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Nerf Desolator Mods & Upgrades

Ever since I was a kid, I enjoyed playing with Nerf guns blasters. I just liked shooting things around the house, which included my brother. I remember shooting suction cup darts at our CRT TV while watching shows (aiming at the characters / actors). It was way too much fun.

As I grew up, and pursued engineering, I found a new interest in learning how the blasters worked. Then I started modifying and building my own and making them more powerful. After that, I found yet another interest in the industrial design of the blasters. Needless to say, this is a very multifaceted hobby for me.

<Nerf Desolator in its Stock Configuration>

A short time ago, I got my first personal 3D printer. This was the tipping point. Now I could use my sweet design skills to make modifications, upgrades, and additions to my Nerf blasters - or create completely new ones. This led to my first project: upgrading my Nerf Desolator.

<Light Configuration of my Desolator>

Ever since Nerf came out with the Doomlands line of blasters I've really liked the industrial design, especially all the greeble. The heavy dose of 'ridiculous' that exists in each blaster design really resonated with me. Currently, these are my favorites in the series: the Persuader, Negotiator, The Judge, and the Desolator. When I first purchased the Desolator, I thought it looked amazing and had great performance with the flywheel design. But there was something else... It had a lot of potential... My first observations were that it was too short and didn't accept Nerf barrel attachments. After thinking about it for a while, I decided to try to fix this by making some upgrades. I didn't just want to make functional add-ons. I wanted to make parts that looked like they belonged on the blaster.

<Early Build of my Shoulder Stock and Barrel Adapter>

I designed a shoulder stock extension that bolts onto the rear of the blaster. It extends the length by 4.75" while also providing storage for an extra magazine. To address the barrel attachment issue, I designed a part that bolts onto the front of the blaster which accepts all Nerf barrel attachments. Now, it's worth noting that adding barrel attachments will actually decrease range and accuracy of any blaster. This is especially true for the Desolator because it wasn't originally designed to take barrel attachments. So, on one hand your blaster can look way cooler, while on the other it will perform worse. My answer to this was simple: buy two (I actually have 6). One will look cool and the other will function.

<Sniper Configuration of my Desolator>

After incorporating these two upgrades, I was immediately impressed. This was turning into my favorite blaster. It didn't take long before I realized that it needed something more, as the whole appearance was getting a bit long and bottom-heavy. The Desolator is a bit unique in that it has two rails on top. I took advantage of this nice coincidence and designed a tactical handle that snaps onto both of the rails just like any other Nerf rail attachment. I added a standard Nerf rail on top of this handle to allow standard Nerf attachments to be used with it. This really balanced out the aesthetics of the blaster while giving it an edgy look.

<Heavy Configuration of my Desolator>

For me, I get most of my enjoyment from designing new hardware. After that, I get equal enjoyment from assembling the blasters in various configurations (aka, playing "Legos") as I do from using them.

<Best Foregrip Ever?>

As you can see, there are a lot of nice looking configuration options for this blaster. The Sniper configuration is very fun to behold because it's just so freaken big. The stock Desolator is just over half the length of the blaster. Despite that, my favorite is the Light configuration as this is the most functional. I can still put sights on it, flashlights, and load it up with two Worker 22rd mags if I want.

After all this... I couldn't stop. I designed a Rail-To-Rail Adapter, which allows the connection of two rail attachments - this is useful for connecting a bipod under some barrel attachments (seen in the above Sniper config picture). I made another add-on for the Desolator that puts a Nerf-compatible side rail on each face of the blaster, near the barrel. I now needed something to put on these rails, so I designed a snap-on flashlight that is compatible with all Nerf rails as well as the ones I printed. The flashlight mount was designed with flexible geometry to allow it to snap onto the rails just like a normal Nerf attachment. I even added some filters to the flashlights so they illuminate in different colors.


Then I got carried away and created a "Tri-Rail Adapter" which snaps onto any Nerf rail and gives three rail mounts. One rail on top and two rails on the sides. This is just a combination of the CAD from the Rail-To-Rail Adapter and the flashlight so the design time was about half a day. It honestly doesn't have a lot of useful purpose...

<Like Pistols w/ Scopes? How about all the Scopes?>

<Useful for Complicated Night Mission Signalling>

I think I enjoyed designing all these parts way too much. I just really like being able to identify something to improve, or something I wish existed, and having the ability to design & fabricate a solution. Plus, I learned a ton about designing & printing with FFF (FDM) machines. And, as we all know, knowledge is power. But not like real power, as in Watts; it's more like a notional mental power...

This is all I have created for now. I have many more ideas, which makes it difficult to decide what to do next. I like the idea of making parts for existing blasters, or potentially creating my own custom blaster with some interesting attributes. Stay tuned as there is more to come on this. If you have ideas, post them in the comments section below.

I'm working on posting all of my designs for sale on Etsy. See my store link below for more information.

My Etsy Shop - AM34Designs

Update 3/29/18 - Review Video:
Lord Drac made a video review of my hardware! It's very cool. Check out the video:

Update 05/19/18 - Voltage Mod & Custom Barrels:
I started playing around with using lithium batteries, with great success, in my Desolator to increase the firing velocity. This isn't anything new as many many people have modded their blasters to use rechargeable lithium batteries to accomplish this. What may be new to people is this same thing can be done without modifying the blaster in any way.

Some of you many have heard of batteries called 18650. This is a rechargeable lithium cell that is very popular at the moment because it's a local optimum in many areas: safety, size, durability, capacity, discharge rate, and voltage. This specific battery, or "cell", isn't anything super special. The same thing can be found in different sizes - like 14500. The name, or number, of the cell is really just a size. An 18650 is just a cell that is 18mm in diameter and 65.0mm long. Likewise a 14500 is 14mm in diameter and 50.0mm long - which is the exact size as a AA battery. Factually, a 14500 alkaline cell is the technical name for a standard AA battery.

If you look around the internet, and even Amazon, you can find rechargeable lithium 14500 cells. This matters because the lithium battery chemistry results in voltages between 4.2v and 3v whereas an alkaline cell will be 1.5v to 0v (and not rechargeable). This means that by using these drop-in replacement cells in your blasters you can more than double the voltage going to the motors. In reality, this will likely destroy your motors so I do not recommend this. What can be done is using a combination of lithium batteries and 'dummy batteries' to get more voltage but not too much. A dummy battery just fills the space where a battery should go, completes the circuit, but doesn't add any voltage. In the case of the desolator I use 2 lithium 14500 cells and 2 dummy batteries. This gives an operating voltage of 8.4v to 6v (normal AA batteries start at 6v and go down). This is more than enough to give the darts a good speed increase but not enough so that the stock motors will suffer. The run time with these cells is very good and not something to be concerned with.

The one issue with lithium batteries is that you do need to be careful not to get the voltage of each cell below ~3v or you will damage the cell. The normal way I do this is just by listening to the blaster. You'll know when the flywheels start to sound like they're going slow. Then it'll be time to recharge the batteries. This can also be checked with a voltmeter. The way the voltages work out the blaster will sound like it's running on 4 normal AA batteries when the lithium cells are at their lowest voltage (if you're just using 2 lithium cells).

I got the 14500 rechargeable lithium batteries, the charger, and the dummy batteries on Amazon. There isn't anything special here - just be careful not to get cheap cells. Look for lots of good reviews and a rated capacity of the cells that is between 850mA and 600mA. Anything outsize this rate is either not real or poor quality. 

On the Custom Barrels note - I recently designed a barrel attachment system that I hope to use to create, and help others create, custom Nerf barrels. The system is designed to tolerate subtly different sizes in the barrel attachment point which will help when making or mating to 3D printed parts. I made an ICD (interface control document) for the system to help others CAD up barrel designs. I posted the parts up for free on Thingiverse. I also uploaded a simple example barrel to help people get started. Check out my Thingiverse link below to see more.

My Thingiverse Page


Other People Thought These Were Cool..

3D Printed Mechanical Pencil

What better way is there to spend multiple consecutive weekends than sitting at your computer, redesigning a mechanism that has existed for decades, all to be able to 3D print something that can be bought at the store for less than $1? ... That's right, anything. However, when your co-worker throws down the gauntlet there is only one thing to do. Take it up.

This is how the 3D printed mechanical pencil came to be. Luckily though, it actually works pretty well and has enough style to spare.  
This pencil has 4 separate parts and was printed fully assembled as shown in the image below. Its about 6" long and 1/2" in diameter at its maximum, not including the pocket clip. It takes standard 0.9mm lead and 7mm diameter erasers. Three extra pieces of lead can be stored behind the eraser. I would have liked to do a more common lead size like 0.7mm or 0.5mm but the feature sizes required to hold lead that small are very difficult to achieve even on high resolution printers. Its …

3D Printed Dial Calipers

3D printing initially interested me because of its ability to create physical parts very quickly with nearly any geometry. By the time I had access to a 3D printer the ability to print virtually any shape had already been well proven and had even become common place. I was then introduced to the idea that multiple parts could be printed together, assembled, and captured. This may seem like a new concept but it is merely a new way of looking at 3D printing. The printer doesn't care how many pieces its printing, or even if they are connected.

I had seen adjustable wrenches printed already assembled. In the same fashion, I designed a c-clamp to try my hand at this concept. The camp worked perfectly. So then the question became "What's next?"

Dial Calipers. Yes. That sounded more than complicated enough with its gears, dials, and half dozen moving parts. I guess the irony of 3D printing a precision measurement tool with, what is normally considered, an imprecise manufac…