Introduction: Cowboy Ray Gun

About: See some of my work here and as always accepting orders for custom design and fabrication as featured on Discovery Channel, Wired Magazine, Gizmodo, Engadget, Geekologie, PCWorld, CNet and many more - Pinteres…

Back in the day, one of the classic games kids played, was good versus bad. When I was younger we played variations of the same game, cops and robbers, Light side of the Force vs the Dark Side, Cowboys and Indians "sorry, I know the latter is offensive, and I will not be playing that with my little boy", but, you get the idea. You had a Hero, and the Antagonist or Villain. One of the ultimate classic Hero figures was the Sheriff, the one who restored order to society and brought evil to justice. Well our Sheriff just got an upgrade.

I really wanted this to retain its vintage look, kind of like a sleeper muscle car hides its true potential. I wanted this to look somewhat stock, as opposed to just slapping steam-punk gears, or blinky lights on the outside. Of course collectors will be wondering where the original handles have gone, that's where the teak handles and cast Sheriffs star hint to it's true nature.

Imagine if you will, a Sheriff from days gone by, is transported in time and space by a science experiment gone wrong in the future. Clutching his Colt 44 tightly to his chest, the sheriff, plucked from the past is sent spiralling into the future. The silver in his sheriffs star; the only metal known to science that reacts strangely with time travel begins to glow. (Hey, it kills werewolves remember, just go with it) was held against the handle of his Colt 44, where science, magic and a bit of old fashion "Can do attitude" fuse the two together in a merging of times creating the first ever Cowboy Ray Gun. Rivulets of space time travel energy have transformed the ammunition into some ungodly crystal that now emerges from the Colts barrel in a silent beam of burning light particles, designed to do one thing, Bring down the baddies. The Sheriff, raises his hand over his eyes to shield it from the 3 blazing suns overhead, surveying this new land, this world as it is today; no morales, lawless, unjust and in need of a protector. Without missing a beat, he raises his gun overhead, the badge now merged with its worn handle, he mutters, "Don't need no stinking badge, my gun is the only law I need". Cue the dramatic music, smoke and space doves flying overhead, and with that The Space Sheriff is Born! BOOM.

Ok, I think thats how it happened, or at least when I was seven, But I digress. You see, I happened to see an add on the local Facebook buy and sell, someone selling a very old BB gun that looked like something I played with as a kid (minus the actually BB part). I thought that would be really cool for my young son to play with when he's older, just fix it up a bit. Thats when things got out of hand and the cowboy ray gun was born. Think "Buzz LightYear merges with Sheriff Woody from the movie Toy Story.

A final note on this, just like any Cosplay prop you have to be mindful of the public. This BB gun is very realistic. In fact, to realistic. With all the crazy terrorism happening today, people shooting up schools an things, I can never in good conscious use this as a toy, nor let my son "Play" with it like I intended. Additionally, it is still a laser gun, sure it won't kill someone, but the laser can still hurt peoples eyes if shone directly in them. If you make something like this, treat it with respect, don't be a dummy who ends up on the six o'clock news because you had a run in with a Real Sheriff!

P.S. This is quite a late entry in some contests here on Instructables, but if you like this, I'd appreciate the vote. Especially in the Heroes and Villains contest. Thanks :)

Step 1: The Bits

The Gun

The BB gun in question, I was lucky enough to score on a Facebook buy and sell, was called a Hahn 45. It is a replica of the 1873 Colt 44. Quite a bit of literature was written about this gun, as it is quite the collectors item. Here is a little spiel/summary from a replica website I found. "This airgun, a replica of what is perhaps the most famous handgun of all time, the Colt 1873 SAA, was originally called the Hahn Model 45, later the Crossman Model 45, and eventually became the Frontier 36 in 1970. The revolving cylinder holds 6 BBs and the spring magazine holds 12 more. The Hahn 45 has the weight and feel of the original Colt. This is the best BB gun replica of the Colt SAA ever produced".When these are mint they sell for a hefty sum, mine was not so mint. I bought it for 15$ off the seller who told me the seal on the air chamber was cracked and would need replacing. As I bought it purely for the cool factor I didn't mine. The original handles were gone, replaced with some carved unfinished pine. The paint was badly chipped as this was obviously well loved. The gun itself went virtually unchanged during its production run which started in 1958. The stamping on mine points to it be being made in the mid sixties. What really won me over is the feel of the gun, its almost too real. Its hefty at just over 2 pounds and has the feel and balance of a real gun, as this was intended as a replica. The crazy part is this was targeted to young children. You can hear parents everywhere saying, "you'll shoot your eye out" and you probably could have. Collectors of this piece should probably stop reading now as this gun will be gutted, for mature audiences only...

The Laser

Ok, not much to write here. It is a el-cheapo 5mw green laser pointer I bought off eBay years ago. At 5mw it blows the doors off a dollar store variety, but it's still a cheap model. I think I paid about 3 bucks with free shipping. It will do.

Other bits - I used what I had in junk drawers.

Bits of wire - stranded

A small momentary push switch to be seated behind the guns real trigger

A piece of Teak I also scored for free off the buy and sell

A pewter tankard to be melted down for the Sheriffs star

2 part epoxy, Danish oil and oddly enough black vinyl dye paint

Step 2: Break Down the Hahn

Taking part the Hahn was rather simple. Simple choose a point to start and go slow. Document as you take it apart as some pieces are spring loaded, if something jumps apart you may not remember how to fit it back together again. Here is the order I did things in.

  1. Remove the plastic cover from the air tank, its just tension fit. wind the tank dial back and remove the tank.
  2. Remove the nut and bolt holding the wooden handles on.
  3. Remove all the screws, note where they go. At this point the gun basically splits in two. Ease it apart and try to maintain the trigger assembly as it is spring loaded. One small spring at the base of the trigger and a piece of spring steel in the handle which provides tension for both the trigger and revolver barrel mechanism.
  4. Now that you have an idea of the trigger assembly works, remove it and set it aside followed by the revolver barrel.

Step 3: Break Down the Laser

You have to be perhaps ever more careful taking part the laser as its quite delicate.

  1. First I removed the various lens covers, they just unscrewed.
  2. Next came the rear battery cover.
  3. From this point a gently pried/wiggled the diode assembly out of the housing while holding the trigger button down. This allowed it to slip out.
  4. Remove the aluminum bezel ring by gently twisting it free as its tension set.

Step 4: Test the Fit

The To Do List.

With the gun separated into two and your diode free of its housing you can now get an idea of how your parts will fit. Right off the bat, even with the diodes spacer bezels removed, the barrels interior will have to be ground out to make space. Additionally the momentary push button switch I have chosen to use takes up a lot of space, even being a mini switch. I could easily use a micro switch as these are fairly easy to harvest from used electronics but wanted to use something a bit more robust. Wires need to be fed somehow, and this gun was made with tight tolerances. Channels will be gouged out of the interior metal to make space. I wanted the battery to last along time before needing being charged, so I ditched the original 123A type battery. I elected to use some extra batteries I use in my electronic cigarette. They are called a 18650 battery, lithium-ion with 3.7 volts and at 2600 mAh they pack a punch, last a decent amount of time, and yet are safe for the electronics. Perfect. The battery is the idea that inspired this build as it is almost the exact same size and diameter of the original co2 tank that powers this gun. Work, work, work, get busy!

Step 5: Make Some Space - Aka Grinding


  • Warning: (This gun is made of pot-metal, so a mixture of zinc, copper, tin and who knows what else. When grinding, make sure to use a mask and eye protection. Preferably a full face mask. The metal chips alone entering your eye can cause blindness, even hours later as they slide across your eyeball, OUCH. Also, as you grind, Zinc is being released into the air you breathe and you will get several fun days of zinc poisoning. If this happens by the way, the cure is drink milk, lots of it. It will flush it from your body quickly. Kinda old school but anyone who has welded galvanized steel and breathes in the vapours by accident knows it.)
  • I used my Dremel for this task as it allows me to get into fine spots. A small grinding wheel was used to hollow out the barrel for the laser diode. Grind a bit, and then test the fit, repeat at nausea. You want this to be tension fit as you don't want it rattling around, so take your time.
  • The switch needed to be reduced further in size so I ground down the plastic housing a bit to give me more clearance. The leads on the back were trimmed shorter as well, I just snipped them short with some wire clippers. Finally I had to bore out a cavity for the switch to rest in. It also needed a hole for the business end to rest just behind the guns trigger. The trigger also gets ground down on the back side to allow the switch to snuggle in nicely. I love the steel they used for all the moving bits in the gun, super hard tool steel, the quality is in no other words, sexy.
  • The wires were fed into channels that I ground out of the frame itself. This lets me be sure that nothing will get snagged by the trigger or revolver mechanisms. I used the miniature abrasive discs for this task. You will go through a lot of them, so have plenty handy. If you can buy a large pack of the fibreglass reinforced discs, do so. They last so much longer and are less prone to shattering. Once again eye protection is a MUST, not an option. Many people have lost sight in one of there eyes by not heading this advice. Don't be dumb.

Step 6: Test Again, Wire and Glue

This step is a little stressful as we will be gluing the switch and diode in place with epoxy so their will be no going back.

Note on wire length, how you wire it up will determine your length, so give your self some leeway and use long lengths. You can trim later.

First wire your laser, I used some thin insulated stranded wire for this. One length gets attached to the spring of your laser leftover from the battery assembly. Solder the wire directly to the spring, this is your positive lead. Ideally you would then cover it in shrink wrap tubing to insulate it. All I had was electrical tape, so thats what I used, so sad. Your second wire has about 2 inches of insulation stripped off and is wrapped around the brass barrel of the diode, this is your negative lead. I smeared some flux on the wires themselves in addition to using flux cored solder. You want this as tightly wound as you can. Now melt solder where ever you can onto that wire. "it will not be pretty". Feed your wires through the channels to your switch. Hook up the laser to your battery, positive to positive and negative to negative, and test the aim of the laser. If the laser illuminates and shoots out of the gun, not into the side of the barrel mix up a small amount of 2 part 5 minute epoxy and glue in place. Once I knew the laser fired I also spread a little glue on the wires locking them in place.

Now wire the switch. Solder the positive lead from the laser to one pole on the switch. Solder another wire to the other pole. This will go to the positive side of the battery. Wrap both poles separately in electrical tape (shrink wrap is better) and position the switch. Hook the battery up by pressing the corresponding leads in place and test the trigger. Does it fire, YES = Hooray! Now adjust the placement of the switch so that when the trigger presses on the switch it is activated. It doesn't have to seat all the way, just enough to turn the switch on. Epoxy in place. I used electrical tape and zip ties to hold the parts in place until the epoxy dried. The tape doesn't bond to the epoxy so comes off easy once cured. Let this set up hard for at least 8 hours.

Step 7: Fit the Battery, and Some More Wires

  1. The original co2 cover was a thin piece of bake-lite plastic and was usually lost shortly after playing with the bb gun, amazingly mine was still intact but useless for the battery. I found a stainless steel stem used from a solar garden light worked perfect. I cut it down to about 3 inches long and cut a strip out of it about 1/2 inch wide. The tip that would contact the tensioner had the sides nipped off leaving a tab in the middle. This tab had a hole drilled out of it which the tensioner would fit into, thus holding the unit in place. I would go back and forth trimming bits as needed to get the perfect fit. This was given a quick coat of Matte black vinyl dye paint.
  2. Next a piece of high tension spring was cut to fit in the centre of the revolvers barrel. This would be insulated from the barrel itself with epoxy. Once I was happy with the fit of the spring I epoxied the mast of the revolver barrel in place in the gun. Yes this dooms the barrel from only being able to spin, but thats all it really did before anyway. This no longer will be using bb's so... it is fine. Once the epoxy has set for about 10 minutes it is firm enough to work with. When I epoxied it in place i smeared a "bed" of epoxy where the spring would go, electrically isolating it from the metal of the gun. The spring now gets the positive lead soldered from the switch to it. Glue it in the "bed" with more epoxy and set it in place. Only the bottom couple threads of the spring are embedded in glue along some flex/compression for the battery to rest upon.
  3. The lead from the negative ground of the diodes barrel goes to the batteries negative terminal. This is accomplished by soldering it to a small washer. The tensioner used to apply pressure to the co2 tank had a dollop of epoxy put on the end. It was held in a "hanging down" fashion to give it a "drip" shape as it set. When you install the battery, the washer is slipped on the negative end of the battery, the drip end of the tensioner goes through the notch in the battery cover and when screwed in place puts tension on the battery and the cover locking both in place and pressing the positive end of the battery into the positive battery terminal spring. Whew, quite the run on sentence. Or, just look at the pictures.
  4. Make sure as you are testing that everything is insulated from its self. Either use electrical tape, epoxy, paint on insulation to insulate bare wires from the metal gun. The 18650 battery is a high discharge battery and if cross wired something will catch on fire. Wires burn out in seconds, things heat up, and worse case scenario the lithium battery goes boom. Watch some youtube videos on lithium batteries being made to short circuit, you will find respect real quick.

Step 8: Upgrade the Handle - TEAK

The handle that came with the gun was not the original, it had been replaced with some home carved pine handles. They were ok at best, so lets make some new ones.

Where I live in Northern BC, Kitimat, they were obsessed with teak. Probably because it rains so much here. It is classified as a rain forest after all. So a wood that is naturally resistant to rot is a good idea. Plus it finishes really nice. The only caveat, teak has a high silica content so is brutal on tools. I once again placed a "ISO" on Facebook for anyone with some scrap teak and sure enough within a day a friend found me a piece from a old dresser. I simply traced the old handles onto the new board, giving a little overhang for sanding and cut them out. At first I was using a table saw but quickly switched to using a jig-saw. Fit them to your gun by pressing them hard into place. The gun has little nibs that will bite into the wood to help hold them in place. Rough sand them to fit. Don't worry to much about the contour as we will be fitting the hardware and casting pewter in the next step.

Step 9: Casting the Sheriffs Star Part 1 and 2...

Ok, this is where things nearly went south... casting.

The concept of this laser cowboy space gun was it belonged to a Sheriff. And, in the future they do away with badges, as your gun is your badge. Ergo, it needed a badge. I though of just gluing a vintage sheriff star to the handle, but I hate that sort of thing "tacky". So I thought about carving out the handle and pouring in molten pewter and then just sand it flush. Also it would cover the tacky bolt as it would be embedded in the pewter. Easy right, not so much...

  1. Carving the star. I decided that I liked the look of a five pointed Sheriffs badge, the kind with a ring around it. they were cut from silver dollars back in the day, who knew? You could also have 6 or 7 pointed stars, with each point standing for a point of valour of the Sheriff. I just like the look. The fine ring was the tricky part. Using a hole saw would carve out the point I wanted, but the guide drill in the middle was to big. Solution, take and old spade bit of the outer diameter I wanted and cut away part of the inside. See the video. Next I used my Dremels cut off bit make perfect slits after I traced out my pattern. Worked like a charm. Next I used a razor blade to slit the wood into finer chunks and snap them out. Last I used the Dremel with a carving bit to gouge out the wood deeper and provide a under cut for the pewter to be embedded in.
  2. Casting the pewter into the star - Part 1. I though it would be simple to pour molten pewter in to the open hole, and simple sand off the excess revealing the star under neath. At first this seemed to work great. I melted an old pewter tankard with a propane torch into a steel cup, then poured it into the open hole. In the centre of the star I had the guns nut with a bolt securing it in place. See the video
  3. Sand off the excess pewter. Who knew sanding down pewter is harder then sanding steel? It gums up your sanding discs in seconds, ugh. Finally i was down to almost bare wood and I could see the star. It looked great, but wait, why is that corner looking funny. Oh no, the pewter as its pored into the open hole doesn't have the ability to flow into the small holes of the star. Yes it filled it on top, but left crevices underneath. Also, the nut pulled away too much heat, hindering the pewter from flowing. So with very little effort i pried out the pewter. Sure enough it hadn't even filled half the mould. I tried again 2 more times, each time worst then the last. At this point I thought screw it, I will dye some epoxy and fill the hole with it and sand it flush. So I closed up the garage for the night and slept on it. Thats when I remembered the various pewter coin intractable being cone here on Instructables and gave that a try.
  4. Casting the pewter into the star - Part 2. I cut a new handle, as the old one was looking worn from all the sanding. Cut out a new star and started again. This time I used a bungled piece of teak to form a seal for the mould. In this I cut to channels, on to pour pewter into and one to have the excess come out of. I also decided to just epoxy the nut into the back of the handle and do away with potential heat dissipation. See the pics above. I wish I had filmed that pour, oh well. I popped of the scrap teak and my star was under neath. This time I just had to cut away the 2 sprues, and sand it flush. Success.

Step 10: Finishing the Star and Handles

After cutting off the 2 sprue's I used a hand file to grind things flush. Next I switched to sand paper going from 180 grit all the way to a fine emery cloth. The star shines proudly.

I was torn on how to finish the wood, I do not like the look of varnish on pewter so went of a oil finish. Ironically I chose danish oil over teak oil as danish oil is food safe. Invariably your hand goes to your mouth so... you figure it out. The danish oil really brought the grain and warmth of the teak.

  1. Paint on a thick layer of danish oil and rub it into the wood, keep applying until no more absorbs. Allow to dry about an 20 minutes.
  2. Apply again, once again rubbing oil in the direction of the grain until no more absorbs. Let dry for another 20 minutes, repeat until you have your desired finish, I did 2 more times. Rub with a lint free cloth and your done. The rubbing with the oil even makes the star shinier, nice.

Step 11: A New Finish

This step is the easiest. Remember I didn't take this down to bare metal so we are dealing with the original finish. When ever this is the case, and its black I reach for Black vinyl dye spray paint. This stuff is awesome as it flows into fine graining and stamped words in the metal without looking like a layer of paint. It looks factory applied even over old finishes. Now I would never use it on bare or brand new metal, but where I'm dealing with multiple finishes it shines. The paint/dye itself is fairly tough and chip resistant but what I love about it is how it soaks in and "dyes" the original finish. A first it goes on mottled, but as the solvents in the paint evaporate it all evens out. Never a drip, irregular finish, or even fish eyes.

  1. Tape off or fill anything you don't want painted, hmmm like the lens of the laser! I simple stuffed a clean rag down the barrel.
  2. Dust it off
  3. Spray it on in light coats
  4. Allow to flash for 5-10 minutes and apply another light coat
  5. Your done. Let it cure for 24 hours, but its dry to touch in about 45 minutes.
  6. Put on your nice new teak handles, ooh, aww, eeh! So nice...
  7. Go play.

Step 12: Play Time, Now Go Get Some Intergalatic Bad Guys!

Videos to come!

Metal Contest 2016

Participated in the
Metal Contest 2016

Halloween Props Contest 2016

Participated in the
Halloween Props Contest 2016

Maker Olympics Contest 2016

Participated in the
Maker Olympics Contest 2016

Heroes and Villains Contest

Participated in the
Heroes and Villains Contest