Convert a Nerf Blaster Into a Light Gun Controller for Gaming

This tutorial will show you how to turn a Nerf blaster into a light gun that works with Duck Hunt and other games played on LCD screens.

Cameron Coward
24 days agoGaming / RetroTech / 3D Printing

If, like me, you were a kid when you first played Duck Hunt, you would be forgiven for thinking your Nintendo Zapper light gun was shooting something at the on-screen mallards. In reality, the opposite was more accurate. When you pulled the trigger on the Zapper, the screen would flash black for a fraction of a second with just white squares on top of the target ducks. A light sensor in the Zapper would detect the white box and register a hit. But that only works reliably with old CRT TVs and not modern LCDs. Fortunately, BrittLiv has an Instructables tutorial that will walk you through how to convert a Nerf blaster into a modern light gun that works with Duck Hunt and other games played on LCD screens.

The technology used to make this work operates in a completely different way than the Nintendo Zapper. It’s actually far more similar to the Wiimote controllers designed for the Nintendo Wii. A bar of infrared LEDs sits atop the TV, and sensors in the controller track those in order to determine what you’re pointing at. On a modern computer running an emulator, this acts as if you’re moving your mouse cursor around the screen. After performing this conversion, you can use your light gun controller to play Duck Hunt, a variety of similar arcade game classics like The House of the Dead, or just about any other game that can also be played with just a computer mouse.

The key component for this project is Ultimarc’s AimTrak Light Gun OEM Electronics Kit, which is available in both wired and wireless (Bluetooth) versions. This kit contains the infrared LED light bar as well as a controller board with a built-in camera sensor. This board also has connections for your trigger button, reload button, and up to five other buttons — though only the trigger and reload are needed for this project. BrittLiv put fitted that board inside of a Nerf Zombie Strike Doublestrike Blaster, but you can use other models if you prefer. All you have to do is figure out how to mount the controller board inside the Nerf blaster’s plastic housing and connect the buttons. Some trimming will probably be necessary and 3D-printed mounts can help a lot. But once that’s done, you’re good to go! No drivers are needed, since the controller board looks like a mouse to whatever computer you plug it into.

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