U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Test of the Visibility of Toy and Replica Handgun Markings

NCJ Number
Date Published
62 pages
In 1988, Congress passed the Federal Energy Management Improvement Act, which required that all toy guns manufactured or sold in the U.S. be marked to distinguish them from real weapons. The National Institute of Justice was required to evaluate the marking systems to determine their effectiveness in police combat situations.
In experiments conducted at the FBI facility in Quantico, Virginia, 89 police officers drawn from a national cross- section of State and local police participated in simulated confrontations with assailants armed with accurate unmarked replica pistols and with toy guns marked in accordance with Federal regulations. The confrontations occurred at distances of 15 and 30 feet during daytime and nighttime lighting and under various weather conditions. The subject police officers were not allowed to exercise normal precautions when confronted by the assailant, but were forced to respond by firing their weapon if they perceived the threat to be "real." The results showed that officers were not able to distinguish the orange blaze plug (one of the markings specified in the law), and fired in nearly all confrontations at both distances. Other markings were sometimes recognized. Marking systems which covered most or all of the toy gun in bright colors were more easily recognized by officers than either an orange plug or orange band. 5 tables, 5 figures, and 10 appendixes

Date Published: January 1, 1989