Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Rayline Zebra II Soft and Safe Pellet firing Pistol

Another cherished childhood memory ... and a regular sidearm in my untold number of games of "guns" when I was in my single digit years ... was the Rayline Zebra II soft pellet pistol.  This toy was based off of the (then) radical 1950's era .22 caliber Whitney Wolverine (but I never knew that at the time, I thought that the Zebra II was something that some secret agents somewhere carried).  

Interestingly enough, the Whitney Wolverine also was the inspiration for another toy gun I acquired on Ebay ... "The Wizard" from "The Untouchables" staring Robert Stack (of course "The Wizard" had nothing to do with the TV show other than borrowing the name to make money commercially.  ("The Wizard" was reviewed months ago in my blog and was an interesting dual purpose toy that fired both darts as well as acted like a water gun.)

But I digress ... 

The sleek lines of the Zebra II made it perfect as a laser pistol or raygun from that time in the late 1950's / early 1960's.  The Zebra II fired soft, yellow pea-sized vinyl balls at a muzzle velocity that might bruise a butterfly (if the vinyl ball had a good tailwind and if you got lucky) but to a 5 year old it was utterly bad ass.  Like the Rayline Tracer Guns, this toy used ammunition that was available both with the gun when it was first purchased and separately as well.  Unlike the Rayline Tracer Guns, firing the Zebra II outside invariably ran through ammunition quickly since the pea-sized vinyl balls were easily lost in the grass of someone's yard or the dirt of a vacant lot.

I don't know how many packs of SS (Soft - Safe) ammo that my parents bought for me but I seem to remember there being a box of the ammo in the shopping cart every time we went to Roses' or Kmart or Zaire's.  This box of 250 pellets came in five layers of 50 pellets each ... and you had to twist and / or pull each of the pellets off from their "sprue" before you could use them.  

Loading the Zebra II was through a sliding port in the top of the pistol and it fed through simple gravity.  A spring / rubber band type trigger assembly fired one pellet per pull of the trigger but IIRC, turning the Zebra II a certain way would allow a pellet to work its way from the hold to the launch ramp and fall out the barrel of the pistol.  This was detrimental to you being an effective fighting force in the game of "guns" when you went to shoot someone with your Zebra II, pulled the trigger and the gun simply made a clicking sound ... because the pellet had already fallen out somewhere behind you and had been lost in the dirt or grass.

Rayline also made a rather smurfy pump action shotgun that they called the "Jr. Sportsman "240" Automatic Rifle" (see image on the ammo box above) except that it wasn't an automatic rifle at all ... no, it was a pump shotgun much like the ones used by police officers on popular TV shows of the time (and if you didn't grow up in the 1970's, believe me, there were a lot of cop action / crime drama shows on TV back then).  The Rayline pump shotgun loaded from the top as well and could hold far more pellets than the much smaller Zebra II.  IIRC, it also had the problem of pellets falling out of the weapon at the wrong moment, especially if you ran with the weapon and jostled it around a lot like jumping over fences or hedges.  The best thing about the Rayline pump action shotgun wasn't that it carried more ammo than the Zebra II or that it had longer range but rather the sound that it made; a nice resounding "phunt" that shot a pea-sized yellow pellet towards your target, more or less (generally less of more and more of less).  

Accuracy wasn't a high point of the Rayline pump but man it sure was fun.  On rainy days, I'd line up green army men and have target practice.  On days with good weather, my friends and I would play "SWAT", reenacting our favorite scenes from the popular TV police action drama series of the time.  We all owned several plastic M16s (in sky blue and military green colors) and of course I had my Rayline pump action shotgun.  The neighborhood was never a dull place when imaginations were matched only by the amount of play guns that we could lay our 5 year old hands on.

Toys were definitely more cool when I grew up ... and Rayline provided so many good times that decades later the many good memories of my youth often revolve around some toy produced by this iconic purveyor of processed plastic.

The Zebra II came in two colors that I remember; a blue and a kind of tan / gold.  As for this particular toy pistol, I just picked this example up off of Ebay for the princely sum of about $15 including shipping and fondling.  It doesn't work, and while the trigger moves forward and back it fails to "click" so I know that this particular toy will never shoot again.

It is my goal to turn this into a ray gun for the Strategic Space Command / Leif Ericson universe that I've been penciling out.  A little bit of modeling and kitbashing and this will become one of the standard sidearms of the humans.  It's compact enough to fit nicely into a role somewhere between the classic Star Trek Phaser I and Phaser II type weapons.  The size makes it discrete, the shape makes it easier to aim and fire than the TV remote shaped Phaser I type weapons.