Two weeks ago, I was at the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR in Kansas. I looked through the vendors for anything unusual and found a “prepper” booth that sold a target system which used compressed air and a soda bottle. It looked like fun, so I bought one.
Of course, I also wondered how hard it would be to build my own…
Essentially, the “MEGA-BOOM” target is a threaded base that’s the same size as a 2-liter bottle cap with a Schrader valve in it. A Schrader is what you think of as a tire valve. They are also available in hardware stores for use with air compressor tanks or water pressure tank valves.
I dug through my recycling bin and pulled out a 2-liter bottle and cap. On my bench, I put the cap in the vise (still on the bottle, so it wouldn’t squish) and drilled a 3/8″ hole in it. I then put a Schrader tank valve through a washer and through the hole in the cap. Next, I removed the cap and threaded on a brass 1/8″ to 1/4″ bushing. This acted as a nut on the back of the cap. Because this valve has pipe thread on it, it needs to go into another pipe fitting – if it had straight threads, it could have a nut.)
With the valve solidly in place built in to the cap, I screwed it on to a bottle, and used the air chuck on my compressor. 120 PSI, here we come!
Next up, it was time to head in to the “Wayback” of my parent’s property, where we could make use of firearms. My Dad broke out the air rifle. It’s a German model, where you pump the gun by breaking the barrel (like a break-action shotgun.) Breaking the barrel lets you add the pellet, and snapping it shut loads the rifle with compressed air.
We took shots at both the commercially-made and home-made versions of the exploding targets, and both worked great!
2-Liter bottles worked best – they are larger, so easy to hit, and the bigger volume really makes a big bang. Nobody called the cops on us, but it really did make a big bang! On one of our last shots, I added about a quarter cup of flour to the bottle before screwing it on and adding air.
16 oz soda bottles worked well too. Since they are smaller, they are a little harder to hit, and the boom isn’t as big, but you still know you hit it when it goes KA-BOOM!
The commercial target has a heavy metal stand, which could just be set on the ground. Our home-made version didn’t. However, I found that I could just put a valve cap on our target and then stab it right into the ground. It stayed well, not tipping over. After several uses though, the plastic bottle cap did eventually get damaged. Still, it was made in just a few minutes using parts I already had, so not bad at all! We also tried using a garden hose female connection (whose threads are very close to that of a soda bottle) but weren’t able to thread it in far enough to seal up well against the rubber washer.
It was lots of fun blasting targets! There was only a little clean-up at the end, picking up the plastic. The plastic bottles are so light, that there was no concern about “shrapnel”. That said, always wear eye and ear protection around firearms and any exploding targets. Likewise, working with air at 120 PSI has enough danger to it that you want to take common sense precautions.
Till next time, have fun blowing things up!