Mankind has battled flies using swatters, flypaper, insecticides, rolled-up newspapers and—a technique perfected by Muhammad Ali in his fleeter days—snatching them out of the air in midflight. It is, so far, no contest. The flies have it, forcing us into screened enclaves in which their infiltrators bedevil us by strutting about on fragile surfaces.
But now comes some heavier artillery. Martin Belokin, 26, of Hayward, Wis., has invented a spring-loaded pistol he calls a Flyshooter that fires a three-inch plastic disk attached to a 36-inch string, making it possible to zap unsuspecting bugs from long range. (For safety, the gun does not accept darts, paper clips or other alien objects.) Martin contends his gun is no messier than its more primitive counterparts: The disk can be washed with soap and water. The gadget’s spring power makes shooting flies in hard-to-reach places fast and deadly.
Already 3.5 million Americans are armed with Belokin’s bug guns, which retail for $2.95. Belokin has collected $120,000 in royalties since 1978, when the Flyshooter was introduced, and figures he’ll sell as many as two million this year. Hoping eventually to bank a million from his first invention, he has patents pending in Canada, West Germany, England and Japan.
His father, Paul, 53, has made multimillions devising light but sturdy display stands for such clients as Pepsi-Cola, Kraft Inc. and Schenley. Martin’s mom, Eleanor, 51, is his bookkeeper. Father and son still work together in a studio on the family’s 300-acre Hayward estate, where Martin has apprenticed since high school. “I told Martin I could send him to any college in the world,” says Paul. “Or, I said, he could study under me.”
The Belokin team is now designing a collapsible aluminum can. Easy to recycle, it also uses less aluminum, offering the beverage industry a potential $350 million-a-year saving, Paul estimates.
Martin is equally sanguine about his Flyshooter. “This,” he says, with more enthusiasm than logic, “could be another Hula Hoop.”