Summertime Fun: Potato Cannon

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As the summer winds down to a close, we here at TFB hope that you have had the chance to enjoy some quality outdoors time with family and friends. One of my family’s summer traditions involves launching spuds at ~500fps to distances up to 200 yards. The pictured potato cannon, made by my dad, has been going strong for the past 15 summers, launching buckets of potatoes in to the lower fields. It’s strangely satisfying, but ringing the old family dinner bell with a russet is the pinnacle of cannon skill.

If you have never had the pleasure of shooting a potato cannon, most setups involve a muzzle loaded barrel and a blast chamber usually powered by ignited hair spray. There are plenty of plans available online if you are interested in building your own. Just make sure to check your local and state regulations involving potato cannons. Even though most setups don’t fall under the purview of the NFA (just shoot potatoes) some cities and towns have their own ordinances.

I. The Cannon:

For durability, this one was made with threaded pipe rather than traditional PVC. Lawn cart wheels add maneuverability.

TFB: Potato Cannons

TFB: Potato Cannons

II. Materials:

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TFB: Potato Cannons

III. Crisco lubes the barrel and seals the chamber:

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TFB: Potato Cannons

IV. Pound an over-sized potato into the muzzle.

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TFB: Potato Cannons

V. A Tight fit is preferred.

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VI. If you run out of potatoes, there are other options available.

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VII. Ram the spud down to the chamber.

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TFB: Potato Cannons

VIII. Check for a spark on your ignition device (this one is from an old-style lantern):

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TFB: Potato Cannons

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TFB: Potato Cannons

IX. “Load” your propellant by spraying while counting to five (Aqua Net is best).

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TFB: Potato Cannons

X. Screw on the chamber cap, flick the igniter and – fire in the hole!

TFB: Potato Cannon

TFB: Potato Cannon

Don’t forget the eye and ear protection as well as the adult supervision. (My Dad was supervising me the whole time…)



Pete

LE – Science – OSINT.
On a mission to make all of my guns as quiet as possible.
Pete.M@staff.thefirearmblog.com


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  • dave

    so much fun its illegal (in Australia)

    • gunsandrockets

      And California!

    • M.M.D.C.

      No fun aloud.

      • Phil Hsueh

        What about having fun quietly if doing it aloud is not allowed?

        • M.M.D.C.

          Gotta consult the catalog of state-approved fum activities. Redacted daily.

  • Blake

    We rifled the bore of our PVC spud gun. It’s surprisingly accurate (for something made out of hardware store bits). Igniter is a gas grill sparker, fuel is a teaspoon of 100 octane gasoline dumped onto a folded-up paper towel (we used to use spray bottles but gasoline tends to dissolve the spray pump in a hurry).

    Good idea on the Crisco down the bore. Also I bet it makes the thing smell even better :-).

    According to Wikipedia, for USAians as long as you don’t live in New Jersey or Florida you’re good to go.

    • randomswede

      How did you rifle the barrel? The only method I could think of off the top of my head, that doesn’t require a jig, would be to find two tubes with a slide fit and cut the smaller pipe to make lands and glue them into the larger pipe.
      As I’m typing I realize that, that method would also benefit from a jig.

      • SGT Fish

        you can order rifled pvc pipe on the internet. some companies make them just for spud guns. they also sell clear blast chambers and barrels so you can see the explosion

      • Blake

        It was done long long ago. My Dad & brothers did it while I was away. Not sure how but I imagine they built some sort of jig, probably not as elaborate as this:
        http://www.practicalmachinist.com/vb/gunsmithing/pvc-rifling-jig-283049/

        The rifling is really shallow as spuds are much softer than PVC & they didn’t want to weaken the walls of the pipe, & they made sure to start with the thickest PVC pipe they could get their hands on. They may have used a dremel flex shaft & right-angle attachment with a felt pad on the back squeezed into the pipe to apply a little pressure on the router bit, & attached a rod that they pushed down the barrel & turned at the appropriate rate.

        Other folks have discussed using a hot chunk of hexagonal steel bar stock & pushing it down the bbl to button-rifle it…

  • kbroughton77

    Looks like I have a new project for the winter

  • SGT Fish

    I like how he made the elevation control. A trailer jack! Genius! Ive been wondering how to make one for my BP mortar project. maybe I can find a smaller one to adapt to it

  • Lawbob

    A spud gun is legally a firearm in Texas. TPC 46.01 defines firearm as:
    ‘(3) “Firearm” means any device designed, made, or adapted to expel a projectile through a barrel by using the energy generated by an explosion or burning substance or any device readily convertible to that use…

    So, since a spud gun uses an explosion to propel the projectile, then it is a firearm and you have to follow firearms laws for use. This means a city can control the discharge of the firearm within it’s jurisdiction.

    Did you just make a destructive device?

    • Pete – TFB Writer

      Glad you checked your state/local laws before making one.

      I’m not in Texas.

      • JW

        Do you have the specs on the pipe and parts you used to create that? Looks like a fun weekend build

      • Lawbob

        Where are you?

        • Pete – TFB Writer

          Why do I feel like I’m being setup?

          I’m not in a place that restricts potato cannons.

          • Lawbob

            I am just curious what state you are in. I’m a lawyer not a cop.

    • Blake

      By that definition, a flare gun is a firearm…

  • YS

    Assuming each potato weighs 6 oz (2625 grains), that’s 1456 ft lbs!

  • PeterK

    We made a pneumatic one growing up. That was super fun, too. We launched the hard crappy apples from our tree. 🙂

  • Darrell

    Onions work well, the layers work like piston rings. Stinks to holy hell, though.
    The neighbor and I used to shoot our potato guns across the street at each other. Wet nerf balls make great ammo, and are harmless. Dunk the nerf ball in water, squeeze most of it out, then ram down the barrel. They give a satisfying wet slap when they hit something.

    • Blake

      Now that, sir, is a good idea.

  • TheNotoriousIUD

    For maximum terror I prefer the “Squirrel Shot”.

    • Blake

      Holy crap, that’s awesome!

      • Paul

        please add one to my cart.

  • Rimfire

    Cobs of corn work well in you are living in the free states

  • Black Dots

    Potahowitzer

    • Martin M

      Idahowitzer!

      • Black Dots

        Ah, that’s perfect!

  • Is there a video of this bad boy firing? Looks amazing.

    • Pete – TFB Writer

      I’ll check!

  • Gary Kirk

    Suppress the spud gun!!!

    • Pete – TFB Writer

      Believe me. I was thinking the same thing.

  • AndyT

    I’ve had good luck with tennis balls as well. Wrap them in duct tape and they are pretty consistent.

    Also for some reason hair spray seems to work as better propellant than even ether.

  • Paul

    Some of the guys in my unit in Vietnam built a potato cannon. After running out of potatoes, we discovered that a paper cup filled with gravel could be launched and made a satisfying impact on nearby tin roofs. We also discovered that by using the paper cup sabot method frogs could be launched. At some point a small parachute was made and attached to a frog who was then launched. At the apex of his trajectory, the parachute opened allowing the intrepid parafrog to float back to earth. The still attached parachute made it easier to recapture the frog. This was lots of fun until a gust of wind blew a parafrogs over the fence surrounding the officer’s club where he landed in the dinner of a newly arrived second lieutenant who had not yet been issued a sense of humor. That ended to our fun that day.

  • durabo

    “Vee arr fum der BATFE, und vee arr heer to help you…”

  • Klaus Von Schmitto

    Why does everyone know that Aqua Net is the best fuel for potato guns? Was there a test report or something? It is without a doubt but how did we find that out?