Here's How to Make 'Tommy' Machine Gun Out of Cardboard
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If you enjoyed our video on making your own Nerf-like rifle, then we are confident that this project will also be right up your street. This time the subject is an actual cardboard replica "Tommy Gun". It even fires little paper "bullets".
Follow this simple guide to find out how.
Materials and gear needed
- 9/32ths of an inch (7 mm) thick cardboard (old boxes or other)
- Brown paper
- Old DC motor x 2
- Gear motor
- Battery connector
- Old plastic syringe (the plunger) x 2
- Rubber bands
- Wooden skewers to make dowels
- PDF plans for the gun parts
- Modeling knife
- Soldering kit
- Electrical wires, resistors, and soldering gear
- Hot glue gun
- Paper cups for targets
With all your tools and materials in hand, it is now time to get on with this epic, but awesome, build.
Step 1: Cut out the templates and start the build
Like any project of this nature, the first step is to mark out, and obviously cut out, the template pieces for the Tommy Gun. You can find them in the materials list above.
Print these out on A4 paper, cut them out and glue them to bits of cardboard, and carefully cut them out as needed. Be warned you will need several copies of the same shape for some parts of the gun (like "Body Layer 3" for example). Once that is done, we can start to actually build the cardboard gun.
Take the main grip piece ("Body Layer 3") on the templates and then glue "Body Layer 4" onto one side of it. Make sure the pieces are aligned properly.
Next, take the other smaller piece from the "Body Layer 3", and glue that into place on the main grip piece too.
With that done, cut three small lengths of wooden skewers, and glue them into place into the three holes just above the trigger ring. For the best results, use superglue for this process.
With that done, take the parts from "Body Layer 5", and glue a small spring with connected wire into place as shown below.
Leave the glue to cool, and then attach the trigger onto the frontmost of the three wooden pegs. With that complete, take a small elastic band and wrap it around the rearmost peg and hook above the trigger piece.
Next, apply a line of hot glue opposite the gun onto the smaller piece from "Body Layer 4". After that, fix into place a short strip of metal with another wire attached. This will form a connection between the spring on the trigger and the plate when the trigger is depressed.
With that done, sealed up the trigger mechanism with a second "Body Layer 3" piece.
Step 2: Make the gun's bullet acceleration system
Next, take a pair of plastic syringes and a pair of DC motors. Add two small plastic cogs to the axles of the DC motors.
With that done, remove the plungers from the syringes, and peel off the rubber end caps. Hot glue these caps into place over the plastic gears on the motor axles.
Now hot glue the two motors together so that both rubber caps are above one another.
After that, hold the motors in vice, or similar, and wire up the electrical contacts of the motors in sequence, as needed, using a soldering iron. It is advised you use different colored wires for the positive and negative terminals.
Step 3: Make the main firing mechanism
With that done, cut a strip of brown paper 2 and 11/64ths inch (5.5 cm) in width. Roll the paper into an open cylinder around a length of a wooden skewer, as shown below. Glue the paper together to hold the cylinder in shape.
Once the glue is dry, partially remove the wooden skewer guide piece, and flatten one end of the cylinder. Soak the flattened end in superglue to harden and secure it.
Mark a hole in the middle of the flattened end, and pierce a hole through it to make an eye. With that done, take another strip of paper 25/64ths of an inch (1 cm) in width, and wind it around the first cylinder just below the flattened end to make a flange.
Glue the end of the flange strip together, but do not glue the flange to the larger cylinder. It should be able to move freely up and down in it.
With that done, cut out and assemble the matching wooden pieces from the "Mechanism Layer" of the template sheet.
Assemble the pieces as shown below.
As you can see, this setup creates a reciprocating arm driven by the motor. This will be used to push bullets automatically into the barrel for firing.
Step 4: Integrate the firing mechanism into the gun body
With that complete, take the parts already made and the bottom piece from "Body Layer 2". Glue the main grip part of the gun into place on the "Body Layer 2" part, as shown below.
Next, glue the motor assembly into place on the main body as needed. With that done, glue the flange from the firing mechanism you made earlier into place on the trigger and grip part of the gun.
Next, feed through the cardboard rod from the main firing mechanism through the flange, and glue the main drive motor into place within its slot on the "Body Layer 2" section of cardboard.
With that done, add a length of a skewer to the top of the gun, and other ancillary filler pieces of cardboard to the assembly as shown below.
With that done, wire up the electronic components as needed. Twist connections together, and then seal them into place using heat shrink insulation tubing. At this point be sure to add the button to the circuitry as well.
Next, take your battery pack and connect it to the main wiring as needed. Glue it into place to the rear of the gun. You can now perform a dry firing of the gun by activating the button and pulling the trigger.
The reciprocating arm of the firing mechanism should move back and forth through the flange and move in line with the twin motors. These will accelerate the bullet out of the barrel once complete.
Step 5: Make the barrel
With the main gun firing mechanism now complete, we can move on to building the rest of the gun. Let's start with the barrel. Take a length of paper 11 and 13/16 inches (30 cm) in width.
As with the small flange before, roll into a long open cylinder. The bore of the cylinder will need to be slightly larger than the size of the cardboard bullets (bolts) to be fired.
With that complete, take another strip of paper 2 and 23/64 inches (6cm) wide and wind around one end of the barrel to make a large flange.
Next, repeat the process with another strip of paper 25/32ths of an inch (2cm) wide and wind around the bottom of the last flange.
With that complete, take another strip of paper 4 and 21/64ths of an inch (11 cm) wide and wrap it around the main barrel slightly further down from the other flanges you've just made.
Next, take a sharp knife, and then down the wall of one side of the barrel end. This is to make room for the barrel to fit on top of the dual motors on the main gun.
With that done, glue the barrel into place on the main gun assembly forward of the dual motors.
With that done, take another piece of the bottom part of "Body Layer 2" and close up the main body of the gun. Be sure to secure the button into place on this one.
Step 6: Make the stock of the gun and front grip
With the min gun body, barrel, and firing mechanism now complete, it is time to add more decorative features to make it look like a semi-real gun. Let's turn out attention to the stock.
Take one of the "Butt Layer 4" pieces (you'll need two), and three of the "Butt Layer 1" pieces. Glue a stack of the latter onto the former, and close the piece using the second "Butt Layer 4" piece.
With that done, take the butt and mount it to the main gun assembly as shown below.
With that done, take the closer pieces (like "Accessories Layer 1") for the dual-motor portion of the Tommy Gun and glue them into place as required.
Then take the "Accessories Layer 2" piece and glue that into place to the top of the gun, as shown below.
Trim off excess pieces around the drum magazine mounting point as required. With that done, take the pieces for the front handgrip. Glue and stack three of them together.
Next, apply a line of hot glue to the top of the piece and stick a wooden skewer into place.
Once done, mount the grip into place just below the barrel at the front of the main gun body.
Next, take the parts from "Body Layer 5", and glue them into place on the main gun grip.
Also, add the other layer pieces from "Butt Layer 1" to the rear stock. With that done, take the "Rear Sight" pieces, assemble as required, and mount them into place on top of the Tommy Gun as shown below.
Rinse and repeat for the front site, and mount into place on the front of the gun's barrel.
Step 7: Make the drum magazine
With that done, it is now time to turn our attention to one of the main features of the Tommy Gun -- the famous drum magazine. Take one of the large circle pieces, and add the middle "Magazine Layer 2" mechanism pieces as needed.
Once done, add two small hooks on either side of the cardboard parts, and run elastic bands from the hooks to the wooden pegs.
Trim and bend the end of the longer of the two strips for the "Magazine Layer 2", and fold over to make an arch above the spring-loaded bullet plunger.
With that done, glue the second part of the drum magazine outer casing, and close up the entire drum with the wall strip from "Magazine layer 4".
With that complete, take the other decorative features ("Magazine Layer 3") of the drum magazine, and glue them onto place on one face of the drum magazine as needed.
Once done, it is time to actually make some ammunition for the gun. To make one bullet, take a strip of paper 63/64ths of an inch (2.5 cm) wide. Roll the paper into a tight cylinder.
Add a dot of super glue to one end to seal and harden it. Rinse and repeat to make as many bullets as you want.
Once done, load them into the drum magazine, and clip the magazine into place on the machine gun. Then glue on any extra decorative pieces around the magazine as needed.
With that done, your Tommy machine gun is now complete. Now all you need to do is set up some suitable targets, flick the gun on, and bring out the inner gangster within!
If you enjoyed this project, then you might enjoy another toy weapon-related project. How about, for example, making your own real-life epoxy Sub Zero sword? Yeah, really.