James Bond has the coolest toys. Beyond his Aston Martins and other sweet rides, he’s also equipped with a variety of clever little gadgets designed to help him terminate enemy agents. Amazingly enough, many of these gadgets have a basis in real life. Here are 10 espionage inventions designed with deadly purposes. Some were deployed in the field while others never made it out of the lab, but they’re all awesome.
Here’s one that was actually used to full effect, killing a high-value enemy target. In 1978, the Bulgarian Secret Service had a problem with dissident journalist Georgi Markov. Unfortunately, they couldn’t just shoot him without risking a public revolt. So with the help of the KGB, the agency developed an umbrella with a tiny gun that shot a miniature metal pellet filled with the deadly toxin ricin. Markov felt what he thought was a bee sting on his leg, and died three days later.
The stories of gorgeous Russian spies who come to America to seduce our men and steal our secrets are actually based on reality. Amazingly, the Commies sent over some black widows armed with single-shot lipstick guns in case things got hairy. The KGB referred to the device as the “Kiss Of Death,” loaded with a single 4.55 mm bullet. It looked just like an ordinary tube of lipstick, but in an emergency could deliver a shot powerful enough to kill a man.
During World War II, British intelligence was at its peak, paid to come up with hundreds of ways to thwart the Nazi advance. Some of them were pretty brilliant, and some of them were just insane. Case in point: exploding rats. The idea was first floated in 1941, as the Allies needed some way to get explosives into German boilers to disable factories. Their solution was to take rat skins and stuff them with plastic explosives, then mix the corpses into the coal supply. When the rat bombs hit the fire, kaboom! Unfortunately, the first shipment of the rats was seized by the Germans and the plot was foiled.
Cigarette Case Dart Gun
Here’s another fine invention from our Communist friends. In 1954, the Reds sent a spy named Nikolai Khokhlov to Germany to assassinate an anti-Commie agitator. Upon reaching the West, Khokhlov had a sudden change of heart and defected, turning over the unique weapon he had been sent with. From the outside, it looked like an everyday cigarette case, but it concealed a small, electrically-powered firearm that shot darts tipped with cyanide. They shot out of the fake cigarettes at the top of the box.
Secreting small-caliber firearms in ordinary household objects was a common preoccupation of intelligence agencies. Interestingly enough, both the American and Russian spy organizations independently developed pipe guns. Sure, spies would look pretty out of place in 2012 puffing on a Meerschaum, but back in the day it was common to see a gentleman smoking a pipe. These used the stem as a delivery mechanism for a single .22 caliber bullet, activated by twisting the pipe’s wide end. Needless to say, smoking can be very hazardous to your health.
Issued by the Navy to intelligence operatives during World War II, the Sedgley OSS .38 was designed for close combat. A heavy glove with a single-shot revolver built into the palm, the Sedgley was activated by a plunger in the fist. When you punched somebody with it, the shot would go off, making you look like you just killed a dude by hitting him. Pretty badass. Unfortunately, they weren’t terribly practical in combat and few were ever fired during the course of the war.
This is a more recent invention, but it’s made battlefield intelligence much more dependable. The Smart Arrow was developed by the Israeli military to help in urban combat. Shot from a rifle, the shell embeds itself into a wall and activates an array of embedded cameras that wirelessly transmit video back to a receiving station, at a range of up to 300 feet. The battery inside lasts up to seven hours, and it can even swivel to adjust the viewing angle after it’s been fired.
Mobile Phone Gun
This is the latest and greatest in surreptitious firepower. Nobody really knows who manufactured the first of these pistols, but they caused quite a stir in Europe a few years ago when one was discovered. On the outside, it looks like an ordinary (if somewhat dated) smartphone. Inside, however, there’s no SIM card, but rather a cunning .22 revolver loaded with four bullets. Since there’s no trigger on a cell phone, they’re fired by depressing four numbers in a specific order. Don’t get it mixed up with your regular phone.
Originally created by the Bulgarian Secret Service, these incredibly small weapons were originally designed for covert operations, but soon leaked out to the general populace. At just one inch by three inches, they hold a single shot, either a compressed gas shell or a .32 caliber bullet. They were designed as a weapon of last resort, because they’re only accurate at close range and have a ton of recoil. Incredibly, you can now buy one in Europe for as little as $20.
Next: Crazy and Ridiculous Japanese Products
The negative with guns is that they can be unpredictable. Sure, blasting a slug of metal into somebody’s body is likely to do some damage, but it’s not guaranteed to kill. That’s why the CIA developed the “Heart Attacker,” a specialized pistol that could induce cardiac arrest. During a Senate probe into CIA activities in the 1970s, an actual model of this terrifying device was displayed by Senator Frank Church. It operated by firing a tiny dart loaded with shellfish poison that caused a heart attack, then rapidly degraded in the victim’s system, leaving no trace. If high cholesterol doesn't kill you, this thing for sure will.