Pen guns are unusual creatures in the menagerie of firearms designs. And no, that’s not a reference to the horror show “PEN-15” rifle assembled by TFB TV’s James “Questionably Frequent Phallic Jokes” Reeves with his motley crew of Mailroom series viewers and Discord members. Actual pen guns are firearms that are considered to be disguised to look like innocuous simple tubes like writing pens, hence the name. They are classified in the “Any Other Weapon”, or AOW category under the NFA (National Firearms Act of 1934) along with other such oddities like knife guns or umbrella guns. They are understandably uncommon, and most regular people who have production versions, like TFB’s own Nick C with his Braverman Stinger, consider them to just be “range toy” novelties. However, pen guns have a fascinating deeper history rooted in espionage, intrigue, and assassination.
The war-torn nation of Afghanistan and its capital city, Kabul, are no strangers to such cloak-and-dagger machinations. Well before the Global War on Terror, Afghan nationals and Soviets alike were involved in numerous plots during the Cold War and beyond. Even just prior to the launch of the Global War on Terror and Operation Enduring Freedom era, longtime anti-Soviet and then anti-Taliban leader Ahmad Shah Massoud (known as the Lion of Panjshir) was assassinated by suicide bomb only two days before the 9/11 attack. In spite of US and international coalition officials’ recent efforts to bring Afghani and Taliban representatives together for peace talks, two attempts have been made against Afghanistan’s Vice President just in the last year. Though both of those attacks were explosive rather than featuring pen guns, the use of these devious little firearms has had a notable uptick in Kabul of late.
According to MSN, over the recent weekend of September 19th-20th, Kabul’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) was engaged in operations to combat 2020’s surge in assassination attempts. An unnamed CID official said “More than 40 people have been killed in targeted assassinations in the past six months in Kabul alone,” and indicated that they believe pen guns have been used in a significant number of these plots. During the aforementioned operations, a cache of weapons was seized from suspected Taliban-linked groups. Among the other dangerous materials like sticky bombs, Kabul CID recovered 48 pen guns. It is not yet known whether any of these four dozen pen guns had already been used in Taliban attacks, but the Afghani Interior Ministry’s spokesman said of the seizure that: “The terrorists wanted to use these weapons in complex-target killings in the capital.” And so the darker side of the pen gun’s history continues. See you at the range.