Photographer Marc Steinmetz features some really cool examples of home-made devices fashioned by prisoners in order to escape. A few of them succeeded.
This shotgun was "made from iron bedposts; charge made of pieces of lead from curtain tape and match-heads, to be ignited by AA batteries and a broken light bulb. On May 21, 1984 two inmates of a prison in Celle, Germany, took a jailer as a hostage, showed off their fire power by letting go at a pane of bullet-proof glass [bottom of picture], and escaped by car."
This gun was found along with other homemade firearms in the cell of two Celle prison inmates on November 15, 1984. The weapons had been made in the prison’s metal workshop. They were loaded with pieces of steel and match-heads.
The only caption in this wonderful collection of homemade guns found on the English Russia site (thanks rob) says "Shots of the various self-made weapons seized by Russian army and police in Chechnya."
The title of this set of photos from the Flickr photo stream of Clear Path International is "Hobby De-Miner". Clear Path International is a non-profit devoted to serving the survivors of landmines. As the unnamed photographer explains, "We ran into this boy collecting scrap metal from the Vietnam War alongside the road near Da Nang. Often, while searching for scrap, people that do this will find a bomb and attempt to dismantle it and sell the metal. Many are killed or injured."
The equipment apparently works. Here is a piece of iron found and recovered.
World traveler and author Jeff Greenwald sent me this photo of a improvised kersone lamp. He writes: "The light bulb/kiwi tin lamp was photographed some years ago in an inn along the southwest coast of Sri Lanka, probably in Hikkaduwa."
Looks dangerous. Probably is. I found this streetuse weapon on Matthias Wandel's website, where in addition to the air gun he documents his other benign and geeky pursuits, including what he calls his "insane contraptions." He writes:
Air guns are normally small air powered rifles that shoot relatively small projectiles, primarily used for target practice. Usually, they are pumped up with an internal cylinder, activated by hinging the barrel towards the stock. My home made air guns experiments however take their lineage more from potato gun technology than target practice rifles
The nice thing with an air gun like this of course is that it can be used to shoot all kinds of stuff. AA batteries, for example. Or Pens, or sticks of wood. Or filling the barrel with water. One Idea I got relatively late was to try to shoot the big chocolate covered peanut M&M's. They are about the shape and size of a marble, but not as heavy, and not as round. I wasn't expecting to put one through 1/2" plywood, but I figured with 1/4" plywood, I'd have a chance.
The Wasp sucking machine in action on my roof. This machine was the fulfillment of a childhood fantasy!
I am not at all sure why Ted Kaczynski made this gun, unless it was to avoid the detection of having to buy one. It's remarkable in its craftsmanship. Don't know if it worked, but given how meticulous he was, it probably did. This photo is part of the government evidence against him, found at this CBS site, without much explanation. If you know more, write.
In the comments, Cory H. supplied the answer to why the Unabomber made this gun, and whether it works:
Reprinted from his diary in the Government's Sentencing Memorandum, which explains that agents discovered a completely homemade, operable handgun, as well as a corresponding written description of its creation and purpose:
[A] few days ago I finished making a twenty two caliber pistol. This took me a long time, for a year and a half, thereby preventing me from working on some other projects I would have liked to carry out. Gun works well and I get as much accuracy out of it as I'd expect for an inexperienced pistol shot like me. It is equipped with improvised silencer which does not work as well as I hoped. At a guess it cuts noise down to maybe one third. It is said that it is easy for machinist to make a gun, but of course I did not have machine tools, but only a few files, hacksaw blades, small vice, a rickety hand drill, etc. I took the barrel from an old pneumatic pistol. I made the other parts out of several metal pieces. Most of them come from the old abandoned cars near here. I needed to make the parts with enough precision but I made them well and I'm very satisfied. I want to use the gun as a homicide weapon.
From Ex. 91
This summer (June 2006) the British declared it "National Knife Amnesty." The idea was that common folk were to turn in their illegal knives and other weapons with no penalty. Amazing quite a few did -- though no doubt most did not.
According to this report from Staffordshire Police website, “These weapons were only made for the purpose of fear and intimidation with the potential of inflicting serious injury, even death - there would be no other reason for their use.” said Sgt Jim Mills at the force’s crime reduction unit. “We are pleased that the owners’ have been responsible and handed them in. We would urge anyone who has home-made weapons to take the same route and surrender them at one of the designated police stations.” Tackling knife culture is paramount to the safety of our communities. People who carry bladed weapons run the risk of that weapon being used on them, or inflicting serious injury on others. It also carries a jail sentence of up to four years. The total number of weapons surrendered in Staffordshire during the amnesty, which has now been running for four weeks, has reached 1,420."
But what is really surprising are the homemade weapons. Among those turned in are some pretty well-crafted pieces.
What do you do with long sections of irrigation pipes and air compressors? You make guns that can shoot pumpkins over 1,000 meters! That's what farmers and backyard ballistics nerds do every year at the Punkin Chunkin festival in Millsboro, Delaware. Every year they keep getting bigger and badder. There's a video clip of what happens when the pumpkin sticks and the irrigation pipe blows up.
Here are the rules:
1. Pumpkins must weigh between 8 & 10 pounds.
2. Pumpkin must leave the machine intact.
3. No part of the machine shall cross the firing line.
4. No "wadding" (including bean chaff, straw, foam, metal, or any other object, or foreign matter).
5. No explosives are allowed! "Compressed air only
6. Pumpkin must be loaded before Pressurizing tanks, and Official must see you load it
7. Air Lines must have a Check Valve near the machine end of line
8. Any machine that shoots out of the field of play will be allowed 3 hours to have spotters locate Pumpkin. The field of play is defined as not being in the woods. If it is spotted up to the wood line it is considered in the field. If in the field of play you will not need the 3 hours location time.
I found a few more examples of makeshift bomb triggers from Iraq. A soldier named Chris Heathscott posted this picture on the Black Five site. As they state: "Soldiers from the 39th Brigade Combat Team recently hit the jackpot in Taji, Iraq. After some intense fighting, they nabbed a terrorist leader and cache of weapons and items used for IEDs (Improvised Explosive Device). One type of trigger device found was a cell phone rigged up to a motorcycle battery which allows the trigger to remain operational for an extended period."
I don't know much about the second image:
An Improvised Explosive Device, also called an IED, is a street-made weapon. These are the uglies blowing up civilians and soldiers in Iraq.
This photo of one IED found in Iraq was submitted to Shock and Awe section of the US soldier bulletin board Military.com by Shain Chmura. He adds: Make special note of the "01 Call Missed" displayed on the phone.
I don't know anything about this device. The image is courtesy of the US Department of Defense.
William Drentell, writing in the blog Design Observer, reviews an exhibition of shivs -- crude knives made covertly by prisoners. He says:
A shiv is a weapon crafted from the limited resources of a prisoner’s closed world. Crudely constructed from such things as spoons, shoelaces and upholstery tacks, shivs lie somewhere between the graceful and the grotesque. They’re primitive, too — like outsider art, but produced deep on the inside.
The individual parts that make up a shiv tend to be everyday objects, innocent things furtively reconstituted as lethal weapons. Each design choice is essential, but what’s particularly notable is that shivs, at their core, are not so much evocations of minimalism as they are symbols of survivalism. A shiv is all about masked utility: it’s an innocuous object with improbably toxic intent (whether used to attack others or to protect oneself...).
The shivs shown here, from the collection of designers Chris Kasabach and Vanessa Sica, were confiscated more than twenty years ago from New Jersey’s Rahway Prison (now East Jersey State Penitentiary), a maximum-security facility that houses more than 1,500 inmates serving sentences of twenty-five years to life. The designers saw each shiv in their collection as a piece of evidence, and over time, came to identify a kind of unique design pathology. Their observations are fascinating, as are the artifacts that inspired them and the circumstances surrounding each object's unique method of manufacture. You’ll never look at a typewriter the same way again.
The photographs of the shivs were made by Brett Yasko for an exhibit at the gallery By Design called Dangerous Beauty: The Art of the Shiv, and the captions written by Chris Kasabach and Vanessa Sica. Among the collection were these two:
Carriage return from typewriter; U-clamp attached to side; handle wrapped with boxing tape, string, upholstery thread and fragments of dried putty.
By law, prisoners must be provided materials to have an opportunity to prepare their own legal defenses. In the 1980s, typewriters were made available for this purpose: the long, notched "spear" here is the carriage return from a prison-issued typewriter. The handle, wrapped with tape, is likely to have been taken from Rahway's boxing facility, where several world-class boxers trained, including Rubin "Hurricane" Carter.
Wood strip; five large razor blades glued into one side; six small razor blades glued into other and wrapped with boxing tape, rubylith and clear tape; handle wrapped with boxing tape.
Lifted from the facility's metal sign shop, this shiv is wrapped in "rubylith" — a red, masking tape classically used in signmaking (and, before the digital revolution, commonly employed by graphic designers in the production of "mechanicals"). Eleven disposable razor blades, available for purchase from Rahway's commissary back in the 1980s, are carefully inserted down the sides.