View Full Version : Cold war gun concealment and silencers?

November 4, 2002, 08:23 PM
Are there any references out there on common practices and equipment of the allied services during the cold war era?

I'm specifically looking for pictures of silencers of the era, and details like ways in which pistols were modified for concealment--i.e. was there ever really such a thing as pistols with the grips removed and taped to make a 'skeleton' grip? :rolleyes:

If you've got answers and/or pictures yourself, I'd be grateful for those as well as any leads to references.

James K
November 4, 2002, 11:42 PM
Alas for the movie image, but cold war spies tended not to be armed. The simple fact was that if an agent was caught, a gun would be useless except maybe to commit suicide, and carrying one would only arouse suspicion and be cause to hold someone the country's security police might otherwise let go. For example, what good would a gun have done Hansen?

On special occasions, they used unconventional weapons against defectors, like the umbrella that injected a poison pellet into the victim (one version used a spring) or similar "guns" that did not require a silencer. The CIA furnished Powers, of U2 fame (not the Irish rock band) with a silenced High Standard pistol, but it seems no one ever gave much thought as to what he would use it for if he were forced down in the middle of the USSR. (Did they really expect him to shoot his way 2000 miles to the nearest friendly country with a whole box of .22 ammo? Or survive by hunting? To what purpose?)

A while back, I got into a discussion with a fellow who was "involved" in some of this stuff. He laughed about a TV show where the American spy got into Bucharest by floating down the Danube under a barge. He pointed out that floating might be hard since Bucharest is some 60 miles from the Danube, then he said that the last time he had gone into iron-curtain Bucharest it was first class on an Aeroflot flight from Moscow. He had papers identifying him as a mid level manager in the Ministry of Agriculture who had been studying Soviet collective farms. Of course, he spoke perfect Rumanian for the simple reason that he was Rumanian, and also spoke near-native Russian (I had to take his word on that) and English. He, not James Bond, was more than likely the typical spy of that era. He had never carried a gun and knew nothing about them.


November 5, 2002, 01:10 AM
(Did they really expect him to shoot his way 2000 miles to the nearest friendly country with a whole box of .22 ammo? Or survive by hunting? To what purpose?)

Everyone, including Eisenhower, expected him to not survive ejecting from the U2 while at speed and altitude. Apparently no one told Powers he was supposed to croak during the process.

November 5, 2002, 01:35 AM
Fleming seems to've been affected by things he saw during the war--from what I've seen someone sure was exercising their imagination in UK at that time (how much use the results actually saw is another question...) exploding rats (!), an assassination team sent into place with a silenced machine gun, several pistols, grenades, etc. There's a book out on a sort of catalogue of secret stuff, apparently put together during the war and mostly intended I suppose for resistance and guerilla operations.

November 5, 2002, 02:30 AM
Many of the ideas that came from the OSS and their British counterpart in WWII can only be called strange.

They proposed putting mustard gas into a water filled vase at an estate where Hitler and Mussolini were to meet at the Brenner Pass. The fumes would then blind the two dictators.

Another was to introduce female harmones into Hitler's diet so that his voice would be raised, also swelling his breasts and causing his mustache to fall out.

Unlike the gadgets in Bond, the majority of weapons were not specially made throughout the cold war. There were at times specific weapons, like the umbrella injecting poision pellets, but that was rare. Agents were taught how to purchase black market weapons or construct weapons from available items once in place. Trying to carry weapons across borders or explaining weapons found during a traffic stop was very dangerous.

The book "Vengeance" by George Jonas, describes the team of Mossad agents the went after the organizers of the 1972 Olympic massacre. The agents were trained to use .22 Beretta pistols as their primary weapon. Their task was to track down and kill the leaders of the "Black September" organization. When they left on this mission, they took no weapons with them.

Once in the country that were going to attack in, they would purchase handguns, forge their own documents, manufacture suppressors or explosives if needed and carry out the execution. They would then dump everything and cross the border into the next country.

November 5, 2002, 03:45 AM
Very 007-ish: The British unveil secret agent gadgets of WWII


OSS Weapons & Spy Gear


November 5, 2002, 03:15 PM
Thanks for the links. The top link is for the exhibit I saw a book/catalogue for. Too bad there were no pics of the exploding rats. ;)

James K
November 6, 2002, 11:19 PM
If you are ever in DC, check on the National Spy Museum at 8th and F. Wonderful trip down "memory lane". I hadn't seen an M209 cipher machine for years. (They were actually used by the US Army, not by spies; they are a bit exotic, though not very secure.) As one might expect, the fun stuff is not very practical, and the really useful items are pretty mundane.

One of the most famous fiascos was the "Liberator" pistol. It seemed like a good idea: Drop cheap single shot pistols by the thousands, the natives will find them, kill an enemy soldier and take his gun. (Dropped from an aircraft as intended, without a parachute, anything like that would just bury itself in the ground, or cause a lot of roofs to stop being rainproof, or some folks to develop very severe headaches.)

It proved simpler to drop STEN's and other really effective weapons to people already committed to resistance than to scatter "Liberators" around hoping that your average French housewife might find one and shoot a German.

Almost all of the little pistols ended up dumped in the ocean and they are collectors' items today.


Al Thompson
November 11, 2002, 03:42 PM
IIRC, Fleming never actually served - went through some of the training though.

November 11, 2002, 09:37 PM
The modern conception of the world of the secret intelligence services and assassinations derives partly from the fictionalised activities of James Bond. The licensed-to-kill operative is the model for the secret service agent if the public's imagination. While this is fantasy, the former Naval Intelligence and one-time MI6 asset Ian Fleming based the plots and details for his 007 books on incidents in his own life and information he picked up during his career in the secret world. However fantastic the story, there is always an element of truth in Bond.

MI6: Inside the Covert World of Her Majesty's Secret Intelligence Service"
by Stephen Dorril

He served most of WWII as the personal assistant of Rear Admiral John Godfrey, Director of Naval Intelligence in Room 39 at the Admiralty.

November 12, 2002, 10:07 PM
There's a new book just out on the shelves called 'The Ultimate Spy' from DK publications, it's a new edition by the guy part of whose collection appears in the above-mentioned CIA exhibition.

The gadgets are amazing to see, with just enough stories of their successful use to make the flesh creep.

James K
November 12, 2002, 11:30 PM
Hi, guys,

Hkmp5sd quotes a book about Mossad agents:

"Once in the country that were going to attack in, they would purchase handguns, forge their own documents, manufacture suppressors or explosives if needed and carry out the execution."

I doubt they just casually bought pistols (not too easy in many countries, especially for a foreigner), forged documents or made their own silencers or explosives. When that kind of team is used (rarely), they get their stuff from their country's embassy, where it arrived in diplomatic pouches. It almost certainly will not be a product of that country, and there will be at least two "cutouts" to keep the "squeaky clean" diplomats out of the picture.

I am not surprised that the book does not say that; it is one of those common knowledge things that no one talks about.

FWIW, a diplomatic "pouch" can be a whole container, or the cargo of a C5A. The country's seal makes it diplomatic property and immune from search. An embassy's typewriters, comm equipment, even kitchen appliances and furniture are often brought in, since it must be assumed the anything purchased in, or supplied by, the host country can and will be bugged.


gordo b.
November 28, 2002, 07:19 PM
Of course they did have some exotic stuff like silent .44 mag revolvers(using telescoping cartridges) and silenced .22s and such during Viet War. But 1968 Presidential order outlawed asassinations so that made " hit guns" superfluous. Being in counterintelligence in 70's I can say that we were polite to each other in Europe, less so in Africa and Asia where we carried common personal sefense firearms, and were CAREFUL.:cool:

November 30, 2002, 04:38 AM
You really want a picture of an explosive rat?

Ask, and...