The Atomic-Jet has a lot of stylistic zing, making it a popular ray gun today. But it's definitely one of the less common Dan Dare toys, probably due in part to the delicate plastic construction. A little rough play and Britain's space cadets would be left with inoperable firearms. Not a good position to be in when the Mekon's hoards attack. (The Mekon, for the uninitiated, was Dan Dare's fiercest enemy.)
That is one thin freakin' ray gun!
As far as I know, the Dan Dare Atomic-Jet has no variations. But then again, I'm constantly being surprised by this hobby, so who can say? Rare in any condition, when it does pop up it often has some cracks, or a broken trigger, or a missing plastic tip. It's almost always missing the black plastic cap on the back of the water tank. In fact, mine is a reproduction that I made out of Super Sculpey. Not half-bad, if I do say so myself! (I did find a company online that makes small, plastic caps that look like they might be a closer match to the original piece. I've ordered a few different sizes, if they work out well I'll update this post.)
Now, while the toy might not have variations, it does have some relatives. The gun is clearly based on an American toy from the 1940's: Hiller's aluminum Atom Ray water pistol.
It's also related to an earlier British gun, also called the Atomic-Jet, which was made out of metal by a company called Crescent (and which was itself based on the Hiller).
All three toys share the same handle, large water tank, and general shape. However, the Crescent version of the Atomic-Jet is a bit more elegant, with a barrel that's been moved up so that it can extend directly from the tank. In one final bit of weirdness, the box for the Dan Dare Atomic-Jet Gun depicts the titular hero holding the Crescent Atomic-Jet Gun. Like I said, weird.
While many collectors favor the original Hiller version of the gun -- and hey, what's not to love? -- the Dan Dare Atomic-Jet is probably the rarest of the three. It just wasn't as durable as the other two toys, whose metal construction helped them survive many an imaginary battle. Personally, I can't say which I like the best. The two metal guns have greater design cohesion, but there's just something compelling about the brightly colored plastic. To me, it screams "mid-century."
Heck, I'll gladly take all three!
This is a gun I've wanted for a loooong time -- it was really a thrill when I finally snagged it. So c'mon, Mekon -- I double Dan Dare you to make your move!