From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
This article is about the fictional weapons. For various real weapons which are similar to rayguns, see Directed-energy weapon. For other uses, see Raygun (disambiguation).

Blaster (weapon) redirects here - for the flamethrower, see Blaster (flamethrower)

Toy raygun

A raygun is a type of fictional directed-energy weapon. They have various alternate names: ray gun, death ray, beam gun, blaster, laser gun, phaser, zap gun etc. They are a well-known feature of science fiction; for such stories they typically have the general function of guns. According to the stories, when activated, a raygun emits a ray, typically visible, usually lethal if it hits a human target, often destructive if it hits mechanical objects, with properties and other effects unspecified or varying.

Real-life analogues are electrolasers, electroshock weapons which send current along an electrically conductive laser-induced plasma channel.[citation needed]


A very early example of a raygun is the Heat-Ray featured in H. G. Wells' novel The War of the Worlds (1898).[1] Science fiction during the 1920s described death rays. Early science fiction often described or depicted raygun beams making bright light and loud noise like lightning or large electric arcs. Nikola Tesla's attempts at developing directed-energy weapons encouraged the imagination of many writers.

Soon after the invention of lasers during 1960, such devices became briefly fashionable as a directed-energy weapon for science fiction stories. For instance, characters of the Lost in Space TV series (1965–1968) and of the Star Trek pilot episode "The Cage" (1964) carried handheld laser weapons.[2]

By the late 1960s and 1970s, as the laser's limits as a weapon became evident, rayguns were dubbed "phasers" (for Star Trek), "blasters" (Star Wars), "pulse rifles", "plasma rifles" and so forth.

In his book Physics of the Impossible Michio Kaku used gamma ray bursts as an evidence to illustrate that extremely powerful rayguns like the one used to destroy a planet on Death Star in the Star Wars franchise do not violate known physical laws and theories. He further analyses the problem of rayguns' power sources.


Ray guns as described by science fiction do not have the disadvantages that have, so far, made directed-energy weapons largely impractical as weapons in real life, needing a suspension of disbelief by a technologically educated audience:

  • Ray guns draw seemingly limitless power from often unspecified sources. In contrast to their real-world counterparts, the batteries or power packs of even handheld weapons are minute, durable, and do not seem to need frequent recharging.
  • Ray guns in movies are often shown as shooting discrete pulses of energy visible from off-axis, traveling slowly enough for people to see them emerge, or even for the target to evade them,[1] although real-life laser light is invisible from off-axis and travels at the speed of light. This effect could sometimes be attributed to the beam heating atmosphere that it was passing through.[citation needed]. A possible evasion tactic is dodging the firing axis of the gun, theorized in the early story of Mobile Suit Gundam by the character Char Aznable when he first encountered the series protagonist's machine's beam rifle and seemingly dodging it without any difficulty.

Some of the effects are what would be expected from a powerful directed-energy beam, if it could be generated in reality:

  • Ray guns are often shown as transmitting heat, as with Wells' heat rays.[1]
  • Ray guns may be used to cut through hard materials like a blowtorch.[1]

But sometimes not:

  • In movies, rays are often depicted as having effect instantaneously, with a touch of the beam sufficing for the intended purpose.[1] Raygun victims are generally killed instantaneously, often – as in the Star Wars films – without showing visible wounds or even holes in their clothing.[1]
  • Some rayguns cause their targets to disappear ("de-materialize", disintegrate, vaporize or evaporate) entirely, personal equipment and all.
  • Occasionally a raygun is shown as transmitting cold, as with the "freeze rays" in the TV series Batman (1966–1968) and Underdog (1964–1970).[1]
  • Visible barrel recoil.[citation needed] This would only happen if the momentum of the beam were comparable to that of a bullet shot from a gun.
  • A wide range of non-lethal functions as determined by the requirements of the story: for instance, they may stun, paralyze or knock down a target, much like modern electroshock weapons.[1] Many of the more implausible functions are almost farcical and involve transmutation of matter such as rayguns that age or de-age people (various cartoons), or shrink rays (Fantastic Voyage, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids)

Ultimately, rayguns have whatever properties are required for their dramatic purpose. They bear little resemblance to real-world directed-energy weapons, even if they are given the names of existing technologies such as lasers, masers, or particle beams.[1] This can be compared with real-type firearms as commonly depicted by action movies, as tending infallibly to hit whatever they are aimed at (when wielded by the heroes) and seldom depleting their ammunition.[3]

Rayguns by their various names have various sizes and forms: pistol-like; two-handed (often called a rifle); mounted on a vehicle; artillery-sized mounted on a spaceship or space base or asteroid or planet.

Rayguns have a great variety of shapes and sizes, according to the imagination of the story writers or movie prop makers. Most pistol rayguns have a conventional grip and trigger,[citation needed] but some (e.g. Star Trek: The Next Generation phasers) do not. The shapes of some rayguns are influenced by an opinion that they look most effective and weapon-like if they look somewhat like real guns; others, such as this, are not:

(The V-Gun is treated as a Gatling gunpod in Macross, but as a laser when copied as Jetfire's gun in Transformers.)

Sometimes the end of the barrel expands into a shield, as if to protect the user from back-flash from the emitted beam.


The following is a partial list of notable rayguns or types of rayguns mentioned in various science fiction scenarios:

The ray is usually stated to be one of the following:

Rayguns are often one-handed, sometimes two-handed, and often artillery-sized fastened to a spaceship.

Rayguns powered by a backpack powerpack are described from time to time in science fiction.

List of rayguns

  • Alien film series: "PIG" plasma cannon: powered by a backpack powerpack. Uses an electrolaser to create a magnetic containment bottle.
  • Babylon 5: "PPG" aka "Phased Plasma Gun"
  • BattleTech: BattleMechs carry a wide variety of lasers, ether beamed or pulsed.
  • Blake's 7: paragun: Federation standard issue. Image here. More Federation kit images here.
    • a pistol: Federation issue, image here.
  • Blood and Blood II: Tesla Cannon: shoots electrical discharges
  • Captain Proton: blaster: a lethal white electric ray
  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert series
    • Tesla coil technology of the Soviets is in
      • Shock Troopers: elite infantry units equipped with portable Tesla coils
      • Tesla coils: large electric discharge-firing stationary coils
      • Tesla tanks
      • Tesla troopers
    • Prism technology of the Allies is in
      • Prism tanks: fire powerful light beams
      • Prism towers
    • Mirage tank: contains technology very similar to Prism technology and can camouflage
  • Command & Conquer: Renegade: "Black Widow" (Volt auto-rifle): an electric beam
    • Firefly: a laser rifle
    • Tarantula: a laser chaingun
    • Merlin: a personal ion cannon: an instantly visible bolt of ions
  • Command & Conquer: Tiberium Wars (novel): T7: a Tiberium-fueled laser pulse
    • EW1: a laser beam
    • Scrin cannon: a beam of Tiberium particles
  • Commander Keen: wielded a red raygun in the first game
  • Crash Bandicoot: raygun: plasma of charged particles
  • Call of Duty: World at War and Call of Duty: Black Ops : Raygun is in Nazi Zombie mode and can be obtained in the campaign mission 'Little Resistance' in World at War through an easter egg. (note: Suggests Japanese Origin, as they did experiment with microwave technology). It is also in Black Ops used in Zombie mode can be found on Kino Der Toten, "Five", Dead Ops Arcade, Ascension, Call of the Dead, Shangi-La and Moon.
  • Darwin's World: role-playing game: laser rifle: Nd:YAG laser
  • David Weber's novel Apocalypse Troll: blaster: pulse of plasma
  • The Day the Earth Stood Still: The alien visitor Klaatu's robotic bodyguard Gort had a conventional laser beam which was shot from his 'eyes'. Not meaning any harm, Gort only used the laser defensively. It could vaporize weapons as large as a tank, or even a rifle in a soldier's hands, though the soldier would not be injured.
  • Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem: The Minionizer/Minion Ray Gun is used to turn humans into Minions.
  • District 9: The film's protagonist Wikus uses an extremely powerful directed energy weapon (made by the film's resident aliens, pejoratively called prawns) that thoroughly destroys a human body on contact. Other alien weapons are used that seem to be very advanced and powerful ballistic weapons, and are keyed to the aliens' DNA, preventing them from being used by humans. None of the prawns' weapons are named or their workings explained.
  • Doctor Grordbort's Infallible Aether Oscillators: Rayguns utilizing "infra-wave undulation" and "phlogiston over-charging" amongst other pseudo-scientific concepts.
  • Descent series: laser pistols, fusion cannon, omega cannon
  • Doctor Who: Daleks' guns: "ruby rays", Time Lord's "Stasers", Silurians "ray guns"
  • Doom: Plasma rifle
  • Dune: Continuous-wave laser projectors called lasguns exist but are rendered obsolete by the use of personal Holtzman shields. The interaction of a lasgun blast and this force field results in a nuclear explosion which typically kills both the gunner and the target, to say nothing of collateral damage. Subsequently, lasguns are mostly mounted on aircraft.
  • Edison's Conquest of Mars (1898): disintegrator ray
  • Fallout: "Solar Scorcher" (runs on solar power), "Alien Blaster", various laser, plasma and pulse weapons (rifles, handguns, Gatling guns, grenades)
  • Farscape: various weapons
  • F.E.A.R.: "Armacham Type-7 Particle Weapon": plasma
  • First Contact (1945) by Murray Leinster: blasters are described as follows:

"The blasters are those beams of ravening destruction which take care of meteorites in a spaceship's course when the deflectors cannot handle them. They are not designed as weapons, but they can serve as pretty good ones.


Real-world development

  • Radar is the result of attempts to develop rayguns before WWII
  • CBS in their show 60 minutes showed a real weapon described as a raygun. This video of it shows that it is most likely the Active Denial System.
  • Recent real developments of laser guns have produced artillery-sized weapons which might be described as rayguns, but usually are not.
  • See electrolaser for an electric current sent through a laser beam.
  • See Directed-energy weapon for various real weapons which are more or less like rayguns.
  • See Directed-energy weapon#Tesla for reports that Tesla made a real directed-energy weapon.

Distinguish from

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Van Riper, op.cit., p. 46.
  2. ^ Van Riper, A. Bowdoin (2002). Science in popular culture: a reference guide. Westport: Greenwood Press(2008)carried by a player on litlle resistance or Nazi zombiesCall of Duty WaW. p. 45. ISBN 0-313-31822-0. 
  3. ^ Van Riper, op.cit., p. 47.
  4. ^ "Beneath These Streets" (in English). TV.com. 19 October 1989. Retrieved 1 October 2014. 

External links