Tuesday, March 28, 2006


Chameleon Weapons Defy Detection

Since 9/11, all kinds of
new technologies and new techniques have popped up for detecting concealed weapons.

But they won’t catch everything; far from it. Last week I talked to Anthony Taylor, managing partner of an outfit which makes weapons which can be hidden in plain sight. You can be looking right at one without realizing what it is.

One type is the exact size and shape of a credit card, except that two of the edges are lethally sharp. It's made of
G10 laminate, an ultra-hard material normally employed for circuit boards. You need a diamond file to get an edge on it.

Taylor suggests that the card could easily be camouflaged as an ID card or one of the many other bits of plastic that clutter up the average wallet. Each weapon is individually handmade so they can be tailored to the user’s requirements.

Another configuration is a stabbing weapon which is indistinguishable from a pen. This one is made from melamine fiber, and can sit snugly inside a Bic casing. You would only find out it was not the real thing if you tried to write with it. It's sharpened with a blade edge at the tip which
Defense Review describes as “scary sharp.”

I asked about more elaborate weapons. If modern synthetic materials are strong and hard enough to make a knife out of, how about a gun, like the non-metallic gun assembled by John Malkovich’s assassin character in
In the Line Of Fire? According to one gun magazine, the CIA has had a ceramic handgun firing caseless non-metallic ammo for years.

Taylor certainly doesn’t rule out such a weapon, but points out the obvious flaw: how do you disguise it? Even a ceramic gun still looks like a gun, and anyone patting you down will find it. (James Bond fans might remember the
golden gun used by Scaramanga which broke down into a fountain pen, cigarette case and lighter, but this is pure Hollywood fantasy)

In the real world, Taylor is more interested in supplying something that undercover narcotics agents can carry as a last-ditch weapon. In that sort of situation it can make the difference between life and death. And if you’re thinking of buying one, you should know that he only sells to law-enforcement and government agencies. This policy has him cost a lot of business, but being from a law-enforcement background himself, Taylor is not about to help the other side.

Of course there could be someone out there manufacturing chameleon weapons for the bad guys. That’s why some of Taylor’s business is with the various government agencies both in the US and in other countries whose job it is to detect such things, and who want to see the state of the art.

So how do you prevent someone from taking this sort of weapon through security checks? “Take everything off them and examine every item individually,” advises Taylor. “That’s the only reliable way.”

David Hambling

PS My book Weapons Grade is coming out in paperback next week! More later.UPDATE 12:28 AM: The FBI's extensive Guide to Concealable Weapons has 89 pages of weapons intended to get through security. These are generally variations of a knifeblade concealed in a pen, comb or a cross - and most of them are pretty obvious on X-ray.

March 27, 2006 12:20 AM Homeland Security Discuss

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