DIY Railgun

Photo by Zebralemur at

Railguns are typically a thing of military and scientific lore, but this DIYer has the brains and the resources to make his own railgun. Our industry peers over at have published an article that has a number of embedded videos showing the railgun being shot at a variety of items. Here’s a snippet from the article, and jump to the full article for videos.

In the latest installment in home-built railgun projects, a hobbyist spent two years building a 250-pound mobile railgun and testing it out against everything he could find.

Using 56 400-volt capacitors (!) to speed a projectile down its rails through electromagnetism, the gun produces a respectable 27,000 joules which translates into a flash of sparks as the aluminum projectile begins to melt due to the high speed and friction on its ride.

Then came the tests against car doors, a stack of ten china plates, a ceramic piggy bank (our soul-crushing favorite), and others

Chris Cheng

Chris Cheng is History Channel’s Top Shot Season 4 champion and author of “Shoot to Win,” a book for beginning shooters. A self-taught amateur turned pro through his Top Shot win, Cheng very much still considers himself an amateur who parachuted into this new career.

He is a professional marksman for Bass Pro Shops who shares his thoughts and experiences from the perspective of a newbie to the shooting community. He resides in San Francisco, CA and works in Silicon Valley.


  • tts

    I recommend Sam Baros Powerlabs (google it) if you want to see some other DIY railguns and EM weapons. Site was originally done in the late 90’s/early 2000’s by a legit child prodigy so the stuff he was able to pull off back then was amazing.

    • Giolli Joker

      And his rail-gun is genuinely the most powerful non-governmental one: 105 Kilojoules.
      I doubt the guy of the article here went into this build without knowing of Barros’ experiments.

  • Kovacs Jeno

    WHat is the energy OUTPUT? The input is 27000 joules, but only a very low percentage is realized in the muzzle energy.

    27.000 joules is much more than a .50bmg. So, without the actual energy output it is just a bullshit article, sorry.

    • iksnilol

      If it had a 27000 joule output it would be amazing, that’d be 14.5x114mm energy output.

      • ostiariusalpha

        He’s basically got the power there, he just needs to find a way to use it more efficiently. You also have to remember that the total energy released by the propellant is many times what gets transferred to the projectile in a traditional firearm.

        • iksnilol

          That I know. I wonder what the powder efficency is though? I know most of it gets burnt in a long enough barrel, but how much energy does it transfer to the projectile itself.

        • Ryfyle

          I heard that Powerlabs was working on an Injector system to have the projectile going super sonic before it hits the rails really pays off.

      • Phillip Cooper

        And an ensuing BATFE raid.

        No, it’s not alcohol, tobacco, firearms nor explosives. Don’t expect that to matter. They’ll just change the name to BATFER, or BATFEP (the p being for “Physics”. Cuz ZOMG they’re DANGEROUS… what about the children?!?!)

    • Anonymoose

      iirc, f—huge, power-sucking, and with the output of a .177 BB gun…

  • USMC03Vet

    Suddenly Moms Against Rail Guns….

  • Ryfyle

    Sweet. now we can put Railguns on old Toyota’s. Clearly we live in the future.

    • Bill

      It’s a little heavy for the hoverpack I was expecting by now.

      • noob

        David Mayman flew the JB-9 jetpack his company built around the statue of liberty. I’d say flying the jetpack is enough of a handful that you’d need to strap a gunner to your front if you wanted to hit anything.

  • TJbrena

    Born too late to explore the world.

    Born too early to explore the galaxy.

    Born just in time to see cheap-ish railguns mounted on technicals.

    • C.

      Bumper sticker. Now.

  • gunsandrockets

    I would like to see as much effort put into an electro-thermal gun. A lot more practical for man portable applications than a rail gun.