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Farago and I are waiting patiently (as if) for our Marlin 1894c lever-action .357 carbines to arrive. His is going to get tricked out with everything from an internal laser sight to a built-in pepper spray dispenser. Think Pimp My Ride with a tubular magazine. Mine is destined to receive more modest modifications, probably ghost-ring sights, a QD scout scope, and a leather lever wrap to keep my delicate knuckles happy . . .

Lever Fever is running at an all-time high; my FFL sources tell me they can’t keep Marlin, Henry, or Rossi leverguns on the shelves. In preparation for our upcoming Cowboy Carbine shootout (a .30-30 Winchester 1894 Trapper versus a Marlin 1894c in .357 Magnum) I’ve broadened my shooting and reloading horizons by picking up a chronograph to measure bullet velocity.

I’ve been reloading for years, and now that I’ve gotten a chronograph I’m a bit embarrassed that I’ve been reloading so long without one. After all, reloading tables and predicted velocities are dandy, but you’ll never know how your gun performs with your load until you run those bullets through the speed traps.

Instead of depleting my ammo stockpile while learning to use the new chronograph, I figured I’d climb that learning curve with something cheaper than live bullets. What should I test? My Beeman .22 air rifle? Nope; my garage has poor lighting. Airsoft Paintball? Don’t own any. A staple gun? Don’t want the kids stepping on all those spent staples. Archery? Not in this town; the city code specifically prohibits outdoor reenactments of the Battle of Agincourt.

So I tested the only remaining nonlethal projectile-slinging implement in the house, my daughters’ NERF dart guns. I learned several interesting things:

1.  It’s really cool to know exactly how fast something is moving, even when you don’t have any practical application for that knowledge. No wonder lots of cops leave their radar guns on most of the time.

2.  Modern dart guns may look cool, launch wicked quantities of foam downrange, and preserve our kids’ eyeballs, but they’re pretty lame to those of us who grew up in the 1970s. Old-school dart guns usually looked like orange plastic Beretta Brigadiers, and the hard plastic darts (with a rubber suction tip) could leave a welt on bare skin and completely rupture an eyeball. And that was before you pulled off the rubber suction tip. The new models are incapable of injuring anything hardier than a Gypsy moth.

3.  You really screw up your FPS measurements if you shoot at an angle across the chronograph screens. This problem gets worse the closer your muzzle is to the screens, which is why they recommend placing the chronograph at least five feet from your muzzle.

4.  There’s a reason I switched from Electrical Engineering to Political Science in college:  math is hard! This entry-level chronograph, a Shooting Chrony F-1, will crunch the numbers for you, but only if you purchase a handheld display accessory. In the meantime, thank heavens for web-based statistical calculators.

5.  Finally (not that this information has any use whatsoever) the green and blue NERF pistol delivered the most ‘impressive’ ballistics, with an average velocity of 53.79 fps, a  standard deviation of 4.84  and a mean kinetic energy of 0.12 pound-feet.

Despite its gratifying rate of fire, the NERF submachinegun was the most anemic dart-slinger in the arsenal. It produced a mean velocity of 35.09 fps, a standard deviation of 4.29 and a mean kinetic energy of around 0.05 pound-feet.

This is probably the only time you’ll ever see the word ‘NERF’ in the same sentence paragraph as the phrase “Standard Deviation.” Now that I’ve gotten my feet wet in the world of velocity measurement and statistics, I’m itching to test my hottest .357 handloads against the best .30-30 softpoints that Lucky Gunner has to offer.

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  1. Thanks for the post. I’ve always wanted to know the mean velocity of the blue NERF gun. It’s always been my contention that the yellow pistol was the most potentially deadly weapon in the Hasbro arsenal. I appreciate your clearing that up.

    • They should call it the .550 NERF Magnum, and make a special ‘Insect Collector’ version of it. Can’t really call it a ‘Bone Collector’ since it’s incapable of killing or injuring any vertebrates.

  2. Awesome marketing strategy for the NERF brand managers. You need to get in touch with Hasbro immediately. There’s an entire untapped market they’re missing.

  3. Here’s what you got to do to pick up those velocity figures. First off, this only works with spring loaded NERFs that have to reloaded each time. This method works great with that yellow one in the picture.
    First thing you do is open of the gun and replace the factory springs with heavier springs or longer springs. Then get as many large rubber bands you can possibly get your ands on. Tie one end of the band to the orange ring you use to load the spring, and then tie the other end to the front. Load, pull, and squeeze and you will raise welts like the 70’s my good friend.

  4. I like that idea! Please pass along any other suggestions for velocity testing also; I’m wondering if my past exploits as a tuba player will give my spitwads a ballistic edge.

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