Here are a few excerpts from the article:
“I got a call from one of the prop houses, and they told me what they wanted to do. They came down and met with me, and told me they wanted something to go on the weapon.” What weapon? “AMT Longslide, Hardballer.”
This wasn’t the first time Reynolds had put a laser on a gun. As early as 1978 he designed a laser sight for the Colt Trooper .357 Magnum. “It was a viable product out in the marketplace, primarily law enforcement. They were also very expensive, and we highly modified the weapon. We had to machine the frame and mounts; the sights were taken off the weapon to mount the laser on top. We designed a power supply that was smaller than a small candy bar and had to fit inside the grip, fed by a rechargeable 12 volt battery.”
This was the early days of lasers for commercial use. “At that time we were dealing with helium neon laser. All the newer lasers are solid state, about the size of an aspirin or smaller.” HeNe lasers are much larger than that, he explained, and required about 10,000 volts to get started. Once ignited, they take 1,000 volts to keep them running. That makes the power supply a tricky thing to design.
Reynolds had made a small power supply for the Colt, and also designed power supplies for lasers placed on a shotgun and the Ruger Mini-14. A laser-sighted M-16 was also created. Each of these weapons required a new design, but the prop house asking about the weapon wasn’t willing to… well, pay for anything.
“We spent quite a bit of money creating a power supply to fit in the Colt Trooper. These people came to us, and they wanted this for free,” Reynolds explained. “I ended up getting a t-shirt, a sweatshirt, a baseball cap, and a poster. That’s all the company got, outside of a small credit at the end of the movie.”
There were two props made for the movie: one shell that looked good but was non-functional, and a working model with a laser that actually fired. Since there was no money for a custom power supply, there was a line running from the laser to a cable that connected to an external power supply. To fire the laser, Arnold Schwarzenegger had to reach into his coat pocket with his other hand and flip a switch.
Read the rest of the Ars Technica article here.