18th Century Style Custom Pistol (nerf)

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About: I made a beer mug with only a knife & a hatchet. I think that says a lot about me.

A few years ago I started to build a pistol. I didn't plan something evil, I didn't have negative feelings versus something or someone and even less versus myself and I didn't feel the need of some extra personal protection.

Basically I don't even like guns & firearms. I'm a quite peaceful guy who loves life, who tries to limit negative impact on other living beings, who doesn't take part in muscled political conflicts and doesn't consume animal products anymore since many years. I don't need them, those guns. And I managed to feel great, anyway.

But I love the silent weapons, somehow. I'm a bowyer since many years and an occasional ipad7-shooter - haha - and my only victims are the several haysacks in my backyard I'm using as targets. And the Brussels sprouts when I'm really in good shape.

I love mecanics, also, and the combination of wood & steel. And history. And single malts, IPA's and very strong yak butter tea without the very strong yak butter.

I don't really know anymore whàt drove me into the direction of 17th or 18th style guns & pistols, but fact is that at some moment I started scetching & designing a decent looking 'pirate' pistol just for fun. I love the design of those pistols and the mixed craft combination that goes into them.

I've been through a lot of designs during my life. I've got piles of scrap books loaded with ideas and not all of them came to an end. This project has been set aside for many years, and it's only last weeks that I finally decided to get it done, as a kind of respect to the efforts and ideas of the guy I was many years ago.

Life's a circle. And so is creativity.

Welcome to my pistol journey.

SPOILER ALERT: if you're hoping to find info on how to build a full operational firearm I'll crash your party right now, sorry. It's only - probably - the most outlandish nerf pistol out there...

Step 1: The Big Bang Stuff

Before I started to design I had a few basic conditions in mind.

  1. I didn't want to build a 'real' working firearm. Not only because (one) it's probably quite illegal and (two) I'm not skilled at all, but because that even if I hàd the skills, I'm responsible enough (three) not to share them with anyone, ever. I wanted it to be as fully working as possible but I wasn't planning to shoot bullets with it. Yes, I wanted an innocent big 'bang', but no, I didn't want a hole in someone. Gunpowder yes, bullets no. Nerf-darts aren't considered as bullets, so go it was for the darts.
  2. To launch those darts I wanted to use standard Hilti nailgun ammunition - those rounds are powerful and my only source of gunpowder. Like I said, I signed for a bang.
  3. Since I really like the 18th century hammer(cock)-frizzen flintlock percussion system, I wanted to use some of its features in my design.

Since inventing was key to the whole process, I didn't just want to copy these historic designs, and so I skipped the use of blade-(clock)-spring-based firing mecanisms. Instead I wanted to use a 'piston-(compression spring)-based' mecanism. Compression springs are a lot easier to work with than clock or blade springs, and integrated in a piston they're extremely effective.

Also, I had never seen a firing mecanism with a piston. Yet another reason for me to make one.

The design was quite challenging. It had to be simple & easy to make since I didn't have access to a lot of hardware. So, after a while I came up with a few satisfying ideas that could lead to a first prototype.

I'm not into detailed plans and too much thinking. I like to start building and I know somehow on the way I'd come up with solutions. And dimensions. And the right hole on the right place, somewhere.

Step 2: Parts Overview

This project involved design, metalworking & woodworking. I needed a wooden stock, a firing mecanism & a barrel.

It was quite a challenge to build every part from zero. The size of the firing mecanism directed the size of the stock and the stock directed the size of the barrel. No wonder that it took me several months to get everything together.

Step 3: Stock

We lived in South France, when this project emerged, and we spent days exploring the countryside. We were surrounded by the sea at one side and sandy beaches, vineyards, olive orchards, willow-edged streams, 'garrigue' bushlands and holm oak forests at the other.

I loved those olive orchards, especially, since they were and endless source of nice natural elbows for my early boomerang projects. It's also at that time I met Instructables, btw.

I loved the evergreen oak forests, also, and that's where I found the perfect elbow for my pistol in the make. Of course I could have used a solid block of wood and cut the design nicely with the bandsaw, but I thought that a nicely curved natural elbow would take this design just a bit higher.

In Dutch this oak subspecies I used is called 'steeneik' - aka 'stone oak'. Needless to say that it hasn't stolen this name. Once seasoned it was hard as a rock, that wood.

I don't have pics of the making as a whole. I did make a few mistakes during the building and I guess those war-wounds are just part of this prototypes history. No need to be ashamed, every mistake is just a step forward to success.

Since I wanted to have a nicely dark stock I gave it a try with shoeshine polish mixed with walnut oil.

Yep. Shoe-shine. That idea's probably a keeper ;)

Step 4: Firing Mecanism

This firing mecanism is a prototype. It's the very first materialisation of my go-design and since I didn't have access to a decent workshop at that time it's all a bit messy.

The mecanism is surprisingly simple: by pulling the hammer back - aka 'loading' - the piston is compressed and pushed back- and downward to it's end position (A). When you pull at the trigger - aka 'firing' - the piston is first a bit more compressed and levered - it wants to stay in place, in fact (C) - and when you pull just a bit more it overcomes this 'dead point' and pushes the hammer powerful straight forward (B).

Looking back at this design I made so many years ago and with the necessary dose of modesty, I have to say that this 3-piece mecanism is not that senseless, though. It's working with only one simple spring and the fact the piston is pushed just behind its 'dead point' makes it quite safe to use. The piston holds the hammer safely in position, untill someone pulls the trigger and gives the hammer just that little help needed to pass this dead-point again and let the beast go.

Simple & effective. And easy to make with basic tools.

Step 5: Barrel

I found the barrel accidentally on a flee market. I don't know what could have been the initial purpose of this weird piece of steel, but I found it useful & nice at that moment and so I bought it.

The back is sealed with a solid bi-comp-glued wooden plug whit a hole that's just the right diameter of the ammunition I'm using. It's fixed to the stock with 2 bolts.

Again, this isn't a 'real-working' firearm. I'm pretty sure that if somehow you'd find a way to put a 'real' bullet in the barrel and you would be stupid or drunk enough to pull the trigger, this thing would explode right in your hands. Or in your face. Or your nuts. Or in all three of them, depending on the round probably.

The hardware used in this build isn't 'bulletproof'. There's a big difference between quite innocent nailgun rounds and real bullets. This nailgun ammunition - I'm using the weakest, there are much stronger categories - doesn't have a 'payload'. This ammunition is only serving as 'engine' to the nails. Both enter seperately in the nailgun.

Step 6: Ammunition

I'm using 7mm HILTI nailgun rounds to launch the nerf darts. Off course this is overkill, but I never said I'm taking myself serious, no?

Step 7: Firing

Common sense: this isn't a toy. You definitely don't play with it inside the house and you definitely don't play with it at all. It was fun to make, it's fun to shoot but I see it more than a personal technical achievement than as my standard equipment during the day from now on.

Those darts are launched up to 50m (!) and it's quite fun to watch. I'll post a decent video soon.

Thanx for following me in this journey. Work safe & work responsibly. See you friends!

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    29 Discussions

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    bricobartThe Rambler

    Reply 10 months ago

    Promised, I'll make a video for you - by night of course, so you'll see the fire leaving the gun ànd me missing the target ;)

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    Rottedroots

    10 months ago

    I shoot real firearms but this is still very cool. Watch the Hilti charges. They are essentially a .22 cartridge without the bullet. There are plenty of recipes for creating deadly firearms using them. What I'm really saying is treat your Nerd Gun as a firearm but you made safety a big component of your build. Federal law does allow for you to legally make a fully functioning firearm that does not need a serial numbers and doesn't require registration. I don't think many people are doing it thankfully. It's probably easier to steal one. nice job and remember eyes and ears always.

    1 reply
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    bricobartRottedroots

    Reply 10 months ago

    Thanx for the interesting input, highly appreciated!

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    mzmclady

    10 months ago

    would love to see a video of this in action....

    1 reply
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    Tecwyn Twmffat

    10 months ago

    These guns would be perfect for the crew of my ship. Real guns would be inappropriate as they're always getting extraordinary drunk and would just end up hurting each other by mistake. I'd have to hide the actual nails though.

    3 replies
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    Tecwyn TwmffatTecwyn Twmffat

    Reply 10 months ago

    Wow thanks! I'll try and save a bottle of sloe gin for you, current batch is 3 gallons so it should not be too difficult.

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    bricobartTecwyn Twmffat

    Reply 10 months ago

    You don't have to, but I'll don't say no if you do! Gotta finish that boat and find some time! ;)

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    bricobartTecwyn Twmffat

    Reply 10 months ago

    If I ever make it to your shores - with or without my canoe - this will be a present for you my friend, I knew you'd like it! ;)

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    Uncle Kudzu

    10 months ago

    Wow, that pistol is a work of art! And the instructable itself is a thing of beauty. Very well done!

    Your choice of propellant and the piston mechanism is very interesting. I've been thinking of building some kind of harmless pistol using weak percussion caps as the driving force for some kind of dart or ball for indoor target fun like the antique parlour pistols. I will certainly be studying your project. Thanks for sharing!

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    bricobartUncle Kudzu

    Reply 10 months ago

    Thank you friend! I started using these caps when I was 7 - oops - as bonus to the tips on my crossbow arrows. The bang they make when they hit the target! It was the time of the first Rambo films, you know, and somehow I'd been inspired ;)

    Good luck on the build, and keep me informed!

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    Uncle Kudzubricobart

    Reply 10 months ago

    I looked online at the nail driver powder charges; they seem to be pretty powerful!

    This i'ble by member ilpug is quite a marvel in its own way, IMHO. The Frankensteinian aesthetic of his cap-and-ball airsoft gun is quite different, of course, from your highly refined nerf ammo beauty, but it certainly has its own charm! I also liked ilpug's idea of harmless dueling.

    I don't know what this category of non-lethal DIY fun armaments is called, but I'm glad that instructables allows it :)

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    bricobartUncle Kudzu

    Reply 10 months ago

    Well, the red ones are powerful enough to throw 3 inch nails firmly in heavy pine beams. Oh, I don't even talk about the black ones... ;)

    I checked ilplugs I'ble and I totally agree with you, it's a subversive anarchic masterpiece, thanx for the link! ;)

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    Phil B

    10 months ago

    The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms does allow non-licensed individuals to build firearms. According to regulations, the maker must not be legally prohibited from owning a firearm and any gun he makes cannot be sold to another. Certain guns, like machine guns are forbidden. Application must be made to the ATF for permission to make a gun, and a tax must be paid. Check the ATF web page.

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    bricobartPhil B

    Reply 10 months ago

    Thanx Phil, I'll check that out - I'm living in France currently, I think I'm going to visit our local police department, without the pistol... ;)

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    Phil Bbricobart

    Reply 10 months ago

    I was careful to state what I found is in regard to United States regulations. I know many at Instructables reside across the entire world. I also know that gun laws are much more restrictive in many other countries than they are in the United States.

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    Jake_MakesPhil B

    Reply 10 months ago

    Wrong. You do not have get approval to build a gun.

    "No, a license is not required to make a firearm solely for personal use. However, a license is required to manufacture firearms for sale or distribution. The law prohibits a person from assembling a non–sporting semiautomatic rifle or shotgun from 10 or more imported parts, as well as firearms that cannot be detected by metal detectors or x–ray machines. In addition, the making of an NFA firearm requires a tax payment and advance approval by ATF." - copied from https://www.atf.gov/firearms/qa/does-individual-ne....

    Making an NFA regulated firearm requires the tax and permission. What is regulated under the NFA:

    "(1) a shotgun having a barrel or barrels of less than 18 inches in length;

    (2) a weapon made from a shotgun if such weapon as modified has an overall length of less than 26 inches or a barrel or barrels of less than 18 inches in length;

    (3) a rifle having a barrel or barrels of less than 16 inches in length;

    (4) a weapon made from a rifle if such weapon as modified has an overall length of less than 26 inches or a barrel or barrels of less than 16 inches in length;

    (5) any other weapon, as defined in subsection (e);

    (6) a machinegun;

    (7) any silencer (as defined in section 921 of title 18, United States Code); and

    (8) a destructive device." - https://www.atf.gov/firearms/qa/which-firearms-are...

    Anything not listed as NFA regulated you a perfectly allowed to build in the USA, as long it is for your own personal use.

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    Phil BJake_Makes

    Reply 10 months ago

    What you copied from the ATF says a non-licensed gun maker must pay a tax and get advance approval from the ATF before making a gun. Why do you say I am wrong for saying you must get approval before making a gun? I appreciate that you found and copied the official document. I paraphrased someone's description of the regulations.