Grappling Hooks, Smoke Bombs, and the RLSH.

Of all the many different wonderful and fantastical devices that the big screen and all the different blockbuster movies on Super Heroes have have put in the public eye as the big “tools of the trade” that Super Heroes have on our utility belt, the two I get asked about the most are the “grappling hooks” and “smoke bombs“.
People new to the RLSH community – often people with no experience or skills – will often make the incorrect assumption that these tools are OK to use and should be carried around as part of the standard gear “that all RLSH must carry to be legit”.
This is incorrect. In fact the opposite is more true.  If I see a guy claiming to be a RLSH who uses smoke bombs I’m going to treat him as at best , a noob with no real world experience, or at worse, a poser who is looking for attention.
I can however understand why people would feel this way.  It is not hard to get the vision in your mind of Batman or other well known Super Heroes just oozing cool as they extend their arm and shoot a grappling hook into the depths of the dark skyline above them, the soft “clink” as it hits telling them to test the line with a soft pull before optionally speaking “the catch phrase” and then silently and quickly fading into the darkness above, all while a small smoke bomb obscures the view so it looks like they just vanished into thin air.
The problem is, it doesn’t work like that in real life.   As somebody who has experience with both of these tools and as anybody who has actually tried this can confirm, both of these tools are just not practical and will usually get in your way and make it harder to do good works.  And as somebody who actually does go out and fight crime I can say that in general these two items are more trouble then they are worth.
Despite the fact that I have been doing this RLSH thing since 1999 I find it odd that people still think I am being “lame”, “uncool” or even “a stick in the mud” when I attempt to give them the benefit of my experience and explain for the 9001th time why these two items are usually not even functional, and are in general not even considered legal to use.
The mythography of the grappling gun or smoke bomb is so ingrained in the american culture of “cool super hero tools” that you just cant get it out of many peoples heads.
Sadly, due to this fact a lot of people would win a Darwin Award if not for the advice I post here, so it is my hope that in this blog post I can better explain the issues involved, as well as provide a resource I can point to in the future for the people in the community who want to learn and do good.
First Item: The Grappling Hook
You see multiple versions of this in the movies or available to buy online. From really expensive to suspiciously cheap, a lot of smart retailers have learned that even if its not practical or even legal to use, they can still sell them to inexperienced people who have more money then brains and make a fast buck.   This ranges from buying the hook and everything separately, to half finished kits – sold that way to help mitigate any legal liability the company has when you hurt yourself – that require expensive to buy one-use gas cartridges to function.
A fast google search finds a lot of “ninja gear” packages when you type in “grappling hook”. Basically, since most people are uncreative and generally ignorant enough that they do not have the skills or experience to tell how bad quality these “kits” are, a large market exists for pre-packaged “You want to be a ninja? Buy our stuff and you will be a ninja.” tool-sets.   Most people doing this usually have no idea what the Ninja (Shinobi) really are, and even more people somehow along the way forget that Ninjutsu is actualy an entire education system that teaches its students much more then fightings skills, as even meteorology (The study of weather patterns) is taught.. but that is a different subject.
Looking at the kits I find in Google the breaking strengths of each hook varies wildly. You know why? Because they the sellers often do not know themselves.  Here is a direct quote from the marketing used by one of the suppliers:

Most grappling hooks are large, heavy, bulky, and risky to use because the breaking strength of the metal is largely unknown.

.. and every single one I can find online in a fast search now is from 1.5 to 3 pounds, or about as much as a half gallon of milk. So what happens when you are 100 feet up in the air – lets just say you are in shape enough to be able to do it – and the hook breaks? Looking at item comments on Amazon, I find that many such items that are sold to the inexperienced people who buy them break easily, and there are many stories of people falling or worse. Look it up yourself if you do not trust me.
OK so what about line? Rope is surprisingly cheap, but good rope that will take the weight of a large muscled guy, body armor, and the rest weights about 8 pounds. About as much as a full gallon of Milk. Would you carry a gallon of milk with you on patrol on your belt, on the off chance that you may need it?
But wait. Lets say you do not mind walking around with a gallon and a half of milk worth of climbing equipment gear on the off chance you “might” need it. Lets say you are very physically fit and have no problem scaling a smooth un-knotted rope while wearing full ballistics armor and all your other gear.  So how do you actually USE it without breaking the law or damaging somebody else’s property?
We all know that breaking other peoples stuff is illegal. If you break somebodies window, or crash into a persons car, you will usually end up paying a huge fine and possibly even going to jail as such acts are considered vandalism or even theft in the wrong situation. The same is true of peoples houses or commercial buildings, the building just costs more to buy or repair.
The biggest issue I have seen that keeps people from understand this issue is that people do not understand how a grappling hook actually works, and as such they do not understand that to function the hook must damage the property it is being used on in order to get a secure enough hold on the building that the person attempting to climb up has a good enough anchor to do so.
In order to function, the grappling hook has to “catch” on 2 (or of they lucky, more) of its hooks. These hooks dig into the stone (or whatever the buildings is made of) and sink into it with “teeth” in order to get a anchor. To work, this has to at least scratch up or otherwise damage the building.   In fact if the grappling hook catches the wrong thing, its entirely possible that the brick of a building will be pulled to the side enough that the very top pf the wall where it catches will break and come tumbling down on top of the person who attempted to climb. That really depends on how old the wall is, but do you really want to risk it?
A Real Life Super Hero would never damage somebodies home or property, so this alone makes grappling hooks just not worth the trouble. Add the rest of the issues I have discussed, and they become impractical to carry on your nightly patrol long before the issue is legality comes up. And yet because of the damage they do to property Grappling Hooks are illegal to actually use in most countries of the world, and for this reason and the fact that using them damages others property they are antithetical to the spirit of altruism and good works that a true Real Life Super Hero has.
Bottom Line: If you want to be a real life super hero, show others how cool and experienced you are by not even trying to use a graping hook.
Second Item: The Smoke Bomb
Smoke Bombs may look cool, but they are actually pretty toxic and can create great harm to innocent lives if the smoke is breathed in. While many will debate about exactly HOW TOXIC the smoke of different types is, the fact is we all agree that smoke is toxic and breathing smoke of any type is bad for you.
If you think smoke is good for you, or otherwise don’t think I am right, feel free to go ahead and ask a fire fighter or doctor – somebody who actually goes to training classes to learn about smoke/etc – what his or her opinion is.
Still think Smoke Bombs are a good idea? Let me ask you this: What happens if one night you use a smoke bomb to get away from a bunch of thugs you don’t have the experience or training to otherwise deal with directly.. and a baby on the other side of the window above where this all happens breaths in the toxic fumes and dies? They can not get away because statistically they are in a crib, possibly asleep. You would have murdered the baby. The same goes with peoples well loved pets (Birds are well known to be sensitive to smoke, and older pets of any type can not move as fast as they once did) the elderly or disabled (who may not be mobile at all), or anybody with a breathing problem, has weak lungs, or just cant get out of the way of the smoke. You could end up killing an innocent person or animal without meaning to.
Since I’m going to assume you want to fire smoke bombs at night, what about the people who are sleeping soundly and may not be able to wake before they suffocate to death because of your desire to “be cool” and use smoke bombs?
Tell me, would the crying mother who just lost her baby to smoke inhalation because you used a smoke bomb think you were cool?
But lets say you get really lucky and nobody gets hurt. Smoke bombs are also considered illegal under many local laws, and can be considered illegal anywhere in the united states if you do a strict reading of the laws, so you may get lucky and just be charged with a misdemeanor.  It goes on your criminal record, you have to go to court, you pay a fine, and then when the police look at you claiming to be the good guy they can print out your criminal record and tell you “no, your not your a criminal, its right here on your criminal record”.
A Real Life Super Hero would never knowingly harm innocent lives, so this alone makes smoke bombs not something you want to use as they are antithetical to the spirit of altruism and good works that a true Real Life Super Hero has.   Add to it the other issues I have discussed, and they become not only impractical to carry on your nightly patrol, but actively harmful to YOU and your efforts to be seen as the good guy or do good deeds.
Bottom Line: Smoke bombs are not practical, not worth the risk to innocent lives, and are often considered illegal anyway so they are not something a real Real Life Super Hero would ever actually use.