Nerf gun redesign

From DDL Wiki

Jump to: navigation, search


Executive Summary

Nerf guns are part of a large family of toys: other Nerf guns, paintball guns, airsoft guns, and other projectile toys all included. Research into these products, patents in the projectile toy realm, and Nerf gun modifications made by enthusiasts were used to determine potential market niches for a new and similar product. Studies of product firing performance and user habits and feedback allowed the team to identify weaknesses of the current products on the market and the needs and desires of users. Market research, performance data, and user study information allowed the team to identify a niche market for 13 and up to provide a safe, affordable gun that improves on current products in the areas of aesthetic design, firing power, ease of loading, ease of firing, and a "fun factor".

The areas of improvement combined with idea brainstorming generated a basis for development of five concepts. These concepts were evaluated against the Big Bad Bow based on the five areas for improvement. All of the concepts improved in certain areas over the Big Bad Bow, but still left room for improvement in other areas. Elements of the five designs were combined to develop a final concept to pursue for further development.

Market Research

Nerf products as discussed in report 1 Nerf_gun are designed for and marketed to the 6 years of age and up age group. Our intention is not to target this age group but rather to consumers 13 year of age and older. We decided to switch to this market due to a number of reasons.

The first reason stems from the user study conducted in Report 1 (Nerf_gun_userstudy), where our users were not of the 6+ age group but rather of the 18+ age Group. To our suprise, we noticed an astounding amount of interest in and enthusiasm for playing with the Nerf guns from this age group. We attribute this to the aesthetic appeal of Nerf guns.

The second reason, stems from these user's responses to the product once they were already using it. The users understood it was designed for children, but could not get past the failures of the product. For example the guns would sometimes jam or be difficult to use.

Thirdly, the users in our study we severely dissatisfied with the performance of the guns. They were irritated with shortcomings such as having to reloading the gun or that it would not fire long distances. This user concern is substantiated with the tremendous amount of modification done non-commericially (see Nerf__gun_redesign#Competing_Products).

Lastly, we recognize a desire in adult and young adult consumers to play with toys that are rewarding to use. In particular, consumers desire products that are cool, fun, interactive, and socially acceptable. The following video contributes to illustrating this abstract point The Great Office War - Nerf Battle on an Epic Scale.

These points combined frame our target market as users age 13 and up, who are looking for a toy gun that is aesthetically appealing, functions without failure, acheives impressive performance, and is rewarding to the user as a human.

Stakeholder Needs

Since our target market is older, smarter, and stronger than the target market for the Big Bad Bow, we have different weighting of stakeholders.

The primary stakeholder for the design of our toy gun is now the gun user. As described above, our user is a consumer 13 years of age and older. They will have the most interaction with the gun and will be more critical of it's shortcomings than the Big Bad Bow user. The needs of the user are that the gun

  • Must be aesthetically pleasing
  • Must not break easily or degrade in performance and appearance over time
  • Must perform better than a Nerf gun in terms of distance and accuracy
  • Must be a "cool" and peer-approved product
  • Must be entertaining to use (ex. interactive function)
  • Must be easy to load and require little maintenance

One secondary stakeholder would be the parent(s) or guardian(s) of this user. The parent will need to be able to go the store and buy our product. They also have to be concerned with the conduct of the user (adolescent) in the context of social situations. They will also be responsible for returning the product, arranging for maintenance, or buying more ammunition. If applicable, they might also help in product assembly. The needs of the parent are that the gun

  • Must be easily accessible for purchase
  • Must be relatively inexpensive
  • Must be safe for the adolescent
  • Must be safe for bystanders
  • Must not appear threatening or stir up attention from authority figures

Another secondary stakeholder would be the retailer of the gun. They are responsible for handling, stocking, and selling the gun. The needs of the retailer are that the gun in packaging

  • Must not require any special handling care
  • Must be stackable since it will be a relatively inexpensive product
  • Must have an attractive appear to be noticed in the store.

User Study

The user study allowed specific needs of users from the NERF gun, and weakness in the gun design and function from the perspective of the user. The user needs are as follows:

  • Accuracy
  • Long firing distance
  • Intuitive function
  • Easy to fire
  • Ergonomic design
  • Retrievable ammunition

User Study Feedback

A user study was conducted on the three Nerf blasters on Carnegie Mellon University's Pittsburgh Campus.

Big Bad Bow

General Feedback: People tended to initially think the gun was very appealing, but after using it were often disappointed in its performance.

User responses:
1) Sight was useful for lateral accuracy, not vertical
2) Large learning curve for an accurate shot
3) Not as exhilarating as other Nerf weapons
4) Ammo breaks easily
5) Operation is not immediately apparent, unclear on how to hold it
6) Limited range
7) Too large
8) Recognizable
9) Can not de-cock the gun without firing
11) User expected more function and interaction based on aesthetics; it's just a normal gun at its root
12) Retrieving ammo is a hassle

Rapid Fire 20

General feedback: This weapon was praised as the most enjoyable to use, but there were frequent complaints people had about getting the gun ready to fire.

User responses:
1) Loading process is tedious See a video of reloading the Rapid Fire 20
2) Good for shooting crowds.
3) 20 rounds in 2.2 sec is impressive, unique, and exciting for most people
4) Not very comfortable
5) No pressure gauge, no user feedback
6) Pumping become difficult after 20. Pumping force is too great for small child
7) Tube behind grip is annoying
8) Hard to aim, there is no sight
9) Pump feels flimsy
10) More satisfying to fire than other Nerf guns
11) User gets feeling of quality with firing performance
12) Picking up all the fired ammo is tedious
13) "Single Fire" mode does not function properly, fires 4 to 5 darts instead of 1. Requires some finesse to fire one shot.
14) Wasn't apparent at first that it needed to be pumped to fire
15) Not all of the darts fire; occasionally some get stuck or do not have enough pressure
16) Not aesthetically pleasing
17) Too violent for children according to some people
18) Unbalanced and cumbersome mass for a 7 year old
19) Pumping process is tedious

Buzz Saw

General feedback: This weapon is very different than a standard Nerf gun, and has a lot of annoying quirks because of it.

User Response:
1) Too much lag between trigger pull and ball firing
2) User loses time in steadying the gun after the winding phase (step 2) and before firing (step 4)
3) Sound is uncomfortable and prolonged for some users, but intimidating for the target
4) Sound does not accurately portray performance
5) User can vary projectile distance
6) Strength and experience limit gun performance
7) Runs out of ammunition quickly
8) “Buzz Saw” is a violent name
9) Cannot pump and fire at the same time. Balls get stuck in gun when one is pulling on light blue handle; The design includes a ball release switch to address this issue
10) Balls gets stuck in top of hopper
11) Gun does not shoot at an angle greater than about 45 degrees
12) The loading phase (step 6) is time consuming

In addition, we have more specific suggestions and reactions from one round of user testing. The test was done in a high traffic part of the CMU campus in the middle of a day with good weather. The users were given the different Nerf weapons and told to fire them while the group observed.

USER 1- Male CMU Mechanical Engineering student

Buzz Saw-
user winds up the flywheel, releases 3 rounds
“slow reaction, feels kinda laggy, anti-climatic”
Rapid Fire AS-20-
Ian: “you got to pump it 30 times”
User: “well that’s annoying”
user pumped it, fires entire clip
“Okay that’s cool, that’s my favorite so far. This one is the best”
starts loading
“This process sucks”
user suggestions: “replaceable clip”, “use some sort of power instead of pumping”

USER 2 – Female CMU student
Big Bad Bow
She resisted. Didn’t “find it fun to touch someone... [hurt someone]”

USER 3 – Female CMU student
asked if it was fun to play with them
we said yes
she declined anyway

USER 4 – Female CMU student
Ian: “you would very much like to play with Nerf guns right?”
“I like that one; is that a cross bow”
Big Bad Bow-
user had some trouble figuring out how to use it, but eventually figured out how
to retract the bow and fire it. After firing one shot, tried to fire again without reloading. “I thought it would spin and load itself” disappointment “... In a Nerf battle you don’t have time for that. ‘Kind of a let down”
“Definitely have the aesthetics down. It looks cool”
user attempts to fire another shot. It fired and then fell short about 2 feet from the user. User was not too surprised.
User suggestions: “[I would like it more] if it was more interactive. It looks like a very cool contraction but it’s just a glorified gun.

Buzz Saw
wound up two pulls it flopped 3 balls on in front of her.
“oh God I think I broke it”
“That’s it?!”
“That’s really disappointing”
Ian shows how to use it
“That’s really annoying; I want it to stop making that noise”
She winds it up, and shoots a few rounds
“it’s much cooler now. Maybe it’s cuz of the wind.”
“Oh it ran out of bullets already”
User suggestions: “Maybe I would be excited using it if I was a 12 year old boy.”

USER 5 - Male CMU student
Rapid Fire AS-20
“The design is bad. I don’t like the look.”

USER 6 – Male CMU Mechanical Engineering Professor, Professor Messner
Rapid Fire AS-20
Fires all the rounds
“Oh this is way too cool”
We retrieve the ammunition and load it
“Let’s see I should recharge.”
Starts pumping
“It’s a pretty good workout”
Finishes pumping
“How many [rounds] does it have?”
Ian: “20”
Messner: “We’ll time it”
Ian: “2.2 seconds”
“10 rounds a second
“600 rounds a minute”
“Now you need a belt”
USER 7 – Male CMU student
Big Bad Bow??
“it shoots pretty far”

USER 8 –Late middle-age Male, son is an Industrial Design Major
Big Bad Bow
“Cross Bow Design”
“Symetrical, left handed or right handed. My son is lefty”
user cokes the gun
“gotta load one. It doesn’t automatically load... It would be better if it automatically loaded”
“Sight is no good. It’s so distorted in the sight... I sight without a lens is better. Line them up [with] a cross hair here and cross hair here” pointing to the front and back.
overall opinion “Okay I like it”

Buzz Saw:
“I think I got the hang of it. You got to pull on it. Shoots 3 shots.—oh coo!l” Overall:
“I don’t like that they are weapons.” “Saw is a violent name”
Which do you like the most?
“I like them all for different reasons. [the Buzz Saw] you can pump and vary the speed. This one you can pump up and vary the speed... I think a smaller child would have difficulty pulling it back. Whereas [the Big Bad Bow] is easy.

Rapid Fire AS-20
us: you need to pump it 30 times
“I had a pellet gun that you could pump only two times. – 30 times”
“unique feature = rapid fire”
“As a toy for young people I don’t agree”
“heavy. Not balanced well. It gets difficult to pump at 25”
“A little heavy for a 7 year old. doesn’t have any sights. It’s bulky.”
Us: what do you think about ammunition? What do you think about it being slow and soft, non-injurious.
“It’s a given that it didn’t hurt.”
“I put it on single and it didn’t single fire.”
Big Bad Bow
“large, more fragile, easy to use, intuitive, easy to aim, technology is obvious, so they can learn something.
user suggestions: “make it clear so they can learn something... learn the mechanisms”

Us: “So what do you think of the ammunition? any improvements there?”
The packaging says don’t modify the darts
User: “I was thinking that already”
“[The ammution on the Rapid Fire gun] are more bullet like... it has more of them...”

USER 9 – Male CMU Student, Recorded by Ian
Rapid Fire AS-20
Lost air pressure to quickly on single shot mode
Hard to pump
User didn’t like that it was so large
User thought it could be smaller

USER 10 – Male CMU graduate Student of foreign origin
Big Bad Bow
User tried to work the sights, had trouble and then removed sun glasses.
User still had difficultly getting the darts to go where desired voices concern by saying “aiming problem”
User would fire one dart then go retrieve it, load it and fire it again. Did not notice the extra ammunition at first.
“Looks like a cross bow”
“Looks like something from outer space”
“I would rather see a cross bow”
“You can aim but [it only goes] 2 or 3 meters and then just falls.

USER 11 – Late middle age Male with British accent
Big Bad Bow
First time firing the bow the arrow fell right away off the gun.
Second time it went several meters
“Oh I just didn’t know how to operate it”
“Oh my son would love this!”
As picking up the ammo, “the trouble is picking up the ammo”
Rapid Fire AS-20
Fires a whole round
“Oh He’d really like this!”
... “[These types of guns] leak or the pump fails
“lifespan of the toy is very short”
Buzz Saw
No comment

USER 12 – Female CMU student unfamiliar with Nerf guns
Big Bad Bow?
Us: “you want to fire a Nerf gun?”
User: “Why?”
“[you mean for me to] shot at someone?!”
We explain that we wish for her to use it without instruction. It’s for a class.
User: “Do I pump it?”
User had never played with one before. We did not provide any assistance at first.
“This thing is confusing... Oh, I got it”
User attempts to fire
“Wait, it doesn’t go anywhere... It doesn’t go anywhere!”
“Oh I got to load it”
Fires gun
“This could come with better instructions.”
“Freaking confusing”
“you have to load it every single time”

USER 13 – Male
Rapid Fire AS-20
“More ammunition”
“Aw the pressure is gone”
“I expected it to pump like 5 times [not 30].” User had a pump-action rifle as a child and had to pump it only 5 times to prime.

Buzz Saw “It’s easiest to get the balls stuck [out of the three guns]”
“can’t shoot up”
“[It’s] lame!”
“[it] Needs a funnel on top”
“Awesome and funny name”
“I like the simple design”
“It’s a cool concept, but the fact that it gets stuck when building momentum [ruins it].”

Big Bad Bow
The bow is the most appealing at first

As you can see, there is a great variety of opinions ranging from very pleased to confused and concerned about weapons for kids.

Competing Products

In reponse to the user needs defined by our market research there are numerous competitor products already commercially available or being made by the user. Hasbro Inc.'s Nerf product line has a strong presence in the market, however the other major competitors must be considered and are described below.

Nerf Weapons:

There is an incredible amount and variety of nerf weapons available. Just looking at the guns that shoot darts, there already exists a gun for just about every purpose. There are small guns, large guns, guns with massive ammo clips, battery powered guns, two in one guns, guns with electronic games/scorekeeping, and guns with interchangable parts. See this page for all the guns listed on Nerf's website. Because of the shear number of Nerf guns that already exist, it is clear that they have filled their own niche very well. A better product might be able to distinguish itself by appealing to a different age group, or by having a very unique design (or combinations of designs).

Here is one ranking of the ten best Nerf guns currently and previously marketed.

Similar Toy Gun Products:

If the targeted audience is the age group 16 years of age and up, there are several types of competing products beyond Nerf guns. Paint ball guns, Airsoft guns, Super Soakers and Laser Tag weapons make up a large majority of popular projectile toy guns. In addition there are also smaller-market-niche guns and launchers such as off-brand Nerf guns, cap guns, elastic-powered launchers, net launchers, and other mortar-type weapons. Descriptions of these toys are given below, however it should also be mentioned that for the 16 and older age group there is the opportunity for the consumer to skip the toy gun and buy a real one.

Paint Ball Guns
The sport of paint balling is played by using marble size plastic balls filled paint as the ammunition. The balls are shot with the power of a compressed air tank and are designed to break and spill paint on the target upon impact. With a high enough velocity they leave welts on bare skin, hence players will often wear protective clothing and are required to wear protective face masks and goggles. The paint gives a clear indicator of a hit target during the game play and is a non-toxic and water-soluble for safety and easy clean-up. Referees are presents during the game to unsure the rules are upheld. The games are held primarily outdoors in prepared playing fields with various obstacles and cover. The sport of paint balling is pretty ubiquitous throughout the US and many other countries. There are professional teams, annual tournaments, and high performance guns for the more enthusiastic players. Despite being a potentially painful pastime paintball is statistically the lowest injury sport recorded by the AMERICAN SPORTS DATA, INC in 2003. It should be noted that paint ball is a significantly more expensive past time than playing with Nerf guns. Paint Ball guns can be purchased for anywhere between $50 and $5000, however most people who have played paintball will rent. A day of skirmisches will run the consumer $50 to $100 for a gun, a gas canister, several hundred rounds, and protective equipment. More information about the sport itself can be found under the Paintball Wikipedia entry.

Air Soft Guns
Air Soft weapons have plastic BB's as ammunition and use compressed air, batteries, or air-spring energy for propulsion. The majority of the guns are replica models of military issued weapons. They have a very convincing appearance of being a real gun barring an orange plug on the barrel (in ordinance with US Federal Regulation). In order to not alarm authorities the guns must be transported discretely; additionally there have been reports of people using Airsoft guns to commit crimes or being shot down while holding an airsoft replica gun. Consumers typically use the guns on targets or in organized live action role playing games and skirmishes. Score is kept during the game based on the honor system and safety goggles must be worn during game play. The police and military also use the guns in training programs since they look very similar to and are weighted about the same as real guns. Airsoft is significantly more expensive than Nerf and about on par with paintball with prices for guns between $30 and $4000. Ammo costs around $20 for 500 BBs.

Supersoakers and Other Water Guns
These guns shoot out water at their target. They require pumping in order to build up water pressure for firing. They are played with outdoors in warm weather only. There are no specific rules and minimal safety precautions. Better guns can shoot up to 39 feet. They cost anywhere from $5 to $300.

Laser Tag
There is no projectile with this sport. The player will aim at targets and other players with an LED 'laser' and fire with a infrared signal. The signal is picked up by the other player's vest or the target's receiver as a hit. The score is kept electronically by the computers' embedded software. Rules are also enforced with the software. For example there is no friendly fire counted in the score or firing is revoked from a player after he/she is 'killed'. Laser tag is usually played indoors and has many options for customizing the game rules and game scenario. Laser Tag is also used by the police and military for training exercises. More about Laser Tag.

Off-Brand Foam Projectile Guns
As a cheaper alternative to buying a true Nerf Gun a consumer might seek an off brand Nerf Gun. They manufacture toy guns very similar in concept, appearance, and function to Nerf. It is possible that there are differences in performance between off-brand and Nerf guns including range, power, aesthetic appeal, features, and quality. Foam dart gun enthusiasts will also modify these off brand Nerf guns. One manufacturer of foam dart shooting guns is Buzz Bee Toys. In contrast to guns such as Buzz Bee's, Nerf is known for building its guns out of a more durable plastic.

Cap Gun
There are no projectiles with this gun, there is only a pop noise sounded upon pulling the trigger. These guns are usually modeled after real guns, but aren't exact replicas and must have the orange plug in the barrel.

Elastic Launchers
These types of projectile toys use an elastic band to hurl baseball size ammunition at the target. They can launch almost anything from water balloons to snow balls to eggs. Example water balloon launcher.

Net Launchers
This product fulfills a much smaller niche than the rest. It launches a net at it's target. net launcher net launcher link 1 Net launcher link 2.

Other Guns and Launchers
Aside from the types of guns mentioned above this a large number of miscellaneous guns and launchers that shot all kinds of projectiles. Follow this link to attain a feel for the variety.

There are many kinds of guns and launchers out in the market as commercial products or as a result of consumer modifications. For the 16 and older age group our strongest competitors will be paintball, airsoft, and Nerf guns since they are the most popular and ubiquitous in the current market.


There are currently 40 active patents for projectile launching toys covering both functional mechanisms and ornamental designs. These patents cover the following mechanisms:

  • Hydrodynamic, hand-launched projectiles
  • Squirt guns
  • Cap gun
  • Toy slingshot
  • Crank actuated firing
  • Level actuated firing
  • Compressed air firing, various accompanying air compressing mechanisms
  • Compressed member firing, various associated configurations using compressed member firing
  • Fly wheel launching
  • Leaf spring launching
  • Turbine launching
  • Safety mechanisms for limiting pressure/shot distance
  • Multiple shot firing mechanisms
  • 2-in-1 gun?
  • Remote controlled gun

Internet Community and Nerf Gun Modification:

The are many Nerf enthusiasts who modify their Nerf weapons, the majority of them do it in the following ways:

  • Stock springs are replaced or augmented by stronger springs
  • Rubber seals in plunger systems are replaced and lubricated
  • Air restrictors are removed
  • Stock barrels are replaced with PVC or brass/copper barrels
  • Making "stefans" (ammunition similar to micro-darts but hand made from insulating tube)
  • Plugging the over-pressure valve in pressure powered guns

On the other hand, there are more serious "modders" who have built compressed nerf guns from spare parts like PVC pipe, valves, bicycle pumps and old soda bottles. These make-shift weapons are usually powerful, but terribly ugly and unwieldy. There are also some enthusiasts who make their own weapons and put the time and energy needed to make them look good, like this man who made an M-16 style, spring powered gun that fires stefans:

Fast Action Rifle

There are no toys of the Needler on the market that fire any projectiles. There are a few enthusiasts who have made their own Needlers from scratch to be as realistic as possible, but no one has modified a projectile launcher to look like the Needler.

With the large community that supports modding Nerf blasters, a firm base of needs and desires are outlined in their published efforts. The two most common desires in the Nerf modding community are:

  • Better Performance (more power, more accuracy, faster loading, faster firing, etc.)
  • Better Aesthetics (more realistic, resembling a science fiction weapon, steampunk look, etc.)

Since these two motivations are the most common goals of the Nerf enthusiast, it more fully supports the choice to develop a toy blaster that resembles a common, popular fictional weapon and performs to a level higher than that of an off-the shelf Nerf Blaster.

Big Bad Bow Modifications

Nerf Big Bad Bow Mod - Shotgun/Speargun Mod

Nerf Big Bad Bow Mod - Shoots Smaller Ammo

Nerf Big Bad Bow Mod - Higher Rate Spring

Nerf Big Bad Bow Mod - Multiple Shot Barrel

Nerf Big Bad Bow Mod - Two Extra Pump Charged Barrels and a Breech Loader Instructions

Buzzsaw Modifications

Nerf Buzzsaw Mod - Motorized Flywheel

Conceptual Design

In the midst of the all the competiting products in the market we generated a list of product improvement ideas that would make up for the shortcomings in toy guns. Our brainstormed ideas are listed in Appendix A. Nerf_gun_redesign#Appendix_A:_Nerf_Gun_Product_Improvement_Ideas. From these ideas we elaborated on what we thought were the most relevant concepts reflecting the consumer product needs.

Plasma Double Shot:

This weapon was designed to be simple, effective, and fun. In order to use this two barreled gun, the user simply places the green foam balls (~1.5" diameter) in the either of holes at the top of the gun, and gravity then lets them sink into the ready position (one ball per barrel). From there, the user pulls back on the bar on the bottom of the gun, which compresses two large springs. When the user pulls the trigger, both springs are released simultaneously, and hit both of the loaded green balls.

One of the key differences with this weapon, is that is uses green foam balls instead of the usual foam darts. This was specifically chosen to allow the gun to be loaded by gravity, rather than user action. One of the downsides of a foam ball rather than a dart is the increased profile which suffers from air resistance. To compensate for this, the gun was designed to contain a very large springs which directly contacts the balls, minimizing energy losses and ensuring a powerful shot. The gun is also very easy to use, with the user only needing to put foam balls into the hole at the top (which will be able to hold at least 6 per barrel), then pulling back the bar, and then hitting the trigger. There are no other motions necessary.

Aesthetically, the gun is appealing due to it's minimalist nature. There are no extra parts, no sharp edges, and the color scheme can be something simple to go along with that. This is on thing that should be able to set it apart from other guns, especially Nerf's guns.

The top picture (below) is a side view of the gun with most of the interns drawn out. The cavity the balls fall through, the spring, and the handles are all visible. Other things that are not drawing in this view include the trigger mechanism (which works the same way as the Big Bad Bow) and the fasteners. The bottom picture is a simple front view, illustrating both barrels, and the general shape of the gun.


Nerf Shotgun:

This is primarily a mechanism design. The principle behind the shotgun was to utilize a very similar firing mechanism to the Big Bad Bow but give the user the look and feel of a double-action pump shotgun. The sprung air piston mechanism is one that can be designed easily to create a high power, easy to manufacture, easy to use dart delivery. The piston of the firing mechanism is pulled back with the pump handle and locked by the trigger mechanism. When the trigger is pulled, air is compressed and released into the breech and the dart is fired. The barrel doubles as a breech style magazine, pushing a series of darts forward into the chamber with a spring slider.

This design can be fit into any cosmetic housing for aesthetic appeal and targets the major user demands of performance in weapon reload time and firing power.


This design was intended to be placed into a cosmetic casing that resembles the "Halo Plasma Rifle."



As an inspiration for this weapon, users were asked what could be done to make Nerf guns more fun to play with as part of a game. Many users commented that they thought Nerf guns would be more fun if they were more like weapons from the Halo video game series. The design and function of weapons in Halo were investigated to determine how these principles could be applied to improving the design and function of the Nerf gun. It was found that several of the Covenant (ie bad guy) weapons resembled toys and would be a good source for visual design inspiration. The needler gun, a purple and blue gun that fires pink spikes, was chosen as the basis for the design. The ornamental design of the needler gun was modified for the Nerf gun to create a more ergonomic design that users less material. The ammunition was designed with a geometric design (resembling the shape of the spikes fired by the needler) on top of a traditional cylindrical shape so that the ammunition would be easier to load and fire. In Halo, the needler feeds spikes that stick vertically into the the top surface of the gun through the weapon to fire them through the front. To simulate this ammunition loading design, ammunition is stored in several clips of 4 darts that fit into the top surface of the gun. A clip is then removed from the top of the gun and loaded into the front of the gun to prepare for firing. The gun would then be able to fire either all 4 darts and the same time, or each of the 4 darts in succession. The internals of the gun would be designed to significantly increase firing distance over a traditional Nerf gun to further increase user satisfaction with the product
A similar needler gun




Rail Gun

Some of the best parts of all three of the guns that we analyzed are as follows: the Big Bad Bow was the most accurate and looked the best, the Rapid Fire 20 had automatic fire and the Buzz Saw had an ammunition magazine so that the user could fire several times before having to be reloaded. The Rail Gun combines these ideas into a weapon that fires arrow or dart shaped rounds accurately, from an integral clip so that the user has several shots before having to reload, and looks good (I hope). The ammunition is similar to the rounds used by the Big Bad Bow, but has no fins and is heavier in the nose for stability. Loading the clip is done from the top of the weapon, above the firing chamber. Rounds are simply pushed down one after another. The firing mechanism is essentially the same as the one in the Big Bad Bow but there is no air cylinder. The piston head makes physical contact with the dart and accelerates it down the barrel, which is where the accuracy will come in. Finally, a compressed air system will be used to re-cock the piston following each shot, however the system should be designed in such a way that it can be used by manually cocking the bolt if the user is out of compressed air or doesn't want to buy a compressed air tank. The user will use the weapon as though it was a semi-automatic rifle. A scope can even be added with simple windage and elevation knobs for long distance aiming.



Loading Door


Integral Clip and Ammunition

Firing Mechanism

Sticky Shot Gun

In response to the ammo being difficult to locate and retrieve as well as lamentations about aesthetically pleasing guns not meet performance expectations comes the Stick Shot Gun concept. The main feature of the gun is it's ammunition which is a stick gooey elastic material similar to this product. The sticky shot ammo would have similar adhesion properties on the surface but also possess inherent spring in its material structure. The ammo is intended to stick to walls, glass, skin, clothes, and other household surfaces. Since the ammo is so sticky it will be difficult to fire out of a gun due to high friction forces. The ammo is pictured below.

With the four tabs the ammo is clasped and loaded into the gun. Below are several time progression pictures of the clasped ammo as it is released.

Error creating thumbnail: convert: unable to open image `/ux0/websites/': No such file or directory @ error/blob.c/OpenBlob/2882.
convert: no images defined `/ux0/websites/' @ error/convert.c/ConvertImageCommand/3235.

Next is the overall shape of the gun.

Error creating thumbnail: convert: unable to open image `/ux0/websites/': No such file or directory @ error/blob.c/OpenBlob/2882.
convert: no images defined `/ux0/websites/' @ error/convert.c/ConvertImageCommand/3235.

It will be a pump action rifle type gun with a scope on the top and and ammunition stored on the sides of the gun.

Here is where the clasper will be located when the ammo is about to be released.

The pump action handle, or "pump grip" will be used to push back a large linear spring and store energy to launch the projectile (ammo). Both the clasper and pump grip will follow a track.

There is a possibility here in the design for the cocking of the gun to store varying ammounts of energy for the shot. The user would pump the pump grip part of the way and then return it to the front of the gun.

The trigger mechanism would be spring loaded and released the cocked gun with a simple bar linkage. The clasper would be following a track back to the rear of the gun where it would be cocked (locked).

Pugh Chart

A Pugh chart was created to compare each of the concept designs to the Nerf Big Bad Bow. Analysis revealed that each concept improved upon the Big Bad Bow in a different areas. All of the concept guns showed comparable levels of improvement over the Big Bad Bow. While all of the guns better met some of the user needs and wants than the Big Bad Bow, each concept still left much room for improvement in several criteria. The most consistent areas where we made improvements over the Big Bad Bow were firepower, aesthetics, and ease of loading. We think that this will give our weapon an advantage because these are criteria that this slightly older age group will appreciate more.

Summary of User Findings & Recommendations

Hypothetical User Scenario

Dale Hank is a 13-year-old middle school student, in the 7th grade. He enjoys playing with his friends, especially sports, video games, hunting squirrels, and dart shooting his friends. Dale Hank wishes his shooting toys looked cooler, and get frustrated when his shooting toys can't shoot far enough. It makes him mad that his shots don't always hit his target, and he gets impatient taking the time to reload. He really wants a paintball gun, but his mom says it's too dangerous. Now with the Nerf Needler, Dale Hank can use his favorite gun from Halo to shoot further and more accurately than any of his other shooting toys. The Nerf Needler is easier to load, so he can spend more time shooting and less time loading. Best of all, the Nerf Needler does not shoot hard enough to hurt someone, so Dale Hank's mom will be willing to buy him one.

Final Concept: Nerf Needler

Our final concept is a combination of several features from our individual designs. We maintained the use of a spring piston mechanism to propel air into the darts. The overall design concept is representative of the Halo Needler in order to increase popularity and aesthetic appeal. The needles act as reservoirs to store extra darts. An internal top loading gravity fed magazine stores several extra darts to allow for fast firing and easy reloading, similar to Scott's Plasma Double Shot design. A high quality, well sealed piston mechanism with a strong, high rate spring will ensure a high power launch of the dart, resulting in high accuracy and long range. Overall we feel that this initial concept attempts to fulfill the desires of our target customer and especially appeals to the enthusiast.

The three images show the concept, piston, and trigger respectively. The trigger subassembly would fit internally abreast the piston subassembly and then housed in the cosmetic shell.

The overall concept based exactly on the Halo Needler.


The internal piston-cylinder and air delivery mechanism.


The internal trigger actuation and firing mechanism.



  1. The team conduction an initial brainstorming session to gather ideas for potential improvement, using our product testing and user studies as inspiration.
  2. The team divided market research tasks, and each member conducted an reported on different aspect of the market conditions for Nerf guns.
  3. The team conducted a second brainstorming session to generate further ideas for product improvement.
  4. The team determined target markets and areas for improvement on which to focus.
  5. Each team member drew on ideas from brainstorming session, market research, and user studies to develop a concept for a gun.
  6. The team used Pugh chart to compare concepts to each other and to the Big Bad Bow.
  7. The team developed final concept drawing ideas from the 5 proposed concepts.

Gantt Chart

The project team used GanttProject to map out a timeline of the steps that will be taken to complete the Nerf Needler design and prototype. Below are the tasks, start dates, and end dates decided upon by the team.


Group Tasks

Ian Norman - Youtube modification research, Nerf Shotgun concept, Gannt Chart, Final Nerf gun mash-up

Scott Ridel - Nerf product research, Plasma Double Shot concept, Pugh Chart, Wiki clean-up

Gregory Valvik - Similar product research, Sticky Shot concept, stakeholders

Nathaniel Zaharia - Internet modification communities research, Railgun concept, user study

Tracey Ziev - Executive summary, patent search, hypothetical user scenario, Needler concept, Wiki clean-up


Appendix A: Nerf Gun Product Improvement Ideas

Below are a list of 109 ideas brainstormed for way to improve performance of the NERF gun. The ideas are categorized by the specific area of performance that they would improve.


  1. More intuitive to use, operation should not require instructions
  2. Add indicator to let user know when gun is ready to fire
  3. Make easier to disassemble for repair/adjustment
  4. Make easier to assemble during manufacture/during reassembly post-repair
  5. Make gun more robust
  6. Secure internal components
  7. Function as a crossbow
  8. Create quiver to carry bow and “arrows”
  9. Function as a bow & arrow
  10. Function as a shotgun
  11. Modify firing mechanism to pull back to cock rather than pushing forward to cock
  12. Modify ergonomics so that gun is easier to hold/maneuver
  13. Add grip tape to grips
  14. Make easier to store
  15. Make bow arms collapsible
  16. Make gun more compact
  17. Make gun mountable
  18. Add a strap to sling gun over shoulder or back
  19. Make gun soft so it can be used to hit opponents (melee weapon)
  20. Make gun customizable with modular parts that can be added to the gun

Environmental Impact:

  1. Bio-degradable ammunition
  2. Use “green” plastic
  3. Mark gun and packaging as recyclable


  1. Give gun a better name
  2. Make casing clear so that operation of internal mechanisms can be viewed
  3. Make internal parts that are visible more aesthetically pleasing
  4. Reduce noise made when firing gun
  5. Make noise made by firing gun more interesting
  6. Change barrel lock design so that they do not stick out of sides of gun
  7. Make decorative feature more clearly decorative so that they aren’t confused with functional parts
  8. Re-design front handle so that it does not look like it contains the trigger
  9. Change color scheme so that gun is more concealable (camouflage, “invisible”, etc.)
  10. Change color scheme to appeal to target audience
  11. Make themed guns (ie Halo)
  12. Make guns that interact with user by talking


  1. More rugged ammunition
  2. Heavier ammunition to increase accuracy
  3. Re-design fins on dart
  4. More aerodynamic ammunition
  5. Add suction tip to dart
  6. Make ammunition that sticks to people
  7. Smaller ammunition
  8. Use ball ammunition
  9. Bouncing ammunition
  10. Skipping ammunition
  11. Ammunition with erratic flight behavior
  12. Whistle-tip ammunition
  13. Beeping ammunition
  14. Ammunition that plays a song
  15. Washable paint-tipped ammunition
  16. Ammunition with colored LED tip
  17. Projectile net
  18. Tethered ammunition (with break-away tether)
  19. Put metal in ammunition for use with metal detector to locate darts
  20. Magnetic darts
  21. Heat-seeking ammunition
  22. Homing ammunition
  23. Embed RFID in ammunition for tracking
  24. “Smart” ammunition, know if it hit someone
  25. Add streamers to end of dart
  26. Customizable ammunition (color, size, etc)
  27. Message in a bottle ammunition (ammunition can be used to store & deliver small objects, messages, etc)
  28. Self-propelled ammunition
  29. Spreading ammunition (shotgun style)
  30. Exploding ammunition
  31. Water friendly ammunition
  32. Water balloon ammunition

Ammunition Use:

  1. Make reloading faster
  2. Magazine feed for ammunition
  3. Belt feed for ammunition
  4. Motorized loading mechanism
  5. Automatic reloading
  6. Add ammunition storage
  7. Re-design ammunition storage so it is less likely to damage the ammunition
  8. Use a universal nozzle that can shoot many types of ammunition
  9. Make gun able to shoot multiple round
  10. Load ammunition from rear instead of from front
  11. Make single action cocking mechanism
  12. Ammunition vacuum
  13. Ammunition-retrieving claw
  14. Ammunition-retrieving robot

Fire Power:

  1. Make gun shoot further
  2. Add a stiffer spring
  3. Add a better air seal
  4. Make gun able to fire multiple shots simultaneously
  5. Add variable pressure system to control shot distance
  6. Add different power levels to control shot distance
  7. Design separate attachments to improve gun performance
  8. Compressed air firing mechanism
  9. Motorized firing mechanism


  1. Design better aiming mechanism
  2. Remove plastic lens
  3. Replace plastic lens with magnifying lens
  4. Add laser sight
  5. Flashlights mounted on gun
  6. Night vision sight
  7. Mount mirrors on gun to see behind user & around corners

Warfare/Game play:

  1. Nerf game rule book
  2. Nerf game variations card
  3. Nerf arcade game
  4. Nerf video game
  5. Nerf mines
  6. Nerf mortars
  7. Nerf grenades
  8. Body armor
  9. Riot gear
  10. Shield that darts stick to so users can block, capture, and user opponents ammunition
  11. Shield that attaches to side of Nerf gun
  12. Nerf spy equipment

Appendix B: Exploring the Buzzsaw Mechanism

We thought it pertinent to look at one of the lesser popular Nerf Blasters that uses a completely different mechanism than the standard dart blasters. The disassembly of the Buzzsaw revealed a simple gear-train. The rack is pulled back by the users hand the motion is then converted into a rotational motion with a pinion gear. The pinion then is stepped up in speed several times with a series of three more gears, the last of which is part of a large plastic flywheel. When the flywheel is up to reasonable speed the trigger can be pulled to release the ball from the hopper into the spinning flywheel, sending the ball out of the blaster.

The most notable features of this mechanism are its ease of use, its relatively rapid firing capability due to the hopper, and its fairly long blasting range.



Personal tools