Blaster (flamethrower)
The Blaster was a 1998 invention by South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

n inventor Charl Fourie designed to provide a defence against carjacking
Carjacking is a form of hijacking, where the crime is of stealing a motor vehicle and so also armed assault when the vehicle is occupied. Historically, such as in the rash of semi-trailer truck hijackings during the 1960s, the general term hijacking was used for that type of vehicle abduction,...


The invention came in response to the increasingly severe violent crime situation
Crime in South Africa
Crime is a prominent issue in South Africa. South Africa has a high rate of murders, assaults, rapes, and other crimes compared to most countries. Many emigrants from South Africa state that crime was a big factor in their decision to leave...

 in South Africa, which in 1998 had already made the country (particularly Johannesburg, South Africa) the per capita murder
Murder is the unlawful killing, with malice aforethought, of another human being, and generally this state of mind distinguishes murder from other forms of unlawful homicide...

, assault
In law, assault is a crime causing a victim to fear violence. The term is often confused with battery, which involves physical contact. The specific meaning of assault varies between countries, but can refer to an act that causes another to apprehend immediate and personal violence, or in the more...

, rape
Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse, which is initiated by one or more persons against another person without that person's consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority or with a person who is incapable of valid consent. The...

 and carjacking capital of the world. The Blaster was a liquefied petroleum gas flamethrower
A flamethrower is a mechanical device designed to project a long controllable stream of fire.Some flamethrowers project a stream of ignited flammable liquid; some project a long gas flame. Most military flamethrowers use liquids, but commercial flamethrowers tend to use high-pressure propane and...

 installed along the sides of the vehicle under the doors. Should a group of carjackers suddenly attack the vehicle while it is stopped in traffic (the typical scenario), the occupant could flip a switch and direct 5 metre plumes of flame upward into the facial area of anyone trying to enter the vehicle through the doors or windows. Fourie claims it is unlikely to kill but would "definitely blind" the assailant. In South Africa, it is legal to use lethal force in self-defence if in fear of one's life, and ownership of flamethrowers is unrestricted.

The device was controversial in South Africa, with some (including the Automobile Association of South Africa
Automobile Association of South Africa
The Automobile Association of South Africa, often abbreviated AA has been operating in South Africa since 1930. It is a non-profit organisation providing services to its Members such as roadside assistance, technical and motor-related legal advice...

 (AA)) speculating that the device might cause more carjackers to simply murder drivers with gunfire as a precautionary measure before approaching the vehicle, a tactic which was already fairly common.

In any case, the device was not banned (as is sometimes reported), but the high price tag limited its market and made it unprofitable. By 2001, only a few hundred had been sold, and the device was taken off the market by Fourie, who instead started marketing a less expensive pocket-sized "personal flamethrower". 2009 statistics report the murder rate in South Africa has decreased by nearly 50% since 1999, but the assault rate has stayed steady and the carjacking and rape rates have actually increased, remaining the highest per capita in the world, and there is still some use of Blaster-equipped vehicles in Johannesburg and elsewhere.

The Blaster received ample (and often satirical) media coverage from abroad. In particular, it earned its inventor the 1999 Ig Nobel Peace Prize
Ig Nobel Prize
The Ig Nobel Prizes are an American parody of the Nobel Prizes and are given each year in early October for ten unusual or trivial achievements in scientific research. The stated aim of the prizes is to "first make people laugh, and then make them think"...

 (a parody of the real Nobel Prize
Nobel Prize
The Nobel Prizes are annual international awards bestowed by Scandinavian committees in recognition of cultural and scientific advances. The will of the Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, established the prizes in 1895...


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