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 ...
#9. Machine Gun Vest (1929)
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).
"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:
"Only one shot in the crotch, Hans? Keep practicing!"
#8. Bank Teller Trapdoor (1919)
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.
"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?
#7. Gun-Mounted Camera (1934)
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.
POW! "Haha, you should've seen the look on your face! Wait till the boys at the station see this one!"
#6. Vehicles and Pedestrians and Bullets, Oh My! (1922, 1959)
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.
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.
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.
#5. Electric Glove (1935)
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.