Introduction: Bottle Rocket Pistol

Picture of Bottle Rocket Pistol

Pocket-sized water bottle launcher.

There are plenty of bottle rocket plans out there, but I hadn't seen anyone use a quick release coupler as a launch mechanism before. Plus, all other launchers are so large, it seemed to me all you need is the coupler and a valve. I decided to make two so me and the girl can go to the park and have a shootout (after all, the bike pump is hers).

Step 1: Collect Your Parts.

Picture of Collect Your Parts.

You will need:

A set of quick-release garden hose couplers (I had this idea while in an Ace hardware store, and as it happens, this brand works better than the Lowe's version which won't hold under pressure.)

Rubber tire valves (auto parts store)

4" of 1/2" PVC (Lowe's Depot)

1/2" PVC cap (ditto)

1/2" PVC to 3/4" NPT elbow (NPT= National Pipe Thread) (ditto)

1-2 liter bottle (I like seltzer.)

(not shown) extra garden hose gaskets


PVC cleaner and cement (Lowe's Depot)

Teflon pipe tape (I used the pink, which is thicker.) (ditto)


Saw (pretty much anything will cut PVC)

1/2" drill bit and something to make it spin

Channelock pliers

Step 2: Cut Off a Hunk of PVC.

Picture of Cut Off a Hunk of PVC.

The point of this was to make a compact launcher, so cut just a little more than needed for the fittings.

Step 3: Drill the Cap.

Picture of Drill the Cap.

Drill a 1/2" hole in the cap. I carved a flat on the cap to thin the PVC so the rubber tire valve will seat properly.

Step 4: Install the Valve.

Picture of Install the Valve.

Stick the valve through the cap from the inside, grab it with pliers, and pull. A bit of dishwashing soap will help.

Step 5: Glue It Up.

Picture of Glue It Up.

For those who are new to joining PVC, I'll explain the whole process. (Those who know, well, you aren't reading through each step, are you?)

If you've ever wanted to weld in your kitchen, here's your chance! PVC is joined by solvent welding. This just means that you put a goop on the joint that partially dissolves the plastic, jam it together, give it a quarter twist to ensure complete contact, then let the solvent evaporate and it's all permanently joined.

The cleaner is basically acetone to remove any oil contamination before you put the "cement" on.

Allow the joints to set up several hours before pressurizing the weapon.

Step 6: Attach the Quick Release Couplers.

Picture of Attach the Quick Release Couplers.

So, the elbow is threaded 3/4" NPT (National Pipe Thread) the couplers are threaded GHT (Garden Hose Thread) (really), and the bottle is threaded WHK (Who the Hell Knows?), how are we going to get connections on all these to withstand 50+psi? Teflon pipe tape and brute force! (plus those extra garden hose gaskets).

The pink teflon tape is thicker than the white stuff, and we're going to need all the help we can get here. Put several wraps around the female coupler threads (clockwise!) and crank it into the elbow with channelock pliers. The incompatible threads will kinda mush together.

The thread on the bottle is further from matching with the GHT on the male coupler, so in addition to the Teflon tape, put an extra garden hose gasket in the coupler before threading it on (a total of two). As you crank it together, you will see the plastic stress a little. Get it tight, but don't bust the coupler.

Step 7: You May Fire When Ready, Gridley.

Picture of You May Fire When Ready, Gridley.

Fill 1/2 to 1/3 with water, attach bike pump, pressurize to 40-50 psi, pull back the collar on the quick release to launch. (Extra points to those who can tell me who Gridley was.)

Step 8: His & Hers Launchers.

Picture of His & Hers Launchers.

Step 9: Gratuitous Launching Picture.

Picture of Gratuitous Launching Picture.

Thanks for the photos, Alice!


Sylkhr (author)2009-02-11

Gridley was a ship in us navy. Extra points for me!!!!!!!!

Sylkhr (author)Sylkhr2009-02-11

or was it a different gridley?

Captain Pedantic (author)Sylkhr2009-07-07

Gridley was the captain of the Armored Cruiser Olympia, Admiral Dewey's flagship at the Battle of Manila Bay in the Spanish- American War. That was Dewey's command to start the battle.

Hawaii00000 (author)2007-10-28

UNBELIEVEABLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Every instructable I think of, someone already posted. Obviously it wasn't exactly the same but still! Maybe I should stop procrastinating.

technick29 (author)2007-08-17

This is great! I made one and it worked wonderfully for about 50+ launches, but now it's getting hard to release. I figure the release mechanism when you push down isn't working properly. If there's no way to get this working better, I'm just going to pick up some more quick release couplers. Thanks!

Gadget_Smith (author)2007-05-31

How much psi (pounds per sq. Inch) of pressure can it hold

With the little hand pump I've only gone to 40-40 psi. More than than that is pretty hard to do, and the couplers don't release well (hard to pull the ring back with fingers only. The don't leak, though, and its plenty of pressure for a good launch. Years ago I called the 800 # on a Coke bottle to ask how much pressure a 2 liter bottle can hold. 250 psi!

Thx but could you use an "economy size" electrical pump instead?

nutty (author)2007-06-20

Nicely done. An easy starter for newbies to pressurized rockets.

There are a few (more complex launchers) sites that use quick releases... (must be a plumber :))

chatterbox14730 (author)2007-06-16

It looks really fun, and I've always wondered how to make a bottle rocket b/c i saw it on myth busters, but i never found out how they made it, thanks!! :)

mf70 (author)2007-06-06

If you fill the bottle with water 100% the first time you run it up to full pressure, it won't go as far if the incompatible threads fail.

marc92 (author)2007-04-29

in sixth grade we did something very similar to this in science class it was a blast (pun intended)

rainger (author)2007-03-11

He was only one of our nations most stalwart Captains, known for his part in the battle for Manila Bay!

samando (author)2007-03-03

genius!! my bro made 1 and i was like hey y duz it take so long to unscrew cos ur losing pressur fast!! and now u make a quick release one!!! genius!!

pyelitegamerro76 (author)2007-02-07

cool, nice instructable


inventorjeff (author)2007-02-04

I made one at first and it worked good. Then later on I created a double launcher ith one air nipple conecting to 2 quik relesas and a bar connected to both of those then i got socked fireing them off And created the simple but offective stick, board an string when i pulled the string the stick pulled away and the board went down Poof the bottles were up up up and away ill get a pitchure of the contraption to show u guys later!!!!

trebuchet03 (author)2006-11-18

Simple and effective ;) I've never seen those quick connects before -- do you know if they leak (When used for the intended water hose application)?

inventorjeff (author)trebuchet032007-01-31

No I don't think they leak they leack a little in the takeing on and off process but bysides that not at all

The Lowes I went to didn't have the brass ones, plus the plastic is lighter, a good thing for a rocket.

yeah.. the plastic is nice and light.... I was assuming that trebuchet was looking at the connector for another application....the brass, in my experience, is more robust for normal hose uses :)

vatosupreme (author)vatosupreme2006-11-18

nice instructable by the way

Thanks. My first.

vatosupreme (author)trebuchet032006-11-18

They carry them at Lowes and they work well. The ones at Lowes use brass for the fitting and seem to be stronger. We use them all over the shop because it saves a ton of time when you have to change hoses. They work similar to the connectors for compressed air. If you are looking for something for smaller tubing for the hydropinics you could try push-lock connectors. They are for 1/2" and 3/8" tubing. They carry them at Home Depot and Lowes

Well, I've only used them for rockets, but they don't leak at 50 psi, so ...

Bonzo (author)2007-01-08

Great project! But did you loose all the parts attached to the bottle when you launched it into the lake? And one question: is there any way you can make a mechanism to launch the bottle without manually setting off the quick release?

Captain Pedantic (author)Bonzo2007-01-08

I was a little concerned the first time we launched one into the river (that's the Mighty Hudson), but they float just fine. I sent my crew swimming and rowing after them. The hole in the male part of the quick release is pretty small, so you actually have to work a bit to get water into them. I think they also act as nozzles, improving performance a bit. I've been contemplating rigging them with a sort of lever/ trigger sort of thing, because it can take strong fingers to pull the ring back sometimes. Not really a remote release, but it could lead to one. I only pump them up to 40-50 psi, so I'm not concerned about safety, and getting wet is just part of the summer fun. P.S. There's only one part attached to the bottle.

Bonzo (author)Captain Pedantic2007-01-09

Ok thanks! I'm definatly going to try making one this summer! I don't know if I'll find all the parts though, because I live in a secluded town in northern Italy...

n3ldan (author)2006-11-19

Well done! I have heard of quick releases being used before, but never really explained or discussed in any detail. I love the picture at the end :)

bdolge (author)2006-11-19
Captain Pedantic (author)bdolge2006-11-19

On account. (Did you know before Wiki-ing it?)

bdolge (author)Captain Pedantic2006-11-19

Yup, old line history geek here. On Account of I ain't got enough to do with myself. but definately mad props on the rocket, I'm going to Lowes tomorrow.

zachninme (author)2006-11-18

Great idea, good documentation... Just don't call it a pistol...

Why not?

jeffroward (author)2006-11-19

great instructable. does anyone out there have any clue what threading those 2-liter bottles use? surely, someone out there has had better luck than me attracking down some specs on that. until then...WHK protocols are a go!

I did a fair bit of webcrawling looking for the specifics on the cap thread to no avail. As a side note, though, years ago I called the 800# on a Coke bottle to find out how much pressure 2 liter bottles can hold. 250 psi!

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