Speaking from experience, it’s always fun to build something with the specific intention of destroying it. Childhood sessions spending hours building boats from scrap wood only to take them to a nearby creek to bombard them with rocks — we disrespectfully called this game “Pearl Harbor” — confirms this. As does the slightly more grown-up pursuit of building this one-time-use clay pigeon camera.
The backstory on this build, which dates all the way back to 2017, is that [Thomas] was invited to a birthday bash at the local shooting range for a round of trap shooting. For the uninitiated, trap is a sport that involves launching a clay disc (known as a pigeon) into the air as a moving target and shooting it down with a shotgun. It’s a lot of fun, but [Thomas] was looking for a way to make it even more fun.
After toying with the idea of buying a cheap drone for aerial target practice, he settled on the idea of making a clay pigeon camera. After procuring a cheap keychain camera, he designed a simple wind vane mount for the camera, to keep it pointed in one direction rather than spinning with the pigeon. The wind vane was 3D printed and attached to the pigeon with a skate bearing, and the rig was ready for the range. The snuff film below tells the whole tale; the camera performed admirably and the wind vane did a good job of steadying the camera for all of about five seconds, until the inevitable and dramatic demise of the pigeon.
Watching this makes us feel like we need more projects designed for intentional destruction. Safety first, of course, but we’d be keen to see what everyone comes up with.
[Dirk] shared a fascinating project of his that consists of several different parts coming together in a satisfying whole. It’s all about wanting to do target practice, indoors, using a simple red laser dot instead of any sort of projectile. While it’s possible to practice by flashing a red laser pointer and watching where it lands on a paper target, it’s much more rewarding (and objective) to record the hits in some way. This is what led [Dirk] to create human-powered, battery-free laser guns with software to track and display hits. In the image above, red laser hits on the target are detected and displayed on the screen by the shooter.
There are several parts to this project and, sadly, the details are a bit incomplete and somewhat scattered around, so we’ll go through the elements one at a time. The first is the guns themselves, and the star of the show is his 3D printed cowboy rifle design. The rifle paints the target with a momentary red laser dot when the trigger is pressed, but that’s not all. [Dirk] appears to have embedded a stepper motor into the lever action, so that working the lever cranks the motor as a generator and stores the small amount of power in a capacitor. Upon pulling the trigger, the capacitor is dumped into the laser (and into a piezo buzzer for a bit of an audio cue, apparently) with just enough juice to create a momentary flash. We wish [Dirk] had provided more details about this part of his build. There are a few more images here, but if you’d like to replicate [Dirk]’s work it looks like you’ll be on your own to some extent.
As for the target end of things, blipping a red dot onto a paper target and using one’s own eyeballs can do the job in a bare minimum sort of way, but [Dirk] went one further. He used Python and OpenCV with a camera to watch for the red dot, capture it, then push an image of the target (with a mark where the impact was detected) to a Chromecast-enabled screen near the shooter. This offers much better feedback and allows for easier scoring. The GitHub repository for the shot detector and target caster is here, and while it could be used on its own to detect any old laser pointer, it really sings when combined with the 3D printed cowboy rifle that doesn’t need batteries.
Not using projectiles in target practice does have some benefits: it’s silent, it’s easy to do safely, there is no need for a backstop, there are no consumables or cleaning, and there is no need to change or patch targets once they get too many holes. Watch it all in action in the video embedded below.
People unfamiliar with shooting sports sometimes fail to realize the physicality of getting a bullet to go where you want it to. In the brief but finite amount of time that the bullet is accelerating down the barrel, the tiniest movement of the gun can produce enormous changes in its trajectory, and the farther away your target is, the bigger the potential error introduced by anticipating recoil or jerking the trigger.
Like many problems this one is much easier to fix with what you can quantify, which is where this DIY rifle accelerometer can come in handy. There are commercial units designed to do the same thing that [Eric Higgins]’ device does but most are priced pretty dearly, so with 3-axis accelerometer boards going for $3, rolling his own was a good investment. Version 1, using an Arduino Uno and an accelerometer board for data capture with a Raspberry Pi for analysis, proved too unwieldy to be practical. The next version had a much-reduced footprint, with a Feather and the sensor mounted in a 3D-printed tray for mounting solidly on the rifle. The sensor captures data at about 140 Hz, which is enough to visualize any unintended movements imparted on the rifle while taking a shot. [Eric] was able to use the data to find at least one instance where he appeared to flinch.
The hardware setup is pretty simple. We don’t have specific details, but it looks like he’s using a QFN accelerometer chip like you would find in a cellphone. The milled aluminum mounting bracket that holds the board has ‘USB’ printed on it, although the connector is something we don’t really recognize.
In the video after the break [Chris] demonstrates the feedback he can get when the device is mounted on the stock of a Ruger Mini-14. The graph of the data makes it obvious when the trigger was pulled. The most useful part may be the period leading up to that event, as it shows any unnecessary movement prior to the shot. If you’re into sport shooting, this may be one more tool that will help give you the edge on your competitors.