When studying improvised weapons, it’s often useful to look outside the realm of pure self-defense, and study groups who actively incite violence. For example, incarcerated criminals in super-max prisons have come up with some extremely creative and brutal weapons using limited resources. Although we certainly can’t condone the way a criminal might use a toothbrush shiv or handmade blade, we can learn from their twisted ingenuity to better prepare ourselves for self-defense without pre-made weapons.

Improvised weapons may not look like much, but they can be just as effective as a purpose-built implement.

Improvised weapons may not look like much, but they can be extremely effective in the right hands.

Like prison inmates, another subculture known for its “unruly, violent and destructive behavior” is that of British football hooligans (extreme soccer fans). These hooligan gangs, colloquially known as firms, became known for all-out brawls with other rival firms before, during, or after football matches. Fighting reached such levels of violence in the 1960s and 1970s that many sports venues were forced to ban anything that could remotely be seen as a weapon, including boots, metal combs, and even pens. This, of course, wasn’t going to stop the hooligans—they just got more creative.

Millwall brick football stadium

Intense rivalries between hooligan firms can easily turn a football match into a fist fight.

That brings us to a surprisingly simple improvised weapon: the Millwall Brick. Named after Millwall F.C. of southeast London, this weapon was allegedly invented by hooligans to circumvent weapon confiscation by police at football matches. The construction is simple: fold a newspaper into a long thin strip, then fold the strip in half, forming a solid “brick”.

Millwall brick 02

Here’s a video that demonstrates how it’s made:

The tight layering of newspaper creates a club-like “brick” that can be incredibly devastating when swung full-force. There are several other variations on the Millwall Brick, including:

  • Wrapped tightly with cordage, such as shoe laces
  • Attached to a length of cordage, then swung from it
  • Soaked in liquid to add weight
  • Filled with coins to add more weight
  • Spiked with a nail, pencil, or sharp object on the outer layer

As you can imagine, this simple improvised weapon is far more damaging than a fist. Its simple construction and innocuous materials also made it almost impossible to confiscate—stadium security guards couldn’t exactly confiscate newspapers or pocket change.

Millwall brick 01

An ordinary newspaper is about as unassuming as it gets, but given a few seconds, it can be a powerful weapon.

If you someday need to defend yourself and have no weapons on hand, keep the Millwall Brick in mind. Newspapers are always available in urban settings, and one just might save you from a beating someday.


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