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27 November 2013

This man makes weapons with stuff you can buy at the airport

Evan Booth subverts the idea of airport security by showing how easy it is to craft weapons - like guns and grenades - out of things like magazines, batteries, and Lynx.

By Ian Steadman

The worst thing about going through airport security and having, say, your sweet, sweet honey confiscated, is that you can probably buy a replacement from at least one of the shops in the area between the security gates and the departure gates. This security theatre is justified on the grounds that only stuff that’s harmless is allowed beyond a certain point – so it follows to reason that everything those shops sell should be pretty much useless when it comes to taking over a plane.

Except, no.

That is the BLUNDERBUSSiness Class, as designed by security researcher and computer programmer Evan Booth. Everything you see there was bought from stores within an airport, and the weapon exploits some simple chemical reactions.

A battery in the “gun” runs an electric current through a piece of wire when the trigger is pulled, melting the condom with heat. The water from the condom mixes with the lithium, and that reaction heats up the deodorant can so quickly that it explodes, forcing the “shot” – in this case, pennies – out of the rolled-up magazine barrel.

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There’s a fair chance it would take your arm off with it, but it also puts those coins through a partition wall, so it counts as a weapon.

Fast Company spoke to Booth about his work:

“I think people have kind of been suspecting that the type of things I’ve built are possible,” says Booth, “I just don’t think anyone’s ever taken the time to do it.” The object of the research is a demonstration – half silly, half disturbing – that weapons are everywhere and that the “security theatre” of the TSA is not doing that much to keep us safe.

“If we’re trying stop a terrorist threat at the airport,” says Booth. “It’s already too late.”

The weapons that Booth has created are fantastically imaginative, and shown off in videos on his site, Terminal Cornucopia. There are nunchucks made out of belts and miniature Statue of Liberty figurines, and a crossbow that uses the rigid struts from an umbrella as arrows. He melts down a soda can into a solid metal bullet using a body spray flamethrower. A cigarette lighter and a toy plane controller are turned into a remote detonator.

Booth gives his creations tongue-in-cheek, satirical names, too, like Chucks of Liberty, Planned Parenthood, and ‘Murica (for a club made by tying a miniature Washington Monument figurine to a rolled-up copy of the US Constitution).

Here’s the Fragguccino, which – as the name suggests – is a frag grenade that uses a coffee flask as a shell:

For what it’s worth, Booth is clearly aware that this kind of thing might scare people, and he assures us that he’s kept the FBI fully informed of all of his inventions with full, detailed reports. He also says he’s never assembled these weapons inside any airport – he’s always waited until he got home, to put them together in his workshop.

That said, he’s disappointed that the authorities haven’t been as forthcoming in helping him with his research by providing him with something “awesome” like an aeroplane door with which to experiment.

Regardless, it does kind of show the ridiculousness of the hype over 3D-printed guns. It is so, so much easier to build dangerous weapons out of stuf that’s already lying around – going to the effort of manufacturing a completely new type of weapon is a long way from being sensible or practical.