The Soviet Ampulomet Launched Glass Bombs
As German troops invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, the Red Army scrambled to arm itself with anti-tank weapons. One system the Soviets hurriedly developed was the Ampulomet, a mortar that launched a glass projectile filled with an incendiary mix. The Ampulomet, named for the Greek ampoule, or... Read more
This 1964 Swiss Army Propaganda Film Got an Oscar Nod
Dutch director John Fernhout’s short film Wehrhafte Schweiz — that’s Fortified Switzerland in English — is a magnificent depiction of the Swiss armed forces in action in the early 1960s. Filmed at a cost of between one and three million Swiss Francs, the 20-minute-long film features the combined arms... Read more
The Blacker Bombard Spigot Mortar Was ‘Fearsome’
In the early years of World War II with a German invasion seemingly imminent, the British army scrambled to equip Home Guard units with defensive weapons. Some of these weapons were … less than ideal. Case in point, the Blacker Bombard, a spigot-launched mortar. “A fearful homemade weapon,” is... Read more
Fold Up Your Tiny Gun, Slip It In Your Pocket
Benjamin Loomis was a Civil War veteran and a successful inventor. One of his most interesting patents, from February 1866, is for a folding revolver. From the patent description, it’s obvious that safety was Loomis’s main priority. “The object of my invention is to secure greater compactness and safety... Read more
This Fountain Pen Is a Pistol
In 1954, Sol Harry Gaylord, Jr. and James Tollinger filed a patent for a “fountain pen pistol.” The U.S. government granted the patent to the inventors’ company in July 1958. The pen pistol features a receiver that resembles a fountain pen, but with a short rifled barrel inside. In... Read more
This Mystery Gun Is Very, Very Weird
This unusual, bolt-action, manually-repeating pistol has three tube magazines running along the barrel. We don’t know who made this weapon, nor when or where. Given its general aesthetic and mode of operation, it likely dates from the 1880s. The prototype, which sold at auction in 2010, is in-the-white and... Read more
Hiram Maxim’s ‘Hun Stopper’ Was a Lethal Hose
In late 1915 Sir Hiram Maxim, famed inventor of the machine gun, approached the British government with the offer of a “repeating gun firing buckshot for clearing out captured trenches.” Memos from the U.K. Ministry of Munitions describe the gun as firing a cartridge containing eight buckshot and 200 birdshot... Read more
George Reaben’s ‘Torpedo Crossbow’ Seems Problematic
In November 1919 George Birkley Reaben of New York filed a patent for an explosive torpedo that could be fired from a crossbow. Reaben’s patent describes “an arrow which is provided with means for exploding a torpedo upon the arrow striking end foremost the target.” The explosives detonated by... Read more
Woodrow Wilson Really, Really Worried About Germans Getting Silencers
The United States’ declaration of war on the German Empire in 1917 mentions by name the U.S.-made Maxim silencer. On April 6, 1917, Pres. Woodrow Wilson issued Presidential Proclamation #1364, declaring war on Germany and putting the United States on a war footing. The proclamation includes sections specifying items that... Read more
Pray and Spray With the ‘Special Case’ Briefcase Gun
Gun-maker Heckler & Koch’s Spezialkoffer — “Special Case” — is a clandestine weapon for personal-protection details. Offering the firepower of an MP5K in a concealed package, the Special Case first appeared in the late 1970s and is still available today. While the MP5K is already a compact weapon and... Read more
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