Introduction: Mass Effect Modded Nerf Gun
I want to start this off first by saying that this is my first nerf mod ever, and I am thrilled with the outcome. I learned an absolute ton about painting, dry brushing, using washes, and overall nerf modding. It took me around 3 days to complete, working on and off, with most of that time waiting for the paint to fully dry. This was a purely aesthetic modification, and will be more of a prop/showpiece. Since this was my first mod, and first real paint job on anything like this, I wanted to base it off of a preexisting design. I was looking through some nerf mods when trying to find inspiration, and I came across AlTheGeek's nerf recon design. The scope and barrels are my own designs, but the main body of the blaster is heavily influenced by AlTheGeek's design. I have no affiliation with him, but I will include links to his Etsy and Instagram.
Parts and Materials
There are tons of different underbarrel attachments, barrels, scopes, and stocks which I could have used, but I used all the attachments and additions which came stock on the nerf recon, but I replaced the stock scope with a longshot scope.
Nerf recon w/ original barrel and stock
Nerf underbarrel laser
Nerf longshot scope
3/4 inch pvc pipe
1/2 inch pvc pipe
(2×) 3/4" coupling attachments
Red acrylic paint (or more optimally red enamel)
Black acrylic paint (for washes)
White acrylic paint (for touchups)
Rustoleum Flat Gray Primer
Rustoleum Flat White Spray Paint
Rustoleum Flat Black Spray Paint
Step 1: Disassembling the Gun
Next, you have to disassemble the main body of the nerf gun. Make sure you remove all the screws first, then carefully remove the top shell and butterfly it open. It is crucial to document this process and keep and pieces so that you know exactly where each piece goes, and which screws go where. I took pictures, and was able to put it back together by looking back at those. I kept all the gun pieces in their own compartments in a large 11 by 17 organizer. Sorting the pieces this way is great because you can keep screws with the internal parts they go with, and it is a super efficient way to store these pieces. If you don't own an organizer like this (any "craft organizer"), you could alternately use sandwich and snack bags, or any cheap tupperware containers.
Next, I disassembled the attachments. This will be different depending on what attachments you are using, but just follow the same steps as mentioned above. And extra precaution you will most likely need to take with the attachments is having to mask off lenses and the "glass" in scopes and the laser pointer. Other than that, much is the same.
Step 2: Removing Logos and Sanding
This step is pretty self explanatory. If you want, you can sand off all the logos and warnings. Some people even like to go as far as remove any and all texture from the blasters including camo imprints (on elite blasters) and the texture on the handle grips. I used my Dremel with a sanding disk to remove the logos, then hand sanded it all smooth with the rest of the body. In a perfect world, you would also want to sand the entire blaster until it feels "chalky" if you want the best adhesion. The nerf gun I was painting wasn't going to see any real playing time, and I used a heavy coat of primer, so for me it wasn't an issue. I included of another picture of a properly sanded Nerf Maverick which I am also working on right now. (Look out for dual wield pistols coming out this weekend!)
Step 3: Priming All the Pieces
On the topic of primer, I used a Rustoleum Ultra Cover Flat Gray Primer which worked quite well. It occasionally left some rough patches, where the primer did not come out evenly, but rather in lumps, however those only happened on the first couple pieces. Those didn't prove to be a big deal, and were sanded off quite easily. As I mentioned before, I used primer instead of sanding the entire gun simply because the blaster I painted is more of a show piece, and won't be used in any wars. I'm sure it saved me a bit of time, but I still had to spend all the time spray painting roughly 40 separate pieces and wait for all the primer to dry. Overall, whether or not you want to sand the blaster all the way through depends on the application you will be using it for.
Step 4: Creating the Extended Barrels
For the custom extended barrels, I used a length of 1/2" pvc, and a shorter length of 3/4", as well as a 1/2 inch coupler. The outer diameter of the 1/2 inch is slightly too large for the interior diameter of the 3/4 inch pipe. I wanted the two pipes to seat tightly together, so I tried sanding down the exterior of the smaller pipe, but that didn't work well, so I pounded the smaller pipe into the larger as far as I could. After that, I took the two pieces over to my stove, and held them over the burner to slowly heat them up. (A heat gun also should work fine). Once I thought they were sufficiently malleable, and quickly brought them outside and pounded them together using a hammer on concrete. It took about 3 attempts to get them entirely seated together flush, but it turned out great. I then used two part plastic weld epoxy to attach the coupling to the pipes. If you look through the plumbing section of any hardware store there are actually hundreds of different pvc fitting which you could use to add details to the barrel. (Quick note: After painting, I also used epoxy to fix the extended barrels onto the from attachment of the recon)
The laser still shines through, and the pvc is wide enough for the bullet to get through too. Naturally the performance is decreased because of all the barrel drag, and the possibility that the dart bounces off of the barrel walls, but this is more of a showpiece/prop, so it's absolutely fine if it doesn't perform at its peak.
Step 5: Adding First Coat of Paint
I started by first separating the pieces into two groups, one which the final pieces would be predominantly white, and one which the final pieces would be predominantly black. I did this so that I wouldn’t have to spend so much time masking off pieces, and so that I could visualize how all the pieces would come together. This saved me loads of time, and it eliminated nearly 75 percent of all the pieces after the first color, because not many pieces needed to be masked off and painted a separate color.
I used Rustoleum Ultra Color Flat Black and Rustoleum Ultra Color Flat White, which seemed to work great. I made sure to take many light, even coats to prevent dripping. I found with the spray paint I was using, if any coats were too heavy, it would also crack as it dried. I’m not sure if that is an issue with all spray paints, but it happened to me at one point on the scope. It was a really simple application, but I took quite a few coats on each piece from different angles to make sure that all parts were covered.
Step 6: Masking Off Pieces and Second Coat of Paint
Masking off the pieces for painting the second layer was one of the most tedious and painstaking tasks of this whole build. It took hours and hours to mask off the pieces with crisp sealed edges right where I wanted. Unfortunately not all the tape kept a clean edge, so there were a couple spots I had to touch up, but I would say 90 percent of that was on the scope. The scope was complicated because of all the small intricate details, the overhangs and tight corners, and also due to all the extra details I introduced when designing the scope's paint job. A few spots I knew would be incredibly difficult to mask off with just plain masking tape, so I resorted to using a liquid resist. A liquid resist, as the name suggests, is using any liquid substance to mask of part of a surface. In this case, I used toothpaste, and painted it over some of the tricky spots I wanted to keep white. The liquid resist works because you are laying down a thick layer of resist, whether is is toothpaste, mustard, or a specialized paint, and it prohibits any spray paint from making contact with the plastic underneath and adhering to that. After you let the spray paint dry completely, you can rinse off the resist, and it should leave you with nice clean lines wherever the resist was.
Adding Second color of paint:
After I masked everything off, I took all the pieces back outside and added the second color for each piece (black pieces get painted white, white pieces get painted black). This step is pretty self explanatory, and any information regarding this step has been previously mentioned above.
Step 7: Reassembling the Gun
As I explained earlier, I stored all the internals in their own seperate organizer, so putting the gun back together was a breeze. I always stored the screws in their own special compartment with the pieces the go with, so no screws got lost and every screw when back exactly where it came from.
Step 8: Weathering and Detailing
In my opinion, the weathering and detailing is what really made this project look awesome, and it brought the whole project together. I used mainly a black wash over the whole gun to give it a grimy space effect. I was trying to simulate an unclean greasy and mechanical look, where grease has seeped down in the cracks and crevices, and hasn’t come out. I made the wash by adding a bit of water into black acrylic paint to make it less viscous. The trick to using washes is letting the paint sit on the gun for a short time, and allow capillary action to pull the wash into the cracks so that it can’t be wiped away. It is a terribly simple process, and it hides any crimes on the paint job beneath it. Another technique you can use to bring the gun to life is by dry brushing some silver paint over the edges of the project. This gives it the effect that the gun has been dropped and mistreated, and it makes it appear like the gun has been scratched up. This is a Mass Effect style space gun, so it would’ve fit in, but I decided against it because I loved how the wash looked. I included a rendering of how washes and dry brushing works while painting.
Note, if you are using this blaster as a film prop, you have to make the weathering a lot more pronounced because otherwise the cameras and viewers won’t pick up on it as much. I’m sure you all have seen things which look better in person, whether it is a car, a prop, or something else, and that is the same thing that happens with film props. I actually learned this by listening to Adam Savage’s podcast, and he said that screen props are always vastly more weathered than their reproduction counterparts.
On that note, I don’t think the pictures really do this built justice. Don’t get me wrong, the pictures look great because I adjusted the lighting settings on my camera to find out what brightness makes it look the best, but it looks even better in person. I’m still in awe by how great it came out, and I can’t help but smile every time I see it up on my wall.
Step 9: Adding the Decal
To add the mass effect decal on the gun, I created a custom stencil using the Cricut. This is not how the cricut is traditionally meant to be used, however I was thinking how I might be able to create a custom stencil, and came up with this great idea. If you don’t have a Cricut or any sort of vinyl cutting-type machine, no worries. The icon I used is incredibly simple, and I have cut out more advanced logos with just an Xacto and had no problems.
I made this custom stencil by making a textbox on Cricut Craft Room, and then matched the text to the one which most closely represents the one from the game. I then layed down some overlapping pieces of masking tape on the cutting sheet, set the pressure to high, and had it cut out my custom stencil. Much to my surprise, it worked phenomenally on the first try, so I was super happy with that, and I know I will use this technique in the future. Again, if you don’t have this particular machine, there are hundreds of other options (freehand painting, Xacto stencil, waterslide decal paper, print out custom stickers, etc).
Step 10: Final Thoughts
At this point, the gun is completely modded and finished, but there are a couple of extra things. First, if you will be using this for gameplay or walking around at something like a convention, I would highly recommend spraying on an extra protective coating. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but you will want to protect the blaster from any chips and scratches if possible.
Again, this is my first Nerf mod ever, and I am beyond ecstatic on how it turned out. For any beginners looking to get into this too, I will share some of the most important things I learned while building and painting this. I learned to make light, even coats to get the best results from spraypaint. I learned not to spend so much time painting incredibly crisp lines on a blaster like this because the weathering covers up most of the seams. I learned that heat goes a long way with pvc. And lastly, I learned the overall basics of how to aesthetically mod nerf guns, and I am already working on a pair of dual wield pistols as I am writing this.
The last thing I want to say is that it is crucial to be careful with this prop. It could very easily be misinterpreted for a real gun, so make sure to use immense caution when working on this, and if you are going to Nerf wars or a convention, I would urge you to keep your tip orange. I knew mine would just be hung up on my wall to look cool, so I painted my tip black. Also if you look at picture #20 on Step 8, you will see that I kept the orange tip beneath the barrel, so in any strange chance I go outside with it, I can remove the barrel and show that it is in fact, just a toy gun. Again, whatever you do, just please BE CAREFUL, and have fun building!