dirty tricks

I've given up my boyhood dreams of becoming a criminal mastermind and/or a super secret super spy. Nonetheless, my ears still perk up whenever I encounter or invent a particularly devious bit of tradecraft. Thus I've inaugurated this page to provide an outlet for these antisocial impulses when they pop up.

Velvet boxes of the type jewelery is commonly packaged in do not take fingerprints.

Recognize this? It's a velvet box of the type jewelery is commonly packaged in. Now guess what interesting property these boxes have besides being ubiquitously and inexpensively available.

Give up?

They're fingerprint-proof! The velvety exterior of the box is nearly impossible to recover fingerprints from using any known technique, making surplus jewelry boxes perfect containers for small incriminating items you might someday want to deny ownership of.

This notepad's made of paper that dissolves instantly in water.

Crime is complicated. Betting slips, black market sales records, sensitive codes and ciphers--all these things are too complex for most folks to keep track of in their heads without some kind of note-taking. But notes are dangerous! As my 8th-grade teacher Mr. Temme taught me: "Never leave a paper trail."

This otherwise-boring notepad is made of a paper specially formulated to dissolve instantly when exposed to water--even saliva! Just the thing for keeping track of incriminating information. When you see the flashing lights in your rear-view mirror or hear the battering ram against your door, all you have to do is pop the paper in your mouth, or in the toilet, and it's gone, together with whatever evidence might have been recorded on it. The stuff's available through various websites.

A cheap, easy, low-risk way to let the air out of somebody's tires.

This one'll make you want to get locking valve caps. It's an easy way to let the air out of somebody's tires, which is not a bad medium-response revenge tactic: It inconveniences the target terribly, but without doing any permanent property damage. All you do is take off the valve cap, slip a standard 0.177" ball bearing (the kind used for ammo in BB guns) inside, and then screw it back on until you hear the air hissing out. Then you walk away and the tire goes flat on its own. The threads on the cap are strong enough to compress the valve stopper against the BB, but the cap itself isn't air-tight.

The TeleSteps telescoping ladder in its collapsed configuration.

If you browse on over to www.socom.mil, the web presence of the United States Joint Special Operations Command, a bit of clicking will eventually lead you to this interesting document, entitled WHAT DOES USSOCOM BUY?", which describes the classes and particular types of items that the black-pajama-ninjas of all the major US Special Forces groups are interested in buying and (presumably) using in the field. On the first page, in the "WEAPONS" section, amongst such goodies as "Aerial Platform Non Line-of-Sight Weapons Systems" and "Man Portable Hand-held Stand-off Weapons" one finds the rather more mundane listing, "Assault Ladder Systems."

The TeleSteps telescoping ladder in its extended configuration.

Now, if you're like me, at this point you're wondering just what an "assault ladder system" might comprise. If you Google the phrase, you'll find a surprising number of answers. Among the most ingenious, IMHO, and (interestingly enough), one of the only contenders which is readily available on the civilian market, is the TeleSteps telescoping ladder from Sweden. The principle of the TeleSteps ladder is simple and ingenious; it wants only quality manufacture to be a brilliant product. Although I've heard reports of inferior rip-offs being sold on the American market, by all accounts the genuine Swedish-made TeleSteps is a hum-dinger. Although, at 30x18" when collapsed, it's by no means small, it's at least possible to carry it around discretely in the trunk of your car as opposed to, say, strapped to the roof (as would be required with a conventional ladder.)

Breakaway velcro ties, available in 4 colors from Quartermaster Uniforms.

One simply does not appear at the Baccarat table without a necktie. Unfortunately, as every gentleman spy knows, that same necktie becomes a serious liability when exchanging Judo throws with the villain's Ninja henchmen in the casino bathroom later on. In terms of hand-to-hand combat, the necktie might as well come with a label: "Pull here to choke wearer to death." Dying in this way, of course, is still preferable to being seen in public wearing a clip-on tie. Fortunately the good folks at Quartermaster Uniforms have the solution. These are real ties, pre-tied with an adjustable slipknot and equipped with a breakaway velcro fastener in back that hides under the shirt-collar. They're for sale in four colors, but it's such a simple modification that even those blunderers at Q-branch should have no problem fixing you up with a custom job.

Simple release trigger mechanism redrawn from Bill Holmes' 'Home Workshop Prototype Firearms.'

Much of the art of marksmanship consists of learning to pull the trigger without disturbing the sight picture. The longer the range, the harder this becomes to do, because even very small angular deviations begin to cause significant spread. Some trap shooters, target shooters, and snipers have figured out a way to alleviate the trigger-control problem. This is a so-called "release trigger," which does not fire the weapon until the trigger is released. Instead of aim-squeeze-fire-release the shooting sequence becomes squeeze-aim-release-fire, i.e. the firing action is simply a letting go of muscular tension instead of a contraction. This, unsurprisingly, is easier to do without disturbing the sight picture. Release triggers are increasingly common on precision longarms, but there's no reason why they might not be used to improve pistol marksmanship, as well.

In my opinion, a decocking lever is a necessary adjunct to a release trigger, so that the shot can be aborted after the trigger is pulled but before it is released. For this and other reasons, release triggers are more mechanically complex than standard pull-triggers. The disadvantages of increased complexity, of course, are increased expense and an increased number of failure modes. In practice, however, neither of these factors should be prohibitive.

So-called 'blast knuckles.' Not to be confused with 'blast monkey,' which is one funky monkey.

"Brass" knuckles with a built-in stun gun. Shock people. Works great for punching them, too. You can get one just like this from Cheaper Than Dirt, but if it were me, I'd wait for the next version, which will surely take a page from the book of the M1918 trench knife...

The M1918 is not the first trench knife to incorporate knuckles, but it's definitely the most wicked.

...and add a blade to the mix. Hell, while they're at it, they might as well borrow another page from the Peskett Close Combat Weapon...

The Peskett combines a club, dagger, and garotte in one handy pocket-sized implement.

...and add a small club at the opposite end and a retractable garotte on the backside. That would make...lessee...five different ways to fuck people up in one handy device. You could probably throw in a trigger in one of the finger-holes that would cause tear-gas to spray out from somewhere, too. And you could borrow another trick from the old Italian stiletto and have a second switch on the pommel to make poison run down the blade. That would be seven weapons, altogether. Once I figure out how to get the pole-arm in there, I'm gonna file for a patent.