# DIY Coil Gun Redux: Life Really is Easier with Arduino

A common complaint in the comments of many a Hackaday project is: Why did they use a microcontroller? It’s easy to Monday morning quarterback someone else’s design, but it’s rare to see the OP come back and actually prove that a microcontroller was the best choice. So when [GreatScott] rebuilt his recent DIY coil gun with discrete logic, we just had to get the word out.

You’ll recall from the original build that [GreatScott] was not attempting to build a brick-wall blasting electromagnetic rifle. His build was more about exploring the concepts and working up a viable control mechanism for a small coil gun, and as such he chose an Arduino to rapidly prototype his control circuit. But when taken to task for that design choice, he rose to the challenge and designed a controller using discrete NAND and NOR gates, some RS latches, and a couple of comparators. The basic control circuit was simple, but too simple for safety — a projectile stuck in the barrel could leave a coil energized indefinitely, leading to damage. What took a line of code in the Arduino sketch to fix required an additional comparator stage and an RC network to build a timer to deenergize the coil automatically. In the end the breadboarded circuit did the job, but implementing it would have required twice the space of the Arduino while offering none of the flexibility.

Not every project deserves an Arduino, and sometimes it’s pretty clear the builder either took the easy way out or was using the only trick in his or her book. Hats off to [GreatScott] for not only having the guts to justify his design, but also proving that he has the discrete logic chops to pull it off.

# Coil Gun for Newbies: Learning Electromagnetic Propulsion

There’s something attractive about coil guns, especially big ones. It’s probably the danger; between the charge stored in banks of capacitors and the flying projectiles, big coil guns can be lethal to experiment with. But there is a lot to be learned from how coil guns work, especially if you build this 3D-printed entry-level coil gun.

For the coil gun newbie, [Great Scott] does a fantastic job of explaining the basics. Pulsing the coil at just the right time will suck a ferromagnetic projectile into the coil core and let momentum fling it out, and multiple coils used correclty improve performance.

His gun is a simple pistol design with two coils, optical sensors to tell when the projectile is centered in each coil, and an Arduino to coordinate everything. The results are not spectacular — he uses only a modest amount of current — but the gun still works. [Great Scott] points out how a capacitor bank could be used to increase the current, but for the sake of keeping it simple he leaves that as an exercise for the builder.

Many coil gun and rail gun builds have made it to our pages over the years, including his ridiculously powerful gun that uses a capacitor bank so large it needs its own car. We like this build for its simplicity, its approachability, and the excellent explanation of its function.

# The Most Powerful DIY Railgun

The US Navy is working on a few railgun projects that will eventually replace the largest guns on the fleet’s cruisers and destroyers. These rail guns will fire a projectile away from the ship at around Mach 7 on a ballistic trajectory to a target one hundred miles away. It’s an even more impressive piece of artillery than a gun with a nuclear warhead, and someday, it will be real.

Until then, we’ll have to settle with [Zebralemur]’s DIY mobile railgun. He built this railgun capable of firing aluminum projectiles through pumpkins, cellphones, and into car doors and blocks of ballistics gelatin.

All rail guns need a place to store energy, and in all cases this is a gigantic bank of capacitors. For this project, [Zebralemur] is using fifty-six, 400 Volt, 6000 microfarad caps. The MSRP for these caps would be about \$50,000 total, but somehow – probably a surplus store – [Zebralemur] picked them up for \$2,400.

These caps are just the power supply for the rail gun, and aren’t part of the structure of this already large, 250 pound gun. Luckily, with the seats down in [Zebralemur]’s car, they fit in the back of his hatchback.

These caps are charged by a bunch of 9V batteries stuck end to end. When the caps are charged, all the power is dumped into two copper bars in the gun, accelerating the aluminum projectile to speeds fast enough to kill. It’s an incredible build, but something that should not be attempted by anyone. Although this does seem to be the year that all danger seekers are busting out their electromagnetic projection flingers.

# A full-auto Gauss gun probably won’t hurt much

While it may only be able to shoot a few cans right now, we certainly wouldn’t want to be in front of [Jason]’s fully automatic Gauss gun capable of firing 15 steel bolts from its magazine in less than two seconds.

The bolts are fired from the gun with a linear motor. [Jason] is using eight coils along the length of his barrel, each one controlled by an IGBT. These are powered by two 22 Volt 3600mAh LiPo battery packs.

As for the mechanical portion of the build, the bolts fired from this gun are actually 6.5mm nails, cut off and sharpened. These are chambered from a spring-loaded magazine, with each new bolt put into the breech with a small solenoid retracting for an instant. The frame is constructed from a square aluminum tube with additional pieces cut with a hacksaw and bent with an impromptu bench vise brake. If ever there was a person deserving of a bench top shear/brake, [Jason] is the man.

The muzzle velocity of these bolts is about 40 m/s, with a muzzle energy that’s about 3% of a .22 LR round. Not deadly, but more than enough for picking off a few cans and bottles in a garage. You can see the video of this futuristic Gauss machine gun below.

# Coil gun with parts pulled from an electric stapler

[Lou’s] latest tutorial details the process of turning an electric stapler into a coil gun. The stapler is the expensive part, but the rest is pretty simple. He used PVC pipe and a handful of fittings along with a few supplies you probably have kicking around your shop.

It’s surprising how perfect the Bostitch stapler (from which the parts were pulled) is for this project. The mechanism that drives the staples into your pages uses a solenoid with a rather large coil. To turn it into a coil gun you simply need to replace the core of the solenoid with a metal projectile. In the video after the break [Lou] shows us how to make a barrel onto which the coil can be mounted. From there he uses a wooden spacer to position a hunk of smooth metal from a bolt which serves as the projectile. The stapler’s original drive circuitry and trigger mechanism do the rest.

# Coil gun revolver

[Sam] sent in a coil gun revolver – a feature we’ve never seen on a coil gun build before. The gun is based on a cheap toy revolver and is powered by a 9 Volt battery connected to an “electrified fly swatter tennis racquet” instead of the usual disposable camera build.

The revolver mechanism isn’t perfect – [Sam] has to advance the chamber with his thumb while the capacitor is recharging. This is only because of the mechanics of the plastic toy his gun is based on, though. He figures a small motor could do the work for him, but he’ll be forgoing that project to work on the MK II version.

Most of the coil gun builds on Hack A Day have been muzzle or breech loaders, so with [Sam]’s revolver we’re probably seeing the evolution of firearms mirrored in coil gun advancements. Does anyone want to take a guess and predict when we’ll see the equivalent of a this .50 caliber beast?. [Sam] says his next project is going to be a rifle, so he might have his work cut out for him.

# When Airsoft gets boring, build a coil gun!

Here at Hackaday, we’re all about repurposing old items you no longer use. Reader [Liquider] wrote in to share his latest creation, a coil gun built from an old Airsoft pistol.

He removed a handful of components from the pistol and installed a 800 uF/300V capacitor inside the grip. A small storage compartment was added under the barrel, which houses the AA battery he uses to drive the circuit. A modified reloading mechanism makes it easy to drop a metal projectile right in front of the coil before firing.

Once the pistol is charged up, a switch installed behind the trigger discharges the cap, creating a magnetic pulse that accelerates the metal projectile forward. [Liquider] estimates that the kinetic energy produced by the coil is 0.1 Joules, which fires of the slug at a reasonable speed.

Continue reading to see a quick video demo of the pistol in action.