Going to a sporting event is already a fantastic experience for anyone. A professional basketball game or concert can be a fork experience, bringing crowds together by the thousands and providing excitement. In recent years, sports organizations, event producers, and more have come up with increasingly creative ways to engage crowds during events. Giving people clothing has been a staple for things like NBA games, where the home team sometimes gives people in the audience assured they can wear. But organizations sometimes hire crowd entertainers to throw T-shirts, soft plush toys, and other items into the audience, much to the delight of everyone in their arena.
As the practice of throwing carefully wrapped T-shirts and objects to the audience members evolved, event producers quickly realized that a human being can only throw a T-shirt or toy a certain distance, missing a significant portion of an audience in an arena that can fit 20,000 people or more. So, they came up with a solution: a cannon of sorts that could launch T-shirts significantly higher and farther than anyone could throw them. Now, at almost every professional sporting game in America, audience entertainers can shoot T-shirts deep into any crowd with a t-shirt cannon, providing an exciting thrill during timeouts, half times, and other breaks in the action. As if a game isn’t fun enough, these T-shirt cannons take things to an entirely new level.
What is a T-Shirt Cannon? (Also referenced as “tee shirt cannon”)
The original idea behind the T-shirt cannon was a weapon developed in World War II called a Holman Projector. This was a tube-like device that could be loaded with projectiles and could shoot them by using pressurized steam from a ship’s boiler.
Today’s T-shirt cannons use the same principle. They are small tubes that use compressed gas instead of steam, usually carbon dioxide, delivered through a tank of air. The tubes come with a trigger, and once the operator pulls the trigger, the pressurized gas releases and pushes out the T-shirt at a high speed. The T-shirt cannon improves each year and today weighs as little as two pounds!
Does a T-shirt cannon hurt?
The simple answer to this question is “absolutely”. Over the years there have been several reported injuries by people who were struck by rolled up T-shirts that were shot too close to them. Common injuries include broken fingers, being knocked unconscious, and more.
A high-powered T-shirt cannon shoots an object at roughly 60 miles an hour, and a rolled up T-shirt can be compressed to a small size within a cannon. So, depending on how close you are to the T-shirt cannon when it fires, being hit by a T-shirt cannon shot might feel something like being hit by a college-level softball pitch.
What’s more, this is why operators at games make sure to fire the T-shirts at an upward angle so that by the time the launched T-shirts slow down and land in the upper rafters, they’re traveling at such a slow speed that they won’t cause any damage. But in summary, a T-shirt cannon can absolutely hurt you if you’re close to it.
How Fast Does a T-shirt Cannon Shoot?
The most powerful T-shirt cannons can shoot at between 60 and 70 miles per hour, roughly the speed of some Major League Baseball pitches. The cannon can launch a shirt as far as 400 feet!
Who Invented the T-Shirt Cannon?
While the proto-device that inspired the T-shirt cannon was invented by the British government’s Department of Miscellaneous Weapons Development during World War II, the modern T-shirt cannon was invented by a man named Tim Derk, who served as the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs’ mascot during the 1990’s.
Derk and other NBA mascots previously used heavy rubber bands and slingshots to propel T-shirts into the crowd. When he and his mascot friends start discussing more efficient ways to launch T-shirts into the crowd, they discussed the “spud launcher”. This is a pressurized tube that launched potatoes, and theorized that this technology could be used for rolled-up T-shirts. After a few experiments and prototypes, the T-shirt launcher was born! The original model weighed almost 100 pounds and was hard to carry, but over time better technology was developed to make the launcher easier to use. Some models even have multiple tubes that can launch more than one shirt per second!
I want a T-shirt launcher of my own! Which one should I buy?
We’re glad you asked! Here are a few of the top T-shirt launchers available on the market.
The Bleacher-Reacher Pro
The Bleacher-Reached Pro is one of the top industry-standard T-shirt launchers for professional sporting events, concerts, and more. Its Amazon description explains:
“The Bleacher-Reacher Pro is our bestselling hand-held launcher. At just under 7lbs, it shoots to the top deck of most arenas and stadiums. Variable range of 10-300 feet, built-in regulator, pneumatic trigger, real-time velocity control gauge and large bazooka style lexan barrel. It can also be customized to accommodate launching larger promotional items. Available in black, blue, red, gold, or silver anodized aluminum, canvas flight case with padded interior, O-Rings, 20oz CO2 tank, manual, and 2 vinyl logos at no additional charge. Custom options are available such as designed logos and custom colors. MANUFACTURED AND ASSEMBLED IN THE USA!”
The pros of the Bleacher Reacher are that:
- It’s lightweight at only 16 pounds;
- It’s durable;
- It uses CO2 efficiently and effectively; and
- It comes from a reputable producer with a deep history in the industry.
The cons of the Bleacher Reacher are:
- Mostly price: at over $1600,
- It’s a serious investment, although a sports franchise with a bigger budget won’t have as much trouble paying the bill.
The T-Shirt Launcher Micro-Mini
The Amazon description for the lightweight Micro-Mini explains,
“The Micro-Mini is under 4lbs and is perfect for short range action, portability and easy reload. Offering One-Button Operation, no external hoses or riggings, and distances up to 150ft, the Micro-Mini is a favorite among radio remotes, cheering squads, pep rallies, mascots, trade shows, conventions, & small concert venues. Standard in black, blue, red, silver or gold anodized aluminum, canvas padded bag, wrenches, 20oz CO2 tank, manual, and 2 vinyl logos at no additional charge.”
The Micro-Mini is much easier to handle than the Bleacher-Reacher, and also about half the cost.
This unit is great for high-school games, pep rallies, and more, and
It is a powerful CO2 t-shirt launcher.
The Micro-Mini isn’t going to launch T-shirts as far as you might like, and
It’s not as powerful of a unit.
Depending on your crowd size and the size of your facility, you might need something more.
The JJ Sporting Multi-Launcher
This unique model is a lower-cost, more accessible item that offers a few unique selling points.
From Amazon’s product description, the Multi-Launcher is inexpensive to operate and uses compressed air instead of traditional pressurized CO2. You can fill the multi-launcher with an air compressor, tire pump, or cordless inflators. It’s the only low pressure launcher brand that uses air from 35 to 125 PSI! The downside to this is that you can only have launch per air fill, although the Multi-Launcher refills quickly with air sources such as air compressor and others mentioned above. Amazon’s product description further explains,
“[The Multi-Launcher] offers unmatched performance, the longest life and ease of use/care/maintenance, as well as the lowest total cost per launch, of any launcher- from any manufacturer. The polished barrel and the magnum launch valve are unbreakable aluminum, and safety features include an replaceable yet breachable diaphragm, A.S.M.E pop off, trigger safety, shatterproof, A.S.M.E & C.E. certified, polished stainless steel pressure chamber. You can use it with T-shirts, tennis balls, foam stress balls, dog toys, confetti, streamers and more. Perfect for cheerleading, events, rallies, shows, and concerts.”
The Multi-Launcher, at less than $500, is the most cost-effective unit on the market, with great cost savings over time by using compressed air instead of CO2. This also makes it safer in context. It’s a great cheap t-shirt cannon launcher that won’t break the budget.
Not being able to launch multiple shirts from one air compression load might be frustrating for some, so depending on your intended use, it might not be a fit. If you’re only launching a shirt every few minutes or so, it’s a great model.
In conclusion, there are many models available for a t-shirt cannon for sale. However, this will depend on your needs, budget, intended use, and more. The above t-shirt cannon Amazon models are the best of the best reflecting different categories of power, capacity, cost over time, and more. There are t-shirt cannon eBay deals available as well if you’re willing to look.
Also, there are other t-shirt cannon launcher models similar to them. But, these are the top and the most popular, and give you plenty of punch regardless what you choose. In fact, there are t-shirt cannon DIY kits you can buy. Although, there are safety concerns with dealing with pressurized air/gas on your own. T shirt cannon rental businesses also allow you to try out a cannon to see how you like it.
As always, handle any t-shirt- launcher with care and safety, as they do have the capacity to cause serious damage if used improperly. A tshirt gun is designed to launch projectiles at high speeds after all. Enjoy your next event, and happy T-shirt launching!