When I was growing up I had a number of different types of toy guns. I had a wooden pop gun, which fired a lump of cork attached to the gun with a string, and made a great popping noise in the process.
I also had a plastic machine gun that made a rat-a-tat-a-tat type sound when you pulled the trigger, and I had a couple of brilliant cowboy style pistols (I guess mine was the last generation of kids to regularly play Cowboys and Indians!) which you could load up with those pink strips of paper caps, so the gun made a loud bang whenever you pressed the trigger.
The toy gun that I always wanted to have though was a Spud Gun, but my parents would never let me have one, saying it was too dangerous. “How could firing a small lump of potato be dangerous?“, I thought at the time, but now that I’m a parent myself I can see where they were coming from.
Armed with your Spud Gun and a potato you could have hours of fun shooting at targets like tin cans on fences, as the average potato could yield a ton of ammo. You just poked the end of the gun into the potato to cut out a little round slug of spud, which then shot out at great speed when the trigger was pressed. I believe they just worked through air pressure, but you could apparently get quite a good range out of them.
So were they really dangerous?
Well, the much loved phrase of parent “you could have somebodies eye out with that” probably holds true if wielded irresponsibly, but I think they toy variety are generally pretty safe. The same can’t be said for the other class of device that is also monikered with the same name, which I had no idea about until I came across the Wikipedia page on Spud Guns. The images I found there showed a breed of Spud Gun that had more in common with a rocket launcher or bazooka than a child’s plastic toy.
This also led me to another page talking about the legality of Spud Guns in different parts of the world. I kind of assume this is referring to the larger of the brethren, but in the US it depends on which State you are in as to the legality (for example they are completely illegal in Florida, whereas in New York it is legal to own one if you are over 16. In the UK you might be required to have a firearms licence for your Spud Gun if it can shoot with more the 4 Joules of energy, whilst in Poland they are considered fire arms and manufacturing them is a criminal offence. Interesting stuff!