I know exactly what popped into your mind when you read the title to this post. “But aren’t some rayguns already handguns?”
That is true enough, but rayguns are science fiction fantasies. Movie props or toys for children which cannot actually be used for self defense.
My purpose today is to discuss a few of the stranger firearm designs which have come along over the years. The reason for their odd appearance is usually due to engineering considerations, as weapon designers tried to sidestep the patents which kept them from offering something that looked more traditional.
Bah! Enough blather! On with the weirdo bang-bang beauty contest!
The Deer Gun
The Liberator was an extremely cheap single-shot pistol developed during WWII. The idea was to air drop them by the tens of thousands inside Nazi occupied territory in order to provide resistance fighters with something they could use to shoot their oppressors.
It never worked, but the idea was revisited during the Vietnam War by the CIA. This time around the pistol was known as The Deer Gun. By all accounts, the weapon was just as effective as the Liberator which came before.
I found the above pictures at this site, which has an excellent writeup of the weapon. Please click on over and give it a read if you are interested in the subject.
Adler 7mm Auto
Patented in 1905 this gun was briefly manufactured by the German firm of Adlerwerke, a producer of bicycles, typewriters, automobiles, and eventually planes for the Nazis when that whole unpleasantness bloomed in that country. This is their only foray into small arms of which I am aware.
The gun used a unique 7mm cartridge of bottle-neck design. That odd fin sticking up on top of the gun over the trigger is the cocking lever, and was not used as part of the sights. It functioned as a blowback, and the extended receiver that ran back towards the arm of the user was to accommodate a reciprocating bolt.
The Adler did not inflame the passions of the gun buying public, and the production run ended after less than 100 were made. This website has more pictures, as well as a bit more information for the curios.
Hungarian weapon that found a home as a sidearm for the police, this gun was chambered for a .32 cartridge of disgustingly anemic performance. Touted at the time as being the safest handgun in the world due to the inclusion of a grip safety. For some reason, the guy writing the ads about how safe the gun was missed the fact that anyone shot by this underpowered handgun was very unlikely to die from the wounds inflicted.
How poor was the performance? The .32 Roth cartridge has decidedly less impressive than most loadings for the .22 Long Rifle cartridge. I would not want to be a cop trying to face down a desperate criminal with only a Frommer at hand.
Dardick Model 1100
A curious attempt to design a revolver that fed from a magazine, the gun was first introduced in the 1950’s. Standard cartridges would not work, which led to the development of triangular ammunition. These were called “trounds”, and plastic adapters were available so round ammo could be adopted to the system.
Some people thought this was a neato idea, but it never took off due to the fact that traditional revolvers and autoloaders worked just fine all by themselves. As the Dardick did not offer any concrete advantages, and was a great deal more expensive as well, the few remaining are collectors items.
What are the elements which suggest a science fiction raygun? They are completely subjective. That is why I know not everyone will agree with my list, and many people will have suggestions for guns that I missed. If so, please leave a word in the comments section.
Personally, I always thought the Whitney Wolverine was about as ray-gun-ish as handguns could get.
That is a great suggestion, Linoge!
Hey, how about the “gryo-jet” rocket gun? Rate it right up there with the tround.
True that the gyrojet round was an actual science fiction weapon, but the gyrojet gun looked more or less conventional. Not like a science fiction prop.
I suppose that it fitted the Traveller definition of an “accelerator rifle” (I don’t recall their being a pistol variant in the game). These were described as a weapon for use in low or zero gravity, where the projectile would be accelerated by a rocket charge after a feeble charge had propelled it from the barrel, in order to greatly reduce recoil.
The Gyroget carbine looks quite nice, but probably not quite enough like a ray gun.
The million candella tactical flashlights intended to disorient and blind the people down range should count as a ray gun.
There was a brief craze in my high school experience, of people buying laser pointers to shine in other kids’ eyes. Blinding and annoying (and lots of fun to do to someone else). Seems to me that some tactical gun maker would have picked up that ball and run with it as a less-lethal alternative.
I would like to add the Beretta Neos .22 with the blue plastic handgrips to the list. And of course, nothing beats the Mauser #3 Broomhandle for a spaceman’s gun…after all, if it was good enough for Han Solo…
I always thought the Bergmann-Bayard was cool looking, and rather ray gun-ish.
Thanks for the great article. I never heard of that ‘Liberator” single shot before but will certainly read more about it.