For my upcycling project, I decided to upgrade a nerf gun and give it an Outrun aesthetic. If you do not know what Outrun is and would like a better idea, take a look at my previous 2 posts but it’s basically the Miami Vice and Synthwave look. I bought this nerf gun at the beginning of quarantine to mess with my girlfriend. It became a lot less fun when she got her own and started shooting back. We have since had a ‘cease fire’ so we don’t have to be paranoid about catching a dart in the eye. But I am coming back with a vengeance.
The reason I decided to upgrade the nerf is both aesthetic and engineering driven. Outrun attempts to capture the nostalgic feel of the 80s and 90s by using color schemes and designs that were commonly seen in movies, furniture, and video games. I have a lot of nostalgia associated with nerf guns. I remember growing up and seeing all the commercials for the latest nerf guns and wanting them so bad. Nerf guns were really the only safe and reasonable way my brother and I could take out our frustrations on each other. I also remember moving out of the house I grew up in after 12 years and finding nerf darts that I had long since thought vanished into thin air. Combining the nerf gun itself with the Outrun aesthetic will not only give it a unique and cool look, but also a nice memento of the nostalgic feeling I get every time I see them in a store or a commercial for the latest ones.
In terms of engineering, these are pretty simple machines. There are 3 chambers for the darts to be inserted into. A plunger is pulled down and locked into place until read to fire. When the plunger is pulled down, it uses a spring to gain potential energy and in junction with an air tight plunger rapidly forces air into the dart and transfer all the energy into the darts kinetic energy.
I see 2 potential areas for improvement. The spring and the plunger. I did some measurements and tests on the spring to determine some key things. By measuring the uncompressed length of the spring then comparing that to the compressed length of the spring with a 3lb weight on it, I was able to determine the spring constant to be about 8.67 lb/in. I can increase this value by either using a larger spring or using a spring with a higher spring constant. Both with increase the potential energy stored in the spring, and therefore likely increase the speed and distance the dart travels. Luckily I have a lot of different compression springs laying around from a deconstructed 3D printer and some other mechanical projects I’ve taken on.
Improving the plunger should be simple. All that creates the ‘air tight’ seal is a flimsy O-ring. Luckily, I have multiple O-rings for my car and motorcycle laying around and some plumbers tape. I think putting either a larger O-ring or some plumbers tape on the plunger will create an even tighter seal, thus forcing more air into the dart.
For some baseline, I measured how fast the gun shoots now unaltered and found that using slow mo video at 240fps and a 3 foot board for measurement that currently, the darts move at about 64.45 ft/s. Hopefully the upgrades I make to this generate a noticeable difference in this value that I will measure with different configurations.
Slowmo video of me shooting the NERF gun
To make this conform to the aesthetic, I am already taking advantage of the nostalgia many get associated with Nerf and amplifying that but giving it an Outrun skin. I’m going to do this by using lots of neon colors like purple, orange, blue, yellow, and pink while adding geometric patterns. I am not totally sure what exactly this will look like yet but I want to take advantage of a lot of the geometric shapes already present on mold of the Nerf while adding some sort of 3D perspective pattern using the 2D landscape. I am going to take a lot of inspiration from some online examples I’ve find, even though most of them are digital art I think there’s a lot I could translate into the real world and onto this Nerf.
Sources https://steamcommunity.com/market/listings/730/AK-47%20%7C%20Neon%20Rider%20%28Field-Tested%29 – Neon Rider by Winston Rekert
I love the aesthetic you are aiming for! I am curious to see how you add the designs to the nerf gun whether it be spray paint, acrylic, or some sort of wrapping? The video was a nice addition to your post and I find it awesome that you are diving into the specifics of the power the nerf gun currently has. I’m excited to see your final product!
Ben! This is a sweet idea! I love that you’re not just enhancing the aesthetic of the nerf gun but you’re also attempting to make it more powerful. Are you planning to paint the gun or add on some sort of “outerwear” to it to change the look completely? It could be cool if you completely added a layer to may it look like a much large gun than it actually is. Also are you planning to adjust both the airtight seal and the spring mechanism together? Excited to see the final outcome! And please include a video of you ambushing your girlfriend with your upgraded weapon 🙂