Rubber Ball Gun

Second Prototype

View the old plans here

Current Data

Gun level at 48" from the ground - ??
Gun at 45 degree angle with tip of barrel at 48 " from the ground - ??

Warning: put the ram rod on a lanyard.
The new design is stiff to cock due to the power of the dual bands of surgical tubing. I believe that in this design it should be mandatory that the ram rod be on a lanyard attached to the gun stock. The reason is that it is easy for the ram to slip out of the hand when cocking in haste and the result with a loose ram would be it shooting into the air or at someone. Note, though, that while that could result in a painful incident it should not cause any serious injuries to anyone in fencing armor.


picture of plungers Here you see all three plungers. These are all effectively the same length; the length that matters is from the front end of the plunger to the leading edge of the butt piece, which is about 16" on all three. The top one was the original but at 95g it was very heavy. The second was much lighter at 45g. The bottom one (the Mk3) is the lightest and has several innovations that improve performance:

- The plunger is only 25g, being made with pine ends and a fir arrow shaft. I was worried about the strength of the design but it has proven to be more than strong enough.

- The end of the plunger that pushes the ball is cupped, which causes the ball to center when it is being pushed down the barrel. This results in minimum friction and maximum energy transfer.

- It is drilled to accept 2 bands of surgical tubing rather than just one as on previous models. Obviously this doubles the energy.

- I have added a ring that is drilled to slide freely on the shaft of the plunger. This "donut of death" is drilled to hold the 4 ends of the surgical tubing. On earlier models it was necessary to have the surgical tubing poke out of holes in sides of the barrel so I had somewhere to secure the ends of the tubing. The donut allows all that to be contained inside the barrel. It also means that the tubing will pull strait forward rather than at an angle, thus increasing the energy pulling the plunger forward.
picture of plungers Notice the angle on one side of the butt end of the plunger. This angle pushed the firing pin down to allow the butt of the plunger to slide past when cocking the gun. This single angled face leaves me room to drill 4 holes in the butt -- necessary to fit in the 2 sections of surgical tubing -- but it also makes it critical that the plunger be aligned exactly right in the barrel. I spent about 45 minutes getting that just right the first time.
Mk3 plunger Here is the Mk3 rigged with the first piece of surgical tubing. I used 10.5 inches of 3/8" surgical tubing for each band. I just guessed at the length but it came out about right. When it is right the tubing should be about at maximum stretch (as far as it can stretch without damage) with the donut is pulled all the way forward.
Mk3 plunger fully rigged The Mk3 with both pieces of tubing rigged and tied into the donut of death. A restraining cord is tied through the tubing at the rear of the plunger. Make sure all 4 strands of tubing are balanced or the plunger will pull off to one side.
Mk3 plunger ready to mount To mount the Mk3 it is best to figure out where in the barrel the donut will sit and drill 4 equally spaced holes in the barrel around the circumference of that spot. Then push the plunger into the barrel, make sure the butt end of the plunger is lined up as you wish and then mark the donut through each of the holes in the barrel. Pull out the plunger and carefully drill pilot holes for screws in the side of the donut. Make sure these holes are in the center between where the hole were drilled for the tubing because it will screw it up if the drill through the tubing. The pilot holes are important because if you just cram screws into the wood it will probably crack.
too many holes in the barrel As you can see, I drilled several holes before I got it right. Whenever I drilled into the barrel I used a long mandrel with sandpaper to clean it up. There must be NO rough edges inside the barrel -- it must be sanded smooth. I used 3/8" screws to hold the donut of death in place. Anything longer than that would go too far into the wood.
Drill & Mandrel This is my mandrel made from a long piece of 1/2" metal rod. I wrapped duct tape around that until I got close to the size of the barrel. Then I taped sand paper on it and mounted the whole thing on a heavy duty electric drill. I used a vice to hold the barrel in place while I sanded it out (be careful not to crush or reshape the barrel with the vice). I used rough emery paper and graduated to fine metal sanding paper. I carefully cleaned out all the metal flakes and dust with damp and dry paper towels put on a long section of wooden dowel like a huge q-tip. Do not put oil in the barrel as it will mess up the rubber ball and the wood. The final lubricant should be talc. Don't use cornstarch (used in most baby powder) as it gets gummy over time.
cupped end of Mk3 plunger Notice the cupped end on the plunger. Besides centering the ball it also centers the ram rod when cocking the gun.
Measuring cord Here I am measuring the length of the maximum pull on the restraining cord. This cord is designed to keep the plunger from poking out past the end of the barrel.
Restraining cord with shock absorber In this case I decided to add a surgical tubing "shock absorber" to the cord. I drilled out another donut, slightly larger than the barrel. I put a piece of tubing through the hole and secured it on the backside with a knot that would not fit through the hole.

barrel with pencil in trigger hole I used a pencil in the trigger hole to hold the plunger back while I set up the restraining cord.
Restraining cord, ready to go. Here is the cord, shock absorber and restraining donut all ready to go. I had to figure out how long to make the string through trial and error (lots of error).
Trigger parts The metal parts of the trigger assembly. This is a very simple trigger. It consists of a spring, a lever and 3 pins. 2 pins hold and tension the spring. The last pin provides a pivot for the lever. The only tricky part of this is the tip of the lever, i.e. the firing pin. Notice that I have ground the front of the pin back at an angle but the back is flat. This allows the plunger to push the pin down as it goes past on the cocking stroke. The flat back surface then holds the plunger in place until the gun is fired. Bending the pin slightly backwards as I have helps both with cocking and holding the plunger with fewer misfires. Be sure to sand and polish the front angled surface of the pin smooth and slick of there will be too much friction to cock the gun.
barrel with trigger hole The barrel with the trigger hole. Originally I just drilled the trigger hole but it was not long enough and not quite in the right place so I attacked it with a file to enlarge it longways.
trigger in place The Trigger assembly in place. The pins are made from sections of finishing nails, rounded and smoothed on the tips. The lever is 5/16" mild steel rod stock (square stock might work better). The spring is a piece of stainless steel cut from a big screw clamp and bent double. These were just things I had around the shop and I am sure lots of other things could be used.
ram rod The ram rod. The bigger piece is just a grip -- only the thinner shaft goes into the barrel. Yes, the plunger only travels that far. No, the barrel cannot be cut down. There are only a couple of extra inches of barrel. Once you figure the length of the throw, the length of the plunger and where the plunger goes when it is cocked, it all makes sense. A pistol using this system would have a VERY short throw and might not be able to throw the ball a reasonable distance.
the gun The ugly prototype, complete. Don't stress about the stock as you can change that out for any style that suits you. The only limit is your wood working skills.


Finish work is important. Sand off rough or sharp edges. Smooth and polish (for metal) or sand and tung oil (for wood) any surfaces that will rub against one another. File off burrs and round the ends of pins. Without this you will get a gun that is hard or impossible to cock, hangs or misfires a lot and tears up the plunger, the tubing and the ball. On these guns it is necessary for smooth operation, not just looks.

Things I will change in the next version:

  1. The donut of death will be made of hardwood. Weight does not really matter on that as it does not move anyway. Pine is too easy to crack. I want a strong but not brittle wood. Or, if necessary, I could use brass or aluminum but it would be more expensive and fabrication would be harder (especially sanding it to just fit into the barrel).
  2. The copper collar inside the barrel does not hold the balls securely and needs to be tighter (see the old plans). Also, it should be shorter as only about an 1.5 inches is needed.
  3. With the copper collar shorter the donut can go further forward in the barrel. That means the tubing will be tighter at the end of the throw and so will be transferring more force to the ball. I think this and similar tweaking of the location of the trigger hole in the barrel, the length of the plunger and such can get a noticeable amount of extra range.