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When I was a kid, I had what I guess you’d call a good childhood. Two parents that loved me. Good school. Three squares a day. The usual. A big part of growing up revolved around my toy chest, which was filled with guns. Toy guns. Back then, that was not unusual. I had six-shooters and a lever-action carbine (in my “Cowboys & Indians Native Americans” phase), a nifty .38 snub-nosed revolver (my “hard-boiled detective” phase), a bazooka that shot a column of air across the room and a Matel M-16 Marauder (in my “Army” phase). I also had a collection of G.I. Joe action figures that was the envy of the neighborhood. (And, quite possibly, the root of my life-long fascination with Jeeps.) The crown jewel of my firearm collection: a Matel-made Remington cowboy belt buckle that featured a cap gun derringer in what looked like bas relief.

It was a trick gun, If you were disarmed by some desperados, you had but to face them and push out on your belt buckle with your stomach muscles. The derringer would swing out and fire a cap/plastic bullet, taking the bad guys by complete surprise (unless, of course, they watched TV and saw the same commercials I did).

Believe it or not, you can still find some of these relics on eBay. I don’t remember the original MSRP, but I’d bet you’d pay more—a LOT more—for this treasure today. Of course, the distance between reality and As Seen On TV was as wide as the Grand Canyon, and twice as deep.

First of all, let’s consider idea of firing a gun based on pushing out your stomach. One good burp, and you’ve got an accidental discharge on your hands. Ur . .. um , , , belt. Of course this brings a whole ‘nuther dimension to “point and shoot.”

Derringers aren’t much good from more than a couple of feet away. This toy was no exception. It actually fired small plastic projectiles—one at a time. Despite the commercial (which made it appear to be a semi-automatic derringer),reloading the bloody thing took as much time as it would to prime, load and shoot a muzzle-loader. Sheesh.

The best/worst part: you’d spend most of your time, crawling around in the St. Augustine, looking for the plastic bullets after firing.

Now I don’t know if you can attribute this to my youth/lack of responsibility, my eventual lack of enthusiasm for a toy that was a wee bit oversold in their TV spots, or a combination of both. But I remember that it somehow ended up left to rust in our yard. A few days later, my mom ran it over with the lawn mower. (Newsflash: a pot metal toy is no match for Sears & Roebuck’s finest example in the art of gasoline-powered lawn maintenance.)

As I recalled, I cried—a lot—over my fatally wounded toy. My mom, being a practical sort, had little sympathy, pointing out that I’d left it to rust in the yard, and therefore couldn’t have really cared that much for it.

But all that nostalgia doesn’t account for the fact that I had a typical 60’s childhood, filled with war games, Wild West shootouts, and the like. And I’m none the worse for it. You see, in this post-Spock (Phd, not Vulcan) age in which we live, the “experts” would have you believe that exposing our kids to guns desensitizes them to violence and harms their fragile psyches.


These are the same bozos that tell us it’s best to give everyone a ribbon on Field Day, and that every sports team in the Little League must get a trophy, even if they go Oh-for-Ten on the season.

I, for one, believe that getting your knees skinned up, surviving a black eye (or two) and acting out war games with cap guns is not only a healthy way to grow up, it prepares us for life. Without that kind of playing, we are woefully unprepared for real life, where the bad guys shoot guns with real bullets, and we are left to act as “sheeple,” standing around, wondering what all the fuss is about, until it’s too late to run.

I think we’re much better off allowing our kids to play with toy guns than simply let them be subjected to on-screen violence. “Active playing”—and yes I include hyper-violent video games—gives children a better grip on “reality” than simply watching people shoot each other.

Life in plastic. It’s fantastic.

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