Ray Gun

Set phasers to "highly visible."

Picard: Maximum setting. If you had fired, you'd have vaporized me.
Lily: It's my first ray gun.

PEW! PEW! PEW!

Any gun that shoots light, rays, waves, or something similar. Initially popular during the appropriately named Raygun Gothic era of Science Fiction, but back then it was based on pure Phlebotinum, as shooting such things from weapons wasn't known to be possible. In short, the ray gun was falling out of favor for being unrealistic. Then the laser was discovered in The Sixties. Suddenly the ray gun was brought back from being a Discredited Trope.

But even now it's still treated as an Impossibly Cool Weapon, as lasers in fiction are often used in ways they can't really be. And while other ray guns do exist in Real Life (the US Army has been experimenting with microwave crowd dispersal wave generators, for example), they're still Cool, but Inefficient.

The term "ray gun" became a cliché even by the 1940s, having strong associations with Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon etc., and from at least E. E. “Doc” Smith's Lensman novels, was increasingly replaced by the more bad-ass-sounding generic "blaster", Smith himself generally choosing to refer to the weapons by their maker just as we would refer to a Colt or Smith & Wesson.

They are also popular as a form of Family-Friendly Firearms. One odd aspect of ray guns in a lot of fiction, especially animation and comic books, is that despite being much niftier-looking than a stream of bullets, they're actually much less harmful to be struck by than a regular bullet would be. It's extremely common for Captain Space, Defender of Earth! to get hit with an "energy beam" and fall down dramatically, but he will scarcely ever actually have a new hole burned through him, and a couple of scenes later we will see him pulling himself painfully to his feet again and saying something corny like, "Ow! Anybody get the license of the truck that hit me?" The effect seems more comparable to getting punched really hard than to actually getting shot. This is sometimes justified by the ray gun having a "stun setting," or by the hero wearing body armor or having super powers.

A Sub-Trope of Energy Weapon, Impossibly Cool Weapon. A Sister Trope to Laser Blade.

A Super Trope to:

Compare Pure Energy.

Not to be confused with ReiGun, Railgun, the president, Nute Gunray or the Rei or a Rei with a gun.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • Plan 7 of 9 from Outer Space. Megan Delaney goes into Gun Porn detail while selling one to Captain Proton, but finds it difficult to tell them apart from common household objects.
    "Oh please," said Malicia. "Kinetic energy weapons are so passé. Why shoot nasty little holes in people when you can reduce them to their component molecules at the speed of light? Behold: the Mark One BEM-Blaster! It's light, sexy, and easily marketable as an action toy. The barrel has radiator fins for dumping excess heat and pleasing your girlfriend. A telescopic sight no-one bothers to use. Invisible power source violating all known laws of physics. Three settings: Melt, Vaporize, and Disintegrate. Ray focus is adjustable from fan-beam (for room-clearance and blinding photo-electronic equipment) to needle-beam (for slicing through hull plate and shooting nasty little holes in people)."
    "What are you babbling on about?" snapped Demonica. "That's your hairdryer, you insolent fool!"
    "Oh...sorry...well how about this one: the Blakes VII sonic lance."
    "And that's your curling iron!"
    "The Space M1999 laser?"
    "Staple gun!"
    "The Next Generation Phase R..."
    "Dustbuster!" everyone chorused.

    Film 

    Literature 
  • E. E. “Doc” Smith probably did more to popularize ray guns than any other single author back in the Golden Age of Science Fiction.
  • In one Isaac Asimov book they use "atomic ray guns" that apparently boil the blood of any organic thing hit until it explodes. In the Foundation series, they use Atom Blasters (shortened to just "blasters" in the later books, after the age of Atom Punk had passed).
  • The short story "The Ray-Gun: A Love Story" is about a ray-gun.
  • The most common weapon in Valhalla is the microwave gun, which as the name suggests, is a gun that fires microwave beams. Described as having invisible beams and making no sound, this stands as somewhat of a subversion to the common ray gun trope.
  • One Biggles story mentions these as a possible explanation for the inexplicable crashes of multiple Allied aircraft flying a particular supply route. It turns out to be something rather simpler: Japanese intelligence officers were slipping packets of chewing gum laced with a powerful narcotic into the cockpits of the planes, causing the pilots to pass out at the controls.
  • Arthur C. Clarke, always a stickler for hard science in his short stories, subverts this. A group of pub patrons lampshade this trope while arguing whether ray guns can even exist, prompting one to tell a story within a story of an astronomer that uses a highly polished mirror to reflect his wife's headlight beams back in her face when she's driving home from one of her trysts - attempting to murder her by driving her off a dangerous road. Unexpected outcome ensues. It wasn't the tryst that annoyed him - is was the light pollution from her headlights interrupting his studies of the heavens that drove him to such measures.
  • Northwest Smith uses a "Heat Gun" in the stories by C.L. Moore.
  • Used in the tagline of The Chronicles of Professor Jack Baling: Brilliance. Madness. Ray Guns.
  • Mark Delewen And The Space Pirates has Mark and Tirt using one each; in stun mode.
  • The "Heat Ray" weapons used by the Martians in the classic, War Of The Worlds.
    • Also the disintegration weapons used along with the heat rays in the 1953 film version.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Phasers and disruptors in Star Trek.
    • The tie-in Star Fleet Technical Manual actually features a weapon called a 'ray gun', although this is actually a mislabeled prop used in the show as a signal beacon.
    • The Captain Proton holodeck program in Star Trek: Voyager has your typical black-and-white Zeerust look, including ray guns and Dr. Chaotica's Death Ray. When Paris is coaching Janeway on how to act inside the program, he reminds her to use the term "ray gun" instead of "phaser".
  • The "Lassiter," a laser gun stolen by the crew of Serenity in the Firefly episode "Trash".
    • Also the laser gun used by Rance Burgess in "Heart of Gold".
  • The overabundance of "ray guns" of similarly-cheesy design in scifi is lampshaded on Doctor Who, when the Doctor is shown a bunch of unidentified alien devices suspected, largely on the basis of shape, of being weapons. As he searches for something that might actually hurt the Monster of the Week, he tosses aside the rejects, reciting:
    Doctor: Broken... broken... hair dryer...
  • Red Dwarf's bazookoids are mining lasers used as weapons.
  • Common in Power Rangers and Super Sentai. The best-known would probably be Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers' Blade Blasters, which also become dirks.

    Pinball 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Mekton has an elaborate construction system for equipment from switchblades to planet-killing space fortresses, including a dizzying array of "Beam Weapons" (ray guns).
  • Warhammer 40,000 has a number of ray-gun-wielding troops. For brevity's sake, probably the most exotic is the Necron Gauss Flayer, an electromagnetic Disintegrator Ray that shoots bolts of green lightning that can break down the Weak Force that holds matter together, tearing its target apart at the molecular level. The catch? The ray has to be fired through a crystal with exact specifications, right down to the atom, so it's virtually impossible for any other race to emulate.
    • The standard Imperial raygun are classified as 'las weapons'. They fire a laser beam capable of blowing a man's arm off (they've been most often been compared to midrange caliber rifles in terms of kinetic force). Though they're unfavorably compared to flashlights, they're almost invariably fielded in huge numbers.
    • The Imperium also fields meltaguns, which are a short-range, anti-tank microwave gun. Just pray that the guy shooting one at you happens to be a lousy shot, or bad things happen.
  • Paranoia has laser pistols and rifles, energy pistols, blasters, stun guns, and plasma generators.
  • Traveller naturally offers a range of laser, plasma, and fusion weapons to meet all your needs.
  • Munchkin has a Ray Gun in its space expansion (aside from any number of -aser weapons), which appropriately enough gives a bigger bonus for any player named Ray, Raymond, or Reagan.
  • A staple of Rocket Age. Nicola Tesla developed modern versions of these based off Ancient Martian designs and the Ancients even had Heat and Freeze Rays.
  • 1001 Science Fiction Weapons for D20, by Plain Brown Wrapper Games, has most of the subtropes, and a few extra concepts besides; including a whole section (or more) on:
    • plasma weapons
    • multiple tech levels of [[Frickin' Laser Beams lasers]
    • some energy-based stun weapons
    • death rays
    • life-draining and life-transference rays
    • shrinking rays
    • rays that makes matter explode
    • a solar ray
    • mind-affecting weapons such as evil rays and self-immolation rays (which make targets harm themselves by any means available, not limited to immolation)
    • Flesh-melting and warping rays
    • a short section on disintegrators
    • entropy projectors
    • Lepton weapons
    • coagulators (which harm only living things with blood, making their blood coagulate inside them and being ideal for times when you need to kill someone sheltering in your ship's reactor room) and even more exotic things, like the energy weapons of the mysterious Witherslant Masters and the ray specifically made to harm plant matter and nothing else. Plus the Generic Ray guns, which fire a beam that looks suspiciously like a scratch on the film. Add other energy weapon concepts, like sonic, microwave, ion, particle beam... loads of bloody fun.

    Video Games 
  • The Quake series has a few. The original Quake features the Enforcer enemies, who are soldiers with laser guns which shoot reddish-yellow projectiles. Quake II has the infinite-ammo blaster gun, an unusual example of a ranged Emergency Weapon. The Rail Guns can be considered to be Ray Guns too.
  • All three Super Smash Bros. games have the "Ray Gun" item. Unlike some other energy weapons though, it only has 16 shots.
  • Call of Duty: World at War, of all games, has a ray gun, by name, available randomly in the Nazi Zombies bonus mode and sneakily hidden in one of the singleplayer levels, along with its larger cousin, the Wunderwaffe, on a downloadable map. The former fires green rays surrounded by rings, and the latter some sort of electricity. Both have a very retro Raygun Gothic look to them, and are very good at killing zombies.
  • Several of the weapons in The Conduit are various forms of ray guns. To give but two examples: the Carbonizer Mk16 fires a giant beam that cooks enemies from the inside, and the alien Strike Rifle can be charged to fire a One-Hit Kill beam.
  • Aside from the obvious example of the alien blaster, the Fallout series has a number of weapons resembling ray guns, such as the laser, plasma, Gauss, and (most especially) pulse guns.
  • Team Fortress 2: One of the Soldier's many, many alternate weapons is now a small handheld ray blaster or a larger ray gun.
    • The Engineer and Pyro now have ray guns of their own, although predictably the Pyro's new primary still has range issues.
  • In the first No One Lives Forever game, you can find and use a retro-looking laser gun on the HARM space station. It instantly disintegrates the target and has enough charge for about 500 shots.
  • Blasters in Might and Magic. Mainly VI and VII, since that's where we actually got to use them (yes, this is a game series where a mage can mow down liches using a blaster rifle).

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • An episode of The Tick had a ray gun which turned people into some guy named Ray.
  • G.I. Joe, where such weapons were prominent on both sides.
  • Crazy Stunts duel pistols in Skysurfer Strike Force.
  • Birdman episode "Monster of the Mountains". The villain Chang threatens Birdman and Birdboy with a "uranium ray" gun, but Avenger (Birdman's pet eagle) swoops in from behind him to knock it out of his hands.

    Real Life 
  • Although they turned out to be mistaken, Allied advisers who learned of the plans for German "reprisal weapons" in the mid-years of WW2 put both "death rays" and "engine-stopping rays" higher on the list of suspects than "long-range rocket missiles".
    • Apparently radar originally came to the attention of the British government after they put out a request for proposals for directed-energy weapons.
  • Appropriately enough, Nikola Tesla developed plans for his "Teleforce", essentially a particle-beam weapon, but unfortunately (fortunately?) never actually built a working device.
  • The Soviet laser pistol was an attempt at this, with such being called "Soviet laser Revolver". Naturally though, despite their name, they were used to fire Fricking Laser Beams. Rather, they were meant to disable optical sensors on enemy aircrafts.


Alternative Title(s):

Better Than Cannon