[ Retro Scan of the Week ] The Gray Zapper

October 19th, 2015 by Benj Edwards

Nintendo NES Zapper Light Gun Scan - Zapper ca.1985Released because Americans like guns

The Nintendo Entertainment System turned 30 years old in the US yesterday — well, according to Nintendo, anyway. That date is still a little fuzzy, in my opinion. Still, it’s close enough.

When the NES turned 25 (exactly five years ago today — creepy!), I wrote a few features about this classic system like NES Oddities for Technologizer and a NES workbench teardown for PCWorld.

This year, I have done nothing to celebrate except scan this NES Zapper. It’s a beaut.

Just a few days ago, the designer of the NES hardware revealed that the NES shipped with the Zapper because “Americans in general are interested in gun.” Indeed they are!

In 1989, Nintendo changed the dark grey parts of the Zapper to “blaze orange” to meet new US Federal regulations about toy guns. That regulation involved required orange plugs or paint at the tips of the barrels of realistic or imitation toy guns.

The regulation passed because people were robbing banks with toy guns, and the orange plug was supposed to let cops know the difference between a deadly weapon and a hunk of plastic. (Turns out the plug requirement doesn’t work as planned. But it did ruin the toy gun industry.)

The Zapper isn’t exactly a realistic toy gun, but acting with its usual overabundance of caution, Nintendo went way beyond a barrel plug. Either way, I am proud to say that, to this date, no one has ever been shot and killed by a NES Zapper.

P.S. In January, I scanned a line drawing of the Zapper from the NES manual. You may enjoy that as well.

[ From Video Games & Computer Entertainment, January 1991, p.50-51]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Do you think someone could rob a bank with a NES Zapper? What about in the 1980s?

See Also:
NES Zapper Diagram (Retro Scan, 2015)
Model No. NES-001 (Retro Scan, 2010)
NES Oddities
Inside the Nintendo Entertainment System

5 Responses to “[ Retro Scan of the Week ] The Gray Zapper”

  1. Rob T Firefly Says:

    The only way you could rob a bank with the NES Zapper would be if you found a bank staffed entirely by 8-bit ducks.

  2. Moondog Says:

    Rob a bank? Not likely. It doesn’t resemble any firearm that was available during the 1980’s.

  3. Jistuce Says:

    Given people have robbed banks with a finger in their pocket? Yeah, a Zapper would’ve worked nicely.
    I reckon Nintendo’s, umm, wildly orange Zapper had less to do with an overabundance of caution and more to do with injecting orange plastic into the entire dark-gray mold being the cheapest way to comply with the new regulations. Pity the grip was on the same mold as the barrel.

    As far as that “americans love guns” line that’s been making the rounds goes… I’d just like to point out the light gun was a thing in Japan too, where it actually LOOKED like a gun instead of something from the set of Buck Rogers.

  4. technotreegrass Says:

    Could have sworn there was a movie from the 80s (or possibly early 90s) where an alien villain manipulated a NES Zapper with his powers and killed someone with it by pulling the trigger. It was a short scene and wasn’t the focus of the movie. I forget what colors the Zapper had, only that it bothered the heck out of me since I was a little kid at the time and I LOVED playing Duck Hunt and Wild Gunman.

  5. Alexander Says:

    You can rob a bank with a piece of paper. Doesn’t mean you’ll get far. Most American banks have a policy to just hand over the money.

    Plus, the gray Zapper only KINDA looks like the classic Whitney Wolverine.

    From what I understand, the revolver-style Japanese Zapper is worth a pretty penny in the US.

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