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Europeans have long been involved in imagining space. From the great novels of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells to the famous 1908 French silent movie "A Trip to the Moon" by George Melies, European writers, artists, and scientists have given form and direction to our longing to experience and understand the vast immensity of the universe. It was German scientists, working for the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. after WWII who spearheaded the the American rocket program and then the space race between the Soviet Union and the U.S. In 1965 France launched its first satellite, "Diamant A," which was followed by England's "Prospero" in 1971. Long before this, however, European popular media had become enamored of stories with space themes and chronicled the adventures of dashing space heroes, many of whom became the inspiration for the countless toy ray guns made throughout Europe beginning in the 1950s.
European Ray Guns
One of the most popular of the European space heroes was Dan Dare. The central character in the English boys' magazine Eagle which was first published in 1950, Dare was a "fearless pilot of the future" who did not drink or swear. He fired only in self defense and always told the truth. Many toy ray guns were produced using Dare's name, like the diecast Dan Dare cap gun by Lone Star, a classic design which was later copied throughout the world. Yet the Dan Dare guns are but a few of the remarkable toy ray guns produced in England. Among the more notable are the Atomic Jet-Gun by Crescent, a brilliant adaptation of the Hiller Atom Ray, and the whimsically beautiful Space Outlaw by BCM. (For another source on toy rayguns from the England visit Ian Kill's Homepage.)
Italy also produced many unusual toy space guns. Often beautifully designed, these toys can be particularly sleek and strikingly visual. Among the most striking are the numerous plastic squirt guns made by COMA, especially the stunning Astrale, as well as the powerfully sculpted Atomic Orbetor X by Gherzi, a gas powered dart shooter and one of the few visually successful adaptations of the Dan Dare cap gun. Other striking Italian ray guns are the numerous Thur guns made by Edison Giocattoli in connection with the Italian TV show "Space Connection."
Interesting ray guns were produced in countless European countries. From the flashy Metralleta Guerra de la Galaxais space rifle made in Spain to the marvelous, diecast French flashlite gun called the Voyageur Interplanetaire, toy space guns have probably been made in most all European countries. Indeed, during the years of Soviet hegemony, toy ray guns were even produced behind the "Iron Curtain" in Poland and other countries.
Despite their wide spread manufacture, European ray guns have been seldom imported into the United States. Thus, unlike Japanese ray guns, which were often made for, and imported in quantities to, the U.S., European space guns are not commonly found by American collectors. However this has begun to change in recent years with the buying and selling of toy ray guns on Ebay, the auction website. Of the European ray guns, the most often available to Americans have generally been those from England. Consequently, English toys form the largest part of the toys presented in this section.
Ray Guns from Elsewhere
In addition to Europe, Japan, and the United States, toy ray guns have also been manufactured in many other parts of the world, and in recent years (especially due to the international market that has developed on Ebay) some of these toys have become available to collectors in the United States. As such toys are found and identified, they will be posted on the Toy Ray Gun Website in this section. If you know of any ray guns that should be represented here please let me know.