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A measure of danger: Weapons from a tape measure

A colleague recently asked me, “What could a contrabandist craft from a single tape measure?” This was a good question and something that I had not yet pondered.

Her query prompted me to look at the common flexible metal ruler. I added a roll of painter’s tape to the mix to increase the grim possibilities. It is a completely plausible scenario. What if an enterprising contrabandist acquired these items? What weapons might later be in circulation?

It is said that a picture is worth 1,000 words. With that in mind, I offer nine times as many pictures and about 40% of the words.


In this scenario, two items provide weapons stock. From these, a variety of dangerous weapons can be created by the enterprising contrabandist.


The casing, once broken, and the belt hook can make a variety of slashing and sticking devices. Also, there is a small spring in the center right of the image above that can be used as a stinger.


A palm-sized slashing device with a tape handle is dangerous and portable. No sharpening was necessary. The casing can be broken by hand.


Screws from the casing of the tape measure can be used as enhanced knuckles. Granted, this is not necessarily sturdy or even stealthy. However, if used quickly on a soft part of the body or face, this could be very dangerous.


Surprisingly heavy for its size, the retracting mechanism has enough weight to be used as an effective sling in a sock.


Inside the retracting mechanism’s plastic case is ample flexible metal.


Any contrabandist can harvest sixteen flexible metal strips from this tape measure. Each of these is about twelve inches long. No cutter was used. The metal simply snapped by adding foot pressure to a bent section.


It is easy to make a point with this material by bending or scraping on a rough surface.


By binding sixteen sections together, there is a handle to grip. The blade is now less flexible and more dangerous. Shorter versions of this are sturdier.

I believe that it is useful to test objects to see how they can be modified. Occasional dismantling exercises like this place us on a higher plane of understanding the dangers posed by weapon makers. This contraband control knowledge can increase safety for staff, offenders, and the public.

This article is intended to teach corrections professionals how easy it is to produce weapons. This is done to increase safety. This is not intended to help offenders to become better weapons makers.

Joe Bouchard worked in a maximum correctional facility for 25 years and is now retired. He continues to write and present on many corrections topics. He is the former editor of The Correctional Trainer. Bouchard has been an instructor of corrections and criminal justice since 1999. He currently teaches at Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College. Bouchard also has online writing clips at He is also the author of three corrections books for LRP publications and 10 books for IACTP’s series of training exercises books. Order now.