Sunday, December 9, 2018

Shot launchers

In real firearms, shotguns fire shot, or spherical lead balls, typically multiple ones at a time. The clear benefit of having multiple projectiles fired at once is increased hit probability. Likewise, K'nex launchers can be set up to launch multiple projectiles at once for the purpose of increasing the chance of hitting something (or someone in a war).

If I haven't already explained (and perhaps this deserves its own post), my personal view on effective war weapons is that emphasizing range is vain since K'nex simply aren't designed to fly far distances let alone accurately. I always figured a more effective strategy would be to increase output to maximize hit probability and overwhelm opposition up close when they were running low on ammo. So, I had an interest in making practical shot launchers. If you've seen my previous post on Assault Pistols, then the following is already familiar to you.

At first, it was about making a semi-realistic shotgun shell as seen on the left. But making a design that fired them was difficult. So instead I made an easier to use flat shell that held 6 green rods. I made a relatively simple launcher to fire the shells. You loaded the shells in through a crude gate on the side of the front. It was novel, and the 6 green rods provided a lot of spread, but being limited to one shell at a time didn't make it all that practical for a war weapon.

I wanted to figure out a repeating design, which is challenging because you need to both load multiple projectiles at once and then be able to fire them all cleanly. Eventually I came up with a simple concept where the striker had a connector in front of it, sticking out the sides, allowing it to hit 3 rounds at the same time all loaded from a 5 layer magazine. It actually had pretty good spread, definitely would've provided a benefit in a war. Sadly I don't have pictures of my original concept, but user TheFoofinator kindly did me the favor of improving and posting instructions for my concept naming it the Basic Shot Weapon (BSW). 

I was really pleased with his results, but I was skeptical with the concept after more thought, the striker being a weak point of the design. It also resulted in rather large launchers that took up more pieces than I had available. So then I tried out a concept to make a shot pistol. 

I realized I didn't need the full striker length to be open. I could have a part just behind the magazine with limited movement that transferred all force of the traditional striker across 3 projectiles. This design was based on my DERP launcher. It had potential but I couldn't figure out a good magazine wall for the front that would also act as the barrel. The result was that the rounds shot downward. Connector ammo, while reliable, also took up more space which meant less capacity. So I tried one more concept out:

This one was based on my Oodassault 3 design, which resulted in a sleeker launcher. However, I designed it to attempt launching white rods, but the magazine just wasn't reliable at all. Rods don't like to stack perfectly vertically. I've since given up on making an effective shot launcher. 

A big problem with repeating shot launchers is their limited capacity and awful reload times, making them ill suited for primary use. I figured they'd only be practical as secondary launchers to use alongside a primary. They could either be sidearms like the above examples, or another concept I had but never came close to making was a combo launcher, a ranged-based launcher on top with a repeating shot launcher mounted below, preferably with a large magazine and a pump action to allow overwhelming firepower. The versatility would offer a huge advantage, and other K'nexers would explore similar concepts though often only with single shots of multiple projectiles, limiting their firepower. 

Perhaps shot launchers will never be a practical war launcher option. But they're still fun to mess around with. I hope someday I'll figure out a nice concept for a new shot launcher. 

Saturday, December 1, 2018

The BAW (Basic Assault Weapon)

Here's another little neat thing I did with limited pieces. The gist is that I learned two things at the time from other builders and wanted to apply them.One was how to make a slick yellow-rod sized magazine. The other was an easy way to make white rod magazines removable. So, I combined the two ideas to make a removable magazine for yellow rods, though I ended up using connector-based ammo for reliability. I made a simple launcher just for the sake of demonstrating the magazines. I fixed up the design to make it a little more post-worthy.

I had so few pieces I couldn't even fill in the stock, but I kinda like the look regardless. It was a charmingly simple launcher. One other neat little trick was thanks to how simple the magazine connection method was, I could also do that for the stock as well to store a spare magazine in it.

Because I had so few pieces, I requested that someone else spruce up the design and post it for me, so there are instructions here thanks to user travw. It was a modest build overall. The magazines were neat, but only held 5/8 rounds depending on the length you built, and this was a time when bolt actions and turrets were becoming popular, so its range was very lacking. That said, it still gained some appreciation, and user bakenbitz (now GrandeSwag on Instructables) used it as the base for a functioning Barrett M107 model, which was pretty cool.

I've often thought about revisiting this design because the building methods are dated but the principle is still there: I'd love to have a simple launcher with a large magazine just for fun. I did start on something some time ago using the base of my DERP launcher, but I didn't like where it was going for a handful of reasons, one being that it was no longer really that simple yet it didn't really offer any advantages over a bolt action launcher. 

That said, I like the design, so I've considered remaking it but using "shells". The idea of a shell is to encase a projectile so that it's not in contact with other projectiles, thus avoiding the magazine friction problem that direct-feed repeaters like the BAW have. The magazine lends itself well to having shelled projectiles. Actually, while I'm at it (sorry, this post is another run on one... I appreciate anyone still sticking through to the end!), I'll show an even older launcher that was sort of a precursor to the BAW before I figured out the nice way to make a removable magazine. It used shelled ammo.

Again, I was horribly lacking in pieces so it didn't have a stock, and it was very crude. The shelled concept actually worked out quite nicely except the shells didn't eject automatically, so I had a little plunger on the side for manually ejecting them. I didn't keep it around for long since I didn't like how crude it was. It did give me hope that shelled ammo had potential. 

So who knows, perhaps I'll revisit the BAW + shelled ammo concept soon.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Oodassault 3.10 Demonstration and Instructions

So you may have read my post on the Oodassault series. At the bottom of the first part, I showed version 3.10 that I built recently. After letting it sit around for a while, I finally decided I'd get instructions and a video.

For those unfamiliar with the series and just interested in this one launcher, that's OK, here's a quick summary: It's a pistol-sized launcher that fires an ammo found by another user to have the best range and accuracy for purely unmodified K'nex ammo. As the name suggests, it's the 3rd version and 10th revision of a series I started long ago originally just to be the first of its kind, improving designs until it was finally a usable war launcher. It's built to be relatively compact and durable, and to get respectable ranges. The magazine tilts out and the mag follower locks down to make reloading quick and easy. I also designed clips to help make reloading quicker still. I've made other clip designs, but they weren't as durable. These can be safely carried in a pocket.

Here's a quick video demonstrating the launcher:

I decided that while it's still around, I'm going to use Instructables since I like its editor, but if you guys would prefer for me to post instructions directly on here, let me know. Here's the link to the instructions. It might be a bit advanced for new builders.

With the Oodassault deconstructed, I can begin work on my next project. I plan on revisiting the Barackuda, hopefully improving it, but at the least getting instructions for it too. I'm still planning on making a modular base launcher for the guide series, I apologize for the hold.

Monday, November 12, 2018


Here's a shorter post for today. In my early days, I liked to design launchers based on real firearms. Ultimately, I realized I wasn't that good at it, but one of my last creations before I stopped altogether was a couple launchers based on the UMP-45.

I liked its design, and its size was within the realm of possibility for me as a piece-limited builder. The main challenge for me was making a magazine with a similar angle. So I set out and came up with this:

It wasn't bad, but there were many things I'd later not like about it. For one, I couldn't come up with a good skeleton stock design, so I made up a solid one. Another thing was the front end was a touch too short. The handle was also awfully flimsy. Regardless, it was a very popular K'nex build on Instructables for a bit, one of the most highly rated ones. The one feature I was proud of was the slanted removable magazines. I used an unconventional attachment style to accomplish it where it was rocked in AK-style rather that inserted straight in.

It was bugging me how not quite accurate my original one was, so I decided to have another go a couple years later. I liked it so much that I'd end up building it again in college and tweaking little details, which is pictured below.

Ironically, this one had the opposite problems. Instead of having an incorrect stock, it just lacked on entirely. It was also perhaps a touch too long instead of short, but I felt this represented the UMP better. I did something a little different with the striker. It protrudes out the left side, the idea being that it'd be similar to using the charging handle on the real one, though not nearly as realistic. Ultimately this resulted in it getting less range, but it was never meant to have good performance anyway.

Like many other launchers of mine, I've long considered how I might redesign and improve the UMP if I ever revisited it. I'd give it a proper stock and clean up the design at least, but I'm not sure what I'd want to do about the striker + charging handle situation. Perhaps I'll figure that out and have some new instructions to post eventually.

Friday, November 9, 2018

The Barackuda

As we went over in the last post, I had always wanted to design a bolt action but could never quite design one that satisfied me. Other builders had long since made their own personalized bolt action launchers and I didn't figure I could really do anything different from theirs. However, that changed.

I had been out of college, with a job, living with a friend and coworker, but I still wanted to keep building with K'nex, so I'd have spurts of activity every now and then. One day I noticed how the teeth of gears fit in the grooves of rods. I kept experimenting until eventually I came up with a rotary magazine, which is a cylindrical magazine that uses sprockets to hold and feed the rounds. I later figured out I wasn't the first to come up with the idea for the magazine design, but it had never yet been used in a practical launcher yet. While it was meant to be a novelty, the nice features of this sort of magazine is that it holds a relatively large amount of ammo (10-12) compared to vertical magazines of the same height, and it's comfortable to use as a foregrip.

I struggled, but I was determined to make a launcher for a bigger version of it. I figured, well, I always wanted my own bolt action, so I might as well design a bolt action since the magazine would probably get bad range as a direct load repeater anyway. And so I began designing the Barackuda (portmanteau of Barack [Obama] and barracuda).

This was the first prototype before I had all the details worked out. I needed to figure out how to make the magazine removable and add a decent stock. But I was really pleased with how the design was turning out because my style was to make things compact and sleek. I continued working on it and after a few modifications I came up with this:

It worked nicely but I felt like the stock was awkwardly long and it didn't get as much range as I liked. Plus, reloading the magazines took a bit of time. As you probably know about me by now, I'm an iterative improver. Later on, I would get more pieces and rebuild the design to make more improvements.

I redesigned the stock and made little tweaks here and there. I just wasn't still quite ready to post it, so I'd keep tweaking it for a couple years whenever I got back into building again for short spurts. I'd eventually get my own house and find myself with more time and space to build in, so I made my final iteration:

By now I had made a better stock, more reliable trigger that helped get better range, an easier to load drum magazine (gears since removed since they didn't help), a shorter muzzle to make muzzle loading single shots easier, more precise sights, and a safety system. I was really pleased with how far it had come, but likewise I couldn't get over my perfectionism. I finally got a handful of pictures to help others build it and then destroyed it to work on other projects. However, me being me, I've been thinking of revisiting it and then posting full instructions here.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

A Brief History of Bolt Actions

Forgive me that I can't provide more information for something I often take credit for having helped start. For those following the eventually-to-be-fleshed-out guide series, this topic might be a bit advanced for you but I'll try to give a simple run down of the concept. Then we'll be going over my Barackuda in the next post.

So in real firearms, there are different "actions" for making the firearm ready to fire again. I won't get detailed, but one of the manual actions for repeaters is bolt action, where you operate a handle connected to the bolt to cycle the action. Typically this involves pushing a round out of the magazine up the feed ramp into the chamber.

This term was borrowed for K'nex launchers where originally it just meant a basic striker action. Some people would add handles to their strikers to make them easier to charge, some that you would reset back into position like a bolt handle while leaving the striker charged (and this is still a common practice to make strikers easier to charge while not adding weight to them).

However, one certain launcher caught my eye one day. I wish I could remember exactly what it was or by who. It was a bolt action that fed from a magazine above the barrel. There was a pin connected to the handle that pushed a round out of the magazine and into the chamber. This is where things get hazy but I believe it was done more for the novelty of it as the striker's full length wasn't used efficiently. So it gave me an idea.

A problem with simple repeaters is that the rounds, especially rods, will cause a lot of friction and reduce the max range you can get. So I had the idea (though I probably wasn't the first, just as far as I can remember) to utilize a bolt action to dramatically increase the range of repeaters. I wanted to more efficiently utilize the striker length and to have a more traditional bottom-feed magazine. Truth be told, I felt too inexperienced at the time to come up with something alone, so I collaborated with Sol3kill3r to make something. Unfortunately I don't think he ever got pictures, only a video. I'll see if I can track it down somehow, but I believe he unlisted them. Anyway, it was a good start and I was excited to work on the design. However, I believe the story goes that he tipped off builder Zak on what we were working on.

Zak then designed the ZKAR (Zak's K'nex Assault Rifle?) and beat us to the punch. The original post and pictures are since long gone, so I can't show his original design. I was peeved because he made a pretty excellent launcher that was the first bottom-loading bolt action with instructions posted, beating me despite it originally being my idea. His design exceeded what I was capable of at the time, but also had flaws. He refined the design over time and made the ZKAR V2. Luckily, someone else got instructions for it.

While it still wasn't a flawless design, it had set a high bar and was the standard for a long time. I kept trying to design my own bolt action launcher but could never meet my own expectations let alone make something to compete with the ZKAR. I was dead set on making something notably better or novel. One example:

It was a really rough design and just didn't satisfy me, so I never displayed it except as proof that I had designed bolt action myself. It was an attempt to use a removable magazine, but the method I used wasn't good at all. I scrapped this design pretty quickly.

Another design went for the novelty approach:

It was an attempt to design a bullpup (magazine behind the handle and trigger) bolt action, but I didn't have the pieces to finish, and the resulting stock would've probably been too long. I did test fire it and it didn't perform all that great since there was an excessive amount of barrel after the chamber.

And so I went on sulking as a builder who never even made a good example of the idea I originally advocated for. Until just a few years ago, but we'll save that for the next overly long post.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Folding Launchers + Horizontal Magazine Launcher

There was an interesting prototype weapon shown off at a firearm convention known as the FMG-9, or Folding Machine Gun. There was actually an even older firearm designed in a similar pattern, but we're not here to talk about firearms, except when they happen to inspire K'nex designs. The FMG-9 was a fascinating concept because it folded up into a box but could be deployed quickly into a stocked firearm. This posed an interesting challenge to replicate in K'nex.

I'm honestly not sure who first might've attempted something, but the first that comes to mind was an attempt by builder Sol3kill3r. In typical fashion, I'm not having any luck finding pictures of his launcher. I wish I remembered more of the history here, because I'm guessing someone else might've made their own attempt, and then I was motivated to try something. My first attempt was awful.

I aimed to make something compact but the result was something that looked ugly and barely worked. Still, the one innovation I added was a horizontal magazine for single-slot connectors + green rods. This saved me the effort of cramming a vertical magazine into the body somewhere.

Recognizing that the folding functionality of it was just not worth it, I decided to expand on the horizontal magazine concept instead. The result was something that looked a bit more appealing in my opinion.

It was in the form of an oversized pistol. The magazine was lengthened to hold more ammo. It got a little better range from a fuller utilization of the striker length too. It was a cute concept but still not all too practical, so I never did end up posting it. At another point, I did try making an even more compact horizontal magazine launcher design, but it was challenging to make something up to my design standards of the time. Perhaps it's something I can revisit. And here's another slightly cringey video of it in action:

Later on, someone else would try to make a more compact folding launcher, the most compact one yet, so me being me, I took it as a challenge to make something even smaller. My first iteration used a more traditional vertical magazine for single-slot connectors + green rods. Sorry for the awful picture quality.

I believe someone suggested I try using Oodammo since I was so familiar with it. So I slightly redesigned the launcher.

The resulting launcher only had a four-round capacity, but it was novel for being the first and only folding Oodammo launcher. I was also proud of how compact it was at the time, though it came at the expense of the handle design. My design also never automatically unfolded like other designs, it required manually deploying it. Here's a slightly less cringey video of it in action:

I've toyed around with ideas for other folding designs, but they're just so tricky. The more compact you want to make them, the less capable they generally are. But in my opinion it defeats the purpose if you make a large design. At the end of the day, folding designs are just a novelty anyway.