Toy, Ray Gun, Laser Gun

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This object is on display in the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA.

James S. McDonnell Space Hangar

This plastic "laser gun" toy was made in Taiwan, probably in the 1970s or 1980s. In contrast to earlier toy space weapons that used rays (atomic or otherwise) to defeat foes, this toy speculated about possible deadly use of a relatively new technology first created in 1960: a laser (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation). The clear nozzle of the gun could be lit up with battery powered lights as the dial on the toy's side allowed its owner to choose the level of "laser death." Branding the toy as a part of the maker's "1999 Space Gun Series" would have seemed rather futuristic at that time.

Fictional space heroes often carried space-themed versions of the Western's ever-present six-shooter or rifle. As a result, for several generations, pretend gun play with ray gun toys formed a central part of many children's imagined space adventures. Exactly how one blasted space enemies often reflected the newest technologies. In the late 1940s, "atomic" guns proliferated. "Laser" guns followed the creation of the practical laser in 1960.

Michael O'Harro donated this toy ray gun to the National Collection in 1993.