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No culture in human history has been content beating its enemies with the most popular stick/sword/turkey decapitation arrow of the era. We put some serious effort into engineering our methods of mayhem, and as any inventor can tell you, coming up with awesome new things is a hit-and-miss process. For every effective fighter jet, there's a wobbly tank-plane. For every sane and functional crowd-control weapon, there's a foam that clings to you like a horny octopus. When we manage to invent a neat cannon, you can bet your butt some genius straps it on a scooter.

And, sometimes, when weapons designers watch a few too many cartoons, we wind up with stuff like ...



"Ha, look at those guys! They're fighting by throwing iron snakes at each other!"

... Is actually the least insane thing to say about the scenario unfolding in the above picture. The tool of dubious destruction those men are wielding is the urumi, an ancient Keralan martial arts weapon that is essentially a hilt with a razor-sharp bandsaw blade attached to it. Many consider urumi one of the most dangerous swords in the world, primarily to the user. Here, have some kalarippayat experts demonstrate why:


Hahahahahaha, look at that! They're like two helicopters locked in a mortal slap-fight. That's the kind of fight scene you don't expect to see outside a clunky anime with lots of screaming, or perhaps a video game, which incidentally is where most of you are vaguely remembering seeing a weapon slightly like this:

Namco Bandai Games
Along with a couple of other things.

The frankly insane design of urumi actually holds certain advantages over more conventional bladed weapons. Although it's unlikely to actually pierce armor or cut opponents in two (I think -- those guys in the video would probably gladly disprove this theory), it's very difficult to effectively defend yourself against. The length and bendiness of the weapon make it capable of thwarting most conventional parrying attempts: it can easily reach around unprepared shields and swords, dealing blade-lashes that are unpleasant at best and, presumably, disemboweling at worst. Also, damn if the murder-tornado it creates isn't enough to keep pretty much anyone at bay, if only because the opponent's "there's no telling what a guy crazy enough to wield that might do" survival instinct is bound to kick in the second someone starts swinging this thing.

Still, as artful as skilled urumi users clearly are, at the end of the day it's just a silly, metallic whip that Wile E. Coyote would dismiss as too far-fetched. Hell, some variations of the weapon even have more than one blade. Can you imagine? There's absolutely no way to wield that in an effective, badass wa-


The Gun Ring

High Tech Edge

There are many things to take into account when purchasing a firearm. Does it suit its intended use? Will its size tend to your specific needs of overcompensation? Will it accidentally shoot you in the crotch whenever you're digging for your keys?

That last problem, while not much of an issue with, say, hunting rifles (and if it is, holy shit please stop using your rifle that way), definitely comes into play with the insanity gun that is Le Petit Protector. A 19th-century French invention, it hails from an age where cane guns, derringers, and other concealable self-defense firearms were all the rage, and is arguably the pinnacle of this trend. Its five- to six-shot revolver mechanism fires tiny, 2-mm pinfire rounds at the enemy or, more likely, the faces of your interested friends as they peer in to look at your cool new ring.

Great, now I want to see a remake of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly where everyone uses these instead of normal revolvers.

"Wait, tiny finger guns are a thing?" I hear you inquire. "Holy shit, I'll get six of those right now and use them to gain an advantage in my upcoming rage match against Rhotgar Bearmangler, Bane of the North!" Uh, maybe don't do that just yet. As a concealed firearm, this thing reaches ACME-levels of absurdity. It is almost impossible to hide, seeing as it's essentially a plain-to-see revolver chamber you wear on your finger. As for the "firearm" part of the equation, the punch a Petit Protector round packs is weaker than that of a modern pellet gun, meaning that you'd probably have to stick your hand in the attacker's pocket and fire it directly at his balls to efficiently stop him from coming at you.

Or you could just pummel them with the box this thing comes in.

However, if you have even the slightest inclination to fidgeting, the all-too-easy-to-reach positioning of the trigger makes the gun ring probably the best thing in existence at making you stop that shit. Incidentally, this would also make it a perfect safety-training tool for shoddy gun owners. As the wise man says: sometimes, accidentally shooting yourself in the dick for the sixth time is the best medicine.

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The Cyanide Gun


For the sake of transparency, I'm not completely convinced that the above picture is one of these devices. I've seen it in a couple of places, and it definitely looks vaguely intimidating in an "it's probably not the best idea to put that thing in your mouth" kind of way, but, you know, my apologies if that thing turns out to be a novelty harmonica or some shit. Anyway, it's unlikely that any of us will ever see one of these things unless you work for a secret service or are about to be shot in the face by someone who does.

As you, an avid consumer of pop culture and history buff, are no doubt aware, various intelligence agencies around the world have historically been pretty cool with offing people they dislike. Knowing this, and the fact that the intelligence community freaking loves making guns out of everything, it's no surprise that someone eventually wound up making a goddamn cyanide gun. As various cyanide compounds, hydrogen cyanide in particular, are lethal in relatively small doses, they're perennial favorites of people with a "we have our reasons" mindset and, as such, total chemical dicks.

Cyanide ions even look like they're mooning you.

The former Eastern Bloc in particular was fond of the concept of a cyanide gun. Variations of the weapon were used in at least two assassinations in the late 1950s, and seeing as a Ukrainian man was busted by the FBI for negotiating a hit using the weapon as late as 1993, it's reasonable to assume it's been around the block a few times more than the general public is aware of.

What earns the cyanide gun a place on this list is the fact that at least some versions of the thing work by breaking cyanide pellets and spraying the target with their contents, killing them almost instantly in a manner that's virtually indistinguishable from a fatal heart attack. The problem with this technique is that it works only at extremely close range, meaning that the poison gas will totally spray the shooter as well. Sure, there's an antidote you're supposed to take before using the gun, but let's say you've forgotten it in the heat of a moment, what with the stress of being about to straight-up assassinate a dude.

WIN-Initiative/Neleman/WIN-Initiative/Getty Images
This is a particularly big problem during summer, since it's scientifically impossible
to carry a spray gun on a hot day and resist spraying yourself.

So you're approaching your unassuming target in bright daylight, your head clear and focused on your task. Reaching him, you slightly move the rolled newspaper you're hiding your cyanide gun in and deftly pull the trigger.

And then, as the poison cloud engulfs both of you and the endorphins of a successful mission wash over your thoughts, a part of you idly thinks, not unlike one might wonder whether they left the oven on: "Man, I wonder if I remembered to take that antidote after all?" And, as you slowly understand that the strange sensation taking over your body has nothing whatsoever to do with endorphins, you get your answer.

Oh, shi-

The Athens Double-Barreled Cannon


History has seen many firearms with more than one barrel. Some of them have proved extremely efficient, while others have been buried in the deepest part of the Pit of Things That Didn't Work Too Well After All. However, there's only one with a design so deeply flawed, its trial run reads like a background gag in a deranged comedy.

The year was 1862, and the citizens of Athens, Georgia, were reasonably freaking out over the whole "advancing Northern armies" thing. Such situations often encourage inventiveness in weapon design, and this time was no different. A dentist, handyman, and reserve troops private called John Gilleland emerged with a cunning plan for a cannon that could potentially change everything. On paper, the double-barreled cannon seemed like such a clever idea that it was almost unfair. A cast-iron cannon with side-by-side twin barrels, it would be loaded with two 6-pound cannon balls that were linked with a 10-foot chain. This spinny horror-projectile would then scythe through the enemy ranks like a buzz saw made of iron and hate. Surely, a row of such weapons would single-handedly win the Civil War for the South.

Martin Hunter/Getty Images News/Getty Images
This picture will make sense in a moment.

The theory behind the cannon was sound. Chain-shot projectiles had seen use since the early 17th century, mostly in naval warfare to mess with the mast and sails of enemy vessels. However, they had always been fired from the same barrel, because the balls needed to be fired simultaneously to achieve the effect. Two guesses as to how difficult this is with a cannon with two barrels specifically designed with separate touch holes so they can be fired independently.

In April 1862, financiers of the weapon, members of the military, and assorted gawkers gathered on a field to give the double-barreled cannon a trial run. How this transpired is almost impossible to describe in a way that is funnier than the original account, so I'll just let historian Richard E. Irby Jr. take over briefly:

According to reports, one ball left the muzzle before the other and the two balls pursued an erratic circular course plowing up an acre of ground, destroying a corn field, and mowing down some saplings before the chain broke. The balls then adopted separate courses, one killing a cow and the other demolishing the chimney of a log cabin. The observers scattered in fear.

Colin Anderson/Stockbyte/Getty
"On a positive note, it did end the war."
"Shut up, Gilleland."

That's such a magnificently absurd chain of events, Seth MacFarlane would deem it unrealistic. What I particularly like is the way the crowd fled in panic although the shot had already been fired, like the shot behaved so erratically that they genuinely feared that the balls might follow them home and stab them. It makes sense, really, considering that just a single shot from the cannon managed to:

1. Fire its chain-shot in a spectacularly impossible trajectory
2. Mess up an entire cornfield and a chunk of forest
3. Break its projectile into two pieces, which fly in opposite directions to ...
4. Wreak havoc on a building and murder a random cow grazing on the sidelines in a suspiciously accurate fashion

Despite this insane first trial, Gilleland was convinced that his cannon was a perfectly good weapon. However, even with some signs that it might actually be usable if the ammunition was switched to grape shot (basically, the cannon version of shotgun pellets), the governor of Georgia shut the project down, presumably by pointing out that they already had perfectly good cannons that were a lot less likely to behave like they were haunted by the vengeful ghosts of cattle-stampede victims.

Today, the double-barreled cannon sits on the lawn of the Athens City Hall, pointing north. This is presumably meant as a bit of a Civil War-related middle finger, but knowing the cannon's performance history, all it really says is, "Yo, Northern friends, we love you so much that we'd rather shoot at literally anything else."

Pauli is a Cracked columnist and freelance editor. Go say hi to him on Facebook and Twitter.

For more from Pauli, check out 5 Advanced Weapons Clearly Invented by a 6-Year-Old and 8 Ridiculous Sex Toys for the Budget-Conscious.

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