Fact Check

Cell Phone Guns

Have police discovered guns disguised as cell phones?

Published Aug 20, 2001


Claim:   Police have discovered guns disguised as cell phones.


Example:   [Collected via e-mail, 2002]

Subject: Cell Phone Guns

The video clip at the bottom will show the cell phone actually firing. Again, these phones have not hit the US (and hopefully never will), but they are in use in overseas. So keep that in mind if you are going through customs and are asked to turn over your cell phone to be checked. Always remember that you should never joke with Custom Officials and you should do your best to cooperate.

At first

Cell phone gun

sight it looks like a regular cell phone — same size, same shape, same overall appearance.

But beneath the digital face lies a .22-caliber pistol, a phone gun capable of firing four rounds in quick succession with a touch of the otherwise standard keypad.

European law enforcement officials — stunned by the discovery of these deadly decoys — say phone guns are changing the rules of engagement in Europe.

Airport authorities across Europe are implementing systems to X-ray all cell phones

"We find it very, very alarming," says Wolfgang Dicke of the German Police union. "It means police will have to draw their weapons whenever a person being checked reaches for their mobile phone."

Although cell phone guns have not hit America yet, the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and the U.S. Customs Service say they’ve been briefed on the new weapons.

"This criminal invention represents a potentially serious threat to law enforcement and the public," said U.S. Customs Service Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly. "We received word about these guns last month. We have since alerted our field personnel to be on the lookout for ‘cell phone guns’ at U.S. ports of entry."

These new covert guns were first discovered in October when Dutch police stumbled on a cache during a drug raid in Amsterdam.

In another recent incident a Croatian gun dealer was caught attempting to smuggle a shipment through Slovenia into Western Europe.

Police say both shipments are believed to have originated in Yugoslavia. Interpol sent out a warning to law enforcement agencies around the world. European border police and customs officers are at a heightened state of alert at all ports, airports and border crossings.

"If you didn’t know they were guns, you wouldn’t suspect anything," said Ari Zandbergen, spokesman for the Amsterdam police.

"Only when you have one in your hand do you realize that they are heavier," says Birgit Heib of the German Federal Criminal Investigation Agency.

The guns are loaded by twisting the phone in half. The .22-caliber rounds fit into the top of the phone under the screen. The lower half, under the keyboard, holds the firing pins. The bullets fire through the antenna by pressing the keypad from numbers five to eight.

Amsterdam police says they are very sophisticated machines constructed inside gutted cell phones which do not light up or operate as real phones. "These are very difficult to make. We believe experts are involved," says Zandbergen.


Origins:   The above-quoted "cell phone gun" warning dates from 2001 and came accompanied by a video clip which

purportedly showed one such gun in action. However, the video clip (of unknown provenance) doesn't seem to match the one described in the text of the message, nor does it provide visual proof that the object shown is actually firing bullets.

The text of the warning was an excerpt from a longer article (also of unknown provenance) which was posted on the South African Cellular Online web site. Other news outlets (such as The Register and the New York Daily News) have also run stories about guns disguised as cell phones that echo the details given in the message above.

Do "cell phone guns" represent an alarming turn in concealed weaponry technology? Probably not, as a customs spokesman maintained that"there's no indication that these are being mass-produced," and a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms noted:

Though the novelty of cell-phone guns is interesting, ATF spokesman John D'Angelo says the idea of concealing firearms in common devices is not new. "Disguised weapons have been around forever. We've seen guns in the form of canes, pens, beepers. As technology progresses and becomes more prevalent, disguised weapons will change to mirror that."

Last updated:   21 July 2011


    McCarthy, Kieren.   "Guns Disguised As Mobile Phones."

    The Register.   30 November 2000.

    Megna, Michelle   "Phone-Y Guns."

    [New York] Daily News.   6 May 2001   (p. 9).

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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