This is the last one. My addiction has to end before I wind up with a full armoury of nerf guns. However, I decided to take this last one as far as I could go.
My first nerf gun was the sharpshot, I got given it as a prize. It is a good gun, and I enjoyed painting it. My second nerf gun was the stockade, it happened to be on sale when I went to buy a target to shoot at.
I'm hardly counting the stinger that came with the target, though I did paint that too.
The Alpha Trooper is different, this one I chose after research into what I thought would make the best nerf gun. The stockade has good range, but the electric motor aspect just doesn't do it for me. too noisy, to much like cheating. Also the 10 shot barrel is all well and good, but you get through 10 shots quickly, and reloading is slow.
So I wanted a multi-shot, air-powered nerf gun, without the slow reload cost. This lead me to clip system (CS) guns, and quickly to the alpha trooper. There are two, the alpha trooper cs-18, comes with a clip that has a round chamber to fit 18 darts, and the elite cs-12.
I ordered myself the elite cs-12, as I felt 12 is a fine capacity and I prefered the straight clip. Also its the elite version that in theory means better perforance, though in practice that wound up not mattering.
In my research, I also came accross orangemodworks who sell modification kits for some of the nerf range. In particular they sell an alpha trooper mod kit, consiting of a new plunger/seal assembly, silcone grease to lubricate, a better spring, and a metal catch to take the extra forces involved. I watched some videos on fitting the kit, which used a cs-18, and it appeared to be identical to the cs-12. The opparative word being 'appeared', more on that later.
I spent a while debating ordering the mod kit, since it cost as much in shipping to the uk as it cost to buy. However, committed to the idea that this was to be the last one, I decided I would go all out rather than leave the lingering question of whether I should have got the kit.
Since the point of the clips is fast switching, I also got myself a couple of additional clips. Part of the reason though was I knew officially the clips don't support dart tag darts (they have wider heads) but I figured I could try modifying a clip to accept these darts, but if I ruined it, I'd have other clips.
Obviously a key question is the colour scheme, the sharp shot I stuck with plain black with red in the embossed details, and blue lines in the various cut lines. It was simple and unambitious.
The stinger I tried a slightly more steampunky silver/bronze combo. It looked ok but I tried going for quite solid colour and that didn't really work.
So for the stampede I stuck with the bronze, but this time did it as a dry brushed all over, looking a little more old weathered and bronzed.
For the alpha trooper I wanted to step it up, try something a little more bold. I searched for inspiration and hit upon this lovely example by Johnson Arms (brian johnson) a guy who professionally paints and sells nerf guns.
This one is apparently inspired by mass effect, I really like the red/black combo and the white stencilled lettering. So I pretty much set out to shamelessly copy this look.
First job - disassembly. at this point I realised the kit was slightly different to the actual internals, but I assumed the kit simply took a slightly different design as part of offering more power, the important bits looked identical, so I didn't think much more of it, and set about painting.
Second job was of course sanding off the logos and safety text etc. I started with 120 grit to get rid of logos, then worked through 180, 240, 320 and finally 400 all over the gun, to cut back they coating and give the base something to stick to.
I also used the sandpaper to modify the clip - basically the dart tag darts *almost* fit, but the wider head tended to get a little stuck. When i looked at the internals I could see there are two little raised ridges running the depth of the clip, one near the front and one near the back. These ridges are just before a little trough. Basically the plastic pusher that pressed up the nerf darts, has little extrusions on each side, that run in these troughs to keep it straight as it moves up and down. However the raised ridges aren't necessary, the trough is enough. so I sanded off the ridges at the front, where the head of the dart goes. This picture was taken after I'd sprayed it, but you can see that on the left, the back of the clip, there is a ridge running down the length. On the right, the front of the clip, I have smoothed down the ridge.
This was enough to allow the dart tag darts to fit without getting stuck. There is still an issue that you can't fill it with these darts. The heads are wider than the shafts, and too many in a row starts a curving effect in the stack. However you can set them like 'tracer' rounds, that whistle in flight, say ever 6 darts. I have found I like the last dart to be a dart tag dart, and one half way down. to help me track how many shots and when I need to reload.
Back to the prep...I washed all the parts with soapy water, to clear out the dust and clean off any grease from my hands.
Time to spray! The base coat is just a black, I had read that vinyl die is a good option as it actually bonds with the plastic and alters it, rather than just resting on the surface. I found a thread on the brit nerf forum that mentioned this halfords brand:
So that is what I got.
Once all black, I had to decide where to divide the black/red sections. There are lots of details in the plastic, it was a case of picking which to pick out in different colour and which not to bother. I decided I wanted most of the top section to be red, with black on the removable parts. I also kept the handle black, but decided to make the trigger, and the clip release tabs red. Obviously the more detail you want to pick out, the more masking you have to do.
Here are some masked out sections.
Although the undercoat was already black, it was a little shiny for my taste, so I resprayed the bits staying black with the chaos black from gamesworkshop. I really like the matt finish it gives.
I spent a while looking for the reef I wanted, I wound up with this one from liquitex. I really like the colour this came out. I dries to a nice strong matt red.
For the clip I decided to pick out the number (the capacity of the clip) which is in raised letters. This was a bit of a faff to mask off, but it looks good and I prefer it to just going plain black.
With my previous nerf paint jobs I added various 'weathering' type effects. With this one I decided to go with an 'as issued' brand new look. One key component in the design was the idea of spraying a letter/number stencil on the side in white. I could have just stuck with the mass effect gun codes, but I decided to make this a little different. I chose to use TR-1 which stands for 'Testers Revenge' since in the office my main use case for the gun is to shoot at developers that break stuff ;-)
The stencil proved to be the biggest pain!, I bought some stencil letters, but there were too large (just) for the space, so I printed out what I wanted at the right size and cut it by hand from a free corner of the Mylar sheet of the stencils I bought. The hand cutting was a tad tricky and I didn't get as cleaner finish as I'd like, but it was ok. Full of excitement I went ahead and taped everything down, masked off the gun and sprayed. only to find I got a fine spatter all around the letters from where the stencil didn't stay down. At this point I did some research and realised I should have used spray mount to stick the stencil in place to avoid this over spray. So I sanded the sections down again, resprayed red, and tried again.
The second time I wound up with too much sticky residue from sticking the stencil down on the first side. The second side was perfect. So I re-sanded the first side again, resprayed red, and tried a third time.
I the end I got the look i was after, but It involved a great deal of patience, and re-sanding/re-spraying until I got it right.
I finished with a clear coat sealer to protect the paint. this gives a nice finish generally and means I can actually use the gun without damaging the paint work.
At this point I turned my attention to re-assembly with the orangemodworks kit. And this is where I noticed the differences...
The cs-18 apparently has a wide hole at the back for the much wider spring and plunger. The cs-12 has a narrow plunger and spring, and hence a narrow hole at the back with re-enforcing struts of plastic around the hole. Well I'd come this far, and a few bits of extra plastic weren't going to stop me now, so out with a coping saw, and a chisel, and I cut the plastic away to allow the wider spring and plunger to fit.
Thinking this was it, I re-assembled everything, it all fit in place, and I got to the point of screwing it all shut again, and found it did not work...the problem is there is a catch that holds the carriage locked in the forwards position until you've fired the gun. When you fire, the back part shoots forwards, and in the cs-12 design it has a little prong on the front that pushes down on the plastic holding the carriage in place, but the cs-18 doesn't have this, in its design the back piece slides forwards far enough that a tab on its bottom side pushed that release out of the way. However in the cs-12 it simply couldn't slide far enough forwards.
In the picture you can see there is some extra plastic in the guide trough for the piston, the extra plastic shortens the trough and stops it sliding as far forward as it needs. Lucky for me this design clearly started as a cs-18 and just had extras added to alter the internals, I could get out my chisel and file, and work away these extra struts and allow the full length of the original trough to be opened up.
With these two adjustments, I now had internals that completely matched the cs-18, and everything can slide where it needs to. This mod is definitely not for the feint of heart, and clearly not as simple as it is in the cs-18 where you just straight switch out the components. But it can be done!
With all adjustments made, I finally fit everything back together and had a successful test firing. its hard to say how much more range I'm getting. Certainly ore power, but the darts tend to fly a little erratically. I may have to have a go at modding the darts to add a little weight and get better performance from them... though maybe I should just stop, before I think of too many more ways to upgrade what is supposed to be child's toy.