacity.The hole for the pump hose is at front of the interior platform, so when you draw back the handle, the hose forms an acute angle of about 45 degrees to the lay of the gun and often creases the hose enough to stop the suction of water (Note: the plastic cannon twists freely inside the inflatable barrel, which can also lead to kinks in the hose). This is not a huge problem, but can be the difference between life and death when the little savages come at you with water balloons. If you’re a larger person, it’s difficult to pull the cannon all the way back, as it extends across a large portion of the tank’s interior. I had to lean back quite far to get the cannon handle to maximum extension. My son, however, was small enough to easily maneuver around the handle.
Forward and backward mobility: The M1A2 Abrams tank has a theoretical max speed of 60mph. The Pool Punisher does not. Though the Pool Punisher turns left and right on a dime, it lacks forward and backward mobility. Even with my large feet, kicking seemed to do very little to move the tank forward in any given direction. This again could have something to do with the lake setting, but even in instances when the lake surface was calm, it was quite difficult to move. Bottom line, choose your fighting position carefully, with clear fields of fire because once the battle begins, you’ll be hard-pressed to assume a new position.
Over the years, our family has gone through a multitude of inflatable pool and lake toys, all of which come out of the box feeling like cheap plastic and ruined childhood dreams. The Pool Punisher is a different story. Out of the box, you can tell it’s made of thicker, more durable vinyl, which feels even sturdier once inflated. The Pool Punisher makes for a formidable floating fortress and allows the tank commander to achieve fire superiority—within 30 feet—in any water-borne engagement. While the tank has an impressive 360-degree capability, it lacks in surface speed and could fall subject to the inherent risks of close combat. Should an enemy get close enough in shallow water, the Pool Punisher could quickly be overturned or subject to a water grenade dropped into the turret. No weapons systems are perfect, but this one’s at least a hell of a lot of fun. Overall, the Pool Punisher was a definite win with adults and children alike and is an excellent addition to anyone’s water-gun arsenal. In the words of the iconic Lt. Col. Bill Kilgore, “Charlie don’t surf!” But if he ever does…we’ll be prepared.
FAQs about the Pool Punisher
More questions? Here’s Task & Purpose’s additional brief.
Q. How much does the Pool Punisher cost?
A. The Pool Punisher is available on Amazon for less than $90.
Q. How long does it take to deflate the Pool Punisher?
A. Though I have not personally tried deflating the Pool Punisher, product descriptions say it can be deflated in two minutes for easy transport or storage.
Q. If I’m over 35 years old, can I use this product?
A. Yes, but at your own risk.
Q. Where can I purchase the Pool Punisher?
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Brett Allen is a humor writer and former U.S. Army Cavalry Officer who served from 2006 to 2010, largely with the 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment of the 10th Mountain Division. The events of his 2009 deployment to the Logar Province of Afghanistan became the inspiration for his recently published debut novel, Kilroy Was Here, which is a dark comedy highlighting the absurdities of war. Brett resides in Ada, Michigan with his wife and kids and is currently working on his next novel. He enjoys all things outdoors to include backwoods camping, backwoods cooking, hiking, and boating, but can more regularly be found mowing, weed whacking, or performing some other form of backbreaking yardwork.