Zip guns are dreaded, deadly weapons inside prison

Zip gunWhat’s a zip gun? You’ll get a detailed explanation if you go to work in Canada’s penitentiary system where a working zip gun – a homemade handgun – is a dreaded weapon behind bars. Small, lethal, easily concealed and assembled from common materials, a zip gun transforms any convict into a killer capable of murdering a prison worker, a fellow inmate or leading a riot, hostage taking or escape attempt. For these reasons, Corrections Canada offers new recruits a detailed explanation how zip guns can be manufactured and assembled by prisoners (after the jump, see the zip gun assembly photo montage that appears in a CSC training manual) and what the disassembled components look like.

The four pages below are extracted from a 2004 version of the confidential Firearms Participant Manual (a copy of which was obtained by Cancrime) given to recruits in the Correctional Officer training program. The photos show a zip gun that was found in a penitentiary, its components hidden among leather hobby-craft tools. You can see from the images that the pieces of the gun appear innocuous, taken separately, but they combine to create a sophisticated, single-shot handgun that fires .22 calibre rounds. The components include a threaded tube that serves as a barrel and a spring-loaded firing mechanism that is pulled back and released like a slingshot, allowing the plunger to strike the cartridge. Zip guns aren’t exclusively a product of convict ingenuity. In hard-scrabble times, street criminals resorted to handmade firearms, in part because real weapons were expensive and difficult to come by. The New York Times reported in the 1950s on the appearance in youth court of teenage brothers who were manufacturing zip guns for Bronx gangs.

Four pages from the Correctional Service Canada manual for recruits on firearms:



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