Look sharp, all you Rambos and Ripleys. That leaky plastic water pistol from summers past has grown up to become one of this year’s hottest new toys: a fully automatic, battery-operated squirt machine gun that blows the old single-action pump model out of the picture. Water warriors everywhere are scrambling to get their hands on one, and even committed pacifists find themselves unable to resist taking aim at objects up to 30 feet away.
Inventor Alan Amron, 37, estimates that he has earned $250,000 in royalties on $9 million in sales since the gun went on the mass market a year ago. David Ring, president of the Philadelphia-based Larami Corp., which manufactures the $7 to $15 guns under license from Amron’s Talk To Me Programs Inc., says he has two factories in Hong Kong working triple shifts to keep up with the demand. The toy’s success has led a number of competitors to attempt knockoffs, but Amron insists he has the sole patent on the gun and has vowed to sue anyone who infringes.
Amron’s guns look like scaled-down replicas of the Israeli Uzi submachine gun, which is used by U.S. Secret Service agents, among others. The Amron gun’s special appeal, in addition to its range, is the battery-operated motor inside, which pumps 250 rapid-fire squirts per minute. No down time for reloading here, and the action comes complete with a satisfying rat-a-tat-tat. In fact, the plastic guns look so convincing at first glance that Amron hasde-cided to change later models from black to bright yellow to avoid potentially dangerous misunderstandings.
Amron’s first successful invention (in 1972) was an electronic temperature monitor used by the Red Cross and hospital labs to help keep storage units for blood and donor organs at a safe temperature. Supermarkets use it to protect packaged meat and ice cream. A less successful venture was Bicoastal Air Service, an attempt in 1983 to create a “condominium airline” that would sell permanent seats on planes flying from New York to Los Angeles for wealthy corporate and celebrity clients. Amron lives in Oyster Bay Cove, Long Island with his wife, Eileen, and children Scotty, 6, and 18-month-old Joanna. He admits to ambivalent feelings about letting his own children play with a toy modeled on a weapon. “Because of the war in Vietnam, nobody was buying toy guns. Now, Rambo and Bambo, and suddenly it’s okay,” he says. “I don’t like guns either. But I’ve never known anything that could make money this fast.”