Weapon With The Pedigree Of A Tool
Tools being used as weapons more (famously) than as tools
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(permanent link) added: 2012-03-21 15:50:15 sponsor: Koncur edited by: Arivne (last reply: 2014-08-28 16:25:25)

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It is a weapon of great power! It cuts the demons in half, it blows the robots to bits, and it burns the aliens where they stand. Can you believe you bought it at the hardware store?

This is about items that are thought of in-universe as simple tools, that end up being used as effective weapons. Often, viewers will be more familiar with their use as weapons than the in-story intended use, sometimes to the point that using them properly would seem like Mundane Utility.

In the writing process, this trope will often come up when one has an idea for a novel weapon, that doesn't quite make sense as something that would be fielded by an army. It is then given a backstory of having been a tool for some purpose, allowing it's existence to make sense.

Note that smashing a bottle over someone's head or grabbing the nearest blunt object in a fight is just an Improvised Weapon.

Compare Misapplied Phlebotinum, which is about magics or technologies being used in places where they are going to waste. The difference here is that the tools weren't necessarily going to waste, as they may have previously been well-used for their intended purpose, before being used as a weapon.

Also see Drop the Hammer.


  • Chainsaws were meant to cut wood, but in fiction they tend to find more use either terrorizing teenagers or dicing up zombies.
  • The Scythe. While most people would probably acknowledge that they're farming tools, these days, likely due to the Grim Reaper (and because they just look cool) most people are probably more inclined to think of them as weapons. It is possible to use them as a polearm but only if you remount the blade.
  • Professional barbers use straight razors to deliver precise, smooth shaves that can't be matched by any other razor. In the popular perception, however, it's more notorious as a murder weapon, used by the likes of Jack the Ripper and Sweeney Todd.

  • The Cargo Loader in Aliens was meant to be a walking forklift. Ripley ends up using it like powered armor to battle the Alien Queen hand-to-hand in the famous climatic battle.

Video Games
  • Half-Life 2
    • The Zero-Point Energy Manipulator was meant to be used for heavy lifting for construction purposes. In Gordon Freemanís hands, it finds more use as The Gravity Gun, punting heavy objects into the faces of Combine soldiers.
    • This series has practically redefined the average player's concept of the purpose of the crowbar.
  • The Freezethrower in Duke Nukem Forever is meant for construction purposes, but Duke uses it to freeze enemies solid so that he can smash them to pieces.
  • In Penny Arcade Adventures, the player character starts with a rake, which is used to defeat rampaging robots. As the game goes on, the rake is upgraded into some kind of battle-rake capable of harming a Cosmic Horror.
  • In Ocarina of Time, the Biggoronís Sword was just a giantís butterknife.
  • The Tools of Kagrenac from The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. Designed to manipulate the heart of a dead god, they also make decent magical weapons; the Keening, for example, is one of the best magical daggers.

Real Life
  • Dynamite was invented as a tool for mining, but quickly found use as a weapon. Itís inventor, Alfred Nobel, created the Nobel Prize in attempt to not be remembered as the inventor of a device of violence and suffering.
  • Inverted by nuclear energy: Invented as a weapon of mass destruction, but then re-applied as a way to meet increasing demands on the power grid.
  • Knives are used fairly equally often as tools and weapons.
  • Axes
  • Warhammers
  • Most eastern martial arts weapons were originally gardening tools (kamas, sais, bo staffs, nunchaku), because "professional" weapons such as swords were restricted exclusively to the warrior elite.

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