Silent Guns of the US Office of Strategic Services

Courtesy Spycraft101

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

Courtesy Spycraft101

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!)

comments

  1. avatar Old Guy in Montana says:

    very cool!

    Looking forward to the rest of the series.

  2. avatar Gadsden Flag says:

    Interesting article. I understand why TTAG posts as many of the political articles as they do. They’re important. However, a few more like this and JWT’s article on the Ruger Bisley yesterday would be appreciated.

      1. @Bongo:

        Bingo

        Bang on.

    1. avatar Jake the snake says:

      Amen to that. Seeing that i have a mill and lathe as well as a tig in my shop i wouldn’t mind trying to reproduce some of these weapons for fun. The way its going who knows what we may end up needing.

    2. avatar Specialist38 says:

      Amazing the interest when the posts are about guns…….

      1. avatar Tired of the bs says:

        Without arguments.and trolls

        1. avatar Tired of the bs says:

          Ian at forgotten weapons has a video on the 1911

  3. avatar Bemused Berserker says:

    I thoroughly enjoy the history. I find it fascinating what the designers were thinking and the different ways in which their ideas were accepted, but many of which failed to be the weapon that gave us the “edge.”
    Looking forward to future articles.
    Thanks

  4. avatar BeoBear says:

    I’m liking these. More please!

    Maybe a timeline series through were the US OSS becomes S.H.I.E.L.D.

    Couldn’t resist.

  5. avatar The Rookie says:

    Coooool!!!

  6. avatar I Haz A Question says:

    I feel the urge to try to make one of these out of copier paper here at my work desk. I’ll use it to launch paper footballs over the cubicle wall.

    When not in use, it’ll be displayed next to my red stapler.

    I’m bored today. Not getting much done. 😉

    1. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

      I’ll trade places with ya. Up until an hour ago, I was 40’ up in a man lift. Very windy and the rain was coming in sideways.
      Came down to get warm and switch rain gear.
      Gotta get this roof done before it gets nasty.

      Oh, and love this historical stuff! I especially like references like the Alamo Scouts.
      More please!

      1. avatar Manse Jolly says:

        I hear that. Waiting on fourth quote for complete re-roof either asphalt or metal. I’m leaning metal and be done with it. Maybe wire it to zap tree-rats when they try to invade. I flashed the chimney over summer and never again..Hot.

        1. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

          Go metal. It’ll outlast pretty much anything.

  7. avatar MADDMAXX says:

    Cool article, look forward to many more like it…

  8. avatar Ing says:

    I like how the common refrain is “discarded in favor of a suppressed .22 LR pistol.” The little .22 LR gets no credit, but in a lot of ways it’s hard to beat.

    1. avatar GS650G says:

      The .22 is considered woefully inadequate by many. It’s probably killed more people than cancer.

    2. avatar strych9 says:

      The GemTech Pillbottle has been on my list for awhile. It’s existence shows you are correct.

      1. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

        They’re kinda rare to find, has anyone worked up a set of drawings on one?

        On second thought – It takes rubber baffles, doesn’t it? Paying 200 bucks per washer gets expensive fast…

        1. avatar strych9 says:

          Yes, it uses wipes.

        2. avatar Jeremy S. says:

          Bowers Bitty is a good choice

      2. avatar SKP5885 says:

        May I ask why? Why not just do a normal can? 50 rounds before you have to send it back to the manufacturer or replace the wipe for $25 seems like a really bad deal. It would be hard to even sight something in with it before you have shot it out. Maybe I am missing something. Seriously, I am curious why? Is it the novelty of it? If so, I guess I understand that. Thanks!

        1. avatar strych9 says:

          Historical significance and rarity.

  9. avatar Gregolas says:

    Fascinating article. I’m a history buff. Recently read “The Brenner Assignment” by Patrick K. O’Donnel. It was about OSS operations in Northern Italy during the winter of 44-45. Thank you for this article on a unique niche in firearms history.

  10. avatar Manse Jolly says:

    The crossbow gun is very interesting and cool. Wonder what the spec’s were. ..”The Penetrometer”

    Maybe 3d printed replica using high strength material…….would give the anti-gunners something else to scream about.

    Arrow violence…like gun violence but with people wearing green tights and pointy hats.

    1. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

      “Arrow violence…like gun violence but with people wearing green tights and pointy hats.”

      I’m sorry, (I lied, not really!) but I had to do it :

  11. avatar Craig in IA says:

    “The OSS Flying Dragon dart gun … 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.”

    Starting from $0. How’s that for a demo of how efficient government contractors used to be with American’s money?

    1. avatar Silphy says:

      Adjusted for inflation today that would be about $70,000

      1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

        Ehhh ~$55k. But very valid point regardless.

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