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Friday, January 23, 2015

Aliens M41a Pulse Rifle

Hudson with his M41a Pulse Rifle
After putting together my Dredd outfit I figured I wanted to do something cool but not quite as hot and uncomfortable (Ed. - Pun intended?).  I saw some of the guys on the Dredd Facebook page had done Aliens Colonial Marines, so I decided to try to make a pulse rifle.  I figured that would be the hardest part, so if I could do that, I could do the rest.

I was not going to obsess over this piece.  I wanted to go for about 75% movie accuracy.  I think getting close to the shape will be enough to remind people of this almost 30 year old movie.  I explored around the web and asked a few people about how to approach this.  I found that there were two practical options for me: Nerf and Foam.

I first gravitated toward the Nerf options - seems I could actually make it fire!  I saw some really good work on the web and came up with a parts list.  This is when I learned that some specific Nerf guns are VERY sought after and expensive.  I was looking at spending upward of $100 on parts for a gun.  I decided to look elsewhere.

I found some people had made the gun out of craft foam.  I felt like I had the confidence to make this based on all the work I did with this material previously.  I found a fairly good looking line drawing of the rifle and used my computer to size it to where it felt "right".  The plan was to cut out the basic shape on EVA foam floor mats and glue them together.  I initially thought I would use three mats, but the thickness of two seemed ok.



I cut out the basic shapes making sure to flip the template over so that I could put the textured side in the middle.  The two mats felt pretty floppy, so I decided to use a tip from Rebel Jack Cosplay and put in a wooden strip down the middle to strengthen the gun.


I traced the wooden strip with a Sharpie and cut out the channel with a hobby knife.  It helps to bend the foam so that you can get the depth that you need.


I used a ton of Rubber Cement to glue the two halves together.  I had to be very, very careful as the cement sticks very quickly and permanently.  Also, use this glue in a well ventilated area, as the fumes are very toxic.


I found that the basic gun also flopped around a bit when being held by the grip, so I drilled a long hold in the handle and inserted a dowel rod to strengthen it - another tip from Rebel Jack.


After getting the basic shape together, I added some 1/4" foam to fill out the magazine.  I also drew some much straighter lines to trim down the rough shape to be more accurate.


I used 2mm foam to make this section, having seen it in the drawing and on various pictures on the web.  I used a sharpie to draw on the pattern and just cut out the lines.


This is the beginnings of the grip/loading mechanism for the grenade launcher.  I used two pieces of scrap floor foam and just guessed on the thickness.  Later, I significantly reduced the thickness of this piece.  Being able to make changes on the fly is a nice advantage to working in foam.


The main grip area is 1/4" foam with lines scored and hit with a heat gun.  Doing this makes the lines stand out and is an easy way to get patterns on EVA.


The grip finished up.  In later pictures, you will see a pretty big reduction in the thickness of the end pieces based on movie stills I saw on the web.


I prepared another piece for the top and hollowed out this area where the round for the grenade launcher is loaded.  I cut this on a shallow angle to look like a shotgun.


For the end of the gun, I just cut a piece of 1/4" foam and recessed a PVC pipe accessory on the end.  Not movie accurate, but I thought it looked pretty good.  This is where my gun looks pretty skinny compared to the movie ones.  If I had to do this again, I might use 3 mats or at least add 1/4" in the middle.



For the upper barrel shroud, I cure a spare piece of kydex and bent it around the piece of PVC pipe I selected for the barrel.  I used a drill to make the end holes, then just used a hobby knife to cut out the vents.  I put in about half as many as the movie guns to save time and aggravation.


Upper barrel assembled.  I cut off much of the foam that represented the upper shroud.  I then cut the PVC pipe on an angle and supported it with a piece of 1/4" craft foam jammed underneath.  I used a piece of 2mm craft foam (the red piece) to make the last support.


Above, I have added details with both 1/4" and 2mm craft foam.  I shaped the handle by lots of cutting and sanding.  I simplified a LOT of the details to make the build easier.  The round knob on the bolt is a piece I found in the hardware section of the local big box store.


Lots and lots and lots of sanding.  I use an orbital sander for most things.  I used a ton of Mod Podge coats and grey auto primer to hide seams.




Plasti-dip just before painting.  After that, a coat of Aluminum, then some close-enough flat camouflage.


I used a silver Sharpie to color in the area where the grenade round go.


I decided to fabricate a stock out of kydex and foam.  Once again, I simplified and did not add in any details for the stock.  While working on this area, I discovered that I left out a detail on the back of the gun.  I whipped up some 1/4" foam and got the end piece in place.  I used some kydex to cap the end.


All painted up!  I just need to add some triggers and possibly an LED display.  I really liked working on this project and I think I got a fine result.

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