There are probably a million and one mod guides for this nifty little Nerf gun called the “Nite Finder”. Why? Because it’s fairly futuristic and inexpensive which makes it any time traveler/steampunk/mad scientists wet dream. They run between $9 and $15 as of the point I’m writing this mod and can be found everywhere from Wal-mart to Toys R Us. I first picked one up for my Steampunk River Song costume with intentions of using it as an homage for her Alpha Meson Blaster.
As you can see, River’s gun is very, very close to the shape of the Nerf NiteFinder without any modifications at all, so the fact I stumbled upon the NiteFinder was fantastic.
For a while I simply looked at pictures of her gun, and stared at my own. To be honest, the white/light gray of the original is slightly boring, and even the more detailed version in the second picture doesn’t excite me very much. I thought about staying as close to the original design as possible, but then I thought to myself “why bother?”. After all, I’m not doing an exact cosplay of River; I’m creating a steampunk version. I looked at a few mods online and pondered and pondered and eventually I just got to it.
1. Break down the gun.
The truth about Nerf guns is that they are deceptively simple. Once you break the sucker apart, though, there are bits and bobbles everywhere. I forgot to take a picture of the gun when you first open it up, but you can find them all over the internet (like here!). I decided to do a two-tone paint scheme and I separated out the pieces before contemplating the body modifications I wanted to do.
2. Complete the body mods.
The first thing I needed to do was get rid of the dart holders that hang on the bottom. Though I did want my gun to remain functional, since I doubt I’ll be using it in an actual Nerf battle, having a place to keep extra ammo wasn’t a concern. Even if I did actually use it in a Nerf battle, they now make ammo belts for the Nerf series, and I’d rather have one of those.
The second thing I decided was that I didn’t really want to keep the Nerf logo, but at this point, I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted in its place, so I decided just to remove it by filling it in.
As you can see, I filled in the logo circles with 2-part epoxy. It was the only thing I had around at the time that would do the job. You can also use Bondo body filler or things like “magic putty” or other two-part body fill putties. You can find pretty much all of those at Wal-mart or an auto parts shop.
In the interest of full disclosure, I wasn’t actually the one who took my Dremel to the dart holder. My friend Ish did that, if only because I was busy at the time working on his Nightwing mask… and because even though I love my power tools I have a bit of a fear of cutting wheels. I’ll get over it. I promise.
3. Paint, paint, and paint some more.
First, a word about the paint to use on the Nerf guns. I haven’t read a lot about what other people are using on them, but I can assure you regular Krylon paint will not do the job. Because the guns are primarily molded plastic it takes a plastic paint to do the job. I know this. Really, I do. But I didn’t listen to my advice and I used regular Krylon paint on the first gun I had. I ruined it.
Krylon Fusion is the only way to go – at least as a base/primer. Once the base/primer has been sprayed on you can add layers of whatever type of paint you want on the gun, because the molecules of the paint are next to other molecules of paint not plastic.
Even with Fusion paint, some of the pieces seemed resistant to being painted. Whether it was the humidity of the area I was painting in, a lack of shaking the can on my part (I shook it, but I noticed that if I didn’t shake it regularly it tended to bubble more), or a problem with the paint or plastic itself there were certain pieces (especially the trigger) that seemed to constantly bubble, flake, and chip with no warning. I could spray the piece and watch it bubble up and roll away as I was painting it. Thinner layers helped some, but there was still bubbling and flaking away.
Despite the frustration, I painted the gun in a two-tone paint scheme. The main gun is black with the barrel being a hammered silver. I found some REALLY cool, perfectly sized buttons to fit over the Nerf logos. I took off the back of the buttons using the Dremel (or maybe Ish did) and epoxied them into place after the paint had dried.
4. Assembly, Touch up, More Body Work, and Decoration.
The next step, I obviously already did in the picture above, but it’s a biggie: re-assemble the gun. Now, that’s easier than it sounds. There are lots of sproingy springs and tiny bits and doodle-bobs. I also let too much time pass
between taking it apart and putting it back together. What’s a girl to do? Remember back on step 2 when I said there are tons of pictures of the inside? Pull one of those up to jog your memory. Also, let me give you a few tips that may seem simple enough, but maybe because I’m tired my brain didn’t get.
- There are only two silver screws on the inside of this gun. The one with the largest washer holds on the trigger and not the plunger.
- I’m not sure why my brain-dead self did this, but remember that the large spring that makes this gun work goes ON the pull bar. For some reason, I just kept sticking it in the barrel and couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t get it back together.
- It’s not as difficult as you’re making it out to be. If you get frustrated walk away a bit. Come back to it and you’ll be able to put it back together.
Now, no matter how good the gun looks far away, here’s a confession. Up close, there are parts that weren’t painted perfectly. The seam of the gun shows, and perhaps the worst thing that needs to be fixed: removing the dart holders has left a gaping hole on the bottom.
So… how the heck do you fix that? Simple! More mods and touch-up paint!
I used a simple two-part epoxy putty to fill the cavernous openings and once it dried, touched up the paint. By this time I had already done my decorations and other touch-ups, but you could technically wait until this was complete to finish off touch-ups and decoration.
A note on the fuse tubes you can see in that picture: they’re actually jewelry pendants and they seemed to be made out of plastic. For whatever reason, the epoxy I used to fill in the Nerf logo would not actually hold the tube on, and I had to resort to normal super glue. That seemed to work fantastically though.
5. The Final COUNTDOWN… Er, Product
After all is said and done this is the final look of my steampunk River Song Alpha Meson blaster.
I also did two very simple paint jobs on a couple of cap pistols while I was at it. One is supposed to be a steampunk-esque revolver since River did once use a six-shooter (mostly in the episodes in Utah), and the other is a very poor replacement of Jack Harkness’ Webley. However, all laid out together they look decent.