Atomic Toy Guns
The unifying characteristic of these toy guns is that they are all identified as "Atomic." The top two in the above photo, both made of tin, were manufactured in Japan, probably in the 1950s or 1960s. When their triggers are pulled, sparks appear in a window on the barrel.
The cast metal pistol with the red plastic grips, the Atomic Disintegrator, is the true gem of the collection. It is a repeating cap pistol that was manufactured in the 1950s by the Hubley Manufacturing Company. So popular is it among collectors, that reproductions of the original cardboard box that it came in and posters of the box's artwork are widely available.
During the 1950s, the early days of the atomic age, the development of real atomic disintegrator pistols was the subject of serious speculation in the press.
As best as I can determine, the Atomic Disintegrator was introduced in 1954. When Hubley stopped manufacturing it is more uncertain, but based on newspaper advertisements, I suspect that it was around 1959. Quoting one of these ads:
"Fully equipped for accuracy during space patrol work! Metal construction with red trim. Fires roll caps in easy-to-reload chamber."
It is nice and heavy, so if you run out of ammunition, it would make a good throwing weapon. Alternatively, you could hold on to it and use it as a blunt force instrument.
Initially, it sold for $1.95 or so, but by the late 1950s it was selling for $0.50 to $0.75.
For what it might be worth, accelerators were often referred to as "atomic disintegrators"—especially during the 1930s and 1940s.
One final bit of trivia: the Hubley Atomic Disintegrator was used as a prop in "Teenagers from Outer Space."
Kindly donated by Tom Coulomb.
Buck Rogers Atomic Pistol
The following photo shows a sparking Buck Rogers Atomic Pistol produced in the 1940s or 1950s by the Daisy Manufacturing Company of Plymouth Michigan. Approximately 10 inches long.
The engraved wording is very difficult to read on this example. In the photo, the words "ROGERS" and "ATOMIC" can be recognized. There is a circle to the left that includes a picture of Buck Rogers.
Daisy made their first atomic ray gun, the "Buck Rogers Rocket Pistol" (Model XZ-31) in 1934. The following year, 1935, they introduced the sexier (that should improve web page traffic) "Buck Rogers Disintegrator Pistol," the Model XZ-38. I don't know how long it stayed in production, but almost certainly not after 1941.
In 1946, Daisy reintroduced the XZ-38 with a new name: the Buck Rogers Atomic Pistol, the Model U-235. And that is what we have here. Based on the prevalence of newspaper advertisements, I am guessing that it stayed in production throughout the 1950s and possibly into the early 1960s.
One advertisement from 1946 read:
"Magic pistol for make-believe adventures. Makes a loud pop and red light flashes in transparent chambers when trigger is pulled. 9 1/2" long with futuristic fins—light weight metal."
Initially, it sold for around one dollar, but by 1961 you could buy it for as little as $0.39.