View Full Version : Pen Gun Please don't ban me!

January 28, 2008, 02:54 AM
Hi, I realise this is an odd first topic and i appologise if i am being rude, it is honestly unintentional. I am a university student from Edinburgh in sunny scotland and iu study engineering and for some weird reason our project for this term is the design of a pen gun.... i think the lecturer is trying to get us all arrested! Obivously in the UK guns are illegal and so information is thin on the ground, i have been reading through your forums and tbh i am in awe of such knowledge and i have searched through and gained a little knowledge but i was hoping i might be very cheeky and ask for some advice, i understand what i ask might be impossible to answer and i honestly do fear my door being kicked in by armed police but i want to pass this course! Now the mechanisms of firing i'm happy with you certainly have some good resouces on that but i was curious if you might be able to help with two issues....
firstly a lot of pen guns have no barrel, which means they must be dreadfully unaccurate at anything other than very close quarters.. is that the only application of such a device? as i certainly have the james bond assassination use in my head but it doesn't fit? and secondly the ones that do have a small barrel don't seem to be rifled? is this a case that there isn't enough barrel to make a difference or is it just the complexity of rifling means its not worth attempting for such devices? If anything i have said is inappropriate then please delete and let me know and i honestly appologise i am not here to offend merely to possibly ask a favour of your good nature, if you want to email me instead thats kewl but would really would appreciate any advice on the subject, even from people who have used such a device as here we don't even get guns as such so my experience is weak. Kind Regards

January 28, 2008, 03:11 AM


WildhaveyouhuggedyourstingertodayAlaska TM

January 28, 2008, 07:02 PM
I once ran into a guy who'd built his own pen gun - it looked like those old tear-gas pens that had a tear gas cartridge that screwed into the end, but this gizmo had a metal barrel that loaded from the front - making it a muzzle loader.

How are UK laws on muzzle loading firearms?

Regardless, considering how the spring and such were put together, I would NOT feel safe carrying this around in my shirt pocket!

January 28, 2008, 08:52 PM
Twenty five years ago, my Mother's husband and I took one away from his sister. It was a black, knurled tube with a spring actuated by pushing the little handle out of a notch at the end of a slot. I want to say it the tube was aluminum, but I really can't remember. I also don't recall the details about how one loaded it, but this one had a .410 shotgun shell in the pipe.:eek: I remember it being well made and looking like it came off of a pretty substantial production run. It was cocked and floating around in her purse along with keys, compact, eye liner pencil, lipstick, etc.:eek:

If you must make one, please don't chamber it for .410! And don't carry it cocked, in your purse.:D

January 28, 2008, 08:53 PM
Since there's really no method of AIMING one of these, a rifled barrel is pretty useless on most of these, but most of the better-made ones will still have a rifled barrel. And, yes, they are meant for boint-blank range, where you can simply point at a target an arm's-length away and hope you stop him with your one shot.

January 28, 2008, 09:30 PM
Since there's really no method of AIMING one of these, a rifled barrel is pretty useless on most of these,
A handgun in the US must be rifled otherwise it is considered an AOW and subject to NFA rules.

Lawyer Daggit
January 28, 2008, 09:31 PM
Tony- a word of fatherly advice, if you wish to enjoy life by all means design a pen gun but under no circumstances build one.

If your tutor says it is part of the Course, group together and request legal advice.

I once represented a Commando who was taught how to make 'improvised weapons' at work- he took one home and showed his mates and was busted by the Police. We could not escape a conviction on the basis that it had been made as part of a DOD training program.

Pen guns can also be dangerous- at both ends of the barrel.

Lawyer Daggit
January 28, 2008, 09:33 PM
Last time I visited a client in gaol they were taking a special interest in mobile telephones.

Apparently there is an eastern european pen gun that looks like a mobile phone and that has five barrels mounted in it.

January 28, 2008, 10:33 PM
the military used pencil flare launchers many many years ago. they usually were for pilots in the survival kits. but that was ok until someone decided to take one of the launchers and the empties to load stuff into them. or adapt them to shoot .38 spl. shells etc. somewhere out there after the atf or uncle sam found out they made the manufacturers of them put serial numbers on them. to make them easier to trace and or register. penguin was a big maker of the flares and possibly the launchers too. i carried a penguin launcher with about 8 red and 2 white flares for it. when i bow hunt for emergency signalling.

flaming arrows don't go high enough or burn that long using lit toilet paper on them. and not only that i only carry 8 of them.:rolleyes:

but no matter what do NOT make a pen gun. design one carefully if you must for the course. but do not make it.

January 28, 2008, 10:55 PM
Hi, thanks it is no way going to to be built, it is part of a design course to be a basis for the thermodynamics of the reaction and the choice of metals to be looked into, it is all theory. The problem i have is our lecturer has decided that a pen gun is an assassination weapon but the historic versions seem to be a case of last ditch survival or even suicide weapons. He has an idea that you would use it to assassinate someone from like 20 yards? I am struggling to see that it would be fit for such a purpose. Any views?

Lawyer Daggit
January 28, 2008, 11:26 PM
Tony, a pen gun is a hard to aim one shot firearm. It would leave the assailant little or no chance of evasion.

They also tend to chamber low powered rounds such as .22's.

They are desperation weapons-the type of cheap and nasty thing put together by a person who wants to steal money on the street to buy drugs.

Probably the high point of the disposable gun concept was the Liberator produced during WW2- although this had rudimenary sights and was shaped like a traditional firearm it was non rifled. It chambered the .45 Colt round and the general idea was you shot a lone german with it and stole his gun.

January 29, 2008, 11:29 AM
A handgun in the US must be rifled otherwise it is considered an AOW and subject to NFA rules.

In the US, a pen gun is considered an AOW whether it's rifled or not, as is anything else that is a gun but doesn't LOOK like a gun (knife guns, flashlight guns, cane guns, belt-buckle guns, phone guns, etc., etc., etc.)

January 29, 2008, 11:37 AM
If its for the purpose of design only, I have some ideas. First of all, the barrel should be made of stainless steel as should the "locking device". You want to ensure that the gun does not blow up in your hand. The outer skin of the pen could be made of titanium due to its strength and light weight. The area between the barrel and outerskin could be filled with ceramic fiber to avoid heat transfer. Heat should not be a major concern anyways since these are often one shot deals. The maximum caliber I would go is probably .32 acp since you have to be able to hold onto the gun as well. Besides, you have to be concerned about the overall diameter of the pen. The "trigger" should probably be located on the cap and should be activated with the thumb (so it can handle the recoil). The pen would have to be held like a knife in the downward stabbing position. The pen clip can be used to cock the firing pin.

I hope this helps. I don't suggest building it, especially in your part of the world. Even in the somewhat "gun-friendly" US, it is still illegal without a gun manufacturer's license. Good luck on your project and let us know how you did.

p.s. Feel free to post your plans when you finish. ;)

James K
January 29, 2008, 01:09 PM
Those guns are simplicity itself to make. A locking device is not needed, just an inner collar to take the recoil.


January 29, 2008, 04:19 PM
An old Sedgley circular
(For sale on this forums ads)


James K
January 29, 2008, 08:19 PM
"They are desperation weapons-the type of cheap and nasty thing put together by a person who wants to steal money on the street to buy drugs."

That does not seem to be the case. While "zip guns" have been made out of such materials as automobile radio antennas, pen guns - while easy enough to make - are (IME) very uncommon "on the street." For that matter, the old fashioned "zip gun" is unheard of today. Flush with drug money, the bad guys have graduated to Glocks or at least Lorcins and the days of cheap old suicide specials and home-made pistols are long gone.

The single shot pen gun may have some role in spy dramas, but, again IME, is not a viable weapon today, though the tear gas version is still carried by some people for protection.

FWIW, the "Liberator" pistol was vastly over rated. I was unable to find any instance where one was actually used against the enemy in WWII, though some were used by semi-official police in the Philippines and China after the war until better weapons could be obtained. Contrary to the original idea, none were ever dropped in France, or any other occupied country in Europe. All but a few were destroyed after the war by dumping in the ocean, which is why those remaining are collectors' items.


Lawyer Daggit
January 29, 2008, 10:24 PM
In response to Jim Keegan's comments about Liberator pistols- the only one I know of actually came home with a Vietnam Veteran in the 60's- I have no idea how it got to SVN.

January 30, 2008, 01:55 AM
In the US, a pen gun is considered an AOW whether it's rifled or not, as is anything else that is a gun but doesn't LOOK like a gun
Sorry, I was referring to the pen guns that have to be folded in order to be fired. The ATF declared them to be a regular handgun and not an AOW as they do "look" like a gun when they are folded. My fault that I wasn't more specific.

January 30, 2008, 02:48 AM
Correction: The Liberator pistol was chambered for the .45 ACP cartridge, not the .45 Colt. ;) Jim Keenan's info is correct AFAIK except he left out that the Liberator holds two dubious honors - the ugliest pistol ever made and the only pistol that takes longer to reload than it did to build.
Liberator .45 ACP smoothbore Pistol. Manufactured by
General Motors Guide Lamp Division circa 1943.

Re: Pen Guns
A friend's father had a collection of pen guns from WW-II Europe. Most of these were in either .32 or .380, with a screw-on chamber/barrel, solid striker propelled by a spring and a short barrel. Quite a few were painted to look like wood sticks with the theory that after shooting a Nazi occupier the pen gun could be tossed into nearby brush and look like a stick, not something manufactured. These were made by the underground in Belgium, France, and Holland. Most were not rifled because they were intended for use "up close & personal".

I doubt that any pen gun, even with a rifled barrel, would have an effective aimed range of more than about 2-3 meters. There is no way to easily/comfortably hold one; between the grip required and the clumsy trigger mechanism, holding it steady to hit a target at even room distance is almost impossible.

January 30, 2008, 06:48 AM
I don't doubt that most of the people here could put together a working concealable firearm in less than an hour after a trip to the hardware store; here's a scan from a book called "Zips, Pipes, and Pens", by J. David Truby, showing a commercially-made Sardaukar pen gun. Like most examples of the type, it uses a striker that has to be pulled back and released with the thumb to fire the chambered round, but these types are normally immediately recognizable as firearms. I've seen several designs where the pocket clip itself acts as the trigger, and it releases the striker either by twisting it to the side or lifting or pushing it to release the striker.


February 1, 2008, 03:44 AM
Sorry, I was referring to the pen guns that have to be folded in order to be fired. The ATF declared them to be a regular handgun and not an AOW as they do "look" like a gun when they are folded. My fault that I wasn't more specific.

were you aware that there was a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking last year in
which they were about to overturn that definition? once various law makers
and anti-gun groups started using that pistol as an example of dangerous
stealth fireams which were easily purchased/sold, language was drafted to
end this 'loophole.' not sure the 'whys' but the NOPR period expired w/o
being passed through to the Code of Federal Regulations. watch for this to
reappear, however, after the November elections....if my fears are realized.

February 1, 2008, 04:15 AM
I hear it's hard to get cartridges for them, ink cartridges that is. :D

February 2, 2008, 06:37 PM
thank you for all your help. My lecturer wasn't best pleased when i presented the arguement that his request for a design for an assassination weapon was flawed as the gun was never really used as one. He didn't like that and now doesn't like me.... nevermind eh? So got to start from the drawing board to design one and show that it works or it doesn't. Joyful!

February 3, 2008, 10:03 AM
The problem with the scenario proposed by your instructor is that there are two parts of the problem fighting against each other; yes, a pen-gun is concealable, but you have to get so close to use it (and you only have one shot to begin with), that that concealability is useless the second you fire it, and there's no certainty of "getting the job done". In a true assassination attempt, an assassin would either want to stay far enough away so that THEY could escape afterwards (in which accuracy, not concealability, would have to be the main focus of the method used), or they wouldn't CARE about getting away, and it would be a suicide mission (likely carried out with explosives in the first place). If an assassin had to both kill a target at close range AND escape, probably a better choice would be a non-firearm method like the one the Russians used in England at one time, where they used an umbrella rigged to inject a tiny ball filled with a powerful poison into their target's leg. By the time anyone knew that an assassination had even HAPPENED, the assassin had already disappeared; see http://www.portfolio.mvm.ed.ac.uk/studentwebs/session2/group12/georgie.htm

February 3, 2008, 10:59 AM
Have you been here?


February 3, 2008, 03:45 PM
SDC - getting close to your target may not pose a problem for escape. It all depends on how patient your assassin can be. Using a .22LR cartridge and pressing the muzzle against the victim's spine through a heavy coat will muffle the noise of the shot. Though most .22 assassins seem to have preferred the muzzle under the ear technique. If you equip the unit with a small suppressor it'll have the sound volume of a facial slap.

Many "Mob" assassinations used a .22LR pistol, like a Beretta 72 or Browning .22LR, modified with a suppressor and a slide-lock to prevent ejecting the empty case. The victim would be confronted alone in an elevator, alleyway, parking lot, etc. and removed from the gene pool quietly. The problem, of course, was if the authorities got ahold of the pistol and could track its purchaser.

Pen guns were used for a time since they could be made by any competent machinist and disposed of in a folded newspaper or even disassembled and tossed away in a crumpled cigarette pack. But if the attempt failed, the assassin had to resort to less stealthy means to finish the job.

A pen gun is either an assassin's weapon for use up close and personal, or it's a last ditch surprise weapon, much like the .32 caliber Palm Guns (http://www.aaawt.com/html/firearms/f154.html)of the 1880's.

A museum once displayed a "cane gun" for espionage use that was quite ingenious. Single shot, of course, but when deployed both a front post and rear V-notch sight would pop up on the cane and be triggered by a stud on the handle. The barrel was some 20" long and the last several inches housed a suppressor that "sort of" worked. Accuracy was pretty good out to about 80 yards.

February 3, 2008, 04:37 PM
Really i was surprised to see a student request information on the design of such a simple machine . After all at the root its a piece of tubing , hopefully a breech , a striker , a spring , and a wish .

Then i read university student from Edinburgh in sunny scotland

I then realized that in fact in all likelihood the request was sincere. In all likelihood this student has not only never held or fired a firearm , but cannot find a way to just run out and do either as research . How do you explain to a person such as this that a .22 short round will be safely contained by the case tho develop no velocity to speak of , a .22 lr will split the case with little danger and thusly can somewhat be " geurilla " engineered into a zipgun with the use of a car antenna as a barrel with minimal danger as well as minimal accuracy . Over the years i have been lucky to have been able to hold and fire some fine pen guns , cane guns , and improvised weapons many of which fall under the AOW umbrella . Some of which even were regestered , others were holdouts in various ranches ect around 4 states .

To the OP a " pen gun " can be built with a .22 ctg , a sharp nail , a coil spring ( or i suppose even rubber bands ) and a telescoping car antenna or similar tubing . Better ones can be built by all means and if you have a mill and lathe to work with the sky is the limit . However if you give me kitchen matches and a tube i can and will eventually make something that will go bang enough to kill a rat , or if close enough for that matter a person .

February 3, 2008, 06:02 PM
If your friend brought a pistol back from SVN are you sure it wasn't this?

Bill DeShivs
February 3, 2008, 06:59 PM
Pen guns were not designed as assasination weapons. They would fail miserably in this role. They were concieved as clandestine escape weapons, not likely to be found during an initial search.

February 3, 2008, 08:41 PM
here is my pen gun... american derringer

Bill DeShivs
February 3, 2008, 08:46 PM
I agree with BillCa that they could be used for assassinations. I was thinking more about political assassinations than "hits."

February 4, 2008, 07:57 AM
In response to Jim Keegan's comments about Liberator pistols- the only one I know of actually came home with a Vietnam Veteran in the 60's- I have no idea how it got to SVN.Possibly via the OSS. The US government actually supported Ho Chi Min in his guerrilla fight against the Japanese during WWII.

February 4, 2008, 11:51 AM
Does anyone remember the pen gun that was introduced sometime in the '90's that was a .22 that looked like a Cross style mechanical pencil? It was a $5 stamp AOW. I seem to recall it acrually wrote and had an eraser over the muzzle designed to be shot out when fired. It was triggered by pulling it along its axis and allowing the striker portion to spring forward. I saw an ad once and never heard much more about them. It looked very convincing as just a stainless steel pencil.

February 22, 2008, 05:14 PM
I'm curious as to whether or not would a muzzloading pengun be legal as it would not be classified as a firearm by ATF? I know it would constitute a dangerous weapon under certain state laws but not federal law right? And no I'm not planning on building one!

David Hineline
February 23, 2008, 03:58 AM
Muzzle loaders are not regulated as firearm as long as the ignition system is not considered modern. This means fuse/flintlock/caplock but not modern primers.

February 23, 2008, 08:56 AM
Man this thread brings up memories.
I am only 33 but in the mid 90's I owned a pengun. Looked like a cross pen. Paid $100 bucks for it as I thought it was merely a novelty.
Sad t I say because it looked like a pen, I either lost it, or somebody took it. I only shot it once, and I was misearbly inaccurate with it.

Now I wish I had that little pen.:(

March 9, 2008, 02:34 PM
I've got a MAC SSSW (Single Shot Survival Weapon). It's an actual pen gun, vs the other pseudo pen guns that have to be bent to shoot. Supposedly MAC made a bunch for the CIA back in the early '70s and then made a couple thousand for the civilian market once the CIA contract was complete.

http://img340.imageshack.us/img340/2350/macssswtoprg4.th.jpg (http://img340.imageshack.us/my.php?image=macssswtoprg4.jpg)
http://img340.imageshack.us/img340/9277/macssswcockedqx2.th.jpg (http://img340.imageshack.us/my.php?image=macssswcockedqx2.jpg)

It's chambered in .22LR and has a 1" smoothbore barrel. The groups are about 3' wide at 10'. The lack of accuracy means the only effective way to use it would be for the shooter to do something like sneak up behind their target, press the gun to the target's neck and shoot. Of course, if they're that close to their target they might as well use a knife, which could be easily used again (the MAC takes about 20 seconds to reload if you do it really fast) and a knife wouldn't make a loud noise either.