Originally published January 2, 2006

Not that long ago I saw a humorous story about a military unit that was loading onto a commercial aircraft for transportation to Iraq. The Colonel in command had the (embarrassing) job of telling the soldiers that they had to turn over all fingernail clippers, lighters, matches, and other small, but potentially damaging, objects. Of course, they were allowed to keep their body armor, helmets, M16s, bayonets, etc. I haven’t verified the veracity of that story, but I recently found myself in circumstances where I didn’t think a weapon would be allowed and I therefore found myself inventorying my improvised weapons list. Several of the improvised weapons I used performed amazingly well, and several were carefully scrutinized by security personnel without any negative words being said. Here’s what I did…

Now, typically I don’t leave my house without:

– Glock 48 9mm
– Zippo Lighter (left pocket)
– Zero Tolerance 0308 knife (right pocket)
– Streamlight Wedge flashlight (left pocket)
– wallet (right front pocket)
– cargo pocket (clipped on belt)

I usually also have a small locking folding knife in a cargo pocket somewhere.

Having worked (quite a number of years ago) at a theme park, I fully expected that a recent trip to Disney World would result in my inability to carry anything except the keys, lighter, a pen and cell phone. The thought of that eventuality made me start thinking about what other weapons I could carry that wouldn’t be recognized as weapons. I later learned that it really didn’t matter. I never saw any security measures that would have discovered my gun unless I put it in a fannypack (because all packs are inspected). Security was extra special careful to look in my camera pouch, but if I had on a baggy t-shirt, they never looked twice at me.

That said, let’s take a look at the improvised weapons I had ready to go if necessary – and I think several of these would work great on a plane as well – – –

My Cross Pens or any of today’s “tactical” pens: are about my favorite improvised weapon. While I hate to get that close to someone, without a gun, up close and personal is a reality. The stiff metal Cross Pen (or any similar type pen) is unobtrusive; it’s something every business man carries; it looks good (people who carry high dollar pens can’t possibly be bad guys, right?); and it makes one hell of a stabbing weapon if thrust or swung properly.

My comb: the funny thing is, I don’t need a comb (I have a crewcut), but no one looks at it funny anyway. It’s a simple plastic comb, but on one end, I’ve sharpened the first (and thickest) tooth. Holding the rest of the comb, I can slash and tear quite efficiently with that sharpened tooth. Another strong point is that metal detectors don’t “see” plastic combs.

My business card case: made of metal and looks quite spiffy. It was a gift from my wife some years ago. This simple black and gold metal card case holds about twenty of my business cards. Each corner of the lid, which is about as thin as a normal credit card, has been sharpened from the inside. That is to say I used a sharpening stone to thin out each corner without changing the shape of it. With the case closed it looks perfectly normal. If I open the lid, I can hold the body of the card case and the lower portion of the lid and have an almost three-inch wide slice of metal that is sharp on both ends. Each corner is sharpened to about 1/4″ around both edges. It’s an excellent slashing tool.

My challenge coin: huh? What damage can I do with that? I once knew a veteran cop who enjoyed smoking cigarettes. He had (according to his fishing stories) flicked burning cigarettes at bad guys to distract them before taking control of them for arrest. I remember being told in the academy that bad guys could flick burning cigarettes at me to distract me before they attacked. A heavy challenge coin has got to provide a minor distraction if thrown into the face or head of a bad guy – especially if I can get any force behind it.

My Streamlight Wedge flashlight: it still amazes me how security personnel ignore a flashlight when looking for weapons. These tools are small enough to drop comfortably in your pocket and can be used effectively as impact weapons. I like my ASP Scribe for the lighting versatility it offers, the relatively small profile, and the fact that the bezel edges are quite sharp.

Okay; That’s five of the easier ones. Note that no knives, keychains, neckchains, etc are included here. The pens and flashlight are obvious (to me). The card case is something I thought of before (especially for traveling by plane), but the rest are new (for me). I’d be interested in hearing any other good ideas you military and law enforcement professionals have on improvised weapons you’ve come up with.

Be safe!

The following ideas for improvised weapons came from readers over the past few days. If I receive more (of value) they will be added.

– a three-foot piece of paracord / 550 cord stashed in carry-on bag. Use: for garroting, restraining, etc.

– an old credit card sharpened on a corner. Stored in the wallet and therefore very unobtrusive. Downside: hard to access quick and without much movement.

– the belt we hook our cell phones on. Belts are good.

– A rolled up handkerchief weighted at each end with a few coins. Must be prepared beforehand and is hard to explain to security (if they notice).

– Snack cans. One reader suggested taking a small can of nuts. The open can edges make for decent attack edges. He notes that you should eat the nuts first as they are expensive.

– The infamous P-38 keychain can-opener. If you can deploy it right, that cutting edge is a nice little sharp hook.

– A tightly rolled magazine can be used as a jabbing tool. (every plane has magazines in the seat backs)

– a small cable lock used as a swinging / striking object. TSA loves locks, so who would notice?

– the soda can we can all get from the flight attendant. Crushed and broken open to expose the edges, this makes a fine cutting weapon.

And finally, I received two emails confirming the story I opened this article with. Both of these military men had experiences where they were told what they could and couldn’t carry on the plane, while they held their M16s with ammo. The apparent issue was how much ammo they were actually carrying. No limit was ever specified, but the speeches they received indicated that a certain amount was “too much”.

How do you thwart a terrorist on a plane? With a loaded M16 and six more magazines of backup ammo. From now on, every person flying must sign one out at security (grinning big here).

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