Thousands of new weapons are designed every year, and chances are most of them are profoundly stupid. That's OK, though, because there are people whose entire job is to make sure the ridiculous weapons don't get built. However, every once in a while someone manages to sneak one past the reality checkers, and right onto the production line. Weapons such as ...
#6. The Bob Semple Tank
Back in World War II, New Zealand and Australia found themselves in an awkward position: They were technically part of the British Empire -- which meant they were at war with Japan. But they were also far enough away from England that the British couldn't afford to send them any tanks. With the Japanese advancing and conquering island after island across the Pacific, New Zealand decided to take matters into its own hands and build its own damn tanks. Thus, the Bob Semple tank was born.
Via Wikipedia Commons
We've seen more menacing Micro Machines.
Besides having the least-threatening name ever bestowed upon a tank, the Bob Semple barely qualified as one. It was little more than a farm tractor -- and due to several design flaws, it was about as useful as one in a war zone.
The designers based it on an American tractor tank, but the problem was that they had no blueprints, no building materials outside those found in a farm and no idea what the hell they were doing. They literally designed the Bob Semple by looking at a postcard of the original tank. By that logic, half of us should be able to reconstruct the Eiffel Tower.
Via National Library of New Zealand
Also, apparently some of the workers were under the impression that they were building a small house.
The tank was made by placing an armored box on top of a tractor -- and by "armored" we mean "made from roofing material." Supposedly, the corrugated surface would deflect bullets by virtue of its curviness. Since they also lacked artillery in any numbers, they outfitted the Bob Semple with as many machine guns as it could hold. Six to be exact.
Unfortunately, that last part meant having to cram at least six people into that piece of junk. One of the machine gunners had to lie on a mattress in the belly of the tank, right on top of the burning hot engine. The other five had to stand on the first one's back, presumably. And then they needed someone else to drive the damn thing. According to Wikipedia, the total crew consisted of eight people.
In other words, New Zealand had all the military acumen of Hobbiton.
The Bob Semple was also extremely top heavy and slow -- it couldn't even change gears without coming to a full stop. Also, the vibrations from the tractor rumbling down the grassy plain caused the machine guns to jam, and when someone managed to squeeze off some shots, they tended to be horribly inaccurate. Though it made up for all that by looking ridiculous.
The New Zealand Army rejected the Bob Semple tank for use in their forces, and the units that had already been built were dismantled ... but not before they were paraded in the streets of New Zealand as a way to boost morale.
The Japanese canceled the invasion when they realized that the island had already been taken by their oldest, and dearest ally: ridiculous robots.
#5. The "Sticky" Grenade
This won't be our last stop in World War II on this list; that war may not have been a great time for a lot of people, but it was fantastic time for crazy weapons. With the Nazis breathing down Great Britain's neck, the British army faced a shortage of anti-tank guns. So, some creative improvisation was called for. One of the solutions for this problem was the Anti-Tank Hand Grenade #74, commonly known as "the sticky grenade."
AKA "Satan's Maraca."
While most insane weapons at least have a good idea behind them, the sticky grenade was crazy in both theory and practice. The most impressive thing about it was that it managed to get produced without anyone noticing how ridiculous it was.
The very idea of a sticky grenade sounds like something you'd find in a Wile E. Coyote cartoon: They called it "sticky" because it was literally covered in a powerful adhesive, and then encased in a metal ball that would fall apart after removing a pin. It also had a handle which, when released, would activate a five-second fuse. The way it worked is that a soldier had to sneak up on an enemy tank, stick the grenade to it, release the handle and run like hell before it exploded.
"OK, so, first you release the handle, THEN you-" -- the last words of several British soldiers
So basically, in order for it to work, the sticky grenade required a soldier to expose himself to enemy fire, run up to a tank while wielding a wad of explosive chewing gum and hope it sticks to the damn thing -- which it wouldn't if the tank was dusty or muddy. One thing it loved to stick to, however, was the soldier's uniforms. Like in this real story from British Home Guard member Bill Miles:
"It was while practicing that a Home Guard bomber got his sticky bomb stuck to his trouser leg and couldn't shift it. A quick thinking mate whipped the trousers off and got rid of them and the bomb. After the following explosion, the trousers were in a bit of a mess -- though I think they were a bit of a mess prior to the explosion."
Via Dad's Home Guard
"He pooped himself, is what I'm trying to say."
The sticky grenade was originally rejected for use by the Army, but personal intervention by Winston Churchill himself put them into production (because apparently he hated soldiers). They were mostly used by the Home Guard and the French Resistance, but they also found their way into the hands of British soldiers in North Africa, where they claimed a grand total of six German tanks and an undisclosed number of British trousers.
#4. The 18th Century Machine Gun (was Racist)
In 1718 Britain, a guy named James Puckle patented the world's first rapid fire weapon: the Defense Gun, also known as the Puckle Gun. Resembling a giant revolver on a tripod, this gun claimed to be able to fire 63 shots in seven minutes (which in modern mathematics is known as "nine shots a minute"). That may not seem like much, but when you consider that the most skilled musketeers at the time could only fire three shots a minute, it was a vast improvement.
"Kills three times as many Frenchmen!"
The official reason why the Puckle Gun never caught on with the British Army is that it had way too many cylinders -- like three or four. Clearly this was more cylinders than British gunsmiths could keep track of.
"We're soldiers, blast it, not wizards!"
And the reason why the Puckle Gun had so many cylinders, by the way, was its blatant racism. Wait, what?
You see, included in the patent for the gun was the concept of interchangeable cylinders: one shot regular musket balls meant for "civilized" people, and the other shot square bullets at Muslim Turks. Why? According to the patent, the square bullets hurt more and were meant to teach the Turks the "benefits of Christian civilization."
"A square hole in my chest! This completely changes my attitude on religion!"
There were several reasons why this was a bad idea: First of all, there's no way to test whether a square bullet hurts more than a round bullet without actually shooting one at a volunteer, and that would require finding someone who was willing to convert to Islam beforehand. Secondly, the unnecessary number of extra parts made the gun harder to manufacture, which is why it was never mass produced.
Also, this was pretty impractical for the shooters as well, since they had to make sure to change the cylinder depending on the religious convictions of the enemy in front of them -- lest they accidentally condemn a Christian to eternal damnation by killing him with a bullet meant for a Turk. The Puckle Gun was primarily intended for shipboard use -- but what if the ship should ran into a gang of multi-ethnic pirates? What then, Mr. Puckle?
Via National Portrait Gallery, London
Obviously you didn't think this through.