"The science fiction method is dissection and reconstruction. You look at the world around you, and take it apart into its components. Then you take some of those components, throw them away, and plug in different ones, start it up and see what happens."
As far as I know, this is the first reference to the term "laser rifle." Obviously, there were many precursors in the form of pistols (like Raymond Gallun's 1937 proton pistol) or rifles that fired an energy beam.
You might be interested in several other early "energy weapons" - the Electric rifle from Tom Swift and the leyden ball from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Take a look at a modern-day laser rifle (as well as a nice picture of a sixties "phaser rifle" in the article Military sets PHASR on stun.
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