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Top shooter
Why settle for twirling tops with your fingers when you can shoot them at stuff instead? (You know you want to.)
About this creation
Please feel free to look over the images and skip the verbiage.

This rubber band-powered "top shooter" was inspired by a vintage American toy -- the Shoot-a-Top introduced by Lapin Products in the late 1940s.



Below is a later Chinese knock-off marketed under the name "Whirl-a-top Gun & Top Set".



My LEGOŽ knock-off looks and works less like a gun, and it's probably harder to wind and load, but at least I got comparable performance. (See this clip of the Chinese version in action at 5:37.



When one has a shooter, shooting stuff is of course mandatory. (This primal human urge -- most strongly developed in the male of the species for partly anatomic reasons -- is partly why we have wars.)



Impromptu shooting games are part of the fun -- here in the dark under blacklight. (The orange cylinder at center belongs to the top about to be lauched.) You can even play golf -- as at 3:01 above. (Truth be told, golf never crossed my mind till the top happened to disappear down the table's umbrella hole on the 10th take or so.)

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Design notes

∨ Shooter: Even though I'm right-handed, I find winding and loading much easier with the frame set up for left-handed shooting. But it's easy to reverse if you'd rather shoot right-handed.



The energetic launches seen in the video demand a lot of elastic band tension, and the shooter's structure must resist this tension without deforming. These one-piece forks (Bionicle Visorak torsos, 50904) have the advantage of not spreading apart when the shooter is loaded.





A longer handle would be more ergonomic for an adult, but this one works well enough.



∨ Elastic band: Finding the right elastic band was a challenge. The black silicone "ouchless" hair band shown here is almost too thick for the 2x1 band spool (61510), but it's by far the best I've found in every other respect. Unfortunately, the next larger spool (3x2, 32012) is much too big.



This band is short enough for clean releases, strong enough to deliver exciting high-energy spins, and durable enough to survive repeated use without weakening. Regular household rubber bands are generally too long and too weak and last only a few shots before becoming overstretched.

Plan A was to loop the band over this red post, but that did little to keep it from flying off on launch.



So far, 3 bands remain MIA, and even Roxie the LEGOŽ search-and-chew dog can't find them. (Or maybe she did and ate them.)



Replacing the band post (red) with a tight-fitting band hook (orange) fixed the problem without altering the loading process.





∨ Top: Unlike my usual all-purpose top starters (below), a rubber band-powered top shooter needs its own special top. And twirling this top in any other way won't be easy.



Top design options are especially limited at this shooter size. The top can't exceed 27 mm in maximum radius, and the upper and lower guide bearings (yellow half-bushes here) have to be exactly 48 mm apart on center.



Moreover, the top needs a ratchet (here a 40-tooth gear) for the trigger pawl to engage, and vertical ratchet-pawl alignment must be perfect to avoid misfires. Hence, workable ratchet heights on the top are limited to the pawl's 2 workable vertical positions on the shooter frame.



Since the ratchet is generally the widest and heaviest part of the top, its height along the axle tends to control the height of the top's center of mass (CM) above the tip, and that can have a significant impact on the top's behavior after landing.

For example, if you want the sweeping spiral top trajectories seen in the video, you'll need a top with a broad tip and a relatively high CM. The latter requires the higher pawl position.



But if you want the top to travel less -- perhaps to serve as a target for other tops -- lower the top's CM by putting the ratchet one stud lower on the axle so as to align with the lower pawl position, like so...



Room for improvement:
  • Winding and loading take some finger strength, dexterity, and practice.
  • Slow winding and loading make for a low firing rate (roughly 2 shots per minute).
  • Top designs are further limited by the fact that a loaded top will stay put in the shooter only when the band spool sits directly below the upper guide bearing.
  • The top needs frequent maintainance, as parts tend to drift along the central axle over time, and misalignments lead to misfires. Every few shots, the upper and lower guide bearings have to be realigned with their respective fork bearings (dark gray), and the ratchet has to be recentered on the trigger pawl.
Enlarging the shooter would make these issues easier to address while expanding top design options. Stay tuned.

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Specifications

Shooter dimensions:102x40x86 mm (LxWxH) without band
Shooter mass:34 g
Top dimensions:38x65 mm (DxH)
Top mass:10 g
Elastic band:Silicone "ouchless" hair band
Firing rate:~2 shots per minute
Modified LEGOŽ parts:None
Non-LEGOŽ parts:Elastic band
Credits:Original MOC inspired by a vintage toy
See also:Electric top starter, planetary top starters, String theory top starter, Revatron wind-up top starter, and LEGOŽ top folder

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Comments

 I like it 
  December 26, 2017
The original is BLUE! :( Maybe I'm colorblind...?) ;) But YOURS is BETTER! :)
 I like it 
  December 26, 2017
That's great to hear my good friend :o) Thank you so much for your lovely words and wishes. Means a lot to me as well.
 I made it 
  December 25, 2017
Quoting Sven ;o) Jeremy my friend. Julia and I wish you and your family a beautiful, joyous and peaceful Christmas and a Happy New Year! Blessings, Sven
Warm wishes for you and your family as well, Sven! The e-friends I've made on MOCpages mean a great deal to me.
 I like it 
  December 23, 2017
Jeremy my friend. Julia and I wish you and your family a beautiful, joyous and peaceful Christmas and a Happy New Year! Blessings, Sven
 I made it 
  December 23, 2017
Quoting Oliver Becker Cool and much more interesting than the green original stuff, Jeremy! Btw.: I'm on to post soon some new pics you desired! ;)
Thanks, Oliver!
 I like it 
  December 19, 2017
Cool and much more interesting than the green original stuff, Jeremy! Btw.: I'm on to post soon some new pics you desired! ;)
 I made it 
  December 9, 2017
Quoting Nick Barrett Nifty, and it's always a treat to see your search and chew dog :-)
Thanks, Nick! Roxie says hi.
 I like it 
  December 9, 2017
Nifty, and it's always a treat to see your search and chew dog :-)
 I made it 
  November 29, 2017
Quoting Nirds forprez Another wonderful invention from the JM Research & Development Lab!
Thank you! The CXO keeps trying to divert resources from R&D to remodeling, but I'm resisting as best I can.
 I like it 
  November 28, 2017
Another wonderful invention from the JM Research & Development Lab!
 I made it 
  November 22, 2017
Quoting Didier B That's awesome Jeremy! I didn't have time to read everything so far but took a look at the video. The spinning velocity seems quite good with this shooter. Cheers, Didier
Thanks, Didier! No need to read the whole thing. The video says it all from a play standpoint. The rest is mainly for folks interested in making one.
 I like it 
  November 22, 2017
That's awesome Jeremy! I didn't have time to read everything so far but took a look at the video. The spinning velocity seems quite good with this shooter. Cheers, Didier
 I made it 
  November 20, 2017
Quoting NewDrewBuilder1992 /// Nice work, great use of the rubber bands.
Thanks! Most LEGO "rubber" bands are silicone, and for good reason, but they've become very expensive on BrickLink. Silicone hair bands are much cheaper, and they come in a wider range of thicknesses and lengths. Go Revlon!
 I like it 
  November 20, 2017
Nice work, great use of the rubber bands.
 I made it 
  November 20, 2017
Quoting Mark B. Wow! Great usage of parts to recreate the functionality of the classic toy. This looks like a lot of fun.
Very kind, Mark! I seem to be reinventing myself as a jolly old toy-maker who happens to work in LEGO.
 I like it 
  November 20, 2017
Wow! Great usage of parts to recreate the functionality of the classic toy. This looks like a lot of fun.
 I made it 
  November 18, 2017
Quoting Doug Hughes Another stellar build! And good to see a post from you!
Thanks, Doug! Got way behind in posting but hope to work on that over the next few weeks.
 I like it 
  November 18, 2017
Another stellar build! And good to see a post from you!
 I made it 
  November 17, 2017
Quoting Angelo Filipelli Very cool device Jeremy! I know this is very off-topic, but I have a question. I know you know a lot about marine terminology, so I am asking you. I recently built a new motor boat moc, and I am having balance issues. I built a motorized fishing trawler using the 7899 hull and a yellow motor. The main problem is that the wheelhouse is way too heavy for the bow, and the motor barely counteracts it. My dad has lead weights for r/c aircraft, yet I can't find any. I have tried fishing sinkers before, but they won't fit inside the hull. Is there a good way to balance this thing? Or what kind of ballast can I use? Thanks.
Thanks, Angelo. I've seen small tungsten weights on Amazon, but if fishing weights are too big, they may not fit. Are you sure about that hull number? Whatever you use, make sure it stays put in rough water.
 I like it 
  November 17, 2017
Very cool device Jeremy! I know this is very off-topic, but I have a question. I know you know a lot about marine terminology, so I am asking you. I recently built a new motor boat moc, and I am having balance issues. I built a motorized fishing trawler using the 7899 hull and a yellow motor. The main problem is that the wheelhouse is way too heavy for the bow, and the motor barely counteracts it. My dad has lead weights for r/c aircraft, yet I can't find any. I have tried fishing sinkers before, but they won't fit inside the hull. Is there a good way to balance this thing? Or what kind of ballast can I use? Thanks.
 I made it 
  November 16, 2017
Quoting Sven ;o) Ps: look in her eyes. No matter what's missing, she's still innocent XD Awwww she's so cute.
So you'll take the job! Her people will call your people.
 I made it 
  November 16, 2017
Quoting Sven ;o) Hahahahaha, that was a really good one which made me laugh a lot. Awesome reply my friend :D Could be a very interesting job XD I love being the cuddle buddy for the dogs I meet and they always enjoy my presence no matter if they know me since a longer time or for a couple seconds only. Too bad that I'm so far away. Roxie would love me ;)
Dogs can smell the oxytocin fumes they trigger in certain humans a mile away, and they'll do whatever they can to get close enough to get in on the oxytocin high (aka lovefest). With the oxytocin you must give off, my friend, you'll have Roxie clawing and wimpering at the door before you even get to the driveway. You have a standing invitation.
 I made it 
  November 16, 2017
Quoting Henrik Jensen Nice and entertaining post again Jeremy! Nice work on "translating" this old toy in LEGO form, and it was really enjoyable watching the top in action, particularly when it disappeared through the umbrella hole in the table!
Very kind, Henrik! Just goes to show that miracles really can happen.
 I like it 
  November 16, 2017
Ps: look in her eyes. No matter what's missing, she's still innocent XD Awwww she's so cute.
 I like it 
  November 16, 2017
Nice and entertaining post again Jeremy! Nice work on "translating" this old toy in LEGO form, and it was really enjoyable watching the top in action, particularly when it disappeared through the umbrella hole in the table!
 I made it 
  November 16, 2017
Quoting Oran Cruzen Oh Jeremy, you are just the tops with tops!
Aw, you say that to all the guys. Good to see you back, Oran!
 I made it 
  November 16, 2017
Quoting Sven ;o) Roxie looks so innocent and and when I look in her eyes I would never believe that she is chewing Legos even with the technic part between her teeth XD. Like I told you on Youtube, again a really nice idea and creation from you my friend. :)
Many thanks, Sven! Roxie's sat through enough Washington coverage on cable news to know that a carefully worded denial on national TV can outweigh even the most compromising photographs. Being a dog, however, she lacks the requisite verbal gymnastic skill, and being the recurring victim here, I'm certainly not going to help. She particularly needs an official spokeshuman to spin ongoing and future allegations of LEGO wrong-chewing, and she =really= likes you for the job. Interested?
 I like it 
  November 16, 2017
Hahahahaha, that was a really good one which made me laugh a lot. Awesome reply my friend :D Could be a very interesting job XD I love being the cuddle buddy for the dogs I meet and they always enjoy my presence no matter if they know me since a longer time or for a couple seconds only. Too bad that I'm so far away. Roxie would love me ;)
 I like it 
  November 16, 2017
Oh Jeremy, you are just the tops with tops!
 I made it 
  November 16, 2017
Quoting Dark Destroyer Awesome!
Thanks, DD!
 I made it 
  November 16, 2017
Quoting Gabor Pauler Jeremy, I seriously worry about that Kim Djong Un looks your post and says: "Hey, why ever kill Americans with deadly expensive nuclear missiles, when millions of Americans can be killed by their own fidget spinner using this simple and cheap device?"
I prefer to think of myself as a jolly old toy-maker, but alas, I may well have become an unwitting tool of the North Koreans. I should have been more suspicious when those pretty female agents offered me an unlimited BrickLink expense account. Need anything?
 I made it 
  November 16, 2017
Quoting Clayton Marchetti A gun that shoots tops! Awesome! Great video too. I love all the data you provide along with all your posts. Very informative.
Very kind, Clayton! It took many small design changes and adjustments to get the performance seen in the video. Wanted to save folks who might want to try it some trouble.
 I made it 
  November 16, 2017
Quoting Seaman SPb Great fun!
Thanks, Seaman!
 I like it 
  November 16, 2017
Awesome!
 I like it 
  November 16, 2017
Jeremy, I seriously worry about that Kim Djong Un looks your post and says: "Hey, why ever kill Americans with deadly expensive nuclear missiles, when millions of Americans can be killed by their own fidget spinner using this simple and cheap device?"
 I like it 
  November 16, 2017
Roxie looks so innocent and and when I look in her eyes I would never believe that she is chewing Legos even with the technic part between her teeth XD. Like I told you on Youtube, again a really nice idea and creation from you my friend. :)
 I like it 
  November 16, 2017
A gun that shoots tops! Awesome! Great video too. I love all the data you provide along with all your posts. Very informative.
 I like it 
  November 16, 2017
Great fun!
 
By Jeremy McCreary
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