In the ‘80s, your local toy store was not just a toy story. It was an armory, an armory in which you could find guns. Weapons. An entire arsenal.
First in the arsenal were the Gotcha guns. Gotcha guns were a Toys ‘R Us version of a paintball gun. I’m not sure if they were based on the Anthony Edwards movie and/or NES video game of the same name of if that movie and game were based on them, but I was sure at the time that they were the closest thing to a real paintball gun I could ever get my hands on and so I coveted it greatly. One day, my coveting ended. My friends and I all bought our own “Enforcer” Gotcha sets (The Enforcer set contained one gun and set of accessories, while the Commando set had two guns and two sets of accessories). This set came with the gun, flags, and several black paintball cartridges. Oh yeah, and safety goggles. Safety was the theme of the Gotcha guns. Not only did they come with goggles that you were supposed to wear anytime you even thought of touching the gun, but the guns also had a safety that had to be held in by the thumb on the left side of the grip in order for the trigger to function and were bright orange and yellow so that they didn’t resemble real guns. These safety measures were a little unnecessary because the Gotcha guns weren’t that dangerous. They were too hard to shoot: the grip was too big for my hand, and the safety was hard to push in, so I was lucky to ever get off a shot much less actually shoot a moving target. The guns did not have much range; they shot at a very low velocity and thus did not shoot far. And the paintballs were fairly underwhelming. They were just tiny white rectangles of flexible plastic with a little colored goop clinging to them. When the plastic hit its target, it would collapse, splatting the goop on whatever it was it hit. Often, you could get hit and not get gooped. Now I’ve heard of people having a much more effective time with the Gotcha guns than we did, but our experience with them wasn’t so great. Mostly, we just stood at point blank range and tried to shoot each other.
Next were the Zap It guns. Zap It guns were small, maybe a little too small, were shaped like Uzis, and shot ink. Disappearing ink, ink that would stain someone’s close and then disappear. On the commercials, people would always amused when they were shot with a Zap It gun, and if not amused then only a tiny perturbed. In real life, nobody seemed to think that being shot with a Zap It gun was as humorous as the people on the commercials did. In fact, everybody seemed to get pretty upset when they were sprayed with a Zap It, and telling them that the ink would disappear didn’t seem to make them less upset. On one occasion, a friend and I were sitting in church. Midway through the service, my friend shot a lady in front of us. Shot her on the back of the collar of her lace dress. She didn’t feel it and didn’t react, but I nearly panicked and spent the entire service waiting for the ink to disappear from her collar and hoping that her husband didn’t notice before it did. I never prayed so hard in church.
Somewhere among these was the Daisy dart pistol. The Daisy dart pistol was manufactured in the days when a toy gun could look like a real gun, and it did. It looked exactly like a 9mm. It could shoot both BBs and darts. Several BBs could be loaded into the gun, but darts had to be individually inserted into a breach in the barrel. The gun was spring-operated, meaning you had to cock the slide for each shot, and it came with a dart board. I shot that board with both the darts and the BBs, shot it so many times that it fell apart.
After them were the Super Soakers. Squirt guns on steroids, the Super Soakers sprayed huge amounts of water huge distances. They had a tank of water that was pressurized by a plastic pump. You’d pump the tank until you couldn’t pump anymore, then you’d pull the trigger and blast your best friend in the face. Of all the guns you could get at the toy store, Super Soakers were probably the most effective. They really did what they claimed to do. They soaked people. Super soaked them.
And last but not least was the Slime Gun. Slime Gun is not the official name of this weapon. I’m not sure what the official name of this weapon is because I’ve never been able to find it in our modern times. But I know I had it. My friends and I all bought one from the discount aisle at Toys ‘R Us. It was made of clear plastic, allowing us to see its inner workings, and it shot green and purple blobs of slime. Unlike the Gotcha guns, it was easy to shoot, accurate, and had range, making it one of my favorites. I shot many times with this gun and was shot many times by this gun. I just wish I could find one today. I wish I could at least find a picture of one today.
Beyond these, there was a bevy of other weapons you could find at your local toy store: a Desert Eagle replica with realistic sounds, plastic knifes and ninja stars, and Nerf artillery of all kinds. They truly were armories, at least for my friends and I, and this was the arsenal we found in them.
Note: The Super Soaker actually came out in 1990. Since I figure the ’80s to go to 1992, when I graduated high school, I see them as an ’80s toy.