TOS Phaser terminology explained thru pictures


Sr Member
There is a lot of TOS phaser terminology relating to the various appearances and construction methods that are probably taken for granted by the “old time” phaser fans but are probably at least somewhat confusing to the new people. I thought this might help. Enjoy.

The phasers seen in the Original Series came in two types, the small hand-held phaser and the larger pistol shaped phaser II. This terminology was used for the first (and only) time in "The Devil in the Dark."

The phaser I snapped into the pistol grip helping create the larger phaser II, but this was only seen in one episode, “The Enemy Within.”


The handle was the removable power pack for the pistol, seen removed in “The Omega Glory.”


The phaser props that actually had the working mechanisms seen on screen are called the hero props. They were also more detailed and were used mostly for close-up photography. Here’s a hero phaser II seen in “The Cloud Minders” Note the single screw on the underside just in front of the trigger.


At least one hero phaser II had Velcro added to facilitate wearing a hero prop on the utility belt, as seen here in a shot from “The Conscience of the King.” The “Velcro hero” also appeared in the episode “Shore Leave” and is most likely the original hero prop in the collection of Greg J.


The hero pistols were built in two halves with screws holding them together. In their original black and white color scheme the screws were found in different places on different props.

This phaser, from “Charlie X” has an obvious screw near the front of the pistol.


However, this black and white pistol (from The Man Trap) doesnÂ’t have a screw thereÂ…


This hero from “The Conscience of the King” has a rather large screw visible.


Even more odd is that this pistol seen in “The Conscience of the King” has two screws on the bottom. One near the front of the pistol, and another near the back. Also note that these screws are on the opposite side of the bottom seam from the other hero pistols.


So it would seem that there were three slightly different hero phaser pistols seen in this one episodeÂ… The Velcro hero, the hero with the large screw, and the hero with two screws.

It would seem the “tombstone” details on the phaser handle are separate pieces attached to the grip, as seen in this unfortunate shot…


The hero phaser I units have a small jewel or bulb on them. It seems that hero phaser I’s most commonly appeared with some kind of detail there, but the “Velcro” phaser I doesn’t have one.

These are from “Assignment: Earth,” “A Private Little War,” and the book “The Making of Star Trek.” Note how the jewel/bulb on the MoST phaser looks a bit different from the others.





It’s tough to guess but they all seem to be red jewels/bulbs. Also note the first two pictures are from the same episode (A Private Little War) but show two different hero phasers. The third photo is from “Assignment: Earth” and could very well be the same hero phaser seen in Nona’s hand in pic #2.

Take a look at thisÂ… probably a rubber stunt phaser I, but the side rail has been painted on to appear that it goes all the way around the phaser. Could one of the hero phasers have actually had a mid-plate that extended all the way around the back of the phaser, and was the guide for painting this prop?


The next step down in the quality scale are the “midgrade” or “dummy” phasers. These phasers have no working features like rising sight covers or lights or removable handles and have slightly simplified detailing and less metal details, most notably the omission of aluminum “cooling fins” on the rear of the pistol and sides of the phaser I.
It also seems that all midgrade phaser pistols had Velcro for attaching the phaser to the utility belt. Here are a couple “midgrade/dummy” phasers, as seen in “The Omega Glory” and “Plato’s Stepchildren.”



It is unclear if any black and white midgrade phasers were used on the show.

Finally, or perhaps “last and least” are the least detailed phasers seen on the Original Series the stunt, or “crapazoid” phasers. These phasers had little, if any, metal parts on them and were crudely made of vacuformed plastic. They are most easily recognized by their awful looking silver glob of a front nozzle and mostly painted on details.

There were vacuformed phasers seen early in the series in the black and white color scheme, but when repainted they seem to have been painted black and gray, and not the gray and bronze the rest of the phasers were painted.





Some of the early vacuformed phasers apparently had much more detail than the later ones, or it is possible that this is a midgrade phaser with a stunt nozzle. Either way this prop has simulated hero-like details while clearly not being a hero phaser. This shot is from “Shore Leave.”


HereÂ’s a rare sightÂ… A security guard wearing a stunt phaser on his belt but holding a hero phaser. Actually, heÂ’s about to blast Jamie and Ben Finney into nothingness, but I wonÂ’t tell if you wonÂ’t.


phase pistol

Master Member
Hey that's a farily comprehensive guide.

Some observations:

As to p1 jewels, I think there are a couple of instances where they used blue jewels. Trelane's phaser in "Squire of Gothos" is one.

Or maybe the jewel fell off and we're seeing glue there or something.

For laffs I grafted a jewel from a Master Replicas communicator onto an Art Asylum phaser (in photoshop, no props were injured in the making of this image):

So I think it's possible they used the same setup as on the comm and tricorder. makes sense to me anyway.

Hero p1 midplates: yeah I have reason to believe there may have been a "U-shaped" midplate that went all the way around back. You'll note that the Jein p1 only has ONE side rail

So that prop is an anomaly. I think a "normal" hero p1 would have the midplate going all the way around.

That's a real interesting shot of a hero phaser


You'll note that the "side knob" (also called a "dilithium cap") is awfully close to the front/bottom edges of the p2 body.

Also the tail of the p2 looks awfully LONG on that phaser, but it could be an illusion.

- karl


Sr Member

I think the weirdness of this shot probably has to do with "restoration" and whatnot more than any actual differences in the prop. This pic had been through photoshop hell long before I got it.

It's reasonable to assume that it's the same prop as in this photo, since they are from the same scene of the same episode.


However, since it looks like they used three different hero phasers in filming "The Conscience of the King" I suppose anything is possible...


Sr Member
Also, thanks for reminding me about the "Trelane" phaser, Karl.

It's really damn tough to tell what color that jewel is on the Trelane phaser. When I really zoom in on the pic I see nothing but gray in that spot. It could be color bleeding from the body of the hand phaser, it could actually have a gray or black jewel/bulb, or it could very well be blue.

I'm struck by a couple things about the jewels on phaser I.

Some seem to have some kind of bezel or collar the jewel sits on...



...and some don't.



And even stranger, look how tall the jewel seems to sit in these pics...




Sr Member
HereÂ’s a little more on the phaser IÂ’s.

Most of the hand phasers seen on screen were of the dummy variety, most likely made of rubber. These two from “The Devil in the Dark” and “City on the Edge of Forever.”



HereÂ’s an original dummy phaser I from an auction a couple years ago.


Look carefully at this photoÂ…


It’s been mentioned before that it is very possible the two “buttons” on the hero black and white phaser I were actually clear plexiglass and not just little white squares. If you compare the way the light acts on the plexi sight and the two buttons they have the same type of reflections.


Also, this is another original phaser from the same auction as the one above. Note the raised button details molded into the prop. While this doesnÂ’t prove the hero phasers had clear plexi buttons I think it does prove there were buttons, not just thin paper decals on the originals.

Also, it seems there was one more setting available on the hand phasers that wasnÂ’t ever talked aboutÂ…


phase pistol

Master Member
I also discovered recently that even after being converted to the "gray" color scheme from B&W midway thru the first season, for awhile some p1s still had the old "two white buttons" power meter... for instance this prop from "Shore Leave". There doesn't seem to be a meter cover, either.


That's a "fight prop" apparently, since Kirk is about to grapple with Finnegan in the next shot.

The black line thru the phaser is thread holding the prop in place. That prop has an oddly large gray square on top of the p1, trying to impersonate the rising site plate "crispy" that you'd see on a hero prop.

Also the tenturn knob seems to be painted on.

From a little earlier in that show, Kirk has a more normal looking prop, with a meter cover, but still apparently the two white squares as in the B&W phasers.


McCoy's phaser (rightmost inset) does have the more normal paper label with plexi meter cover over it.

- karl


Sr Member
I like the possibility of the P1 midplate running around the back.
This would make sense - as it would form a lip for the latch to hold it in place in the P2.
Brilliant screencaps, as always!


phase pistol

Master Member
WinstonWolf359 wrote:
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The phasers seen in the Original Series came in two types, the small hand-held phaser I and the larger pistol shaped phaser II. This terminology was used for the first (and only) time in "The Devil in the Dark."
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Is that right? I know they referred cryptically to "hand phasers" in several episodes but they seemed to mean type 1 or 2 interchangeably.

Before they came up with the phrase "set phasers on stun!" there were early first-season references to phaser settings such as "base cycle", "stunning force", "one-quarter", and possibly others.

In the second and third seasons, dummy pistol phasers were seen almost exclusively, unless it was a big deal to not appear to be armed, in which case they brought the type ones.

That scene of Sulu snapping a type-1 into the pistol is very strange, since from the context of the story, you'd expect him to be changing the power pack GRIP instead.

The explicit references to "reserve belt packs" and the onscreen appearance of separated power pack grips in "Omega Glory" is intriguing, since despite the fact that it was a second-season episode, the script had been written for use as a possible second-pilot episode for the series.

The phaser concept also allowed for the type 2 pistol to be snapped into a "rifle stock" (according to "The Making of Star Trek"), but we never saw that on screen or heard it referred to.

The phaser design was fleshed out by Matt Jefferies... here are a couple of early sketches you guys might find interesting. Handwritten labels have been replaced with more readable type.


Note in the drawing Jefferies calls the powerpack grip "unit no. 3", and implies the rifle stock is "unit no. 4".


- Karl


Sr Member
Yeah, it needs some help for sure. I remember when I first got that book, I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I thought it was EXACT to the real thing. I was so young and naive back then!

Can't wait to see the finished product!

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