Experimental Air Powered Ballistics




About: I study engineering at Virginia Tech. Long time instructables fan.

I've always had an underlying interest in pneumatic air powered devices. It started with blowguns, but I eventually graduated to a higher performance airgun. Ever since then I've been developing new and exciting air powered devices that are unique and fun to mess around with.

Before we start, I'd like to explain some safety issues here. Number one: don't shoot anything at anyone or anything living. I don't use any of these devices in terrorist acts, nor to threaten or harm any organic life form or anybody's property. All shooting should be done in a controlled environment. Better yet, don't shoot at anything. Just make whatever and stare at it. Or don't make it at all. Yeah, this is actually all informational. Nothing here actually exists. Computer animation and men in suits. That's what I'll tell 'em!

Many of these darts were designed because I sought to break out of your traditional nail dart, explosive dart, etc. I want to show the other people who share my interests that a little bit of ingenuity can prove really awesome if put to the right use. So sit back and grab a drink, there's a lot of really, really cool stuff to read through here.

Let's start with my airgun. It's cheap, easily made, modded and added to. I use standard 1/2" PVC. No use for expensive and harder to get high-pressure stuff when you're only shooting at 20psi. I do NOT want to hear crap about my non-pressure rated schedule 40 PVC, I KNOW the risks!!! My gun has a standard ball-valve trigger and is pressurized with a small hand pump that is now attached to my gun, unlike in this first picture. I am able to change barrels and barrel attachments using the joint at the base of my barrel. The tubing coming from the pump to my gun was obtained from a LEGO set that used air hydraulic pumps. It can be ordered online over the LEGO website for a nominal fee. I use sports-ball filling valves that fit perfectly in the tubing to attach to my pump. The spray-painted section of my gun was salvaged from a derelict marshmallow gun that apparently I thought it was a good idea to use primer and glue on. Any more questions about my gun or anything in this Instructible should be PMed to me.

Step 1: LED Shootie

Since magnetic LED creations have just about been beaten to death in a variety of fairly creative projects, I figured I'd stab that last bit of life out of them with LED shooties. An LED shootie is just like an LED throwie, except you shoot it out of an airgun or blowgun.

The design is simple, using only some paper and tape, you can transform any basic throwie to a shootie. Take the two prongs of an LED and put two 1.5v button cell batteries (or one 3v cell) between them. At the same time, a small rare earth (Because nobody can spell neodymium) magnet is placed on the outside of one or both prongs of the LED. The whole setup should then be covered in duct tape to hold everything together.

In order to adapt it to fire from a blowgun, we need to put it inside a cone enclosure. Make a basic cone from paper and cut it off so that it fits in whatever sized tube you're working with. Cut off the very point of the cone so that the tip of the LED sticks out. Hot glue the LED and batteries in the cone and you're all set.

Uses for this include being a guerrilla graffitist and lighting up big metal things, or using it as a signal at night. I figure a streak of light shooting through the night would look pretty awesome.

Video below. It's hard to see for the camera, but it's plenty visible normally.

Step 2: 1/2 PVC Airgun Ball Bearing Clip

It took forever to come up with this super cool upgrade to your standard airgun. I was first faced with the dilemma of increasing my rate of fire for my airgun. I started by attaching my pump to my gun to minimize movement required to repressurize the chamber. The only other variable preventing my from achieving maximum firing rate was loading time. I started theorizing about clip ideas that would not require me to remove the barrel every time I wanted to load a new dart in.

Shortly after this, I discovered ball bearings that come in magnetic construction sets fit perfectly in my 1/2" airgun. After some brief research I began rudimentary clip designs. The first was simply a 6" section of PVC attached to my barrel with a 'T' junction. This, however, let many ball bearings fall into the barrel when loaded at the same time. I then drilled a hole directly through the 6" section of PVC and inserted a nail close to the bottom of the clip. I tried letting one ball fall at a time by manually moving the nail, but that proved aggravating and unsuccessful.

I was hit with a brainwave, and by dismantling a pen and mechanical pencil I constructed a slider that used my previously drilled holes to allow balls to be loaded extremely quickly and chambered one at a time. The slider held all the bearings back until they were pressured from the top gently, at which point one would fall into the chamber while the rest were held back. Pretty ingenious, right?

Pictures and video below:

Step 3: Clip-fed Airsoft Blowgun

I've been toying with the idea of this for a while now. Originally I had planned to have a recoil-operated blowgun that would chamber another BB using the exhaust from the previous shot. Scans of my notes below show a basic design (coming soon). Keep in mind that I know nothing about recoil-operation, so this was more of a preliminary design.

For my blowgun, I used a piece of machined aluminum tubing that I picked up for a couple dollars at my local hobby shop. After testing my preliminary designs, I moved on to using a small household vacuum cleaner to propel BBs down the barrel. I attached the end of my gun to the exhaust port of the vacuum and loaded BBs in through the clip-hole I had made previously. Problems arose with air pressure blowing BBs straight out the clip instead of down the barrel. I soon abandoned the vacuum and made a vacuu-former out of it =D

Step 4: Signal Dart

Along the lines of my LED shootie, I've created a dart that shoots a line that unravels behind it. I started with a standard nail dart hot glued about halfway into the tube so the back of the nail was inside the back of the cone. Now it is possible to tie a line to the back of the dart that is released behind the dart and affixed itself to a wall when shot.

Practical uses are limited without strong cable, but a streamer could be tied behind the line to create a daytime signal, although it may give away your position if you are playing stealth.

A better application is to lay a tripwire from cover. The dart shoots out and lays a string behind it. It sticks into a wall or tree, you use the other end to place in between two contacts. Target trips wire, contacts touch, circuit completed. You can make it activate anything you want.

Step 5: Explodey Dart Version 2.0

Some of you may remember my original exploding blowgun darts, but I've taken it a step further by severely increasing the power, force, sound, and of course, danger level.

WARNING: This thing is seriously dangerous, and that's no understatement, you could put somebody's eye out or worse with this. I don't think you should make this, just admire how cool it is. Of course I'm going to tell you how to do it anyway...

Now, materials:

  • Two nails
  • Mechanical Pencil
  • Dremel
  • Caps (from a ring cap gun)
  • Cheapo firecrackers
  • Standard airgun/blowgun cone
  • Glue (Hot glue, super glue, etc.)

You'll start by completely disassembling the pencil, saving only the plastic tube that houses it. Take your Dremel and grind the ends of both nails completely flat. Take one of the flattened nails and glue it to the end of the pencil tube so the nail is perfectly centered inside the tube. empty the contents of two or three firecrackers and two rings of caps onto a piece of paper. Pour contents into the open side of the pencil tube and tap until they fall around the glued nail. Cut one cap from another roll and slide it down the tube so that the open end sits on top of the nail you glued in the center of the tube. Finally, take the other blunt nail and slide it so that it sandwiches the cap between both nails. This creates enough pressure on the cap when fired to detonate it, igniting the rest of the material inside the tube. Secure the top nail with tape or paper so it doesn't fall out, and attach a cone to the whole enclosure, enabling it to be fired from a pneumatic gun of your choosing.

Video of it in action below.

Step 6: Airsoft Shotgun Dart Version 1.0

Something that I thought up while brainstorming ideas for cartridge-type darts. I started with a 1/2" paper cartridge that I made from magazine paper. After sealing the end of it, I loaded it with airsoft BBs and folded the inner rolls of paper into it so it could be handled without the BBs falling out. Ironically enough, it looks rather like an actual shotgun shell.

The feeling you get shooting it from the hip is immensely satisfying. The spread is pretty awesome as well, with an acceptable range of <15 feet. The range can be adjusted by packing the inner folds of the cartridge more tightly, giving it a significantly longer range.

I really want to make a clip-fed system for this. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.

Step 7: LED Shootie Version 2.0

Well I finally got around to making an LED shootie that attaches magnet-first. I started by cutting a few 1" metal rods from an old Ron Paul campaign standup (those things you see at street corners around election time) and flattening one end of each one. Once they had cooled from the friction, I superglued a few rare-earth magnets to the flattened ends of each metal rod. Using this like a nail, I hotglued it into a standard cone enclosure, and waited for it to dry. This requires a really strong glue to keep the magnet attached to the metal rod. Hot glue won't cut it, so your best bet is superglue. I then made an LED throwie (minus the magnet) and glued it into the back of the cone. It ain't pretty, but it works.

The dart is shot into a metal surface, adhering to it and showing the world your LED-themed protest of society.



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    27 Discussions


    5 years ago

    This is one of my favorite instructables. So many applications for airsoft. Going to make some!

    Ninja Assasin

    6 years ago

    You people have WAY too much time on your hands....


    8 years ago on Introduction

    CAn your thumb actually bend back at 90 degrees or is that a camera illusion also? Great info despite --in spite of-- the freakish ability with your opposing appendage.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    NO NO NO you got it all wrong! the thing is your using pvc. try galvenized steel. your using a bike pump. use a compressor. i got my 14 gallon 2 hp ingressol rand. also just get a key chain light. i shoved mine in an apple because of barrel size problems. use a brass ball valve ( sure theyre expensive, but well worth it )

    2 replies

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    pvc is is cheaper and easier to work with if you have not got a ton of tools


    9 years ago on Step 3

    Good stuff... I loved your Xplosive air valve.. now.. to stop the compressed air from blowing the bb's out of the mag, close the end of the mag tube (temporarily). That way the pressure inside the mag will equalize and the bb's should feed ok (either through gravity or a little spring assist)


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Pvc endcaps shootting off at over 10 psi can blind you. please, seriously buy schedual 40 PRESSURE rated PVC its like 27 cents for a foot of this stuff at home depot. Trust me, ive made MANY airguns. I love em. BTW pop bottles, like the one you are using, screw into garden hose ends..... (hint hint) AND can hold up to 100psi without to make problems!!! YAY 10cent air tank!!!! Goood luck! "Your gunna shoot you eye out!" lols. ~Twisted

    1 reply

    9 years ago on Introduction

    heh... once I tried to make a pneumatic mini cannon in engineering class. the solenoid valve opened too slow though. we made our own compressor and everything. we actually had three compressors hooked to one tank.


    10 years ago on Step 2

    Nice gun! I like you clip, however could you add HOW to make it? Aslo, a suggestion on the air tank, use 3 inch schedule 80 or 40 PVC.

    4 replies

    Reply 10 years ago on Step 2

    How did you make your gun to unload a set amount of air, then stop? Is it a certain valve, or did you just use all the air? Did you use a release valve and just press it quickly?


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    How do the shotgun shells work? Is it one end is covered, the other end is loosely covered by mag. paper, and when shot the force from the air hitting the closed sided forces it out of the barrel, then forcing the lighter, airsoft bb's out?


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    That's about right. I'm looking to design a better version of the dart, one that doesn't have the drawbacks this one does.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Perhaps a reducing coupler on the front to stop the shel fromm being removed, and a breecher near the front? I have a one inch diam. barrel, and am still deciding to cut it off and add a 1/2 coupler then some 1/2 PVC tubing. Tips?


    10 years ago on Step 4

    i'm going to use it to trigger my miniature thermite charges; the entity that hit the line would have about two seconds to get away before they are blasted with a material so hot it can burn through steel:) it's wonderfully evil:}

    2 replies