Bullet Shell Pan Flute




About: I love making things just to prove that I could.

Pan Pipe made by scavenging a few bullet casings and random bits of junk to make a musical instrument perfect for the post apocalypse jam session!

I came up with this for a contest being held over at www.wastelandoutpost.com where we were to build a post apocalyptic musical instrument for under thirty dollars. Being the cheapskate I am I made this one from scraps lying around the house, though to buy the stuff new it would still be under $10.

Super easy to make. Took me about an hour even though I am clumsy as hell when it comes to working with wire. Depending on your choice of supplies it could have easily been finished in half the time. And while they don't sound perfect I was able to belt out a killer 'Ode to Joy' even if it was a bit out of tune.

It has been brought to my attention by instrucatable member kill-a-watt that some very overly paranoid laws may make this build illegal in a few select places. Known locations so far are-

Washington DC and Massachusetts.

Apparently they consider any component of ammunition to be ammunition. For more information  check out this blog post http://stuckinmassachusetts.blogspot.com/2010/03/just-for-emphasis.html
Thanks Kill-A-Watt!

Teacher Notes

Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.

Step 1: Supplies

Things you will need-

Bullets of different length, As many as you can find, in general the longer the bullet the deeper the note. Also only bullets that get smaller at the tip make a noise, the casings that are open the entire length just make a whoosh sound.
                  TIP: Find a shooting range near you. People just leave their spent shells on                                          the  ground, you will find hundreds of them for free. Wash them though.

2 Rods. These rods will vary in length depending on how many bullet shells you find. Line up your casings as you want them to end up and measure out your rods giving a few inches extra for the ends. These rods can be anything stiff, Coat hangers, nails, bolts, a pen, a stick, a fork... I used a couple of all thread bolts because I had them lying around and the wire held in place against the bolt threads as I worked with it.

Wire or other Binding Material. you need something to bind the bullets to the rods. I used beading wire I stole from my wife but you can use anything from string to electrical tape.

Pliers / wire cutters. You only need these if you are using wire. Mostly you just need the wire cutter aspect but the pliers can be handy for cinching that last little bit of the wire or if your bullet casings are bent you can gently squeeze them back into shape.

Step 2: Attach a Bullet

This is the part that takes some patience and a touch of dexterity. If you need to cheat use super glue and then come back later. Even without the super glue though the wire will be plenty to hold them in place (I didn't use glue).

First cut a length of wire about 20-30 inches long (eyeball it). Then place your bullet casing against your rod and start looping the wire around both pieces in a crisscross pattern. If you are going for the 'rough' look like mine then don't worry about being perfect. Once you have enough loops around it twist the two ends together like a twist tie on a loaf of bread. If you want you can use wire cutters to snip off the extra, I left mine on trying to get a barbed wire look.

Go down the entire rod adding all of your casings. Make sure you leave enough room between them, too close together and you will be hitting two notes at once when you play. I found about 1/2 an inch was plenty, or about the width of another casing.

Step 3: Bottom Row

Now that your top row is all attached you need to add the bottom row

"But Iga, WHY do we need a bottom row? They are all held in place already.."

Good question! If you only have 1 rod the bullets casings are going to swivel freely around the rod, making it so that you can't blow evenly across them all. The second rod puts them all evenly up and down.

Now when attaching the bottom rod you will use the same technique as the first. But make sure to attach the two outer casings first, this will lock in the rod and make it worlds easier to attach all the middle bullets.

Once they are all tied on you can now tweak each bullet moving them up and down until they are relatively strait along the tops. This makes it easier to find the holes as you play, they don't have to be perfect but as long as they aren't all over the place it will work fine.

Tip 1- Now you can add a dab of superglue down between the casing and the rod. This will help keep them from moving around on you later. They do slide up and down still and could potentially fall out if you drop it.

Tip 2- I suppose if you really want you could fine tune the sounds by dropping tiny amounts of craft glue into the bullets. Try not to hit the wall of the casing, you want it to pool at the bottom. This in effect makes the chamber of the casing shorter, giving it a higher pitch. It's like a soda bottle, the more liquid you have in it the higher the note.

Congratulations, you now have a ballistic pan flute!

Step 4: Playing Your Flute

The best way I can describe it is like blowing across the top of a bottle.

Pucker your lips like you are going to whistle (don't whistle though) and gently blow across the holes, not into them. A little bit of experimentation and you will be a virtuoso of the pan pipes :)

Be the First to Share


    • Home Decor Contest

      Home Decor Contest
    • Furniture Contest

      Furniture Contest
    • Reuse Contest

      Reuse Contest

    24 Discussions


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    lead poisoning can still effect you through that, because of the fact that the brass once held the lead, and that lead particles can still be in the casings.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I'd like to issue a warning to members living in Washington DC, Massachusetts, and possibly other places. Due to lame laws that don't distinguish between the law-abiding people with spent brass and the non-law-abiding criminals illegally possessing live ammo, this project may be a bad idea.

    This project should be OK in most of Free America though. Y'all be careful out there.

    Oh, and could I ask the author for a favor? Either tell me the cartridges used or show me a photo of the headstamps? Thanks!

    2 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Oh wow, I never would have guessed there would be a law against a useless hunk of brass O_o thanks! As for the headstamps I'll try to remember to get batteries for my camera tomorrow. Just so you're aware though it's not tuned in any way, it's more for fun than actual music.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Tune with wax, poured into the bottom maybe? I know they tune glassware for playing via rubbing the rims, by adding water to tune them.


    8 years ago on Introduction


    This is Jef from Houston Press trying real hard to get in touch with you for a story on your flute. Please email me at jef_rouner at yahoo dot com. Thanks.


    look online to find your local shooting ranges. The one I went to was in the middle of nowhere, just a bunch of hills. You're supposed to take all your trash out but people seem to just leave all the casing on the ground. You can also buy them online, I know a guy on etsy sells them

    If you are in the US, there has got to be a range near by.

    I could also hook you up with a person that's more than willing to show a new shooter the ropes in a safe manner. You could also probably score some free range brass.


    I don't know if I have seven different bottle-neck cases on hand or not.

    Etsy seems like a bad option. I've seen used .22LR brass go for more than the original un-shot cartridges.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    bullet casings??????????????????????!?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Getting ready for the deadline at the outpost, huh? Hahaha. I'm on the wasteland forums under the screen name LIBERTYprime. This makes me want to go to my family ranch and scavenge our shooting range there. Nice work!

    2 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    DUDE! we need to compile a list of everyone's sites, I've found quite a few people from the wastes on deviantart but you're the first instructable guy I know of :D I've got a few more to get up on here before the deadline too, you planning on entering?


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Yup, I am almost finished with mine. Wasteland Elvis is on ibles too, I just forgot his screen name.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    The contest was actually fallout based :) wastelandoutpost.com is a fallout forum. Glad I got the effect across though, thanks!