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How to make Homemade Nerf Darts

Beginner's guide

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#1 Ryan201821


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Posted 21 August 2012 - 12:38 PM

This article should be required reading for anyone who wants to attend a Nerf War organized on this site. At least 95% of the wars listed in our Nerf Wars forum almost exclusively use the variety of DIY nerf ammo described below, and the majority of nerf gun mods and homemade nerf gun plans assume that you are using this type of ammo. Don't get discouraged if your first batch of darts leave something to be desired, everyone's first hundred darts suck. Good luck, and happy dartsmithing. -Langley

Guide to foam, darts, and barrels
Your blaster will perform only as good as your darts are. This guide will cover every aspect on how to make war legal darts that are acceptable at the majority of nerf wars. You’ll also learn how to choose what foam and barrel materials works best for you.

We will cover:
  • Choosing your foam and barrel material
  • Where to buy foam
  • Heating, stretching, and straightening your foam
  • Cutting dart blanks
  • Making dart tips
  • Gluing darts
  • Dart construction
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#2 Ryan201821


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Posted 22 August 2012 - 01:41 PM

Choosing your foam and barrel material

The most common foam is available at your local hardware store, called “foam backer rod” (FBR), and often sold in 20’ packages. Unfortunately it’s usually gray, or black which isn’t great for our purposes. The brighter the color, generally the better recovery rate you’ll get when you retrieve your ammo. Colored foam is usually only available through the internet; more information on that will be listed below. FBR can also be referred to as "caulk saver", and is usually found in the aisle they sell weatherstripping.

Foam is generally pretty inconsistent from batch to batch, and even within the same batch. You’re going to want to check what your foam fits, which in turn will determine what you’re going to use for your barrel material. From general knowledge, you’ll want a tight fit for “springers”, or anything that builds up pressure before firing. For “airguns”, or blasters that release all it's air at once, you’ll want a loose fit on your darts. Dart/barrel fit is just as important as how well your darts are made so getting this right is extremely important. Bad dart/barrel fit can make your blaster from shooting 100’, to shooting 50’, to not even leaving the barrel.

More information on specific barrel materials can be found here.

There will most likely be some trial in error in getting the correct barrel material for your darts. The most common size range is tight in ½” CPVC, and loose in ½” Sch. 80, somewhere between .500” and .530”. These measurements should only be taken with a grain of salt and there is definitely no guarantee of a piece of foam’s diameter, or even your barrel material size depending on what you use; this is merely a rough approximation on what you’ll most likely find at a local hardware store.

When determining the best foam to use, you’ll want to consider some things before finding what you want/need.

  • Amount: How much will you need? If you attend only a handful of nerf wars a year, you can probably get by on buying foam in small quantities from your local hardware store. If you’re a more serious nerfer, you might want to consider purchasing some foam off the internet.
  • Price: Foam backer rod can vary in price depending on the manufacturer and how much foam is being purchased. For example: Ace Hardware's brand 1/2" FBR is approximately $6.00 to $6.50 for 20', or ~$0.30-$0.33 per foot. This is considered pretty expensive. When you buy small quantities, you're going to be paying more per foot. If you want your own custom foam, it's likely going to cost you thousands, although it’s going to be really cheap per foot.
  • Color: Most FBR is colored gray or black. This isn't ideal for our purposes, but makes sense for its actual intended use. Finding colored foam can be difficult. You’ll most likely have to get a custom order made.
  • Density: There isn’t a really good way of measuring this, but the more cells and the smaller they are, generally the better the foam is. Roll it around in your fingers and make sure it isn’t too squishy. Foam that is firmer will make better darts.

Foam Availability*

Color: Gray
Price: $34.12 for 250' as of 08/12/12
Per Foot: $0.14
Springer: ½” CPVC, ½” Polyester, 17/32 Brass
Airgun: ½” Sch. 80 PVC, ½” Aluminum, ½” thickwall PETG
Comments: McMaster foam is a decent option for gray foam. It’s reasonably priced, and it usually pretty consistent. If you’re lucky enough to live near one of McMaster’s warehouses, you can go to Will Call and get them to swap it out for another spool if you get a shitty one.
93295K43 for 250’
93295K33 for 20’

Ace Hardware
Color: Gray
Price: $3-7 for 20’
Per Foot: $0.15-$0.35
Springer: ½” CPVC, ½” Polyester, 17/32 Brass
Airgun: ½” Sch. 80 PVC, ½” Aluminum, ½” thickwall PETG
Comments: Generally around the same fit/consistency as McMaster. Good option if you don’t want to order from McMaster. Price can vary a lot, and sometimes you can find it really cheap. I’ve heard rumors they have larger rolls behind the service desk, but I guess it doesn’t hurt to ask.

Best Materials
Color: Black
Price: $79.95 for 2500’
Per Foot: ~$0.04
Springer: 9/16” brass, ½” medium wall PETG
Airgun: 19/32” brass
Comments: Never personally used this stuff but it’s large. One of the biggest benefits is it’s a lot of foam for very little money. The only problem is it’s black, which is generally hard to find, and you’ll have to use larger barrel materials. I believe some people sell this across the forums, so look out for that if you don’t want 2500’. Varies quite a bit.

Best Materials "Hot Rod XL"
Color: Beige
Price: $121.95 for 2500” or $0.12/foot
Per Foot: ~$0.05 or $0.12
Springer: ½” medium wall PETG, 9/16” brass
Airgun: 19/32” brass
Comments: If you don’t mind using larger foam, this stuff is really nice. This stuff does vary a lot from roll to roll, and from the beginning to the end. Recovery is much better than using gray or black foam. Well worth the extra $40 to get beige instead of black.

MHA Foam
Color: Pink
Price: *Varies
Springer : ½” CPVC, ½” Polyester, 17/32 Brass
Airgun: ½” Sch. 80 PVC, ½” Aluminum, ½” thickwall PETG
Comments: Very rigid, dense foam. Obviously I’m biased but this is obviously the best foam available to the community. It's available for purchase within the link below:
http://nerfhaven.com...showtopic=23516 *

Home Depot (MD Building Products)
Color: Gray
Price: $3.48
Per Foot: $0.18
Springer : ½” CPVC, ½” Polyester, 17/32 Brass
Airgun: ½” Sch. 80 PVC, ½” Aluminum, ½” thickwall PETG
Comments: I've used this stuff before and it can vary a lot. What's nice is they have a bunch of it for sale usually, so you can sift through what looks good and leave behind the stuff that's crap. Pretty similar to Ace foam otherwise.

Lowes (Frost King)
Color: Gray
Price: $3.48
Per Foot: $0.18
Springer : ½” CPVC, ½” Polyester, 17/32 Brass
Airgun: ½” Sch. 80 PVC, ½” Aluminum, ½” thickwall PETG
Comments: Never used it, although I hear it can be either pretty shitty, or somewhat decent.

If there are more, I will happily add them.
*Updated 08/12/12

Heating and/or stretching your foam

Since FBR is normally packaged in rolls or spools, you'll also need to make it straight. Although not recommended, it’s also possible to stretch your foam if you want use it in smaller barrels.

  • Heating: Heating your foam is a good way to get your foam straight. Cut it into your preferred dart length and throw them in a pillow case. Put the blanks your dryer for 5-10 minutes, and they’ll come out perfectly straight. A bunch of people also prefer using a hair dryer, and a mesh basket. Either works well.
  • Stretching: There are probably several methods to stretching foam. I know at least this one works. Cut your foam into rough 8' segments (or however high your ceiling is) and weight them at one end. Suspend the other end from your ceiling and let sit for several days or weeks. You can adjust how much you need it to stretch by adding more or less weight to the end. You'll have to do some trial and error until you get your desired fit.

Cutting dart blanks

There is one very simple way to make perfect, square cuts every time. Get a piece of tubing that has a loose fit on your foam. You want to be able to feed your foam through it with little resistance. Cut a slit in the tubing the goes almost all the way through. You'll want to use something that has thick walls if possible to make sure you can get a deep enough cut while still having the tubing intact. Sch. 80 works great for the most common sized foam. If you don't cut the slit deep enough, your foam won't be cut all the way. An easy way to check if you’ve cut deep enough is hold a razor blade through the slit and see if any light passes through. If it does, you’ll need to cut it deeper. The location of your slit will be determined by how long you want your blanks to be. Have the slit equal distance away from the end of the tube as however long you want your darts to be. Use a generous amount of tubing for the template so you have a place to put your hand when cutting. After you’ve cut, deburr the inside of the blank template with some sandpaper wrapped around a pencil, or something that will fit inside the tube. Now affix your tube to a piece of cardboard or a cutting board. Hot glue/duct tape is probably the easiest solution.

Now that your template is done, feed the foam into the end of the pipe furthest away from the slit. Feed until it's flush with the other end of the tube. With a razor blade, cut through the slit. You want to make sure the razor blade is sharp, so the cuts are clean. Feed the foam through again and repeat.

You could also cut multiple slots if you wanted to make them faster. Use a mitre box to cut the slit for the template, or something that can cut square. This will ensure nice, square cuts, or at least good enough.

The LGLF has a great step by step guide with pictures on how to make one.

Most effective modification I've done to this method is simply taping the template on your leg.

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Slug (felt + washer) darts

Slugs are the most widely acceptable type of dart currently allowed at most major wars. Please check with your war host to see what is and isn't allowed. Before a few years ago, most people used what are called "glue domes". These are basically made using a round metal weight with a hot glue dome on the top. This guide will not show you how to make them.

The following will explain how to make Slug darts.

Dart Construction (all part numbers searchable through McMaster.com)

-8771K12 - Adhesive-Back Felt Bumper 1/2" Diameter, 1/8" Height, Green
-90126A007 - #6 Zinc-plated washers (they don't rust)
-Box cutter/razor blade
-Hot glue gun/glue OR Goop/E-6000
-1/2" diameter foam of your choice

Dart Tips:

Now that you're blanks are cut, it's time to make the heads. The most effective way I've found doing this is making the tips before you apply any glue. Peel off one of your felt discs (grabbing towards the edge), and stick it to one of the washers. Make this as centered as possible. After you do a million of these, it becomes pretty easy. Lay your tips felt side down, rinse, and repeat.

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Gluing your tips:

After you're tired doing that, you can start gluing the tips on the foam. Now this is where most people fail at making slugs, and generally why they fall apart for most people. It is absolutely critical you burn a hole or cavity in the foam for your glue to sit. All the poorly made slugs I've seen don't have this hole. Most people will just apply whatever glue they're using to the top of the foam, and then put on the tip. These won't last long.

Easiest way to burn holes is with the hot glue gun. Burn your hole as centered as possible, about 3/8” deep by 3/8” wide. You want the entire washer to sit inside the glue cavity after it’s applied. This way you can be sure there isn’t any exposed metal on either side of the dart. Now at this point you can decide whether you want to use hot glue or Plumber's Goop/E-6000.

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I usually use hot glue because of the ease of use, and I can make way more than using Goop/E-6000. When choosing your hot glue gun, it depends on the density of your foam. You may need to do a little experimenting here to see what glue gun will work best. I always use the “mini” ones as the larger ones are too hard to burn holes, and dispense too much glue on one pull. Normally I’ll aim for almost one full pull of glue for each dart. High temp guns usually are too hot for this process, so you'll most likely want a low temp, or dual temp one.

Now, it’s time for the actual gluing. Take your glue of choice and squirt it into the cavity. Turn the blank upside down and smash it into one of your washer + felt tips. You may have to adjust the tip a bit to make sure it’s centered and secured to the foam. Make sure your glue covers the entire washer. Fill the hole until it's over the hole by about 1/8". The glue will seep in a bit. After that, set it to the side and repeat until you’ve either ran out of tips, or you’re bored out of your mind.

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Remember when I told you it's critical you burn a hole?

Here's a couple darts, some of them made with the hole, and some of them while just applying glue on the top.

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After dissecting them, you can see the difference.
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The darts with holes burned are much more difficult to pull apart with your hands. The other darts on the right, with glue applied only on the top, easily break. Also, the darts with holes burned have no exposed metal, compared to the other darts.

I'd also like to note you can make these with #8 washers instead. I highly recommend against it though for a couple of reasons. If you use CPVC, the washers may be too large to fit through your barrels. Second, there is inherently exposed metal unless you have super thick foam and larger felt pads. It's just not possible for the metal to not be seen from the outside of the dart.


Edited by Ryan201821, 11 July 2014 - 01:30 PM.

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#3 Langley


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Posted 22 August 2012 - 02:11 PM

very informative, makes me want to go make some slugs now...

Thanks Ryan. I would like to note that the FBR from Lowe's is inconsistent, difficult/imcapable of hand drilling, and too loose of a fit in CPVC for springers. I tried making darts with it, and I would advise not using it.

I had to remove these in order to chop the thread into two pieces for the main page. Carry on...
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You can poop in my toilet anytime champ.

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#4 CrossBite720



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Posted 29 October 2012 - 01:03 PM

this was a great help and thanks for making it Posted Image

Very kind, but extremely unnecessary.

Edited by Ice Nine, 13 November 2012 - 11:45 AM.

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Posted 08 November 2012 - 02:56 AM

Hey there, just wondering if you can use slugs or hot glue tipped stefans in a normal longshot breach? i messed my angel breach up big time and i just recently got a new plunger system off ebay, so could you please let me know if i could size my darts to fit in an unmodded clip ans still feed flawlessly in a normal longshot plunger system? thanks a bunch (Y)

This is not at all the right place to ask this question. It has been answered many other times on this forum and a search either through Google or via the in-site system should turn it up.

Edited by Ice Nine, 13 November 2012 - 11:47 AM.

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#6 Ryan201821


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Posted 27 November 2012 - 06:10 PM

Updated to include how to make metal-free darts (AMIORS).
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#7 Montymarks



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Posted 01 August 2016 - 09:48 AM




Edited by Montymarks, 16 April 2017 - 09:51 AM.

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sorry for how I was a year ago

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