What are spies without their gadgets? Here’s the Spy Museum’s top ten picks for coolest spy gear. Don’t leave HQ without them.
10. Lipstick pistol – Issued by KGB, circa 1965
The lipstick pistol, used by KGB operatives during the Cold War, is a 4.5 mm, single shot weapon. It delivered the ultimate “kiss of death.”
9. Shoe with heel transmitter – Used by Romanian Secret Service (Securitate), 1960s–1970s
Operatives would obtain an American diplomat’s shoes, and outfit them with a hidden microphone and transmitter, thus enabling them to monitor the conversations of the unsuspecting target. While most shoes only smell, these shoes can also hear.
8. Coat with buttonhole camera – Issued by KGB, circa 1970
This hidden camera was concealed in an ordinary looking coat. The lens, tucked behind the right middle button, is perfectly positioned for photographing unsuspecting people. To take a picture, the wearer of the coat would squeeze a shutter cable hidden in the coat pocket. It was widely used in the Soviet Union, Europe, and North America. Talk about a fashion statement.
7. Pigeon camera – circa 1910
Some pigeons doubled as spies—reconnaissance pigeons like these World War I birds carried cameras to photograph enemy activity. That’s what you call a bird’s eye view.
6. Tree stump listening device – early 1970s
U.S. intelligence placed a bug in a wooded area near Moscow to eavesdrop on radar and communications signals of a nearby Soviet missile system. The intercepted signals were stored and then transmitted to a satellite passing overhead. If a spy falls in the forest, does he make a sound?
5. Steineck wristwatch camera – Germany, circa 1949
An agent would carefully aim the camera while pretending to check the time —not an easy feat since there was no viewfinder. Pressing a button on the watch snapped the photo. Gives new meaning to the term “watching you.”
4. Hollow coin – Issued by KGB, 1950s -1990s
Hollow coins easily concealed microfilm and microdots. They were opened by inserting a needle into a tiny hole in the front of the coin. One Soviet operative accidentally lost his hollow coin and it ended up in the hands of a Brooklyn delivery boy. Needless to say, it was a bad tip.
3. Minox camera – Germany, circa 1969-1975
John Walker used a Minox C camera to secretly photograph documents for the KGB. He used the camera so often that it eventually wore out. At the time, it was the smallest camera in existence.
2. Enigma machine – Germany, circa 1940
Originally designed to encode business communications, the Germans adapted the Enigma cipher machine for use in World War II. The machine linked a keyboard to a series of rotors using electric current. The rotors transposed each keystroke multiple times generating millions of possible combinations. The message was then sent in Morse code. The Allies eventually cracked cracked it. Good thing there was no such thing as “autocorrect” back then.
1. Ring gun – France, 19th century
This lethal device held six 5mm bullets. It had the nickname, “Le Petite Protector,” meaning “the small protector” in French. Talk about a trigger finger.
Every successful agent is going to need an array of gadgets to help them accomplish their assignments. These ten won’t let you down.
That’s all the intel for now. More to follow.