Although you can’t bring scissors, gel candles, or even snow globes on an airplane, you can easily bring a homemade shotgun.
Evan Booth, a programmer by day and “security researcher” by night, has built, tested, and demonstrated not just a shotgun, but a whole arsenal of DIY weapons, made solely with items purchased in the airport AFTER the security screening. Booth decided to embark on this project when the TSA introduced body scanners, which he believes violate travelers’ privacy. He is quoted as saying:
“People who understand security understand that the current screening procedures exist primarily to put passengers at ease — security theater, if you will. They also know that, given enough time, a persistent attacker will succeed to some degree.”
“I think people have kind of been suspecting that the type of things I’ve built are possible, I just don’t think anyone’s ever taken the time to do it.”
“If we’re trying stop a terrorist threat at the airport, it’s already too late.”
The object of this research was to demonstrate weapons that are easily available around the airport and that the TSA is not actually doing much to keep us safe.
Booth was able to shoot pocket change out of his gun with enough power to blow a hole through Sheetrock. In addition to creating BLUNDERBUSiness, Booth made several other deadly weapons — also using common items purchased in airport stores.
The materials that Booth uses in his weapons aren’t necessarily what you’d expect in typical airport bombing equipment. Recurring ingredients include dental floss and magazines, Axe body spray, and condoms. The deadly weapons these ingredients combine to create arise from a combination of “MacGyver-esque” creative thinking sessions, good old-fashioned research, and a lot of experimentation. For example, 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, 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 a more genuine threat.
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.
“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, responsibly admitting that
“It’s pretty safe to say when I’m in build mode, my office is the least kid-friendly place on Earth.”