BRSB Gun Prop Write-Up
Everyone starts somewhere with crafts, my first serious prop was my Black Rock Shooter Beast gun. I learned a lot of new techniques while working on this gun, many of which I still use to this day on newer projects. I still look back at this project and think, “woah, I made that?”
First off, the process I used is more on the expensive side so if you’re interested in making your props with a smaller budget this process may not be suited for your needs. A lot of my projects are based on molding and casting, an expensive, but very rewarding process.
The following materials are mentioned in this write-up:
- MDF (Medium-density fibreboard)
- Translucent Blue Acrylic Sheet
- Acrylic tube
- Smooth-On MoldMax 30
- Smooth-On SmoothCast 65D
- Spray paint
The following tools are mentioned in this write-up:
- Band saw
- Scroll saw
- Laser cutter
One of the first steps to any of my projects is to create orthographic drawings in Illustrator, or (more recently) create 3D models. My BRSB gun was actually the first time I had done serious orthographic drawings for a prop.
Orthographic drawings really help you with fully defining your design so you don’t have to guess anything when you get to the fabrication stage. Sometimes things will of course change once you begin building, but it’s a good guide to work from.
The orthographic drawings really helped with this particular build because all the exterior sides were laser cut, with the vectors extracted directly from the drawings.
After laser cutting MDF to form the outsides of the gun, I glued stacks of MDF together to build up the volume of the gun. This is where having orthographic drawings is extremely useful because I knew exactly how thick I wanted each piece to be.
Having a digital caliper really helps with the building stage! Since you get the exact dimensions from Illustrator, you can use the digital caliper to make sure everything is as exact as possible to the original plan.
In order to get the parts, composing the volume of the gun, as accurately cut as possible, I would print extra versions of the template and spray mount them onto the MDF parts for easier cutting on the band saw. (The only downside to this is that you later have to rip/sand the paper off which may not come off as smoothly as you’d like.)
The cylindrical piece that’s behind the barrel was 3D printed because it would have been way too difficult to create all those holes perfectly by hand. It was modeled in Rhinoceros and 3D printed on a Dimension SST printer (FDM) through my school.
The print was pretty decent, but there was still a lot of clean up work to do afterwards. (This was actually my first time 3D printing anything!) Ignoring the clean-up work, I was extremely happy with the print.
(Also if you notice I changed the design a bit between the Rhino screenshot and the final print. I changed the number of the smaller holes on the left because I decided there wasn’t enough material between each hole in my original design. I probably could have gotten away with it before, but it would have been much more difficult to mold/cast.)
The plan was to make the gun light up, so I needed a place to hide the battery and the only comfortable place I could think of would be inside of a removable magazine. I built the casing out of the laser cut pieces as well as pieces I cut on the scroll saw. I made sure it all fit together snug and slid seamlessly.
Rails were added inside to help guide the slide of the piece.
These two pictures show the transformation of the gun. As everything became more finalized, I would prime the parts after every major change to see what needed to be smoothed or filled with bondo and/or sanding. All the areas that are marked with the sharpie are areas that required some work. This project was actually my first time using bondo! It’s an extremely tedious material, but extremely useful in getting beautiful finishes for your pieces.
All the gaps were designed to house all the laser cut acrylic pieces (see below).
Once the masters were ready came all the molding and casting. The gun was split into a total of 9 different pieces for molding.
- Cylindrical barrel
- Magazine holder
- Body of the gun
- Finger guard
- Trigger housing
It was split into so many pieces in order be able to wire the electronics easier through the gun, as well as to be able to fit in the 3D printed barrel. The finger guard needed to be separate because it would be too difficult to slush cast the gun with it connected. In the photograph above are the three main pieces of the gun (barrel, cylindrical barrel, and the body/butt).
The other alien looking mold was the shoulder armor for BRSB, which is not covered in this post.
The main body parts of the gun were slush casted in order to be able to make them hollow (making it lighter, cost less material, and permit the mounting of translucent acrylic for lighting purposes). One of my favorite steps of any projects is the casting stage because you get to see the final form of your project.
After I slush casted the parts, they were not immediately ready as is. A lot of routing work was done with my Dremel to open areas that acrylic would fit into.
LED circuiting was still a bit new to me so I used a breadboard to test circuits. I knew the final circuit was going to be encased inside of the gun permanently, meaning I had to make sure none of the LEDs would burn out over time inside of the gun.
An acrylic tube was added inside of the barrel so that there would be depth to it, it also helped diffuse the LEDs pointing upwards. Small mounts were cut out of scrap materials and glued inside of the barrel to help hold the acrylic in place.
After a lot of material experimentation I ended up choosing a blue translucent acrylic from Inventables, I ordered their acrylic sample set which was extremely helpful and I still use it to this day! If you ever need some unique/interesting acrylic, I highly recommend them! Translucent materials work extremely well with LEDs because they allow enough light to pass through them to appear as though they are glowing, but are opaque enough to not see through to the other side.
For this project I ordered a large sheet of the translucent acrylic and laser cut all the pieces to fit into the gun. Once again, the vectors were extracted directly from my orthographic drawings, so everything fit perfectly snug! Some minor filling was done at the edges to make sure there were no slight gaps/holes from when I drilled the resin to fit in the pieces.
I had to do a lot of LED placement tests to figure out which way spread out the light evenly and to avoid hot spots.
Once I got all the laser cut acrylic glued in place, I wanted to test all the lighting to see what it looked like before I painted to make sure I was happy with how it looked. It’s good to check how things look beforehand so in case you do need to do any further work you don’t need to undo your paint work.
I also added a small magnet inside the end of the magazine which helped with holding the magazine in place when it was fully slid into the gun. The rails I previously mentioned are visible here as well.
Since this was my first time building a gun prop, I really wanted to give it more of an actual gun feel by making the trigger pull-able. In this particular build it doesn’t actually trigger anything, but you can at least feel some feedback from this effect. Later, when I built Shock & Awe, I went further with a single-action trigger mechanism. Wonder what my next gun build will have…
Last, but not least, came the painting. I was a little impatient with the painting of this build considering I didn’t mask the cylindrical lights properly.
Masking is an extremely time-consuming and tedious process, so thankfully all I had to mask was the acrylic, otherwise the gun was all black. I used Rust-Oleum Hammered spray paint from Home Depot that had an interesting metal-like texture, to give the gun more life than just flat black. Add some silver weathering on top of that and bam! You’ve got yourself a snazzy gun!
On this final photo you can also see how everything was finally permanently glued together and seams smoothed with bondo. Building props in pieces makes the process easier to handle in the long run, it may take some work to combine/smooth later, but it saves so many headaches.
Here’s a shot of the final guns! This is merely a brief write-up with the photos I have from the process of building this gun. I’m sure I missed some steps which seem more obvious to me, if you have any questions feel free to ask in the comments below and I’ll respond as soon as I can.
Big thanks to Fiverings Photography for the photo of the gun as well as the photo up top of my costume!
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