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Picture of 18th Century Style Custom Pistol (nerf)

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

Picture of 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.

ValveWizard1 month ago
I've never heard of hilti cartirdges before, what a great idea! Is the piston a pre-made device or did you machine the whole thing from scratch?
bartworker (author)  ValveWizard1 month ago
Powerful stuff these things, other brands make them too tho. All built from scratch, btw ;)

Oh man, this thing is gorgeous. I want to see it fire!

bartworker (author)  The Rambler1 year 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 ;)

Simple solution, get closer! Haha

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.
bartworker (author)  Rottedroots1 year ago

Thanx for the interesting input, highly appreciated!

mzmclady1 year ago

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

bartworker (author)  mzmclady1 year ago

Coming soon! ;)

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.

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.
bartworker (author)  Tecwyn Twmffat1 year ago

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

bartworker (author)  Tecwyn Twmffat1 year 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! ;)

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!
bartworker (author)  Uncle Kudzu1 year 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!

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 :)

bartworker (author)  Uncle Kudzu1 year 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! ;)

Phil B1 year 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.

bartworker (author)  Phil B1 year 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... ;)

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.

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

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." -

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

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.

It states that "a license is not required to make a firearm solely for personal use" - no license or permission required.

It clarifies that "a license is required to manufacture firearms for sale or distribution." - can only make for personal use. Not for commercial sale. In fact, without being a registered gun it illegal even to give to another person. You can look up more info on that if you want to.

After a couple sentences saying it is Illegal to build a semi-auto shotgun yata yata yata..... "the making of an NFA firearm requires a tax payment and advance approval by ATF." - Here is the important part. It states that you must have permission (and tax) to build an NFA firearm. NFA stands for the National Firearm Act. (passed by congress in 1934) Here's Wikipedia:

"The National Firearms Act (NFA), 73rd Congress, Sess. 2, ch. 757, 48 Stat.1236, enacted on June 26, 1934, currently codified as amended as 53, is an Act of Congress in the United States that, in general, imposes a statutory excise tax on the manufacture and transfer of certain firearms and mandates the registration of those firearms. The Act was passed shortly after the repeal of Prohibition. The NFA is also referred to as Title II of the Federal firearms laws. The Gun Control Act of 1968 ("GCA") is Title I."

Alright, here's the point. When speaking of NFA firearms, it is specifying CERTAIN types of guns which are regulated differently than most. Mainly the NFA regulates short barreled shotguns, sawed off rifles, silencers, and the like. Guns NOT regulated by NFA (why I gave the list) you are perfectly allowed to build without licensing, taxes, or permission.

Which is it states at the very beginning: "a license is not required to make a firearm solely for personal use"

I'm bad at making sense of very confusing subjects. Hopefully that made a bit more sense.

Btw Bricobart, EPIC pistol you got there. Definitely best Nerf gun ever :)

bartworker (author)  Jake_Makes1 year ago

Thanx for your input Jake. As I said to Phil, I'm living in France and I'll check that out with our local law enforcement officials. Good to know that in the states there's no limit on this type of creativity ;)

ShawnT221 year ago

That is quite the clever trigger mechanism. I'm rather impressed how you avoided conventional "catch" style releases by the use of a self-locking toggle. It may actually prove more robust than a catch in the long run; considering that the wearing components (pivot pins) are not directly responsible for preventing a misfire.

bartworker (author)  ShawnT221 year ago

Thank you Shawn, no misfires yet! ;)

Very nice build, it ended up looking fantastic (getting the stock from a natural elbow was genius, btw). It looks fantastic when its assembled and put together.

bartworker (author)  Brokk Hrafnsson1 year ago

Thanx man, it took me a few years and some dips to complete but I'm glad I'm not the only one who's loving the result ;)

seamster1 year ago

That is beautiful Bart. There's something magical about the artful combination of metal and wood. Very very nice!

bartworker (author)  seamster1 year ago

Thank you Sam, coming from you that's a heartwarming compliment!

JackCarter1 year ago

Perfect for a steampunk cosplay, gg

bartworker (author)  JackCarter1 year ago

Thanx man - seems like we're both in heavy smoking guns ;)