7 Most Common Prison Weapons Improvised by Inmates
Published May 11, 2023
Creative isn’t the first description you would think of when you hear the word, prisoners. Yet somehow, they’ve made it clear time and time again that they can be creative in some ways. Prison weapons are perhaps the best representation of their creativity—weapons made out of the most unexpected objects in the prison system.
Considering the limited resources in prison, it’s not strange to be curious about what inmates have come up with, and that’s why we’re here. Let’s take a look at the most common prison weapons improvised by inmates.
1. Shanks/Shiv (Homemade Knives)
Shanks/shivs are the most common prison weapon, according to this survey conducted among medium and maximum security state prison facilities in the US. The term “shanks” refer to homemade or makeshift knives.
As the name implies, it’s a knife made out of unconventional materials. Examples of objects that inmates often use to make shanks include toothbrushes, metal rods, broken glass, and hard plastics. They sharpen the tip of the object to make it capable enough to stab or slash an individual with relative ease. Though some may argue that a shank is different from a shiv, prison inmates and guards would often use the terms interchangeably.
These weapons are typically designed to be as inconspicuous as possible, which is usually easy enough since the objects are relatively small. They may also have a handle to allow for better grip using materials like cloth.
Bludgeons are yet another one of the most common prison weapons made by inmates. For your reference, a bludgeon is any weapon that can harm an individual through impact rather than slashes, stabs, or punctures.
They typically consist of a handle and an end consisting of objects heavy enough to hurt someone.
Examples of objects that prisoners would often use to construct a bludgeon include newspaper or sock to serve as the handle. They would then fill it with heavy objects like tons of soap bars, rocks, batteries, or padlocks.
It’s not as harmful as shanks or shivs because it still requires a significant amount of force to cause harm.
3. Sling Weapon
A sling weapon has a similar construction to bludgeons. It would often consist of a piece of clothing or fabric as the sling and objects like rocks, locks, or batteries as the ammunition. The only difference is rather than hitting the heavy object directly at someone; they instead let go of it after the swing to create a strong projectile effect.
4. Zip Gun
Speaking of projectiles, zip guns are also a relatively common prison weapon. Like sling weapons, they can cause harm from a distance. However, it’s not as common due to the difficulty of creating the firearm.
Inmates typically use materials like rubber bands, firing pins, and pipes to make a zip gun.
5. Molotov Cocktail
A Molotov cocktail is one of the most dangerous prison weapons an inmate can improvise. It’s not as difficult to craft as zip guns, either, as it only involves filling a glass bottle with flammable liquid, like alcohol or gasoline.
They would then add a cloth wick at the end, which they would ignite when the time to use the Molotov comes.
Admittedly, it’s quite difficult to obtain or procure the materials necessary in an organized prison system. For that reason, only disorganized prisons or those with an extensive trading network will have this kind of weapon.
If inmates do get their hands on this weapon, it can be used to cause explosions or fires, which in turn makes prison escapes a lot easier.
6. Brass Knuckles
Brass knuckles are yet another weapon that causes harm via impact rather than punctures, stabs, or slashes.
A brass knuckle is made of cloth or leather wrapped tightly around a group of small heavy objects like coins and batteries to maximize impact. It’s common but not as prevalent as shivs due to the difficulty of using it.
In most cases, it can injure the user’s hands or fingers as the feedback from the impact is strong enough.
7. Body Armor
Though it’s not exactly a weapon, it can be seen as so due to its effectiveness when it comes to combat. Inmates can easily make body armor by simply combining layers and layers of clothing, fabric, or magazines.
These are just the common prison weapons improvised by inmates. There are many other weapons that can be found in prison that are far more creative and perhaps even more dangerous. However, those are incredibly rare. After all, not anyone can fashion a weapon that can rival a gun when it comes to its power.
Save 90% Per Minute On Jail Calls With Us
US prisons charge lots of money per minute for long distance inmate calls. The loved ones of inmates are left to pay this bill. For a ten minute phone call you may find yourself paying over one hundred dollars. With SecurTel, you can reduce this charge to a fraction of the cost and only pay the local calling rate. Make calls from across the US or internationally for the local rate and help your family stay connected during a difficult time. Learn more about how to sign up for inmate calls here.
About The Author
Lenard Arceo is an experienced writer who enjoys coding software when not working. He has been blogging for a number of renowned publications for years. His commitment to writing facts based content has allowed him to help his readers uncover the truth and render justice in their lives.