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November 14, 2010 10:24 AM   Subscribe

What are some good examples of unusual items being used as surprisingly effective weapons?

I'm looking for examples of something you wouldn't normally think of as a weapon, being used as one, with surprising effectiveness. The kind of thing Jackie Chan does a lot with things like shopping carts, ladders, and so forth. There's a scene in (I think the first Drunken Master?) where the guy kicks ass with a simple foot bench; that's awesome!

Bonus points if it's something semi-serious, like maybe the Spetznatz have an actual fighting technique based around the use of the entrenching shovel, or one of those martial arts where, since weapons were outlawed, they developed a style around farm tools. Things which are not exactly designed as weapons but still pretty clearly make a good swinging club (like the crowbar) are not as interesting; I'm looking for something where the odd shape of the item becomes an actual feature of the fighting style (like maybe using the prongs of the crowbar to catch and break an opponent's weapon.)

Video would of course be awesome, but I'd also be happy with detailed written descriptions or books, or even just the facts, ma'm; like "In ancient Foobar there was a fighting style based around the use of the ox-yolk; this was later adapted by the Star Trek community in developing the use of the Klingon bat'leth."
posted by The otter lady to Grab Bag (44 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

I have heard in the past that the CIA considered the ballpoint pen one of the least expected, best killing weapons around. Don't know the veracity of that though.
posted by edgeways at 10:31 AM on November 14, 2010

Jason Bourne using a hardcover book, a pen, rolled up magazine, electric cord and a splash of vodka (w/video).
posted by ericb at 10:33 AM on November 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

Old school.
posted by you're a kitty! at 10:43 AM on November 14, 2010

Combat umbrella was the first thing that came to mind.
posted by Etrigan at 10:43 AM on November 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

In this TED talk, Wade Davis talks about an Inuit elder making a frozen poop knife.
posted by Bernt Pancreas at 10:44 AM on November 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

There's a Macgyver episode where he uses some Rosary beads to focus sunlight onto a vine. The light burns through the vine, sets off a catapult, and is surprisingly effective at flinging objects at those chasing him.
posted by jz at 10:44 AM on November 14, 2010

Best answer: Being a bike kid I hear a lot of jokes about using a U-Lock as a weapon; I actually wrote a story about beating zombies to death with a bike lock. Whenever someone pulls their car over and tries to get me to come talk to them or something else super creepy while I'm riding my bike I always consider pulling out my U-Lock as a precaution, but generally settle on pedaling away as fast as possible (flight over fight, yo).

I do know, on the serious tip, that when one of my friends got doored he broke the windshield with his lock (accidentally) which is a pretty effective way of punishing someone for not looking before they threw their door open and fucked you and your bike.

It's got a built in handle, it's crazy heavy sturdy metal, and you could probably actually murder someone with it if you were determined and strong enough.
posted by Juliet Banana at 10:52 AM on November 14, 2010

"True Romance" features a scene where Patricia Arquette is being beaten by James Gandolfini. She stabs him in the foot with a corkscrew, and while he's bent over in pain, she kills him with the porcelain lid of a toilet tank.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:00 AM on November 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

A real life example of death by toilet tank lid:
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 11:12 AM on November 14, 2010

I think my KitchenAid mixer could kill someone. Especially if it hit someone in the head.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 11:19 AM on November 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Iv'e often thought, in case of a break-in, that approaching the ne'er-do-well with a hot iron would be the thing. It's un-grab-awayable, and you can easily "brand" the perp for later identification to the authorities.
posted by BostonTerrier at 11:35 AM on November 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

how about equal handfuls of potassium, sulphur and charcoal in a wooden tube with some diamonds for projectiles? I hear you could take out a full grown Gorn with one of those bad boys...
posted by Redhush at 11:51 AM on November 14, 2010 [1 favorite] just posted 5 Real MacGyvers Who Won Battles With Improvised Weapons
posted by Mach5 at 11:58 AM on November 14, 2010

There's a fellow in Toronto who teaches Irish stick fighting.
posted by bonobothegreat at 12:01 PM on November 14, 2010

I read your post and didn't have a good answer. Then I happened across a message to my friends that read:
Inmate accused of using prosthetic arm in assault
"Hanna is accused of knocking Armstrong to the floor and using his prosthetic arm to punch Armstrong in the face nine times, according to court records. Hanna is also accused of stomping his foot – which was not prosthetic – on Armstrong’s head at least four times during the incident." (2007-01-27, Rochester NY Democrat & Chronicle)

The link I sent them to the original article is dead but this is almost certainly identical.
posted by knile at 12:05 PM on November 14, 2010

Millwall Brick.
posted by SyntacticSugar at 12:07 PM on November 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you don't mind fictional examples, the tv show Alias is full of this stuff. Jennifer Garner's character, Sydney Bristow, is a spy who fights with absolutely anything on hand. Off the top of my head, she's used a car antenna, a telephone, a closet door, a curtain, a chair, a silver platter, a Japanese fan, a fire extinguisher, and a broom in fights.
posted by colfax at 12:15 PM on November 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

A leg of lamb?
posted by octothorpe at 12:37 PM on November 14, 2010

There's that short story about the woman who brains her husband with a frozen leg of lamb and then serves the lamb to the investigating policemen, thus destroying the evidence.

Relatedly, I once walloped a guy in the side of the head with a frozen pound of meatloaf stuffed in an old tube sock because I thought he was a crazed murderous intruder. Alas it was just my extremely drunk next door neighbor who had miscounted the number of turn-offs on our unlit rural road of nearly identical houses. I still feel bad about that. He was out cold for an unsettling amount of time.

On a more awesome note, Sayid Jarrah killed that one dude by impaling him on a dishwasher door full of knives and other kitchen implements. I guess knives aren't really that nontraditional in the weapons department, though. it was still rad and he is a tiny ninja sex god.
posted by elizardbits at 12:41 PM on November 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

dammit octothorpe
posted by elizardbits at 12:42 PM on November 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

I once read a news article about a guy in Australia whose house had flooded in heavy rains and found a saltwater crocodile swimming in his house. He went to his freezer and pulled out..... a frozen shark, and proceeded to beat the crocodile back with it.
posted by MuffinMan at 12:43 PM on November 14, 2010

The Chronicles of Riddick was a pretty crappy movie, but it had an amusing example of this: Death by Teacup.

TVTropes has some articles on the subject, too: The Man Makes The Weapon, Improbable Weapon User, Nerf Arm ("Any logically less-than-lethal weapon which ends up being otherwise just as effective as its 'real' equivalent"), Lethal Joke Item (for video games).
posted by Rhaomi at 12:44 PM on November 14, 2010

Thanks for the pen, Ken

Or indeed, any stick ~6 inches long.
posted by robertc at 12:51 PM on November 14, 2010

Most of the weapons that we associate with ninjas were not thought of as weapons back in the day. Nunchuks are flails used to beat grain to seperate the rice from the chaff. A kunai is a digging trowel.

The reason the ninjas used such things as weapons was that during the Shogunate, non-samurai weren't permitted to own weapons. The ninja were peasants, and they used things that were readily available to them which weren't subject to the weapon control laws.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:53 PM on November 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Long ago I remember hearing that a Bic lighter makes a handy improvised weapon in a fistfight. Not as a flamethrower--you tuck it into your fist to harden it for punching. And also, by using a "hammer" motion with the butt of the lighter sticking out the end of your fist, you could probably pulpify someone's face pretty efficiently.

I googled for this to see if I could confirm, and someone linked to this Wikipedia article on Kubotan which at one point talks about improvised versions of the weapon.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 1:05 PM on November 14, 2010

Or you could just go to the link robertc provided.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 1:06 PM on November 14, 2010

Stiletto ----Single White Female style.
posted by pearlybob at 1:21 PM on November 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Roiling oil in a cast iron skillet is a 2 for 1!
posted by cestmoi15 at 2:07 PM on November 14, 2010

In the film Eastern Promises there's a fight scene where Viggo Mortensen fights off two hitmen brandishing linoleum knives.
posted by Mr Mister at 2:24 PM on November 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Car keys make a nasty weapon. I've heard that if you throw them at a milk carton, it'll be full of holes right quick.
posted by zug at 2:29 PM on November 14, 2010

tuck it into your fist to harden it for punching

Anything which makes your knuckles stick out and stops your fist from compressing on impact will have the same effect, eg. a roll of quarters (item 2).
posted by robertc at 2:33 PM on November 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Practically anything can be used as a weapon, but fan and cane are among the traditional martial arts weapons that may not be obvious.
posted by mdn at 2:41 PM on November 14, 2010

Don't know about that, but I do know a usual item being used as a surprisingly ineffective weapon.
sorry, i had to show it.
posted by danburzo at 3:01 PM on November 14, 2010

If you want other specific examples for stilettos (as pearlybob mentions), in the recent movie Machete (WHICH, UM, I TOTALLY DID NOT GO SEE IN THEATERS. ON OPENING NIGHT.), Jessica Alba's character uses a stiletto to fight.

I'm sure it's been used as a weapon in many other situations, but the only other example I can pull out of my head right now is a CSI episode in which someone's neck was accidentally puncture by a stiletto (trampled at a rave, poor thing).
posted by sprezzy at 3:40 PM on November 14, 2010

I had a couple socks that I tucked, one inside the other. I put all of my pennies in it over the course of several months. I called it my sock penny. I imagine it would have caused pain.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:24 PM on November 14, 2010

Best answer: The Maglite flashlight. It's primarily successful because of the fact that it's also a melee weapon as effective as a metal baton, thus ensuring wide adoption by LEOs and security officers all over the world. There's an even earlier flashlight like the Maglite that was also popular. It's so well known as a potential weapon that the LAPD is phasing out Maglites in favor of a lighter plastic LED light that can't be used as a club.

Also, don't ever mess with someone with a skateboard. It makes an awesome shield for blocking punches and kicks, then immediately does double duty as a rather impressive club.

I first discovered saw this principle in action when some idiot of a wino or crackhead decided it would be a good idea to try and mug a small gang of middle school kids on skateboards. As in he was literally trying to mug us, not just being annoying and panhandling. We were skating beneath a bridge along one of LA's many gigantic concrete flood control channels. The guy started throwing punches which were easily blocked by skateboards, and punching grip tape over wood can't be a pleasant experience. We kept telling him to fuck off and leave us alone, but he kept throwing punches and trying to assault random members of our group and following us when we tried to leave. It took a few solid blows to his limbs from the edges of random skateboards to convince him he was being fucking stupid. "Dude, really? We're all armed, we're in great shape and we bodily throw ourselves at concrete for fun. This is a really bad idea. You'd be better off trying to rob a police station. Oh, and we're skateboarding kids. If we had any money we'd be at the arcade."
posted by loquacious at 8:11 PM on November 14, 2010 [4 favorites]

When I was in the Bahamas, a lady who found out her husband was cheating on her, spent the whole day boiling a big pot of sugar and heaved it on him when he got home that night. while he wasn't killed, he lost his arm and was mightily messed up. Molten sugar is way hot and sticks, I learned. And don't piss off gals in the Bahamas
posted by Redhush at 9:18 PM on November 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

I can't believe no one has mentioned the carrot in Shoot Em Up!

Also, I was thinking just the other day that a cordless drill would be a pretty awesome portable self-defense device.
posted by Night_owl at 10:47 PM on November 14, 2010

There's a famous Biblical story: the king of Canaan's general, Sisera, was fleeing after he lost a battle. He sought refuge in the tent of a woman called Jael. She invited him in, gave him a drink, waited until he went to sleep and then tiptoed up to him with a hammer and a tent peg ...
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:27 AM on November 15, 2010

I just watched the recent Kung-er- Karate Kid last night, and I loved this example of improbable weaponry - an opponent's jacket. In typical Jackie Chan style, he still manages to be badass despite using primarily defensive or non-damaging moves. Probably not realistic, but definitely cool.
posted by ashirys at 10:28 AM on November 15, 2010

A pool ball. In a bar a pool table surface is an inconspicuous place to put your hand(s) and the perception will be that you're backed against a pool table. However, a pool table is sufficient to cover your back, and everyone's jaw is glass when hit with a fist sized rock.

Pool cues are not really good without total surprise. You need two hands to swing with any power because of the balance. If it breaks right, though, you've got a good sort of club at the butt end. Maybe if you're a fencer...

A cup or glass. Hold it with the bottom in your palm and you've got extra reach, no structural danger to your hand, and all of your force is concentrated into a vicious little edge that might also break and get even more vicious.

Also, a beer bottle. Not broken because you're just as likely tu cut yourself trying to break it like in the movies, but like a little club or a blackjack.

Really anything hard or long (well, not anything huh huh) that gives you some combination of reach, leverage, and hand protection.
posted by cmoj at 11:01 AM on November 15, 2010

Lots of martial arts weapons are developed out of useful farming implements - both because it's what the peasants and/or monks have laying around, and because it allows them to easily disguise weapons as farm tools (or easily use farm tools as weapons, depending on your perspective.) The staff is just a pole - beyond that, as mentioned upthread, the nunchaku and two- and three-sectional staff are both versions of flails for flailing wheat. There's a traditional kung-fu weapon called the Monk's Spade - as you might imagine, a version of a bladed shovel. (Michelle Yeoh tries to fight with one briefly and unsuccessfully in the training room showdown in Crouching Tiger.)

Wong Fei-Hung was well known for fighting with an umbrella. Examples of this in every Wong Fei-Hung movie (Once Upon A Time In China 1-6, spinoffs, Iron Monkey, also some good bits in Tokyo Raiders and one brief strike in Shanghai Knights.)

As the recent Kung Fu (Karate, I guess) Kid points out, everything you do is kung fu if you do it enough. The annals of cinematic history is full of the following story:

Kid: I want to learn kung fu!
Old uncle: No. Now learn our family's thousand year old laundry technique.
Kid: *grumble*
*stuff happens*
Old uncle: Our family's thousand year old laundry technique is actually also training for Cloth Pole Boxing Style!

That one is taken specifically from the 1979 Yuen Biao/Yuen Wu Ping film "Dreadnought." There are many many more.
posted by Pickman's Next Top Model at 12:31 PM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

In the Stephen King novella The Langoliers (and I believe the movie as well), one character beats the crap out of another with a toaster wrapped up in a tablecloth.
posted by Fiat124 at 8:55 PM on December 12, 2010

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