Introduction: Pump-Action Rocket Gun

Picture of Pump-Action Rocket Gun

Step 1:

Picture of

This is an awesome gun. It is very fun and not that difficult to make. It is also very cheap. The entire thing including a bunch of ammo could easily be made for ~$20, or much less if you already have a lot of the stuff ( you probably do). I spent about $15 but a lot of what I spent it on is extra and can be used on other things. I broke this instructable down into two parts: rockets and launcher, because it involves a lot of steps ( I didn't divide it into two i'bles though, just this one).

-This is in the Krylon contest because it's painted with Krylon.
-This is in the "launch it" contest because it launches rockets.
-This is in the Celestron space challenge because it uses rocket propulsion. And it would work in space I think.

Quote from ATF relating to the legality of this project:

"...As defined in 26 USC subsection 5845(f) (2) the term destructive device includes any type of weapon by whatever name known which will, or which may readily be converted to, expel a projectile by the action of an explosive or other propellent, the barrel or barrels of which have a bore of more than one-half inch in diameter, except a shotgun or shotgun shell... The term 'destructive device' shall not include any device which is neither designed nor redesigned for use as a weapon ; any device, although originally designed for use as a weapon, which is redesigned for use as a signaling, pyrotechnic , line throwing, safety, or similar device; surplus ordnance sold, loaned, or given by the Secretary of the Army pursuant to the provisions of section 4684(2), 4685, or 4686 of title 10 of the USC; or any other device which the Secretary of the Treasury or his delegate finds is not likely to be used as a weapon, or is an antique or is a rifle which the owner intends to use solely for sporting purposes. ..."

This quote is from:

I think that means this is legal as long as it is not used as a weapon.

Step 2: The Rockets

Picture of The Rockets

Gather all the parts you need:
-1/2" PVC tube
-Dowel that is slightly larger in diameter than the PVC tube
-Empty pop cans or aluminum flashing
-Ingredients for rocket fuel
        -Potassium Nitrate
        -Corn syrup
        -Optionally Iron Oxide or Aluminum/Magnesium powder
-Water putty
-Electric match (see )
        -Black powder ( ),
        -Impact fuses ( )

-Measuring tool
-Accurate scale
-Electric cooker thing
-Pan or bowl that can be used on stove-top
-Hot glue
-File/sand paper
-OPTIONAL: bench grinder, lathe, dremmel/small grinder cutter driller.

Step 3: Motor Tubes

Picture of Motor Tubes

-Cut a piece of 1/2" PVC tube 3.5" long. Use sandpaper to get at least one end flat and smooth. This will be the motor tube. About 1/4" to 1/2" in from both ends of the tube, grind a groove into the inside of the tube all the way around. That helps lock the nozzle and end cap in place.

-Cut 2 pieces of dowel, one that is at least as long as the motor tube and another that is about 1.5" long. Grind one end of each of these into a cone shape and smooth the surface with sand paper. Then grind the surface of the long one until it fits in the motor tube. These will form the nozzle mold.

-Mix up some of the water putty and put it in the smooth end of the tube to a depth of about 3/4". Then put the Nozzle mold pieces into either side of the glob of putty and let it harden. The mold pieces will release more easily if you put some oil or grease on them before they touch the putty.

-Once  the water putty has hardened, drill a 1/8" hole through the center to finish the nozzle. Set it aside to harden completely.

Step 4: Make the Propellant

Picture of Make the Propellant

-Cut a 2 inch long piece of the 1/2" PVC tube. This will be the mold for the propellant grain.

-Weigh out your ingredients. There are a lot of different recipes that people have come up with but I chose this one to use on this because it's simple and proven to work.

-5 parts potassium nitrate
-2.5 parts sucrose (regular sugar)
-1 part corn syrup
-Then add to that 0.5% to 1% by weight of rust if you chose. It makes it burn faster.

I made a 68 gram batch then added ~0.4 grams of rust.

-Put all the ingredients into your cooking bowl and add enough water to make it into slop. Go outside.

-Boil the mixture till it starts to become a play dough-like glob. Then turn the heat way down and keep stirring it and moving it around. There is some possibility of it igniting at this point if you have the heat on too high and don't stir it.

-Every few minutes, take a small piece and smash it flat between your fingers. Let it cool completely, then bend it and see if it snaps or just bends. When it snaps you know that enough water has been removed from the mixture. Burn a small sample to make sure it is good before you invest time in the next steps.

-Take a ~9 or 10 gram chunk of the hot propellant and form it around a 1/4" metal rod like a screw driver or drill bit. Then push it into the mold tube and pack it in with a stick (with the 1/4" rod still in it). It helps to put some vegetable oil in the mold and on the rod before you do that so you can get the propellant back out.

-Once it cools, pull out the quarter inch rod and hammer the propellant grain out of the mold tube. Then store it in an air tight container.

Step 5: Load the Fuel and Igniter

Picture of Load the Fuel and Igniter

-Chose one of your fuel grains and push it into the motor tube. Make sure it goes all the way down.

-Put an electric match ( ) into the motor tube above the fuel grain and centered above the hole. Use fine enamel-coated copper wire instead of the thick stuff shown in that instructable.

-Cut out a cardboard circle the size of the inside of the tube. Being careful to not smash the match, push the cardboard circle into the motor tube and hot glue it into place. If there is more than 1/2 inch or so left above the cardboard, fill it with hot glue until there is only 1/2 inch left at the top.

-Fill the remaining section of motor tube with water putty. If you want this rocket to explode when it hits something, stick an impact fuse ( ) into the putty before it hardens.

-Pour a small amount (5 to 10 milligrams) of black powder into the motor through the nozzle to help with ignition. Put a small piece of masking tape over the nozzle hole to protect the fuel from outside air since it is hygroscopic.

Step 6: Finish the Rocket

Picture of Finish the Rocket

-Cut the fins out of the thin metal sides of aluminum cans. Look at the picture for shape and size. You will need 3 per rocket.

-Bend a curve into it parallel to the long side so it will lay almost flat against the rocket when laid on it like in the 4th picture.

-Lay each fin on the rocket so the small end is lined up with the back (nozzle end) edge of the rocket. Tape along the angled edge. Then wrap tape all the way around just above the fins so the fins won't peel off from the front. Cut the small section of tape at the front edge of each fin that is holding it from opening.

-Air blowing from the front of the rocket should make the fins open and the fins will give the rocket spin and drag in the back to keep it flying straight.

-Cut a 1.25 to 1.5 inch circle out of cardboard. Cut it and glue it to form a cone whose base is as big around as the rocket. Glue it onto the front of the rocket. If you put in an impact fuse you can fill it with black powder if you want. If you use black powder don't use the traditional 75:15:10 recipe because it burns slow and leaves KNO3 residue. Use a 70:20:10 mix. Be careful to not smash or set off the impact fuse when pushing it through the black powder in the cone.

Step 7: The Launcher

Picture of The Launcher

-1" PVC tube
-Scrap cardboard and cardboard tubes
-Thin aluminum or copper (just a small amount, a couple square inches)
-electrical wire
-Push button switch
-9v battery and connector
-The same dowel from the last part
-Steel wire
-3 smallish magnets

-Hot glue gun
-Dremmel tool (or a file and patience)
-Scissors and knife
-Measuring thing
-Soldering iron

Step 8: Barrel and Reload Mechanism

Picture of Barrel and Reload Mechanism

-Cut a 22.5 inch long piece of the 1" PVC tube. Put a mark 5 inches in from one end and another mark 4.5 inches beyond that. Half of the PVC tube should be cut out in the area between these marks. Smooth out the edges around the opening.

-Cut an 11 inch piece of dowel and a 1/2 inch piece of the 1" PVC tube. Glue the 1/2 inch long ring to one end of the dowel. Try to keep the dowel centered in the ring as the glue hardens. Glue a ceramic magnet that is about the same size as the dowel to the other end of the dowel.

-Cut two 6 inch pieces of a cardboard tube that fits over the 1" PVC tube. Lay them parallel to each other and glue them together. Glue cardboard caps over the ends of one of them.

-Cut two 18 inch pieces of 1/16" steel wire and straighten them out. Slide the dowel into the 1" PVC tube from the back (end closest to the opening cut in the side) so that the magnet end of it is just behind the opening. Slide the cardboard tubes that are glued together onto the front of the PVC tube with the capped one on the side of the tube with the opening cut in it. Push them back to just in front of the opening. Glue one end of one of the steel wire onto the the cardbard tube that is slid over the PVC pipe and glue the other end to the PVC ring at the back of the dowel. Flip the whole thing over and glue the other wire on the other side.

Step 9: Electronics

Picture of Electronics

-Measure 3 inches in front of the opening in the bottom of the PVC and put a mark. Put another mark 1 inch beyond that.

-Cut two 1 inch by 1/2 inch rectangles of aluminum flashing or other thin aluminum, then trim them into a roughly paraboloid shape. These will be the electrical contacts that touch the foil on the rockets. Bend the tip of the curved end a little so it wont snag the rockets.

-Drill/cut slots just behind the marks that the aluminum contacts can fit in. Using a dremmel with a drill bit, carve grooves iinto the surface of the tube as shown in the 3rd picture for wires to lay in so they don't prevent the front cardboard tube handle thing from sliding.

-Cut wires in the shape of the grooves. They should extend back to behind the opening that was cut into the tube when laid in the grooves.

-Hot glue the aluminum contacts into the tube so they slant toward the front and stick out on the inside about 1/4 inch. They should both stick out as close to the same amount as possible on the inside.

-Put the wires in their grooves. Stick the ends under the parts of the aluminum contacts that are showing, press the aluminum down and wrap about two layers of masking tape over each joint.

-After you get the wires on, make a 1/3 cylinder out of two layers of cardboard and glue it on at the back of the travel of the sliding cardboard tubes as a stopper.

-Solder the switch and battery to the wires as shown on the 8th picture.

-Cut a 5 inch piece of cardboard tube at about 15 degrees off of perpendicular. This will be the handle.

-Make a hole 1/2 inch or so down from one end of the tube on the side of the acute angle and glue the switch into it.

Step 10: Magazine

Picture of Magazine

This will be a non-removable box magazine with a 3 to 5 round capacity (depending on how stiff the springs are and whether one rocket is stored in the barrel). It is reloaded through a detachable lid at the bottom.

-Special materials you will need are springs and velcro.

-Draw the outline shown in the first picture onto a flat piece of corrugated cardboard. The cutout along the outside edges. Score the first layer of the cardboard with a knife along the inside lines.

-Fold it along the scored lines and glue the 1/2 inch wide tab to the inside of the part that it meets up with. Put hot glue along the corners (on the outside) where you scraped through the paper to strengthen it.

-Do the same thing to make the removable cap shown in pictures 3 and 4. Make sure it fits over the bottom of the main part of the magazine you just made.

-Get two springs that are about 1/2"  to 3/4" in diameter and 6 inches long. Mine are two halves of one spring from a broken airsoft gun. The springs can be stretched if they are a little too short.

-Glue the two springs into the bottom of the magazine's cap about 1/4 of the way in from each end. Glue a cardboard rectangle that is about 1/2" by 4" onto the top of the springs.

-Hot glue a 3 inch long strip of hook-type velcro on the middle of each side of the main box of the magazine. Make sure both velcro strips are above the part that the cap will cover. Glue an 8 inch long strip of loop-type velcro across the middle of the outside of the cap. Then glue a strip of cardboard over the bottom of the cap to stiffen it.

Step 11: Finnish the Launcher

Picture of Finnish the Launcher

-Cut two 4.5 inch pieces of steel wire and bend them like shown in the picture. Glue them on like in the next picture and glue strong magnets onto them. This will make it so the slider mechanism doesn't open without being pushed.

-Glue a small smooth piece of plastic at the bottom of the back of the opening in the PVC tube to keep the dowel from sagging and catching on the front edge of the opening.

-Glue on the handle and a trigger guard. Glue a strip of strong cardboard so it hangs down in front of the push button switch as a trigger. This will make the trigger easier for your finger to find and make it less touchy by requiring a little travel of the trigger before the switch is closed.

-Make a cardboard cover to go over the whole thing and protect the mechanism. It should be 29 inches long. It is half of a cardboard tube about 2 inches wide with some flat cardboard strips that are 1.25 inches wide glued to the side. On the inside there are some ribs which are carefully shaped to match where they will mount. Do not put any ribs where the front cardboard tubes are sliding or in the back where the dowel moves through.

-Glue on the magazine. It should completely cover the opening that was cut into the bottom of the 1" PVC tube.

-Paint it whatever color you want. I used Krylon flat black.


ilpug (author)2011-07-22

Well, i must say this is extremely awesome. ive made pump action things, and rocket launching things, but never thought of combining the two. here is what i have to say:

-amazing design. simple, cheap, lightweight, and requires no special tools. t
-looks badass and seems to operate well
-the clip fed system is really nice
-ignition system is simple, requiring no knowledge of electronics
-i would make this, but i would make it larger diameter, and modify it to use store-bought model rocket engines. the home-made rockets are nice, but i have never felt entirely safe with them, just my paranoia. unfortunately, store bought rocket motors are prohibitively expensive.

AMAZING JOB. keep it up

Jaycub (author)ilpug2011-07-22

Thanks! It would be awesome if you made one of these that uses estes motors. Let me know if you do it.

David.8 (author)2017-04-13


I can not urge you enough to re-evaluate your understanding of the definition of a destructive device. I can assure you that the ATF does not consider intent when it decides upon the classification of a weapon. 10 years in prison and a fine of $50,000 is not something that you want to mess around with. You may be thinking that you're just some random white guy having fun in your backyard. The cops aren't going to ruin your life over a glorified firecracker gun. I can assure you that they will and do all the time. If you are lucky, then they may charge you with a lesser offense which is a misdemeanor. That charge, however still results in 6 months to a year in jail, 1 or more years of probation, and a $5,000 fine. Most likely, they will start by charging you with a felony, and then they will eventually offer a plea bargain for the misdemeanor charge. You will be taken to jail where you will await your arraignment. You will have to come up with $10,000+ to bond out, and this is money you will not get back because your initial charge will be the felony with a $100,000+ bond. You will then have to pay for an attorney to work his magic in order to get you the lesser charge, and that will cost you anywhere from $5,000-$60,000. After all of that you will be found guilty of a misdemeanor if you are lucky, and you will spend a year of your life in the worst place on earth surrounded by the worst people on earth. When you get out you will still have to pay the $5,000 fine, and that will be difficult to do without a job, on probation, and with a new criminal record. They make it even easier for you by requiring that your probation officer actually speak with your perspective or current employer. That looks so good on your resume when the probation officer is calling even before you start work there. That's a hassle they don't need. Better still is the fact that if you don't get a job or don't pay the fines and probation costs on the schedule they have established, then you go back to jail for even longer due to violation of probation. Do yourself a huge favor, and take this device apart immediately. It is not worth all of the trouble it could very easily cause you. It absolutely does meet the definition of a destructive device, and any rationale you have come up with to convince yourself that it does not is just that...rationalizing. The BATF has a very different viewpoint. To anyone considering building one of these...just don't. You could perhaps make a legal version if you wanted to do so. You just need to make sure that the barrel, not just the projectile, is less than .50".

lm5392 (author)David.82017-07-12

I agree - this IS a weapon as it propels a projectile out of a barrel using a propellent - also the .50 inch designation is only applicable to a pistol design and any barrel less than 18 inches

Rhetorical_Save (author)2014-05-12


Have you thought about making one that shoots mini rockets via burst? That would be cool.

EddieG38 (author)Rhetorical_Save2016-11-20


Jaycub (author)Rhetorical_Save2014-05-12

Ya burst and auto, and of course a time fuse so it explosed after a certain distance. You can see some more about how I would like to develop this if you want by looking here:!rockets--missiles/cmwq

seanj22 (author)2016-06-24

I'm gonna make this out of steel when I have enough time and money

KaylineP (author)2016-03-01

if you want the rocket to not go billisic mke a extension barrel

ES71 (author)2015-04-14

First of all awesome instructable. Secondly AWESOME ible

The sourkraut killer (author)2014-02-24

Now if you modify the engines to have a firecracker attached to the end of it you'll have bolter rounds :D

zelback1 (author)2013-08-15

That's basically the gist of the legality quote, but the portion where it defines that "the term destructive device includes any type of weapon by whatever name known which will, or which may readily be converted to, expel a projectile by the action of an explosive or other propellent, the barrel or barrels of which have a bore of more than one-half inch in diameter," could be used in a court to say that this item could be easily and readily made into a weapon which means that it is, essentially, a weapon. Just be very careful about the use of the term "Gun". Since we commonly associate that with weapons. aside from that, you should be fine provided you make it clear that it is not a weapon nor is it intended to be used as one.

boa snakes (author)2013-03-27

how far do the rockets fly?

Jaycub (author)boa snakes2013-03-30

I am not sure of the max range, but I have 3 more fuel grains and I've been wanting to shoot this thing again so I might find out since you asked! Maybe on the 4th of July... anyway I'll tell you if I find out.

MadBomber12 (author)2012-03-03

I love this! I'm currently working on making one myself, though I may be subbing cardboard for bulsawood (I have a lot just sitting around) to maybe add a little more weight and durability.

Jaycub (author)MadBomber122012-03-04

lsa wood, I would recommend a cheaper stronger heavier wood like fir or pine.

tom tom go (author)2011-12-11

You're damm scary!! lol. I might build it :) by the it's
really cool

vov35 (author)2011-08-04

I can't help but find your project interesting.
Do you think this could be done with regular hobby rocket engines?

Also, a tried, tested and true method of keeping your rockets flying straight over long distances (100s of meters):
1) take a drillbit about half the diameter of your nozzle
2) make two marks on your engine where the nozzle and propellant material meet
3) drill at 45-75 degree angles at both marked points

This results in the rocket exhaust being used to spin stabilize your rocket, which is usually quite a bit more reliable and predictable than using fins.

A friend and I had, at one point, built something similar to this; but single fire and relying on hobby rocket engines for ammo. We were able to reliably hit our target, a 2' tree, at approximately 35m, with a smoke bomb tip attached.

Jaycub (author)vov352011-08-04

Thank you for that idea! That is great, it reminds me of the nozzle configuration for the gyrojet rockets. I will deffinately try that and might add it to the instructable if you are OK with it, crediting your name for that step.

vov35 (author)Jaycub2011-08-04

Of course, I don't mind in the slightest. Feel free to paraphrase or whatever to make it easier to understand... I was never good at writing instructions.

I'd love to see you test it with your rockets as well, it seems like it would be truly impressive putting out multiple spin-stabilized rockets. Especially with a custom "signalling" tip.

Revolt Lab (author)2011-07-21

I would love a diagram of the gun.

Jaycub (author)Revolt Lab2011-07-21

Sure, i'll draw a cross section in MS paint. What step should it go in?

Revolt Lab (author)Jaycub2011-07-24

Awesome diagram! Thanks so much!

Jaycub (author)Revolt Lab2011-07-21

OK it's there. Under step 7 "the launcher."

flamesami (author)2011-07-23

hmmm...if you could make less smokey fuel, then have smokebomb stuff at the end (might need a longer rocket), you have a smoke grenade launcher....
I think this is brilliant! (your instructable, not my idea)

Jaycub (author)flamesami2011-07-23

Yeah, maybe you could use a nitrocellulose based fuel.

Revolt Lab (author)2011-07-20

Have you tested it with mutiple rockets in the magazine? Does the first one ignite all the others?

Jaycub (author)Revolt Lab2011-07-20

I have only shot the one out of it that you see in the video because I don't have a very good spot to shoot it unless I go somewhere. The fuel does not light that easily though so it should be fine, especially with that tape over the nozzle. On the first one I tsted in the video ( the one that had too big of a nozzle) a regular fuse wouldn't light it and it took a sparkler.

Revolt Lab (author)Jaycub2011-07-21

please do more tests and take more video! I would really love to see how far it can launch and to see it launch multiple rockets!

Jaycub (author)Revolt Lab2011-07-21

I will but it may be a couple weeks or more, sorry. Why don't you test it yourself!

rimar2000 (author)2011-07-20

Well done. This is dangerous like a monkey with machine gun, but funny. When I was a boy, I did some pyrotechnics. I was the fear of the neighborhood!

mycroftxxx (author)2011-07-19

Wow, that is both insanely dangerous and really pretty. Congratulations!

Jaycub (author)mycroftxxx2011-07-19

Thank you! Danger and beauty what more can you ask for.

Please vote for this in the "launch it" and Krylon contests if you think it is worthy. It might not show up that I entered until tomorrow though.