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Technology has always been about making the world a better place: one with less of your enemies in it. Jet engines, computers and radar were invented by geniuses in wartime, but we're looking at the inventions of idiots during peacetime, and the result is more ridiculously contrived self-defense systems than Jackie Chan's career. Some were so stupid they weren't even given patents, and the US patent office has given patents to a stick and a vaginal bong. Unfortunately, neither was a euphemism.

Inventions don't grow on... huh.

The Self-Defense Memo Pad

Patent Number: 5,823,572

Even the disembodied mugger's head seems confused by this invention. The inventor appears to believe that the only problem with using a notepad as a weapon is that it's too hard to hold, which should give us some idea of his motor skills. He also thinks wrapping your hand around a thin, hard rectangle before punching someone is a good idea, proving that he understands less about violence than unborn children, who at least know how to kick people in the gut.

Violence and memos really don't go together.

While the confusing series of numbered features wants us to believe that the mugger's eye is somehow part of the invention, the only difference between this and a handful of Post-Its is the carved handholds in the side of the pages. Meaning it's not only useless as a weapon, it's actually counter productive as a notepad, assuming you don't want everyone you leave a note for to know they can just beat you up. The patent also suggests that the memos are useful for jotting down a description of your attacker, which is so likely, we're surprised they don't suggest that you also sketch the criminal's getaway unicorn.

When It Would Work:

If you can convince the mugger to pose like the one in the drawing, including not having a body, you might be OK. But if your enemy gives you unfettered access to their face and you still need extra weapons to win, you're probably screwed. So really, the only way this pad could defend you from attack is if you wrote down your PIN number and handed it over with your wallet.

Revolver Flick-Bayonet

Patent Number: 946,132

In the most tragic firearm-based mistake outside of thinking your gun's unloaded while you clean it with your penis, the cartoonishly-named Henry H. Hull of Ohio designed a revolver with a switchblade. Because after you've pulled a gun on someone, that gun then pulling a knife will be what really scares them. If you've never fired a handgun, attaching extra weight to the end of the barrel is worse for your aim than drinking a bottle of tequila.

Worse, it's not an attachment for existing revolvers. The switchblade is built into a protrusion from the barrel so you have to buy an entire new gun just for this idiotic addition. A gun's entire deal is propelling extremely unfriendly things at your enemies, but it's meant to be bullets by explosions, not a knife by a little spring. It's a worse weapon upgrade than sprinkling sneezing powder on a landmine - there's no conceivable enemy it will be effective against, and there's better than good chance it'll get you killed.

When It Would Work:

Obviously, the idea here is to have a little left over fight in you once you've emptied your ammunition. But if you're at the range where you could use this knife and still missed all six shots, you're honor-bound to just let them kill you.

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Drug Detecting Stir Stick

Patent Application Number: 9/923,507

A poison-detecting chromatographic test kit disguised as a drinking straw that looks like a medical device with a wooden stake coming out of the bottom. This product is useful for people who think their friends might be trying to murder them but don't want to be rude about it. It's absolutely guaranteed to protect you from poison because it appears to be completely impossible to drink through. Also, when people see you carrying your own multi-segment straw around with you at all times, making sure all the drinks they serve you are safe is the last problem you'll have to deal with.

There's also the literally minor problem that straws are only used for soda, fruit juice and other drinks that aren't associated with poisoning or any other grown-up activities.

When It Would Work:

The combination of childish drinks, poison, and making absolutely certain you don't drink anything isn't useful outside of Jonestown.

(Barely) Stabbing Ring

Patent Number: 5,588,214

The "Self Defense Ring" deploys the awesome power of a five millimeter pin for the small price of permanently joining two of your fingers together. Ma-Ti from Captain Planet has a more combat capable ring than that -- at least he doesn't lose the use of body parts before the fight even starts. The five millimeter length starts recessed between the two fingers, meaning you've used up half the pin before it even gets further than your fist. Unless you're being attacked by balloon animals this weapon is useless. And if you are being attacked by balloon animals, they're a decoy, the clown is behind you!

Quick, pop the big red weak point!

To trigger the tiny blade you need to twist a release lever on the back with your other hand. You're using your entire upper body to deploy less stabbing power than a loose carpet staple. It's the equivalent of sending an aircraft carrier to deploy a single jeep. A jeep carrying a jousting lance in a world where chemical weapons, electric blasters, and actual guns all exist.

When It Would Work:

You'd have to target weak points. The two millimeter clearance of the spring-loaded blade could maybe scratch someone's eyeball, assuming you deployed it while your fingers were already gouging it out. And you punch through their skull to grab and twist the release lever with your other hand. Then you could totally maybe damage one of the corpse's eyes a bit, at which point you're only really being a dick to potential donor recipients.

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The Key-Whip!

Patent Number: 4,460,174

We believe this sketch qualifies as astonishingly realistic because it's astonishing that anyone would think this would work in reality. Also, the knife-wielding assailant moves exactly as much as he would if you really patted his chest with a bunch of keys. The female whipper is visibly bored with life, a necessary condition for using this weapon. The simultaneously generic and incorrectly-named "Self Defense Weapon" is essentially the most efficient way to give a mugger access to your house, car and workplace.

The rope also changes length in every picture

Whipping a keyring is exactly the kind of weapon an eight-year-old would imagine when he first discovers ninjas, Indiana Jones, and doodling. This attack has less basis in physics than a voodoo curse. The only way you could do less damage is if you were swinging a keyring into someone's sternum while you gave them antibiotics.

When It Would Work:

If you drop the stupid whip it is possible to cripple someone with keys, but if you're the sort of person who can pop eyeballs with an inch of Chubb then you're not going to be mugged. Or even talked to by anyone but police negotiators and black ops captains bringing you back for one last mission.

Log Purse

Patent Application Number:11/200,493

First off, I'd like to say it's really sweet of the patent office to allow Special Applications. That image isn't just a patent description, it's an adorable simpleton's fantasy of how their pregnant mother could have stopped the bad man from punching her in the belly before they were born.

When your patent spends a page identifying a chunk of wood, you might not be "inventing."

The patent text is missing words, commas, and entire subclauses, but since the inventor is clearly missing entire chromosomes we won't mock that too hard. She desperately wants her idea to look clever; a task neither her nor her idea is equal to. She describes a log as a "natural cylindrical elongated section of a natural growing tree," and uses more words to describe hollowing it than most scientists use to describe quantum theory.

She doesn't really understand the patent process, but fifteen pages into a patent for wood that shouldn't surprise anyone. The method section includes detailed descriptions of how to attach Forstner bits to your drill using a chuck key, not realizing that when things already have people's names like that, they've probably already been invented.

When It Would Work:

Stupid as it is, it's he only thing on this list which would actually work. Carrying around a hollowed-out tree on a strap clearly advertises that you don't have any money and are far too crazy to risk attacking. Except by bears, who'll want to steal the nuts and berries you carry instead of currency. It also really would work as a bludgeon. So it's a pity that this patent can never be granted because of prior art by Wilma Flintstone.

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The Throttlin' Strap

Patent Application Number: 10/098,657

A gigantic leather wrist-belt for the man who wants to throttle people at a moment's notice, and wants them to know that. This won't just (or at all) defend you from attack, but it will defend you from all human conversation. The first thing anyone ever says to you will be "Why do you have a large strip hanging from your watch?" and your answer will be "In case I need to choke you to death."

It's also the perfect length to get soaked with piss at the urinal, adding +1 Poison damage

When attacked you insert your free hand through the loop and pull it across the enemy's throat. Apparently the designer hasn't heard of wires. Either that or he considers garrotes to be wimpy, and is therefore too dangerous to be trusted with anything as sharp as the pen he used to draw the worryingly detailed interior views of the neck. That's what you'd see it if you decapitated someone. And since this man doesn't believe in technology more advanced than tanned animal hides, it must have taken a long time to saw through someone's neck with a strip of leather.

When It Would Work:

Never. A big part of successfully strangling someone is not advertising that you're going to do that, while getting a few inches of wristbelt around your enemy's throat requires more co-operation from your enemy than WWE. You'd have a better chance of landing a spinning piledriver. Despite this the patent insanely describes this as an ideal weapon for anyone regardless of size or strength, and particularly points out that it's better than mace or pepper spray for someone smaller or weaker than their assailant. But then, this is a man whose response to attack is to tying his own hands together and LUNGE! He probably considers leaving your legs free as easy mode.

Bat'leth Shopping Bag Handle

Patent Number: 5,509,708

In many states it's legal to carry a concealed gun, but not brass knuckles, and this invention is even stupider and more hilarious. The "Handle for carrying objects and self defense" is a set of brass knucks adapted to carry shopping. Those narrow grooves on the sides aren't nostril-eviscerating snags, they're designed to carry plastic bags. Meaning you'll have to stop and unhook your shopping before striking an assailant, because trying to punch fight with groceries dangling off your fist would be like punching through treacle. Any man will tell you that anything "dangling" is a serious tactical weakness in a streetfight.

The suggestion that the handle could be made of plastic doesn't help: brass knuckles can floor someone, but a fistful of plastic knuckling sounds like a sex toy. Though, to be fair, if you could do something like that to a mugger it would probably disable them long enough for you to escape.

This invention reveals a terrifying set of priorities. When preparing to go shopping, this man doesn't bring a bag, or a weapon, but something which can only be used as a weapon when he's carrying bags (and he has to take the bags off first.) That's a ridiculously specific weapon. You couldn't drink tea at this man's his house without injuring yourself with his Combat Spoon, and every night it takes him three minutes to disarm his Bear Trap/Slippers before going to bed. He also wildly misuses apostrophes, but I guarantee I'm not going to be the one to tell him.

When It Would Work:

Unless you run into a Klingon at the K-Mart this is never going to work, and even then it would have to be a baby Klingon who hadn't just bought a better weapon. Like a can of beans. If people can buy superior bludgeons they can later enjoy on toast, the only hand-held item which would be a worse weapon than yours is the scrotum.

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Patent Number: 35,600

The Improved Combined Plow and Gun added a giant cannon barrel to a hand-pushed plow, and inverts the word "improved." It was patented during the American Civil War for the farmer who thought his plow wasn't heavy and cumbersome enough. And that his mid-plowed field would be a vital Confederate objective. You'll notice there aren't any links for oxen to pull the plow, and hopefully notice how that's a very good thing (although it would be an extremely fast way to scatter kebabs over a field full of guests.) Messrs French and Fancher were prepared to add kilos of extra cast-iron to the backbreaking labor of a hand-pushed plow just for the chance of one day, maybe, shooting someone.

It's an absolute tragedy of invention. This was in 1862, when many easy and effective upgrades still hadn't been invented, but their best idea for improving the gun was to add a plow to it. This meant that if the enemy wasn't considerate enough to attack from directly in front of the massive cast-iron plowbarrel, you'd be faster converting to Buddhism and coming back for them in your next life with a better gun than aiming it. To show just how behind progress this weapon was, it was patented the same year as Richard J. Gatling's new gun.

Guess who'd win in a fight. Or anything else.

When It Would Work:

This is for someone sowing rows of plants and expecting to be attacked in a straight line from dead ahead, so it's a tragedy it was patented 150 years before Plants vs Zombies.

For more self-defense systems which get their owners the beatings they deserve, check out The 13 Most Irresponsible Self-Defense Gadgets Money Can Buy. If you've given up on gimmicks and want to turn your body into a weapon, read 5 Insane Fighting Manuals (You Probably Shouldn't Listen To).

Luke McKinney's main self-defense strategies are friendliness, buying drinks, and Down-forward-HK into EX Thousand Foot Kick. He also tumbles and has a website.

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