The Most Ridiculous (Real) Weapons Used Throughout History

From homemade tanks to nuclear land mines kept warm by chickens, war brings out the engineers in people. When a weapons system works, it's made by the thousands, and sometimes used for decades. But when it doesn't, it's quickly added to the dustbin of bad ideas. Many of these ridiculous, odd, and exceptionally weird weapons were developed by militaries all over the world, but either proved impractical, or never even got past the prototype stage. 

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!
Photo: T5c. Pat. W. Kohl, U.S. Army / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

  • Krummlauf

    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    The Krummlauf was issued to tank crews for defending their vehicles against infantry, but rarely used and quickly withdrawn because of numerous design problems.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

    Nuclear Landmines Kept Warm by Chickens
    Photo: Petty Officer 1st Class Ronald L. Heppner / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    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 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.
  • Weaponized Animals

    Weaponized Animals
    Photo: Francis Whiting Halsey / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    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

    Essentially a light tank with glider wings attached to it, the A-40 was designed by the Soviet Union to be airlifted in support of airborne or partisan operations. One prototype was built, but the design was impossible to tow by aircraft of the day, and there was no assurance that the tank and the crew would land together. The project was scrapped.
  • Schwerer Gustav

    Schwerer Gustav
    Photo: Walter Frentz / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    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.