The 6 Most Ill-Conceived Weapons Ever Built


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 ...

The Bob Semple Tank

TONN Tpaktop -Karepnnarep oe Cung D8 BOHE 1040 f.

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.

The 6 Most Ill-Conceived Weapons Ever Built
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.

The 6 Most Ill-Conceived Weapons Ever Built
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.

fDae Lese hr-l DU v -LS aetho S10held IK rrl allo

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.

The "Sticky" Grenade

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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."

The 6 Most Ill-Conceived Weapons Ever Built

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.

Mills Grenades

"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.

The 18th Century Machine Gun (was Racist)

The 6 Most Ill-Conceived Weapons Ever Built
Navy Department Library

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.

The 6 Most Ill-Conceived Weapons Ever Built

"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.

A Dofence OA CORE geer eey o LAWTE agdiny he FFERAT LETE Feetel dy JEE FEVLE 1718 AN BA HACHINE ORN

"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?

Sames Puckle N.P 02 dorrmes tn
Via National Portrait Gallery, London

Obviously you didn't think this through.

The Ridiculous FP45 Liberator


The French Resistance is one of the most famous guerilla organizations in history, and the one thing keeping the French from looking totally incompetent during the biggest war the world has ever known. The United States really wanted to help them out, but they also wanted to not spend a lot of money doing it. Thus, the FP45 Liberator was born: a weapon specifically designed to be low in cost and easy to mass produce.

The 6 Most Ill-Conceived Weapons Ever Built

The average cap gun today has a higher build quality.

The Liberator was also seemingly designed to suck balls.

First of all, the gun had an effective range of about 25 feet, which coincidentally is about as far as you could throw it. The idea behind it was that a resistance fighter could use it to sneak up on an unsuspecting Nazi, shoot him at close range and then steal a weapon that didn't completely suck.

The 6 Most Ill-Conceived Weapons Ever Built

If all the Nazi was carrying was a corkscrew and some lint, you were still trading up.

However, if you missed that first shot then you were completely fucked, because the Liberator was a single-shot gun. In order to reload it, you needed to force a wooden dowel down the barrel of the gun and retrieve the spent shell casing, which is never something easy to accomplish when there's a pissed off German coming directly at you.

To top it all off, the gun was shipped in a cardboard box with a comic strip instruction manual:

1 2 12 6 5 7 8 10 12 UU O

And a little sign saying "Ages 4 and Up."

It's like they took some cheap toy guns from the dollar store and retrofitted them to fire live ammo. Despite all the obvious shortcomings, the U.S. government actually produced a million of these guns with plans to secretly drop them all over occupied Europe. Historians claim that only a few were actually used by resistance fighters, probably because it was very hard to carry one of these things without feeling like someone at the other side of the Atlantic was laughing at you.

The 6 Most Ill-Conceived Weapons Ever Built

"Hahahahahahahahaha, oh shit, hahahaha"

Canada's Useless World War I Rifle

The 6 Most Ill-Conceived Weapons Ever Built

It turns out a lot of the world's most inept weapons are a direct result of England being a jerk to its colonies. When Great Britain told Canada to provide troops for the war effort back in World War I, Canada happily obliged. When the Canadians asked the British for weapons to equip themselves with, however, they were told to bugger off. So, with no other choice, they sent their forces into battle equipped with a gun 100 percent made in the land of the maple leaf: the Ross Rifle.

The 6 Most Ill-Conceived Weapons Ever Built
Via Vaarok

The hollow stock holds a small, emergency supply of poutine.

The Ross Rifle was a fine, reliable weapon ... as long as it didn't get dirty or wet. Then, because of various design flaws, it turned into a useless piece of shit and a serious threat to the life of the person who fired it.

LAMCEHARICHOA ST arh Freert New names in Canadian history. More are coming- Will you be there ENLIST! SMena Make proud of US as you as we are of him

"We're proud of you! But we still buy our weapons from the lowest bidder."

Like many weapons of the day, the Ross Rifle didn't handle dirt and grime in its inner workings very well. Unfortunately for the Canadian troops, wars tend to be fought in rather messy places, which meant that their rifles were constantly jamming and misfiring. Cleaning the rifle required the soldier to completely dismantle the mechanism -- which sucked for them, because the parts were extremely difficult to take apart, even more difficult to put back together and remarkably easy to break. For instance, when the rifle was fired, the bayonet on the end would often go with the bullet, falling right the fuck off.

The 6 Most Ill-Conceived Weapons Ever Built

If that soldier had been using a Ross, the bayonet would have ended up in his foot.

And that's not even the most dangerous thing about the Ross Rifle: it could also end up shooting the soldier in the face (the wrong one, that is). You see, when the gun was dissembled for routine cleaning, it could be put back together so that the bolt would fail to lock, but a round could still be fired from it. This horrifying design flaw could result in the bolt flying out the back of the barrel at about the same speed as the bullet.

The 6 Most Ill-Conceived Weapons Ever Built
Via Service Publications

And you can see how this could be a problem.

In the end, most of the Canadian troops ended up dumping their useless rifles in the battlefield and scavenging the weapons of dead British soldiers. The Ross was still favored by snipers, though, since under good conditions they were very accurate -- and also because snipers have a death wish, anyway.

The 6 Most Ill-Conceived Weapons Ever Built

The only job sexier than "sniper" is "astronaut sniper."

The Gun Shield

The 6 Most Ill-Conceived Weapons Ever Built
The Walters Museum

In the mid 1500s, Italian gunsmith Giovanni Battista believed he finally answered the question men had been asking themselves since the invention of guns: "How can I shoot the bastard in front of me without giving him a chance to shoot me back?" In 1544, Battista displayed his fantastic invention to King Henry VIII, who was so impressed that he immediately ordered 100 of them for use by his personal bodyguards.

The fantastic invention? A shield with a pistol sticking out of it

The 6 Most Ill-Conceived Weapons Ever Built
Via Royal Armouries, The Independent

Needs more barrels.

On one hand, the obvious advantage of shaping your gun like a shield is that it offers you the same protection as one. On the other hand, shields are also heavy as fuck. They have to be in order to accommodate all that armor that's keeping you from being dismembered. That's one thing they never tell you in the movies, probably because they can't risk giving Brad Pitt a hernia with a realistic prop.

The 6 Most Ill-Conceived Weapons Ever Built

Most of the weight in that fake shield comes from the little motor massaging Pitt's back.

So it's pretty hard to aim a pistol when you're holding up a 30-pound shield, especially when that pistol is the shield. The Gun Shield proved to be impossible to aim unless it was set down on a hard surface ... defeating its whole purpose. Also, all guns back in those days were muzzle-loaded. Once you blew your load, how are you even supposed reload the thing without exposing yourself? The logical solution was to carry an additional shield for those occasions -- and if it came equipped with some sort of gun, even better.

The 6 Most Ill-Conceived Weapons Ever Built
Via Higgins Armory

Behold the Gun Shield ... Shield.

Despite the King's enthusiasm, the Gun Shield was never a hit -- perhaps because it relied way too much on your opponent walking in a straight line as you shot him and agreeing to give you arbitrary time outs.

Read more from Ben at

For more insane weapons, check out 7 WTF Military Weapons You Won't Believe They Actually Built and 7 Hacks That Turn Everyday Objects into Deadly Weapons.

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