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Potato Gun

October 19, 2016


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

I can’t remember who, probably a nephew or one of my kids, suggested we make a potato gun.  Sounded like a good idea to me, although I didn’t have an idea in the world what they were talking about.

We drove to a hardware store with plumbing supplies, bought like, $50 worth of PVC pipes and a variety of fittings.  We purchased a butane charcoal fire igniter on the way home at a grocery.  Oh yes, and a can of hairspray.  Aqua Net.  Did I mention the 5 lb bag of potatoes?  No.  Well, that too.

I didn’t mention the glue and primer to fasten the fittings to the PVC.  Probably too complicated a contraption to describe.  More a cannon than a gun.

The whole thing was four feet long with a two-foot-long, two-inch diameter, muzzle sharpened so that one could pound a potato against it and shave off the excess so the remainder of the p. would slide into the barrel like a plug.  We used a golf club as a ramrod to push the potato plug into the barrel about a foot or so.

The butt end of the cannon was made of another two foot length of six-inch diameter pipe fastened with a reducer to the barrel and with a screw plug in the butt end.  Sometimes we would push the potato into the barrel too far and we’d need some way to remove it.  We lubricated the screw-in plug with oil to facilitate removing it.  Otherwise we’d need to carry a wrench.

Oh yes.  I nearly forgot to mention the hole we drilled, then enlarged with a file, in the fat part of the gun, to accommodate the charcoal igniter.  We used some duct tape and epoxy to fasten it into place so that we had a neat trigger for firing the cannon.

It was pretty easy.  With the butt of the cannon closed, you sprayed about 10 seconds worth of Aqua Net into the muzzle of the gun.  Then you hammered in a potato and ramrodded it into position.  You took careful aim at a tree in the backyard, then squeezed the trigger on the igniter, and, “CRACK.”  The potato shot right out with a loud report.

I don’t know how many of those guns we made, probably six or seven.  Turns out you could shoot a potato about 50 yards or so, maybe a bit more, and in order to shoot a second shot, you had to open the butt end and swing the gun around to blow out the spent gases and recharge with air.  Otherwise the second shot wouldn’t fire.

Of course the Holy Grail of potato gun shooting would have been making a hot air balloon out of a bunch of space blankets or even dry-cleaning bags, getting it to sail up and away, then shooting it down with a potato gun.

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