Introduction: Pipe Cannon

Picture of Pipe Cannon

this instructable shows you how to make a small cannon out of a pipe and endcap.


to start, you need these things:

-3/8" galvanized steel pipe 6 to 12 inches long with threads on the outside of the tips
-3/8" endcap
-drill bits
-firecrackers, flash powder, or black powder (gunpowder)
-1/4" steel slingshot balls
-paper towel or napkin
-metal coathanger
-wire cutters
-masking tape
-X-acto knife

-drill press

Step 1: Fixing the Barrel

Picture of Fixing the Barrel

as you can see, it is slightly different from the pipe i told you to buy. i cut the end off because the threaded end was slightly smaller than the rest of the barrell. i hacksawed it off and filed the end so it looked neat. in some of my pics you see a little metal on the side of the pipe. i tried to weld a handle to it. i realized it was a bad idea and tore it off. you may also notice mine is shiny. i shined it using a drill press. i turned it on high speed, put the pipe in it, and turned it on. i then took sand paper and polished it down. i started with about 200 grain, or something like that, and slowly worked my way up to 1000 grain.

Step 2: Drilling the Endcap

Picture of Drilling the Endcap

now, we can start to drill a hole in the endcap where the fuses will be. when you pick a fuse, it doesn't have to be huge and thick. i use fuses from a firecracker called "little dynamite" and they are red and have fuses; they do fine. next, pick a small drill bit that is the same diameter as the fuse and put it aside. if you like, you can take a centerpunch and make a small dent in the center of the endcap so when you drill, you will have a centered hole. if you don't really care; don't do it. it doesn't effect performance. it really helps to have a drill press, but if you don't, put the cap in vise, oil your bit and endcap, and drill away.

Step 3: Obtaining and Using Powder

Picture of Obtaining and Using Powder

this one's a bit tricky. if you have no access to flash powder, gunpowder, or any type of firecracker you're kinda out of luck and won't be able to fire the cannon. if you have flash powder, don't use too much! only a little bit is required. flash powder is extremely powerful, and the reason they don't use it for guns is because it expands too quickly. black powder (gunpowder) is slower, and is better for pushing; you need more of it if you'd like to use it for this project.

in terms of quantity, you should never use more than about half a teaspoon of any powder. i have never tried any more, but if you think my rig is strong enough, use your best judgement, but remember: I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY DAMAGE. start out with a tiny amount and work your way up. if you load in way too much, the pipe will explode sending hot metal shrapnel in every direction, all before the ball even leaves the barrel. as for black powder, i have no experience with it. therefor i have no idea how much to use. as i said for flash powder, use a tiny amount the first time, and work your way up.

if you only have firecrackers, you have to spare a few. you can either put it directly into the chamber (be careful because the fuse to most firecrackers are very fast). to get a pack of firecrackers apart, untangle the threads or strips of paper that hold them together. take a razorblade and slice one of the firecrackers in half at the middle. hold the pieces above a sheet of paper and squeeze it while rolling it between your thumb and index finder. the dark grey stuff is flash powder. if you see reddish or light greyish stuff, that is not flash powder. don't let too much of it get into your flash powder. when you have enough powder, fold the paper in half and put it aside.

Step 4: Loading the Cannon

Picture of Loading the Cannon

take your coathanger and cut the bottom part of the triangle out with your wire cutters. use your pliers to ball up one end of the wire. you have just made the ramrod.

take your cannon and insert the fuse about a half inch in the hole you made. tape it in place. grab your paper with the powder on it and slowly pour the powder into the top of the barrel. when you finish, put the slingshot ball in the top of the barrel. make sure it goes all the way down with the ramrod. then, rip off roughly 1"x1" inches of paper towel and fold it twice in half to make a 1/2"x1/2" square. jam that down the barrel with the ramrod until it hits the ball. now you can tilt the cannon down and the powder won't fall out. :)

Step 5: Firing

Picture of Firing

you are ready to fire!


put the cannon on the ground. you can put a rock or something under the front of the barrel so it tilts the cannon up so you can actually shoot at stuff. put something behind the cannon because it can fly back. make shure there isn't a pile of leaves behind it, otherwise you could lose it. remember: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. when you are ready, light the fuse and run away. think were it will ricochet, and don't go there. depending on the amount of powder you used, it is very loud (similar to a gunshot) and very powerful. i suggest to get out of the area you just shot at in case someone called the cops. i've shot through an old license plate and peice of a 2 by 4, so watch out, it has the potential to kill.

PLEASE use every precation you can think of. i don't want to get anyone hurt. if i do, i am not responsible.



TannerB2 (author)2016-08-09

It's legal. At least where I live.

grenades_and_ham (author)2012-09-05

Crude unrefined and most likely will inflict more damage upon its creator than the target. I like it

isaac.lemaster (author)2014-09-15

I used this idea but, i made a firecracker pistol and it shoots pretty good. completely safe.

Colonel88 (author)2009-12-25

What is the Brown stuff in fire crackers? The gray is flash powder, the brown is... gunpowder?

stephenniall (author)Colonel882009-12-29

id imagine something like silver nitrate which is a primary explosive used for setting off bigger explosives (like a blasting cap)

well, its not flammable and not reactive to shock, i'm guessing its some sort of filler powder

Could be bentonite ??

its clay to seal the end

tato312 (author)2010-12-16

hey, do you have any videos were you show how this thing shoot? that would be cool.

garrettmikesmith (author)tato3122010-12-18

No I dont. Unfortunately I lost this thing a while ago too.

codongolev (author)2009-08-10

I've never had any success with igniting the powder from firecrackers. I've tried black cat firecrackers and wolf pack, and neither worked. any help?

what you want is the gray powder, not the red/rusty colored stuff. dont let them mix. the gray powder it should ignite, with a proper wick at least.

I know. I've got that part. it just doesn't light. I tried using a sparkler. I should get some visco fuse... do you know if they have it on ebay, or is it illegal or something?

jocket (author)codongolev2010-07-28

Several types of visco and other fuse is available from ''. They also carry all types of fireworks chemicals and have instructions for making black powder, rockets, etc.

thats weird. sparklers burn at like 2000º F, so i dont think you'll have much better luck with real wick. what brand firecrackers are you using?

I used wolf pack, but I think I've tried king cobra (?) before.

i use black cats; they're the best imho.

I just made a big explosive (17 firecrackers worth) and I tried to detonate it. I lit it, threw it, and the fuse didn't ignite the powder!! it stopped short of lighting it. I've seen it done before, and I can't understand why mine doesn't work.... maybe next time I'll add phosphorus powder (match heads) around the base of the fuse. that should ignite big enough to light the powder. and if not, I have to assume firecrackers are a giant pyramid scheme. and the end of the fuse is magical. or something. probably dinosaurs. who knows.

how tight are you packing it? flash powder is still extremely effective when packed loosely. even if you light a tray of it, it'll still pop. damn this is so weird, me and my cousin do this all the time without problems. try troubleshooting this the foolproof way. just light a small pile of it on fire out in the open with a long lighter. maybe the flash powder is bad. if it lights, you know that either: a) you've been packing it too hard, or b) your fuse is crap. then, try lighting an open pile of it with a fuse. if it doesn't light, your fuse is bad. if it does, you've been packing it too hard. also make sure to not make sharp corners in the wick

for some reason, in wolf pack firecrackers, there's a bunch of dark grey powder. which is not flammable. which I mistook for flash powder. whoops.

hahaha. well you live and you learn i guess

mr. clean (author)2010-07-26

black powder is not going to work for this because the barrel bore is so small it works in guns due to the fact that the black powder is completely sealed in and if u were to try setting of a bullet with a fuse all the expanding gasses just vent out the fuse hole. so this will only work with highly energetic powders my fave is the orange powder u find in those pull string booby traps and party poppers.

jonpersonals (author)2010-05-24

I am trying to make a Golf- ball gun/rifle. Need help.
Now a golf ball now has maybe 400 pocks on the surface to give 3x the range.  Why didnt old cannons use this?
 This would make a awesome toy.   A recent potato gun /rifle here looked good for a launch tube.
 Now my old Daisy actually hit the BB to get it moving and this was super quiet.  Some mechanism could hit the golf ball to get it going .  this would be really quiet.  I can picture a 500 yard range to start. 
The Russian used a .44 or .357 cartrige to propel a steel disc inside it only about  3/8" to then it  hit a bullet, ( the impact hits thebullet) which  then left the barell with no bang.  The explosion was completely contained inside the big cartridge so no noise escaped .My experiements with gunpowder show little noise if the barell is long enuf to allow full burning of the power
Can you help? ...

i would stay away from gunpowder and go with either a pneumatic or vapor combustible (like hairspray) type propellant. search "golfball pneumatic cannon" and you'll get a good instructable on how to build one.

Phoghat (author)2010-02-21

I'm quite experienced in black powder and have shot many kinds of black powder guns. I don't recommend doing this 'ible, but if your hell bent on doing it, get some sort of small scale and start with a load in the less than 30 grain size.

garrettmikesmith (author)Phoghat2010-02-21

this uses a 1/4 inch diameter pipe. how much smaller do you wanna make it?

seltzer10 (author)2010-01-16

hey if your in an annoying state like mine firecrackers are illegal so its hard to get black powder anyone over the age of 11 in the us can buy rocket engines exept for in ca and nj but rocket engines have powder in them made sure you use the black powder the GRAY is bad the is just the packing clay. btw the red stuff in the firecrackers is red clay , fireworks companies use clay alot in packing ends exc.. have fun

rock climber (author)2009-04-25

I have tried this on a much bigger scale with a 3/4 in. piece of PVC pipe. It was awsome. ' Thanks for the Idea

 i too have made a larger scale cannon....i made it out of 1 in diameter steel tubing. i also wielded a stand to it makes quit a pop(and then it flew backwards 40 feet)

ctz (author)2009-03-13

will it shoot potato's or something like that

garrettmikesmith (author)ctz2009-03-14

it's barrel is really tiny, but it'll turn a piece of potato into a white mist. you need something metal like steel slingshot ammo. i've shot through a license plate

the mechanical engineer (author)2009-03-04

i feel stupid, ive been using the brown stuff to try and make things and was wondering why it wasn't working. now i know

imakethings (author)2009-02-06

could you directly place in the fire cracker? are you using lead balls? it would give a bang surely !

you could as long as it fit in your canon, but your getting a minimal amount of flash powder. the balls are steel slingshot ammo.

knotmuch (author)2009-02-03

Just because I don't care to follow the argument to the end A Zip Gun is defined and the use of or modified uses of items not nominally used for propellling a projectile. Examples: *Pipes are not usually used to be smooth bore black powder guns. (like this) *You could fashion a zip gun from a compressed air can or fire extinguisher and a tube to fire nails or darts. *The popular prison zip gun is a rolled up magazine with a plugged end, cut off a bunch of match heads or scrap of the ignition material then pack in a bunch of ground up zippers, small rock or small lose pieces of whatever hard stuff you get your hands on.

follow it to the end. read the whole thing. i feel the same way you will after you read the entire argument-- tired of the subject. i really don't want to start this again. be it different communities or different times, we all have different opinions. i've always known zip guns as an improvised or crude firearm that fires manufactured cartridges. if you think otherwise, so be it. thus is life. i'm not the one to tell you "you're wrong and i'm right". so lets leave this one alone.

I can agree to broad and varying definitions of what a "zip gun" is. My definition came from the school policy of items banned from school ground under the title of "weapons" I have found other sources that used constrain definitions more in line with ours. as you said different times, different communities... Variation helps us all to (hopefully) learn and grow


LasVegas (author)2006-12-08

Isn't this called a "Zip Gun?" Yes. Illegal in the U.S.

im pretty shure zip guns use real bullets and use a striking pin to fire it

The slingshot ball IS a real bullet and any firing mechanism can be used in a zip gun. This device could easily kill.

a zip gun is a crude device that uses a striking pin, not a fuse, to fire not a ball, but a cartridge; most commonly a .22 caliber long rifle round. although my device is similar, it is categorized as a cannon. size is irrelevant.

It may not be a zip gun, but it still could be considered as an improvised firearm which is illigal, but I don't really care because I've been making machine guns and other illegal devices lately. :~)

yeah.... you've got a point. the machine gun thing is cool though, how do you do it?

Ah, the machine gun.metadata

thats raw




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