I’m thrilled to be the bearer of some very cool news: beginning in the next couple of weeks, the good folks over at Spycraft101 will be writing up the occasional firearm-centric article for TTAG. We’ve found Spycraft101 to be a fantastic follow on Instagram (find them HERE), serving up fascinating historical tidbits on clandestine operations and equipment, including some absolutely insane firearms.
We’re talking full-on Q Branch 007 stuff. But real. Russian, American, and from all other points on the globe.
Ahead of Spycraft101’s first write-up, I thought I’d pull from one of their blog posts, titled “Ten Unique Weapons from the World of Spycraft.” I’ve chosen just three of them: the three silent guns designed for the United States Office of Strategic Services.
The photos and text to follow are straight from Spycraft101’s blog post:
9. Dart-Firing 1911 – United States Office of Strategic Services
The OSS Bigot, a prototype dart-firing 1911 pistol. During WWII the Office of Strategic Services developed an astounding array of silent killing devices, with varying levels of effectiveness. One promising design was a 1911 service pistol which was modified to fire a heavy 6″ steel dart instead of a standard 230-grain bullet. OSS named it the ‘Bigot’, derived from ‘spigot mortar’, the concept of which had been miniaturized into handgun size.
The modification to an existing 1911 was extremely simple. A breech plug and guide rod were inserted into the barrel of the 1911. The dart was then inserted from the breech onto the guide rod. The guide rod contained a long firing pin which would initiate a .25 caliber blank round pre-loaded in the head of each dart. A sliding fin assembly on the dart allowed the tube to fit into the breech of the Bigot. Upon firing the fin assembly slid back and locked at the base of the dart, and the pre-loaded blank cartridge sealed the base of the dart, preventing any gases from escaping. The dart was now (in theory) a silent, guided missile.
Twenty-five pistols were converted into Bigot systems, and 300 darts produced. While ingenious, the project provided no significant advantage over the ubiquitous Hi-Standard .22lr suppressed pistol, and many disadvantages. Like many other creative prototypes that came out of OSS development, it was relegated to the scrap heap of history. I have found one reference to a Liberator variant of the Bigot, but considering how inaccurate the Liberator already was, it’s hard to imagine this concept progressing very far.
6. SAC-46 Flying Dragon – United States Office of Strategic Services
The OSS Flying Dragon dart gun. Officially designated the SAC-46, the Flying Dragon was envisioned in 1943 but not developed until early 1945 for a specific mission. OSS requirements dictated accuracy out to 100 yards, and the ability to reload in less than 30 seconds. After prototyping, testing, and modification, fifteen weapons and at least 1,000 darts were delivered to the OSS by June 1945 at a cost of $3,800 for the entire project.
The dart gun came with two barrel lengths, rifle and pistol, and the flip-up sights were marked accordingly with an R or P for varying distances. A standard CO2 cartridge was inserted below the barrel, and the grip was hollow to hold the loading tool. OSS engineers experimented with plastic darts as well as poison-filled syringes for instant takedown of sentries or assassination targets. Because each dart had a rubber gasket to provide a gas-tight seal, the barrel must be removed after each shot for breech-loading. This weapon was not intended for situations requiring multiple shots, which is why powerful poisons were researched for use in conjunction with the SAC-46.
The OSS experimented with many unusual silent weapons during WWII but ultimately determined that nothing performed better than the classic Hi-Standard .22lr suppressed pistol.
3. The “Little Joe” Silent Crossbow – United States Office of Strategic Services
The OSS developed many silent and near-silent lethal weapons during WWII, including a variety of crossbows, dart guns, and even catapults for launching mortar shells. The Little Joe is probably the best known of all of these unusual weapons. During development, it was aptly named the ‘Penetrometer’.
Several Little Joe prototypes were developed before the weapon was sent to the field for evaluation. After testing in the Pacific Theater while serving with the famed Alamo Scouts, CPT Homer Williams reported that while the Little Joe was indeed silent and powerful as advertised, he feared that use of this weapon would “…allow the victim to flop around like a chicken with its head cut off, and might have made a commotion.” Although tested in several theaters during the war, most of these silent weapons were eventually discarded in favor of suppressed Hi-Standard pistols and M3 Grease Guns.
The Alamo Scouts were one of the most effective unconventional units fielded during WWII. Candidates were carefully evaluated before even beginning the grueling training course. Of 700 trainees, only 127 were selected for the unit. At no time did the unit have more than ten officers and 60 enlisted men. During the final 20 months of WWII, the Scouts ran 106 missions in enemy territory and never lost a single man; only a few were ever wounded. The Scouts’ most famous mission was participation with the Army Rangers in the Cabanatuan prison raid, where they freed more than 500 prisoners of war from a Japanese camp.
— Click HERE to read the rest of Spycraft101’s blog post (you know you need to see the other seven weapons!)