Image via Toy Ray Guns
When I first began collecting ray guns, I had one resource to guide me towards my purchases: the book Ray Gun, by Gene Metcalf. It served as my inspiration and my shopping list, and I scoured the internet and antique stores looking for the toys that appeared in its pages. "Boy oh boy," I'd think to myself, "there sure are a lot of guns out there."
But I had no idea.
Metcalf was bound by page numbers -- physical real estate -- when putting together his wonderful book. The internet has no such limitations, and with his web site, Toy Ray Guns (www.toyraygun.com), Metcalf was able to really show off his passion.
Suddenly, I had a much bigger shopping list...
Toy Ray Guns divides its toys up by decade and nationality, and then lists them alphabetically. Each entry includes a small photo, and most have at least a brief description. There are also sections for box art, as well as ancillary items like holsters and helmets. Metcalf included a number of articles and essays about ray guns and collecting, as well as a fun virtual tour through a space toy exhibition that was staged in California.
A few years ago, the site was taken over by a collector/dealer (and good friend of mine) named Justin Pinchot. An expert on vintage space toys in his own right, he added a for-sale section that includes not only ray guns, but also robots and space ships.
Is the site perfect? Not quite. It wears its age a little roughly -- Toy Ray Guns was constructed long enough ago that there's no search function, and the layout is limited by whatever version of HTML was in use at the time. Ray gun knowledge was also in its infancy; dates are sometimes incorrect (if they're known at all), and names are often limited to "Space Gun." I'm not sure how much has been updated since its original construction. Lastly, the pictures are pretty small -- it's sometimes difficult to make out the details on the toys.
That said, Toy Ray Guns is still one of the best general resources for space guns, online or off. I constantly consult it whenever I encounter not only unknown toys, but also ones in my collection for which I need more information. It's also a lot of fun, with many nooks and crannies to poke through and lots of delightful history to uncover. And even today, years after my own collection has grown to a size that most people would probably call excessive, I still experience those a ha! moments whenever I visit.