March 2, 2021
By Emily Robinson
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The U.S. Military had the Liberator pistol manufactured during World War II to be dropped to resistance fighters in occupied territories. However, few of these crude pistols were actually issued and their use was not well documented. In the late 1950s, the CIA decided they wanted a similar gun, but since almost all Liberator pistols from World War II had been destroyed by the government, they had to find an alternative.
Thus, the CIA Deer gun was born. Despite its name, the weapon has nothing to do with hunting or deer and the choice behind the name is still a mystery. Some speculate it is actually a DEAR Gun, representing the CIA DEnied ARea pistol. This would be a valid argument considering their intended use as this rare gun was meant to be crucial in CIA operations overseas or across enemy lines. So what happened to one of the agency’s best kept secrets?
The goal of the new and improved pistol was to have a more simplistic gun design that was lighter, smaller, and cheaper than the Liberator, but still remain as effective. The strategy of using the gun would remain the same: sneak up on enemies, shoot them, and then take their weapons. By the 1960s the CIA had decided on all factors in the development of the Deer gun. The next step was to find the right person to bring the Liberator’s successor to life. It was important for them to not only find the right company, but to keep the design undisclosed.
Blueprint of a CIA Deer Gun
Instead of working with a large household name, the CIA decided to collaborate with the special firearms division of American Machine & Foundry. In order to keep the development of the Deer gun a secret they wanted to pick an “off the radar” company. AM & F was perfect for the job as they primarily manufactured recreational products and had only a very small firearms ordnance department. The company was known for making a variety of products: garden equipment, atomic reactors, bowling equipment, bicycles, and more. It is no wonder that when people heard the name American Machine & Foundry, firearms were not the first thing that came to mind.
Russell J. Moure was the chief engineer of the special firearms division at AM & F at the time. He was one of the principal developers of the mini-gun, created the AMF military suppressor, designed the .308 drop-in conversion unit for the M1 rifle, and also produced an 81mm semi-auto mortar for the Navy. In 1962, Moure added the design of the CIA Deer gun to his portfolio as well. With his success at AM & F and in the firearms industry, Moure was the guy for the job.
Moure got to work and developed a mere 12 ounce pistol that measured five inches in length, 4 1/8” high, and 1 ½” thick. It was made mostly of plastic, steel, and aluminum parts that cost around $4 per gun. To fire the pistol you would unscrew the barrel, load a round, screw the barrel back in, cock the lever, then aim and shoot. The hollow grip held spare ammunition and an ejector rod that could be used to punch out the empty casing from the barrel. Ordnance expert, WWII vet and close friend of Moure, Jack Krcma, said that it was the lightest and smallest 9mm ever developed. The CIA chose to have the Deer gun chambered in 9mm because it was generally easier to obtain than the .45 ACP that the Liberator used. The Deer pistol came both in smoothbore and rifled barrels, although there are not records indicating why.
Each of these firearms were packaged in plain, white Styrofoam boxes with no markings, so once air dropped they would be untraceable. Each gun was accompanied with three rounds and an instruction sheet. The wordless instructions were a cartoon representation of how to operate the Deer gun. It showed a guerilla using the pistol to shoot an enemy solider, pictured wearing a Soviet armband. The armband was the only identification marking of any kind that could be found within the package.
An example of the instructions that were included with each Deer gun.
Once the CIA tested Moure’s finished prototype and were satisfied they ordered 1,000 pistols for $300,000. There were approximately 200 guns sent to Southeast Asia for field testing, however there is no official record that any of the Deer pistols were used beyond non-combat testing. This is where the role of the Deer gun gets hazy.
The use of these guns is rather intriguing, considering their lack of documentation. By 1964, the gun was listed in the CIA’s special weapons inventory and was cleared for field issue. However, there are a few small incidents that may prove a few slipped through the cracks and just narrowly escaped being destroyed.
Reportedly a CIA Deer pistol that was going to be used to assassinate a Cuban official was confiscated in 1970, however this account is not confirmed. In 1975, a robbery suspect was caught with what appeared to be a Deer gun. He said he had bought it on the street from a guy who had brought it back from Vietnam. The alleged Deer gun was taken by the police and consequently disappeared from the evidence locker and nothing more was heard about it. There were also multiple mentions of the Deer gun in a novel named “One Police Plaza.” The author, William Cauntiz, names the gun specifically in the fictional book when talking about a hit on a Cuban official. Other than that the stories of these interesting pistols are rather cloudy.
In 2020 Altor Corporation introduced a single shot 9mm pistol that showed many similarities to the CIA Deer gun. Altor’s version has a suggested retail price of $129, making it one of the cheaper guns available, but affordability isn’t the only thing the two pistols have in common. Just like the Deer gun the sights are built into the frame and is shot relatively the same. The reviews of these modern pistols to say that the trigger can be hard to master. These Altor pistols make one wonder what it must have been like to shoot an original CIA Deer gun.
Rock Island Auction Company has had the privilege of selling three Deer Guns in the past. We are honored to announce that we have another one of these rare and unique guns passing through our auction house. During our May 14-16 Premier Firearms Auction we are offering an original CIA Deer Gun.
CIA Deer Gun Available in our May Premier Auction
These pistols may have not seen much known success in combat, but they remain popular to collectors. There have been a few CIA Deer pistols on display at multiple museums, but what happened to the rest remains a mystery. It is estimated that there are about 10-25 still in circulation to this day, causing the CIA Deer gun’s value to increase greatly from its mere $4 per gun. These guns do not come around often and are very desirable US Military collectible, especially considering their true fate was to be completely destroyed. This May, one of these extremely rare and little known Deer pistols could be yours.
As always, if there are any questions regarding consignment, registration, or future auctions, please contact Rock Island Auction Company. Our 2021 auction schedule is now posted on our website, so be sure to go through the listing and start making your plans to come visit. All our events adhere to all COVID-19 guidelines and restrictions. We can’t wait to see you here.
Rock Island Auction Company’s May Premier Auction, with a record-setting sale of a pair of revolvers owned by Ulysses S. Grant, realizedRead more
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