Here we're talking about pistol-grip nozzles such as the one shown
above. If you are shopping for such a nozzle, there is one very
important feature for you to look for -- and it isn't even
visible. It's the spring inside: it should be stainless steel.
Here's why: That spring is immersed in water. Most of these
nozzles use a plain steel spring,
which rusts. Rusting removes part of the metal, gradually
making the spring thinner and
weaker. Eventually it gets weak
enough that when you release the trigger, it fails to shut off the
water. Then you get really pissed off at the nozzle and slam it
the concrete driveway, the usual failure mode of such nozzles.
But if you can't see it, how do you know the spring is made of
stainless steel? Simple: It says so right on the
package. If it doesn't
say it has a stainless steel spring right on the package, trust me, it
doesn't have one! I can report that Ace Hardware sells pistol
grip nozzles with stainless steel springs; in fact, they have a
selection of several different models.
The stainless steel spring is far and away the most important feature
to look for, but I can also elaborate on other materials and
features. Pistol grip
nozzles are typically made of either metal or plastic. Metal
isn't necessarily a good thing, as many of the metal ones are made of
the cheapest pot metal they can scrounge up. Brass or
stainless steel would be excellent materials
to use here, but I've never seen one of these things made from either
metal. The more expensive
metal nozzles are heavy and usually have a powder coating which looks
like paint but is far more durable. Still, being heavy and powder
coated doesn't necessarily mean it'll last a long time or that you'll
particularly happy with it.
A note about plastic: As a general rule, plastic doesn't like
sunlight. Leave anything made of plastic out in the sun for a few
months or years and it'll dry out and crack. Hence, if you buy a
grip nozzle (or anything else) made of plastic, I suggest you store it
otherwise out of the sunlight when not in use.
Many of the metal nozzles come with plastic or rubber wrappings around
them. This is not the same as the nozzle itself being made of
plastic; if you look close at one of these "clad" models, you'll see
the metal underneath where the hose connects or where the water sprays
out. The purpose of the plastic casing, other than perhaps to
help protect the nozzle from getting dinged up, is to insulate
That means that when you're watering your flowers, your hands don't get
cold holding onto that metal nozzle with cold water flowing through
it. The rubber coatings are to provide a non-slip grip, but they
nevertheless also provide a bit of insulation so your hands don't get
Perhaps the most important feature of either of these claddings,
though, becomes apparent when you're washing your car. When you
set a garden hose down, they have a nasty habit of getting back up all
by themselves. Nothing is more disheartening than watching that
garden hose, with the metal nozzle at the end, rear up and come down
smack on your paint job and take a nasty gouge out of it. The
plastic coating will help, and the rubber coating will help even more
-- but only if these coatings wrap all the way around the corners of
the nozzle. One of the pistol grip nozzles sold by Ace Hardware
actually comes with a separate rubber collar that you can cram onto the
nose of your nozzle. It's supposed to protect the nozzle -- there
are threads on the end for connecting up another garden hose or another
nozzle -- but really, who cares if the nozzle gets dinged up?
That little rubber collar is worth the price of the nozzle just for
peace of mind when using it around your car!
The plunger, the shaft that goes right through the center of the nozzle
and has an adjustment nut on the back end, is normally made of brass --
but there are plastic ones out there now. Rather than be honest
about selling you a cheap POS, they sometimes make the plungers out of
brass-colored plastic in hopes that you won't notice. I really
don't know if the plastic ones hold up or not -- frankly, I wouldn't
buy one to find out, so I'll probably never know.
The way you disassemble one of these nozzles is to unscrew a plug in
the nose. That plug, which has the hole in the center where the
water comes out, is always made of plastic. It'd be nice if
someone offered one made of brass or stainless steel, but I've never
Still, plastic seems to work OK here, that part doesn't usually fail.
If you want to take your nozzle apart, you'll need to find a hex nut
fits down into the hex recess in the plug in the front, then turn the
nut with a wrench. The items that keep the nozzle
from leaking are an O-ring at the back end and a flat
rubber washer at the front end. If your nozzle leaks, replace
whichever or both. The O-ring is easy to find, any auto parts
store can help you. The flat rubber washer might be a little
tougher to find, but sometimes you can fix it by simply flipping it
over. While you have the nozzle apart, I'd also suggest applying
a bit of plumber's grease -- available at any hardware store -- to the
surface of the part of the plunger that slides through the
O-ring. It'll make the nozzle work more smoothly and help the
O-ring last longer.
you're throwing a nozzle away, you might as well take it apart.
The brass plunger is usually in good shape, and it might fit in the
next nozzle you need to fix!