There’s no practical reason why a 40-watt laser shotgun should exist. But it’s not illegal, or—with the appropriate vision and know-how—even that difficult to build. So this past June, DIY laser whiz Drake Anthony, then a college junior, decided to give it a go.
Rather than craft a laser gun composed of a single, highly powerful beam, Anthony’s creation combines eight parallel 5-watt lasers. A lens focuses the beams to produce a concentrated blast of photons—just as a shotgun’s choke does for pellets.
Clearing time from his schedule at Southern Illinois University, the math-physics-chemistry triple major worked nearly nonstop for 48 hours, stripping wires, soldering parts, and smoothing out bugs, taking breaks only to eat and sleep. His efforts paid off. Anthony emerged from his marathon with a weapon capable of setting paper on fire, melting Ping-Pong balls, and burning wood.
“It’s something I wanted to build just because I could,” he says. “It’s very, very strong and extremely dangerous, but once I realized it was possible to make it, I had to try.”