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 builds 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.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Oodammo Launchers Part 2 - Misc. Launchers

Since Oodammo was the de facto best ammo to use, I used it for a lot of other experimental launchers. None of these were ever posted.

First up we have a "compact" nameless Oodammo launcher. I believe I had developed this after the Oodammo 2 but before the 3. I came up with a trigger system that allowed me to easily separate the trigger and the sear along a yellow block body type launcher. I wanted to demonstrate this trigger so I made this.


The gist of the trigger is that it allowed the magazine to be just in front of the trigger but allowed a full draw on the grey rod length striker. While I used this sort of trigger on other designs, I wasn't too fond of the design as an Oodammo launcher and didn't keep it around long. That said, I did reuse the body with minor modifications to fit it with a turret. Turrets and especially a launcher called the TR had been taking off for a bit. I wasn't too fond of turrets but I decided to try one out.


In hindsight, for a turret launcher, this was actually pretty compact after all. But since it was designed as a pistol, it still more or less wasted the potential of the turret. I still didn't like the design and so I think I scrapped it fairly quickly.

My next bit of randomness was something fairly simple.


This was just a mini Oodammo pistol I made for the heck of it. I just liked the idea of having some really small and piece efficient launcher people could mass produce for small indoor battles or something.

Then we have the Oodassault 4 candidate. At the time I thought the Oodassault 3 had limitations due to the design that could only be solved by having a larger body. I was taking development of this very seriously, asking for feedback from other builders on what they wanted in the "ultimate" Oodammo pistol.


To its credit, it did have some features the 3 didn't, such as a striker lock, a realistically angled handle, and a fuller striker draw. The striker was a weird concept I had that didn't turn out. The ends of strikers need to be reinforced to handle the force of smacking against the back of the launcher, else the striker rod will disconnect and fly out the barrel. My concept was that if I attached extra connectors in such a way that they absorbed the shock instead of the connection between the rod and connector, I wouldn't need to add stuff on the striker rod itself to absorb the shock. Sadly, I was wrong, and the extra weight created quite a snapping sound and reverse recoil. As for the launcher, while it had potential, it wasn't quite reliable enough and I just didn't like the larger body. But it would influence a later design.


This was Duncan's Easy, Random Pistol, or the DERP. I believe I built it my first year of college when I had free time in my dorm room. It's funny because it accomplished more than the would-be Oodassault 4 did, but by the time I built it, I had moved on and actually found this launcher somewhat "pointless" compared to other options out there. This one used removable magazines and was set up more reliably. It's also interesting to note that other than to make a place to put the rubber bands, this could've been created without any blue rods sticking out of the sides, something I liked about the Oodassault 3's design. So if I had to seriously consider a different design over the Oodassault 3, I would fix up the DERP and maybe post this later.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Oodammo Launchers Part 1 - The Oodassault Series

Brace yourselves, this is going to be a long one, and it's just part one.

One simple fact about K'nex is that they were never intended to be projectiles. In fact, they make for rather poor projectiles if we're being honest with ourselves. But that doesn't stop us from trying! One member, Oodalumps, was experimenting with different pieces and combinations of rods and connectors to see which flew the farthest and most accurately. What he ultimately found was that a three-slot connector with a white rod in the middle slot was the best pure K'nex ammo, and so he dubbed it Oodammo.

Since the creation of Oodammo, many single-shot launchers were made that fired it. However, because of their awkward shape, it wasn't immediately apparent how to make a repeater that fired them. Both the user Bakenbitz and I saw the opportunity to attempt putting out the first Oodammo repeater. I had just barely beat him out. Sadly, once again, I'm unable to find any pictures for his pistol.

Mine was thrown together under the same pattern as my previous assault pistols.


And so was born the Oodassault series. It was fairly crude for the sake of being one of the first ones made so I didn't intend to post it. I had seen another pattern of barrel and trigger used for other assault pistols and liked them, so I decided I'd try to build another Oodammo pistol following them.


And so was born the Oodassault 2 soon after. It was large and somewhat ugly. Since bakenbitz's pistol was also large, I decided I'd rather sacrifice range for compactness as an alternative option.

Instructions

For some reason I dubbed this the Oddassault 2.5 though the only changes were made all at once. This I saw good enough to get instructions for, and it saw reasonable success on Instructables. It's still decent to this day as far as piece efficiency goes, but it was never designed to be amazing. It'd quickly fall obsolete compared to other Oodammo pistols flooding in.

One popular design was the MeZak pistol, a collaboration between two other skilled builders, Zak and Mepain. Once again, I cannot find a picture of it. It introduced a tilting magazine and locking mag follower to make reloading much easier, else with most Oodammo pistols you had to take out the follower and slowly thread the Oodammo in one by one. It was also built to be more durable and handle more bands, ultimately making it perform much better. But it was bulky in my opinion, and I didn't like how the magazine looked.

One day another user named DJ Radio showed off his Oodammo pistol with a slide. It was very bulky and, if I'm honest, I just disliked his ego, so I figured I'd try to show him up. It was odd of me to come up with such a unique design so quickly (most of my inspiration came from other people's concepts but modified to my style) but I turned this out I believe the same or next day after seeing his pistol.


And so was born the Oodassault 3. It was much more compact than his offering, so I felt satisfied. However, despite what I originally thought, slides never really benefited launchers. They added extra complication and typically weakened the design while only marginally making it easier to charge the launcher. I was also not fond of the fixed magazine. I saw potential in my design, so I decided to improve it.


For the 3.1 version I got rid of the slide to instead make a more durable body. I believe it was the first launcher to use this pattern for the striker guide, which let the launcher be fairly compact (relative to other launchers that followed the more conventional block body design) but still fairly durable. I basically copied the MeZak magazine and adapted it to my design. You pushed on the blue connector beneath the trigger guard to tilt the magazine out. However, I didn't like copying the magazine, so I came up with my own design for the 3.2, then I lengthened it for the 3.3


I posted this version, but I don't want to link to instructions because it's an inferior design in most ways. Instead of holding the magazine tilted with your finger, this one broke open and remained open. I also came up with a method for loading this with stripper clips to make reloading much quicker. However, it suffered from reliability issues with having such a large magazine, and I didn't really like how it was weakly attached to the launcher. So I set out to do some redesigning.


This is the 3.6, the next version I would post after several revisions. Changes included shrinking the magazine and attaching it differently, giving it a sliding tilter, and adding a safety. This one performed much better and would serve as the new base for improvements going forward, but it still wasn't quite perfect.


If you couldn't tell already, I was really serious about making the Oodassault 3 series the best it could be. The 3.7 had a few usability enhancements to make it more reliable. I also changed the sliding tilter to allow the magazine to tilt out more and to catch on the trigger guard to take some of the stress of holding it open off your fingers. I was content with this version for a while. Killerk then used the body of this launcher with the magazine design from the MeZak and a few of his own touches to make his own pistol, the DunKillMeZak.


Basically, his priorities were in making the magazine lock open again instead of needing to be held open, and then in using the guide poll as a clip of sorts for quick reloading. I didn't like the magazine design so much, so I set out to accomplish his goals with my own style.


This was the 3.8. In addition to changing the magazine to lock open again like with the 3.3, I did the clips a little differently to allow them to be left in the magazine, making reloading extremely quick. This was my last version for a while. I grew older, went to college, got jobs, etc. and was fairly busy and not building as often. So whenever I felt like getting back into building, I'd often rebuild the Oodassault 3 and try to think of any improvements I could make. The first time I did this, I made this.


I wasn't fond of how large the 3.8's magazine was, so I tried to dramatically shrink it and make other small changes. However, it must not have performed well since I never displayed it. I'd eventually try again, actually calling this one the 3.9


Little changes here and there once again. I always meant to post something since I had made so many little improvements since the last time I posted a version, but I never did. And then a lot of time would go by again without me building. Once again a few months I tried getting into building again and I started working on the 3.10.


Still, it was just small little improvements here and there, a slightly more comfortable trigger and an easier to use mag follower. I may post instructions of it soon, but I've been wanting to make even more improvements upon it, so we'll see what happens.

So that concludes specifically the Oodassault series. It has been my pride and joy for a while, and still likely what I'd take to a K'nex battle if I ever participated in one. In another post, I will go over other Oodammo-based launchers I've made.

In Regards to the Guide Series - Learning to Teach

This site is young and its viewers are few so disregard this post if it doesn't apply to you. If you've been following along, we've had two lessons thus far for new builders. Now, the tricky part for me is that there is a lot to learn, so many different directions we could head, and I'm just trying to decide which direction would be best and then what we can make to teach it.

The big thing is that, though I'll borrow instructions from others from time to time, I'll have to design most launchers myself to make instructions for them, and truth be told I don't have a backlog of designs in my head. I intend to design the launchers to be clean and easy to build at first, only getting more advanced in time as we utilize unconventional methods of using K'nex and such.

This is a greater effort than I thought, learning how to teach, to purposely make something simple yet still elegant, and so it will take me some time to develop a backlog of designs. Ideally, what I'd like to develop is a modular launcher, a basic launcher design that we can then modify with different parts as we learn new lessons, just so we can avoid some of the more repetitive aspects and focus on the main concepts of each lesson.

So, my apologies to new builders depending on these lessons to get into building, I promise there will be more in the future. But it will take time for me. In the mean time, I do intend to keep other content coming.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Assault Pistols

My apologies, still need a little more time to prepare the next guide. So today we're going over my brief episode with assault pistols

Assault pistols were the next progression after sidearms. While sidearms were generally designed to be pistols with small projectiles most commonly fed from a magazine in the handle, these lacked range and weren't really that practical. Assault pistols were generally small, stockless launchers that typically fired larger projectiles from larger magazines forward of the handle for better range. The concept had existed for a while, and examples of them existed pretty much from the start of K'nex repeaters, but I tried to turn them into another fad. I was motivated by seeing user bakenbitz making one, though honestly I cannot find a picture of his now. There are many, many examples of assault pistols that many other veteran builders have made but I'm going to just go over a few examples of my own.

I wouldn't technically qualify this one, but I figured it was worth showing.


I don't have a name for it, but it was my hurried entry into a competition, and truth be told I never even tested that it worked. The trigger was a bad design and the magazine wasn't as good as I was hoping. I basically had designed everything around the removable magazine concept which was based on another side arm at the time. The magazine was held in by a pair of tan locks at the bottom of the mag well and fed green rods. I figured it was pretty cool looking at the time, but not very functional.

My first real one I think I called the TDAP (TheDunkis's Assault Pistol) continuing my predictable naming scheme. It was incredibly simple but it set a sort of template for most other launchers I would make in this time period. It didn't have much going for it but the one sort of feature I gave it was the angled magazine for blue rods so that the design could still be overall more compact without compromising too much on the range.


Sadly it too had a pretty bad trigger and it had a tendency to jam, so I never posted instructions. I think I set aside assault rifles for a bit while I worked on other projects such as the TDSS, UMP, and El Mosquito + Nano. But I would eventually return first with a slightly different concept, not technically an assault pistol.


I don't think this was named, but it was basically just a shotgun. It's hard to see, but on the left is my first design for a shotgun shell; I filled all the slots of a pair of snowflakes with white rods, and then put orange connectors all around them to make something vaguely similar to a shotgun shell. You could then stuff a total of four green rods in the orange connectors. The only problem was that the design was large and impractical to really fit in a launcher somehow. So for practically I came up with another design as seen directly below the launcher, which was flatter and could fit up to six green rods. The launcher then loaded these shells through a gate on the side accessed by rotating the red three-slot connector in front about the white rod. I had finally come up with a decent trigger design that I'd use on all my other assault pistols going forward.


So I revisited the TDAP to make something a little more functional. I also tried to improve its looks. Another silly feature I gave it were folding sights. When folded down, they acted as "precision" sights though a little more difficult to use. When folded up, they were easier to use. But with K'nex as inaccurate as they are, sights are always more about the cool factor than anything. However, I still wasn't quite satisfied with this design. I wanted to make an assault pistol with a removable magazine.


So I kept the same basic style but added a removable magazine for single-slot connectors + green rods. The way I did it was weird. It rocked in AK-style but slightly canted to the right, and then slid in against the green rod protruding from the handguard to lock it in. It wasn't the prettiest system, but it worked fairly well from what I recall. Still, I wasn't satisfied enough with it to ever post. I think assault pistols were going out of popularity, they didn't really catch on for long.

Their designs, however, would influence the next fad. The next evolution in launchers would be Oodammo pistols, which we'll cover in another post.