Wednesday, April 19, 2006

A Home Run for Home-mades

Known for his amazing home-made Nerf-firing guns, he goes by the handle "Boltsniper" and he is one of the rising stars within the (NIC) Nerf Internet Community. He is a second year grad student at Virginia Commonwealth University working on his Masters in Mechanical Engineering. Boltsniper received his Bachelors of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from Virginia Tech.

His custom projects began as simplistic constructs of white PVC pipes, but he gradually achieved more complicated (and ergonomic) military-style appearances. With the launch of his website at he has wowed Nerf fans of all ages with his latest creation: the SCAR-N (Specialized Carbine Assault Rifle - Nerf) -- not only beautiful but functional with a cartridge system and bolt action mechanics.

CSMacLaren: What got you into Nerfing? What do you like most about it?

Boltsniper: Like most, I had a few Nerf guns at age 12 or so and messed around with friends but nothing too serious. I had an original Bow & Arrow, and Arrowstorm, and an NB-1 at that age. After the fad wore off and my parents wouldn't buy me the new blasters I kind of got out of it. It wasn't until my senior year in college that I started getting back into it. A group of friends and I all used to play CounterStrike together and something spawned the idea of using Nerf guns and playing "live-action". We pooled our blasters and would basically just have free for alls in our apartments.

The whole home-made thing got started from a friendly bet. Someone suggested I build a rifle that would shoot Nerf darts over 100 feet. It peaked my interest, because I enjoy building stuff from scratch and I also like firearms. I started thinking, sketching, designing, fabricating, and reiterating and the BASR (Bolt-Action Sniper Rifle) is the result. Even after starting the rifle I had no idea the NIC existed. One day I just decided to search "home-made nerf" in Google and discovered the vast community of information. That was in February of 2003.

I enjoy the idea of Nerf from two different aspects. The first is that you can shoot each other without really worrying about hurting someone. There is no equipment needed, besides the blasters, and there is no money involved to play. It can be done indoors and can be very impromptu, which is good. The other aspect is the home-made side. In nerve you can design and build a gun from scratch that will outperform anything you can buy. This is not the case in most anything else and is especially true for other wargame types.

(Photo, right: Boltsniper's early project, the Scale Cocking Pistol (SCP))

CSM: You're currently working on your Masters in Mechanical Engineering. What are your career goals? Do you see yourself working for a toy company down the line, or creating your own toy line, or will Nerfing simply remain a hobby?

B: Upon graduation I plan to work in the aerospace industry. I have always had a passion for aircraft and I really want to work in that field. If anyone reading this needs a skilled aerospace/mechanical engineer give me a call… I personally don't see myself working for Hasbro or a toy company at any point in time. Not to say if they approached me I would slam the door in their face though, but I don't intend to pursue it myself. Nerfing and making home-mades will likely just remain a hobby.

CSM: I recently saw one of your former works on eBay. What was the closing price in the end, and do you get a lot of request for commissioned custom work? Is this something you intend to do on the side?

B: Yes, I sold a completed GNS (Grammation Nerf Sidearm) pistol on ebay in November of 2005. The winning bid was $69 if I remember correctly. Considering I spent about 12 hours building the pistol from start to finish, it was a pretty poor return on my labor. But I had kind of figured this from the beginning and making money wasn't really the incentive for doing it anyway. I had planned to sell two completed units on eBay but was only able to get one completely done. The half finished unit was sold to another NIC member who I believe is working to finish it at the moment

I do get a lot of requests either asking me to sell the guns I currently have or build more to sell. On average I probably get 2 inquiries per week. I have no intention of selling the prototypes as I have a lot of pride in them, and of course I use them all. Building more to sell is pretty much out of the question as well as they take so much time and work to make, that it would basically be a full time job. I don't quite think I could pull enough income from sales to live off of...

CSM: Everything you've done from the beginning up till now seems to look more and more sophisticated, not only aesthetically and ergonomically but also from a mechanical engineering perspective. Is this the trend with future special projects? Are you doing whatever comes to mind, or is there a progression towards an "ultimate" blaster that you hope to achieve bit by bit?

B: As far as ergonomics and aesthetics go, they have definitely made leaps and bonds. The BASR was reasonably comfortable but I didn't really pay much attention or time to it's aesthetics of looks. I just slapped a grip on it and a T for a stock. I maintain a form follows function ideal. I have not and never will add something to a gun that is completely useless and serves no purpose. Recently though I have paid more attention to the aesthetic appearance of the gun. This just involves sanding, filleting, smoothing, etc, but nothing major, just making the existing layout look as good as possible. The fit and finish of the SCAR is far superior to the FAR (Fast-Action Rifle) and when I put them next to each other, I can't believe how sloppy the FAR is.

The increase in complexity is mainly a result of my improved fabrication capabilities. I'm not really trying to out do the last gun and there is no ultimate blaster that I'm trying to get to. While the BASR had minimal moving parts, the bolt was a very complex piece to fabricate and I still look at it now, think back, and wonder how I managed to pull that off. The increase in complexity from the FAR to the SCAR was a result in issues a ran into with the FAR after fielding it for a year. The bolt system got more complex to remedy this. On the contrary the trigger system on the SCAR got simpler than the system in the FAR. I had issues with the FAR trigger as a result of it being too complicated. So people may argue, but I don't think the SCAR is overly complicated. I can't think of a components you could alter or remove that would preserve the function of the rifle. Sophistication is proportional to the intended function and features of the unit. The trick is to make it as simple as possible but still maintain the function.

CSM: The upcoming Magstrike and Longshot (scheduled for Fall 2006 release) by Hasbro seems to have addressed something that Nerf fans have longed for: cartridge-fed Nerf dart systems. While the Magstrike may not resemble anything you've done so far, the Longshot looks like a sci-fi bolt-action sniper rifle -- and it takes clips. Do you feel your "Boltsniper" work inspired Hasbro to go this direction, given the utter amazement that Nerf fans have expressed online?

B: The new blasters look quite impressive and I can't wait to see them in person this fall. I don't think my home-mades had much of an impact on the new waves of blasters. I do know that Hasbro monitors the forums and maintains liaisons with the NIC. I also know that they are aware of and have acknowledged the FAR last Spring. Hasbro is trying to stay as far away as possible from the military-simulation aspect of Nerf, so I don't think they were to excited about a black assault rifle that just happens to shoot Nerf darts. My home-mades, and the NIC reaction to them, may have reassured Hasbro that that were headed in the right direction, but if I had never built the FAR or others, I don't believe the blasters coming out of Hasbro would look any different.

NIF would like to thank Boltsniper for this exclusive interview.


Post a Comment

<< Home