The NES Zapper is, without question, one of the most recognizable video game peripherals in the history of the medium. Both the original grey model and the later orange version stand as iconic examples of hardware design, due mainly to the fact that the Zapper was packed-in with many of the Nintendo Entertainment System’s most popular hardware sets, including the famous Action Set. The Zapper was also initially included at launch as a part of the the Deluxe Set, and was later also available as a stand-alone purchase.
Known in Japan as the Beam Gun, Nintendo’s light gun peripheral made its debut a year earlier when it was released in conjunction with the Nintendo developed Famicom game WIld Gunman. Rather then the futuristic laser-gun design of the Zapper, the Beam Gun was created to resemble an old fashioned wild west revolver.
The Beam Gun was available in a set that included a copy of Wild Gunman, as well as a variation without the game.
The differences between the Zapper and the Beam Gun are purely cosmetic, as they both use the same technology internally. However, squeezing the trigger on the Beam Gun causes the cockable hammer to release which offers a highly satisfying ‘crack’ sound on top of what in North American is a distinct ‘cling’ sound.
Unlike the NES Zapper, the Famicom Beam Gun plugs into the Famicom’s 15 pin expansion port, as the earliest models of the Famicom had only hard-wired controllers with only the 1993 A/V Famicom sharing the Nintendo Entertainment System’s 7-pin controller ports. The DB-15 expansion port is present on all official models of the Famicom available, including the Sharp produced models.
The Beam Gun didn’t reach nearly the success or iconic status as its North American counterpart, and as such is quite difficult to find today in complete condition. Complete sets will set you back anywhere between $100 to $300 US, depending on condition, with the high end being the version with the Wild Gunman pack-in game.
The Famicom Beam Gun was even less supported in its native Japan then in the West. Exact numbers are difficult to gather, and I was only able to account for six games that support the Famicom Beam Gun, where-as there are 16 (plus two unlicensed games) that use the NES Zapper, either as the main method of control or as an option.