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My First Tagger:
Design the Tagger

When I mentioned to my kids that I was thinking of making some laser tag guns, my daughter said "I want a bazooka." Well, the casing would probably be pretty easy, but I didn't really want to start with something like that. Besides, when I asked her what about a bazooka was appealing to her, it turned out she had no idea of what a bazooka really was—she just like the sound of it, and wanted something that made a big sound and hit. So I sat down and looked at a bunch of firearm pictures, looked at the old LazerTag Starlyte Pro rifle, sketched a bit, and played around with the ideas. Since I want it to be usable by kids, at least somewhat, I decided I'd need it to be fairly light, and have an adjustable stock, since the length of pull suitable for my son is definitely too short for me.

Reading various websites' description of how to build a tagger, I figured early on that I'd want to build much of the casing out of U-channel aluminum, with maybe some wood or plastic parts. I wanted building techniques I'd be able to handle in my garage, which left out casting, millwork, and most lathework (I've got a drill press that I'm willing to abuse slightly, but not too much). So, when I was sketching, I kept in mind what I'd be able to build, but didn't let that prevent me from thinking about something I didn't yet know how I could make.

tagger sketches tagger sketches tagger sketches
A sketch, inspired by the Starlyte Pro rifle. More sketches, including a bazooka. Bullpup sketches.

I rather liked the idea of putting the lens tube above the cosmetic barrel. I figured that I'd be more likely to keep the lens above any obstacles I was hiding behind, and would also be handy if I were prone in the weeds. I'll have to see how it actually works out. Also, I thought a little bit about choosing a lens, and decided to buy the lens sold on the Miles Tag website. That way, I'd be sure to have one that worked well enough, and wouldn't have to do all the research before building the tagger. I also thought about mounting the lens, and chose a slightly modified version of the method recommended on the Miles Tag website.. Future designs will probably use a different lens, so that I'll be able to put the lens inside a different housing.

I finally settled on the last sketch, more or less patterned on H&K's XM8 rifle. I wasn't really sure just where all the components would fit, and was going to wait for some of them to arrive before trying to do a layout. In preparation, I blew up one of the XM8 photos to full size (1:1 scale), so that I'd be able to get preliminary sizes of things. With that, I started looking at just how the various pieces I'd be able to make would fit together.

tagger sketches design sketch
The sketches that came closest to what I began to build. My first sketch of how things might fit together.

I'd thought I might be able to make the adjustable stock by using two sizes of U-channel, one of which would fit inside the other. With that idea, I also thought that I could base the foreend on the smaller size channel, leaving the larger channel for the receiver. The LCD display could go about where the ejection port would normally be, and the mode switch would replace the selector lever. The battery might fit into the (cosmetic) magazine, with the main and sound boards in the receiver. Unfortunately, I forgot about the need for a speaker in the design at this point. Oh, well.

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