Colt’s Special Revolver for Airline Pilots

This is lot #462 in the upcoming RIA Premier Auction. It was scheduled for April, but has been postponed – check their web site for upcoming Online Only auctions every month, though!

The 1970s were a period with epidemic levels of airline hijackings, and this revolver was designed by Colt at the request of Eastern Airlines to arm pilots. To address concerns about over-penetration of aircraft skin or windows (or of a potential target), a projectile made form plaster of Paris was designed. Colt started with MkIII and MkV Lawman snub-nosed revolvers, and replaced the cylinders with a new one made of Zytel, with six steel sleeves installed. Each sleeve held a sealed cartridge, with a plaster bullet inside a sabot (the plaster was brittle enough that engaging rifling would shatter it). The cylinder was disposable, meant to be discarded when empty. Only a small number were made, as Eastern Airlines ultimately decided to use Federal Sky Marshalls instead of arming its pilots, and that was the end of the project for Colt.


  1. The revolver operates a great deal like the “DS” or “Sandman” gun in the original novel Logan’s Run (1967) by William F. Nolan And George Clayton Johnson. A double-action revolver using replaceable pre-loaded cylinders. I’m wondering if somebody at Colt hadn’t read that book.

    As for the projectiles, the Glaser Safety Slug would seem to be a more reasonable alternative. Or even the old MBA “Short Stop” .38 and .357 rounds, which were adopted by the USAF in 1974;



  2. So, Delta, SAS, GSG9, and GIGN all practice hijacking shooting inside aircraft for days and days to get it right and not hit hostages, even maybe with long guns.

    But this guy wanted to give a snub nose revolver to a retired USN pilot who probably hasn’t fired a pistol since OCS and expect him to come out of the cockpit against guys with AKMs and Skorpions and turn into John Wick?

    Hoo boy.

    Cool gun, though.

    • To be fair most hijackings at the time we’re not carried out by heavily armed people with automatic weapons. Delta wasn’t formed until 1977 so it was all somewhat new territory. In hindsight it is of course ridiculous to arm untrained aircrews.

    • The do all that training for specific tactics and situations not because they can’t hit their target. Shooting straight is not hard unless you really suck. Even with a snub nose revolver.

    • Well, take a look at the 9/11 hijackings. Two snubnose revolvers in the cockpit may indeed have prevented the attacks.

  3. I just wonder; Is this gun convertable Back to .357! Just add the correct cylinder with a ejector rod?

  4. That would have been when Frank Borman was a senior VP of Operations at Eastern Airlines (he was later chairman of the board). He was a West Point graduate who became the youngest USAF Colonel at the time, got an MS in aeronautical engineering from Cal Tech, then became an astronaut (Gemini and Apollo 8).

    About twenty years ago when I lived in Las Cruces, NM, I would often see him having lunch at the local airport, and he was a no-nonsense kind of guy. He had a restored P-39 at the airport that he would fly at air shows, and I think a P-51 too. Thinking back on it, from the few times I saw him, he would seem like the type of person to just arm the pilots and be done with it.

    As Stephen indicated, back then it was usually one lone loser hijacking a plane, demanding money and to be flown to Cuba, etc.

    • Good point, and the loser wouldn’t expect his intended victim to pull a gun out either. Killing the airline pilot in such a situation was a BAD idea if the hijacker didn’t know HOW to fly a plane (especially if the pilot took the plane OFF autopilot to screw with the hijacker). Note that there would also be a copilot who could also be armed or prepared to screw the hijacker if the captain were killed.

  5. When those 20 assholes with box cutters entered the cockpits of those 4 airplanes on 9/11 it would have been nice if those bumbling, incompetent, untrained pilots would have had some kind of gun. The worst thing that could have happened is that the planes would have crashed into their targets anyhow.

    • That was the whole point of airport security prior to boarding. Guns and bombs would be detected beforehand.
      Nobody thought a plane could be hijacked with a knife let alone a box cutter. The pilots and aircrew weren’t bumbling. They were trained to fly commercial airliners. The system at the time relied on pre flight security so NO pilots were armed Again hindsight is a luxury.

      • And pilots were trained not to resist. Aircraft hijackers had, up until then, a pretty good record of not killing passengers, and keeping passengers alive is a pilot’s first responsibility.

  6. Please stop wearing dark clothing and presenting blues guns on black back ground fabric. Please wear tan and present on light green or light red backgrounds. Regards

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