Fun & Games
Propane Nerf Dart Cannon Causes Damage

In MAKE Volume 29 we published the Better Nerf Gun project by Simon Jansen. It’s a lovingly hand-crafted Nerf dart gun made from machined metal, PVC pipe, and wood — the kind of foam dart weapon that you might will to your grandchildren as an heirloom.

Simon Jansen's Better Nerf Gun

While the characteristics of Nerf darts and PVC were being explored for the project’s test-build at Make: Labs, engineering intern Dan Spangler came up with simpler and more powerful (if perhaps less elegant) Nerf dart propulsion device: a 1/2″ ID PVC pipe barrel stuck into a capped 2″ PVC pipe chamber, with a flint igniter from a propane lantern installed in the cap on the back.

Warning: Potentially Dangerous Pyro Ahead. To operate the mini dart cannon, one loads a dart into the detached barrel and fills the chamber with fuel from a BernzOmatic mini torch (with trigger pulled halfway to dispense the fuel without clicking the igniter). Then the barrel is fit onto the adapter fitting on the front chamber, and the lantern igniter knob is turned to fire.

One foam dart fired across spacious Labs hit a whiteboard hard enough to create a sizable dent.

Dan Spangler fires the propane Nerf dart cannon
Dent in whiteboard caused by safe Nerf foam mini-dart fired at high speed

28 thoughts on “Propane Nerf Dart Cannon Causes Damage

  1. I thought the purpose of Nerf stuff was to NOT cause damage. It seems that if your goal is to cause damage you might as well go with rail gun launched, rocket propelled, explosive tipped crossbow bolts or something else where the parts are already dangerous. On the other hand, if you are trying to trick your younger sibling into a skull fracture, they will more likely fall for the Nerf dart.

    1. The point, as I see it, is that one must use caution when powering up “safe projectiles”. Obviously, these are “unsafe velocities” for shooting co-workers (etc) and the demonstration has done a service. Thanks.
      PS: Squirrels Beware!

  2. F = M * A — Supersonic Nerfs can cause a lot of damage. If you throw anything (even light weight items) with enough force, it can cause damage.

    Hopefully the intern finds that more power may be more fun, but more power normally reduces safety to some extent.

    Nerf is just soft rubber devices. It doesn’t mean they can’t cause damage, it is just harder to make it flange things up!

  3. @Jack – more to the point, Ek = M* V^2

    Since it hasn’t been mentioned in these comments, I might point out the danger of using PVC pipe for a firing chamber. PVC shatters, and the shards are difficult to locate in the ER. Replace the chamber with ABS, and you’re at least marginally safer…


  4. You’ll put an eye out! and some grey matter. Any safety considered for an overpressurized combustion? PVC shrapnel is not good. May work for hunting silly wabbits.

Comments are closed.


Paul Spinrad is a broad-spectrum enthusiast, writer, maker, and dad who lives in San Francisco. He hatches schemes at

View more articles by Paul Spinrad