Teenager blind after shooting himself in face with a frog.

The folks at MSNBC.com put up this little cautionary tale about the dangers of mixing frogs with “potato guns.”

DALLAS, 8:48 a.m. CDT April 16, 2003 – A teenager has lost his sight after being struck in the face with a frog, shot from a so-called “potato gun.”

Daniel Benjamin Berry, 17, received the injury after he looked down the barrel of the gun’s PVC pipe barrel and was hit in the face by the frog.

This sort of senseless tragedy could be avoided if Congress would wake up and immediately ban the purchase and ownership of potentially lethal frogs. Daniel’s mother, Lisa Berry, offered the following warning about the dangers of frogs to other parents:

“Any of y’all’s children could bring it home, and you’d not even know they have it,” she said. “It could end their life or their neighbor’s life or your life.”

OK, what she’s really warning others about is the potential danger in kids playing with a “potato gun” which the news article describes as follows:

Potato guns are made of pipe with one end sealed. A potato is wedged into the open end and a flammable liquid put into a sealed chamber is ignited, launching the object.

Denton County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Kevin Patton said the accident happened Sunday when Daniel Berry joined a crowd of teenagers watching the gun be fired. Patton said when it misfired, Daniel Berry looked down the barrel to see what was wrong when the gun went off.

Where I grew up in Pontiac we used to make similar devices that we called “Pop Can Cannons” because they were made from empty cola cans, duh. Instead of launching potatoes, which we all were at least smart enough to recognize as being relatively hard objects at high velocities, we used tennis balls.

You’d take 5 or 6 tin** pop cans and using a screwdriver and a hammer (or, if you were a little brighter than most you used a can opener) you’d remove the tops and bottoms from all but one of the cans. That can you used a small nail to put a small hole in the side of the can near it’s base and it served as the fire chamber. Stack all the other cans on top of the base and apply copious amounts of black electrical tape as if trying to splint a broken leg. Acquire a small can of lighter fluid and a tennis ball or two and you have everything you need to annoy the neighbors for hours. A small dash of lighter fluid in the fire chamber, swish it around so it covers the walls of the chamber, set on solid ground and stuff a tennis ball in the top can, duck down, strike match, apply to small nail hole and you get a nice, loud FOOM and a tennis ball is launched for what seems like a couple hundred feet into the air.

It was pointless and stupid and a helluva lot of fun. Used to drive the cops nuts because they’d drive by after someone complained and wouldn’t be able to figure out if I was doing anything illegal. About the most they could get me for would be disturbing the peace and usually they just figured that one kid shooting a tennis ball harmlessly into the air was one less kid out getting into a gang shooting so they left me alone.

Just for the record I did manage to shoot myself in the forehead with it once myself so it’s not like Daniel is unique in his mistake. Using a tennis ball instead of a frog, however, all I walked away with was a minor bruise on my forehead.

The only other thing I ever tried to launch out of the cannon was a little Playdoh model of Mr. Bill from the old SNL series of shorts known as The Mr. Bill Show in a sad attempt at making my own show using my brother’s Super 8MM movie camera. It worked pretty well, but I made sure not to look down the barrel while firing it off.

So even though my first instinct is to giggle inanely at Daniel’s misfortune I won’t go as far as to call him a dumbass over it because I’ve been that sort of dumbass myself in my youth though I never tried launching a live animal out of my cannon.

**NOTE: Any of you impressionable youngsters reading this should be aware of my use of the word TIN in my description of the Pop Can Cannon. We used TIN pop cans whereas today most pop cans are made out of aluminum. Don’t try making one of these with today’s pop cans as it’ll explode in a most impressive way and leave you with a face full of aluminum shrapnel. Even back when we were making these things it wasn’t unheard of to have a fire chamber explode on occasion if the tennis ball was wedged in particularly well.

25 thoughts on “Teenager blind after shooting himself in face with a frog.

  1. I remember those cannons! We would climb up on the roof of our houses to shoot those tennis balls way the hell out over the neighborhood. No one got hurt.

    The frog thing—it’s just wrong!

    Had to laugh at your suggestion of banning frogs, though…

  2. We called them Polish cannons. My neighbor behind us lost an eye to one of those.

    Didn’t stop us from using them, or M-80s in the nearby pond . . .

  3. What I thought was the most amusing was his mother being more concerned about the dangers of flying frogs then the potato gun itself.  I think they all have been spend way too much time sniffing fumes!

  4. i jsut built a really awsome potato gun out of PVC pipes.  my friends already had them and now we have huge wars.  my team is america, and the other teams is the CO3WC (coallition of 3rd world countries).  no one has had any permanent damage yet, and im glad to lead my troops to victory numerous times.  our game is super realistic.  the 3rd world country team isnt allowed to eat for 3 days before the game, so they can get the full effect of being poor.  they are also given poor quality guns that may or may not fire, and the gun to man ratio is about 1 to 6.  my team, america, has a gun for each man, and we always win!  if anyone cheats, we shoot them in the stomach point blank.  this stuipid guy that no one likes an everyone hates named jim got shot and he puked blood.  its a great game, and we might add another power into the game, like the nazis or something.  its way more fun than paintball, and i recommend it to you.  adn i challenge you to take on america too.

    jon

  5. So let me understand this…you shot a kid you don’t like in the stomach with a potato gun and he puked blood…

    Okay either you are lying to see what kind of response you will get or you are about half a step away from killing someone. I really hope you are lying for everyones sake. Otherwise you are a rabid little psycho.

  6. How about dry ice bombs anyone? Awfully loud, but not a chemical device as the bomb squad told us.
    Fun on the 4th in outdoing your neighbors little fireworks show.

  7. Me and some buds of mine built this really sweet potato gun and we play a cool game called bounty hunter with it.  We usually start out as a posse and then divde up looking for some kid who is the bounty(the bounty is usually someone we dont like who we tell we will let join our game if they r the bounty first, though even if they comply we dont let them join). The game can become quite brutal at times and certain situations, such as close quarters combat where we use the gus as swords and beating sticks.  My friend alex is kinda scary though because he doesnt know when to stop the beating and he goes for the head or crotch.  He is a big guy and once he starts nobody dares to tell him to stop for fear that he’ll turn on them.  Several times the prey have had to go to the emergenceyroom, but luckily we all agree b4 the game to keep a code of silence, so we usually blame the injuries on some sort of sports game.  I love potato guns they r sooo awesome.

  8. a friend brought over a pneumatic spud gun, we used my air compressor to charge it up. shot a potato through a sheet of plywood, almost hit my neighbor, who hasn’t spoken to me since then (2 years ago) mission accomplished.

  9. ALL I WANT TO KNOW IS IF THERE IS A LIMIT TO HOW MANY SHOTS U GET OUT OF A POTATO GUN. I JUST MADE ONE AND I DONT WANT IT TO BACKFIRE

  10. There is no limit on potato gun shots as long as you use the right kind of ignitor. If you have one of the old fashioned lantern sparker ignitors you have a butt-load of work on your hands b/c you have to replace the flint and all that good stuff. But w/ an electrical ignitor you get unlimited shots. I’ve made about 6 potato guns, all electically fired, and its been 2 yrs now and they still fire just as good as the day I made them. We hit a kid with a potato once on accident. He was about 60 yrds away. It reminded me of that stunt on jackass where Knoxville gets ripped w/ a bean bag shotgun. We sent this kid to the hospital and the only thing that happened to him was he had to wear sweatpants for a week and had bad gas. It was funny afterwards but scary at the time it happened.

  11. I have the same question only with air guns. Can you get more then one shot with an air spudgun? I haven’t made one yet but that would be a bummer to pump it up for like 4 min for every shot.

  12. Do you guys include education on how not to shoot yourself in the face with a frog when using a spudgun? Seems like it might be a good idea considering the news story I was writing about in this entry.

  13. I watched a trial on Court TV where the defendant was charged with possession of a firearm for having a spud gun.  The guy had a felony record, was on probation, and was not allowed to possess firearms.  It was interesting because the prosecutor tried to show that the spud gun has all of the elements of a firearm: barrel (PVC pipe), projectile (the spud), propellant (hairspray), primer (bar-b-q igniter), and a trigger (bar-b-q igniter).  The judge was not impressed and ruled that the spud gun was a toy.

  14. At first this seemed wierd

    charged with possession of a firearm for having a spud gun.

    See, in the UK a spud gun is a little toy gun that you poke into a potato to put a little plug of ‘tater into the muzzel. You then squeeze it so the front barrel slides back over the back barrel, compressing the air, so shooting your ‘bullet’ a few feet.  Hope no of the yobs find out about the US version

  15. In England we have a national celebration every November 5th when we commemorate the failure of a chap called Guy Faulks to blow up Parliament (which seems the wrong way round, but never mind…). A few years ago I was living on the 12th floor of an apartment block (“tower block”, as we would call it) and me and my room mate contributed to the festivities by fashioning a primitive bazooka out of a length of PVC drain tube and some of the pyrotechnic rockets that are on sale at that time.

    We would launch the rockets from the balcony, occasionally using motorcycle gloves to launch one by hand (in our mind’s eye, we were Thor, god of thunder…) and a good time was had by all until we decided to see if we could hit the bonfire burning merrily on the empty lot across the street…

    It turned out that we could, easily. And in the ghostly silence that followed the ensuing huge explosion, it seemed prudent to switch off all the lights and hide behind the curtains until a lack of flashing lights and sirens convinced us that we hadn’t actually killed anyone.

    I suppose the point of all this waffle is that stupidity knows no national boundaries. And even twenty years on from my ad-hoc missile launcher experience, I still can’t help but wonder where I could get one of your American spud-guns from…

  16. LH; The US BATF issued an opinion saying that a hairspray powered spud gun is not a firearm (I wish I knew the date of the letter).

    BATF Letter (also completed spud guns and parts)

    Silvermute:

    That same site (above) sells completed spud guns and parts, including rifled PVC barrels.  If you can get PVC drain pipe and fittings, here is a site that has plans: 

    Spud gun plans

    There are hairspray style spud gun plans all over the internet.

  17. Les: So even though my first instinct is to giggle inanely at Daniel’s misfortune I won’t go as far as to call him a dumbass over it because I’ve been that sort of dumbass myself in my youth though I never tried launching a live animal out of my cannon.

    I think that dumbass is a good word for shooting oneself in the face with a spud gun (or similar); especially for someone who is 17 years old. You did it and lucked out by just getting a bruise, he wasn’t as lucky.  He fucked up—oh well.  I hope that his parents have good medical insurance. 

    That said, I think that shooting a living animal from a spud gun goes way beyond being a dumbass.

  18. A teenager has lost his sight after being struck in the face with a frog

    Schadenfreude aside, did anyone else burst out laughing when they read that?

    -Bob

  19. See, in the UK a spud gun is a little toy gun that you poke into a potato to put a little plug of ‘tater into the muzzel.

    Hussar, that’s what a spud gun used to be in the US too, when I was growing up.  Cost a dollar and no one got blinded.

    I think that shooting a living animal from a spud gun goes way beyond being a dumbass.

    I’ll bet the frog lost more than its eyesight, IDM.

  20. wtf was he looking down the barrel of a spud gun??? especially with a f@#$ing frog in it. ur supposed to take off the cap and look into the chamber then the worst you’ll get is burnt eyebrows. DUMBASS

  21. Let’s look at the bright side.  At least this blinded kid will have a unique conversation opener.

    My brother and I built rockets and made explosions of various kind when we were kids.  I was going to explain exactly how we did it, but after reading the spud gun enthusiasts’ comments here, I will refrain- I don’t want any mayhem or dead frogs on my conscience.

  22. LOL Doesn’t the comedy ‘can you look down my hosepipe to see why it’s not working?’ teach us all not to look down anything which shoots anything else really fast? My brother seems very interested in making his own spud gun. Fingers crossed he has retained enough braincells to a) not look down the barrel, ever.
    and b) not put a live animal into it.
    Thinking about it, this dude is going to have to go through the rest of his life blind after the frog incident.
    Imagine that. Your grandchild jumps up on your knee, and asks, ‘Grandad, why are you blind?’
    ‘Well, dearie, I shot myself with a frog.’

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