Category Archives: Pistols and Revolvers

CMP 1911 Sales in the NDAA; Threatened Veto; Capped at 10k Firearms

1911a1-4-cThe authorization for the Department of Defense (NDAA FY 2016) includes the statutory language changes needed so that the Army may begin transferring the approximately 100,000 surplus M1911A1 pistols in its warehouses to the Civilian Marksmanship Program for sale to CMP member/customers. However, the bill must be signed by the President to become law, and it has many provisions (including this one) that he finds unpalatable. He has threatened to veto the bill, and it is unlikely that any of his fellow Democrats would help override his veto.

Even if he doesn’t fold before Congress like he’s so pleased to do for Khamenei and Putin, the bill is not the CMP free-for-all that pistoleros have been expecting. It requires CMP to jump through some hoops and add further of the politicians’ favorite buzzword, “background checks.” (CMP already conducts a NICS check on its rifle sales, so it’s unclear what the bill’s provision really does). It gives great authority to the Secretary of Defense, which he may use obstructively, if he desires to kneecap the program. There are reports required. And most vexingly, the program is limited to a pilot program of 10,000 in the first year, and then, if that is successful, 10,000 a year thereafter. The conference committee language is available at, although it’s not entirely clear when the bill, the final form of which was voted on by both houses last week, will make its way to the other end of the Mall for veto or signature. The text of the main part of the relevant section follows, then some brief comments. We’ll intersperse GI 1911 pictures, to prevent the Wall O Legalese from sending you into MEGO (My Eyes Glaze Over) Mode.


Sec. 1087. Transfer of Surplus Firearms to Corporation for the Promotion of Rifle Practice and Firearms Safety.

(a) Authorization of Transfer of Surplus Firearms to Corporation for the Promotion of Rifle Practice and Firearms Safety.–
(1) In general.–Section 40728 of title 36, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new subsection:

(h) Authorized Transfers.–(1) Subject to paragraph (2), the Secretary may transfer to the corporation, in accordance with the procedure prescribed in this subchapter, surplus caliber .45 M1911/M1911A1 pistols and spare parts and related accessories for those pistols that, on the date of the enactment of this subsection, are under the control of the Secretary and are surplus to the requirements of the Department of the Army, and such material as may be recovered by the Secretary pursuant to section 40728A(a) of this title. The Secretary shall determine a reasonable schedule for the transfer of such surplus pistols.

2) The Secretary may not transfer more than 10,000 surplus caliber .45 M1911/M1911A1 pistols to the corporation during any year and may only transfer such pistols as long as pistols described in paragraph (1) remain available for transfer.

There probably won't be old 1911s like this. And definitely not this one -- it was Clyde Barrow's.

There probably won’t be old 1911s like this. And definitely not this one — it was Clyde Barrow’s!

This is followed by a section of “technical and conforming amendments” that essentially patch other laws that would otherwise conflict with the policy change imposed by the paragraphs above. Then come the exceptions, limitations and reporting requirements:

(b) Exception.–With respect to firearms other than  caliber .22 rimfire and caliber .30 rifles, the corporation shall obtain a license as a dealer in firearms and abide by all requirements imposed on persons licensed under chapter 44 of title 18, including maintaining acquisition and disposition records, and conducting background checks.”.
(b) Pilot Program.–

(1) One-year authority.–The Secretary of the Army may carry out a one-year pilot program under which the Secretary may transfer to the Corporation for the Promotion of Rifle Practice and Firearms Safety not more than 10,000 firearms described in paragraph (2).
(2) Firearms described.–The firearms described in this paragraph are surplus caliber .45 M1911/M1911A1 pistols and spare parts and related accessories for those pistols that, on the date of the enactment of  this section, are under the control of the Secretary  and are surplus to the requirements of the Department of the Army.
(3) Transfer requirements.–Transfers of surplus caliber .45 M1911/M1911A1 pistols from the Army to the Corporation under the pilot program shall be made in  accordance with subchapter II of chapter 407 of title 36, United States Code.
(4) Reports to congress.–

The reports are spelled out in the Conference Committee report, but they basically are one three months in and one at the end of the year, send Congress the total firearms transferred, and any of these firearms reported as being used in crimes. (With the guns likely to sell in the low four figures and up, any that make it into criminal intercourse will almost certainly have been stolen, but Congress wants the report).

And one last provision:

(c) Limitation on Transfer of Surplus Caliber .45 M1911/M1911A1 Pistols.–The Secretary may not transfer firearms described in subsection (b)(2) under subchapter II of chapter 407 of title 36, United States Code, until the date that is 60 days after the date of the submittal of the final report required under subsection (b)(4)(B).

If we read the statutory reference right (which is always a crapshoot), what this provision does is forbid the Army to transfer any newly recovered foreign aid or lend-lease .45s that are in foreign inventories and sell them, before the final report on the pilot-program year is submitted. It is unlikely that any such transfers would happen in the Obama administration, which has argued with a straight face that $1,000, four-foot-long M1 Garands and $1,500 collector carbines are widely used in crime.


Other Small Arms Provisions

Other Small Arms provisions in the NDAA include a requirement for a Report on the Army and Marine Corps modernization plan for small arms (sec. 162), and a requirement that an independent assessment compare the vulnerability to small arms and light AA of the A-10, which the USAF is anxious to scrap, to its recommended replacements (sec. 142).

Section 142 (e) (1) (b) (i.) (VI) (Some punctuation added for clarity):

An A-10C of the 81st FS with an interesting ordnance mix. Click to embiggen.

Future needs analysis for the current A-10 aircraft mission set, to include: troops-in-contact/close air support, air interdiction, strike control and reconnaissance, and combat search and rescue support in both contested and uncontested battle environments. At a minimum, the needs analysis should specifically address…[t]he capability to enable the pilot and aircraft to survive attacks stemming from small arms, machine guns, man-portable air-defense systems, and lower caliber anti-aircraft artillery organic or attached to enemy ground forces and maneuver units.

A Congressional brush-back pitch on the USAF’s desire to decommission the A-10. They should just transfer ’em to the Army (as if), since outside the A-10 community the leaders’d rather not do CAS anyway (the pilots are a different story… there’s a lot of gung-ho in line squadrons).

Sec. 162. Report On Army And Marine Corps Modernization Plan For Small Arms.

(a) Report Required.–Not later than one year after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of the Army and the Secretary of the Navy shall jointly submit to the Committees on Armed Services of the Senate and the House of Representatives a report on the plan of the Army and the Marine Corps to modernize small arms for the Army and the Marine Corps during the 15-year period beginning on the date of such plan, including the mechanisms to be used to promote competition among suppliers of small arms and small arms parts in achieving the plan.

(b) Small Arms.–The small arms covered by the plan under subsection (a) shall include the following:

(1) Pistols.
(2) Carbines.
(3) Rifles and automatic rifles.
(4) Light machine guns.
(5) Such other small arms as the Secretaries consider appropriate for purposes of the report required by subsection (a).

(c) Non-standard Small Arms.–In addition to the arms specified in subsection (b), the plan under subsection (a) shall also address non-standard small arms not currently in the small arms inventory of the Army or the Marine Corps.

This provision was originally in the Senate, but not the House, bill. The House yielded to the Senate language. The justification of this seems clear enough. The services seem determined to look like they’re flying by the seat of their pants here, with no forethought, let alone planning. This is a brushback pitch from Congress. Subtext: figure out a plan and show us what it is, or we might strangle the money you’re expecting.

Section 163. Study On Use Of Different Types Of Enhanced 5.56mm Ammunition by The Army And The Marine Corps.


Left: M855A1, 62 grain; Right: Mk 318 OTM/SOST, 62 grain. Image from Rod Rodriguez’s Grunts & Co. blog.

Rather than provide the text of this, just note that it requires the SecDef to appoint one of the Federally Funded Research and Development Centers to evaluate how the Army and Marines came to adopt different 5.56mm ammo, and suggest courses of action.  The full text is available at the link.

In this case, the House had a provision for a report, and the Senate did not. In conference committee, the two houses agreed to a report but required it be done by a nominally independent FFRDC (the committee language mentions the Center for Naval Analyses as an example, but there are others including the RAND Corp, the Institute for Defense Analyses, MITRE, etc., etc.)

On this, one of the best things we’ve seen is Will “Major Rod” Rodriguez’s painstaking explanation of what went into M855A1 (Army) and Mk 318 SOST (Marine/SOF) ammo. The bottom line is both beat M855 green tip for accuracy, barrier-blindness, and terminal effect. We stole Rod’s graphic too… sorry about that.

Miss America, 1907

1907, the year this pistol was made, was a hell of a year, perhaps not in the sense of 1861 or 1945, but a lot of things were happening. Theodore Roosevelt, the action-guy version of a polymath, was six years into his Presidency, and appointed an obscure colonel named George Washington Goethals to get the Panama Canal project rocking.

In the world of guns, soldiers and Marines were racking their Krags (and criminally long-lived Trapdoors) for the Mauser-based Springfields that put the USA back in the small arms game, even as ordnance officers pushed towards the Benet-Mercié as an ill-thought-out Maxim replacement in the novel role of machine gun. Overseas, single-shot black-powder turnbolts and rolling-blocks were being replaced, too, by smokeless smaller-bore Mausers, and Maxim and Hotchkiss were selling machine guns to the civilized world. And double-action revolvers were still replacing single-actions, while a whole new action concept, the semi-automatic pistol, was evolving to replace both.

gunbroker_colt_1907_listingsThe Colt Patent Firearms Company in Hartford, Connecticut, was in transition. There was a strong sense that auto pistols, like the designs Colt was buying from John M. Browning, were the wave of the future, but new double-action revolvers were more popular with most users, especially police, and demand for the old single-actions hadn’t yet waned. A search of GunBroker for “Colt 1907” gives us an unscientific sample of Colt’s production that year. Bisley and other SAA revolvers, including some in smokeless calibers like the .38 S&W Special; double-action revolvers including the powerful New Service; and both pocket and military automatics of Browning design. The breakdown is 7 single-action revolvers (one was off the bottom of the screen shot), 3 double-action, and three automatics, one of which is a Swedish model 1907 that was not made by Colt and probably not made in 1907 (but they’re cool guns anyway, and a half-ancestor of the Tokarev pistol). That’s 77% revolvers (54% thumbusters), and 23% automatics, rounded off. Colonel Colt, who passed away in 1862, would only recognize the single-actions as close kin to the gun made on his own watch. The automatics were just starting their long march to absolute domination.

Colt 1905 127 1907 trials 02

Which brings us to the vision of loveliness you see before you: Miss America, 1907. She was one of the 200 guns that the Army ordered, for the penultimate round of trials and troop tests that would weigh Colt’s edition of the Browning design against DWM’s version of Georg Luger’s. That makes her as historically significant as she is beautiful, little Miss America here.

Colt 1905 127 1907 trials 01

This gun was shipped on 17 March 08 up the river from Colt’s Hartford plant to Springfield Armory. It differed from the ordinary run of Model 1905 production, in that it had a different hammer, nearly vertical ejection, an extractor that functioned as a loaded-chamber indicator (a cavalry request), a grip safety (another cav request), Euro-style magazine release in butt, and a lanyard loop. It differed from the Model 1910 that would ultimately emerge as the military’s M1911 in the arrangement of the barrel and recoil spring (and the associated take-down procedures), the magazine release, the lack of a manual safety, the slide stop, and some other small details. Still, the lines of the future service pistol were firming up by this point.

colt letter of authenticationSerial number 127  has been painstakingly refinished by Turnbull. The rich nitre blue on the small parts (trigger, hammer, slide stop, grip safety, etc.) is striking as is the deep lustrous charcoal blue of the slide and receiver. Both Colt and Turnbull letters of authenticity are included.

It is hard to price a refinished gun like this, one with a premium refinish. (Indeed, Turturnbull invoicenbull does such a nice job you could argue it’s over-refinished). The conventional wisdom is that a refinished gun in as-new conditon is worth less than it was pre-restoration. But there are restorations, and there are restorations; one restorer might be Doug Turnbull and the other Bubba who usually drives the propane truck.

The auction has been bid to $9,000 and has stalled there, below the reserve, at this writing. It will be interesting to see where it goes. It seems to us that there are deep psychological barriers at certain round-number levels (of which the biggest seem to be $1k, $2k, and $10k). Maybe retailers are on to something when they price something at $999.99.

Seeing Double?

We dunno. We think we like the Arsenal double-pistol better, but you have to admit these are easy on the eyes:


It’s just a pair of decent custom 1911s… on Gunbroker… but wait… one’s a perfect mirror image of the other. You know, for when you go run IDPA stages dual-wielding like an action hero.

Oh, wait, IDPA doesn’t allow that? Sissies.

Here’s the GunBroker listing blurb:

If perfection saw double it would be this: a perfectly inverted pair of Jones 1911s.


Cabot Guns is committed to doing the things others believe to be impossible. Unlike other manufacturers, Cabot doesn’t stop simply with mirrored control surfaces and a reversed ejection port. They engineer their pistols to be perfectly inverted true-copies of one another, going so far as to reverse the rifling in the left-handed model to guarantee smooth, true felt recoil and follow through directed towards the shooter’s palm.These guns feature everything you’ve come to expect from ultra-premium craftsmanship; precision checkering at the front and back straps, a national match grade barrel, finished with blued steel, artist crafted cocobolo grips, and gold bead front sights.

These are sold strictly as a pair.

Model :Jones Mirrored 1911
Caliber : .45 ACP
Action : Semi-auto blowback
Feeding : 7-rd magazine
Barrel : 5″
Finish : High Polished Blued

“They are sold strictly as a pair.” Yeah, do you think someone would go, “Er, I want the left one only, please?”

In case of jihad, break glass:


Now for the bad news. (You knew there was going to be bad news, right?)

Yeah, it seems that all you guys who couldn’t afford last week’s Johnson MG semi conversion can’t afford this, either.

In fact, you’d need to afford three of the Johnny guns to play in this league, as the fixed price is $26,500.

But if you ever wondered what Gulf Arab princelings with diplomatic immunity buy when they’re gun shopping, this may be the answer.

Here’s what Cabot Guns says about the Jones 1911:

The Jones 1911 is Cabot’s flagship pistol, the gun that started an obsession, and the project during which we re-wrote all the rules. The introduction of Cabot Guns and the Jones 1911 to the firearms market has done more than turn heads; it’s turned the industry upside down.


This is the base Jones.

Our history as a firearms manufacturer begins during the recession of 2008, with the economy slowing and the primary customers of our manufacturing facility – Penn United Technologies – tightening their belts, the engineers, machinists, and nano-technologists at Cabot found themselves with some extra time on their hands. From men and women who dedicate their lives to servicing the needs of America’s precision-demanding aerospace industries, sprouted the idea to apply that same attention to detail, near excessive dedication to quality control, and pride in our craft to the creation of the perfect firearm. We’re a company with deeply seeded American roots and an unwavering commitment to American prowess; there was no question as to which firearm we would produce – it had to be the Browning pistol, model 1911. We’ve introduced more than “just another 1911” to the firearms community, we’ve created the new standard in precision pistols – we’ve brought the 1911 into the 21st century.

It takes more than machines to make art, more than precision to create perfection; we’ve understood this since our beginnings over 40 years ago. Penn United’s founder, Carl Jones, was a man with an unmatched belief in American excellence. A passionate innovator and stalwart supporter of American industry, Carl taught us that by perfecting our craft and investing in our people; we could not only be the best in the world at what we do, but that we could in fact build the impossible. This is our promise, this is our creed, and this is our livelihood. We’ve poured our souls into creating the Jones 1911. Hold one. As it warms to your grasp you will feel the welling pride of American excellence that it represents.

The design, manufacture, and perfection of the Jones 1911 is a process we’ve approached without regard to time, cost, or materials; our only concerns are to “do it right, do it better, and to do it American.” Where others create their firearms using forged frames and cast slides, Cabot starts with a solid block of American 4140 Billet Steel and uses computer controlled machining and EDM technology to shape our frames and slides – progressing then on to precision grinding machines to create perfectly consistent fits which leave no tooling marks on our final product.

The Jones 1911 is as innovative as it is historic. One glance and you clearly see the pedigree of the 1911 embodied in the Jones – one stare and you come to realize that it’s a revolution in firearms manufacturing. We’ve pioneered a precision technology for sophisticated industries, a feat which not only enables us to guarantee the precision-fit of the Jones 1911, Though we never intend to become a high-volume manufacturer, we continuously strive to improve on the perfection that is our product.

If you’re ready to meet the new standard of excellence in the engineering and elegance of the 1911 pistol, Mr. Jones waits to greet you. Say hello to art in action.

Please also see our ultra premium Jones Deluxe 1911 model, perhaps the most beautiful 1911 ever crafted.

The guns are a unique combination of high tech and handcraft. The technologies include CNC Machining, EDM wire, EDM Sink, CNC Jig Grinding, and CNC Surface Grinding; the polish is done by hand, and their claim is that there is no tooling mark on their pistol — anywhere. They further claim that the high-tech machining gives them a perfect fit and perfectly interchangeable parts without hand fitting. That leaves the gunsmiths to concentrate on the art of the pistol.

Cabot has a history of making out-of-this-world 1911s, with grips of meteorite metal or mammoth tooth, or a slide of Damascus stainless. The prices are also firmly orbital. A base Jones 1911 will leave the well-heeled pistolero less well-heeled to the tune of $6,450. The one-of-a-kind exotics make the Jones look like a bargain.

Exercise for the reader: imagine John M. Browning back from the dead, and seeing this. Is he more likely to be wowed by the worksmanship, or bemused that nobody has completely replaced his century-old design? You know if he had miraculously lived all this time, he would have kept designing better and better guns. Imagine what he could do with Cabot’s manufacturing technology — this guy who made his prototypes, mostly, with files and other hand tools.

First Documented Successful 3D Printed Revolver (&c.)

Yes, we’re still in early phases with additive-manufactured firearms, but the technology is coming along, as are the users.

Washbear. This is an early version with tension bars (in red on the cylinder, retained by the cylinder's black end caps).

Washbear. This is an early version with tension bars (in red on the cylinder, retained by the cylinder’s black end caps).

Big News: Working 3DP Revolver

Proof of firing video:

What you just saw was a 3D printed, legal, double-action-only revolver firing six shots of live ball ammunition. This is the culmination of a lot of effort by a lot of people, not least Yoshitomo Imura who is doing three years in an unpleasant Japanese slammer for firing blanks from his original design. Through many iterations, 3D revolver and pepperbox design has improved until it’s reached the current state of the art, which is called the PM522 Washbear.

FOSSCAD writes:

The PM522 Washbear DAO .22LR Revolver by James R. Patrick. AFTER YEARS OF TRIAL AND ERROR we have the WORLD’s FIRST 3DPRINTED DAO (Double Action Only) Revolver!!!!!!!! WOO HOOOOOOOOOOOOO! With the body of the Songbird Pistol and an Imura-esque Cylinder and trigger system, this baby hold 6 dataloving shots of 22LR made for consistent shooting with a removable cylinder for easy reload. OH YES WE CAN!!!!!!! We are refining the recipe and will be releasing CAD VERY SOON! For now we have a lovely test video proving that this baby works!!MOARGUNS!!

Washbear in its case. Cylinder is designed to be an expendable part.

Washbear in its case. Cylinder is designed to be an expendable part.

Patrick is an engineering student; his own site is purported to be here. However, access is blocked by our antivirus software: “Access has been blocked as the threat  Mal/HTMLGen-A has been found on this website.” We were able to view the text on the site by looking at the Google cache of the site.

washbear printed cylindersCylinders in particular received a lot of trial, error, and trial again. The initial cylinder design took 20 hours of printer time to produce. (Who was the wag that called this technology “rapid prototyping,” and where can we get a case of whatever he was drinking?). Another iteration (see the green cylinder in the upper left) used the 3D printed part as an outer shell and filled it with epoxy resin; this is the “fill compositing” technique developed by Belter and Dollar at Yale and published in PLOS ONE.

Design for the resin-filled cylinder.

Design for the resin-filled cylinder.

Best one so far has metal chamber liners. Here’s what Patrick says:

Here’s a summary of the different cylinders we’ve tried:

  • The original multi-part cylinder with tension rods didn’t hold up. It fired two shots and cracked on the third, which deformed the cylinder enough to jam the action. The tension rods actually sheared cleanly at the point where the bullet exits the casing.
  • So we tried making the tension rods thicker. On that version, the tension rods survived firing but the cylinder still cracked.
  • So then we tried my resin-filled ABS idea. That one fired six shots, but was too damaged to reuse.
  • So I made a version with no tension rods and I tightened up the headspace, hoping that the front and rear of the cylinder would contact the frame when fired and the frame would take the pressure. FP has printed this version in Taulman Bridge (a nylon filament) and it awaits testing. He also modified that design to accept steel chamber liners.

It was printed on a Rostock Max, a deltabot-style open-source printer that’s popular with hobbysists for its open-source nature, large print area, and reasonable cost.

Washbear frame printed on the Rostock Max.

Washbear frame printed on the Rostock Max.

Much more information at the IMGUR page, and in Patrick’s website, if he can get it de-malware’d. Anybody’s guess what government agency did it to him?

Unique Presentation Tokarev TT-33 at RIA Auction this Weekend

Bet you’ve never seen a pistol exactly like this before:

elbe meeting tt-33 right

It’s up for auction this weekend. Here’s what RIA says about it. First, about TTs in general:

Manufactured in 1944, the TT-33 was a simple and robust design firing the bottlenecked high-velocity 7.62mm Tokarev round and using a quick-change action group that allowed many otherwise crippling mechanical failures to be solved with a simple exchange of drop-in components.

To that we’d add that the TT-33 design has some Browning features, some Petter features, and some improvements that appear to be Tokarev’s own. As you can see from the images, it had among the best sights of any period pistol, and definitely the best on a period service pistol.

Now, about this particular gun:

Matching numbers are present on the slide, frame and magazine, with a matching partial number “50” on the action group and matching dates on the slide and frame. The grips are a set of clear acrylic (airplane windshield soirced) with steel frames, which each have an underlaid green paper panel; similar grips are known to have been field-improvised by Allied soldiers using lexan and similar materials salvaged from downed aircraft.

To that, we’d just quibble that Lexan was far in the future. This is simple acrylic, Plexiglas by its American trade name and Perspex in Britain. The paper pieces under the grip appear to have been done with colored pencils that any headquarters would have on hand, and if they are truly original, they’ve been kept out of the ultraviolet for these 70 years.

The right panel has a red star flanked by “CCCP” with blue and pink border accents, and the left panel shows some light vine accents around a finely written cyrillic inscription. A translation was included by a prior owner: “To Brigadier General Shugg/from Colonel Patanin/May 10 1945 Elbe River/in Memory of the War with Germany”.

elbe meeting tt-33 left

It seems like a rather touching exchange between near peers, at the end of a cataclysmic war that brought often-opposing nations together to face a much greater threat.

Research has not produced any results on Colonel Patanin, but records do show a Brigadier General Roland Paget Shugg (b 1893 d 1989) as a artillery officer with the XIII Corps. XIII Corps was among the Allied units that made it to the Elbe River, the politically mandated “stop point” for the Western Allies and famous as the meeting point for American, Commonwealth, and other Western Front units and their Soviet counterparts on the Eastern Front. Many exchanges of souvenirs are known to have happened at these meetings, including weapons and military equipment. Shugg started his military career as a West Point cadet in 1912, joining the Cavalry post-graduation for Border Patrol duty in Texas before transferring to Field Artillery and combat action in Europe in World War One. Between wars he took a number of staff postings while also studying at Fort Sill, Fort Leavenworth, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. During World War Two he was the commanding General of XIII Corps’ Field Artillery, which as noted was at the Elbe at the time in question. After the war, he would serve as a member of a joint Brazilian-American defense commission, a staff officer to the American Mission to Turkey, Commander of the Port of Embarkation in New Orleans, and division artillery commander for the 3rd Infantry, a role that would take him back into combat during the Korean War. Among his decorations were the Silver Star and Legion of Merit (both earned in World War Two with oak leaves from the Korean War), Belgian and French Croix du Guerre with Palm, and others

via Historic Soviet Tokarev TT-33 Semi-Automatic Pistol with Custom Grip Inscription from a Soviet Colonel to an American Artillery General for the Meeting of the Allies at the Elbe River.

It seems probable that Soviet-era archives will have something about Colonel Patanin.

They sum up the pistol and its condition like this:

Excellent, with 98% of the original blue finish, showing some light scratches and handling marks overall. The period replacement grips are very good, with a few light scratches, and the paper panels show fine color and strong ink detail. Mechanically excellent. A historic piece of Soviet World War Two military hardware, connected to the final defeat of Nazi Germany and the end of the war in Europe.

… and suggest it might sell for $2-3,000. That seems to us to be a considerable lowball for a gun with probable WWII provenance and considerable historical value. Nice original TTs have grown scarce, although crudely smithed ones to pass ATF’s idjit “sporting purposes” safety rule are common here; but this one is not just any nice original, but an original with a difference and a story. A centerpiece for the collector of Russian and Soviet arms, and a suitable display in many a museum.

Guest Post: Russian Internally Suppressed, Captive Piston Quiet Weapons (Max Popenker)

This is a guest post by the Russian firearms expert and historian Maxim Popenker, co-author (with Anthony Williams) of several reference works1, and the founder and owner of the indispensable website. some time ago, we mentioned in a story on the Quiet Special Purpose Revolver that the US had not pursued such technology, but the Russians had, and Max asked if our readers wanted to know that Russian history. We said they certainly did, and he shared it with us — and now, with you. It has been very lightly edited, which is amazing given that Max is writing in what is to him a foreign language. We have added amplifying footnotes here and there. — Ed.

A very brief history of the internally suppressed, captive piston ammunition and firearms in Russia.

The basic concept of suppression of the firearm’s sound by capturing powder gases inside a closed volume in not new. In fact, it is quite old, with patents to that effect issued in USA as early as 1902 (see US Patent # 692,819 “Means for effecting noiseless discharge of guns” by J.E.Bissell)2.

Gurevich's design.

Gurevich’s design.

In Soviet Russia, a similar concept was first researched shortly before and during the Great Patriotic War3. So far we know about two concurrent developments, one by designer Gurevich and another by the Mitin brothers (who also designed more conventional sound suppressors for Nagant revolvers4 and Mosin M1891/30 rifles successfully used by Soviet partisan and NKVD troops against invading Nazis).

Gurevich experimental pistols.

Gurevich experimental pistols.

Gurevich's revolver.

Gurevich’s revolver.

The design by Gurevich was quite similar to that of Bissell; it also used a special cartridge with a piston in front of the powder charge, and a portion of water, which was used to push the 5.6mm or 6mm projectile through the bore; the powder gases were contained inside the case by jamming the piston inside the case mouth. Ammunition was based on 20 Gauge brass shotgun shells, and fired from the single shot, break-open pistols, or, later, through a special revolver with a necessarily long and wide cylinder.

Mitin Brothers' captive-piston Nagant revolver.

Mitin Brothers’ captive-piston Nagant revolver.

The Mitin brothers’ design was more unorthodox, in a sense. It featured a heavily modified Nagant revolver with two coaxially mounted cylinders. One cylinder sat in its conventional place, holding seven rounds of ammunition with sabots and subcaliber bullets. The second cylinder, mounted on the same axis and rotating synchronously with the first, sat at the muzzle of the gun. The front cylinder was bored through with seven bores, slightly squeezed or choked at the front. When the gun was fired, the projectile with its sabot travelled through the barrel in the traditional way; then, its 7.62mm sabot jammed itself in the constricted bore of the front cylinder, and the smaller-diameter bullet continued forward and to the target. Neither design was successful, and for some time the concept was abandoned.

A couple of Stechkin's "cigarette cases."

A couple of Stechkin’s “cigarette cases.”

During 1950s, the famous Soviet gun designer Igor Stechkin5 was tasked to design several deep concealment, noiseless weapons for KGB and GRU6; He then produced an experimental SP-1 cartridge7, similar in concept to that of the Mitin brothers. It used a specially designed bullet which could be squeezed through a constricted bore with an entry (throat) diameter of 9mm and exit (muzzle) diameter of 7.62mm.

Another of Stechkin's experimental hideout guns.

Another of Stechkin’s experimental hideout guns.

A special 9mm wad, placed between the projectile and powder charge, jammed itself in the bore to capture powder gases inside the barrel. Stechkin produced several prototype three-barrel guns on this concept, concealed inside a flat tin case imitating a contemporary cigarette case.

Stechkin's original SP-2 design, showing both the exterior and a cut away.

Stechkin’s original SP-2 design, showing both the exterior and a cut away.

Later on, Stechkin produced an improved round,  SP-2, with long, 7.62mm projectiles consisting of the jacket from 7.62mm TT bullet8, fitted with long aluminum core. The cartridge case contained small amount of powder and a pusher piston, which captured powder gases at the neck of the case.

During the sixties, similar developments were conducted by KGB’s own research institute (yes, they had their own well-funded and top secret scientific and R&D branch at the time). For their own use, KGB produced two similar captive piston rounds of same basic design but of different size and power.

Ammunition: a live and expended round each: PZ, PZAM, SP-3 and SP-4.

Ammunition: a live and expended round each: PZ, PZAM, SP-3 and SP-4.

S4m pistol.

S4m pistol. Holds two rounds in a spring clip, and opens by tipping, like a shotgun.

The smaller (and better known) one was the 7.62x63mm PZ “Zmeya” (Snake) cartridge, which later evolved into cheaper and more reliable PZAM cartridge of the same basic dimensions. It featured a massive steel case with a single-stage piston which propelled a standard 7.62mm PS projectile, taken out of the 7.62×39 M43 intermediate cartridge. Combined with the derringer-type break-open S4 pistol (see ) with two barrels, the PZ was intended for use by undercover agents, as well as by military Special Forces (Spetsnaz) to take out sentries or other enemy personnel during critical missions behind enemy lines.

Ammunition: a live and expended round each: PZ, PZAM, SP-3 and SP-4.

Ammunition: a live and expended round each: PZ, PZAM, SP-3 and SP-4.


Ammunition cutaways. From top to bottom: PZAM, SP-3 and SP-4.

The larger cartridge is noticeably scarcer even now. It is quite big and heavy (case length is 93mm), and it is available in two varieties, based on the same machined steel case. The PFAM “Falanga” cartridge was loaded with a heavy, pointed 9mm projectile made of hardened steel and equipped with a brass driving band. It was intended to take out NATO personnel wearing body armor, who can be found in the vicinity of critical installations such as C3I, ammo depots, airfields and tactical missile launchers. The PMAM “Mundstuck” propelling round was loaded with an aluminum push rod, used to silently propel a 30mm AP-I grenade, which would deal with the targets listed above, once the guard personnel were accounted for using PFAM rounds. Both rounds were fired from a huge, single shot pistol known as “Device D” (see ), and, later on, through a multi-shot carbine / launcher “Device DM” (see ).

Device DM in front of some other exotic weapons

Device DM, the latest Russian silent weapon, in front of some older exotic weapons

Firing Device DM

Firing Device DM

The MSP pistol with two rounds.

The MSP pistol with two-round clip of SP-3 ammunition. The pistol is completely unmarked.

During the early 1970s, the Tula Arms factory developed a more compact alternative to the PZAM ammunition and S4 pistol, in the form of a 7.62×35 SP-3 cartridge and a double-barrel, derringer-style MSP pistol (see ). This ammunition also used 7.62 M43 PS bullet, but featured a noticeably shorter and lighter case with a two-stage telescoped piston. To ensure safe containment of a high pressure gases, the thin-walled steel case is noticeably “fireformed” during the discharge. The same SP-3 ammunition was later used for the single-shot NRS shooting knife (see ).

Firing the NRS. Note the guard is the rear sight.

Firing the NRS. Note the guard is the rear sight.

NRS with accessories. The knife and sheath resemble those for the AKM bayonet, but the sheath extends to form a buttstock.

NRS with accessories. The knife and sheath resemble those for the AKM bayonet, but the sheath extends to form a buttstock.CORRECTION: Per Mac, the sheath is just a sheath. The hinged part is a wirecutter. The sheath stays on the belt, while the operator fires the gun with the blade toward his face, as in the picture above. Recoil is very low so that this is safe. –Ed.

Loading the NRS. The barrel comes out of the base knife, the round is loaded in the barrel, and then it is restored to its place.

Loading the NRS. The barrel comes out of the base knife, the round is loaded in the barrel, and then it is restored to its place.

The MSP is compact, and was deniable when first issued.

The MSP is compact, and was deniable when first issued.

The current author can attest that MSP pistol with SP-3 ammunition is quite silent; it is noticeably quieter than, say, integrally suppressed PB pistol firing 9×18 PM ammunition. However, KGB and GRU wanted their agents to be armed with silenced guns that could offer more than 2 shots and more lethality. This was achieved during early 1980s with introduction of the now well known PSS semi-automatic pistol (see ) and its 7.62×40 SP-4 ammunition.

PSS internally suppressed pistol.

PSS internally suppressed pistol.

PSS with action open and magazine of ready rounds.

PSS with action open and magazine of ready rounds.

The latter featured a single-stage pusher piston, jammed at the neck of the case, and unique projectile, made from steel rod and equipped with brass driving band at the front. This weapon is still issued to special elements of Russian army and police, and appears to be quite popular for its intended role – taking out bad guys (these days it’s mostly Muslim terrorists or organized crime strongmen) with as little sound as possible. The only weak spot of the PSS, besides its unique and expensive ammo, is, surprisingly, its semi-automatic action, which produces most unwelcome sounds during the cycle.

OTS-38 showing the unusual reload process.

OTS-38 opened up to show the unusual reload process.


OTS-38, side view, closed.

To alleviate this problem while maintaining adequate capacity, the late Igor Stechkin designed an unique OTs-38 revolver (see ). This five-shot revolver produces noticeably less sound when fired, compared to the PSS. It also features a barrel, aligned with the bottom chamber of the cylinder, a manual safety for cocked and locked carry, and a built-in laser pointer above the barrel. And if all that is not enough, it also features a unique side-swinging cylinder, a  system developed to ensure ideal coaxial alignment of the bore and cylinder chamber, which is especially important due to blunt shape and hard nose of the SP-4 bullet.

Finally, we must mention two underbarrel grenade launchers, built to same concept of capturing powder gases inside the closed volume. The first is “Tishina” (Silence) system, developed during 1970s to be mounted below the barrel of AMK / AKMS rifle. It used 30mm AP-I grenade, similar to that of used in D and DM devices, and propelled by a special blank 7.62×39 round Powder gases were captured after each shot gy a piston, located inside the rear part of the launcher’s barrel. With introduction of the 5.45mm small arms systems into the Soviet Army, it was reworked into the “Kanarejka” (Canary) system, mounted below the AKS-74U assault rifle. It was similar to the predecessor in concept, but used 5.45mm blank cartridges (see ).

Artists rendering of a carbine with the "Kanarejka."

Artists rendering of a carbine with the “Kanarejka.”

Actual weapon, shown with ammunition, including a sound suppressor for AKSU carbine.

Actual weapon, shown with ammunition, including a sound suppressor for AKSU carbine.

Editor’s Notes

  1. Those books include (stolen links from Forgotten Weapons, containing his code, so Ian gets any Amazon kickback):
    1. Assault Rifle: The Development of the Modern Military Rifle and its Ammunition
    2. Machine Gun: The Development of the Machine Gun from the Nineteenth Century to the Present Day
    3. Modern Combat Pistols: The Development of Semi-automatic Pistols for Military and Police Service Since 1945
    4. Sub-Machine Gun: The Development of Sub-Machine Guns and their Ammunition from World War 1 to the Present Day
  2. While we’ve linked to the patent, you can also find it in a previous article Max wrote for Forgotten Weapons. Yes, if you’ve read that you still need to read this one. And vice versa (it’s Part III of a three-parter on Spetsnaz weaponry).
  3. You guys probably know this already, but The Great Patriotic War is the Russian and Soviet term for World War II, which began for them when Hitler broke the non-aggression pact and invaded the USSR on 22 June 1941.
  4. Russian Nagants were well-suited to suppression because of their gas-seal design, unlike other revolvers (even other Nagants, many of which were produced in Belgium with no gas-seal mechanism).
  5. Stechkin is best known in the West for his select-fire pistol with a stock holster, the APS, which was produced in the early 1950s and remained in Soviet and Russian service for a long time. Some were exported to friendly states and guerrilla movements; one was a favorite of Argentine Communist revolutionary, Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara.
  6. Two Soviet intelligence agencies. The KGB stood for Committee for State Security and was a political/civilian intelligence and counterintelligence organization like the FBI or CIA (although its officers had military ranks, and in some assignments, wore uniforms). Its successors in the Russian Federation are the SVR (foreign intelligence gathering) and the FSB (counterintelligence and domestic security) of Russia. The GRU was the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff — military intelligence; it still exists except as a function of the Russian not Soviet General Staff.
  7. “SP” stands for Spetsianiy Patron, “special cartridge.”
  8. This is the 7.62 x 25mm Russian round of the TT (Tula-Tokarev) pistol of 1930 and 1933, also used in the wartime submachine guns PPSh-41 and PPS-43.

New Army Pistol Solicitation Padded, Targeted at Large Contractors

On the way out? Beretta M9

On the way out? Beretta M9

At the end of August, a new solicitation for the Army’s new XM17 Modular Pistol project came out. The usual suspects are competing for it, including Beretta, SIG Sauer, Springfield, and Smith & Wesson  among others, and the S&W contender is claimed by the company (in a stock-analysts’ conference call) to be in very good shape, but the tests are a long way from completion — in fact, they’re not yet underway.

The solicitation is 315 pages long, most of it bureaucratic boilerplate. The real statement of work begins on Page 188, and it looks like the one thing they don’t want to do is buy a handgun from a handgun manufacturer. Instead, they aim to throw the contract to a large, high-overhead defense/aerospace prime contractor who will assemble the package with components from many disparate vendors, each one marked up obscenely.

Some points that caught our eyes included these:

  • They have 150 days from 28 August, 2015 to submit their proposals, so the deadline is 25 January 2016 — conveniently, three days after the end of the SHOT Show.
  • It’s not just for a gun, but for every associated accessory (holsters, mag pouches, cleaning kits), training, “blue barrels” for simunitions training, and all kinds of other cruft. What this does is (1) pad the hell out of the contract — suggesting someone is getting a kickback, and (2) exclude small contractors, firearms-only manufacturers,
  • Vendors can offer two firearms,  “full-size” and “compact,” or they can offer one firearm that can apply to both requirements, perhaps through modularity. But they also have to provide dummy guns, training cutaways, and high-touch VIP guns . Again, this contract padding helps exclude small contractors and favor the General Dynamics type  bloated aerospace prime.
  • Vendors must offer suppressors (if they offer regular and compact guns, they have to offer regular and compact suppressors). Nothing suggests anyone in Ordnance has the experience or ability to evaluate these devices, and nothing suggests there’s any advantage to buying these rarely-used devices from the pistol vendor — this is just more contract padding. Somebody’s setting himself up a nice retirement.
  • The solicitation does not specify caliber, nor does it specify ammunition type. So something like JHP ammo or Russian-style ultra-high-velocity projectiles are not ruled out.
  • The selected vendor must be willing to provide a technical data package and licensing to USG.
  • The selected vendor must provide handgun and ammunition. This means the contract is deliberately slanted to large defense primes like Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics.
  • The ammunition for this pistol will receive a new designation: ball will be XM1152, special purpose XM1153, dummy XM1156 and blank XM1157.
  • “Special Purpose” is an alternative to ball with improved terminal performance, in other words, probably a JHP, but they don’t specify hollow point or anything else.
  • Terminal performance of ball and SP rounds will be evaluated compared to M882 9mm ball from the M9 pistol (current standards).
  • While this is not a standard article of military kit, Ordnance Corps hate loading mags as much as anybody, so the mags for the new pistols must be compatible with the UpLULA p/n UP60B loader — or, if the vendor’s mags are incompatible, or he prefers a different mag loader, the vendor must supply three dozen loaders that work with his mags. However, UpLULAs are the one accessory that isn’t jammed into this padded contract.
  • Reliability counts. The objective is 2,000 Mean Rounds Between Stoppages (MRBS) at a 90% confidence level.

The proposal shows signs of being ineptly edited, beyond having every pistol accessory up to the kitchen sink thrown in. For example, from the Executive Summary of the Proposal (the only thing that anyone who isn’t competing is likely to have had time to read):

The MHS procurement is intended to be an open caliber competition, which means the choice of caliber is left to the discretion of the Offeror. Offerors are permitted to submit up to two (2) proposals configured to the specific caliber it chooses for evaluation. If an Offeror chooses to submit two (2) proposals, their submissions must each be chambered in a different cartridge of the Offeror’s choosing. In addition, each proposal must be submitted independently from each other.

Note that that paragraph, above, is self-contradictory. You can submit two proposals for your specific caliber, it says here — but only if there are two different calibers. Well, that’s Army Ordnance for you: the guys who examined the smokeless Mauser and bought the .30-40 Krag. (Well, until Mauser-toting Spaniards made a believer out of the combat arms, and Ordnance belatedly discovered enough good in Mauser’s design to copy it slavishly).

Each proposal will consist of either a two (2) handgun solution (one full size and one compact), or one (1) handgun solution that meets requirements for both a full size and compact weapon, plus the following ammunition: ball, special purpose, and dummy drilled inert (DDI), as well as, accessories (to include spare parts).

It is when you look at all the accessories that are swept into the contract, that you realize something is not on the up-and-up. This contract was either written by someone used to writing big-ticket contracts for things like jet fighters to Boeing or Lockheed Martin, or by some big contractor like Boeing or Lockheed Martin themselves.

Gee, why would they do that?

Exercises for the reader:

  • When was the last time you bought the same ammo brand for your pistol as the pistol is itself?
  • Do you seek out Toyota brand gasoline for your car?
  • What are the odds that a firm that makes a superior handgun is also the one that makes the most superior suppressor and best possible ammo pouch?

Some Straight Talk About Handguns

Everyone goes nuts about handguns, but in fact, they’re of nugatory military value. They add, slightly, to a special operator’s combat value, principally by boosting his confidence that he can stay in the fight if his long gun goes down. Most non-SOF combat arms troops don’t carry handguns (weapons crews, officers, senior NCOs do) and the number of enemy killed with handguns by non-SOF in nearly 15 years of war is probably in the single digits. Add SOF kills, and you’re in the double digits. (Not because we’re all awesome pistoleros but we do carry the sonofabitches).

Then, there’s the combat power of the handgun, which is by design low. Even a scroungy, anemic rifle (M1 Carbine, say) is going to give you more hits on target and more terminal effect than any pistol you have any reasonable hope of training GI Joe and GI Jane to shoot. We currently issue a good and well-accessorized carbine.

For what pistols are useful for, they might as well buy more M9s (or 1911s, for crying out loud). Yes, a rail for a light or laser is nice, but who will issue the lights and lasers? And do we want to make suppressor capability, something that is very, very, very rarely used even by the troops that have it now, a mandatory part of the cost of every pistol in the inventory?

At a time of dwindling resources, this padded, bloated contract is the wrong thing at the wrong time. It blows mass quantities of money on something that’s of marginal military utility, and by so doing starves other programs that can improved combat results.

Indeed, whoever wrote this is not working for the United States (even though we taxpaying chumps are paying him), but for one or more contractors. Finding the office that this came from and making all the heads there roll will improve our combat capability and our financial stewardship of public funds.

Revolvers In ATF Trace Data

S&W Revolver Cylinder (Note: this is a JC Blauveldt custom moon-clip job. Look closely! Nice work).

S&W Revolver Cylinder (Note: this is a JC Blauvelt custom moon-clip job. Look closely! Nice work).

We’re going to start with a disclaimer: ATF trace data is not a real solid statistical base for anything. The firearms that are traced are not a random sample, but tend to be crime guns, found guns, and recovered thefts; and the ATF discourages local PDs from requesting tracing of older guns. (For political reasons, they’re trying to drive time-to-trace, which they disingenuously call time-to-crime, down). So a gun’s presence in the data depends somewhat on how ugly it is, and how new. But it struck us that they did collect a lot of data, so the Law of Large Numbers might be working for us, a wee bit. And they break down the data by both state (or territory) and by type of firearm, allowing all kinds of creative crosstabs, in this case, pistols and revolvers by state (or states by percentages of pistols and revolvers).

It struck us further: if revolvers are more or less commonly traced than average, the data may represent the degree to which there are regional variations in automatic pistol vs. revolver preferences. (Almost all “pistols” on the ATF list are automatics, although there may be occasional oddities in there). Again, this is limited by the non-representative nature of ATF trace data.

All in all, the trace data show that ATF traced 175,361 handguns in calendar 2014. Of these, 131,562 were pistols and 43,799 were revolvers, a 75.0/25.0% breakdown. How much do individual states vary from that? Extracting the pistol and revolver data from the ATF’s spreadsheet, we made our own. First thing we ran was the MIN and MAX formulas, determining that the range of percentages was from 14% to 50%.

The first revelation: not a single state or territory saw that a majority of traced handguns were revolvers. Not one. And only one split fifty-fity, and it turned out to be a very peculiar place indeed. To give you an idea of how far out of whack that was, the next highest percentage of revolvers traced was barely more than 1/3: 33.8%.

The high scorer on percentage of revolvers was a case where the law of large numbers probably wasn’t working for us: only 18 handguns were traced in the territory of Guam and the Northern Marianas Islands, 9 each pistols and revolvers (50% revolvers). The low scorer was another territory, Puerto Rico; of the 1,030 handguns traced there, 886 were pistols and only 144 revolvers (14%).

To show that Guam was really an outlier, off 16% from the next state, here it is with the next five states in order:


Fascinating that the second largest percentage of revolvers was traced to Guam’s neighbor (to the extent anything in the vast Pacific is a neighbor), Hawaii.

At the other end of the spectrum, Puerto Rico shows less of an outlier status, being off only 2% from the next state:


We should probably have put it in the images, but this is all from Calendar Year 2014 data as reported by BATFE.

After the jump, there are some data tables and a linked spreadsheet for playing with them your ownself.

Continue reading

The Quiet Special Purpose Revolver

We were sure we’d written about this before, but if we did, we can’t find hide nor hair of our previous report. So, just maybe we haven’t. Recently, we got some new information, and will share it with you.

The QSPR is an extremely rare special-purpose revolver that was developed and produced by the AAI Corporation. Formerly Aircraft Armament Incorporated, the name was abbreviated officially because they never sold any of their aircraft armament concepts. They worked on several ill-fated futuristic small arms of the 1960s (like the SPIW) and one very successful one, the M203 40mm grenade launcher.

The QSPR from the original report (the bad reproduction is due to the records being stored on microfilm or microfche).

The QSPR from the original report (the bad reproduction is due to the records being stored on microfilm or microfche).

The QSPR was made from a Smith & Wesson Model 29. Frames in white were provided to AAI by Smaith, and they were modified with a .40 caliber smoothbore barrel and the cylinders were bored out to 0.528″, leaving a minimal web between chambers. (The lost strength was made up for by the strong cartridges). The weapon was innocent of any sights — it was meant to be used at contact range, inside tunnels, although accuracy to 25 feet was claimed (and Vietnam users reported it was more accurate than their .38 revolvers). Both standard large-frame Smith and aftermarket or custom grips were tried.

The gun was issued with a flap shoulder holster and two ammo pouches holding an odd 7 rounds each.

The gun was issued with a flap shoulder holster and two ammo pouches holding an odd 7 rounds each.

The objective was to provide a weapon for tunnel combat, a weapon with reduced blast, noise, flash and yet increased lethality over the standard pistols and revolvers of the era. It was designed to produce a column of lethal buckshot at very close range, with no flash and very limited blast. Noise in the enclosed tunnels was equivalent to a .22LR firearm outdoors, which was a great improvement over the eardrum-shattering blast of the alternative, the M1911A1 .45 pistol.

Eleven QSPR revolvers were made, of which one was retained by AAI (and is still reportedly retained by a successor, Textron systems). Ten were deployed in 1969 for combat testing in Vietnam; one was reported as a combat loss. Of the existing revolvers, apart from the AAI reference piece, two (#5 and an unknown example) are in a US Army museum, and one is in the ATF reference collection. It was the missing Vietnam gun, which was used in a homicide in California and recovered, according to Dockery.

THE QSPR seems very sophisticated for a first shot, and that’s because it wasn’t. A previous S&W based tunnel revolver was a Model 10 M&P with reduced cylinder gap, a suppressor and an aiming light. It was part of a comprehensive suite of gear assembled by the boffins in the Army’s Land Warfare Laboratory and called the Tunnel Engagement Kit, illustrated here. (The vane switch in the guy’s mouth turned on the VC aiming point on his cranium). You can almost hear them saying, “Do bring it back this time, Mr Bond.” But this bit of lab genius was not what the guys needed, and so the boffins went back to the lab and cooked up the QSPR.

Different tunnel rat rig

Ladies and gentlemen, here is a recent photograph of a unicorn — a live QSPR round. This is believed to be the last and only live round in existence (the ATF caused the destruction of most of them maintained by AAI and the military museum system by declaring them suppressors). The material is high-carbon steel, because the case contains the entire energy of the round, inside a piston. An end cap is screwed on the base of the round; threads in the muzzle end act as a trap to catch a piston. A plastic sheath called a “sabot” wraps around the projectiles and is discarded, much like the sabots used with subcaliber projectiles, when the projectile column exits the muzzle. The muzzle end of the round has a silicone (we think) material applied as a sealant.

QSPR Round 01

The round has a dark finish which appears to be some kind of high-tech proto-melonite coating, although most resources describe the ammo as “blued.”

This is a schematic of the round from what appears to have been the final report on the weapon after development and combat testing in Vietnam. The report recommended further improvements and then general issue to Infantry and Ranger units. Those improvements were not pursued, and the firearm was never manufactured.


The high pressure inside the round breaks the “rim” of the piston free of an annular slot that initially retains the piston in the rearward position and forces it forward, ejecting the sabot-contained shot load, until the pressure snaps the piston rim into a similar annular slot positioned to receive it, and drives the “nose” of the piston into the muzzle-end threads. These two engagements arrest the piston’s forward motion. One purpose of the rearward slot is to retain the pistol and prevent it from sliding and ejecting the payload during normal gun handling.

This is the muzzle end of the round. As you can see, the sabot (or the sealant atop it) comes closer to the muzzle than indicated in the diagram.

QSPR Round 03

This is the breech end. As you can see, there are no markings on the round. The revolvers themselves were marked with the S&W trademark, so we suspect the lack of markings on the ammunition was more a reflection of the toolroom nature of the project than in any attempt to make a deniable or clandestine weapon.

QSPR Round 02

The missing detail from most of the reports, the reason the initial report was classified (albeit only at the Confidential level), and the cause of the QSPRs unusually high terminal effect for a handgun was in a material breakthrough. While most open source reports suggest that the projectiles in the shot column were lead, steel or even tungsten (Wolfram to you Europeans), they were actually depleted uranium.

DU is uranium from which the fissionable isotopes have been removed. It is a side product (a waste product, really) of uranium enrichment for weapons production and has a number of properties making t an excellent choice for projectiles.

While the US was developing the QSPR, Soviet scientists were working on similar captive-piston technology. But in the end, the complexity and cost of the system seems to preclude it from ever being made in more than nominal numbers. The ATF’s Firearms Anti Technology Branch has rendered research on this type of weapon in the USA functionally impossible; Russian designers, who have produced a great many widely varied quiet weapons, seem also to have moved on away from this technology.

The resources below are all worth reading but the most valuable is certainly the official report:

ACTIV QSPR Report OCR .pdf

Sources & Resources

Dockery, Kevin. Tunnel Weapon: The Bang in the Dark. Small Arms Review, Volume 5 Number 9. Retrieved from:

Popenker, Maxim. Smith & Wesson / AAI Quiet Special Purpose Revolver / QSPR / tunnel revolver (USA), World.Guns.Ru. Retrieved from:  Note that Max’s report on the QSPR is pretty accurate but his photoshop job has the barrel a tad too long.

Schreier, Conrad F., Jr. The Silenced QSPR Revolver: An Answer to an Age-old Military Problem. Guns and Ammo Magazine, “Ordnance Department” feature, Guns & Ammo Magazine, October 1971, p. 64. Copy: Guns & Ammo QSPR Article .pdf

Weddington, David E., LTC, IN. Final Report: Tunnel Weapon. Army Concept Team in Vietnam (ACTIV), (Linked above).


Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Handguns of the World

Before we dive into this website, we want to ask you a question: what is the serial number of this Browning Hi-Power?

Numberless Hi-Power L

Oh, you want to see the other side? OK. Here it is:

Numberless Hi-Power

Didn’t find it? That’s because it’s not there. Trick question! This Hi-Power is one of a small (and, we think, unknown and unknowable) number of firearms assembled in the war-wracked FN plant in Liège after Allied forces drove out the German occupiers, who had been merrily building and employing these pistols since the fall of the Low Countries in May 1940. The only markings on this firearm are the marking on the frame in front of the trigger guard, and a single German WaffenAmt marking (WaA140) on the rear of the barrel. Not only is this time capsule innocent of any serial number, it’s also lacking any proof marks (he says… but isn’t that what the trigger guard marking is, a Liège proof?).

This is what the serials would have looked like, had the gun been produced under Nazi inspection a few months or even weeks earlier (image from this forum):

Typical Wartime HiPower Serials

This is one of the guns for sale at David Rachwal’s modestly titled Handguns of the World web site, which is, for those of you with cash on hand, a boutique of collector-quality vintage firearms. If you’re not in spending mode, it’s a worthwhile site for the education and entertainment value alone.

Some of the firearms are mystifying. Here’s an 1869 Bavarian Werder, looking like a prop from Firefly:

1869 WerderWe’ve never heard of that one before, but it’s growing on us.

Here’s a .35 caliber Dreyse needle fire — revolver. We didn’t know a firearm like this existed until pulling it up on David’s site. Obviously it’s a dead end branch of the revolving firearm tree, but no less interesting for that!

Dreyse .35 Needle Fire RevolverIf these are not exotic enough for you, David has a fine and comprehensive collection of Gyro-Jet rocket pistols. These 60s artifacts are extremely rare today. David’s are not for sale but he has graciously shared photographs of them with the public here:



Shortly stated, if you don’t find something you like and something that’s entirely new to you at this website, we’ll be very surprised. On the few things where we have a handle on values, such as Hi-Powers and Walthers, the pricing is reasonable; on everything, the firearms are interesting.