Programmer by day, “security researcher” by night, Evan Booth has built, tested, and demonstrated not just a shotgun, but a whole comically named arsenal of DIY weapons, made solely with items purchased in the airport--after the security screening.

The object of the research is a demonstration that weapons are everywhere and that the "security theater" of the TSA is not doing that much to keep us safe.

“I think people have kind of been suspecting that the type of things I’ve built are possible,” says Booth, “I just don’t think anyone’s ever taken the time to do it.”

The project began after the introduction of body scanners. “It just seemed so invasive, really expensive,” he says. “And if you’re going to go through all that trouble getting into the terminal, why is all this stuff available in the terminal?”

The “stuff” Booth uses isn’t necessarily what you’d expect. Recurring ingredients include dental floss and magazines, Axe body spray, and condoms.

The deadly weapons these ingredients become arise from a combination of “MacGyver-esque” creative thinking and good old-fashioned research.

The early weapons are low-tech. On his Terminal Cornucopia website--and in hilarious talks at security conferences--he shows how magazine-and-fridge-magnet “Chucks of Liberty” nunchucks can shatter a coconut, and a crossbow (“Cerrsberr”) made from umbrella ribs can put an arrow through a watermelon.

But some weapons pose what seems like a genuine threat. “That really only happened recently,” says Booth. He realized that airport stores sell lithium metal batteries, which, when combined with water, create a chemical reaction with enough heat to explode a bottle of Axe.

This is what powers his “Blunderbussiness Class” shotgun, which he demonstrates shooting $1.33 in pocket change through a piece of drywall, as well as his “Fraguccino” thermos grenade.

“Right now if I wanted to build something very potent, I would probably go toward lithium,” says Booth.

Before you call the FBI or the TSA, you might be slightly comforted to know that Booth says he’s been sending both agencies reports before putting any of the data online.

So far the TSA hasn't called, but the FBI did come by for an unannounced visit.

He says their questions centered on whether he had actually assembled any weapons at the airport; he hadn’t. (He does his work in a garage and home office in Greensboro, North Carolina.)

Booth took the opportunity to ask them for research funding, but was told there was nothing available. “It would have been awesome if I’d had access to, like, a cockpit door,” he says.

2013-11-25

Co.Exist

The TSA Is No Match For This Mad Scientist And His Gun Made With Junk From Airport Stores

Evan Booth hacks together working weapons--like a shotgun, a grenade, and a crossbow--with purchases anyone can make after they go through security, to show that the TSA is more spectacle than real protection. And the FBI is taking notice.

Things you can’t bring on a plane: Scissors, gel candles, large snow globes.

Things you can bring on a plane: A homemade shotgun.

Programmer by day, “security researcher” by night, Evan Booth has built, tested, and demonstrated not just a shotgun, but a whole comically named arsenal of DIY weapons, made solely with items purchased in the airport--after the security screening.

Booth's instructions on using lithium batteries and Axe body spray to create a working shotgun, the Blunderbusiness Class which he test by firing spare change through dry wall.

“I think people have kind of been suspecting that the type of things I’ve built are possible,” says Booth, “I just don’t think anyone’s ever taken the time to do it.” The object of the research is a demonstration--half silly, half disturbing--that weapons are everywhere and that the "security theater" of the TSA is not doing that much to keep us safe.

"If we're trying stop a terrorist threat at the airport," says Booth. "It's already too late."

The project began after the introduction of body scanners. “It just seemed so invasive, really expensive,” he says. “And if you’re going to go through all that trouble getting into the terminal, why is all this stuff available in the terminal?”

The “stuff” Booth uses isn’t necessarily what you’d expect. Recurring ingredients include dental floss and magazines, Axe body spray, and condoms.

In this video, Booth demonstrates how his airport-made crossbow can shoot a projectile into a human-head-like watermelon.

The deadly weapons these ingredients become arise from a combination of “MacGyver-esque” creative thinking and good old-fashioned research. To figure out how someone might build a bulletproof vest to protect against an air marshal's gun, Booth, says: “I specifically Googled ‘roughly how many pages can a 9 mm FMJ penetrate,'” he says. “I think it was around 500.”

The early weapons are low-tech. On his Terminal Cornucopia website--and in hilarious talks at security conferences--he shows how magazine-and-fridge-magnet “Chucks of Liberty” nunchucks can shatter a coconut, and a crossbow (“Cerrsberr”) made from umbrella ribs can put an arrow through a watermelon.

But some weapons pose what seems like a genuine threat. “That really only happened recently,” says Booth. He realized that airport stores sell lithium metal batteries, which, when combined with water, create a chemical reaction with enough heat to explode a bottle of Axe. This is what powers his “Blunderbussiness Class” shotgun, which he demonstrates shooting $1.33 in pocket change through a piece of drywall, as well as his “Fraguccino” thermos grenade. “Right now if I wanted to build something very potent, I would probably go toward lithium,” says Booth.

For a less subtle weapon (and message), Booth shows that you can make a club using a copy of the Constitution and a replica of the Washington Monument.

Before you call the FBI or the TSA, you might be slightly comforted to know that Booth says he’s been sending both agencies reports before putting any of the data online. So far the TSA hasn't called, but the FBI did come by for an unannounced visit. “That was really the first time that I knew someone had looked over the material and put together a report on their end,” he says. “That was encouraging.” He says their questions centered on whether he had actually assembled any weapons at the airport; he hadn’t. (He does his work in a garage and home office in Greensboro, North Carolina.)

Booth took the opportunity to ask them for research funding, but was told there was nothing available. “It would have been awesome if I’d had access to, like, a cockpit door,” he says.

He plans to continue as a freelancer, and has some chemicals as well as a stun gun in mind. But for now he's on hiatus, at least until his daughter is born in December. After that, he may have to figure out a new location for his work. “It pretty safe to say when I'm in build mode, my office is the least kid-friendly place on Earth,” he says.

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27 Comments

  • Charlas

    Some day they'll make us all fly nekkid and there WILL be a forced evacuation, if you get my drift...

  • Elliander Eldridge

    Not that the body scanners can even stop someone from bringing weapons into the airports. A weapon placed against the skin at the contour of the body is just as invisible as an object placed inside the body. In fact, a known terrorist who was pretending to defect successfully made it through the same type of security and blew himself up next to a Saudi prince. If it can't even catch KNOWN terrorists, who can it catch? The fact is that these systems make people less safe because it creates a false sense of security. A simple back hand touch and a metal detector works so much better, but since a person going through the scanner is neither made to walk through a metal detector or be checked (with rare exceptions) these body scanners are the best friends of terrorists.

    Not that any of the terrorist bombings ever really worked. It's very difficult to even plan a bombing of an airplane, and simple things always defeat it. The terrorist who blew himself didn't injure anyone other than himself because his body absorbed most of the force. The shoe bomber failed because of a little natural sweat. The underwear bomber was only able to catch fire (and the body scanners cannot see underwear explosives either). Time and again people have tried, and failed, to hurt anyone in these ways. The only way a terrorist can do any damage would be by infiltrating the airlines and/or overpowering the crew which happened once, but took years of planning. In such cases these security measures wouldn't work, but better intelligence is all it would take to prevent a tragedy.

    Infrared cameras placed throughout the airport with an intelligent computer system that recognizes suspicious body language and facial expressions would be infinitely more effective at a fraction of the cost. It would identify if someone is bringing in a weapon or building a new one. Agents could approach a suspect in the airport if and when the situation called for it and leave everyone else alone.

    ahh, but then the company that makes the body scanners would go out of business.

  • Vernon6

    The only things that have made air travel safer from terrorism since 9/11 is more aware passengers and reinforced cockpit doors. That's it.

  • Itani Milleni

    Why go through the trouble of passing thru TAS checkpoint and rig up some weapon? You can do more damage blowing up the whole airport or a shopping mall.

  • thomas C

    I just wonder if the worse thing we can possibly think of is a terrorist, getting on a plane and blowing it up. Is that really our greatest fear? Although we've come close, shoe bomber, underwear man.... But just give the whole thing some thought for awhile, what if the frequency of bombing public places, which is a whole heck of a lot easier to do!, became more common place? Well, it hasn't either. Even easier, what if terrorists just decided to go to our schools and kill some children, you know like pay back for our drones killing theirs. Hasn't happened yet either. So why are Earth are we so freaked out about terrorists in the airport, when there's a reality of other things that ARE happening that are killing innocent people, that we do little about? I may not be explaining myself well, but Do you get my drift?

  • anglocooler48

    Your 'drift' is dead on. We're devoting maximum resources to just one of an infinite number of remote possibilities. It's insane.

  • Roxanne Palmer

    interesting! buuut... 'gun that completely explodes when fired' is hardly a 'working shotgun' :p

  • AustinTXProgrammer

    That "gun" would hurt anyone using it. The cross bow looks ineffective (shure, you might get a lucky hit). Frankly someone with good marshal arts training could do far more damage with less risk to themselves.

    I agree that the TSA is mostly security theater, but lets face it. Prisoners have been making shanks as long as prisons have existed. If we can't keep weapons out of a prison we aren't going to keep them out of airports.

  • penguinstorm

    Just imagine what someone with correct spelling and grammar could do!

    (I count four major mistakes in 78 words. I'd calculate that as a percentage, but I suspect you could use the math practice so knock yourself out!)

  • troydub

    Remember, the 9/11 terrorists hijacked the planes with box cutters... all you need is the threat and crossbows are pretty simple to make. They didn't have the sophisticated types you see today back in the day and they killed buffalo with them.

  • thomas C

    And would you think that its a hijack next time? I don't think so, the game is for keeps now. Passengers knowing that they are going to die aren't just going to sit there and hope they have enough fuel to get to Cuba.

  • Dan

    People are fearful ignoramuses. 'Sit back and enjoy the ride' may as well be their motto.

    Now, if everyone on the plane had a gun, I doubt any hijackings would ever take place.

  • Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum

    So I expect they'll now be taking our magazines, newspapers and dental floss. Some day they'll make us all fly nekkid and there WILL be a forced evacuation, if you get my drift...

  • Austin2222

    An even easier way to do damage is to bomb the airport before the TSA check. Terrorists are realizing that you don't have to pass security to encounter packed places.