Full-time dad, weekend Nerfer
The smell of a burning Black and Mild cigar lingers through the unfinished basement of a run-down home in the middle of Altoona.
Two middle-aged men, surrounded by bullets scattered across the floor, recount last weekend’s activities.
“Killing people,” is a phrase commonly tossed around by both, as one man’s three-year-old crawls barefoot on the floor.
No need to stop reading and alert authorities.
The bullets are plastic. So are the guns. As for the three-year-old, she’s just doing what any toddler would – showing no regard for her father as she fidgets with anything that she can get her hands on.
Sam Vaughn, President of the Altoona Nerf Club, started collecting Nerf Guns about three years ago.
On this rainy April day, he’s joined by his “Chief of War,” Royce Rowles.
When he’s not feeding his two guinea pigs, or cleaning up after his daughter in the upstairs living room, Vaughn is in the basement modding guns and chit chatting with Rowles.
Perhaps it was his time served in the U.S. military, or his love for first-person shooter games such as Call of Duty, that got Vaughn hooked onto a hobby commonly associated with 13-year-old boys.
Vaughn, 34, said he grew up poor. Toys, like Nerf Guns, “weren’t in the plan,” he said.
He glosses over his childhood sans for mentioning he didn’t have much money growing up in West Philadelphia.
Video: Showing off his gear
Vaughn founded the Altoona Nerf Club shortly after picking up his first Nerf Gun.
When his bank account began to beef up, the Nerf Guns started piling up in the basement of his bright green home in Altoona.
Anyone can join a game and take part in one of the club’s five-hour matches. Age of members range from mid-30-year olds to teenagers.
Passersby don’t blink an eye anymore when they see Vaughn in full character and costume — a dark black button-down accompanied by a shiny silver mask and holsters galore.
“Try it one time,” Vaughn says, “and if you don’t like it, I’ll never speak to you about it again.”
About the Contributors
Senior / Digital Journalism
Mark is the Digital Managing Editor at The Daily Collegian, where he is tasked with growing the outlet’s online presence through social media, audience engagement and compelling content. Mark has held summer editorial internships with NJ.com (The Star-Ledger) and the New York Daily News. Follow him on twitter @nhlfisch21. He is set to graduate May 2018.