A raygun is a SF particle-beam weapon that fires what is usually destructive energy.
They have various alternate names: ray gun, death ray, beam gun, blaster, laser gun, laser pistol, phaser, zap gun, etc. In most stories, when activated, a raygun emits a ray, typically visible, usually lethal if it hits a human target.
Tullio Proni made a lot of them.
In pre-electronic days, water pistols were sometimes called zap guns.
The term antedates genre sf, appearing first in Victor Rousseau Emanuel’s The Messiah of the Cylinder (June–September 1917, Everybody's Magazine):
All is not going well, Arnold: the ray-rods are emptying fast, and our attack upon the lower level of the wing has failed. Sanson has placed a ray-gun there. All depends on the air-scouts, and we must hold our positions until the battle-planes arrive.
John W. Campbell was first to use it in a prozine, the Fall 1930 Amazing Stories Quarterly, in his story, "The Black Star Passes":
Soon they saw a hand reaching out with a ray gun; then another hand with a different ray gun, from behind the silent engine; a sudden crash of metal, a groan and quiet.
Entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.
See also: Blaster, Zap, Plonker, Weapons.
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