This week’s post is a response to a readers request and will be a little different from the content we’ve seen so far. Lots of different websites out there show you how to do a whole host of basic blaster mods, but in the spirit of encouraging others to get out there and try stuff for themselves, I’m instead just posting a list of tools and consumables I use when modifying blasters. Obviously, most of these won’t be needed most of the time, but having the right tool available for any given job is always going to make your life significantly easier. Sure you can punch out an AR with a screwdriver and a hammer, but having a hand drill is going to do a far better job and save you time, effort and heartache.
Our journey today will be split up into three parts; Tools, Consumables and Electrics. The first two should be fairly self explanatory, while the third will cover an assortment of both tools and consumables that will only be needed when performing modifications on electronic based blasters. Along the way we’ll also cover off a few generic ideas that I think are useful when it comes to modifying practically any blaster.
So without further ado, Tools!
Screwdrivers. Without a shadow of a doubt, the most important tools you’re going to need when modifying blasters are a set of screwdrivers. You will need an assortment of different sized pan head or phillips head screwdrivers, and having a few flat heads around never hurt anyone either.
A screwdriver may seem like an incredibly simple tool, and it is, but a remarkable number of people don’t think about what they’re doing with it. When using a screwdriver, turn it slowly and purposefully; if you feel it start to slip, stop immediately. Blasters typically use small/weak screws that can strip quite easily. That and you’re screwing into plastic, so it’s also quite easy to strip/break the shell when screwing back in to it. Also, use the correct sized driver for a given screw. Trying to force a larger screw with a smaller tip, will only end up stripping the head. If you only buy one thing towards modifying your blasters, make sure it’s a selection of different sized screwdrivers.
Scissors. Mostly used for cutting tape, I’m pretty sure you can probably figure out this one for yourself.
Modeling Saw. Admittedly I don’t actually use this all that much any more. Most of the time a Dremmel will do a better job and be significantly faster, but there is the odd occasion where the Dremel simply doesn’t fit and you need to cut something by hand.
Battery hand drill. Another incredibly useful, but often overlooked tool. As I mentioned at the start of this post, you *can* punch out an AR with a hammer and a screwdriver; however having the right tool (a hand drill) will both make the job easier and produce a better result. This is one of the more expensive tools we’ll be looking at today and could be difficult to justify if solely using it for modding blasters. If you don’t already own one, start thinking of other things you could potentially use it for and I’m sure you’ll be able to find the appropriate funds. While modifying blasters I mostly use mine for removing AR’s but there are plenty of other occasions where the ability to drill a hole in something is rather useful.
Extra long drill bit. Having the drill may be all well and good, but without a bit long enough to reach an AR, it’s probably not going to be of much use. Again, just go buy one. They’re not that expensive and will make your life much easier. Sure it might cost $15, but think how many mods you’re going to do with it! You could probably get away with something ~200mm long, but ~300mm is what I’ve got as it was what I could find.
Generic drill bit set. If you’ve gone to all the effort of getting a drill you, may as well get a decent selection of bits. I’m sure I’ve used these for a whole bunch of assorted blaster modifications but I can’t for the life of me think of any specific examples.
Hot glue gun. Incredibly useful in the world of blaster modification. Hot glue is extremely easy to use, relatively cheap, and quite versatile. I’ve used hot glue for everything from gluing things together (shock horror I know), to reinforcing brittle parts of blaster shells, through to creating seals and plugging air leaks. If you’re going to go out and pick up a hot glue gun, splurge that little bit extra and get yourself a full sized one. The difference in price between it and one that uses the smaller sizes of glue sticks will be made up surprisingly quickly through the difference in glue sticks.
Tape measure. Used to measure things? Yeah, this one should be fairly self explanatory. Remember the age old adage of “measure twice, cut once”.
Side cutters. Another fairly straight forward tool. You won’t need it all that often, but situations will come up where you’ll think to yourself “if only I had a pair of side cutters…”
Dremel (or in my case the Rotary Hobby Tool). Typically I dislike referring to generic things by a specific brand name, but I dislike the generic term of ‘rotary tool’ even more. That, and nobody knows what a ‘rotary tool’ is. Another rather expensive tool to add to the collection but well worth it. Once you own a dremel you will find so many uses for it it’s not funny. I use a Dremel branded one at work regularly and I’ve had this one at home for years; I can’t say I prefer one over the other. Based on this, I’d recommend buying the cheaper off brand alternative.
Dremel bits. Like the drill, the dremel isn’t particularly useful without bits. For blaster modification the two most common bits you’ll need are the cutting disc and the grinding wheel. As crazy as it sounds, the cutting disc cuts things, while the grinding wheel grinds things away. Unlike this tool itself, I do recommend that you stay with the Dremel branded bits. I’ve tried some of the off brand bits and they never seem to last as long as the Dremel ones do.
If you’re planning on working with brass barrels and breechs, I’d also suggest getting some polishing wheels too. Far easier than doing it by hand and can also get inside the brass as well.
Knife. Retractable, snap off blades, one piece; whatever, just make sure it’s sharp and always cut away from yourself. Don’t do what Donny Don’t does!
Hand Files. I know I’ve only pictured one here but you’ll want an assortment of relatively fine files. The most important one to have is a round file, at least 200mm long. This will allow you to clean up the dags left over after ramming a drill through an AR and it will make a difference. Beyond that I also have a collection of small files for very detailed work, and the large flat file pictured. Regularly you’ll just grind things away with your dremel, but there will be occasions where the hand tool is needed.
Small containers. Ok, so not really a tool as such but something I still strongly suggest having and feel it’s worth including. Small containers, such as spray can lids, are brilliant for storing screws and other small parts in whilst your blaster is in pieces. Everything just goes straight in to the container and you can’t loose parts. Always find something to put parts in, don’t lust leave them on the bench.
Teflon tape. Found in the plumbing section of your local hardware store, teflon tape is an incredibly thin form of tape. You’ll use it for padding out O-rings to improve the seal in your blasters. I’ll also mention here that you can achieve a similar outcome with electrical tape, but because it’s thicker you can’t be as precise and therefore won’t get as good a result.
Electrical tape. One of those things that’s just hand to have around. I mostly use it for holding blasters together for testing purposes.
Masking tape. Used for masking off certain areas before painting. Probably not needed if you don’t intend on painting your blasters.
Cloth tape. Similarly to the electrical tape, cloth tape is just a useful thing to have around. I’m sure you’ll find uses for it if you had some.
Markers. Going back to the logic above of ‘measure twice, cut once’, it really pays off to have some good quality markers around.
Foam padding. I haven’t actually touched on this subject before and do plan of doing a full post on it in the future, so for now I’ll be brief. Modifying your blasters will reduce their life. You can do things to mitigate against this, padding your plungers for example, but they will never last as long as if you left them as they were from the factory. I’ve tried a variety of padding’s in the past and have never really been satisfied with them. Currently testing out some OzNerfNerd ones, but don’t have any real data on them so far. Based on what the rest of the internet says you probably should get some form of padding, but I’m unconvinced personally.
Lube. You should be lubing your blasters fairly regularly if they’re seeing regular use. Also a good idea to re-lube plungers after recreating a seal.
Aftermarket O-rings. There are a world of aftermarket parts suppliers out there for foam dart blasters, most of which can supply you with replacement or improved O-rings. I like to have an assortment floating around at any given time, but you could just order them as you need or even just rely on teflon tape to improve your seals.
Generic collection of springs. Some of these were specifically bought but most would be left overs from other blasters (hint: don’t throw out pieces from old or broken blasters, they might come in useful some day). Very handy to have an assortment of springs around. I’ll mostly use these for improving trigger catches, but there are plenty of occasions where the perfect spring just happens to be in my bits bag.
Glue. I’ve only pictured a tube of Tarzan’s Grip below but you will need an assortment of different adhesives, depending on what you’re doing. Fast drying general glues, like Tazan’s Grip, are great for things where you can get a decent purchase but don’t need it to be ‘end of the world’ style strong. This includes things like nesting brass barrels, gluing PVC over-barrels to plastic blaster shells, etc. This would be my mostly commonly used glue. Your tradition Super Glue is also pretty useful for this sort of stuff.
When you need something to be super strong, you then have to move into the world of two part epoxies. There are a whole assortment of 5 minute, 24 hr, 48hr, 5 days, etc, variants out there. Personally, if I want something to stick really well, I just jump straight to the longest drying time I can find. Things like priming bars to the outside of breeches or nozzles on air tanks cop a fair amount of force, so go the epoxy there as an example.
PVC solvent. Used to stick PCV pipe together. Fairly self explanatory.
Metal polish. If you’re making a brass breech of some description you really should invest in some decent metal polish. Polish up the brass where it will be sliding over another piece and your breech will work significantly easier.
Modeling putty. Can be used for cosmetic purposes but I mostly use mine for reinforcing weaker parts of shells or making guides for parts to move in a certain way. Modeling shops will get you better quality stuff, but hardware stores will get you far cheaper stuff and often larger quantities.
Aftermarket springs. Probably not something you need to have a stack of just lying around, but something I felt worth including in here all the same. Multiple different sellers are offering replacement springs to the market today; I’m not going to praise nor bag out any of them at this stage, simply because I haven’t had enough experience with most of them.
Paint. When painting, I typically go for the cheapest paint available and make it work. Others throughout the internets will swear by some of the more expensive brands, good for them. To me the most important part is your prep, not the paint itself. I’ll go over more of this in detail when I actually do a re-paint for a blaster.
Soldering iron and solder. Kind of a recurring theme here, but save yourself some hassle and get yourself a soldering iron if you intend on doing electrical modifications. You can often get away with a simple ‘twist and tape’ method of joining wires but some good old fashioned solder will make the join significantly stronger. Also useful for cleanly unsoldering existing wires within a blaster.
Multimeter. Another must have for electrical mods. You basically can’t troubleshoot without one.
Assorted batteries and holders. Another useful thing to just have lying around for testing, but really not nessecary if you’re just following a guide you got off the internet.
Assorted wire. Bridging connections, wiring in new battery holders; so many uses it’s not funny. If playing with electronics, you will at some point need some extra wire.
Wire strippers. Another very useful but not essential tool. If you’re skilled you can strip wires with a pair of side cutters or even a pair of scissors, but it’s far easier with the right tool.