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sixty years before the making of the TASER (Thomas A. Swift’s Electric Rifle) gun…


Tom Swift finishes inventing something major in this book, the Electric Rifle.  Introduced in a previous episode, (The Caves of Ice) the device is now more-or-less complete. It still needs some work, as the stun/kill/disintegrate adjustment is too indiscriminate. Also, due to the extreme destructive power at the terminal distance, safety issues regarding accidental discharge or mis-adjustment need to be addressed.

The rifle resembles an oversized (but lightweight) heavy-game firearm in appearance, except for “dials, levers, gears and wheels” on the shoulder stock. It throws a (plasma?) “bullet” that can be adjusted to “discharge” at a given range with a force varying from “stun” to “disintegrate.” The WSoD part (Willing Suspension of Disbelief) of this invention, is the ability of this charge to travel thru walls and intervening barriers without loss of energy, “find” a target that cannot be seen and selectively dump its’ energy on that target only. A lion, carrying off a tribesman is killed in its tracks, while the injured native (clamped in the lion’s jaws) is unharmed. The rifle is charged by a small dynamo and contains a storage device for this charge in a cylinder contained in the butt-stock. This is presumed to be a capacitor or battery, although no details are given. No “magazine capacity” is quoted, but Tom never seems to have to reload. Also, there is no annoying recoil, noise or smoke produced when it is fired.

The secret of the Electric Rifle seems to have been lost to modern man. The idea of a variable strength, select-range weapon that is “safe” until it reaches the intended target, is still beyond the technology of 2005. Self-seeking missiles and timed ranging small-arms projectiles are reality, today, but not in the clean, simple and environmentally friendly package that Tom has invented. Have no fear, though. We will some day develop this weapon. A glimpse into the Hollywood time machine confirms this.


“Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle” 1911 by Victor Appleton


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