How to Turn a Nerf Gun into a Steampunk Masterpiece

Greetings to all you spiffing would-be punkers out there! My name is Mina Gothianna, and it’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance. If you will permit me a moment of your time to fully introduce myself, I shall do so swiftly!

(My reason for addressing you in this rather dated manner is all part of the character I adopt when I attend Steampunk events. Steampunk tales are set in Victorian times, hence my manner of speech).

I have been a sole trader for over 2 years, and operate under the name ‘Gothianna’. I design and produce hand-made Steampunk and Gothic-themed jewellery and accessories (see my shop on Etsy). I also, naturally, ‘punk (otherwise called modding, customising, and/or personalising) Nerf Guns, transforming them into realistic replica guns adhering to Steampunk conventions, which are…

  • Clockwork Parts (esp. COGS)
  • Antique Gold and Brass colourings
  • Steam Engine Components (pipes, gauges, canisters and vials)

As such, my ‘expertise’ have been called upon to produce this tutorial, instructing you on how to punk a Nerf Gun and transform it into a steampunk weapon of mass destruction! (Well, maybe not).

How to Steampunk a Nerf Gun in 14 Steps

Here is the gun I shall be transforming in this tutorial (we will save the before and after shot until the end…ALWAYS do before and after shots of ALL your guns!):

nerf zombie strike sledgefire blaster

The gun that you choose does not have to be so big. I would advise beginning with a small handgun like the Nerf N-Strike Elite Strongarm Blaster – basically, get one you don’t mind making a mess out of.

A list of supplies that I used to steampunk this gun:

  • A Nerf Gun (Nerf Zombie Strike Sledgefire Blaster)
  • A clean cloth (it won’t be clean for long!)
  • Grey primer spray paint
  • A shower curtain (trust me!)
  • Plastic gloves
  • An apron and old clothing (you WILL get paint on yourself)
  • Black and brown acrylic paint
  • A one inch paintbrush
  • Two 0.5cm flat brushes, one soft and one rough
  • A head torch
  • A small cylindrical plastic tub / container (I used a Playdough one)
  • A drill with a 3mm drill bit (I used my Dremel)
  • Plastic cogs (I got them from a make-your-own-clock toy)
  • Gorilla Glue Super Gel Glue (this stuff is the business!)
  • Antique Gold Rub N Buff paint (this stuff, too, is the business!)
  • Scissors
  • Red leather-suede material
  • PVC glue
  • Plastic box (at least 15 cm wide)
  • …and a lot of time and patience!

Step 1 – Cleaning

Clean the gun with a clean cloth. Yeah it may be obvious, but I hate to assume…

Step 2 – Preparing Your Surface

Ok, you are wondering about the shower curtain. Check this out:

using a shower curtain to steampunk a nerf gun

A shower curtain make an AMAZING painting surface, and can be stuffed away so easily.

Step 3 – Spraying The Primer

Whip on your apron and plastic gloves, and grab the grey primer spray paint. ENSURE THE ROOM IS WELL VENTILATED!

Ensure you spray the primer on all moving parts (trigger and sections that unfold) and in all the nooks and crannies including the bullet storage section and the muzzle.

Allow 12 hours before you apply primer to the other side of the gun, and then allow 24 hours for the primer to cure.

painting a nerf gun steampunk

inside nerf gun after painting

Step 4 – Painting a Base Coat

Once you have made sure you haven’t missed any spots with the primer (you will have, trust me), grab the black acrylic paint and the 1” brush. Apply a layer of black paint to the entirety of the gun.

Ensure you use the head torch, as this will really assist you in ensuring you do not miss any parts. Use your smooth small brush to get the paint in the nooks and crannies, and turn the gun upside down and look down the barrel and up from the handle to find these little parts you may miss.

Using paint and a paint brush instead of spray paint ensures that you get into all the difficult places.

Wait about four to five hours before applying the second coat.

second coat of paint on nerf gun

gothianna painting nerf gun

Step 5 – Barrel Modification

We are now going to work with the small tub. I used a Playdough tub (which was 6cm long) as it fit (with a few cuts) into the muzzle of the gun to give it a rather dramatic look.

Once you have ascertaining that the tub is a suitable size, cut the entire base out of it. Ensure the tub is clean, and soak in some water to remove any labels. Then spray the tub with grey primer, and set to one side to allow to dry.

playdough pot for steampunking

Step 6 – Handle Modification

I elected to attach some plastic cogs to this gun (which I had already primed and sprayed black before this tutorial), but rather than just gluing them on and hoping they stay on, I used my Dremel to drill a large hole into the handle which would accommodate the shaft of one of the cogs.

I used a 3mm drill piece and made a small hole first, and then gradually worked around the hole to slowly increase the hole’s diameter. Ensure you stop regularly and check that the shaft of the cog fits snuggly into the hole, as making the hole too big would be useless.

Once the hole is the correct size, clean the new hole and then apply Gorilla Super Glue to the edge of the hole and the shaft of the cog. Insert and hold in place for 1 minute to allow the glue to set (the glue will need 12 hours to cure). Attach the other flat-backed cogs and allow 12 hours to fully stick.

drilling out holes

hole in nerf gun

cogs glued on to steampunk nerf gun

Step 7 – Cosmetic Modification

I attached a small piece of interestingly-shaped metal I found in my collection to the gun, again drilling a small hole into the gun to accommodate a protruding part on the back of the metal.

Using this technique improves the grip between the metal and the gun, reducing the risk of air gaps occurring between the two surfaces which causes breaks in the seal. Also, follow the instructions on the glue regarding the time required to let it fully cure…see, told you you needed time and patience!

scrap metal


metal stuck on to nerf gun

Step 8 – Attaching the Barrel Mod

The final piece for me to attach is the plastic tub to the muzzle of the gun. This was quite challenging and required a bit more cutting, and I eventually elected to cut the tub half way down the side of it so it would fold in on itself. You must ensure that all the sides of the tub are flush against the mouth of the muzzle before you glue the two surfaces together.

muzzle of nerf gun

Now all these items are glued to the gun, leave them all to cure overnight.

leave painted nerf gun overnight

Step 9 – Steampunk Painting

Once you have checked that all your accessories have stuck successfully, it’s time to finally bring some life to the gun! Choose a colour scheme which adheres to Steampunk conventions, which include:

  • Brown
  • Black
  • Antique Gold
  • Antique Silver
  • Bronze
  • Copper

The colour scheme I chose for this gun was gold, brown and black. The gold paint I used was called “Rub N Buff” in antique gold, which is a well-used paint by us in the ‘punking trade.

You will also need two small brushes and your cloth ready before you commence with painting the gun, and the plastic box to place to gun upon when you are painting (to avoid the wet paint sticking to the shower curtain).

ready to paint colours nerf gun

Step 10 – Make it Your Own

Take some time to look at your gun and plan which parts you really want to stand out.

Consider if you want your gun to look brand new or used, what parts you want to highlight and those you want to keep dark. If you are going for the used look, hold and play with the gun to see where your hands go, as the paint would have faded in these high-usage places if the gun was used. My trademark is that I make my guns looks used and bruised, with a story to tell.

I firstly painted the handle and back section of the gun with brown acrylic paint because the plastic design was crocodile leather and wood. I wanted to stay true to these designs and thus I chose the colour brown for these sections.

I wore my head torch the whole time and painted the cogs and the bullet storage holes too, as I planned to use the Rub N Buff slightly on the cogs later.

I must stress that it is ESSENTIAL that you have your painting plan clear in your mind throughout the painting process (you could even write it down or print a picture of the gun painted black and write your painting plan on it).

how to paint a nerf gun

painting nerf gun handle

Step 11 – Rub N Buff

It’s time for the Rub N Buff! This paint dries quite quickly, so I would highly recommend that you practice painting and blending on something other than this gun before attempting to paint your gun. Once you are confident and have a plan in your head for which parts will be highlighted and which will be in shadow (and which areas will look used if that is the style you are going for), you are ready to go.

Use the paint VERY sparingly, and take your time building it up. Ensure you always paint in the same direction, which will ensure that the gun will look more metallic (as the grains in metal are straight and flow in the same direction).

To paint certain sections in a fainter gold colour, keep your cloth close so that you can wipe some of the paint off your brush, and then lightly sweep the brush on the section. I did this on the cogs, bringing the brush up from the edge of cog holes and moving it into the centre of the cog to give the effect that the gold paint has been eroded away through usage. I also did this on the crocodile leather and the handle section which really brought out the detail in the marks on the plastic. This result (highlighting patterns on dark surfaces) is the real selling point of Rub N Buff, and something I highly recommend doing with this paint on your gun.

black and gold painted nerf gun

painted nerf gun handle

nerf gun painted

Step 12 – The Handle Wrap

I quite like to bring as much realism to my guns as possible, working with the original design of the gun. As you can see from the pictures, this gun’s handle looks like it has some material wrapped around it. As such, I elected to make this design a reality and put some real cloth on it.

I found some red leather suede material, measured it up and used some scissors to distress the material by running the blades heavily over it and pulling at the edges. I wrapped it around the handle and tucked the edges into the wrapped material, and then handled the gun to ensure it would remain in place. I then removed the cloth and left the gun overnight to dry completely.

wrap around

Step 13 – Protecting The Paint

Now is the time to apply the protective layer of PVC glue to the gun. Apply the glue heavily with a 1 inch brush, ensuring you get into all the nooks and crannies. This glue will protect the paint.

Once you have done both sides, allow the gun to dry for 24 hours, laid on the plastic box so the glue will not stick to the shower curtain.

protective pvc glue for painted nerf gun

Step 14 – Testing

Once the gun has fully dried, you need to test the gun’s movable parts to ensure the paint remains on the parts.

If it does not, reapply primer, then black paint, the gold paint, and the PVC layer again. If this does not work after you have let all the layers dry by replicating the steps above, you could sand down the movable parts slightly and miss out the gold paint layer. I did encounter this problem on the trigger, so I did these processes to make it work.

Next, grab your bullets and have some fun testing the firing mechanisms on the gun.

So, here is the finished gun, ‘punked and ready for action.

steampunk nerf gun after

Good luck with steampunking your Nerf Gun!

To see more of my gun, visit my Instagram page:

I also sell other steampunk Nerf guns on etsy:


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