Soon after its introduction, the water gun took its place among the most popular summer toys of all time, and it's easy to see why: When you're a kid, or a kid at heart, what better way to cool off on a hot afternoon than waging an epic water battle against your friends and family?

Water guns have come a long way in the past 20 years. An ordinary squirt gun can only shoot water 8 or 9 feet, but a pump-action water blaster, like this Super Soaker CPS 1200, can shoot water more than 50 feet.

Over the years, these toys have evolved considerably. Thirty years ago, a typical water warrior was armed only with a small squirt pistol, which had a fairly short range and an even more limited ammunition reservoir. These days, you'll find an entire arsenal of water weapons at most toy stores, complete with water machine guns, water bazookas and even water grenade launchers.

In this edition of HowStuffWorks, we'll find out how these summertime staples produce their drenching blasts. We'll trace the path of water guns from traditional squirt pistols to motorized water Uzis and finally to the pump-action water blasters that dominate the market today.