Terminator & Lasers

The Terminator film is one of the best science fiction movies ever. It’s a thriller, or maybe a horror with elements of action. Imagine a killer robot programmed to pursue and kill you. It can’t be reasoned with any more than your toaster can be reasoned with. It comes at you, and the next thing you know, there is a laser on your chest, and some guy dressed like a homeless person is carrying an Ithaca 37 and telling you to run. 

Terminator isn’t a gun film per se, but it did have some pretty cool guns for a 1980s film. One of the famed scenes is our Terminator heading to Alamo Gun Shop to arm up for his pursuit against Sarah Connor. When he’s turned down for a plasma rifle in 40 watt range he settle for Earth’s standard lead throwers. This includes an AR-180, a SPAS-12, an Uzi, and the famed AMT Hardballer Long Slide with the massive laser riding above the slide. 

Lasers on guns might seem normal now, but in 1984, no one had really seen something like that. It seems ingenious to use the sight for aiming: just put the laser where you want to shoot, and a bullet will appear. You never have to worry about sight picture or focus; just point and shoot. While I have no definite way to prove it, I bet Terminator would help sell more lasers for guns than any other influence. 

Keep in mind that in 1984, the laser attached to the Terminator’s AMT was a one-off design. It didn’t exist on the market. People likely wanted something they couldn’t really get until years later. Where did the laser come from? Well, that’s a bit of an interesting story. 

A Terminator & A Laser 

Lasers on handguns were new in 1984 and very rare. Only one existed, and they didn’t mount it to a 1911. Laser Products Corporation was the first company to produce a weapon-mounted aiming solution. The original device, the LPC Model 7, was designed to be mounted on a Colt Trooper. It replaced the front and rear sight and sat along the top of the gun. 

The LPC Model 7 featured a set of iron sights across the top as well. This system required a massive battery that fit the grip of the Colt Trooper and extended the grip a fair bit. These were big devices with tape switch that activated the laser when the weapon was gripped. The LPC Model 7 was a helium-neon laser and was ruggedized for recoil.

This all comes into play because Laser Products Corporation began making other systems. This includes laser sights for the shotguns that were carried by the police standing guard at the 1984 Olympics. (These same shotgun laser devices would be shown in the Arnold movie Commando as well.) A movie propmaster saw the lasers, and something clicked. He reached out to Laser Products Corporation. 

The Terminator Gets His Laser 

A mount and laser for a semi-auto handgun didn’t exist at this time period. Laser Products Corporation agreed to build a laser for the AMT Hardballer. Ed Reynolds, the cofounder of Laser Products Corporation, got to work. According to Ed: 

“A company called Hemdale [Film Corporation] came along and said, ‘We’ll give you the gun, and you put the laser on it,'” Reynolds recalls. “They provided the AMT HARDBALLER .45 LONG SLIDE. Our Colt Trooper .357 had the same laser configuration, so I took one of those and created a housing for it. I took a standard, off-the-shelf gun mount for a scope, modified that, and we had a product. The only thing I got out of it was the advertising, a hat, a t-shirt, and a sweatshirt.”

Ed’s custom gun didn’t have room for a battery pack. Instead, the battery and laser connected via a wire. They hid the wire in the Terminator’s jacket throughout the film. They built a second non-working model without a wire and without a battery. Ed attached the laser to the gun via a scope mount, and the system utilized a button the Terminator had to activate with his left hand. 

It took 10,000 volts to fire up the laser and get it running for the film. All of the scenes in the movie with the laser being used are the actual laser. There were no special effects. It was the actual laser on screen. 

Future of Laser Products Corporation 

That little company, Laser Products Corporation, well, they became a little company you might have heard of. Laser Products calls themselves SureFire these days. SureFire still makes lasers, but their focus is mostly on lights, with a healthy obsession for suppressors and muzzle devices as well. They’ve come a long way from Terminator, and that Terminator likely helped sell a lot of lasers. 

Travis Pike
Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record setting 11 months at sea. He’s trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines and the Afghan National Army. He serves as an NRA certified pistol instructor and teaches concealed carry classes.