Thursday, July 16, 2009

Pyrotomic Disintegrator (Pyro Plastics / 1952 / U.S. / 5.5 x 9.5 inches)

Inevitably, certain toys achieve a mythical status among collectors. They might not be the absolute rarest or coolest toys, but something about them captures our imagination, turning them into hot-ticket, must-own, (disturbingly) fantasized-about, hoped-for additions to everyone's collection. In certain cases, though, these dream-toys are in fact depressingly rare and utterly, completely, unapologetically cool. As such is the case with today's ray gun, I find it perfectly appropriate to add some shamelessly overwrought grandeur to this post via the following introduction: Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, Martians and Plutonians, I give to you the one, the only... Pyrotomic Disintegrator.

For many people, myself included, this is the very ideal of a vintage space gun. It's got rings. It's got vents. It's got a sweeping design that conveys the poetry of space flight. It's even got its name spelled out in a cool, 1950s font that's underlined by lightning bolts. That's right, lightning bolts! And did I mention it's called the Pyrotomic Disintegrator? If anyone tries to say that's not the best name for a ray gun ever, that person's looking for a fight.

Like so many of these guns, the toy's action is a bit simpler than its design. Pulling the trigger causes the barrel, top vents, and "ram rod" to reciprocate while the gun makes a nice clacking noise. 

Pyro was a leader in plastics manufacturing during the 1950s, and the company's founder invented a number of techniques that helped innovate the industry. They had top-notch designers, and the company churned out numerous space toys, including another, smaller ray gun, and various flying and rolling space vehicles. Pyro used a lot of metallic plastics, giving their toys an appropriately spacey look that sets them apart from their peers even today.

So why's the Pyrotomic Disintegrator -- or, as it's known among collectors, "the Pyro" -- so rare? Probably because it's so delicate. The toy's made of an early, thin, brittle plastic that pretty much explodes when dropped. In the rough-and-tumble world of 1950s childhood, a day without accidents was a day without fun; I'm sure these toys had a life span of about 48 hours. Consequently, few exist today, and those that do are often damaged in some way or another. Nonetheless, when a toy's this rare, collectors can't always be choosers and many people would gladly take a slightly battle-worn Pyro as a placeholder until a better example comes along.

I saw my first Pyro in the pages of Gene Metcalf's Ray Gun. It was the candy-colored variation, and it was love at first sight. I next stumbled upon the gun when I discovered the web site of artist, collector, and toy maker Mark Nagata ( I met my great friend (and stellar dealer) Justin Pinchot when he posted a picture of his Pyro on the web forum Alphadrome ( His was also the first I ever saw in person. But try as I might, I just couldn't find one to call my own.

Until, of course, a copper-colored Pyro popped up on eBay. (Yes, most of my toys came from eBay.) I didn't even see it until a collector by the name of Donald Conner called me to say that it was up for grabs if I was interested. If I was interested... Of course I was interested! So interested, in fact, that I emailed the seller and offered him a pile of cash to end the auction early. I know, I know... It's not the best form. But I wanted the toy so badly that I couldn't bear the thought of having to sit through seven days of auction countdown and then a possible bidding war. Since no one had placed a bid yet, I figured my toy karma wasn't going to get too messed up. 

Twenty minutes later the seller emailed me back to say that he accepted my offer and had pulled the listing. After sending him the money with Pay Pal, I did what any self-respecting adult would do in a similar situation: I danced around the room, hooting and hollering and generally scaring whoever was living in the apartment below me. Never mind that it was about two in the morning -- I had a Pyrotomic Disintegrator!

Now, you'll notice I've got two. It was about a year or two later that my friend Justin called me with the news that he'd just gotten the candy colored Pyro... and that it was for sale! I think I told him I'd take it before he even finished asking if I wanted it. He actually ended up holding it for me while I saved up the cash to pay for it. I never like committing funds before they're in my bank account, but in the wild, crazy days of my youth, I didn't even hesitate.

Since getting the toys, my collection's grown by leaps and bounds. Other toys have driven me to abandon, new obsessions have presented their own challenges. But still... even after having the Pyrotomic Disintegrators on my shelf for all this time, they haven't lost their magic. And they still make me want to dance around the room like a maniac. 


  1. Again, I'll just ask, why isn't anyone remaking these guns! The plastic in most toys today is damn near indestructible (within reason) and think of all the colors and detail that could be applied!

  2. offers a print of the patent drawings for this toy.

  3. True. It can also be looked up via the U.S. Patent Office web site and then printed for free. No matter how you handle it, it makes for a snappy piece of artwork.

  4. That drawing is here:

    along with a matching rifle here:

  5. Radioactive Giant RobotsAugust 25, 2009 at 10:14 AM

    Thanks Jake!
    Great docs.

  6. Hey Doc! I have just completed the first prototype of my own all metal raygun!
    Now that I have seen the pyrotomic disintegrator, I might have to make one for myself in aluminum!

  7. Well, that's something I'd love to see! If you ever complete it, feel free to send me a pic or two.


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