[This short article was originally published in Stoop Sale Books’s e-review of anti-fascism alongside J. Sakai’s “The Green Nazi,” his “Aryan Politics and Fighting the WTO,” and Butch Lee’s “Jailbreak Out of His-Story: The Re-Biography of Harriet Tubman.” The text, attributed to “M. Daily,” is a reflection on the far-right pamphlet “Improvised Weapons of the American Underground.”]
“Improvised Weapons of the Right-Wing”
As the reviewers always say, “This book isn’t for everyone!” But it is a home-brew classic, an early 1970s Right-Wing cousin to the much more famous Anarchist Cookbook. Its Arizona publisher claimed no authorship or copyright, insisting only that their book was “copied from original publications, booklets, and plans of the American underground groups.” By which they meant “patriotic” armed white bands of the day, such as the Minutemen and KKK. Think of it as where Tim McVeighs came from, culturally speaking…
The whole point of this small book is to be the ultimate white man’s security blanket. When the supposedly communistic Federal government has finally achieved its criminal-coddling, abortion-spreading, tax-crazy, gun-seizing dictatorship over the Original White Man, then the ability to make military-level weapons in your basement “represents the vanguard of resistance in the final-round fight against tyranny.” In many a white Right-Wing home, this book was safely tucked away in some closet against that day.
Being all business, there are no political lectures here (that’s kind of refreshing, no?). The whole 47 pages ( 8 1/2″ x 11″page size) are text instructions and diagrams. Half of which are how to make your own SMG (submachine gun) from scratch, for only $6.14 in raw materials (the patriotic white man is thrifty). The book starts with how to make explosives. Nitroglycerin, improvised detonators, an “improved” molotov cocktail, and that Tim McVeigh Special, the fertilizer-based bridge and building blaster. Almost thirty years before Oklahoma City, the Right was spreading the knowledge of how to do it. And to add that covert action touch, there are also firearm silencer plans within a basic class on made-in-your-basement silencers. In all, a compact manual on re-arming yourself after a tyrannical corporate government has confiscated your arsenal.
Do these “Improvised Weapons” plans work? Well, typically for this type of literature, yes and no. A white “patriotic” gunsmith who tried building an SMG from these plans spread the word that a crude working weapon can be made. Not a great weapon, mind you, but one that does fire. But the SMG plans as they are are only an approximation, and need to be changed in the making in this detail and that. The level of experience required to do this would be that of a home machinist with some gunsmithing experience. Far beyond most of us, which makes you wonder at how practical the whole idea was? Even the publisher admits at the end:
“The engineering principles and, also the drafting techniques, may leave a little to be desired. However, before we become too critical, let’s realize… it was the work of some patriotically oriented individual who worked under less than desirable conditions… a humble effort to share…”
This part of “Improvised Weapons” has certainly faded from normal usefulness as the world-wide flood of assault weapons has filled up hidden desert stashes (they really do exist) and suburban gun lockers. The Feds admit that even totally banned weapons, such as full-auto submachine guns, nevertheless exist in the millions – yes, literally the millions – in private hands in the u.s.. That’s not even counting other channels, like all the Right-Wingers who join the Reserves and Guard and “lose” grenades, C-4, and guns (one guy had so much that he had parties, so his friends could have fun hurling and detonating real grenades). This is fact, not fantasy. Maybe it was the liberating concept of do-it-yourself, rather than any details, that was what was most valuable here to the white supremacist underground?
In some situations improvised weapons really are better than tanks or Glocks. In part because it encourages the right attitude, of do-it-yourself, of improvising creatively to fit your exact situation. In the 1950s, when the Syndicate controlled the illegal handgun trade in many cities (and pistols were therefore much harder to get for young bloods), children had to “Just Do It”. One popular item was the old Navy flare pistol, which you could get at any Army-Navy surplus shop for $6 or $8. Deal was, it was chambered for 12 gauge. So you fired it once as a flare pistol (no one wanted to get shot with that at close range), then reloaded quickly with a shotgun shell. Giving you a cheap crazy pistol from hell! Or making your own infamous “zip gun” out of a toy cap pistol, a thumbtack, lots of heavy tape, and a ripped-off car radio antenna—which then all were standardized by the auto industry at the same internal size as a .22 caliber round. (The government finally caught on, and had the sizes of both flare guns and auto antennas changed).
But the usefulness of improvised weapons persists… like someone i know who carries a shoulder bag with a squirt bottle full of ammonia. Getting squirted in the face with ammonia will cause someone a lot more trouble than MACE (WARNING: Do not test this on an innocent person or animal, since ammonia can cause permanent blindness and lung damage). She also has a Colt “Undercover” small-framed .38 revolver, but for everyday use it just isn’t as practical in the city. Carrying iron she couldn’t do her job, go in and out of government buildings with their metal detectors. Carrying an illegal loaded gun also means that you always have to keep it next to you, never mentally lose track of it, and definitely not get stopped by the cops. It’s the weapon you want in some circumstances, but also a hassle not appropriate for everyone. Which means that many women have guns – at home – but don’t carry them. “Accidentally” still carrying her “cleaning supplies”, my friend has a legal weapon at her side.
The book’s sections on explosives and silencers, while also crude, are somewhat better. In some ways the modest chapter on home-brewing explosives is better than some of the newer & flashier manuals. A popular Right-Wing book today, for example, features a very detailed (and misleading) step-by-step guide to making Semex-type plastique. While “Improvised Weapons” simply admits that plastique is “difficult to manufacture”, and urges safer alternatives. Like nitroglycerin, plastique is said to be very volatile and easy to accidentally detonate during stages of the manufacturing process. All such recipes should be taken with a grain of salt, as some fact and some fiction. The hokey “Anarchist Cookbook” explosives recipes, for example, are notoriously more dudly or deadly to the maker than the intended target.
In closing, I think it’s good evidence of the peaceful, respectful to Authority, and law-abiding nature of feminists, anarchists, and socialists that years after “Improvised Weapons” only the Original White Man still continues to study weapons & fighting.