How to Make Air Guns Out of PVC

Written by marc sutton
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How to Make Air Guns Out of PVC
PVC cutting tool used to make clean, even cuts on PVC pipe (cutting tool image by Greg Pickens from Fotolia.com)

Air guns made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) use pressurised air to shoot a projectile such as a miniature marshmallow, potato or marble a long distance. Some people even use homemade air guns as paintball guns. Many ways are available to increase an air gun's shooting distance. The more pressure your gun holds, the farther the projectile will travel. You also can customise your gun to shoot bigger objects by using a larger barrel, but that will lower the distance the objects travel.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Measuring tape
  • 1-inch diameter PVC pipe
  • PVC pipe cutter
  • 1/2-inch diameter PVC pipe
  • Sandpaper
  • Drill
  • Titanium drill bits
  • Vice
  • 2 PVC end caps
  • Screw (1 inch long by 1/2 inch diameter)
  • Plumber goop
  • Bike valve stem
  • 2 PVC Ts (1 inch fitting sizes)
  • 2 90-degree PVC corners (1 inch fitting sizes)
  • 2 PVC reducers (1 inch by 3/4 inch reducer)
  • 1 ball valve with 3/4 inch connections
  • PVC primer
  • PVC cement
  • Hand air pump
  • Miniature marshmallow

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Cut the PVC pipe. First, cut the 1-inch diameter PVC pipe into two 5-inch pieces and three 2-inch pieces for the chamber area of the air gun. For the barrel, cut one piece 6 inches long. Also, cut the ½-inch diameter PVC pipe to a 4-inch length. Start by measuring the PVC pipe and marking the distance for each cut with a pencil. Use a ratchet-style PVC cutter, which is available at most hardware stores, to cut the lengths by squeezing the cutter around the pipe at the marked location. While squeezing the handle, turn the PVC pipe cutter in a circle around the pipe to make your cut.

  2. 2

    Rub the ends of the PVC pipe with rough sandpaper. This will remove rough edges and burrs.

  3. 3

    Drill the PVC end caps and set screw hole. Drill a ½-inch hole in the centre of both of the 1-inch PVC end caps and 2 inches from one of the ends of the 6-inch PVC pipe. Use a titanium drill bit made for general purpose drilling; they are available at home improvement stores. Hold the items securely, preferably with a vice, while drilling to avoid harming yourself or damaging your PVC. Drill with a slow, constant speed and even pressure.

  4. 4

    Rub rough sandpaper over the hole to remove burrs and rough edges.

  5. 5

    Insert the barrel stop. Screw a 1-inch screw into the hole of the 6-inch pipe. The screw should be large enough to touch the bottom of the inside pipe wall but should not go through the other side of the pipe. The screw needs to be at least ½ inch in diameter and fit snugly into the hole to reduce air loss. Apply a small amount of plumber goop around the top of the screw to help reduce air loss, and allow the glue to dry.

  6. 6

    Attach the bike valve stem. Begin by applying a large amount of plumber goop to the hole in the first end cap. Push the bike valve stem through the hole in the end cap, leaving the rubber seal on the inside of the end cap; this will help create a seal for the air chamber. These stems can be found in most department stores and sports shops.

  7. 7

    Connect the barrel. Apply plumber goop to the hole in the remaining end cap, and press the end cap onto the 6-inch PVC pipe. Then press the ½-inch diameter PVC pipe into the hole in the centre of the PVC pipe; this should be a snug fit. Continue pressing the smaller pipe into the end cap until it touches the screw stop. Allow the glue to dry.

  8. 8

    Arrange the pieces. Lay the PVC pieces on a flat surface to prepare them for primer and gluing. Do not connect the pieces yet. Starting on the left and working toward the right, lay the end cap with the valve on your work area followed by the 1-inch coupler. Next should be the 1-inch T-shaped PVC piece followed by a 5-inch pipe piece and finally the 90-degree PVC angle.

    To create the centre of the air gun, place one 2-inch pipe piece above the T and the other above the 90-degree angle.

    From the pipe on the left you will work from the right side and move toward the left, adding the last 90-degree angle and the 5-inch pipe piece. Next, place the T on in line to the left of the pipe and above the 2-inch piece of pipe. Off the T, place the last 2-inch pipe piece. Screw the 1-inch-by-¾-inch PVC reducers into the ball valve connection, and place it on the work area after the last 2-inch pipe. Finally, place the barrel fixture on the table with the smaller pipe facing toward the left.

  9. 9

    Prime the PVC pipe. Prime the PVC anywhere the pipes will touch another piece of pipe by rubbing the primer's cotton-tipped applicator on those areas. Return the pipe to its original location on the work surface when done. Allow the primer to set according to the package directions. The primer helps soften and clean the surface to prepare the pipe for glue.

  10. 10

    Glue the PVC pipe together. Apply PVC cement to the first pipe connection, where the first piece touches the second piece of pipe. Repeat on the second piece. Connect the two pipe pieces together by pushing them until you feel the pipes touch. Watch the position of the pipes to ensure they will lay flat when you are done. Repeat for each connection. Allow the cement to dry completely. Glue only one connection (two pieces of pipe) at a time.

  11. 11

    Pressurise the air chamber. Close the ball valve by turning the knob to the closed position. This ensures the air will stay inside the air gun. Attach the hand air pump to the bike valve on the pressure chamber of the air gun. Pump the hand air pump several times to pressurise the air chamber. Remove the pump when done.

  12. 12

    Operate the air gun. Load the air gun with a miniature marshmallow. Tip the air gun back to allow the marshmallow to roll into its barrel; the screw will keep it from going into the air chamber. Aim the air gun in a safe direction. Turn the ball valve to release the pressurised air and launch the marshmallow.

Tips and warnings

  • The more you pressurise the air gun, the farther a projectile will travel.
  • Air guns work well for paintball wars.
  • Always be aware of your surroundings when using a gun, even if it just shoots a marshmallow.
  • Always use caution when shooting objects from air guns; never point them toward people's faces.

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