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What is a Potato Shooter?

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  • Written By: Y. Chen
  • Edited By: Lucy Oppenheimer
  • Last Modified Date: 26 August 2016
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Also known as a potato gun, produce accelerator, potato cannon, spud gun, or any other combination of words relating to a tuber crop and shooting tool, the potato shooter is a projectile launching device most often used for the recreational firing of potatoes. The device is popular primarily because of its low cost and simple construction. The main part of a potato shooter consists of a large pipe made from PVC, ABS, or copper, whose circumference is large enough to accommodate a potato as usual ammunition, though creativity allows other things like oranges or tennis balls to be launched. Potato shooters range in size from hand held launchers to immobile ones larger than a person. Most of them, however, are made to be easily portable and controllable, and thus measure shorter than 10 feet (3 m) long.

A potato shooter has several basic elements: a fuel system, combustion chamber, barrel, and ignition source. As the launcher becomes more complicated, builders may opt to affix additional parts such as a pressure release valve and pressure gauges, which require a more experienced hand to operate. All potato shooters are also combustion powered. That is, the projectile is propelled from the potato shooter using compressed gas in a manner much like a firearm, except the pressure is exceptionally smaller.

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The means in which the gas is supplied helps enthusiasts categorize a potato shooter into one of three types. The combustion launcher is considered the most basic type in the construction aspect. It relies on the burning of a gaseous air and fuel combination, which generates the heat needed to cause the gaseous firing force. The pneumatic launcher, a second type of potato shooter, discharges compressed gas through a valve, generally limiting the amount of launching force by the available supply of air pressure. The third type, the hybrid launcher, employs the combustion of a pre-pressurized fuel and air mixture to provide the projectile energy needed.

When used responsibly, a potato shooter can be maneuvered with relative safety. Because it's projectiles are launched at such a high velocity and force, the devices are said to be as dangerous as bullets fired from a handgun. If not built properly, a potato shooter can have the potential to injure or possibly kill its operator or bystanders. Thus, potato shooters should never be pointed at any human, even though it appears to be unloaded. They should also not be operated in the dark or in long range where the projectiles can land beyond the operator’s visual range.

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