As the name suggests, a “spud gun” used potatoes as ammunition.
To operate the gun, one punctured the surface of a potato with the gun’s hollow tip and pried out a small pellet that fit in the muzzle.
Squeezing the grip caused a small build-up of air pressure inside the toy, which propelled the projectile.
The devices were usually short-range and low-powered, though the stinging red marks which the compressed-air trigger mechanism could inflict at point-blank range will be long-remembered by anyone who wore short trousers at the time.
The first spud gun was invented during the Great Depression and the original inventor sold his patent to E. Joseph Cossman for US$600 after World War II.
Cossman subsequently sold two million spud guns in six months as a result of an advertising campaign.
The best spud guns also fired caps and functioned as water pistols.
Parents protested, teachers protested, but its appeal was too great.
The “Spudmatic” (pictured) was manufactured by the Lone Star toy company at its Hatfield factory in the early 1970s.