First, let me quote what a friendly toy developer emailed to us once. Sounds extremely plausible to me about why retailers do not carry any high-quality water guns (and why it's consequently not profitable for manufacturers to make them).
So online is the way to go, #1.In general, brick & mortar retail stores like $20-$30 price points (MSRP). During Christmas, they can sell much higher price point products, but during the rest of the year, most people are buy toys as birthday presents. While the kid's parent will buy a more expensive gift for them, the other kids that come to the birthday party still have to bring a gift, so they mostly will bring a $20-$30 gift. Since they're not getting it for themselves, they don't care too much about what the gift is. It doesn't need to be high quality, highly innovative or used for very long. The other thing to mention with brick & mortar businesses is that they are all shrinking. Amazon (and online sales in general) are really cutting into their businesses. This part of the industry is struggling and contracting.
Online retailers also sell the most toys at the same price point (for the same reasons) but they can also sell higher price point products well. This is because you can demonstrate the value of an expensive product much better online (through good images, videos and longer descriptions) than you can via product packaging on a shelf. Also, online channels can afford to sell only a few expensive products per month and not loose money because it isn't taking up valuable retail shelf space.
Secondly, as you already figured out, making a high-quality water gun (we at Spyra are going at this in our own way indeed) does not only crash the above-mentioned price schemes, but also does not fit into the mindset of the typical toy shopper.
This is why we spend almost equal amounts (this will shift even more) of time to building the brand and making people aware that a water gun does not need to be just a toy for toddlers in the pool, but can actually be a decent gadget for grown-up kids as well. It's a lot of work and I just guess that the big corporates just do not see this as a focus, as they have other trends (NERF, digital toys, etc.) to carry forward.
People love a good water gun, we've seen it over and over again. They just need to know there's one out there.
We are trying to spread the word on Kickstarter in about 2 weeks. Would love to have you guys on board!