The simplicity of these firearms means that they can be disguised as or concealed within umbrellas, canes, pens, tire-pressure gauges etc., creating very effective weapons of surprise and assassination. These weapons can be produced clandestinely by just about anyone – sure makes gun-control look like a big joke!… but let’s not get too worked up about gun-control; anyone who is foolish enough to give up their guns shouldn’t be armed anyway.
Improvised Weapons – Slap 12 Gauge Zip Gun
This is the simplest zipgun design, the are parts cheap, readily available and can be assembled in less than an hour. It can be fired and reloaded several times a minute and has a moderate kick. Loaded, it weighs about 2-1/4 pounds. Basic cost, under $5.00. It is made of common, galvanized plumbing pipe, obtained from a hardware store, plumbing supply store or even junkyard.
- 1″ Pipe 6″ in length, threaded on one end.
- 1″ Pipe-cap
- 3/4″ Pipe 10″ in length.
- 1″ Dowel
- No. 16 nail
- 1-1/8″ Circle of thin cardboard
First try to insert the 3/4″ pipe into the 1″ pipe. It must slide through every time with no sticking or slowing. Make a reamer from 7″ or 8″ of your 1″ dowel. Cut a piece 5 x 3-1/16″ from a sheet of emery cloth, wrap it around the dowel and glue it in place.
When you buy your dowel take the 1″ pipe and make sure the dowel goes in with some space to spare. If the dowel fits exactly, it’s too big and you’ll have to choose the next size down.
Use the reamer to enlarge the inside of the 1″ pipe. Move it in and out of the 1″ pipe along the sides a few times to get rid of any burrs or uneven areas. Try the 3/4″ pipe again and if it won’t fall through without slowing, do it again until it will. Go over the outside of the 3/4″ pipe, a few times with the emery cloth.
Next make the hammer. First cut a 1/2″ piece of the dowel. Choose a drill the same width as the No. 16 nail and drill a hole through the exact center of the dowel piece. With a hacksaw, cut the nail 5/8 of an inch past the head. Then cut a 1-1/8″ wide circle of thin cardboard and with the nail point, punch a hole in its middle. Push the nail section through the dowel hole and push the cardboard over its end with the rough side on top. Next push the hammer unit into the cap, cardboard side up. The cardboard is to keep the dowel and hammer in the cap. In order to disassemble, just pick the hammer unit out by the nail.
Screw the cap on, put a 12 gauge shell in the 3/4″ pipe, put the 3/4″ pipe in the 1″ pipe and it’s ready to fire. Hold the 1″ end-cap in the right hand and with the left hand slam the 3/4″ pipe backwards to fire. Pull the 3/4″ pipe out to reload.
This weapon can be improved by using a machine screw, nut and washer as the hammer assembly. Sharpen the machine screw to a shallow point and push it through the end cap then fasten it on the inside of the cap with the nut and washer. Cut a thumb groove it the rim of the 3/4″ pipe to allow spent shells to be pulled out with the thumbnail.
Don’t be tempted to fire 3″ or 3-1/2″ magnum loads in this weapon. For safety’s sake stick with the 2-3/4″ shells, the extra power of the magnums is just wasted in a weapon with a short barrel and no chamber anyway. This weapon is reliable only at very close range.
Improvised 9mm (or .38 caliber) Pipe Pistol
A very simple 9 mm pistol can be made from 1/4″ steel gas or water pipe and fittings. These plans can be modified to allow the use of just about any handgun or shotgun cartridge. I would discourage the use of very powerful loading such as the .44 magnum, .357 magnum or 12 gauge 3 1/2″ magnum shells in these weapons.
- 1/4″ nominal size steel pipe 4 to 6 inches long with threaded ends.
- 1/4″ Solid pipe plug
- Two (2) steel pipe couplings
- Metal strap – roughly 1/8″ x 1/4″ x 5″
- Two (2) elastic bands
- Flat head nail – 6D or 8D (approx. 1/16″ diameter)
- Two (2) wood screws #8
- Wood 8″ x 5″ x 1″
- 1/4″ wood or metal rod, (approx. 8″ long)
- Carefully inspect pipe and fittings.
- Make sure that there are NO cracks or other flaws in the pipe or fittings.
- Check inside diameter of pipe using a 9 mm cartridge as a gauge. The bullet should closely fit into the pipe without forcing but the cartridge case SHOULD NOT fit into pipe.
- Outside diameter of pipe MUST NOT BE less than 1 1/2 times bullet diameter (.536 inches; 1.37 cm)
- Drill a 9/16″ (1.43 cm) diameter hole 3/8″ (approx. 1 cm) into one coupling to remove the thread. Drilled section should fit tightly over smooth section of pipe.
- For a 9mm weapon, drill a 25/64″ (1 cm) diameter hole 3/4″ (1.9 cm) into pipe. Use cartridge as a gauge; when a cartridge is inserted into the pipe, the base of the case should be even with the end of the pipe. The barrel is now chambered for 9mmThread coupling tightly onto pipe, drilled end first.
- For a .38 caliber weapon, drill a 25/64″ (1 cm) diameter hole 1-1/8″ (2.86 cm) into pipe. Use cartridge as a gauge; when a cartridge is inserted into the pipe, the shoulder of the case should butt against the end of the pipe. The barrel is now chambered for .38. Thread coupling tightly onto pipe, drilled end first.
- Drill a hole in the center of the pipe plug just large enough for the nail to fit through. Hole MUST be centered in plug.
- Push nail through plug until head of nail is flush with square end. Cut nail off at other end 1/16″ (.158 cm) away from plug. Round off end of nail with file.
- Bend metal strap to “U” shape and drill holes for wood screws. File two small notches at top.
- Saw or otherwise shape 1″ (2.54 cm) thick hard wood into stock.
- Drill a 9/16″ diameter (1.43 cm) hole through the stock. The center of the hole should be approximately 1/2″ (1.27 cm) from the top.
- Slide the pipe through this hole and attach front coupling. Screw drilled plug into rear coupling. NOTE: If 9/16″ drill is not available cut a “V” groove in the top of the stock and tape pipe securely in place.
- Position metal strap on stock so that top will hit the head of the nail. Attach to stock with wood screw on each side.
- String elastic bands from front coupling to notch on each side of the strap.
Test Fire This Weapon Before Hand Firing;
- Locate a barrier such as a stone wall or large tree which you can stand behind in case the pistol ruptures when fired.
- Mount pistol solidly to a table or other rigid support at least ten feet in front of the barrier.
- Attach a cord to the firing strap on the pistol.
- Holding the other end of the cord, go behind the barrier.
- Pull the cord so that the firing strap is held back.
- Release the cord to fire the pistol. (If pistol does not fire, shorten the elastic bands or increase their number.) Important: Fire at least five rounds from behind the barrier and then re-inspect the pistol before you attempt to hand fire it.
- To Load:
- Remove plug from rear coupling.
- Place cartridge into pipe.
- Replace plug making sure it is seated against rear of cartridge case.
- To Fire:
- Pull strap back and hold with thumb until ready.
- Release strap to fire.
- To Remove Shell Case:
- Remove plug from rear coupling.
- Insert 1/4″ diameter steel or wooden rod into front of pistol and push shell case out.
22 LR or .22 short Improvised Pipe Pistol
Using the above plans a .22 Caliber pistol can be made from 1/8″ nominal diameter extra heavy, steel gas or water pipe and fittings. Lethal range is approximately 33 yards (30 meters). This is also a rimmed cartridge so a chamber isn’t necessary but a tighter and more powerful weapon will be produced if a chamber is reamed. To produce a chamber, drill a 15/64″ (1/2 cm) diameter hole 9/16″ (1-1/2 cm) deep in pipe for a .22 LR. (If a .22 short cartridge is used, drill hole 3/8″ (1 cm) deep). When a cartridge is inserted into the pipe, the shoulder of the case should butt against the end of the pipe. The firing pin hole must be drilled off center because this is a rim-fire weapon. Also the firing pin should be filed like a slot or flat-head screwdriver with two flat surfaces opposite each other converging in a rounded point. This will provide more positive function. Spent cartridges will become jammed so a 1/8″ wooden dowel will be required to force them out before reloading.
- Steel pipe, extra heavy, 1/8″ (3 mm) nominal diameter and 6″ (15 cm) long with threaded ends (nipple)
- Solid pipe plug, 1/8″ (3 mm) nominal diameter
- 2 steel pipe couplings, 1/8″ (3 mm) nominal diameter
- Metal strap, approximately 1/8″ x 1/4″ x 5″ (3 mm x 6 mm x 125 mm or 12-1/2 cm)
- Elastic bands
- Flat head nail – 6D or 8D (approximately 1/16″ (1-1/2 mm) diameter
- 2 wood screws, #8
- Hard wood, 8″ x 5″ x 1″ (20 cm x 12-1/2 cm x 2-1/2 cm)
- Wood or metal rod, 1/8″ (3 mm) diameter and 8″ (20 cm) long
- Saw or knife
NATO Carbine 7.62mm
A rifle caliber weapon can be made from water or gas pipe and fittings. Standard NATO 7.62mm (.308) cartridges are used for ammunition. Great caution must be used with this weapon and I must be honest and admit that I have not even attempted to make a weapon which fires high-powered rifle ammunition out of water or gas pipes and fittings. I would recommend acquiring a 20″ length of seamless (DOM) steel tubing to fabricate the barrel for this weapon. A steel supplier will have this type of tubing but be sure to ask for DOM (drawn over mandrel) seamless tubing. Be sure it’s a good quality steel for this type of use. Ask for 4140 or 4130 steel. If you are questioned as to what the tubing is to be used for you should respond that you are replacing a part for a high-pressure boiler or hydraulic system. A standard pipe-die can be used to cut the threading on one end of the barrel. If you are unable to obtain seamless tubing then you should get a 20″ length of water pipe, the ¼” barrel pipe should fit inside this pipe and epoxy can be used to fasten it within the larger pipe. This will double the strength of the barrel. Make sure to leave enough of the threading on the ¼” pipe exposed to allow it to be mated securely with the coupler.
- Wood approximately 2″ x 4″ x 30″
- 1/4″ nominal size iron water or gas pipe 20″ long threaded at one end.
- 3/8″ to 1/4 reducer
- 3/8″ x 1-1/2″ threaded pipe
- 3/8″ pipe coupling
- Metal strap approximately 1/2″ x 1/16″ x 4″.
- Twine, heavy (100 yards approx.) and Shellac or duct tape or metal strapping and screws
- 3 wood screws and screwdriver
- Flat head nail about 1″ long
- Hand drill
- Saw or knife
- Pipe wrench
- Elastic bands
- Solid 3/8″ pipe plug
- Inspect pipe and fittings carefully.
- Be sure that there are NO cracks or flaws.
- Check inside diameter of pipe. A 7.62 mm projectile should fit into 3/8″ pipe.
- Cut stock from wood using saw or knife.
- Cut a 1/4″ deep “V” groove in top of the stock.
- Fabricate rifle barrel from pipe.
- File or drill inside diameter of threaded end of 20″ pipe for about 1/4″ so neck of cartridge case will fit in.
- Screw reducer onto threaded pipe using pipe wrench.
- Screw short threaded pipe into reducer.
- Turn 3/8 pipe coupling onto threaded pipe using pipe wrench. All fittings should be as tight as possible. Do not split fittings.
- Coat pipe and “V” groove of stock with shellac or lacquer. While still wet, place pipe in “V” groove and wrap pipe and stock together using two layers of twine. Coat twine with shellac or lacquer after each layer. Duct tape or metal strapping secured with wood screws can also be used to fasten the barrel to the stock.
- Drill a hole through center of pipe plug large enough for nail to pass through.
- File threaded end of plug flat.
- Push nail through plug and out of threaded end 1/32″ (2 mm) past the plug.
- Screw plug into coupling.
- Bend 4″ metal strap into “L” shape and drill hole for wood screw. Notch metal strap on the long side 1/2″ from bend.
- Position metal strap on stock so that top will hit the head of the nail. Attach to stock with wood screw.
- Place screw in each side of stock about 4″ in front of metal strap. Pass elastic bands through notch in metal strap and attach to screw on each side of the stock.
Simple Improvised 12 gauge Shotgun
A 12-gauge shotgun can be made with the above plans from 3/4″ water or gas pipe and fittings. It will not be necessary to bore a chamber in this weapon because the 12 gauge shell is a rimmed cartridge and the rim will shoulder up against the end of the pipe. The firing pin hole should be drilled dead center in the plug and the firing pin should be made from a larger nail, up to about 1/8″. This weapon can be built as a pistol with a short barrel or with a long barrel (around 20″ or so) and a full length stock. In the latter case the weapon can be fastened to the stock with metal strapping and screws or even with duct tape. Don’t be tempted to experiment with any magnum loads in this weapon, just stick with standard 2 ¾” shells. You will need some sort of stick or dowel to force spent shells out of this weapon as they tend to become quite jammed in the chamber after firing.
- Wood 2″ x 4″ x 32″
- 3/4″ nominal size water or gas pipe 20″ to 30″ long threaded on one end.
- 3/4″ steel coupling
- Solid 3/4″ pipe plug
- Metal strap (1/4″ x 1/16″ x 4″)
- Duct tape or metal strapping and screws
- 3 wood screws and screwdriver
- Flat head nail 6D or 8D
- Hand drill
- Saw or knife
- Elastic Bands
Note: Some of you will recognize these simple, improvised firearm, designs from the FM 31-210 Improvised Munitions Handbook. I have added some ideas to make the instructions easier to follow and the final product safer. I have also provided some drawings which detail the finished product. The simplicity of this design was likely the key factor in its being included in the FM 31-210, however it has some serious drawbacks. It is very dangerous in that it is prone to accidental discharge upon dropping or other impact. It has no safety and the firing pin is held in place with only the forward pressure of the elastic upon the hammer. If the pipe plug is not tightened down far enough the backward movement of the fired cartridge could push and eject the firing pin at high speed into the shooter’s eye. The potential for injury increases further with the possibility of a ruptured primer. This occurs when the firing pin pierces the primer allowing the propellant gasses the vent out of the back of the cartridge; in the case of this firearm design a ruptured primer would force the firing pin out at very high speed into the face of the shooter. With caution these risks can be reduced. Remember these precautions;
- Always be sure the pipe plug is tightened until it contacts the back of the cartridge when loading, allowing no room for backward movement of the cartridge.
- Be sure that the elastic tension upon the hammer is not too excessive, just enough to reliably fire the weapon.
- Be sure that the firing pin is not sharpened or too long as this can cause rupture of the primer.
- Don’t carry or store these weapons loaded unless absolutely necessary.
An improvised firearm can be built using safety match heads as the propellant and a metal object as the projectile. Lethal range is about 40 yards (36 meters). This weapon is very simple to construct and is well suited for use as a booby trap.
- Metal pipe 24″ (61 cm) long and 3/8″ (1 cm) in diameter (nominal size) or its equivalent, threaded on one end.
- End cap to fit pipe
- Safety matches – 3 books of 20 matches each.
- Wood – 28″ x 4″ x 1″ (70 cm x 10 cm x 2.5 cm)
- Safety fuse OR “Strike-anywhere matches” (2)
- Electrical tape or string
- Metal strap, about 4″ x 12″ and 1″ x 3/16″ (10 cm x 6 mm x 4.5 cm)
- 2 rags, about 1″ x 12″ and 1″ x 3″ (2-1/2 cm x 30 cm and 2-1/2 cm x 8 cm)
- Wood screws
- Metal object (steel rod, bolt with head cut off, etc.), approximately 7/16″(11 mm) in diameter, and 7/16″ (11 mm) long if iron or steel, 1-1/4″ (31 mm) long if aluminum, 5/16″ (8 mm) long if lead. A large ball bearing, of the appropriate size, will fly straighter than a cylindrical object.
- Metal disk 1″ (2-1/2 cm) in diameter and 1/16″ (1-1/2 mm) thick
- Bolt, 3/32″ (2-1/2 mm) or smaller in diameter and nut to fit
- Saw or knife
- Carefully inspect pipe and fittings. Be sure that there are NO cracks or other flaws.
- Drill small hole in center of end cap. If safety fuse is used, be sure it will pass through this hole.
- Cut stock from wood using saw or knife.
- Cut 3/8″ (9-1/2 mm) deep “V” groove in top of stock.
- Screw end cap onto pipe until finger tight.
- Attach pipe to stock with string or tape.
- Bend metal strap into “L” shape and drill holes for wood screw. Notch metal on long side 1/2″ (1 cm) from bend.
- Position metal strap on stock so that the top will hit the center of hole drilled in end cap.
- Attach metal disk to strap with nut and bolt. This will deflect blast from hole in end cap when gun is fired. Be sure that head of bolt is centered on hole in end cap.
- Attach strap to stock with wood screws.
- Place screw on each side of stock about 4″ (10 cm) in front of metal strap. Pass elastic bands through notch in metal strap and attach to screw on each side of stock.
- Cut off match heads from 3 books of matches with knife. Pour match heads into pipe.
- Fold one end of 1″ x 12″ rag 3 times so that it becomes a 1″ square of 3 thicknesses. Place rag into pipe to cover match heads, folded end first. Tamp firmly WITH CAUTION.
- Place metal object into pipe. Place 1″ x 3″ rag into pipe to cover projectile. Tamp firmly WITH CAUTION.
- Carefully cut off tips of heads of 2 “strike-anywhere” matches with knife.
- Place one tip in hole in end cap. Push in with wooden match stick.
- Place second match tip on a piece of tape. Place tape so match tip is directly over hole in end cap.
- When ready to fire, pull metal strap back and release.
When safety fuse is available: (Recommended for Booby Traps)
- Remove end cap from pipe. Knot one end of safety fuse. Thread safety fuse through hole in end cap so that knot is on inside of end cap.
- Follow steps 1 through 3 above.
- Tie several matches to safety fuse near outside of end cap. NOTE: Bare end of safety fuse should be inside match head cluster.
- Wrap match covers around matches and tie. Striker should be in contact with match bands.
- Replace end cap on pipe.
- When ready to fire, pull match cover off with strong, firm, quick motion.
Test fire as with other Improvised Firearms