"Every boy will walk tall, when he wears a holster and pistol . . ." | Bleader

"Every boy will walk tall, when he wears a holster and pistol . . ."



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It’s been just over 23 years since section four of the Federal Energy Management Improvement Act of 1988 went into effect, forcing manufacturers of toy guns to implement both a solid “blaze orange” muzzle to the end of the gun’s barrel as well as a “marking permanently affixed to the exterior surface of the barrel.” While New York City had already instituted a ban in 1955 on the sale, use, and possession of toy and imitation guns that resembled firearms, the iron fist of federal law forced the rest of the country to follow suit in the late 80s, and toys like the NES Zapper morphed from its original dark-gray model to a bright-orange monstrosity—of course, the Zapper still killed video-game ducks, but it was in a strange, different kind of way.

However, once the federal law was passed, it became easy to paint over the orange markings. Airsoft and paintball guns, for instance, are required to have orange barrels or markings when sold, but they're often painted by their owners to hide any bright markings that can be spotted during play. From a slight distance, an airsoft gun probably won't look much different than a deadly, real-bullet-shooting firearm.

Unsurprisingly, imitation and toy guns are still being used in robberies and are still causing controversy in schools. Just recently an eighth grader in Texas believed to be holding a real gun was shot and killed by police. And in 2010, a small media frenzy swarmed upon a fourth grader who was reprimanded for bringing a two-inch-long Lego gun to school.

Considering there are still ongoing issues with toy guns some two decades later, it's wild to revisit classic, pre-1988 toy-gun commercials. Companies like Mattel wanted guns to look as realistic as possible—in fact they reveled in it. Eight-year-olds toting fake firearms were advertised as badasses, and a commercial's micro-plot would often revolve around fending off bad guys with cap-loaded pistols. Detective kits were being hawked, complete with tommy guns (automatic bolt action!), snub-nosed revolvers, and snap-draw shoulder holsters.

Into the 80s, the objective stayed the same but just grew louder and more intense. Water guns mimicking AK-47s were being pushed based on their realistic firing sounds, and laser tag stepped into the realm of social relevance, inexplicably climbing in popularity.

Below are a handful of videos of classic toy-gun commercials I plucked from the Internet:

The kid's smile during the tommy-gun description is almost maniacal. His outfit is pretty snazzy, though, I guess.

"It's seven guns in one, let's count them."

The early shot of the kid loading bullets in the gun is straight chilling and a little too real.

"Surprise, out comes your secret derringer . . . Multi-Pistol 09! Multi-Pistol 09! Multi-Pistol 09!"

The 80s were so big and loud. Get a look at the rocket water launcher about 20 seconds in. That thing is just unnecessary.

"Be the ultimate laser warrior."