Improvised Weapons Out of Newspaper

The Millwall brick:

In the late 1960s—in response to violence at football matches in England—police began confiscating any objects that could be used as weapons. These items included steel combs, pens, beermats, polo mints, shoelaces and even boots.

But not liquids, apparently.

However, fans were still permitted to bring in newspapers. Larger newspapers such as The Guardian or The Financial Times work best for a Millwall brick, and the police looked with suspicion at working class football fans who carried such newspapers. Because of their more innocent appearance, tabloid newspapers became the newspapers of choice for Millwall bricks.

Instructions on how to make one in the link.

When will the TSA start banning newspaper?

Posted on July 9, 2007 at 6:36 AM39 Comments


Clive Robinson July 9, 2007 7:15 AM

It’s a bir over complicated, and looks like it would take two or more minutes to make.

Back in the late 1970’s I was shown by a Policeman I knew quite well just how effective tightly rolling a newspaper can be.

If you use both hands you can roll it very tightly using the “shuffling grip” and if you then hold it close to one end it is almost as solid as a stick of wood. You can do this in about thirty seconds at most or ten or so if you don’t want it to tight.

If you poke somebody with it they most very definatly know it. For even more damage hold it in your fist such that about an inch sticks out of the bottom of your hand, then bring that smartly down on the side or back of somebodies head it renders them very nearly insensible, and not very able to defenf themselves.

Ben July 9, 2007 7:21 AM

There’s an episode of Mythbusters where they build crossbows out of newspaper. An inmate escaped from prison (or killed a gaurd, can’t remember) with a similar device, and they were trying to see if it was actually possible to injure someone with one.

Clive Robinson July 9, 2007 7:32 AM


If you want to be realy nasty then a ball point pen pushed up into somebodies head just below the ear behind the jaw or ramed down the ear is known to be fairly leathal in most cases.

Less leathal is the “watch strap knuckle duster” you wear a large solid watch such as a divers watch on either an expanding metal braclet or a metal link bracelet. Simply slip it down so that either the watch or the braclet protects your knuckles and hit in the ordinary way.

Then there is the “bunch of keys duster” if you have a large key ring with several Yale Lock type keys on it it you hold it in the palm of your hand and poke the keys out between your fingers it can make quite a nasty mess of somebodies face when you hit them.

Lima soled shoes (very flexable) and Blackie heel studs make very effective coshes, as do a handfull of coins in a couple of socks.

A leather belt with a hevy or ornate belt buckle likewise makes an effective weapon.

All of these types of weapon and many more (shoe lace garott etc) have been known about since before the second world war and a lot where taught to servicemen and agents as “self defence” techniques.

One of the most nasty weapons currently in use in Glasgow is two “box cutter” blades held apart by a match stick. If you slash somebodies face the wound is such that there is little a hospital can do with it to prevent a very very nasty scar.

If you know any prison warders ask them about makeshift weapons the inmates make, you will probably not look at ordinary objects in the same way ever again.

A'kos July 9, 2007 7:45 AM

@Clive Robinson
“…you will probably not look at ordinary objects in the same way ever again.”
Let’s ban ordinary objects from flying!
Hold on, even a naked martial art pro can do quite a damage. Let’s ban people from flying, that would solve the problem.

k July 9, 2007 9:16 AM

wasn’t there an extended fight scene with a rolled newspaper or magazine in one of the recent Bourne movies?

Snark July 9, 2007 9:59 AM

I saw that same Mythbusters (re the crossbow made of newspaper).

“Anything” can be a weapon.

Which is why Bruce is right: the time to stop an airline terror plot is before the miscreant arrives at the airport.

nzruss July 9, 2007 10:00 AM

Attention passengers:

“In the event of a water ditching you can use your seat as a flotation device, In the event of anyone declaring they are trying to take over this flight, you will find an extendable baton inside your armrest. You are authorised by the pilot and the FAA and TSA to use ‘necessary force’ to subdue any passenger who poses a threat to aircraft safety.”

(bought to you from the school of thought of everyone owning a gun creates a safer environment.)

Brandioch Conner July 9, 2007 10:14 AM

Why would you need to issue weapons?

As long as they cannot get through the cockpit door, the passengers can just tackle them and hold them down until the plane lands.

Andrew July 9, 2007 10:16 AM

There is a rich and terrible history of improvised weapons in prisons. One of my favorites is the glass knife. Made from a piece of broken glass and just enough electrical tape to form a handle, one stabs the victim repeatedly, departs, drops the knife, stamps on it to shatter it, and recovers the tape. No weapon, no evidence.

The rolled-up magazine or newspaper can be a devastating weapon. However, it’s not practical to use it as a hostage-taking weapon, which is what TSA is trying to ban. (A hostage-taking weapon is one that can kill the hostage before others can effectively intervene, which brings us down mostly to bladed weapons in the absence of firearms.)

Any resemblance between flying commercial and prison is no longer coincidental.

jdm July 9, 2007 10:57 AM

Boeing was originally gonna equipment the new 787 with cryogentic stasis tubes for “the ultimate in passenger confort and saftey,” but they found the added weight would have lowered the gas milage, causing Boeing to pay for more carbon offsets.

j/k btw

sehlat July 9, 2007 11:21 AM

This ain’t exactly news. Improvised weapons are a great challenge to ingenuity, and there are a LOT of ingenious people around.

Back in the 1960s, there was a TV series called “Stoney Burke,” starring the late Jack Lord of “Hawaii Five-O” fame. In one episode, entitled “The Weapons Man”, after a man is apparently “accidentally” killed in an archery demonstration at the rodeo, a “weapons expert” arrives to investigate the death.

In the final scene, the weapons expert has to go one-on-one with the killer, and beats the hell out of him with something in his hand. Afterwards, Stoney picks up the weapon and unrolls it — into a newspaper, and says “You certainly do know about weapons.”

Alan July 9, 2007 12:06 PM

How soon before Americans are no longer allowed to have anything sharper than a rubber ball? (And the rubber ball cannot be smaller than 2″ in diameter because it is a choking hazard.)

We live in a country ruled by the insane. And they wonder why the people are showing signs of madness…

Andy July 9, 2007 12:17 PM

We live in a country ruled by the insane.

I’d venture that it’s more along the lines of “pandering to the stupid”.

Aaron Luchko July 9, 2007 12:42 PM

Assuming they can no longer get control of the cockpit due to the doors then it seems to be that weapons for hijackers need a weapon that intimidates and is lethal with ease. With a bomb people back off since they might take out the plane, a gun or even a knife people hold back since they’re worried about getting shot/stabbed. But someone with a Millwall brick or even a broken bottle would likely be unable to stop people from fighting back.

Not you again July 9, 2007 12:55 PM

I think we’re done banning classes of objects. Lets move on to whole classes of people. First up – doctors!

Ian Mason July 9, 2007 5:03 PM

It will come as no surprise to the assembled that the favourite reading matter of professional bodyguards in the UK during those times on the job where they just have to sit and wait outside a meeting or similar is “Country Life”. Country Life is notable for the weight and stiffness of the high quality paper it is printed on.

Foxyshadis July 9, 2007 5:50 PM

“One of the most nasty weapons currently in use in Glasgow is two “box cutter” blades held apart by a match stick. If you slash somebodies face the wound is such that there is little a hospital can do with it to prevent a very very nasty scar.”

Interestingly, the first time I heard about this was in a Mike Hammer novel written in 1947.

Pat Cahalan July 9, 2007 7:12 PM

TSA will ban newspapers when someone actually “plots” a “credible” airplane takeover that could “kill untold thousands” in a “plot reminiscent of 9/11”.

Then we’ll be stuck with magazines until someone plots to use copies of Time to take over a plane…

Peter July 10, 2007 4:54 AM

Country Life is good, but so are any of the larger computing magazines. Not so much used as a cosh, but jabbed.

To quote Iain (M!) Banks – “What’s the use of weapons when anything can be used as a weapon”.

Aaron July 10, 2007 11:51 AM

“Any resemblance between flying commercial and prison is no longer coincidental.”

LOL and ready to cry. I’m thinking about all those copies of the WSJ, Financial Times and IHT given out on int’l flights. Weaponized newspapers are a perfect example of why object-based profiling will never be sufficient and some form of person-based profiling is necessary.

Bill July 11, 2007 10:19 PM

Fists have been known to inflict serious damage for millennia. We should ban all passengers having hands.

Seriously — nearly anything can be used as a weapon should the need or inclination arise. There’s way too much hysteria on this topic.

NFI July 18, 2008 7:48 PM

For individuals who wear motorcycle type jackets, especially leather or, even better, the high-tech lightweight manmade materials in use today such as 600 denier nylon, etc. (these are often kevlar reinforced as well, if you can imagine that) – many of these jackets have reflective “piping” on them, along the sleeves and spanning the back and chest area. This is to reflect vehicle headlights, offering an added measure of nighttime safety for motorcyclists. However, a trip to a hardware or hobby store, or a quick search on Google can net you some interesting filler for this “piping”. Ideally, some sort of wire would be choice, but in today’s highly controlled, metal-detector-rich environments, such as schools and airports (not to mention many government or public buildings in general), this is not necessarily feasible. Thanks to modern technology, there are numerous non-metallic materials that are ductile (able to be drawn into a wire-thin shape) and which exhibit extremely high tensile strength – often more than that of steel. If one were to feed a piece of wire from one end of the piping at the cuff of one sleeve, across the back of the jacket, and out the piping of the other sleeve (when possible, otherwise, simply wire the piping on one sleeve), he or she might attach some high-tensile material to the wire, and draw it all the way back through. Sewn back accordingly, this will, in effect, create a “garrote” or self-defense weapon that will not tear, as the sleeves of a jacket may, in the heat of an altercation. Whereas choking or restraining a violent individual with a mere jacket may not work, since the seams may split if struggled against, your newly “enhanced” model will be reinforced with nearly unbreakable “piping”. The main advantage of this method (other than the obvious) is that with any care taken in modification, it should be completely undetectable, and even if detected, quite unassuming and innocent in appearance.

Nubbie_Jones October 26, 2008 11:42 AM

I have used a rolled up newspaper as recently as two weekends ago to defend myself against a knife attack. It actually isn’t that effective in a real fight when used by someone without training.

It works best on sensitive, exposed targets like the throat, a close grip with four or five inches or so peaking out from a fist, can be effective against the kidney area just to the right or left of the spine.

I took a long grip and drove it into the throat of my attacker. Then swatted his knife hand with it.

He dropped the knife (there was a kick following all of this) and was easily subdued afterward.

It does work, but it takes practice.

I IS COOL December 17, 2009 8:21 PM

fuck.. just put some big fishing weights on the end of your shoelace, so when trouble arises you pull the lace out and crack someones skull with it

Adam @ Low Tech Combat February 8, 2010 6:11 AM

Yeah Newspapers are pretty good. They can give you some range and range is always good. You can also ‘load’ the newspaper with heavier items such as coins and then roll the newspaper up with the coins inside. Adds some oompff. Not my idea though.

HolyHell August 7, 2010 1:45 PM

You could even fill a sock with a rock or rocks and use it as a flail or sling and this would easily kill someone. Even the handles on a carry on bag can be loosely attached and ripped off to use as a sharp gouging/stabbing weapon. Imagine a sewing needle in a small ziploc bag full of AIDS infected blood. Someone could definetly hijack a plane with that. Or to get even more creative, someone puts a poisonous spider inside a jar and threatens to unleash it on the pilot.

66 August 7, 2010 3:02 PM

Paper weapons, “a search of an Aurora storage unit uncovered 21 silk-screen printing templates and negatives which had been utilized to produce bulk quantities of counterfeit identity document laminates complete with security seals and holograms.”

We aren’t printing as many newspapers or doing investigative journalism as much. They had “two counterfeit identity document-manufacturing laboratories that were found to be in operation in apartments in Denver.” A guy involved with death squads was a motel janitor in LA. All papers were in order. See clipping

Peter E Retep August 7, 2010 4:32 PM

An MTA pass vendor in Los Angeles told me that they had been instructed this month to no longer accept California Driver’s LIcenses as Proof of Age.

Would it suggest a high density of these falsified documents at low cost, in order for them to forego the business in order to avoid someone using the document to defraud them of $37?

66 August 8, 2010 11:13 AM

Technology advances by expanding the number of important operations we can perform without thinking about them. This might help explain LA in particular and CA in general. When the gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers. You get lots of bang for the buck out of newspaper.

“The secret of a successful newspaper is to take one story each day and bang the hell out of it.” Swope

Leave a comment


Allowed HTML <a href="URL"> • <em> <cite> <i> • <strong> <b> • <sub> <sup> • <ul> <ol> <li> • <blockquote> <pre> Markdown Extra syntax via

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.