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Modders turn the NES’ lightgun into a real laser weapon

Zapper laser

If there was ever one fatal flaw with the Zapper lightgun peripheral that Nintendo created for its first foray into the home console market, it’s that the thing couldn’t actually zap anything that wasn’t generated on your television screen. Erratically flying ducks and those oddly blocky goons from Hogan’s Alley offered little challenge for the “gun,” but what about home intruders? Or local wildlife? Or your annoying little brother?

Now, thanks to the efforts of the designers at Virginia’s North Street Labs, the Zapper is equally at home playing Duck Hunt or attempting to flash-fry actual, living ducks. The group popped open one of the iconic lightguns and noticing that it’s mostly empty space, decided to insert what they describe as a “ridiculously powerful laser.” Interestingly, the project (which is detailed in full on the North Street Labs blog), was easier than imagined. The Zapper’s stock electrical switch was built to withstand far more power than the gun would ever actually need during standard gaming, and despite the addition of a 445nm laser diode capable of firing a 2+ watt beam (for reference, the blog claims that this is roughly “400 times more powerful than a regular laser pointer”) the gun functioned almost exactly as intended with a minimum of major hardware alterations.

The result is a “laser gun” that functions exactly as your childhood of watching sci-fi cartoons would dictate. Pull the trigger and you generate a short-lived, yet powerful laser beam. Hold the trigger and the beam will continue to fire in one continuous stream until either you release your grip or the device runs out of power. Helpfully, the final version of the mod includes an on-board battery pack, so unlike the Zapper of old, this more dangerous version is completely portable.

Once complete, the team at North Street Labs decided to test out the Zapper and it performed even better than they’d expected. “After initial testing, this thing is absolutely terrifying,” the blog states. “I discovered that my laser meter tops out at 2W… which this Zapper rapidly passes. The meter quickly shoots to 1800+ , then just says “1” when topped out. This means the Zapper is AT LEAST 2W OUTPUT. I wear my laser goggles at all times when handling this thing and only turn the key right before use.”

If you’d like to watch the finished Zapper in action, its creators have uploaded a video of the hack to YouTube, which you can find embedded below. Alternately, if you’re interested in making your own, the picture-rich walkthrough on the North Street Labs blog should help make that possible. But please, before you embark on this, or any other potentially dangerous project, make sure that you follow strict safety guidelines. The blog reminds us repeatedly to wear eye protection and to never point the Zapper at any living thing, and after watching a familiar gaming peripheral instantly ignite bits of wood and carve away chunks of metal that seems like pretty solid advice.

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