NRA Museum Gets Rare CIA Deer Gun

The single-shot 9mm was made of plastic and aluminum and designed to be distributed to the South Vietnamese for use against North Vietnamese soldiers in the early 1960s.

CIA Deer Gun
The CIA Deer Gun was a 9mm single-shot pistol designed to be airdropped or distributed to South Vietnamese resistance fighters to use against North Vietnamese soldiers during the early days of the "conflict in Southeast Asia."photo from guns.com

The CIA Deer Gun is probably the complete opposite of what you might think it is. During the Vietnam War, the Central Intelligence Agency had American Machine & Foundry create what is basically a refined 9mm single-shot zip gun, according to this story from guns.com.

There are fewer than 10 of these rare pistols known to exist, and the NRA Museum in Fairfax, Virginia just got its hands on one.

"This relic example is possible the only specimen likely to be on public display in this country," said museum officials in the story.

AM&F was in the business of making bowling machines back in the 1960s when company engineer Russell J. Moure came up with this extremely simplistic single-shot handgun, that was meant to be the successor to the Liberator pistol, which was made by the U.S. military during WWII for use by resistance forces in occupied territories. The idea was that the gun would be airdropped behind enemy lines and provide just enough firepower for resistance fighters to take out a German soldier and acquire his weapons and ammunition.

FP-45 Liberator pistol
The FP-45 Liberator pistol was a simple, single-shot pistol produced from 23 stamped and turned steel parts, making them cheap and fast to manufacture. It was chambered for .45 ACP cartridges and had an unrifled barrel. The delivered cost of each gun was $2.10 each.photo fro wikipedia

While it was an admirable idea, the Liberator was never issued to any Allied troops and there are only a very few instances of the gun being used for its intended purpose, though there weren’t many resistance fighters keeping records at the time. Most Liberator pistols were scrapped after the war, making them rare collector’s items.

He used materials that were just coming to the forefront of gun making, including aluminum and plastics, to build a gun that had only about a dozen parts.

There are a few stories floating around about where the odd name comes from, some say it was a CIA codeword, others say it was a different reason—either way, the name stuck.

Similar specimens have sold for more than $20,000 at auction.

The idea for the Deer Gun’s use was much like that of its predecessor, only this time, the little pistol was meant to be distributed to South Vietnamese guerrillas as a weapon to use against North Vietnamese soldiers so they could take their primary weapons and mount a resistance.

Winchester Liberator shotgun
The Winchester Liberator shotgun, designed by Robert Hillberg, was an inexpensive short barreled gun made in 1962 for the same purpose as the FP-45 Liberator pistol and the Deer Gun. The four-barreled shotgun was originally designed in 20 gauge and then 12, according to Ashley Hlebinsky of the Cody Firearms Museum, though it was also never used for its intended purpose.photo courtesy Cody Firearms Museum

It was made of cast aluminum, with the receiver formed into a cylinder at the top of the gun. The striker protruded from the rear of the receiver and had to be cocked in order to fire. Once cocked, a plastic clip could be placed on the striker to prevent an accidental discharge. There was no mechanical safety and there was no trigger guard (the trigger was also made of aluminum).

The grip had raised checkering and was hollow, providing space for three spare 9mm rounds and a rod for clearing the barrel of spent cases.

The gun had no markings to prevent tracing of the guns by the enemy. They were delivered in styrofoam boxes with a total of three 9mm rounds and a series of pictures illustrating operating instructions.

The only sights on the Deer Gun was a groove running down a ramp on the top of the receiver. To load, the barrel had to be unscrewed and removed and a cartridge placed in the receiver. The striker was then cocked and the plastic clip put in place before the barrel was screwed back onto the receiver.

When ready to fire, the clip was removed and placed on the barrel where it acted as a rudimentary front sight.

One run of 1,000 Deer Guns was completed in 1964 with a cost of about $4 each. However, the conflict in Southeast Asia went from a small, clandestine war to a full-scale war and the Deer Gun’s usefulness went out the window. Some were evaluated in Vietnam, but the fate of the rest is unknown. It is thought that most of the 1,000 guns were destroyed.

NRA Senior Curator Philip Schreier accepts an original CIA Deer Gun
NRA Senior Curator Philip Schreier accepts an original CIA Deer Gun into the museum’s collection from Thomas Ring who also donated a self-made replica.photo from guns.com