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Airsoft is fun (I guess, I’ve never owned any Airsoft guns), but what about when you get bored of shooting little plastic gubbins and yearn for steel instead? Hackaday, the blog that constantly amazes me with the ingenuity of a bored human mind, has a suggestion: turn your air-powered pellet chucker into a supercharged steel-slinging coilgun. I saw this posted earlier and it was just way too awesome not to share with all of you. Make the jump for a quick explanation of what a coilgun is and some video of the gizmo in action.

A coilgun uses magnetism to accelerate a projectile down a barrel. The magnetic force is created using a coil of copper wire attached to a capacitor. When the capacitor is tripped (the electricity stored within transmitted through the coil) the electricity flowing through the wire creates an instantaneous magnetic field that acts on the projectile and moves it forward. By the time the projectile gets to the coil the energy in the capacitor is spent, meaning that the magnetic field disappears and doesn’t keep the projectile from continuing on its path. Multiple coils can be used in series to increase the velocity of the projectile. This is different from a railgun, which introduces electric current to the projectile itself instead of a coil.

Because the force acting upon the projectile is magnetism and not a chemical reaction (like gunpowder) this is technically not a firearm. However, quick witted ATF boffins may note that a chemical reaction in the battery is the actual primum movens in the mechanism. In other words, I sure hope the ATF doesn’t get wind of this and start classifying batteries as ammunition.

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  1. Until I read the part about a railgun imparting a charge to the projectile itself, I kept thinking, “ooh, neat -a railgun!” But you’re right; this is a coil-gun. The ATF probably would classify this as AOW.

  2. As soon as I am done testing my Hamster-gun, I’ll be sure to send you the exclusive video first.

  3. Functionally useless unless your airsoft gun is a M-2, thereby permitting enough batteries and caps to move something at any kind of usable speed/distance.

    In a pistol form factor, it’s not happening without an external power supply.

    I would also have something of an issue with discharging enough energy to move a metal projectile with enough force to be useful, through a few bucks worth of plastic held in my hand. There’s a reason every rail gun example you’re likely to see involves the rail and coils bolted to a table and the operator some distance “the hell outa Dodge”.

  4. When I was a kid, I built slingshots that were more powerful than the coil gun. But this hack is still a neat science experiment.

    • After finally getting to see the video, I can say that you’re right, Ralph: not much power in this. Still, neat proof-of-concept!

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