Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
Disclaimer: These traps, although based on authentic historical design, are for entertainment purposes only. Most of the devices will be extremely dangerous for you and others, and we take no responsibility for any harm you cause others or if you should harm yourself.
When the SHTF, defending your home and warding away would-be thieves or attackers is going to be an obvious priority. However, if you are only a single person or small family, it is unlikely you will be able to protect yourself from a determined group of attackers.
However, with well-placed traps, you can physically and psychologically harm these attackers, giving yourself time to better prepare or escape. We will go over some basic types of traps that are effective in home defense and provide you a large number of links to videos and literary sources that will help you create these traps on your own.
A Disclaimer on Booby Traps Before SHTF
WE DO NOT RECOMMEND YOU RECREATE ANY OF THESE TRAPS OR DEVICES. We repeat: These are for historical education and entertainment purposes only!
Also, bear in mind setting traps when you are not in an SHTF scenario is currently against the law. Should you harm anyone with a trap, even as they break into your home, you will likely be liable for prosecution. You are also just as likely to hurt yourself or a loved one. Please be smart with this information and don’t be an idiot.
Why and How to Use Booby Traps Effectively in the Home
Traps should not be relied on for your only means of security. Traps will often fail. Though, even a trap that doesn’t injure an attacker will psychologically damage them. Knowing that traps lie in wait will slow down and dissuade attackers, likely buying you more time to prepare or flee. They can also serve as a useful warning system.
Most traps can be very inexpensive and low-tech, though they will require practice and experience to set up and utilize effectively. Here is an informative article made for use by law enforcement that covers the basics of many types of traps and triggering devices.
Traps are best used in areas where people are likely to travel, pathways leading to your home. Stairwells, doorways, and other “fatal funnels” where you can take advantage of the natural landscape will maximize their effect.
Effective Booby Traps for the Home
Most of the manuals and guides consulted for this article dealt with hand grenades and improvised explosives taken from military ordinance. Since those methods will not be as helpful to those defending their home who lack such weapons, we instead focused on traps that could be created from everyday supplies.
If you wish to look further into more complex devices made from military explosives, links to the relevant manuals are provided at the end of this article. For everything else, we have tried to find links to videos that show you how to construct these items yourself.
Simple Tripwire Alarm
There are dozens of ways to make simple tripwire alarms. Rather than explain each one, I went and found a few videos of different variations. Once you understand these basics, it is not too hard to come up with your own variations. The biggest thing to pay attention to in these videos is how they set up the tripwires as many traps will require tripwires of some form or another.
- Video of Version 1 (using batteries, clothesline, some wires, and buzzer alarm.)
- Video of Version 2 (using mouse traps and cap-gun caps)
- Video of Version 3 (using mousetrap, matches, and fireworks.)
- Video of Version 4 (also using matches and fireworks)
- You can also buy a premade device that fires a standard 209 shotshell primer, you just need to make the tripwire yourself.
Spend some time checking out the huge variety of ideas floating around out there.
Anti-Vehicle: Homemade Spike Strips and Caltrops
If you are trying to ward off vehicles, then simple barriers will do just fine. Welding together a chunk of scrap metal can do wonders for closing off a roadway. Constantina wire or barbed wire can also cause a vehicle to become disabled when driven over and wrapped up into the wheel wells.
These roadblocks can also be used to funnel vehicles down specific pathways, which will allow you to do damage to the car in several ways. The easiest way to disable a vehicle will be to damage the tires, though it will take some time for a flat to really stop a car.
The more damage you can do at once to a tire, the faster you can stop it from operating correctly. The easiest and cheapest way is to make a homemade spike trap with nails or screws, typically coming through a piece of wood or hose. Another method is to use homemade or storebought caltrops.
When positioned correctly, this can slow down or stop a vehicle from reaching your home and can make aggressors think twice when they need to approach you on foot.
- A news article talking about the effects of a homemade spike trap, as well as a photo of the device.
- A video for making caltrops.
- You can also buy caltrops on eBay.
The Cartridge Trap
This is a straightforward trap taken from the Vietcong. All you need for this trap is a bullet of a decent caliber, some wood, a tube, and a nail or firing pin. This can be placed under the stairs or essential pathways to your home.
You simply dig a hole and place a wooden board at the base of the hole to flatten the area. You then prop the tube upright, secure it and then place the firing pin (or nail) inside the tube facing up (bamboo tubes were used for this traditionally). Carefully place your bullet on top of the firing pin, also facing up. Make sure the primer is touching the point of the nail, and they are secure in the tube.
Dig the hole so that only the point of the cartridge is above the ground and camouflage the hole (in the photo, the bullet is sitting a bit too low within the hole). The pressure of a foot stepping on the cartridge should push the round onto the firing pin, and fire it into the trespasser’s foot.
If you dig the hole small enough, you could get away with a toilet paper roll for the tube then use a nail and a shotgun shell to complete the trap.
Tripwire Firing Trap
The Vietnam Arrow design: This is another trap that can be made with some basic supplies. It utilizes a tube (usually bamboo at about 3 feet long) as a launcher for the arrow. The arrow is placed in the tube. You then use a block of wood, a powerful rubber band, and a catch to lock the band in place. You attach a tripwire to the catch and aim the arrow at where the person will be entering.
This works best in doorways or small passages. When the tripwire is hit, the latch disengages, and the arrow fires. You will need to experiment a bit to figure out the best method for hiding the tripwire and securing it to the release.
The Shotgun design: This same design can be tweaked a bit, with a spring-loaded firing ping and shotgun shell replacing the arrow and rubber band. You will have to get a little creative with setting it up, but this basic design can be tweaked in order to defend most doorways, stairwells, and hallways.
In the photo, you see a tripwire attached to a mousetrap, which in turn will activate the shotgun trigger.
Here is a news article about a man who rigged a shotgun to a tripwire on a shed door. It is not hard to imagine how he constructed that device. Here is another article from 1990. While these are sad stories, the efficacy of this type of design for when SHTF is pretty clear.
The Spiked Pit
This would work in the front or backyard. This is a famous trap from the Vietnam war and can be recreated in a number of ways. The most simple method is to simply dig a hole a few feet deep and line the bottom with spiked stakes or barbs.
There are plenty of variations, and perhaps the best way to see one of these in action is in modern hunting pits. This video shows it nicely.
A Bear Trap
For obvious reasons, a bear trap can be devastating to anyone who steps into one. These are pretty easy to get ahold of and straightforward to set up. You just need to be smart in where you position it and how you camouflage the trap.
While these are illegal in many places, it is still possible to purchase one. This a goofy video of a guy smashing his phone with one, but it gives you the idea of how these devices work.
This article was only a brief introduction to the thousands of traps and devices that you could employ to defend your home when the SHTF. There are countless examples and variations online, as well as hundreds of books and manuals for you to use to learn more.
Army Manual FM5-31 Booby Traps
This manual deals mostly with explosives and tripwires but also contains a lot of good information on placement and past tactics used in conflicts. Most of these methods require you to have blasting caps, grenades, or mines handy, so may not be too useful for your average prepper.
Operational Experience in Vietnam, 1969
A great manual that delves into many of the ingenious devices made by the Vietcong. Many of these require access to hand grenades or other explosives. An interesting excerpt in the opening of the manual talks about how most of these supplies were obtained by the Vietcong from improperly discarded and stolen US supplies. This might be a good lesson for a prepper after SHTF.
To repeat: WE DO NOT RECOMMEND YOU RECREATE ANY OF THESE TRAPS OR DEVICES. We are not responsible if you choose to ignore this warning.