From the suave secret agents of James Bond to the agile spies of Mission: Impossible, popular culture has long fascinated us with tales of espionage and the intriguing gadgets used by fictional spies. But how much truth is there behind these fantastical inventions?

In this article, we’ll explore the reality behind five bizarre concealed weapons associated with spies, from lipstick guns to cigarette darts, separating fact from fiction and uncovering the surprising history of these peculiar yet extraordinary weapons used in real-life missions.

Lipstick Guns

This one’s for the badass lady spies hiding within innocent-looking cosmetics. Lipstick guns were compact firearms disguised as beauty products used by KGB operatives during the Cold War. These covert weapons allowed spies to maintain their cover while carrying a concealed firearm, providing them with a discreet means of self-defense or offense in critical situations. While a lipstick pistol may seem like a creation straight out of a spy movie, it was indeed an actual invention used by intelligence agencies during the mid-20th century. It was cleverly designed involving a hollow tube that housed a small caliber pistol, complete with a trigger mechanism disguised as the lipstick’s cap. When triggered, the unsuspecting target would not know the seemingly harmless cosmetic product could discharge a deadly projectile. Nonetheless, you only got one shot—one chance to deliver the ultimate “kiss of death.”

Lipstick Pistol (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

Cigarette Darts

Cigarette darts are yet another peculiar tool in the arsenal of spies. Disguised as ordinary cigarettes, these specially designed projectiles could be loaded with a tranquilizer or poison, offering a covert method for incapacitating or eliminating targets without arousing suspicion. This inconspicuous tool may sound like a far-fetched creation from a spy novel, but it was, in fact, a real weapon used by spies. Its discreet and covert nature made it a valuable asset in situations where subtlety was paramount. The seemingly harmless cigarette is modified, replacing the tobacco filler with a hollow tube capable of housing a slender dart or needle, which could be coated with various substances, including deadly toxins or tranquilizers—depending on the mission. With a quick flick of the wrist, spies could launch a dart toward their target, delivering a precise and often unsuspected strike. To the untrained eye, the cigarette dart appeared no different from a regular cigarette, allowing undercover agents to carry out their missions undetected in plain sight.

Hollow Coins

Specially crafted hollow coins allowed spies to conceal microfilm, secret messages, or even tiny tools, offering a discreet way to transport sensitive information. Its ease of concealment makes the gadget a favorite among spies and a highlight of agents’ creativity and ingenuity. To create a hollow coin, skilled craftsmen carefully cut out a small section of the coin, leaving a thin outer shell intact, usually cylindrical, that would allow agents to carry valuable information or essential escape tools in plain sight. One notable example of using hollow coins occurred during the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. The CIA modified the coin, known as the “Moscow Rules” coins, which were distributed to American agents operating in Moscow. These coins concealed tiny compartments for hiding secret messages, providing a secure method of communication in a highly monitored and hostile environment.

A hollowed-out nickel / Image source: Wikimedia Commons

**You can actually buy one for yourself here.

Wristwatch Dart Launchers

Wristwatch dart launchers are iconic spy gadgets that have captured the imagination of moviegoers and spy enthusiasts alike. These covert devices feature small dart launchers cleverly concealed within the watch’s strap or case, offering spies a discreet and unexpected means of delivering poison or tranquilizer darts to their targets, just like cigarette darts. The wristwatch dart launcher also operates on the element of surprise, its tiny dars meticulously engineered to deliver their payload effectively with a quick flick of the wrist or a discreet press of a button. Meanwhile, the exact mechanisms and propulsion systems employed in wristwatch dart launchers varied. The lethal accessory aimed to provide spies with a covert and efficient weapon to swiftly and silently hit the intended mark.