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How To Build A Replica Bolt Pistol
A DIY Guide To Build A Warhammer 40k Bolt Pistol
I've been running a Dark Heresy since the game was released and decided we need some toys to play with around the gaming table. I had a bunch of ideas as to what kind of toys but ultimately settled on the idea of making replicas of the groups weapons. I figured having your characters weapons to play with would be a lot of fun and potentially funny too. I knew exactly where to start, the Bolt Pistol! (since 2 of the characters used them it made sense)
You've Got To Have A Plan!
To begin I knew I needed a good picture of a bolt pistol to use for scaling. I wanted to make this prop look as accurate as I could and having an image to refer to would be invaluable. I decided to use the image from the armory in the Dark Heresy RPG: Core Rulebook (Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay) from Fantasy Flight Games. The image is about an inch big, so it's really tiny but it's a really nice version with a seriously heavy look.
At this point I decided that I didn't want to make the grip from scratch. I glanced at the small pile of Nerf Mavericks in the workshop and just knew one of them was volunteering to get its handle chopped off as a sacrifice to the mighty Bolt Pistol! I could practically hear the colorful dart gun praising the Emperor! knowing I'd be using the handle of a Nerf Maverick gave me the dimensions of the grip, so I could use those numbers to figure out all the other measurements! Using Photoshop I took my image of the bolt pistol and scaled it up until the measurements for the grip matched the measurements of the sacrificed Nerf Maverick's. Looks like this beast will be over a foot long! :)
One issue with using such a tiny picture as my reference, when scaling it up the lines got rather large and fuzzy. On one hand this gives you a cushion in your measurements, like an extra margin of error but on the other hand some of the measurements need to be more precise and that margin or error could be significant. To address this after I printed the reference image I took a ruler and a pen and traced all the lines. When measuring cuts later on I could use the fine line I drew and know my margin of error would be much tighter!
Beginning The Build
Let's Get Our Hands Dirty
Blueprint in hand it was time to start crafting! I actually had about half a dozen prints so I could cut out the patterns of various pieces. First was the main gun body - everything minus the magazine, barrel, grip, and top details. I traced the pattern on 1.5" pink foam insulation and cut it out. Next was to cut out two of the same pieces in 1/4" MDF board to put on the sides of the foam, and 2 pieces of the casing to attach over those.
Then I built the magazine. A small piece of pink foam formed the bottom with MDF adding the sides and details.
Here is it with my cut off Nerf grip.
Our First Obstacle
Now I knew there would be generous amounts of Bondo needed to fix a lot of the tiny errors that are guaranteed to show up now matter how careful I try to be, and Bondo creates heat when curing. Not a lot of heat, but it is more than enough to melt into the pink foam potentially causing issues later on. To solve this problem before it started I covered all the sides where the pink foam was still visible with thin pieces of styrene sheet plastic.
Styrene is an amazingly easy to work with plastic available in thin sheets. You can cut these sheets with a razor blade very easily, just score the sheet and fold it along the score mark and it snaps perfectly every time. You can also use a heat gun to warm the styrene if you want to bend it or shape it. It's definitely one of a model maker's best friend. To make it even better, in addition to sheets it's also readily available in round tubes, squares, half rounds, and more!
You can see how the edges of the bolt pistol are all covered in the thin white plastic sheet in the image.
Adding The Details - That's Where The Devil Hides!
With the main gun shape done I started to add the details. First was a trim around the casing to separate it from the body, with some extra trim around the magazine port. This was done with thin balsa wood which was sanded smooth to remove the grain. You can see it in this picture taken on the blueprint. The dimensions match! I was on the right track so far.
More details were added with styrene plastic and balsa wood. The top sight was shaped with pink foam and covered with styrene as well. I also added some rivets cut from the styrene as well as some cool screws to the casing. Here the barrel was cut but not yet attached. I was just checking the length to make sure it didn't look wonky.
In case anyone was wondering what the grey stuff is smeared across various areas of the gun, that's the Bondo smoothing out imperfections in the mdf.
Checking The Progress
With the main detail work finished I primed the gun. Priming the piece helps to pick out parts that need repair, gaps between details, rough areas that need smoothing, etc. It can be hard to notice some of these small defects when you've got all these different materials and colors all over. Also, the primer helps give a uniform surface to prevent problems when molding and give the final casting a consistent finish. The mold rubber will easily capture to textural difference between the styrene, mdf, and other materials and can give the final casts a very "interesting" finish that might not have been intended.
In the above picture the grip, barrel, and magazine are still not attached. I knew I'd be casting them separately (except the barrel which is just cut pvc pipe) so there was no need to attach them but I still looked at the gun with the pieces in place to make sure the dimensions and overall look was accurate. The green mat under the pistol here has a 1" grid on it to give you an idea of the size of this thing. It was going to be big!
Changeable Side Icons
With all the pieces finished and ready for molding the only detail left to do was the large icon always present on the sides of the casing. In this case I decided on the winged skull icon commonly found on Bolt Pistols. I intended to mold these details separately so I could make new details later and add them to the bolt pistol without having to rework the main gun body. Otherwise if I decided to do a different detail I'd need to take a casting and sand off the winged skull and make a new mold of the new detail.
These details were made from styrene plastic for the wings and Super Sculpey for the skulls.
Mold And Cast The Pieces
Because Two Pistols Are Better Than One!
While I was making the side details I also poured the silicone rubber for molds of the pieces. I also cut my pvc barrel to the right length and using a drill press I cut out the large round holes cut in the sides. Once all the pieces had been cast in resin I cleaned up the castings and made sure they looked good with all the details clear and clean. It worked! They looked great.
Everything was ready to be assembled and finished at this point!
Molding And Casting
Paint It Up!
The resin pieces where glued together and primed using an automotive primer. Once that was dry it was painted using acrylic paints and varnished with a spray varnish.
I was thrilled with the end result, and my Dark Heresy players all flipped out which was very gratifying. It is not a quick build and finishing a project of this size was very satisfying, seeing my friends not wanting to put it down all night was a compliment in itself.
It also added a lot to our gaming sessions as when fights were looming the players would start readying their props just like their characters readied their weapons. In some cases this was pretty hysterical due to inappropriate timings, but as a GM I just rolled with it as if they announced they were taking that action. It really added a lot and we've been doing it ever since the first replicas rolled out of the workshop.
I hope this guide was useful and the most important thing is don't be afraid to give it a try! Yes, there's some challenging steps but the rewards are worth it on several levels, plus what's the worst thing that can happen...it looks weird! Who cares! Give it a shot and you might surprise yourself :)