Introduction: Pirate-esque Nerf Gun Conversion

Picture of Pirate-esque Nerf Gun Conversion

How to turn a plain, ordinary, off-the-shelf Nerf gun into a sorta-piratey themed gun with the use of a few paints, some sandpaper, and a 3-day weekend.

Step 1: Gather Your Materials

Picture of Gather Your Materials

You will need:

1. A plastic weapon of your choice. I went for the Nerf Maverick Rev-6, it's a pretty accurate gun with good range and a good heft to it. Not particularly piratey, but them's the breaks.
2. Sandpaper - medium (about 100 - 120 grit) and fine (200+ grit)
3. Matte black spray paint.
4. Red & brown spray paint in hues that you choose.
5. Black model (acrylic) paint.
6. Yellow or orange acrylic paint.
7. Rub'n'Buff in your choice of colours. I used Antique Gold, and Silver Leaf.
8. Matte & gloss finish coats.
9. Old brushes.
10. Old clothes.
11. Somewhere to get all painty.

Step 2: Disassembly

Picture of Disassembly

Take apart your gun. Note carefully the position of any screws and other fittings, and watch out for springs that might make a bid for freedom as the gun halves are pried apart. Use an egg carton or similar to collect the parts, keeping together things that need to be replaced with each other (e.g. trigger assembly).

Step 3: Surface Preparation

Picture of Surface Preparation

As with any painting job, the more careful the preparation, the better the final product will be. I probably spent an hour sanding down each side - which seems like a lot, but the end result was worth it. Don't skimp on the fillets and joints, either - paint that doesn't adhere properly will rub off in a very short time, ruining all your hard work.

As you perform each step, it's a good idea to think about how the gun might have seen action, and plan the next steps out in your head. Any antique item is likely to have a few scratches, maybe a notch or two. Don't be afraid to carve these into the plastic - take things carefully, doing a little at a time. Sand any carvings you make, giving the notches a worn effect, but don't overdo it.

Once sanding is complete, it's time for the base coat. I used 'Ultra Flat' (I forget the brand name), which produces this super-flat colour that I really like! (and not just because the fumes made me say that).

I use a cooling rack to raise the gun parts above the overspray surface - this allows good coverage where the seams would otherwise rest on the cardboard, and prevents the parts sticking to the cardboard.

Step 4: Metalling the Smaller Parts.

Picture of Metalling the Smaller Parts.

I wanted the bulk of the gun to have a wood effect, with the foresight, trigger, chamber, and slide to look as if made out of metal.

The parts were given a coat of black model paint, using a small brush to work the paint into all the detail. Once dry, the fun begins!

Use the Rub'n'Buff to achieve a worn metal look, again thinking about how the gun might have been used. You'll want to apply sparingly - remember, it's easy to add more later, but harder to remove too much. You can always re-paint the parts, however, so don't panic if something goes a bit wrong.

Place a tiny spot of Rub'n'Buff on your forefinger, rub the bulk of it off on your thumb, and use your forefinger to gently apply the remainder to the highlights of the surface. You want to hit just the edges and top-most parts of the surface. If it looks like you're not adding enough, you probably have it about right. Replenish from your thumb/ the tube as necessary.

Once dry (about 12 mins), gently polish with kitchen towel or a soft lint-free cloth, and re-examine the piece. You've probably removed a little of the metal wax when buffing - that's ok. Now is the time to go over any missed spots and maybe add a second application if needed. I ended up doing four applications, though in the first picture there is only a single coat.

Thinking about how the gun might have been treated by its pirate owner really helps here. The more worn areas will show the brightest, polished to a smooth finish over the years. Thus edges and highlights, particularly where the gun may have been placed down on a hard surface in a rolling sea, will require the heaviest application of the Rub'n'Buff.

Step 5: The Wood Colour

Picture of The Wood Colour

It's now time for the wood-colour coats. It's very easy to put too much paint down here, requiring another basecoat, so take it steady, doing a very small amount at a time. If you have some reference pictures (a trip to is well worth the time), the going will be easier.

The first application will be the wood grain. I used a yellow-orange, but any pale colour should be fine. There are various techniques for this, but mostly if you think the results look good that's all that matters. I used a sort of ragged drybrush technique, although I was a little heavy in some areas. Those can be fixed easily, though, so don't worry if the first attempt doesn't look great - it took me three tries before I was satisifed. Practice on a piece of scrap, if you like.

When applying the grain, follow what you imagine to be the real grain of the wood. Grain generally runs in approximately the same direction, but will have bumps and other impurities. Take special care on hard edges, to avoid large blotches. Also, remember that your gun halves will eventually be re-fitted together, so think about where the grain will match up.

Once the grain is dry, apply sparing and varying amounts of red, black, and brown. The red will give a nice mahogany or cherry effect, with the brown balancing this out, more a sort of chestnut colour. The black is used to tone down the red, and also to achieve a worn look - again, thinking about the gun's likely treatment will guide you here.

Prior to the colour coats I masked off the areas I wanted to have a metal effect.

I did about three or four applications of colour before I was satisfied. Don't worry if yours doesn't look exactly like wood (and it won't, in places) - the overall effect is really what's important.

Once you are happy with the wood colour, apply the Rub'n'Buff to the metal areas just as for the components - a little at a time - and buff lightly once dry.

Step 6: Putting It Together

Picture of Putting It Together

Once all colours and metal wax is dry, apply two or three coats of finish. I used a matte finish on the metal components, and a glossy finish (since wood is generally varnished and polished) to the wood parts. Let dry for at least 20 minutes between each coat.

Re-assemble the gun once fully dry, and test - it should still work, although you might need to take some of the paint down with some sandpaper in a couple of areas. I had two or three chambers that wouldn't fire, I think because I got finish coat in them, enough to tack up the surface. This is easily fixed with a little acrylic thinner.

Overall I was very pleased with the results, especially since this was my first attempt at a project such as this. There are a couple of areas that require further attention, mostly because I didn't correctly anticipate parts that would be visible upon re-assembly, but on the whole I consider this a great success!


arjun24 (author)2011-08-17

Oh man...sweet mod, my son has about 15 nerf guns and is always looking for the next new one, turning him on to this baby!

sonofstone (author)2011-03-14

i am steampunking two mavericks at the moment, i've glued the recon barrels onto them, to make it look a bit more like a huge revolver. all in all, your mav looks great, the wood detailing works out pretty cool, nice job

DaPope (author)2010-08-03

Nicely done, I picked one of these up the other day as a base model to try and do a Steampunk retrofit!

Chopstick_corner (author)2015-10-10

What a great tutorial!

johnstat000 (author)2014-08-30


pianoplaying music kid (author)2014-07-21

looks great

crickle321 (author)2009-10-10

It's never fun to find left over parts when you're finished...

Oh, big time.

Pie Ninja (author)crickle3212009-10-25

Yeah... that's never good.

Random Dent (author)2011-09-18

I found it easier not to take all the "guts" out of the inside and left the "barrel-turn" mechanism in-situ, mostly so if it fell apart I would end up crying (",).

I took everything else apart (view my page for result) - very simple to put back together - it basically puts its self back - and if I can do it anybody can (",)


swhitewood (author)2011-07-11

You should also add that the paint rubs off the nerf nightfinder gun cock mechinism because it constantly rubs against the top

curious youth (author)2011-06-10

bro thats a pretty sexy paintjob well done

jaybird1164 (author)2010-11-30

its easy to take apart but sucks to put back together. I took two of these apart to switch around the covers ( felt like it lol) and my oldest one is still a fudger to cock and shoot but rotates fine, and my other newer one works fine but is loud as hell now. Now I am afraid to take them apart...Too many springs and screws...

seabananers (author)2010-06-24

thats epic

flio191 (author)2010-06-09

Looks like a fantastic way to personalize your nerf gun! You should make the finished product your first picture though, to show off to other people who haven't seen this page yet your work, and entice them to come. Otherwise, it seemed like a normal maverick gun, and the picture wasn't very descriptive. Just a friendly tip :D

Edgar (author)2008-02-22

I discovered quite by accident that graphite, scraped off a pencil and rubbed into matte black paint will give you an old iron look. How that survives the final paint fixing layer is another mater...

SiderAnne (author)Edgar2010-05-11

I've found that mixing "copper" acrylic paint with boring brown acrylic paint (in a 1:3 or 1:2 ratio) makes an awesome worn leather look... since worn leather gets shinier with age.

Zeppelinfreak (author)2010-05-05

Looks alot better, too much work for my likey though :(

lucek (author)2009-05-23

looks great. too bad you can be arrested on the street with it because you painted the orange.

An Villain (author)lucek2010-04-14

everybody knows that this, does not look like a real gun, it looks well, goofy.

lucek (author)An Villain2010-04-14

I'm just commenting on how the law is written. the gun dosn't have to look real for it to be illegal. lets face it the origins of the law came from a misseeing a gun and someone dieing because of it.

An Villain (author)lucek2010-04-14

i know, but this is not going to be misseen (unless you are drunk or on drugs and have some kind of weapon on you.)

lucek (author)An Villain2010-04-14

never say never.
the ignorance of people should never be underestimated. again people die because of that.

An Villain (author)lucek2010-04-14

i know, but you can't tell me this looks like a real pistol, and once yellow/orange foam sticks start coming out the front, it will seem obvious that this is not a deadly weapon.

lucek (author)An Villain2010-04-14

but by then the stupid kid who runs around with one at night could be bleeding to death because of an equally stupid adult.

An Villain (author)lucek2010-04-19

I know, let's just have the guy put an orange tip on it.

I dont think anybody will think that is a REAL gun, but when I paint my nerf's i keep orange (just take the orange part out for the paintjob). But still, keeping it orange is a good precaution.

I always paint my Airsoft tips black.. Then I just keep a roll of Neon Orange duct-tape on hand.

aeislugh (author)lucek2009-07-06

he could always get some bright orange tape to put over those areas that need to be bright orange for use outside. something that won't pull the paint off.

Biohazard1194 (author)2010-04-16

Great paint job, mate :D

anishka (author)2010-04-06

Wow, thanks for the very nicely put together tutorial. Though I think I'm going to do more of an steampunk thing with it. Have you had any experience attaching anything to the plastic?

An Villain (author)2010-04-04

i can sort of see almost steampunk in it, it looks both old and futuristic together.

MrSalvador (author)2010-04-01

bummer, I started my nerf mod and found this one halfway thorugh! Ill post mine though

thealeks (author)2010-03-09

hey that looks awesome! im in the process of modding my mav but im prolly gonna end up painting it. ill keep this in mind!

Zansion (author)2009-11-17

Hey, great Instructable! I just panted my Maverick, it turned out a lot better than i expected.

Sadly i had to replace the internals after a modding problem. So its got an unpainted trigger and barrel.

Revalize (author)2009-10-28

it looks like a boomshot from Gears of War

Aklash, The hunchback (author)2009-01-25

i wish i could make a mold of all the parts for this and cast it in metal. then it would be uber durable. it would also weigh a ton but look realistic

Aztof (author)2009-05-09

the brand name of the "Ultra Flat" paint is "Krylon", though, personaly, I would reccome the Krylon Fusion, its a special plastic-bonding paint that worked really well for me.

Calltaker (author)2009-04-12

Some retro looking gauges and gears and such and it'd be perfect Steampunk too... I may have to go shopping this week. Nice job!! ~C

Robotic_mage (author)2009-02-13

Great Job, LOVE IT, Not to be a joy-kill, in some states it is illegal to change the orange tip marking it a TOY, and not a real Firearm.

You would need to check your local law library. But in the State of Nebraska it is illegal to Paint the Orange tip. Even if the entire Gun is DayGlow Orange. Kind of funny. If I was a Crook, I would think about Painting the Tip of a Real Gun Orange.

Brother_D (author)Robotic_mage2009-03-17

But the whole thing is bright yellow. Well not now, but... If you paint over the orange tip and only that, does it really matter?

ReVibe (author)2009-02-25

Nice paintjob. You should post pictures on nerfhaven.

Ward_Nox (author)2008-11-10

i just bought 2 of these this will be handy

teh darkcloud (author)2008-07-28

Aw, man. This is really cool! :o I'm thinking of trying it. I'm was gonna go to the hobby shop tomorrow for the first time (I live right down the street but I've never seen it. o.0) and look for paints for my steampunk goggles anyway. I have a Maverick too and the paint job on yours looks amazing. But I don't want to screw it up because it was actually my first Nerf gun. But I have two Nitefinders, I'll see how that works out! :)

NetReaper (author)2008-07-07

I'm about to make my own, but i'm going to use brass instead of metal paint. Do i need to put the black coat on the metal/brass parts?

piratemonkey (author)NetReaper2008-07-07

If you're using real brass, not just brass paint, you won't need the base coat if you intend for the brass to show through. If you're using brass paint, the black undercoat will help to give it an aged look if you apply the brass sparingly.

y42 (author)2008-05-26

Thanks for the disassembly pics, well documented!

Wasagi (author)2008-03-17

Great instructable! I hope to see more from you!

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