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In the early days of crime fighting, people didn't quite know how to act. Westerns and gangster movies suggest that cops and robbers have always just pointed their guns and shouted "Freeze!" But it turns out that fighting real-life crime back in the day was more like a James Bond movie, if Q designed the weapons while drunk. For instance ...

9Machine Gun Vest (1929)

Popular Science

What looks like an early prototype of Tony Stark's arc light reactor is actually a vest that, when the strings are pulled, causes your bow tie to spin around and whistle .... oh sorry, that's the other string-operated novelty vest. This one causes "a fusillade of bullets" to pour forth from your body like a swarm of tiny lead chest-bursters.

It's easy to imagine the scenario that Samuel Schwarz had in mind while designing the Vest Machine Gun. A hold-up artist pulls out his gun and tells Schwarz to "Stick 'em up!" to which Schwarz would reply, "You asked for it, buddy," raising his arms and activating the eight-barreled machine gun hidden in his chest. But wait, eight goddamn machine gun barrels? We're all for booby trapping your clothes with deadly weapons, but that seems like a lot of machine guns with which to shoot someone at point-blank range. That starts to feel less like ironic justice, more like the type of guy who goes around asking nerds if they want a "Hurts, don't it?" (if that bully then disintegrated their torso like a human landmine).

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"Ask me to raise the roof. I dare you."

You'd think they'd be a little more careful with a gun that was so easy to fire while yawning, or high-fiving someone, or signaling a touchdown, or putting your hands in the air so as to wave them around like you just don't care OH MY GOD, EVERYONE AT THE DISCO IS DEAD.

Amazingly, three years earlier, a German inventor had devised a similar contraption with a pistol rigging concealed inside a small satchel:

Popular Mechanics
"Only one shot in the crotch, Hans? Keep practicing!"

8Bank Teller Trapdoor (1919)

Popular Science

Bank robberies were apparently such a problem in the early 20th century that the number one industry was figuring out creative ways to dispatch crooks with your hands raised above your head. This trapdoor, triggered via the bank teller's foot, seems to be the humane, if a bit overly dramatic option. A trapdoor opens, and just like that the bandit is "forthwith" trapped in a chamber below the floor, where he is kept until, according to the product description, he can be:

... fished up by a policeman. "Fished up" is no idle jest; for the cashier has at his right hand a wheel which, when turned, will open a valve in the compartment below and flood it with water.

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"Oh, hey. Sorry, Mr. Vanderbilt -- I thought your checkbook was a revolver."

Holy shit, what?! So what we're learning here is that -- besides the fact that, starting today, we're making it a requirement to use the word "forthwith" at least once in every article -- it was once considered OK to just casually drown a thief the way you'd flush one of those creepy hundred-legged bugs that somehow end up squiggling around in your bathtub?

7Gun-Mounted Camera (1934)

Popular Science

It probably says something about humanity that we invented the camera gun over half a century before the camera phone. Things only get grimmer when you read the operating instructions:

Photographic identification of fleeing criminals may be obtained with a recently perfected camera which is attached to a pistol or rifle and worked by the gun's trigger.

Worked by the gun's trigger? We wouldn't trust RoboCop to differentiate between a criminal fleeing and what we would do if you pointed a gun at our face and repeatedly pulled the trigger while telling us to smile. Add the clearly bloodthirsty cops of the 1930s to the equation, and we're not feeling great about their willingness to learn to pull the trigger lightly to take a photo, and not pull it all the way. We have a feeling that this gun ended up taking more pictures of Rorschach blobs of brain matter frozen in place on whatever the terrified "criminal" happened to be standing in front of.

Modern Mechanix
POW! "Haha, you should've seen the look on your face! Wait till the boys at the station see this one!"

6Vehicles and Pedestrians and Bullets, Oh My! (1922, 1959)

Popular Mechanics

When the Thompson submachine gun -- a gun capable of firing a thousand .45-caliber bullets per minute -- was introduced in the early 1920s, the law enforcement community's first thought was "Let's strap that fucker to a motorcycle." Spraying a steady stream of hot lead while weaving between lanes might seem impractical, and it is; we should point out that the gun came loaded with military grade ammunition as well as birdshot. Sure, birdshot could still pepper innocent, sidewalk-bound bystanders with thousands of tiny, survivable wounds. But still. Motorcycle machine guns, you guys!

We at least hope they included an easy dismounting system so the gun could be popped off when the officers parked the bike to grab some lunch, rather than leaving a loaded machine gun out on the street. But we have to assume they didn't, since these were the same people who designed a motorcycle-mounted machine gun at a time when they were still figuring out which color lights should mean stop and go.

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It was the '20s, so the average toddler probably had more firearms experience than modern Marines.

The modern lack of non-tank vehicle-mounted firepower in civilian areas tells us that they at least learned their lesson. Except that, nearly 40 years later, the same magazine highlighted a car-hood-mounted gun designed for Texas Rangers and fired by some kind of pistol grip arcade controller sticking out of the car's dashboard.

Popular Mechanics
Texas summers are hot. Why leave your air-conditioned squad car just to shoot a dude?

We're assuming this had less to do with inexperience and more to do with the world generally being tired of waiting around for video games to be invented.

5Electric Glove (1935)

Modern Mechanix

In what must have been one of the earliest steps in a chain of events that ultimately culminated with the phrase "Don't Tase me, bro!" grating on your last nerve, Cirilo Diaz of Cuba invented the joy buzzer to end all joy buzzers in the form of the Electric Glove. Designed to be worn by a police officer with the power pack concealed underneath his uniform, one light touch from the Electric Glove to a rioter or other ne'er-do-well would immediately send 1,500 volts coursing through his nervous system, while sending blood coursing through the erection of the cop who just learned what it feels like to be a God of lightning.

4Lighthouse Helmets (1928, 1940)

Popular Mechanics

Check out that guy's face. That's a man who's been wearing a ridiculous automated lighthouse helmet for six freaking hours, and does not care. That is a man whose stoplight you dare not run. Zooming in a little closer, we're actually not totally convinced that the Monty Python guys weren't time travelers.

But apparently the contraption was a hit, because ...

Popular Mechanics
Drug dealers, if you get busted by this guy, it's your own damn fault.

This one was presumably a hazing device for new recruits or punishment for cops who used the electric glove as a joy buzzer. One thing's sure from looking at that upgrade: That is the single most effective way to break the spirit of a police officer. Also, the worst possible outfit to put your undercover cop in.

3"Medieval Knight" Armor (1938)

Popular Mechanics

Whoever designed this armor to protect late-1930s Parisian "gas squad" officers from gun battles clearly had someone on that squad they wanted to see die in the most humiliating way possible. Just look at his "shield" -- that's nothing more than a scrap piece of sheet metal that somebody superglued a kitchen cabinet handle onto. It's only marginally more likely to stop a bullet than a tennis racquet. It looks like something we would have thrown together as kids when we and our friends played Masters of the Universe and beat the crap out of each other with our "swords." (Yardsticks. The swords were yardsticks, and goddamn, did they sting.) Only worse, because we never would have put on a sleep mask to use as a face shield.

2Truth Chamber (1934)

Popular Science

For times when the old "good cop, bad cop" routine didn't work out, a New York criminologist designed the Truth Chamber. The chamber consisted of a small room with walls covered in mirrors, so that no matter where the suspect looked, he was forced to stare at countless reflections of himself -- nothing to look at but his own guilty face, ad infinitum. A light mounted over his head allowed the interrogating officers to adjust the color of the lighting to make the suspect appear "worn and haggard" in order to help drive a confession from him (by driving him insane).


"Oh God, my face looks awful. It was I who killed the duchess!"

If a suspect didn't have a taste for human flesh going into this thing, a couple hours in there should be plenty to fully develop that craving. Presumably we don't still see a lot of these in use today because they've since put laws into effect prohibiting the forceful transformation of perfectly sane suspects into Cenobites.

1Tear Gas for Everyone! (1926-1932)

Popular Mechanics

It appears that there was a gas-happy period in the late 1920s/early 1930s when they thought it was important for the general public to have the ability to tear gas just, like, everybody. Based on the prevalence of gadgets like these, we've reached the conclusion that every single person you passed on the street back then was hiding some kind of James Bond-like device, ready to gas you at a moment's notice.

Here's a wrist-mounted tear gas gun, with a finger ring that acts as the trigger. One flex of the wrist, and THWIP! It's just like Spider-Man's web shooters, only instead of webs, it shoots out clouds of pure misery.

Popular Mechanics

And here we have a tear gas gun in the guise of an innocent fountain pen. See how nonchalantly she's gassing that dude? Two seconds ago he had a loaded revolver pointed directly at her face, and now he's crying like a little girl. Making masked gunmen her bitches is just part of her daily routine -- she's about to go grab some lunch, but not until she's good and done watching him whimper.

If we ever get that DeLorean running, remind us to never provoke the wrath of a flapper.

Popular Science and Popular Mechanics
You'd better hope the wind isn't blowing toward your home.

But what if you wanted to feel the joy of gassing a crook into submission, but weren't exactly comfortable with carrying a vat of acrid gas around with you at all times? Not to worry! Thanks to this cute little alligator ornament that breathed out tear gas like some kind of asshole dragon, or this window-mounted tear gas bomb, you could be sure that the simple act of opening a door or window could result in an explosion of swollen mucus membranes and anguish.

Like the chest-mounted Gatling gun for stick-up artists, this one is baffling for how desperate they are to hide the weapon from prospective armed robbers. They're not interested in deterring crime, but in tricking the bad guys into wandering within firing range of their booby-trapped body.

For more things the old folks got right, check out 7 Songs From Your Grandpa's Day That Would Make Eminem Blush and The 7 Creepiest Old School Robots.

If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out The Most Baffling PSA Ever: Vote Like ... Spider-Man?

And stop by LinkSTORM to discover the Lincoln sex tapes.

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