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Ray Gun

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Set phasers to "highly visible."

"Rays! From the silliness of the shrink ray to the devastation of the death ray, these are the very foundations of Mad Science!"
Professor Medulla, Sky High


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 '60s. 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. However, they can very believably become practical in futuristic settings, where greatly improved science and technology would allow for the limitations to be far more easily overcome.

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.

There actually are "real lasers" in weapons research and development — like the Airborne Laser and THEL. These lasers are supposed to burn through targets (like missiles) and cause their fuel/warhead to explode or their airframe to disintegrate when it hits, although this is also a continuous beam and requires some time to work. Solid-state pulsed lasers are also in development, which fire bursts of energy and are lighter than fluid-based lasers, but harder to cool. Last but not least, the heat from a powerful laser wouldn't just burn through clothing or make a neat, bloodless, pin-sized hole. There's a common misconception that laser beams cauterize wounds, but real laser wounds are every bit as bloody as knife wounds. It can also cause the water in the body to boil, expand and rip the surrounding tissues apart, much like a high velocity bullet impact. There are also electrolasers under development, which ionize the air so that electric current can be sent along the beam's path. Ironically, all of these characteristics make lasers far more effective as weapons than their portrayal in most fiction, which is in fact the main reason that the military is developing them in the first place. It's also probably the main reason we're not likely to see realistic laser weapons in children's shows.

A Sub-Trope of Energy Weapon, Impossibly Cool Weapon, and Fantastic Firearms. A Sister Trope to Laser Blade. Contrast Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better, for settings where ray guns are Cool, but Inefficient.

A Super-Trope to:

Compare Pure Energy and also We Will Use Lasers in the Future when a ray gun is the best weapon in the setting.

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


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero, the Gamma androids use energy pistols called Gamma Blasters, in contrast to their rivals who use Ki Attacks. Their creator, Dr. Hedo, created them in the same vein as superheroes, hence their chosen armaments.

    Comic Books 
  • Ray guns were a thing for Marvel Comics in the '60s and '70s with minor threat Foolkiller having a laser pistol and every agent of S.H.I.E.L.D carrying plasma pistols as their main gun. In the 2000s, Marvel backed away from having a such a big jump in tech and so both Foolkiller and S.H.I.E.L.D use carbines and machine guns with a futuristic aesthetic.
  • Reid Fleming, World's Toughest Milkman: Reid receives a ray gun as a Christmas present from his mother. When he also receives a prank gift from Mr. Crabbe, Reid decides to try out his new ray gun on Crabbe's roof.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: The Saturnians have Reverse Gravity Ray guns.
  • Silverblade: One member of the Carnival of Killers Vermillion hires to kill Milestone wields a laser gun

    Fan Works 
  • The New Adventures of Invader Zim: One of Dib's new teammates, Steve, eventually creates some makeshift energy guns for the team to use against the Irkens. At first, they're pretty unreliable, as they'll short out if used too much, but after a while he fixes this and starts using them regularly.
  • Rocketship Voyager: Subverted. The only ray gun seen is a cumbersome crew-served weapon burdened with a nucleo-electric power pack, liquid-helium cooling coils and radiation-proof gunshield. Its beam is only visible when firing through smoke and ash, and is diffused by smoke and distance so when B'Elanna Torres (who is wearing tungsten alloy space armor) is fired upon it just sets off her radiation alarm.
  • Voice of the Condor: Shortly after Tao turns on a slew of hidden functions in the Golden Condor, its onboard AI busts out a rotating, sun-shaped energy turret in the Condor's neck to scare Lord Shimatsu. Towards the end, when faced with the Dark Condor and its superior Black Suns, Esteban has the Condor use its backup battery to overcharge the turret. It works well, but overheats the turret before long.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Star Wars: Blasters, the default ranged weapons in the setting, fire short slow-moving laser beams. Turbolasers are a more powerful ship-mounted variant, intended for use against other vessels or stationary targets.
  • Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow has Dex build one for the protagonist. It's unreliable and the shots are a parody of Special Effects Failure: goofy slowly spreading rings straight out of period comics and cheap science fiction. However, it's very impressive at melting Totenkopf's robots.
  • The Hidden: The good alien has a special type of gun that is required to kill the evil alien, but he needs it to leave its human host first as it incinerates their own kind but is harmless to human tissue.
  • Back to the Future: When Marty disguises himself as "Darth Vader from the planet Vulcan", you can see that he has a 1980s hair dryer tucked into his belt as though it were a ray gun of some kind. In a Deleted Scene, he threatens George with it, claiming, "My heat ray will vaporize you if you do not obey me!"
  • The 6th Day. The "foosh gun" is a chemical laser handgun used by the villains (and later by the protagonist). While it has a visible beam, there's a realistic effect of flames that vent from the sides of the handgun on firing, as waste gas from the chemical reaction is expelled.
  • DC Extended Universe:
    • Man of Steel has the Kryptonian plasma rifles and pistols that shoot mostly blue energy projectiles.
    • Justice League: Parademons pack plasma rifles that shoot mostly red energy projectiles, and they brought heavy turret guns of the same tech with them.
    • Aquaman (2018): Atlanteans developed water-powered blaster rifles technology. David Kane adapts this technology into the helmet of an armor that he develops, becoming Black Manta.

  • E. E. "Doc" Smith probably did more to popularize ray guns than any other single author back in the Golden Age of Science Fiction.
  • Isaac Asimov:
    • In one book they use "atomic ray guns" that apparently boil the blood of any organic thing hit until it explodes.
    • "C-Chute": When Demetrios Polyorketes tries to ambush one of the Kloros that boarded their ship, it blasts him with a pinkish ray that leaves him paralyzed and in great pain.
    • "The Feeling of Power": Technician Aub uses a protein-depolarizer on himself to commit suicide. The results aren't given in detail.
    • 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 Stars, Like Dust (a very distant prequel to the Foundation series) also features "blasters". In the Foundation books and in The Stars, Like Dust these blasters very much avert the "Family-Friendly Firearms" type of Ray Gun; descriptions of the effects of a blaster on a human body tend to mention large parts of that body being blasted away, with other parts left "a charred remnant".
    • "Victory Unintentional": The Jovians greet the ZZ robots by opening fire with some sort of heat ray, raising the ambient temperature of their target ninety degrees centigrade (roughly 150 degrees Fahrenheit). The ZZ robots were built to be nearly indestructible, so they don't notice the effect immediately.
  • In Lone Huntress Lisa prefers to remove her prosthetic limb before climbing into her Powered Armor, replacing it with a Arm Cannon containing an array of weaponry - a laser, a Lightning Gun, Freeze Ray, and a Laser Blade all see use. The tradeoff is that all of them are connected to her armor's power supply, giving her a greatly reduced "ammo" capacity. By contrast, a standard laser rifle consists of a handle, a "barrel" that is actually the laser itself, and then a nice big battery for sustained firing.
  • The Dreamside Road:
    • Orson carries a personal blaster, powered by the solar cell that fuels all of his electric weaponry.
    • The Aesir has a larger roof-mounted model.
    • Some Liberty Corps troops also wield energy projectiles.
  • 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 The War of the Worlds (1898).
  • The Boojumverse features ray guns as standard sidearms. They are used by Colonel Sanderson in "Mongoose" and Black Alice in "Boojum".
  • Nita in the Young Wizards series has a spell that manifests as a hand-held terawatt linear particle accelerator rifle.
  • Doctor Grordbort's Contrapulatronic Dingus Directory is a tongue-in-cheek sales catalog of Steampunk destructive devices, though it's implied many of their Upper-Class Twit customers are Compensating for Something.
  • Captain Future's proton blaster is shown on the Pulp Magazine covers shooting a stream of ever-expanding rings. In the Allen Steele reconstruction novel Avengers of the Moon this is handwaved as smoke rings created by the invisible plasma beam.
  • In one of the Gil the ARM stories by Larry Niven, someone tries to murder Gil with a hunting laser. Fortunately he sees the reflected flash in a window and fires back before the weapon recharges. It's mentioned that it would be easy to build a laser that fired a continuous invisible beam, but that wouldn't be very sporting.
  • Animorphs: Andalite shredders and Yeerk Dracon beams fill this purpose (and even have phaser-like power levels so they can stun, blow holes in, or vaporize targets). Despite the name, shredders are actually the less evil of the two- the Yeerks reverse-engineered Andalite shredders so they didn't kill as quickly, the victim feeling their cells exploding. Spacecraft-mounted versions are powerful enough to ignite a planet's atmosphere from orbit.
  • The Voyage of the Space Beagle. The radiation emitted by the vibration pistols and crew-served atomic disintegrators is invisible, so a 'tracer beam' is used for aiming. There's also reference to the smell of ozone and the potentially lethal effects of secondary radiation from a near miss by a disintegrator beam.
  • Laser weapons are mentioned as a threat in Friday. More realistically than usual for this trope, they are treated as invisible instant death. Earlier in the same continuity in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, mining lasers are used to attack spacecraft.
  • Gold in the Sky, the 1958 sci-fi thriller by Alan E. Nourse. The sons of an Asteroid Miner are investigating his death at the hands of an evil mining corporation. They assume he found a rich ore strike and was murdered for it. Halfway through the novel they remove Dad's ancient .44 revolver from its holster to defend themselves and discover it's a completely unfamiliar weapon not constructed for human hands, with no hole in the muzzle, yet it can burn a six-foot wide hole in half-inch steel plate. It's then they realise the stakes are way higher than illegal claim-jumping.
  • This trope is initially averted in the setting of The Expanse, where humans still rely on hurling chunks of high-velocity metal into their enemies in both personal and spaceship combat. Ray guns do appear deep in the series thanks to alien technology, but they're huge WMD-level blasters capable of tearing whole planetoids to pieces. They also need to be powered by matter-antimatter reactions, which are at a nigh-fictional level of technology in the setting. Special mention goes to a booby trap the humans stumble into: The aliens engineered a black hole in order to use its deadly gamma ray burst as a giant Ray Gun.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Phasers and disruptors in Star Trek.
  • Firefly believes Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better, but there are a couple of examples.
    • The Lassiter is an antique laser gun stolen by the crew of Serenity in the episode "Trash".
    • Also the laser gun used by Rance Burgess in "Heart of Gold". It's a sign of his wealth and status that he enjoys bragging about.
  • 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:
  • 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.
  • Total Recall 2070: Blasters exist alongside regular firearms and are issued to all CPB officers.
  • Wonder Woman: Ray guns appear multiple times. Wonder Woman's bracelets work as well against them as they do against bullets.
    • In "Going, Going, Gone", Sheldon Como and Vladimir Zukov try to hold off Wonder Woman with these as she assaults Como's submarine. They're hopelessly overmatched.
    • In "Mind Stealers from Outer Space", the alien Skrill use them for multiple purposes including attacking Wonder Woman and leveling a building.
  • The Outer Limits (1995): In "Lithia", Major Mercer was armed with a laser pistol when he placed in suspended animation in 2015.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): In "Two", the soldiers from both armies were equipped with laser weapons, judging by the discarded rifles that the man and woman find.




    Tabletop Games 
  • 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 lasers.
    • Some energy-based stun weapons.
    • Death Rays.
    • Life-draining and life-transference rays.
    • Shrink 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.
  • Mekton has an elaborate construction system for equipment from switchblades to planet-killing space fortresses, including a dizzying array of "Beam Weapons" (ray guns).
  • 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.
  • Paranoia has laser pistols and rifles, energy pistols, blasters, stun guns, and plasma generators. Lasers are actually more common than projectile guns, and so reflec (shiny plastic) armor is more common than kevlar.
  • Rocket Age: A staple. Nicola Tesla developed modern versions of these based off Ancient Martian designs and the Ancients even had Heat and Freeze Rays.They massively outclass most conventional weapons in the setting and include the ability to stun enemies.
  • Traveller naturally offers a range of laser, plasma, and fusion weapons to meet all your needs.
  • Slipstream: Rayguns are common weapons, given the retro style of the setting.
  • Warhammer 40,000 has a number of ray-gun-wielding troops.
    • The standard Imperial rayguns 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.
    • The Necron Gauss Flayer is 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.

    Video Games 
  • Alien Shooter TD from Sigma Team, has by far the most expensive unit being the Light Energy soldier. And he's well worth it. Carrying a ray gun, which at the lowest type does only slightly less damage against bare flesh than the equivalent shotgun but fires at greater than the rate of submachine gun, it's against armored enemies that the ray gun really shines. Armor is a second layer of health that takes significantly less damage against physical attacks. The ray gun does massive damage against armor, often making it disappear in one or two shots. The ray gun also has very large amounts of ammo and with the proper skill, the magazine will regenerate - saving money on buying ammo in the field.
  • BioShock 2: Minerva's Den introduces the Ion Laser, which accurately to what the name states fires a continuous beam of concentrated energy as long as the player holds the trigger and has ammo. The beam has two extra variants, Thermal (sets targets on fire) and Burst (can be charged up).
  • Call of Duty: World at War, of all games, has a ray gun, by name, available randomly in the Call of Duty: Zombies bonus mode and sneakily hidden in one of the singleplayer levels, along with its larger cousin, the Wunderwaffe,note  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.
  • Averted with most weapons in the Mass Effect series, which fire tiny kinetic projectiles at superfast velocities. A few exceptions do appear, however, such as the Collector's particle beam weapon, along with the geth's plasma shotgun and pulse rifle.
  • MDK2 has ray guns as Max the robot dog's most powerful weapon. And with his multiple arms, he can have 4 of them!
  • 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.
  • In Orphan (2018), the boy finds a ray gun that he can wield as a weapon against the alien invaders.
  • Persona 5: Goro Akechi's ranged weapon of choice in the Metaverse are these, although in reality they are children's toys. The Animated Adaptation reveals that when he was younger, one of his favorite toys was a ray gun that he'd play with when pretending to be an ally of justice.
  • The Quake series has a few. The original Quake features the Enforcer enemies, who are soldiers with laser guns which shoot reddish-yellow projectiles, later available to the Ranger as the Laser Cannon in Scourge of Armagon. Quake II and Quake IV both have the infinite-ammo blaster pistol, a Ranged Emergency Weapon, and its bigger and not-so-emergency sibling, the Hyperblaster.
  • The first Power Stone game has an unlockable Ray Gun which fires rings of energy. The sequel introduces more types of energy weapons, such as the Beam Gun, 3-Way Shotgun, 5-Way Shotgun, and Powerful Buster.
  • All five Super Smash Bros. games have the "Ray Gun" item. Unlike some other energy weapons though, it only has limited ammo.
  • Team Fortress 2: One of the Soldier's many, many alternate weapons is now a small handheld ray blaster called the "Righteous Bison" or a larger over-the-shoulder one called the "Cow Mangler 5000". The Engineer and Pyro have ray guns of their own, with the "Pomson 6000" for the former, and the "Phlogistinator" and "Manmelter" for the latter. A later update gave the Engineer and Scout a pistol reskin called the C.A.P.P.E.R..
  • The Dispersion Pistol from Unreal is a boxy and well-used sidearm that can be upgraded straight into Hand Cannon territory with the right pickups. It's never stated just what it actually fires.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles X has two instances of this. On one hand, it contains the weapon type known as Rayguns, which in this game are closer to the size of gatling guns and on the other hand, one of the elements you get is beam. Almost every gun type weapon has one under the beam element, meaning you can have assault rifles, snipers, gatling guns, psycho launchers and dual guns also be rayguns by definition. And of course, the default raygun is a beam element.


    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • DuckTales (1987): As the theme tune says, . . . racecars, lasers, aeroplanes . . .. Gyro's "Furniture Mover Ray" from "The Money Vanishes", appears in the opening. Huey, Dewey and Louie are wielding it against the Beagle Boys.
  • 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 (1967) 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.
  • Rick Sanchez of Rick and Morty pretty much always has at least one, personally-made though unlike most, his tend to be wildly gory and/or lethal.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012):
    • The Kraang use laser pistols, rifles and cannons. The episode "TCRI" features them using a Lightning Gun.
    • Tiger Claw has two laser pistols. One fires hot, red energy blasts, the other fires ice beams.

    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 not used to fire Frickin' Laser Beams. Rather, they were meant to disable optical sensors on enemy aircrafts.


Video Example(s):


The Power of Dance

While trying to invent a ray that would instantly dry his clothes, Dr. Doofenshmirtz inadvertently created a ray that could make anything it zaps dance uncontrollably. Unfortunately, he and Perry the Platypus end up getting zapped by it.

How well does it match the trope?

4.64 (22 votes)

Example of:

Main / InvoluntaryDance

Media sources: