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5 Must Have Childhood Toy Guns
And 5 Ray Gun Missed Opportunities
By Robert T. Trate
September 18, 2009
Gil Gerard as Capt. William "Buck" Rogers in Mania’s Great Toy Ray Guns
© Bob Trate
As I walked through the frozen plain I realized that I had become truly lost in the blinding snow. My chance for survival was 725 to 1. There was no way I was going to make it back. That is unless someone finds me. All right, that never happened to me. It “happened” to some other kid on the frozen planet of Hoth. In my imagination though, I was there. Snow pants, check. Dad’s goggles, check. White baseball hat and tan scarf, check. Han Solo blaster (modified, I’ll get to that in a minute), check.
Sure most of my winter outfit was make shift but to me it was good enough because I had the one thing I need to be Luke Skywalker, an official Star Wars toy blaster. No it wasn’t the light saber because in the eighties there were only two kinds. A flashlight one which was unbelievably lame and one that made noise because of the way the air cut through it. Pretty cool but one or two hits and it was broken. The blaster lasted forever. The toy gun from our childhoods really made us feel like Luke Skywalker, Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers. When action figures became tiresome those crazy noise makers with their bizarre, other worldly shapes transported us to the other side of the galaxy. In my quest to find the best (property licensed) toy guns form the seventies, eighties and nineties I discovered that most of the time they were too few and far between. Many of the short lived eighties TV series, though having had several action figures, never had a toy ray gun. The following is Mania’s 5 Great Toy Ray Guns.
5. Shockwave from Transformers
Many of you are already saying, how come Shockwave and not Megatron? Having had both toys I thought Megatron was flimsy, boring and never without that stupid scope. If you lost the scope Megatron would then be without a weapon. Shockwave on the other hand was completely cunning and cruel, if you followed the comic’s story line. When transformed into his gun mode Shockwave emitted an ear splitting noise accompanied by a purple blast of light. When Megatron would emerge on the battlefield in gun mode someone always wanted a second gun or a pistol for the old holster. Shockwave on the other hand was your main weapon.
4. Star Wars Biker Scout Pistol
Unfortunately for this Toy Maniac the Biker Scout pistol came out at the end of my Star Wars collecting days. It had a bizarre spinning screech for its sound effect but the cool part was its scope. Obviously it was easier to put yourself in camo and be a rebel running around the neighborhood. Dressing in all white pretending to be a Biker Scout was just a bit tougher. How could any fan not want this toy ray gun? This Kenner toy was about 12% larger than the actual ILM version. There are many prop makers that sell resin cast versions of the toy for anywhere from $35.00 to $70.00. You can find some on eBay here and there but be prepared to pay out the nose the recast or the actual toy.
3. Laser Tag Pistol
Some will take the side of Photon. I on the other hand will take Laser Tag any day. Photon was so cumbersome with all of its wires and multiple target censors. Laser Tag only had one sensor and it made you a crack shot. Yes, there was that stupid helmet but if you got the bare bones set; pistol and sensor you were good to go. Plus you were free to open up your imagination and take that sweet ass gun anywhere. It is easily one of the best toy ray guns ever because when you hit the target it let you know it.
2. The Star Trek Phaser
You barely saw them in Star Trek the Motion Picture but there were the new Phasers designed for the film in 1979. The Phaser on the left is actually a water pistol. I like Paramount’s thinking for this toy. In the early nineties they struck again with a classic Phaser based on the original TV series. It is a tie on these two for second place. The motion picture Phaser had a practical use and tantalized the imagination of all those kids growing up with Star Trek in syndication during the seventies. The classic Phaser probably saw more time on the convention floor as a costume prop. Its likeness was uncanny and the price was right.
1. The Star Wars Laser Pistol or Han Solo Blaster
As I mentioned before, this was the quintessential Star Wars toy in carrying out your own adventures. I had a make shift holster for my Blastech D-44. It was also the first time I ever learned that Lucasfilm was modifying real guns for their films. In actuality the Bastech D-44 is a C96 Mauser. Inadvertently I ended up with a modified Han Solo blaster when the pistol’s scope had broken off. My brother had gotten a brand new Empire Strikes Back blaster (same gun with an Empire sticker on it) but I had this great remorse that mine was now broken (the one with a Star Wars sticker on it). Thankfully my Dad was quick to point out that Luke’s in Empire didn’t have a scope either. I was now ready to take on the Empire all over again.
There are tons of TV shows and movies that developed action figures, ships and weapons for boys six through twelve. The following are five missed opportunities that never became toys. These guns are now available as replicas or models bought and sold at conventions throughout the world.
5. Buck Rogers Pistol
There was a line of action figures and space ships. For God’s sake even Tiger Man was an action figure but there was no Buck Rogers’ gun! This is easily one of the greatest missed opportunities because you think Buck Rogers in any incarnation and you think toy ray gun.
4. V Visitors Laser Pistol
Again a series that spawned several toys but when it came to the guns they mass produced the human’s guns and not the Visitor’s pistols. LJN produced a line of realistic looking toy guns instead of a toy ray gun from the series. No wonder there were so many mistaken toy gun incidents in the eighties. Toy companies obviously went for the quick and easy production line, instead of making new molds. Hopefully we’ll see the Visitor’s pistols again in the new series.
3. Colonial Warrior Pistol from the Original Battlestar Galactica
Perhaps the series being cancelled so early kept any toy guns from being made. After all they never even made an Apollo figure. This gun is classic eighties science fiction and you can see variations on this make and model throughout the different science fiction series of the day, Buck Rogers being one of them.
2. The M41a Pulse Rifle from Aliens
Rated R films rarely got toys made in the eighties. However in 1979 the original film had a twelve inch action figure. Later with Aliens spawning all sorts of sequels, comics and video games toy Aliens became readily available. So during the Aliens boom why didn’t someone mass produce the pulse rifle? It could have had great sound effects or even shot rubber darts. Yes, it isn’t really a ray gun but it is still from a great science fiction classic.
1. Decker’s Blade Runner Gun
Yes, it all comes back to a Harrison Ford side arm again. Again a Rated R movie that had no toys whatsoever but even today you cannot help but look at that pistol and want one. It is now an icon of the future and easily available for all those kids that have grown up and wanted a Blade Runner gun of their very own. Don’t believe me? Google search it. They are every where.
It seems strange that certain countries would have their own toy exclusives. For some properties, like Doctor Who,that seems understandable. For Star Wars it is dumbfounding. The Princess Leia Pistol Set is a rare example of an early Star Wars toy designed to appeal to girls. Rare in that is was released in Canada with a white utility belt, toy walkie-talkie and watch. This is even stranger because this was everything Han and Luke carried, sans the watch. Plus the pistol isn’t even close to the one she had in the film. I don’t know why it was only in Canada because I knew several girls that would have loved to own this set.