Toy Gun to Handgun – The Impossibility of Regulating Ghost Guns
Having sent a video to TKB in February for publication, an anonymous writer has approached us once more with the intent of publishing a more detailed piece on his creation. Enter the dart blaster handgun:
Two weeks after thousands of people marched on Virginia’s State Capitol to protest the impending violation of basic rights by the governor, infamous for dressing up in Ku Klux Klan regalia, Attorney General Josh Shapiro made this tweet:
I have seen similar sentiments from other state AG’s as well. New Jersey has been embroiled in a bitter lawsuit with Defense Distributed over whether CAD files are protected by the first amendment or not. While I contemptuously disagreed with the idea that a state government could constitutionally censor a sequence of ones and zeros, I could at least wrap my head around the idea that the slave drivers over in New Jersey (a state that doesn’t even allow its subjects to pump their own gas) would try and pull a stunt like that. It made sense that the state leading the country in modern human bondage would desperately try to retain its monopoly on violence. But Mr. Shapiro’s efforts struck a nerve with me. The attorney general representing Pennsylvania, the state of virtue, liberty, and independence, had sullied that notion. Liberty, which had been shaped by our forefathers in his very state! The attorney general’s war on 80% receivers has paved way for the eventual quiet enslavement of our people. This was the final straw. I could no longer sit back and watch as our sacred rights were eroded by various attorney generals with no ounce of moral fiber or historical comprehension in their bodies. A great man once said, “In a Democracy, you have to be a player.” I wholeheartedly agree, so with that I set to work.
At the core of the issue is the idea that you can create a law to regulate ‘firearm precursor components’ in an effort to combat 80% receivers. I set out to unequivocally demonstrate that all legislative efforts to regulate FPCs will either be creating a piece of legislation that is unenforceable, or a piece of legislation that instantly turns every American into a criminal. Both options are disgraceful in their own right, so I’m hopeful that demonstrating my point would convince reasonable minds to turn away from such actions. The problem was outlined and a solution was identified. The only question left was how to put it into action.
I have been fascinated with mechanical objects my entire life. Growing up in the early 2010’s I never knew anything but the post 9/11 world. As a kid my friends and I would do battle with ‘dart blasters’ in our backyards. In a never ending quest for a competitive edge, we took up modding as a way to improve performance. We’d chop air restrictors, make pump action conversions, stretch springs, and weigh darts in an effort to squeeze out just a little more efficiency.
10 years later I was legally an adult and an apprentice tool and die maker in an automotive plant. I had gone through the Sandy Hook era without even realizing there was a gun debate. By the time Parkland rolled around I had come to understand why people were fighting so intensely, and I accepted that it was my turn to pick up the mantle. It seemed only natural that as I was thinking about Mr. Shapiro’s tweet, ‘dart blasters’ came to mind. They have the same fire control systems as regular firearms (albeit made out of plastic instead of steel) and the only thing that was missing was a barrel and breechblock.
The next afternoon as I was getting groceries, I swung by the toy section and gandered at the ‘dart blasters’. It had been well over 8 years since the last time I purchased one and looking at them all was quite a nostalgic feeling, seeing the progression of models. Seeing the old designs still in production for 20 years, what designs were new, and what brands were still in business. For the task at hand I picked the cheapest model available which had the piston arrangement I needed. All told I spent 4 dollars for my firearm precursor parts and walked out in less than 10 minutes with no background check.
The Conversion Process
With my materials taken care of I was ready to begin. The conversion process is relatively simple and can be done with a drill press, a cheap 80 dollar stick welder, and some basic hand tools. If I was to start from scratch I would spend approximately 300 dollars on tools (which is less than the price of a Glock 19) but the caveat is that for this to be done legally the barrel needs to be rifled. To rifle the barrel I need a rifling button, which is relatively easy to get and pretty cheap at around 30 dollars. To use the button properly it has to be pushed with a hydraulic press, which can go anywhere from 120 to 300 dollars.
To begin I start by chopping the front end off the ‘dart blaster’ and this exposes the piston. The aim is to retain the dart blaster’s ability to be cocked and fired, its physical grip and trigger housing, and the piston itself. Everything else is superfluous and gets removed. Once that’s taken care of I turn my
attention to the parts that I have to fabricate, the barrel and the breechblock.
I start with the barrel, It’s made of ½ inch steel bar bought from a large chain hardware store. I chambered it for the ubiquitous 9mm Luger cartridge. The barrel really requires a center drill (a special type of drill bit that is only meant for making short starting points for the regular bit). Center drills are common and very inexpensive. Additionally, a drill press vise is also mandatory as the bar needs to be held perpendicular to the table. I take the bar and cut it to the length I want, then use a file to flatten the face.
After this, I take the bar and put it in the drill press like I would a regular drill bit. With the bar in the chuck I let the unsecured vise close on the bar, then secure the vise. What this is doing is allowing the vise to be set in a way that puts the drill bit directly in the center of the bar. Next I remove the bar from the chuck and replace it with a center drill. I drill a small pilot point, then remove the center drill and replace it with a regular ¼ inch drill. I drill all the way through the bar and then switch to an “S” size drill bit. This is the final bore diameter and it too gets drilled all the way through. Next I take a 25/64 drill bit (this is for the chamber) and I drill down 1 inch. After this step has been completed I rifle the barrel by pressing the button through with my hydraulic press. The barrel is now complete.
The breech consists of two parts, a block and a sleeve. The block is a piece of the bar that the barrel is made from. It has a hole through it made in the same way the barrel was drilled, except this hole is 1/8 inch in diameter. A steel cube the width of the cavity in the dart blaster is tacked onto the bar. Approximately a half inch of the bar protrudes past the tube. I drilled a hole in the middle of the bar and threaded it. The thread is for a screw that holds the firing pin. Next is the sleeve, which is very simple. A piece of tubing with a ½ inch internal diameter is cut to length. A tab is welded to one end. The tube is fitted over the bar extending from the cube. The two parts are clamped together and then a hole is drilled through both of them. The hole in the block gets threaded. The barrel gets placed in the sleeve and tacked in place. The firing pin is a 1/8 inch rod that gets a flat filed in it so that when the screw is threaded down it lets the firing pin move forward but not back. It should also be sharpened to a blunt point where it strikes the cartridge.
The whole idea is to create a block that holds the firing pin, contains the cartridge, and can be bolted to the barrel. This gets placed into the ‘dart blaster’ in such a way that it allows the piston to strike the firing pin and can be bolted down. Once all parts were complete I made one final modification. I pushed a red hot piece of wire through the cocking handle so that I could safely load and clear the gun without having the piston rest on the firing pin.
This isn’t limited to ‘dart blasters’ either. The breech/barrel assembly I described in detail can be applied to other everyday objects as well, such as caulk applicators, industrial staplers, BB and airsoft guns, grease pumps, quick release clamps, and a myriad of other things.
Now it was time to test fire. Seeing as this was a gun of dubious longevity (might blow up in my hands), I decided to use ammo I wouldn’t put through any of my other guns. I had a brief stint as a general laborer in a construction crew that remodeled old houses, and one day while tearing out cabinets we stumbled upon a paper bag full of about 40~ mixed 9mm rounds. I stuffed them in my pocket and continued to work. When I got home later that day I inspected them. Based on their looks they appeared to be from the 90’s. There were some nickel plated Federal +P+ ball rounds that I assumed were something like 147 grain, in addition to standard “plinking” ammo. I didn’t really know what to do with them so I transferred the ammo into a bag that didn’t smell funny and left them in the drawer for a few years. Since they had just been sitting there for a very long time, and with no plans to shoot them any time soon, I figured they would be a good candidate for this scenario. It also had the added benefit of being ‘ghost ammo’ as well. Short of Gestapo raiding parties redoing every cabinet in every home in America there was literally no way to pass a law that could have stopped me from getting that ammo.
With my ghost ammo and ghost gun in tow, I loaded up some supplies and took off for the countryside. When I reached [redacted] I gathered my supplies out of the back of my car. In my bag I had my camera and tripod, some tools, gloves, a face shield, a drill press vise, the gun, and ammo. I also had my regular shooting gear which was an IFAK and eye/ear protection. Quickly replaced my shoes with boots and set off for my usual spot, a nice sandy area with a solid backstop to shoot into. Once there I promptly unloaded my gear and set up the vise. Putting the safety pin through the cocking handle, I fumbled around the bag until I retrieved one of the +P+ rounds. I placed it in the chamber and screwed the barrel down securely to the breech. The gun is not engineered with modern handling practices in mind so I had to be very careful in keeping my fingers away from the muzzle while I loaded and unloaded rounds. After the gun was made hot I clamped it into the vice and spent several moments framing the shot with my camera. Satisfied with the setup, I donned my protective gear and looked through my bag for the string to remotely fire the gun with. It wasn’t there. I forgot to pack it. Cursing myself, I began to look around to see if there was something else I could use. Sitting here with a live gun chucked up in the vise ready to go, I wasn’t just about to pack up and go home without firing it. I hoped there would be some string or wire left behind by a litter bug but there wasn’t any. I did however see a nice long vine about 3/8 inch in diameter hanging from a tree. I took out my pocket knife, sliced off most of the thorns, and cut off a section about 5 feet long. Going back to the gun, I looped the vine through the trigger guard, cocked it, and removed the safety pin. I gingerly moved back behind a tree, careful as not to disturb my vine. Holding both ends in my hands I gave a swift yank and was met with a victorious report. The recoil kicked the gun out of the vise and it rolled to a stop at my feet. A quick examination revealed no signs of catastrophic failure from the outside. I undid the fastener holding the breech shut and broke the barrel open. The case was exactly how it should look, no pierced primers and no weird bulges (with the exception of it flattening to conform to the straight wall chamber).
The barrel showed no signs of stress either. I loaded and fired another one, this time a brass cased Blazer ball round. The results were the same, as nothing went wrong with the cases nor the gun. I was absolutely ecstatic, this was working way better than I had expected. So much so that I decided to hand fire one. I loaded another round of Blazer and set the camera back up to get myself in frame. I pressed record, stepped up to the line I drew in the sand, cocked the gun, removed the firing pin, and aimed for the bank. I closed my eyes, breathed out, and pulled the trigger.
The report was much louder up close. The gun, to my surprise, kicked lightly. I took a moment to revel in the fading concussion. I had all the footage I needed and I wasn’t going to push my luck any further. I packed up and hiked out.
Overall I would consider my efforts a success. I had achieved everything I set out to achieve. I took an everyday object, something that can be had for 5 dollars, and turned it into a gun. If they wanted to ban ‘firearm precursor parts’ that was fine, they might begin to understand the point when their child gets sent to jail for having a ‘dart blaster’.