Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?

Potato Bazookas 672

Zog The Undeniable writes "The latest craze in Germany is "Kartoffelkanone" or potato bazookas. These use hairspray ignited by a spark to fire potatoes at colossal speeds. The authorities are not amused." Everyone needs a hobby I guess.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Potato Bazookas

Comments Filter:
  • Odd. (Score:5, Funny)

    by g(zerofunk.org) ( 596290 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @10:48AM (#5181235) Homepage
    Bet you can't shoot just one!
    • Re:Odd. (Score:5, Funny)

      by giel ( 554962 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @11:06AM (#5181386) Journal

      Sooner or later Iraq will have to prove they don't own potatoes.

      • Re:Odd. (Score:4, Funny)

        by billybob2001 ( 234675 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @11:17AM (#5181473)
        Guess they'll be designated

        Weapons of Mash Destruction.
      • Re:Odd. (Score:5, Funny)

        by HyperLemur ( 622212 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @12:33PM (#5182075) Journal
        You mean...SPUD missiles?
      • Re:Odd. (Score:5, Funny)

        by Ralph Wiggam ( 22354 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @01:49PM (#5182611) Homepage
        I'm imagining Dubya at the 2004 state of the union:

        "The threat that Ireland poses to the stability of the world cannot be ignored. The vegatable inspection process has been a failure. Our only option now is to forcibly remove these dangerous foods from the hands of the evil Irish." ...
        "And as part of my economic stimulus package, I propose cutting taxes from all Americans with the last names of Bush or Cheney. This will help all middle class Americans...somehow. God bless America. Good night."

      • by MickLinux ( 579158 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @03:05PM (#5183377) Journal
        I just think it's interesting that the blunderbuss has been reinvented. But the fact that they're aiming them at people is real bad, I think.

        That said, you are seeing the true meaning of the American 2nd Amendment: each amendment prohibits the government from trying to do something that is highly stupid, because it can't.

        Governments that try to violate those principles get away with it for a time -- but either they learn, or they fall, or the country fails.

        In the case of the 2nd Amendment, you can't prevent people from defending themselves; and arming themselves is part of that.

    • Imagine... (Score:5, Funny)

      by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @12:37PM (#5182102) Homepage Journal
      Bet you can't shoot just one!

      Imagine Dirty Harry working in a fast food restaurant...

      "You want fries with that?"

      • by sharkey ( 16670 )
        Imagine Dirty Harry working in a fast food restaurant...

        "I know what you're thinking, 'Did he use beef juice, or only vegetable oil?' Well, seeing as how these are McDonald's French Fries, the most prolific French Fries in the world, you have to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya, punk?"

    • Re:Odd. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by devilbat ( 560087 )
      I made one of these out of schedule 40 PVC tube from Lowes. Propellent is Aquanet and it's ignited with a grill starter wired to a lawnmower sparkplug. Still have it it's in my garage. 6ft long projects a potato at a little better than 200mph. The power of these things is pretty shocking actually. I cut one of the potatos in half and put a nice big rock in front of it. Kinda used it like the wadding in a shotgun. I shot it at an old steel lawnchair. The rock went right though it. Although I haven't done the calculation I would bet $1 that the amount of energy delivered from one of these potato guns is higher than a .45 or probably any other pistol this side of a .44 mag. Make one of these, get 25lb of potatos. You will giggle for hours.
  • Hardly new (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kramer ( 19951 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @10:49AM (#5181239) Homepage
    We made one in our Physics class in high school. I'm due to go to my 10 year high school reunion in a little more than a year.
    • by Cpt_Kirks ( 37296 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @10:56AM (#5181313)
      Pity the poor Germans. Once they led the world in starch based weapons technology, now they have to play a distant game of catch up.

      The Iraqis don't stand a chance against our mighty potato cannon, not to mention our highly intelligent french fry cluster bombs!
      • by Pii ( 1955 ) <jediNO@SPAMlightsaber.org> on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @11:25AM (#5181530) Journal
        That some boys are playing with Spud guns is not what makes this a newsworthy story.

        Nay, it is the fact that they are German boys that makes this a newsworthy story.

        In the late 80s, Ronald Reagan issued a challenge to then Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. During his famous speech in Berlin, he said:

        "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

        Shortly therafter, the Berlin wall was no more, paving the way for German unification.

        People with no sense of history thought this to be a good thing, but myself, I saw these occurrances for their true nature. A unified Germany can mean only one thing... It's only a matter of time before massive, well equipped, well trained German armies are marching all over Europe.

        Others deny this conclusion, and some have actually made statements to the effect of:

        • Germany finally learned it's lesson during the last century...
        • Europe has changed. The EU is proof that Europeans have come to value cooperation more than conquest... Or:
        • Yeah, like Germany could just roll over France! As if!

        Be wary, my Slashdotting friends. It's only a matter of time before the people of Germany grow restless, pretending to be friends with the rest of their European neighbors. Already, German youth have turned their attentions to the design and manufacure of inexpensive, abundant, starch weapons.

        Heed my warning... It's only a matter of time...

      • by seann ( 307009 )
        game of "ketchup"?
    • by swordboy ( 472941 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @11:12AM (#5181435) Journal
      Here's a letter from the ATF regarding the legality of the "spud gun" [tommasi.org]. Note the date - September 12, 1995.

      Definitely old news...
    • Re:Hardly new (Score:3, Interesting)

      by nanojath ( 265940 )
      I prefer the slightly less ballistic CO2 powered version - Although it takes a quick and steady hand: drop a chunk of dry ice into a plastic soda bottle , add water, cap tightly, drop down the pipe (we used PVC set in concrete in a gallon ice cream bucket)quick shove down some newspaper for wadding followed by the ammo - a cylinder of ice frozen in a can. Of course, I live in Minnesota where preteens and drunken farmers roam the countryside with rifles and shotguns come hunting season, so I'm possibly more blase about this kind of thing...
    • by macdaddy357 ( 582412 ) <macdaddy357@hotmail.com> on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @11:48AM (#5181731)
      Back in the seventies, the neighborhood pyros would use the top of a kids' swingset as a cannon. They would stuff a racketball in one end, light an M-80, and stick it in the other, followed by a dirt clod to plug it up, and launch the racketball. It flew like a bullet. Part of the game was to launch it horizontally, then have someone try to catch it with a baseball mit. The craziest thing about this story is that the guys doing this were adults, and the people watching were kids! Talk about setting an example. I think they were potheads, though.
  • by Kintanon ( 65528 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @10:50AM (#5181247) Homepage Journal
    The germans JUST NOW discovered potato guns? Damn, get with the program people!
    Just wait until they figure that if you fill a tin can with cement you can put a hole through a car, not just a big dent in the side.

    • by G-funk ( 22712 ) <josh@gfunk007.com> on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @10:55AM (#5181298) Homepage Journal
      I find it's easier to simply get a matching diamater chunk of potato and put it in the freezer for a day :)

      frozen oranges are good too if you've got the right diamater pvc
      • by sklib ( 26440 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @11:11AM (#5181420)
        Another option is harnessing years of aerodynamics research and firing golf balls.

        For added fun, take your cannon to the course!
    • by kris ( 824 ) <kris-slashdot@koehntopp.de> on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @11:02AM (#5181355) Homepage
      No, german kids have always been building things that go boom, as did kids all over the world. It is the german magazine DER SPIEGEL [spiegel.de] which discovered the topic and decided to make it an issue just now. Seems to fit with the overall mood, US going to war in Irak and weapons inspections and all.

    • by Black Copter Control ( 464012 ) <samuel-local@@@bcgreen...com> on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @11:09AM (#5181403) Homepage Journal
      The issue here is not that potatoe guns exist. It's that they're becoming popular.

      A couple dozen kids playing with the things is simply annoying. When you get thousands, the statistics start to catch up with you.

      When they start being 'in', the nature of the problem also shifts. You start to leave the domain of 'geeks playing with tech' and get into the realm of 'jocks playing with weapons'. It's a completly different mindset -- one with far less interest in (or even knowledge of) safety.issues.

      A geek firing a cement-filled cannister at a brick wall is one thing. A jock firing a cement-filled cannister at his favorite geek target is another. The first death from one of these things is not going to be pretty.

      • Good point. (Score:5, Informative)

        by Andy Dodd ( 701 ) <atd7.cornell@edu> on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @11:20AM (#5181499) Homepage
        It sounds like these have gone from "geek hobby" to "mainstream danger"

        Good thing most of these kids are probably too stupid to make a pneumatic spudgun. Far safer for the operator, but FAR more dangerous for people at the wrong end of the cannon. (Pneumatic spudguns use a constant pressure for most of the firing cycle, rather than the quick spike of pressure from combustion. As a result, pneumatics can pack a LOT more power into a gun while stressing the components less.)
        • Re:Good point. (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Kymermosst ( 33885 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @01:13PM (#5182361) Journal
          Ahhh the days of design tech.

          I designed a pneumatic gun with interchangeable barrels that was designed to fire anything from a shooter marble all the way up to a roll of toilet paper.

          Dual pressure guages, expandable air chamber, positive-pressure locking system, and one-way airflow between the firing pressure chamber and the main air chamber.

          Paint sprayer parts make the bulk of the guts.

          Ahhh.... I really should finish putting it together. It'd be great to actually fire it. I wanted muzzle velocity to exceed the speed of sound.

      • by gorgon ( 12965 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @11:37AM (#5181639) Homepage Journal
        Nice use of stereotypes. Your basic point about the popularity of spud guns being the problem is valid, but the whole "geeks" and "jocks" thing is irrelevant. There are plenty of examples of kids who could be classified as jocks playing with tech toys, and as Columbine showed there are plenty of examples of those sometimes labelled as "geeks" playing with conventional weapons.
      • by carlos_benj ( 140796 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @11:41AM (#5181670) Journal
        The issue here is not that potatoe guns exist.

        Dan Quayle reads /.?
  • ther German should immediately pass a homeland security act to combat these behaviour of terrorism.
  • That doesn't make them any less fun, though. For Xmas I got Backyard Ballistics [amazon.com] which documents how to create a potato gun as well as many other loud and violent ballistic weaponry for children of all ages. Highly recommended.
  • Damage (Score:5, Funny)

    by SPF6 ( 627659 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @10:52AM (#5181265)
    Potato's as weapons. You could supply an army and feed them at the same time. Kill two birds with one stone.
  • The nannies in the California legislature banned spud cannons some time ago. Living here is like having an overprotective and dysfunctional mother living with you.
  • by Ratface ( 21117 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @10:52AM (#5181270) Homepage Journal
    ... only the Germans will have potato guns! :-D

  • I'm sort of surprised to see this posted here, as potato cannon are made by almost every young boy when growing up. Especially engineery types who end up reading Slashdot, I'd think.

    Funny also to see the authorities upset about it. In the US, our relative comfort with weapons of all sorts probably allows us to more easily accept that "boys will be boys."

    While the danger of such a device is frightening, I cannot but believe that in the right hands, a potato cannon could be used as a weapon for good.
  • Home Depot..... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by alexc ( 37361 )
    A guy who worked at home depot actually helped my friends create a potato gun.. Needless to say the advice he gave was great.
  • by giel ( 554962 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @10:54AM (#5181284) Journal

    For anyone interested in doing this too, building instructions can be found here [lycos.de]

  • I had one... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ruiner13 ( 527499 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @10:54AM (#5181287) Homepage
    I had one in high school. WE used to steal the electronic ignighters off of our neighbor's bar-b-que grills to create the spark. After testing every product, we found that starting fluid (basically ether) gave the best launches. The next best is that aqua net hair spray crap that everyone's grandma uses to make their helmet hair. Once, we even made a double-barreled one, which actually worked pretty well (seperate chambers and ignighters). I wish i still had pictures!
    • Re:I had one... (Score:5, Informative)

      by bmwm3nut ( 556681 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @11:08AM (#5181396)
      even better, acetylene. any hobby store sells calcium carbide (the stuff in old miner's helmets to make the light). just put a little calcium carbide in water and you have instant acetylene (used for welding). ignite that with a gas grill ignitor and you can easily have potatoes going 150mph. when i was little my brother and i experimented with many different style guns. the best we came up with was using acetylene as the propellant and using a 1 inch pvc barrel (rahter than the traditional 2 inch). you couldn't shoot a whole potato with it, but the part you did shoot went about 150mph. (we figured that out by timing how long the potato stayed in the air when shot vertically).
  • by AmigaAvenger ( 210519 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @10:54AM (#5181289) Journal
    Not like no one else has done this on the net. Here are detailed instructions (at least enough to build) if you are so inclined... http://blizzard.rwic.und.edu/~nordlie/cannon/
  • by vasqzr ( 619165 ) <vasqzr@n[ ]cape.net ['ets' in gap]> on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @10:54AM (#5181290)

    Old, but very sweet!

    GotSpud? [gotspud.com]

    Tony's page [tommasi.org]

    Spudweizer [tripod.com]

    Simple Spudgun [mshamash.com]

    My mom would never let me build one when I lived at home, so now's my chance. AND, I'll be prosecuted as an adult, and possibly an 'American Terrorist'
  • remember the pumpkin cannon [cnn.com] guy from october?
  • Overrated (Score:3, Informative)

    by mseeger ( 40923 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @10:55AM (#5181305)

    the story calling it "craze" is somewhat overrated. At every time in the last 50 years, kids have built something that goes boom. I think that is the same in every other country.

    I live here and i haven't seen or heard of a single "Kartoffelkanone" prior to the article and the photos of the SPIEGEL magazine [spiegel.de].

    At least it's an interesting method of delivering mashed potatoes.

    Yours, Martin

  • by schematix ( 533634 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @10:57AM (#5181318) Homepage
    It just so happens I had this same hobby a few years back. Except we used propane as the fuel and golf balls as the projectiles. Tiger Woods beware! It was truly amazing to see a golf ball launched several hundred yards, almost out of sight. For those interested, www.spudtech.com has a load of information on these fun toys.
  • by Doctor Fishboy ( 120462 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @10:57AM (#5181321)
    My friends and I built a potato canon and regularly fired it over the skies over Tucson. It was fun to a potato hang in the air for up to 10 seconds at a time, and a bit of basic math estimated it to travel over 1/3 a mile. Beware though that the potato emerges at about 100 miles per hour (but slows down alomost immediately due to air resistance).

    We stopped fiting it after we stuck a 1/4 inch thick board of plywood about 3 feet in front of the canon and fired away.

    Damned if that potato didn't punch a perfect 4 inch hole through that board. As the potato emerged on the far side though, it almost completely stripped off the last ply layer from the board.

    We gained a new respect for tuber-based weaponry that day....

    Dr Fish
  • by stephenisu ( 580105 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @10:57AM (#5181323)
    Reminds me of the time a couple of Iowa State students got out of trouble for having a spud gun by claiming it was an internal combustion engine. When the officer asked where the piston was, they replied "About 5 blocks that a way.."
    • by 3waygeek ( 58990 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @11:21AM (#5181504)
      Another good explosive mixture is solid welding fuel (contains potassium chlorate) and powdered sugar.

      Back in my Iowa State days (81-87), my roomie and I mixed up a batch and set it off in an old parking meter pole -- made a great mortar. At the time, we were living across the street from Dugan's Deli; when we set off the mortar, lots of drunks came out and asked what was going on. We told them the university's physical plant blew up, and they, in their intoxicated state, seemed to believe it.
  • by zeus_tfc ( 222250 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @10:57AM (#5181324) Homepage Journal
    My favorite part of the article:
    German police fear that the youths will turn to more lethal ammunition than potatoes. Tests have shown that such a bazooka firing an empty film canister filled with sand and the cardboard centres of toilet rolls filled with cement could penetrate brickwork.

    I can just picture these "experts" in a lab doing "testing".

    It probably went something like "Whoa, that was way cool, lets see what else we can use. Hey, if we use something really heavy it'll be just like those cannons on junkyard wars!"

    Those guys must have a cool job.
  • by nettdata ( 88196 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @11:00AM (#5181341) Homepage
    From the story:

    German police fear that the youths will turn to more lethal ammunition than potatoes. Tests have shown that such a bazooka firing an empty film canister filled with sand and the cardboard centres of toilet rolls filled with cement could penetrate brickwork.

    I love that... "hey kids, those potato gun things are WAY too dangerous for you! Don't try it, but THESE things are WAY more destructive!"

    Ya gotta wonder.
  • by Slightly Askew ( 638918 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @11:01AM (#5181342) Journal

    Hairspray is for wimps...real men use compressed air. Compressed air is much more powerful, you don't have the legal ramifications of using an explosive, and it's cheaper than hairspray. It takes a little more work to get it air-tight, and you have to buy a thicker PVC pipe, but the results are worth the extra effort.

    • by kc8apf ( 89233 ) <kc8apfNO@SPAMkc8apf.net> on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @11:12AM (#5181423) Homepage
      And after you done with wussy air, you move on to better things like CO2. We had a friend at a welding supply shop that got up 80lb tanks of CO2. Hook that up to a potato cannon, add a 3/4 turn brass valve and you've got a lot better cannon than air.

      The initial test of it shot it out the door of the place i was working, over the parking lot (12 cars), across 5 lanes of traffic, over a Kroger's and associated parking lot, and into the field behind it. We deemed it a success.

      Now, propane we were a bit leary to try.
  • Wow... (Score:5, Funny)

    by new death barbie ( 240326 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @11:01AM (#5181348)
    An apple fired from one of the guns almost took out the eye of a middle-aged man near the Baltic coast.

    ...that's got to be distance record...

  • by Scratch-O-Matic ( 245992 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @11:02AM (#5181354)
    when I was a kid. We took a used model rocket motor and duct-taped it to the top of a wooden gun, with the nozzle to the rear. We'd put a firecracker in the motor casing, with the fuse sticking back through the nozzle. We were fortunate enough to have an olive tree in our yard...fresh olives are about as hard as avacados. We put an olive down the tube, in front of the firecracker, and light the fuse. It could cause welts at 15 yards. Later improvements included a mounted lighter for ignition. Not one eye was put out that summer.
  • by cybrpnk2 ( 579066 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @11:03AM (#5181359) Homepage
    Check out this story [scifitoday.com] we ran over on Sci-Fi Today which included some relevant links. You can get Sci-Fi Today daily headlines on your Slashdot home page by clicking here [slashdot.org] and putting a checkmark in the Sci-Fi Today box. Or heck, just join us as a member [scifitoday.com] and help us build a science-oriented discussion community!
  • When we were young (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rhadamanthus ( 200665 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @11:04AM (#5181366)
    and stupid, we made several of these.

    The most "impressive" one was a 6ft long black barreled cannon known as "black beauty". It had an ignition switch from a grill, eliminating more clumsy homemade solutions for ignition and could put a potato through a wooden fence from about 20 yards. It could fire them @150 yards on a good day. It was tremendously dangerous, with a 3 foot flame shooting out of the barrel each time you fired it. The heat and pressure on the piping caused it to crack and need replacement, a function often ignored by my more idiotic friends. Here in texas some younger kids at my church got caught firing one in a golf course not too long ago and recieved some fines from the local police. These things are not safe...

    My last memory of that cannon involved modification to shoot sprays of water. Ignition, upon filling the barrel with water after placing a "separator" in the piping caused a huge spray of water and steam to eject in every direction. Took the bark right off of trees...


  • by revision1_1 ( 69575 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @11:04AM (#5181370) Homepage
    I went back to my parents house to build one (and test fire, since the apartment complex I was living in presented an environment a little too target-rich). After the PVC cement dried and I completed some test firing with a rag stuffed into the barrel, I managed to put a potato into the air, across the street, over the house across the street and smack into a humongous water tower that has loomed over my childhood memories for 20 years.

    Talk about a thrill. It was early evening, and a little dark, so you could see the long tongue of orange flaming Aqua-net.

    First a click (of the grill igniter in the trigger)...then a sort of "thomp" sound...then a long silence...then a huge, resounding GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG sound.

    It was awesome. A childhood dream come true.

    I need to build another.
  • We have done this for physics often... no explosives or flammables involved. (I know... where's the fun then :} )

    All you need is a length of pipe that just barely fits a pingpong (table tennis whatever) ball through it. Fit a connector into one end of it that can hook to a vacuum pump.

    Ok.. now here is the operation.
    *WARNING do not have anything in line with EITHER end of this device!!! It is VERY unlikely but either end can give way and it fire either direction!*

    Place the pingpong ball in the pipe. Place a single piece of plastic packing tape over each end. (Clear or brown... not filament!)

    Use your pump and lower the pressure as far as you can. (You will have to expirement to make sure you can get it that low without imploding the tape on the ends)

    When ready to fire.. put end with fitting slightly lower. Wait for pingpong ball to settle at that end of the tube. Aim. Using something sharp or pointed pierce the tape on that end of the pipe.

    Bye-bye pingpong ball :}

    Basically the inrush of air propels the ball through the tube and straight through the tape on the other end. We have clocked these pingpong balls in excess of 150mph :}

    Please only do this under carefully controlled circumstances... It makes a great science expirement and is relatively safe. But as always be careful, wear protection and DON'T BE STUPID.

    BTW You can pick up used vacuum pumps for cheap on Ebay... cheaper than 20 or 30 cans of hairspray so...
  • by Alcohol Fueled ( 603402 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @11:09AM (#5181401) Homepage
    Having heard of these new potato guns that fire spuds at speeds close to those of rockets, terrorists have begun flocking to Idaho, where potatos are grown by the millions and starting their own potato farms.

    In a crazy incident, American soldiers came under heavy potato fire while during a training mission in the Middle East. The American soldiers managed to escape unharmed, except for one who was turned into a human mashed potato. The attackers were captured and taken to Guantanomo Bay, Cuba, where they are being held indefinitely and treated poorly. After ten hours of being asked where the odd weapons came from, one Arab replied, "We got the guns from Germany, but Habeeb the potato farmer in Idaho supplied the ammunition!"

    And also in related news, Iraq has begun importing more and more potatos, under the cover of "food for humanitarian aid."

    Great... just what we need. Instead of firing SCUDS, Iraq will just fire SPUDS at us. :)

  • by John Harrison ( 223649 ) <johnharrison AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @11:19AM (#5181490) Homepage Journal
    One year driving back from winter break a large group of us stopped off at Circus Circus and actually had some fun there doing the carnival games. We ended up with a lot of small stuffed animals including several penguins. We discovered that the penguins fit very nicely in the barrel of our potato gun. They soon became standard ammo to be launched off our balconey at a variety of targets. You got the same boom of launching fruit but with less danger and less mess. Of course they didn't fly as far as that one legendary apple, but that helped them be a recoverable form of ammo, good for using again and again.

    Now if only RMS had seen us launching little penguins... he would have made us call it a GNU/Gun.

  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @11:26AM (#5181546) Homepage
    Personally we've been using caps (like you use in cap pistols) to make non-directional "bombs" for fun. Use one as ammunition inside a pipe and you could do just as good as hair spray I'd think.

    1 roll: Like a fire-cracker
    6 rolls: Triggered car alarm several meters away...
    18 rolls: Blow mail box to bits (confined space)
    50 rolls: What can I say? The entire street noticed...
    150 rolls: Felt serious shock wave at about 7-8m distance (ears protected)
    450 rolls: We considered it, but dropped it due to strategic arms limitation treaties ;)

  • by Etrigan_696 ( 192479 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @11:30AM (#5181571)
    Potato guns are new to germans? Maybe that's why they came out on the bad end of two world wars...Rednecks in Kentucky are years ahead of them....

    We've made potato guns of all shapes and sizes. We even made one out of 1/2" steel walled pipe that used a bottle of propane from a camp stove, an oxygen bottle from a welding torch and a BBQ ignitor magneto. That one (We called it "Big Bertha") weighed over 100 lbs and we never found any of the potatos we shot out of it. I think they ended up in low earth orbit.

    My senior year of high school (1991) we decided to pull the greatest prank we could think of...Shell the high school with potatos. However, when we saw the dents they made in the roof of my friend's truck we decided against it.
    SO.... We got a waterballoon ballista - basically a huge slingshot manned by three guys - two to hold the ends and one to load, pull back and fire.
    So we waited till lunch, snuck out of school to my friend's house a block over and loaded up the ballista. Another friend was on a payphone at school which we called from the house - he was our forward observer. After a few shots, he had us zeroed in on the bench where all the "big haired" girls sat. We got two shots off before the first one hit, had them screaming and frozen in panic and soaked them perfectly. No one knew what the hell was going on. But because we were a block away, we didn't get to see the girls in the wet t-shirts. DAMN the luck!
  • by Roofus ( 15591 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @11:34AM (#5181606) Homepage
    When I was at Penn State, I remember reading a newspaper story about the prestigous Atherton Hotel. Apparently it had been under mortar fire from a potato gun for several weeks straight! I wish I had known who did it. I think the idea of urban potato warfare in State College would have been a blast =)
  • by Inda ( 580031 ) <slash.20.inda@spamgourmet.com> on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @11:57AM (#5181810) Journal
    Seems like a lot of people on here are reminiscing about their childhood so here goes: Coming from a farming village there were many things to play with on the farms in my area. One of the coolest things was a crow-scarer. It was a tube about 1.5 meters long that was connected at a 45 degree angle to its frame and storage box. Every 10 minutes the pressure would build up inside the tube and the propane gas would be released making a loud bang, scaring the crows. I don't think that the gas was ignited though. We stuffed all manner of things down the tube; turnips, cow pats, people's socks and shoes, gravel. Nothing really worked; it all got jammed about halfway down... until we found some empty paint tins. Putting these over the end of the tube kept the pressure in for longer, and boy would they fly. Using people's bikes as target practice was great fun The only problem was that we couldn't adjust the timing so waiting 10 minutes for each bang got boring after a while.
  • Playing with fire (Score:5, Interesting)

    by babbage ( 61057 ) <cdevers@@@cis...usouthal...edu> on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @12:10PM (#5181910) Homepage Journal
    Heh, I remember these. My sophomore year of college, several of my friends got into building potato guns. They'd all build their different guns and fire them out the window of one of the dorms, where they could arc through the air & land in a soccer field a quarter of a mile away -- scaring the bejezus out of anyone that happened to be walking around in the process :-)

    Building the things was pretty simple -- all you need is a strong tube, a projectile, propellant, and an ignition system. As others in this thread have mentioned, my friends' ignition of choice was the ignitor from old BBG grills. This worked fairly well -- you actually get a trigger to work with -- but they always seemed to break down after a while, so the design had to be built such that you could swap out the ignitition every now and then.

    That is how Jeff burned his damn face off :-)

    See, like I say, everyone would just sit around in their dorm, building these guns and preparing their next shots. Jeff was about to shoot his when, wouldn't you know it, the ignition jammed. Bummer. So as usual, he unscrewed the back to get at the ignition to check on it. Unwisely, this involved taking a look into the ignition chamber to see -- well, the back end of a potato & some invisible ether.

    Did I mention that? I guess not -- their propellant of choice was ether. I have no idea where they got the stuff, but damn it was good for making a nice little controlled explosion. Or in this case, uncontrolled explosion.

    So anyway, there Jeff was staring into the back end of the gun, when somehow he bumped the trigger.

    And it went off.

    And the ether exploded.

    Remember how when you were a little kid, and you liked playing with the garden hose in the summer, but your evil older brother (that would be me :-) would hide around the corner pinching off the flow, and you'd get confused and look into the hose trying to find the water -- and just at that very moment that bastard of an older brother would uncrimp the hose and blast you in the face?

    This was a lot like that, but with fire instead of water.

    So anyway, there Jeff sits, with a ball of fire around his head, and well you get the idea. I wasn't actually there when this happened -- I was back at my dorm, probably cowering under the bed from my psycho buddies (or reading email more likely...). But Jeff was my roommate and, about five minutes after the incident, Jeff comes staggering back to the room. He has no eyebrows -- just white molten lumps where they used to be. He has no eyelashes. Or rather, he does have some remnants of eyelashes, but they are half an inch long each and there is is a six inch line across the front of his hairless brow. And exactly in the middle of his (now apparently sunburned) forehead is a bright red circle -- as if someone had thrown a tennis ball, dripping with paint, really hard at the middle of his forehead.

    Jeff took a little nap at that point. He woke up a day or two later, ordered some pizza, ate, and went back to sleep. He slept for most of the next several days, it took a couple of weeks for the tennis ball spot to fade away, and it took a month or more for the hair to grow back. He wore a hat a lot those days, IIRC :-)

    So, let this be a lesson to you spud projectionists -- the back end of the gun is just as dangerous as the front!

  • by gordie ( 139287 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @12:28PM (#5182036) Homepage
    Down in Dunedin FL, there is a local museum dedicated to Police and the Military. http://www.naslemm.com On display is a spud gun manufactured by the engineering department of Smith & Wesson over 20 years ago. Big, Blue and with the S&W Logo, a bit more impressive then the tennis ball cannons, I used to build back in the 70's.
  • Use Ether (Score:4, Interesting)

    by austad ( 22163 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @12:31PM (#5182061) Homepage
    Me and some friends built a few of these back in high school. We even had a takedown model that screwed apart, and when assembled, measured over 6 feet long. Hairspray is for wussies though, try ether (starting fluid). I put an apple through a sheet of 1/2" plywood with ether. It kicks like a 20 gauge shotgun, and is just as loud.

    I think it's spudtech.com that has an excel spreadsheet for calculating speeds and stuff for particular setups. The setup I had came out to 380mph muzzle velocity. Using that spreadsheet, I came up with a new design that hit's 720mph, over the speed of sound. Someday when I get bored, I'm going to try to accelerate an apple past the speed of sound. It will probably desintegrate before it even leaves the barrel, but it will scare my neighbors, and that's all I really want to do.

    BTW, apples make better ammo. The fit better in the barrel, and if you can find a tree, they are free.
  • by PhilHibbs ( 4537 ) <snarks@gmail.com> on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @12:44PM (#5182148) Homepage Journal
    I spent more than one evening on the run-up to Guy Fawkes Night (Nov 5th) sitting in an attic, crushing match-heads between two 10p pieces (a bit larger than a quarter, I think), nerves stretched by the imminent possibility of a flare-up. Between four of five of us, we collected the crushed heads of about 4,000 matches.

    On the big night, we rammed a 6 foot steel pipe about two feet into the ground, rammed paper into it until the paper reached ground level, then poured in the match-heads, jammed a potato in the top of the pipe, and lit a fire around the base.

    Then we just got on with the business of lighting a proper bonfire, making punch, roasting potatoes, setting off fireworks, and drinking. Every time anyone walked past the pipe, they would glance nervously at it. A couple of hours later, there was a tremendous thundering BOOM, and the potato went up into the stratosphere.
  • by trybywrench ( 584843 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @01:10PM (#5182339)
    in high school. Took a bunch of the smaller coffee cans and cut half moons in the bottom. I then duct taped about 5 togather alternating the half moons. Last I punched a nail hole in the bottom can. You poor about a half cup of alcohol in the top and shake the whole thing until all the surface area is covered then give it a minute so that the alcohol can evaoporate. Stick something in the top ( plastic gatorade bottles worked well ) and strike a match near the nail hole. It was very very loud and powerfull. The last time i ever used it I set everything up like I'd done a hundred times before but when I put the match next to the nail hole the whole thing went off like bomb ( I think it was a taping failure)! The detonation was so loud and violent that I was completely disoriented for about 30 seconds. Then the realization that I prolly have invisible burning alcohol all over me and I couldn't feel my hands brought me back to reality. A check for hands/fingers and burning sensations soon followed. I haven't touched it since ( about 8 years ago ).
  • by catdevnull ( 531283 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @01:15PM (#5182373)
    HA! I love all the references to people losing eyes! It sounds somebody's mom wrote that story.
  • by jlrowe ( 69115 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @01:51PM (#5182644)
    A little thought applied to the 'spud' gun and how easy it is to make is instructive if applied on a larger scale.

    Bear in mind that in some places, I think California and Britain, laws have been considered to ban spud guns. You can make a law to ban anything, but practice show here that it is *easy* to make a gun out of whatever is available.

    Yet though it is easy and a lot of us here have made them, no one here shot anyone and killed them with it. No laws or punishment is necessary because there is already a law against killing someone. You only have to punish those who break the laws of nature, killing or maiming someone and the destruction of their property.

    Likewise, we don't need any gun laws at all. We already have one in the US called the 2nd amendment, plus the various laws based on the 'natural law' above.

    Like spud guns, which can indeed kill and maim, guns which shoot lead bullets (and spud technology could...) can easily be made in a workshop, and sophisticated guns can be made in a machine shop. It is so easy to do, that is cannot in reality, be controlled. Nor is is a bad thing to avoid controlling it. We just have to enforce the 'natural law'. And punish the perpetrator, not the inanimate object.

    Spud Guns Do Not Kill.
    Nor does a Smith and Wesson.
    The bad guy kills.

  • by go3 ( 570471 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @01:54PM (#5182668)
    . . .the Germans out of socialism and restore their war loving pride.

    Look out, France.
  • Truth in labeling (Score:3, Informative)

    by paiute ( 550198 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @02:16PM (#5182925)
    The guy who got one in the eye was hit by an apple. So that was shot from an apfelkanone, right?

  • by SuperJames_74 ( 548630 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @03:10PM (#5183406) Homepage
    One of my co-workers made an extreme potato howitzer [barr-fam.com] when he was younger. This friggin monster runs on ether and has an automobile ignition system! Do NOT try this at home!
  • by Jens ( 85040 ) <jens-slashdot@sp ... e ['il.' in gap]> on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @03:15PM (#5183446) Homepage
    Lufthansa is (or has been) testing new airplane designs and revisions by firing dead chickens from a special gun onto the windshields and into the turbines. They wanted to test whether the plane would survive a bird hitting the plane head-on at k*100 km/h in the air.

    Some idiots once put the lower part of a mop (the thing you clean your bathroom floor with that looks like your mother in law's hairstyle) into this special gun and fired at someone about 200 meters away. Broke him both legs. (Try to explain that to the ambulance ... "this here mop did it! Really!")

    btw: British Airways (or was it the USA? don't remember) caught up to this and copied the idea (not the mop idea though). They loaded the gun with a dead chicken, measured the distance like Lufthansa did, and fired.
    The chicken went through the windshield, through the pilot's seat, through the console behind the driver (or whatever was there) and into the wall behind it.

    British Airways (or whoever) complained to Germany. Germany sent two engineers there, looked at the setup, and advised them to un-freeze the chicken before firing.

    • Heh, isn't this an urban legend?
      I've heard it was NASA doing test to make sure the windshield woulndt get smashed upon reentering and hitting something airborne. Part about the british airways is the same except they send an email with the 3 words:
      "Thaw the chicken!"
      Anywho It's always a good laugh
  • Idaho (Score:4, Funny)

    by m.e.l.l.e.n.t.i.n.e ( 305369 ) <jared@me[ ]ntine.com ['lle' in gap]> on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @04:04PM (#5183781)
    Somewhere in Idaho, a potato farmer and his family are rejoicing.
  • These are old... (Score:3, Informative)

    by puppetman ( 131489 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @04:47PM (#5184091) Homepage
    My semi-literate, tv-watching Playstation-playing lazy step-brother (who is no releation to me) has had one of these for years.

    He liked to fire it around the neighbourhood. He used PVC pipes. Bright kid.

    I wouldn't be overly concerned, unless they get into an SS uniform and say they are Panzerfaust.
  • Fun at work (Score:3, Interesting)

    by toolafial ( 626804 ) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @05:00PM (#5184195)
    My father worked at a coal mine. Every year they had to replace the CO2 cartridiges in the mining equipment. The CO2 cartridges were used as propellent in the fire extiguishers, so they where pretty powerfull. The old catridiges where perfectly good so what they would do is take a 2" metal pipe with a nail in the bottom and use that as a mortar. The cartridegs would regularly fly 500 feet over a mountain near the mine. Plus we built potato guns as kids. We had one kid hit a cat at a 100 yards with one. It didn't kill it, but the cat never came around his house again (it was a stray).

Genius is ten percent inspiration and fifty percent capital gains.