Monday, November 12, 2018

UMP-45

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 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.