… In May 1954, Khokhlov was the star of a shocking press conference in which he presented his story to a room packed with more than 200 reporters. The tools provided to him by the Chamber were on full display. Most famously, Khokhlov had been issued four firearms quite unlike anything else the world had ever seen.
Two of the four pistols were equipped with three single-shot .25 caliber barrels loaded with hollow point bullets filled with potassium cyanide. These poisoned rounds held a mixture of two-thirds potassium cyanide and one-third gum binder, to seal it in the hollow point of the bullet. Each round contained approximately half a gram of poison, more than 100 times a lethal dose. The rounds were locked together in a unique triple-pack that was loaded into the breach of the pistols from the top. The barrel length was negligible, so the shooter had to be very close to the target to fire. Death was virtually assured if you were struck by one of these rounds.
Perhaps more shockingly for 1954, the pistols used both an electronic ignition system powered by flashlight batteries and captive-piston ammunition; possibly the first experiment into this highly successful realm. When fired, these cartridges are nearly silent because all of the expanding gasses are captured behind a piston, which drives the bullet forward while simultaneously sealing the cartridge shut. According to Khokhlov, the sound of firing was no louder than a finger snap virtually undetectable in most environments and situations.
The other two firearms were disguised as cigarette cases, intended for a close-range attack. Khokhlov described them as “weapon blocks” which is more accurate than pistols, as they in no way resembled conventional handguns. With the case lid open, real tobacco-filled cigarette tips were visible inside, concealing the weapon’s barrel and an expansion chamber that functioned as a sound suppressor.
The case lid itself functioned as a safety to prevent an accidental or negligent discharge until the target was present. One cigarette case held two barrels, and the other four barrels. The trigger mechanism was a button on top of the case, exactly where the thumb naturally rested when holding a cigarette pack. The leather covering for the cigarette case had been shaved down on the underside to allow the assassin’s thumb to easily find the button, while hiding it from view. With no sighting mechanism, the assassin had to be right in front of the intended target. A cigarette case was the perfect tool as the assassin could approach the target with the case held out in front of him, as if to offer a cigarette. A gesture like this would be dismissed as harmless by both the target and any witnesses present.
This is the only documented deployment of these particular weapons, and only because the assassin willingly presented them to the world. Although Khokhlov describes these weapons as designed and fabricated specifically for this mission, one is left to wonder just how many times weapons like these were used by the Soviets to liquidate a target without the world ever knowing.
For all the pre- and post-story surrounding this snippet taken from somewhere near the center of the article, hop on over to Spycraft 101.