Widgets Magazine
MIGHTY HISTORY

This is an actual Army guide to creating an entire arsenal

Where should you turn if you want to bring down the man? If you want to destroy the pillars of an oppressive society, one of the best places you could turn is, ironically, the U.S. military. It has a guide on how to make land mines, mortar tubes, and even propellants for rockets right at home. TM 31-210 can help you become a full-on anarchist or, as the government would prefer, a resistance fighter in another country.


Joint special operations teams do lots of cool stuff like this, but they also train guerrilla warriors to build rockets. Which, now that we come to think of it, is also cool.

(U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Clayton Cupit)

TM 31-120, the Improvised Munitions Handbook, was originally an annex for a Special Forces manual, and it was always aimed at helping resistance fighters fight against leaders that American administrations didn't like.

Special Forces soldiers and the occasional CIA spook would show up in foreign countries and help train up locals to conduct operations against enemy regimes, and sometimes they could even drop a few hundred crates of weapons and ammunition.

But U.S. logistics and purchases have serious limitations and drawbacks when it comes to guerrilla operations, especially when the U.S. doesn't want to get caught helping. If American C-130s are constantly flying over the Cuban countryside dropping crates, then the Castros are going to know just who to blame for any uprisings.

As the handbook says:

In Unconventional Warfare operations it may be possible or unwise to use conventional military munitions as tools in the conduct of certain missions. It may be necessary instead to fabricate the required munitions from locally available or unassuming materials.

So Special Forces soldiers left copies of this handbook. Resistance forces could use any weapons and munitions the Americans dropped off, and then they could make their own landmines out of tin cans. Yeah, the Army published a guide, in 1969, that explained how to make IEDs.

I would say it's weird that MREs are heated against a "rock or something" while nitric acid instructions specify "rock or can," but a mistake while making nitric acid could be deadly.

(U.S. Army TM 31-120)

Take the instructions for "PIPE PISTOL FOR 9 MM AMMUNITION"

All you need is a 4-inch length of 1/4-inch steel pipe, a pipe plug, two couplings, a metal strap, two rubber bands, a flat head nail, two wood screws, a piece of wood, a drill, and an 8-inch long rod.

Yup, that's 14 items. And it only takes 11 steps to modify and assemble them. The pipe becomes a barrel with a little drilling. Slip the nail in as a firing pin, tape the barrel to the wood and cut it into a stock, then use the rubber bands and a nail to turn the metal strap into a cocking hammer.

The guide does caution that you should test the pistol five times with a string from behind a wall before carrying it into a fight.

And many of the schematics and instructions in the book assume that you'll have some sort of access to actual modern weapons.

For instance, the tin-can landmine is reliant on a fragmentation grenade, same with the shotgun grenade launcher. But the ten recipes for "GELLED FLAME FUELS," basically a poor man's napalm, are made almost exclusively from household materials.

The whole handbook is interesting from an engineering, MacGyver, or historical perspective. But, and we shouldn't have to say this, you should never try any of this at home. First of all, it's super dangerous. The book is literally a bunch of dangerous chemical experiments complete with explosives. But also, making any of this stuff is a great way to get arrested on suspicion of domestic terrorism.

So don't make your own shotgun at home.