Welp. I guess I’m “old as shit.” Cap guns weren’t even really an 1980’s toy, as far as I remember. They’re something that I mostly associate with the tail end of the 1970’s. Oh, we definitely played with toy guns in the 80’s — every kid had a rifle to grab in case a game of “army” broke out. But we didn’t bother with caps by that age. (And Wikipedia tells me that the toy’s popularity declined along with the popularity of cowboy TV shows in the 1970’s.)
There also seems to be some confusion out there about whether cap guns are legal. They’re fine — just so long as they’re manufactured with an orange ring at the end of the barrel, so that authorities can tell that it isn’t a real gun. (That law was passed in 1988, and it seems like a good idea.)
Cap guns aggravated the hell out of adults. (The only more pernicious gift for a child was a musical instrument.) For you millennials who are unfamiliar with the toys, there’s a breakdown of how they work at this theatrical weapons site. (But it does make the toys sound a hell of a lot more dangerous than I remember them. Yikes.) The caps contain an explosive mixture called “fulminate;” we kids thought it was actually gunpowder. (And we wondered whether it was possible to make a cannon if you carefully dissected and emptied a million caps. None of us ever got around to so time-consuming a project, despite its allure.)
My older brother had a replica antique cap pistol; I thought that was pretty neat. I’m pretty sure it is the one at bottom right in this picture.
It looks like the kind of thing that you could only buy at a Disneyland or Disneyworld gift shop? Come to think of it … there were a few items in our house growing up that inexplicably were Disney theme park stuff. (That’s where that totally awesome Randotti Skull came from.) I’m starting to think maybe my parents took my siblings to Disneyworld without me. Maybe it was that one week they sent me upstate to my aunt’s house.
Photo credit: By Hmaag – Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=76166977