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ISSUE 180 - July 2011
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High Energy Beam Weapons - Finally - Ray Guns!

By David Rose, Contributing Editor
San Diego, California

I had a Daisy Buck Rogers ‘Zap Gun’. I don’t remember how it came along. I guess I wanted it and my Mom probably came up with it. I loved it. I was 8. You aimed it at something, pulled the trigger and the thing went “ZAP”. At the same time, a reassuring flash of red appeared in a little windows surrounding the turret above the grip. You just knew nothing could survive your high energy blast.

And it was big; really big; for an 8 year old. But not so big that I wasn’t able to sneak it in to the Saturday afternoon movie. Gene Autry was there, staring in a serial “The Phantom Empire”, a female dominated robot empire. The Thunder Riders from the underground city of Murania had captured him, and at the close of last Saturday’s episode, he had met his demise at the hands of Queen Tika (Dorothy Christy). Little did she realize that this week the tables would be turned. I had arrived, and hidden beneath my jacket, the all concurring Daisy Buck Rogers Zap Gun with which I intended to wreaking revenge on the Queen and her cohorts for having done Gene in last week.

To my amazement Gene wasn’t dead after all. In fact, the whole scene involving his disintegration had changed. It turned out he had somehow survived electrocution in the evil queens ‘Death Chamber’. No Matter. I whipped out the Daisy and was happily Zapping away at the evil Muranians, when a young man with a flashlight showed up and impounded it.

I recall departing the theater without it, then not relating the story until my Mom asked. Amazingly the thing showed up some time later and I still have it.

It was not just I, we have all been fantasizing about ray guns for more than a century. Buck Rodgers certainly didn’t provide our first exposure to the wonders of futuristic weaponry. Sci Fi writers earn all the credit there.

Every kid used a ray gun at one time or another; fending of his demons. And we all grew up knowing that one day, in the unforeseeable future, ray guns would be the weapons of choice.

Guess what?

The ‘unforeseeable future’ has arrived, and those kids now are scientists, engineers, industrialists and visionaries. Many have found their way into weapons technology, employed by companies such as Lockheed Martin, Textron Defense Systems, Raytheon and Boeing.

They’re working for Northrop Grumman where there shooting down incoming missiles with high energy beam weapons, and they’re over at General Atomics developing light weight, 150-kilowatt chemical lasers for installation in fighter aircraft.

High energy beam weapons. Ray guns. “Zap Guns”.

No question, they’re here, and they work. But your basic trooper may not be whipping one out to disintegrate the oncoming” Thunder Riders” any time soon. Nor is it likely that the next time a fighter pilot finds an advisory ‘in his six’ that he will be using some high energy beam to blast his attacker out of the sky. These advanced programs have a way of stalling out along the way. Somewhere between promising laboratory technology and actual weapons deployment there lies a vast minefield of funding, politics, user requirements and competition, not to mention more promising technologies.

This photo published in The Register shows we’re not the only country interested in Airborne Lasers.

Still. Ray Guns! Buck Rogers! They’ve lived in our imaginations too long for us to see them languish and wither in development. My money says we’ll see them in the field sooner than you’d think.

Already in the field is THOR – RAFAEL’S high-energy beam weapon, developed in Israel to deal with improvised explosive charges, roadside bombs and unexploded ordnance.

The larger weapons will come first; carried aboard and defending ships from whatever threat.


Then the smaller defensive units will show up on helicopters and smaller boats; next, offensive weapons will be deployed. But not only do ships and especially aircraft gain great power and accuracy, they gain nearly unlimited firepower. No restrictions on how many rounds of ammo you have room for, or how many missiles you can carry. Just ‘charge ‘er up’ and shoot. Over, and over, and over.

It’s a whole new world out there Mom. Thanks for arming me with the Daisy when Gene needed me.

If you happen to be unaware of ‘The Phantom Empire” you owe it to yourself to see this 1930’s fantasy from Mascot Pictures. Very futuristic for the ‘30’s, you will see they had moving sidewalks, vacuum tube elevators, the electrocution ‘Death Chamber’ of the vengeful queen; and of course ray guns that melt solid stone. The Phantom Empire is now available on DVD – Or you may also wish to view all twelve chapters here:

General Atomics Aeronautical laser products

Lockeed Martin Airborne Laser Test Bed

You’ve just missed owning your own Daisy, Buck Rogers U-238 Atomic Pistol – sold 3/11

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