Every so often an aspiring backyard engineer decides to cobble together some batteries and junk metal in the hope of building something cool. But what about building a real, man-portable rail gun?

The idea is to build a smaller version of the same device currently being testing by the US military, a weapon so powerful that it can propel dense armor-piercing rounds over Mach 10—or about 10,000 feet per second. Keep in mind that a very fast conventional bullet, such as the .50 BMG, only goes about 3,000 feet per second, and they are not artillery shells.

Understandably, most garage projects to build a rail gun result in little more than an interesting toy. Even complex Gauss rifles or coil guns—which use magnets—are comparably easier to build. One man, however, claims he built the real deal. Declining to identify himself, the mystery man posted several pictures of what appeared to be a working rail gun online and even included videos of it firing various ammunition, such as graphite and tungsten rods, smaller versions of the same ammunition that military testers have used. According to the man, the 3D-printed rail gun uses 20 pounds of 300j, 350v, and 5,550uF capacitors, along with a 12V LiPp battery that provides the main energy source needed for the gun to fire. A tiny Arduino microcontroller monitors the complex electronics during the gun’s firing sequence.

CAD design file of the rail gun.
CAD design file of the rail gun.

Okay, so it looks fancy, but does it work?

If we are to believe his videos, yes. The man claims that the gun is capable of firing projectiles at 560 miles per hour at more than 1.8 kilojoules of energy per shot. If that is correct, the projectiles are traveling at roughly 800 feet per second.

You can see test videos here:

The aluminum and tungsten rods used in this gun are incredibly light. While the speed they are traveling at is comparable to that of a .22 LR round, they are just too light to be fatal and failed to even penetrate thick wooden boards. The inventor of the device acknowledged that the rounds fired from his gun are not likely to be fatal, but he added that “it would definitely hurt.” Still, it is not a large leap for this device to fire larger, more lethal rounds. With more power and a refined design, the gun may be able to shoot projectiles matching a 9x19mm round or even that of a larger caliber. It just takes a little bit of research and ingenuity.

“Nobody is smart enough to make this kind of stuff on their own. You take what other people have done and you try something different,” the nameless inventor wrote on reddit.

“Bottom line—anybody can do it, it just takes time and dedication,” he concluded.

You can see what happened to one of the projectiles here:

Images from Imgur

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