Gallery: 50 Years of Real-Life Ray Guns

Fifty years ago this Sunday, Theodore Maiman and his fellow scientists at Hughes Research Laboratory shined a high-power flash lamp on a ruby rod, triggering a beam of coherent light: the first laser. It wasn’t long before the Pentagon started dreaming up military applications, and futurists were predicting that our soldiers would all get ray guns. Well, not quite. But lasers have revolutionized the U.S. military — changing the way it targets bombs, scares off insurgents, and, yes, blows stuff to bits. Here are some of the greatest hits (and biggest misses) from the first half-century of military lasers.