These spectacularly ridiculous weapons systems, vehicles, and concepts all made it at least to prototype, though whether they proved to be effective is up for debate. Most of these strange weapons are from World War II, when desperate countries threw together whatever they had to rally their people. The United States, Japan, Germany, and the Soviet Union all had their fair share of oddball ideas they each thought could help win the war. In all historical fairness, there were also no shortage of stupid weapon ideas during The Civil War. A few items on this list are modern weapons that are actually in use today.
What are the weirdest military weapons ever built? From weaponized animals to square bullets, engineers and weapons designers have come up with some crazy stuff over the years. Some of these weapons are so absurd, it’s funny to think that anyone ever thought they could work. Other weapons, while impractical, were inventive and innovative attempts to give soldiers a unique advantage. Either way, these weapons are strange. But what were the strangest weapons made? Read on to find out!
German for “curved barrel,” this was an attachment to the Stug 44 assault rifle that would allow the user to shoot around corners without exposing himself to enemy fire.
The Krummlauf was issued to tank crews for defending their vehicles against infantry, but rarely used and quickly withdrawn because of numerous design problems. Some of these included short barrel lifespans and bullets shattering as they came around the curves of the device. There were also multiple cases of friendly fire casualties among German troops who couldn’t see what they were shooting at.
Nuclear Landmines Kept Warm by Chickens
Designed as a way of deterring and stopping a Soviet invasion of Germany in the aftermath of World War II, Project Blue Peacock involved seeding the North German Plain with nuclear landmines. But the mines had to be kept warm to prevent spontaneous detonation, and British engineers devised a bizarre way to do it: chickens.
Chicken coops would be set up over the mines, and the body heat from the chickens would provide the needed warmth to prevent the mines from going off and turning half of Germany into a dead zone. But the scheme had a number of problems, the least of which is that the chickens wouldn’t live long, and it was never implemented.
Improvised Peshmerga Tanks
From the first armored tractors of World War I to the machine-gun strapped “technicals” of modern insurgencies, improvised armored vehicles are a staple of combat, even today. But for flare, style, and DIY spirit, few can beat the homemade tanks of the Peshmerga soldiers battling Syrian rebels and ISIS.
While the colorful and lightly armed machines have gotten ridicule from some, they represent an important element of the ground forces battling Islamic State for control of Iraq and Syria. They’re fast, well-protected and boost the morale of the soldiers fighting alongside them.
Numerous countries have turned to the animal kingdom to help find an edge in warfare – and the results were usually pretty subpar. Even going back to the late 1300s, Mongolian chieftains used flaming camels to disperse their enemies.
But World War II was the height of attempting to weaponize animals. The US experimented with strapping incendiary devices to bats that would be dropped over Japanese cities, and with “cat bombs” – using the maxim that cats always land on their feet to drop explosive felines onto enemy ships. Neither got past the experimental phase.
One plan that did come to fruition was the Soviet use of mined dogs – literally trained dogs with mines strapped to their backs, that would run under German tanks and explode. Reportedly these poor creatures destroyed over 300 German vehicles, though the program was stopped when it proved difficult to ensure the dogs would run in the right direction.
Antonov A-40 Flying Tank
Developed by Germany to destroy French forts on the Maginot Line, the giant cannon Schwerer Gustav was the largest piece of artillery ever used in combat, a massive railroad gun that could theoretically be brought to wherever it was needed. It could fling an eight ton shell over 37,000 meters. It also required a crew of 2,500 men to set up, could only fire 14 shells a day and took 45 minutes to re-load.
Two such guns were built by Germany, though only one ever fired shells in combat. Both were destroyed to prevent them from falling into Allied hands.
Ushakov’s Flying Submarine
Another unorthodox Soviet tank design, this was the brainchild of engineer Boris Ushakov, who developed a blueprint for a three-engined aircraft that would seal its outer hull with metal plates and dive, so it could fire its two torpedoes. The project was suspended in 1939, restarted in 1943 and built its first prototype in 1947. But by then, the war was over and Soviet military research was directed elsewhere.
The flying submarine never actually flew.
Davy Crockett Nuclear Rifle
Probably the smallest nuclear weapon ever developed, the Davy Crockett would give American soldiers in the field the ability to rain atomic fire on their enemies at ultra-close range.
Despite its small yield, inaccuracy, low range (only 2.5 miles) and the extreme danger it posed to anyone who used it, the US Army manufactured over 2,000 Davy Crocketts, deploying them from 1961 to 1971. A Davy Crockett test explosion was the last above-ground nuclear test in US history.
Japanese Sucide Weapons
In the last days of World War II, Japan deployed multiple vehicles designed for the sole purpose of committing suicide attacks against American ships. The Shin’yo suicide boat, Kaiten manned suicide sub, and Ohka suicide flying bomb were all used against US fleets in the 1945, though none had any drastic impact on the war effort.
Each was a small craft with enough engine power to take it out to a target, no weapons, a pilot sealed inside and a nose full of high explosives. Though these weapons did sink a number of smaller US vessels, they recorded no hits on large vessels, most were destroyed before they reached their targets, and the programs took men and manufacturing capability away from other, more sustainable defense projects.
Bob Semple Tank
This tank/tractor hybrid was designed by the eponymous New Zealand Minister of Works in the early days of WWII. It never saw action, and wasn’t actually meant to. Instead, it was a morale boosting project for the people of New Zealand, who were facing the very real threat of Japanese invasion.
They were homemade, cobbled together out of spare parts and sheet metal, and armed with only a few machine guns. They were also slow, unable to fire accurately and under-armored. Absurd design aside, the project did its job in rallying the nation and showing the Kiwi DIY spirit.
Facing a surplus of T-54 tanks and old jet engines, the Soviet Union smashed them together to create the Progvev-T gasdynamic trawler. This is literally a tank hull with a jet engine on it, with the theory being that the exhaust from the engine can be used to clear minefields.
The theory was flawed. The trawler was slow, an easy target that would spectacularly explode if hit and would destroy whatever was under the mines it was trying to clear.
Double Barrel Cannon
Not content to simply mount one six pounder gun on wheels, a Confederate designer built one with two guns on wheels, designed to fire two cannonballs linked by a chain.
The double cannon would have been devastating in close quarters, but it never saw action, due to the difficultly of firing both barrels at the exact same moment, with test shots sending both cannonballs and the chain flying in three different directions. It survived the war and lives on as a monument in Athens, GA.
The Gun That Fired Square Bullets
Possibly the world’s first automatic weapon, the Puckle Gun was designed in 1718 by James Puckle, a British lawyer and inventor. Clumsy, difficult to aim and ill-suited for warfare of the time, the Puckle appears to never have fired a shot in anger.
One of those shots was a square bullet, designed solely to be fired at Muslim Turks. Why design a bullet just for shooting at one particular religion? Because square bullets were thought to cause more damage, and would teach the Turks the benefits of living under Christian civilization.
The bullets were impossible to aim, and, like the Puckle Gun itself, a failure written off as a historical oddity.