For more than a decade an air-powered piece of PVC pipe has, without fear or favour, fired t-shirts into a delighted crowd at home games of the Townsville Crocodiles in Queensland, Australia. But no more. The National Basketball League team was this week forced to surrender its homemade t-shirt cannon to police, after it was deemed a category B weapon. It was an order that left many at the club scratching their heads, general manager Rob Honan said, after it had enlivened home crowds with the promise of free t-shirt for more than a decade without incident.
"The ballistics unit informed the venue that essentially it was a category B weapon and it needed to be handed in, otherwise people in possession of it would be prosecuted," he said.
"It was bewildering but it is what it is. But it makes it harder for people to have fun.
There is no mechanism that engaged the crowd as much as the t-shirt launcher, which is almost a foundation piece of game day entertainment."
Another person's query about obtaining a launcher similar to that owned by the club reportedly alerted police in Townsville to the weapon.
In a statement, Queensland Police Service said subsequent inquiries determined it to be a category B weapon.
"A recent determination has been received from the QPS ballistics section that they are category B weapon," the statement read.
"Category B weapons need to be licensed and registered, having established a genuine need for possession.
Weapons of any category can only be manufactured by a licensed armourer."
The determination puts the homemade pipe launcher in the same category as a single shot centre-fire rifle, a double barrel centre-fire rifle, a repeating centre-fire rifle, a break action shotgun and centre-fire rifle combination.
Mr Honan said the cannon was powered by a compressed air cannister that could shoot light items, such as t-shirts, about 40 metres.
He believed it would struggle to shoot anything heavier with any significant force.
"I think you would be clutching at straws to think you could hurt someone," he said.
"I think you would not get enough buildup of gas, it's just a PVC pipe, so it is not like a gun as such. This is really just a mechanism to get giveaways to the back of the crowd."
With the club's next home game due to be played on February 11, Mr Honan said the mad scramble was on to replace the popular weapon.
"There's a lot of brainstorming happening at the moment, there is no easy solution," he said.
"There is potentially a slingshot version, potentially we just pull people from the crowd and gives things away but it really did engage the crowd."