OSS Flying Dragon: A Silent Poisoned Dart Gun

The OSS experimented with a lot of…unorthodox weapons during World War Two, and one of their overarching goals was a weapon with a 100 yard lethal range but without flash or noise. To this end they experimented with a number of suppressed firearms as well as weird stuff like various crossbow designs, silenced dart gun pistol conversions, and in this case a CO2 powered dart gun. It was code aimed the Flying Dragon, and first mentioned in documents in 1943. In the summer of 1945, 15 were manufactured, and 12 of these remained in OSS stocks at the end of the war.

In July 1945 testing, the Flying Dragon was found the be the second-quietest option (the William Tell crossbow was quieter, at 66 decibels to the Dragon’s 69 decibels). However, the testing board noted that a simple suppressed .22 pistol was pretty much just as good, and quite a lot cheaper (and more reliable, I would expect). The problem with a dart gun like this one is that if it is not reliably lethal, the whole point of its silenced is lost. Anyone shot by that big dart and not killed by it (which would require a pretty significant muzzle velocity) will immediately start making a heck of a lot of noise. OSS investigated options for poison on the darts to give the weapon the necessary lethality, but was unable to find a suitable solution. This led to discussion of using a small hypodermic syringe as a projectile, an even less practical idea – but this was the freewheeling OSS, where such things were not uncommon to consider.


  1. My guess would be that it isn’t a loading , but an UN loading tool, since the obturator can get the dart firmly stuck in the barrel and when you push it out from the front , you need something to protect the tip of the dart. So unloading it would require this tool to be inserted in he front of the barrel and than pushed with a ramrod of some kind, thus pushing the obturated dart out. Without having a close look it still remains a guess of course…

  2. Looking at those sights it looks like the “R” markings require a greater elevation of the front sight than the P markings for the same range, which makes me think that either:
    1. The markings are wrong.
    2. The purpose of the longer “rifle” configuration is better sound suppression, at the expense of some muzzle velocity.

    Just a hypothesis.

    • Don’t forget that the front sight post is on the end of the barrel in both configurations. The additional velocity from the rifle configuration is probably minor compared to the change in elevation from moving the front sight post ~16 inches further away.

      Of course your second hypothesis could still be correct.

  3. I guess that CO2 cartridges were already common in the USA by 1943? In the UK CO2 cartridges were unknown to the general public until the early 70’s, when something called ‘Soda Stream'(?) was advertised on TV, which required buying that you buy cartridges after you blown the load you got in the box you bought…

    On a more general, historical, level: why and when did any gas cartridge become widely available? Air guns used physically compressed air; I think fire extinguishers relied on chemical reaction (but am almost certainly wrong about that), and I cannot think of another sellable reason for gas cartridges before Soda Stream, then paintball guns.

    • CO2 in pressure tanks became available around the 1880s, hence the popularity of “soda water” at the time, which was prepared on the spot by the bartender or, later, “soda jerk”, rather than being done entirely at the bottling plant.

      CO2 rifles and pistols in .177 and .22 were introduced by Benjamin in the U.S. just before World War 1, as an alternative to spring-air guns for indoor target shooting. These CO2 arms used CO2 cylinders about the size of a typical 2 “D” cell flashlight under the barrel. The cylinders could be refilled by any convenient …soda fountain.

      The non-refillable “mini” cylinders we know today were introduced in the mid-1930s by Daisy, who were soon followed by the then-new firm of Crosman.

      See the 1939 “World’s Fair” edition of the Stoeger Shooter’s Bible for further details.



  4. At least nobody used this in actual warfare. Otherwise we could see the situation as something out of a war comedy B-movie.

    [The rookie spy impatiently loiters at the rendezvous point with a briefcase of stolen intelligence under a bridge. Thankfully for the spy, his theft hasn’t been noticed. A patrolling enemy soldier on top of bridge looks about, sees nobody else around and then takes a piss, hitting the spy in the process.]
    Spy [thinking to himself]: “That barbarian!!”
    [The spy, quite offended and paranoid that his cover has possibly been blown, decides to draw his dart gun and shoot the soldier in the back as the latter walks along the riverside road.]
    Soldier: “I wonder if the other guys haven’t messed with my model train set. I spent weeks tuning up the locomotives and…” [gets dart in the posterior] “AAAAAAAUGH!”
    Spy: “I must be dreaming!” [Spy panics and flees with the briefcase]
    Soldier [yanking out the dart]: “YOU!!” [Soldier blows whistle to summon backup and then chases spy, brandishing rifle] “Get back here and face the music!” [chase continues through back alleys]
    Spy: “Go home and play with your little choo-choo trains, you bed-wetting simpleton!” [Spy fires suppressed Walther PPK and misses]
    Soldier: “Don’t you dare insult my model trains, you dart-throwing freak!” [Soldier fires rifle at spy]
    Spy: “If you can shoot as well as you talk, I’ll give you a gold medal!” [more gunfire, and lots of backup soldiers are now running through the back alleys in random directions]
    Soldier: “I’ll make you eat those words!” [war-weary residents storm out of apartment buildings, quite angry at all the noise]
    Backup Soldier A [out of breath after sprinting through lots of alleys]: “What is this, Scooby-Doo!? And where’d everybody go!?” [nearly gets stampeded by spy, other soldiers, and angry mob]
    Backup Soldier B [yanks up Backup Soldier A]: “This way you idiot!!”
    Backup Soldier A: “Great, more running… this is the worst day ever!”

    Hopefully nothing like this every happened in real life.

    • Actually, some things were worse. Like the two members of a certain well-respected British unit who decided on some freelance tank-hunting one sunny day in 1945 in northern France.

      They borrowed a PIAT from another unit and after first persuading the owner to cock it for them, went larking off to find a Panzer. They soon found a Tiger I that was making a nuisance of itself near the river Rhine. As they stalked it through a field, and set up, the Tiger crew noticed them and they saw that long 88mm barrel foreshortening as the turret rotated in their direction.

      The No. 1 set up the PIAT on its monopod, snugged the shoulder rest in, and told his buddy, “Give me a bomb, quick!”

      He heard the poppings of cardboard tube lids being taken off the three-round container, then the No. 2 replied, “CHRIST, RUN FOR IT, I’VE BROUGHT AN EMPTY BLOODY CARRIER!!”

      (Story related by the late, great Ian Hogg.)

      As the old German arquebusier’s saying goes, “Alle kunst ist umsonst, wenn ein Angell in die Zündloch brunzt”.

      (“All skill is of no avail when an angel piddles in your touch-hole.”)




      • Wow. That’s even more pathetic than I thought. Wasn’t there also the case of two British Army dentists who went out on an unauthorized raid into France, bypassed lots of German soldiers (and whacking a few over the head with shovels), and blew up the mess hall at a German base before rowing their way back across the channel?

    • “Hopefully nothing like this every happened in real life.”
      Well, Russian Second Pacific Squadron make many… mishaps, before engaging against Japanese in combat: http://www.hullwebs.co.uk/content/l-20c/disaster/dogger-bank/voyage-of-dammed.htm
      To be honest it was frantic plan, nonetheless it was executed and in process:
      – flagship ran aground (near starting port)
      – Denmark was (unfoundedly) suspected to be hosting Japanese torpedo boat, so any vessel incoming would be invited with heavy fire
      – one fishing vessel try to approach to deliver message to that fleet (“Rozhestvensky is now promoted to Vice-Admiral”), so Russian fleet start firing at it but missing all time
      – sailing through Dogger Bank they meet British trawlers, which they fired at too. This almost caused Great Britain to declare war to Russia, this time they actually sinked “enemy” ship, but also damage was done to Russian ships due to friendly-fire. Though hit-to-miss ratio was still low (one ship fired 500 shell and all missed)
      – other European merchant ships (flying ensigns of neutral-to-Russia countries) were also fired at, being identified as “Japanese”
      – near Dakar, Russian ships were bunkered with extra coal, which were stored on board, which (due to humid climate) created heavy coal dust and leading to death due to respiratory problems
      – due to failure on supply ship, meat has to be throw away as it start to rot, sharks starts following Russian fleet
      – at Madagascar they stopped as Commander and Chief of Staff become ill, diseases broke out among Russian seamen, which often ended in death. During one funeral gun salute was fired, not only with live shell, but also hitting other ship. Mutiny started, additionally many officers were found drugged or drunken
      – meeting with supply ship sparked a hope, as it was though it will allow replenish ammunition, but it was found that instead that it carried winter coats and fur boots (keep in mind they were near Madagascar)
      – in attempt to restore order and raise morale gunnery practice was done with similar results as in earlier “battles”: all destroyers against stationary – 0 hits, flagship – 1 hit scored on target tug instead on target, off 7 torpedoes fired none reached destination with one making circular run caused panic amongst ships
      – some other Russian warships were collected into reinforcement force; Admiralty to commander of that group: You are to join up with Rozhestvensky, whose route is unknown to us, more over Rozhestvensky intention was to avoid joining
      – nonetheless reinforcement forces (described to archaeological collection of naval architecture) managed to meet main forces near Indo-China
      – finally Russian forces engaged (actual) Japanese forces in battle of Tsushima, you might easily guess outcome of it from above described achievements. After that ships which survived, escaped to Russian ports and were blockaded (which is ironical, considered that their aim was to break blockade) or nearest neutral port (which is ironical, considered their earlier actions against neutral ships)

      • In his book Naval Gun, Hogg stated that Tsushima was what happens when a fleet that does nothing whatever right (the Russians) engages a fleet that does nothing important wrong (the Japanese).



        • To be fair, most of the Japanese ships suffered major damage through Tsushima. But the problem with Russian gunnery still perplexes me. Why didn’t anyone calibrate the sighting equipment and the gun sights? And who was in charge of the torpedoes?

          Speaking of torpedoes, I got into an argument about a year and a half ago concerning the torpedo tubes of the Kagero class destroyers. I was under the impression that the torpedo launchers had armored superstructure over them (from the photographs I viewed) but someone else dismissed the superstructures as merely waterproof canvas just to keep the rain out. From information I gathered later, the Japanese tended to put a destroyer’s torpedo tubes in armored turrets to protect the crew and payload from shell splinters. Was I misinformed?

          • “And who was in charge of the torpedoes?”
            Independently from that keep in mind that torpedoes used in 1905 were powerful but also very fickle weaponry and that apply not only to Russian.
            Even later they were not totally safe for unit firing it, as exemplified by fate of USS Tang which was lost after circular run of torpedo in October 1944 or USS Tullibee which was lost for same reason in March 1944.

  5. The loading tool mentioned is actually more of a cocking tool. The small end is pushed into the tube where the CO2 goes. It encounters the sharp tip of the firing mechanism, which was heavily based on the M-1 firing device. When the firing mechanism is fully cocked, the ring on the back will protrude from the back of the grip. You can see it in its slot in a couple of the views. The ring can be rotated to act as a safety. When the trigger is pulled, the tip of the firing pin impacts the end of the CO2 cartridge and punctures its seal. This dump the entire content of the cartridge into the barrel and launches the dart.

  6. I still have a crossman co2 rifle converted to a Cap Chur gun
    The barrel was changed from .177 to .50 cal
    The flying syringe had an explosive charge in it which went off when the barb hit the animal injecting nicotine a seditive or in my case pennicilline for hoof root in cows

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