Mini Matchstick Gun - the Clothespin Pocket Pistol





Introduction: Mini Matchstick Gun - the Clothespin Pocket Pistol

About: Random Weekend Projects

In this project we're taking boring old clothespins, and up-cycling them into powerful matchstick & toothpick shooters, that will stick into apples, and lob firey darts over 20 feet.

Step 1: Watch the Video!

This project was inspired by instructables author "Samarai" and his awesome tutorial on making a Clothespin Gun

Step 2: What Is a Mini Matchstick Gun?

A Matchstick Gun is essential to your collection of desktop weaponry.  

This little pocket pistol will shoot a matchstick with power, blast toothpicks into fruit, and lob fiery darts. 

The best parts is, it can be made fairly easily and for almost nothing!

Step 3: What You'll Need

All we need for this project is;
  • Some wood glue
  • A utility knife
  • A simple clothespin (Just make sure it's the wooden kind with the metal spring.)
Some additional items that might make your experience better will be;
  • Some scrap paper
  • Wooden matches
  • Wooden toothpicks

Step 4: Making the Mini Peg Gun

To make the peg gun, you'll first need to remove the spring, and place the two wooden pieces, back to back, so the notches line up near the center.

Next, make a marking on the top piece about half an inch from the hole, and an angled marking on the bottom.  (see the picture for reference)

Just for convenience, I went ahead and filled in all the areas that need to be chiseled out with blue pen.  So grab your utility knife and carefully carve out all the areas marked in blue. 

The long channels made in the center of the pieces are going to act as our gun barrel, so play with them until a wooden matchstick can slide in and out loosely when the two pieces are pressed together.

The angled marking, marks the place where you'll need to cut a small notch.  This notch needs to angle back to hold the spring in place when you replace it.

When your pieces are carved and placed back to back, they should look like what you see in the picture.

Step 5: Gluing the Pieces Together

Ok, it's time to make this permanent.

The flat sides of both pieces should be coated with a bit of wood glue, and pressed together.

I tried using a dab of wood glue on a scrap piece of paper, then carefully slid the pieces through it, giving them both an even coating. 

Simply press the two sides together, wiping away any excess glue, and let it sit for a bit. 

After about 5 to 10 minutes it should be just strong enough to attach the spring.

Step 6: Attach the Spring

To attach the spring, I find it works best to put the forward spring hook over the outside notch, then bend the spring open so the other spring hook can slide into the center chamber.

The spring should easily hold itself in place.

Your peg gun is completely finished now and ready to use!

Step 7: Ammunition Options

This gun is made for shooting wooden matchsticks, and they should slide loosely into the barrel. 

If your barrel is too tight, you can dry drilling it out with at 9/64 drill bit, or whatever it takes to get your matchsticks to fit.  However, keep in mind that the bigger the barrel, the more damaging it will be to the tip of the gun.

To load the pocket pistol, just insert a matchstick and continue pushing until the spring hook slips into the bottom notch.

The gun should cock itself automatically, and be instantly ready to fire.

If it doesn't, don't be discourage. Just tweak it and play around with it until it does.  Every gun is a little different and has a bit of a different personality.

You can hold it just like a little pistol, and when you're ready to shoot, simply pull the trigger. 

It's amazing to see, just how much power is stored in the spring.  That's evident by how it slams forward in just a fraction of a second, blasting projectiles over 20 feet away. 

Now this will work with toothpicks as well!

Just snap off one of the sharp ends to expose a broader surface. 

From a distance of about 6 inches, there's just enough power to penetrate the skin of an apple.  Of course, the closer you are, the deeper it penetrates.  

Step 8: Simple Modifications

If your barrel is too big and makes the tip of the shooter look awkward, feel free to modify the tip until it meets your liking.

Well there's how to turn a humble clothespin into an amazing little desktop weapon.

If you liked this project, perhaps you'll like some of my others.

Check them out at

13 People Made This Project!


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We used to make something similar which would light and launch a strike anywhere match.

Cute, looks similar to what we did in the '60's. Good instructable!

This is super cool!

I recently read about these in the book "What Would MacGyver Do? and since then have always wanted to make one, Thanks!

Heh-heh, I see someone has finally done an Instructable on a version of the classic match shooter. I wouldn't do this for fear it would be abused by kids and they'd blind someone. However, as a kid, I made my share of these bad boys. I never aimed them at anyone or at anything flammable. A few things I will mention though. The version we made was much simpler, requiring only one small cut into one of the notches to accommodate the spring. We just taped the two halves together with hockey or electrician's tape. The clothespins we had were much larger and made of hardwood, not pine like the cheap Chinese ones, and the spring was much more powerful. We cocked the spring with the half of another clothespin. We used strike-anywhere matches (SAMs) and placed the tip inward so the spring would ignite it as it fired. I recently found some SAMs at a dollar store but they are rare and usually expensive. The ones they make nowadays are really weak compared to the Ohio Blue Tips we had. They had huge heads and would light if you tossed one onto the sidewalk. Very dangerous. This type of shooter did not shoot that far, maybe ten to fifteen feet, and the match would spin around a bit. There was also another type of match shooter we'd make from a wooden thread spool and a rubber band with a piece of sandpaper over one end to automatically ignite the match. These shot really far and straight and true. Another dangerous toy we made was a spring-loaded flicker from a bobby pin. It triggered on just a light touch. It had literally a 'hairpin trigger'. I imagine that's where that expression came from. It would inflict pain if it was flicked against someone's thigh or butt but left no scar or anything. It would also bounce really high if released from shoulder height against the pavement. I used to make giant versions of this with the 12" spring tines that the street sweepers left behind on the street. I never used them on anybody but they bounded easily 20 feet in the air when dropped. Really cool. Please don't ask me how to make any of these dangerous things. I wouldn't want to be responsible for any misuse resulting in an injury.

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I can't believe it, Mother Earth News published an article on how to make the original match shooter that I described above:

067 clothespin gun - diagram.jpg

I first made one of these in 1945, but switched over to a firecracker gun for more distance. This one by Mother Earth News is all wrong. The backs of the clothes pins should go inside the gun as "King of Random" suggested. Also MENews has direction of wood pieces reversed. I cancelled my subscription to MENews when they showed how to make a wheel barrow using the front wheel off of a Cessna 150 airplane. I didn't have the $20,000 to buy a used Cessna.

How do you make a firecracker gun?

That's the way we made them and as I said, they worked well. We used hockey tape instead of elastics. This design is much simpler and probably more powerful. Try it IF you can find any vintage clothes pins. The ones they sell today are crap and the spring is too weak to bother.

You're right. The clothespins and matches we used back in the day were much better quality. I remember making the hair pin style snappers out of discarded street sweeper tines. Darn those things stung!

Really? I thought I was the only one who tried making them with the tines. But I wouldn't snap them on anybody. Too dangerous.

to improve the gun even further just trim off the match head with wire cutters and it will fly much further and faster, but be safe, when I did this as a kid Myself and my friends set many fires and I was burned badly more than once trying to put those fires out. I will never forget the night I came home with my eyebrows, eyelashes, and half the hair on my head burnt off and still got beaten by my parents until their arms were tired. Then they took me to the hospital for the burns.

That match tip is like a Roman candle and if it hits somebody wearing polyester fleece they will burst into flames and the molten plastic will fuse with their flesh.

If you choose to have wars with these like we did as kids make sure nobody is wearing polyester, only cotton is allowed, and make sure it is not indoors, most curtain will explode when hit witha match head like I learned the hard way.

How can it be a rip off? I was making these 50 to 55 years ago.

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Which would count it as common knowledge, in my opinion, and, in English class, it says that if it is common knowledge, then you don't need to cite your sources, and it is not plagiarism.

This is great but it is impossible to make for me I can't cut it without it breaking and the spring isn't strong enough to put it in the notches wear can you get quality clothespins?