The CIA’s New Liberator: the 9mm Deer Gun

This is Lot 1523 in the upcoming October 2019 Morphy’s Extraordinary auction.

The Deer Gun is a covert CIA pistol inspired by the Liberator. In fact, the initial desire was to pull Liberators out of storage to use in the 1950s, but out was found that they had all been scrapped in 1947/8. So instead, a new gun was designed with the same criteria of simplicity and low cost. Instead of being stamped like the Liberator, this would be made primarily form a single aluminum casting, and chambered for 9x19mm. It was loaded by unscrewing the barrel and manually inserting a cartridge, then replacing the barrel and manually cocking the striker. A hollow in the grip held a couple spare rounds and an ejector rod.

Russel Moore of American Machine & Foundry was given a contract for $300,000 to build 1000 of the guns, which he did in 1962. The intend was that once tooled up, subsequent contracts would cost only $3.95 per gun – but no further purchases were made. The use of the Deer Guns are largely unknown, as the CIA has rejected all FOIA requests related to them.


    • From the people who brought you the $300 hammer: The 300$ zip gun.

      Kinda depressing when you realize that there isn’t a slum in Brazil where an amateur gunsmith couldn’t make you a 2$ “firearm” of sorts.

      One that might just work better than this.

      Nice design though!

    • “Subject to head space issue.”

      Possibly. But remember, 9mm is used in sub-machine guns with blow back actions.

      These all allow the bolt to retract slightly when firing. The brass is sufficiently strong enough to hold up during this extraction process.

      While the Deer Gun, (where did that designation come from anyway?), has a closed action, whatever slop is included by dimensional tolerances shouldn’t affect action in a gun that is designed to only fire a few rounds.

      • Thanks… But most of 9mm submachines are of advanced primer ignition type and retain supported chamber feature during the highest pressure existing in the barrel… Besides, possible headspace issue with this gun should be the firing pin reach to the primer if sufficient screwing is not done…

        • A.p. ignition exists by design only in autocannons like mk 108, oerlikon etc. !
          In open bolt smgs cartridge is not moving when primer is struck.

          • Of course there is a lot of factoid “info” found (repeated) on the internet, but that does not mean it is not wrong in terminology and other technical aspects; one can clearly see whats happening in Uzi and mk108 is not the same phenomenon, yet it is incorrectly called so, and I predict will be.

            Extent of this goes to that I’ve even read printed magazine gun related articles where ill informed writers (or stupid?) describe that in open bolt submachine guns primer is struck while the case is still moving from magazine to chamber.

            Yet api submachine gun simply does not exist and there never will be, as there are no rebated rim pistol round cases.

          • Then, what it should be called the happening at submachineguns getting use of bolt closing momentum added to its mass at instant of firing for blowback resistance… No rebated case and ignited on just head space seat of course…

          • We need to come up with new term specifically for that phenomenon !

            Now it is debatable in what extent it actually slows down the bolt, (but there is a difference compared to closed bolt), and with all these slow motion cameras and modern gadgets I hope someone would do a public study or research finally.

          • In open bolt unlocked firearms, simple blowback or mass lock operation may not provide sufficient resistance against highest pressure in the bore for ensured discharge and getting use of momentum of closing bolt provides an extra resistance for that evidance. This advantage is gotten through striking the primer just on fractionally before closing the bolt by a firing pin slightly extending over the breech face, that is, igniting the primer in advance… This operation is termed as advanced primer ignition and can be used in every auto loading firearm from cannons to pistols… Rebated case is another approach in simple blowback operation in which, fired case travels backwards in a deepened chamber being supported all outside the surrounding for a sufficient distance to throw out the expelling mass. Rebating case head is provided for extractor catch to match with the deepened chamber. This happening also can be used in every auto loading firearm. Most of auto cannons use these two approach together and according to me, this should not be termed as advanced primer ignition.

  1. When I think about a weapon of this sort compared to say, a knife, it brings up questions such as “what does it take to convince someone to use this?” Perhaps in some cases a person will feel more confident taking some action (stealing something, meeting with a potentially dangerous contact, etc.) if they have a “gun” even if it is a single shot contact-distance weapon, compared to a knife which without training they might believe is a less effective tool. In other words, perhaps having something that is the minimally-plausible “firearm” is for a the psychological purpose of providing confidence to an untrained person?

    • The purpose was the same as the FP45 Liberator. A guerrilla armed with this would catch a government soldier or policeman alone, kill him, and take his weapon and etc.

      Then the “zip gun” would be passed along to another guerrilla to repeat the procedure. One pistol plus ten rounds of ammunition would therefore likely garner the resistance about ten sets of infantrymen’s weapons and accoutrements.

      FP45s were sent to the Philippines during WW2, and were in fact used in this way by the resistance there. Exactly where the Deer Guns were to be used remains a subject for debate. I believe anyone who speculates should be required to “show their work”.

      As for the odd name, it was apparently the name of the man who designed it.



      • “(…)As for the odd name, it was apparently the name of the man who designed it.(…)”
        It might be also nod to Liberator which get designation FP45 which was supposedly meaning Flare Pistol 45 [caliber]

  2. “youtube does not allow me to put a link to it in the description text”

    what if we do it in the comments at youtube? do you get hit for that?

  3. The design would have made more sense if they had chambered it in 9 Mak, and incorporated a suppressor system.

      • ComBloc round. Although it was little used outside of WARPAC countries. Most “client” states had pistols and SMGs in 7.62 x 25mm or 9 x 19mm.

        9 x 19mm was probably chosen on the basis of being used worldwide irrespective of political leanings. Largely due to its use by both sides during WW2.



        • You gave a good explanation, but he completely skipped providing his “much more sense” for 9mm mak,
          it is ofc not a good idea, thats why I asked for clarification and some arguments in favor of that bold statement.

          • I think “suppressor” is crucial here. 9×18 cartridge when fired from Makarov pistol (93,5 mm barrel) has muzzle velocity 315 m/s. With shorter barrel and/or other rifling it might produce subsonic velocities.

  4. Rifling, in a cast aluminum barrel?
    Seeing what a triumph the Liberator was, this is another monument to military/political thinking.

  5. Gotta love the futuristic 50’ies like design of it.

    Yes, it may just be the crudest firearm available, and yes it may just be a tiny step above making a gun out of two pieces of steel pipe and a nail, but hey: It looks like a Buck Rogers death ray gun!

    • “(…)Buck Rogers death ray gun!(…)”
      Now I am wondering who was responsible for that and how does it fare in intuitive shooting (point-and-shoot) compared to automatic pistol of 1960s?

  6. CIA/Big government thinking:

    “Hey, why don’t we buy a few thousand old revolvers for 10$ a pice, file the serial numbers off them and parachute drop them en masse everywhere where dirty commies threaten freedom?!”

    “It’s not a bad idea! But let’s improve on it a bit… How about: We build our OWN untraceable gun, for say… 300$ a pop?”

    “Now we’re getting somewhere! And it needs to be a single shot weapon, to give whoever’s holding it some motivation to raid some commie arms depots!”

    “Let’s make it unusable at anything other than point blank range! That way it’ll force folks to get RIGHT in those dirty commies faces and learn grace under pressure!”

    • As opposed to military/ “small government “ thinking in which hundreds of billions are spent on “defense “ contractors latest boondoggles?

    • Remember, most randomly air dropped weapons end up in the hands of the enemy. The deer cun was crappy on purpose, this thing is completely useless for any real army.
      Still, they could have checked what was available and settle for a Derringer, or a reconfigured flare gun, at a much lower price.

  7. The example Deer Gun looks as if it has been dropped in a canal or pond for a while and then recovered. Used once, ditched, perhaps? I knew about the safety tab but didn’t know that it functioned as a front sight. I’m guessing that the Deer Gun was made, put into storage, very few (if any) used, and the “survivors” scrapped.

    There’s a problem between the boys in the lab, the operators in the field, and the brass–the brass wants total control and handing out pistols as if they were Halloween candies compromises control. Once a guerrilla is armed, it’s understandable that even after victory the guerrilla is reluctant to ever be disarmed and helpless again–for anybody. This was the thing that doomed the Liberator FP-45 pistol and was probably a factor in the demise of the Deer Gun program–even though neither pistol was all that easy to use or effective. Can’t have the wee folk thinking that they have POWER–it makes them uppity.

    This mindset goes on–here’s the New South Wales Police making a 3-D printed gun:

    Is the Central Intelligence Agency embarrassed that the Deer Gun program produced so little bang for the investment of $300,000? Especially when the same concept was done during World War Two with so little effect? Here’s Ian’s presentation from 2012:

    And to think that the Deer Gun mission could have been done with the Remington Model 95 derringer:
    The Remington Model 95 was in production prior to World War Two and ammunition had been made for it–or the derringer could have been retooled for either .22 rimfire or .32 ACP. I don’t know where the $8 retail price came from, but the Remington Model 95 double derringer was more compact, lightweight, and probably more accurate than the FP-45.

    The so-called Saturday Night Specials “flooding” America during the Fifties and Sixties were another and superior alternative to the CIA’s Deer Gun. Prior to the Gun Control Act of 1968, American-made guns didn’t have to have serial numbers and quite a few lacked them–no tracing! Buying foreign-made sterile (no markings) Saturday Night Specials would have been more secure for a number of reasons and there would have been NO “start up costs” to simply have a purchaser buy a dozen or a gross of these cheap pistols along with a few boxes of cartridges that fit. Perhaps the CIA did that…but they will neither confirm nor deny! When there’s a universal-issue handgun for clandestine/covert operators (called “black operations” today) the possession of a standard CIA-issue Deer Gun is as good as a signed confession. Better to have the “logistics nightmare” of fifty different guns with a dozen different calibers in your guerrilla movement–they can claim to be ordinary criminals!

    Do note that the expensive Aircrewman M13 revolvers produced by Colt and by Smith and Wesson for the United States Air Force Strategic Air Command had a service life of 50 rounds–I’m unsure if that was the original 13,000 psi M41 load or the replacement 16,000 psi M41 load that was foisted upon the US Department of Defense (.38 Special 130 grain FMJ at 725 to 750 fps muzzle velocity from a four-inch revolver barrel). Ian put together a video on that, too:

    Fifty shots was about what the dreadful Clerke revolvers were supposed to be good for. How many shots were required? Prior to 1968 in the USA and with a bit of bribery overseas, sterile firearms could have been purchased in small quantities and the variety would have been good OPSEC.

    Another source of guns for underground warriors would be crime guns seized by police. Send these crime guns through a gunsmith shop to bring them to minimum serviceability standards, package them with ten cartridges in the correct caliber, and there’s deniability! Often, criminals “deface” their guns by removing identifying marks and serial numbers. It’s cheap and simple.

    One overlooked issue is sterile (unmarked) ammunition. It’s all well and good to have an obsolete French 8mm revolver that was “destroyed” some years ago show up–criminals do get their hands on contraband. However, when the ammunition has a US head stamp from a government arsenal isn’t a good thing to have when the Stasi paw through your pockets. If the ammunition is Berdan-primed and unmarked, not even caliber, the issue is doubtful–still bad for the operator, but deniable by the sponsor.

      • Not really… I do believe some of these turned up in El Salvador where they were apparently used by guerrillas of the Frente Farabundo Marti de Liberacion Nacional, presumably the ERP faction insofar as Joaquin de Villalobos seemed to court a lot of the materiel on offer that was trans-shipped through Cuba. The SVD rifles that turned up in the 1988 “Hasta el tope”–“to the limit” offensive in rebel hands had had the serial numbers removed. Based on the limited samples of weapons captured by the U.S.-backed Salvadoran armed forces there were DDR MPiKMs, Yugoslav RPKs, Hungarian AMM AKMs, etc. and lots and lots of M16A1s and G3s of course.

  8. 4 bucks in todays value would be 33 bucks. Cheap ?

    Outsource the production to good ol’ China and they would made it for todays value 4 bucks!

  9. There were tens of thousands of foreign WWII and earlier surplus pistols that could have been bought, along with foreign ammunition, for $4.00 each in bulk, already crated for delivery. Webleys and Rubies (Rubys?) come to mind. Nothing American about them at all.

    This smells strongly of patronage and/or budget misdirection.

    • “(…)foreign WWII and earlier surplus pistols(…)bought(…)”
      Not to mention various automatic pistol captured during WWII. Both Japanese and EuropeanAxis-made. Soviet Union seized so many Star B automatic pistol from defeated III Reich, that it was decided to refurbish them, see chapter Model Bs in Soviet Block Service here:

      • In terms of “deniability”, Star and Llama pistols in 9 x 19mm, 9mm Corto (.380 ACP), and 7.65mm Browning (.32 ACP)were used by SOE, OSS, and Resistance in France and etc. They were easily obtainable in Spain at the time, and Franco didn’t seem to care.



        • Do recall that the CIA and kindred agencies had all sorts of warehoused weapons as part of “Gladio” in the expectation that a post-Soviet invasion or “internal aggression” leftist or anti-Nato movement would require an armed opposition movement…

  10. There’s an actual reason why this type of pistol is such a low performing single shot device: They are meant to be literally dropped onto enemy territory. Most of them would fall into the hands of the enemy. By making them deliberately crappy, even a poorly equipped army would profit from them. Dropshipping thousands of revolvers to the enemy may not be a smart Idea. Serious resistance fighters could still be equipped by other means. These things were more for creating tension between population and enemy forces, and enabling the occasional act of rebellion for the general public.

    • Not to mention encouraging atrocities by the occupiers. Get caught with one, they execute you, your family, or maybe your entire village as a result.

      Atrocities by the enemy make very good propaganda.

      And most of our enemies for the past two and a half centuries have been atrocity-prone to begin with. Rarely is even slight encouragement required.



      • As of late, some of our enemies have noted that atrocities/violent-reprisals tend to backfire in the long run. That’s why they try to keep things under a lid, so that they don’t get attacked in revenge. We’ll just say that Iraq didn’t get the message until the Highway to Hell thing happened. Yes, great idea, rape an American paramedic lady and tear her friends limb-from-limb with blunt knives, what could those wimpy Yanks possibly do as revenge? Oh, wait, America has lots of A-10’s loaded with depleted uranium shot…


            The story at the time was that PFC Lynch’s injuries suffered during her captivity included sexual assault.

            It probably didn’t help that her captors bragged about doing so, as per PIHW (Proud Islamic Holy Warrior) doctrines.

            As the old saying goes, you mess with the bull, you get the horns.



          • Yeah, but “Highway to Hell” bombing controversy happened during first Gulf War, so its not connected to this J. Lynch case, which was 12 years later.
            Thats why I asked was there some another case from 1991. as Ive never heard about it.

      • I’ve stated it few years before, but thats the reason why Liberator was never dropped over Europe; for places like France (nearest occupied country) in reality very small percent of population (or even under a percent!) actively joined the Resistance, so why drop it there ?

        • The major reason no Liberators were sent to Europe was that the resistance groups already had enough handguns for their needs, partly courtesy of SOE. These were mostly S&W Victory Model Model 10, Webley MK IV, and Enfield MK I/II revolvers in .38 S&W. Also, Colt M1911 automatics in .45 ACP were supplied.

          And as per my previous comment, Spain was the source of a constant flow of pistols in .380, .32, and 9mm calibers.

          Also, factor in that prior to WW2, ownership of a pistol was quite legal in France and for that matter most of Europe, unlike today. It’s unlikely that anyone will ever be able to verify how many German “tourists” met their ends due to the application of a couple of rounds from a .25 ACP pocket automatic- or even a Velo-Dog pocket revolver made before WW1;

          There simply was no need for FP45 pistols in France. There were more than enough “small” handguns there to go around.



          • Recent Ians video on jewish resistance in concentration camps, got me an idea of ideal target where Liberator should be dropped first and foremost, to population put in desperate situation that would welcome any kind of gun.
            Why was this never attempted ?
            For example, there was an air raid on french prison where they tried to free death condemned resistance prisoners.

            Its possible US and Allies did not know true extent at what was happening there, but I know there existed surveillance photos, as there was a controversy where former president W.Bush iirc looked at them at some memorial occasion and commented (actually made a shameful gaffe, but it goes well with “democracy through bombing” doctrine and reflex)
            “Why didnt we bomb these places?


          • The Wehrmacht ordered that all its personnel in occupied countries acquire pistols. So if all the targets and plenty of the insurgents had pistols, how many Old West style shootouts happened? It should have looked like Miami during the ’90s.

    • Yeah, in this example, in practice vast majority of Vietnam population was the “enemy” to US and south puppet government, so they would really turned out in hands they were not supposed to.

      Or maybe CIA true intent was of escalating a conflict and achieving a deniability by presenting a scenario in the lines of: “look, we did not kill unarmed civilian, he had a deer gun!”

  11. Rpg powder charge, 1lb of shot, over shoulder “shotgun” they’d drop there gun and run off before you fired. Now they may complain at HQ but by that time, you’d have amassed more (real guns) than by shooting one, someone hearing it; not getting an answer in kraut to his liking then running off to HQ.

    Boom! If you did; a ten year old could hit someone with that.

    • Pop out infront of two idle sentrys 40mm shotgun aimed at them, shreaded in 10yrds; accept their surrender move on.

    • “(…)Rpg powder charge, 1lb of shot, over shoulder “shotgun” they’d drop there gun and run off before you fired.(…)”
      How would it compare to Deer Gun price-wise?
      How would it compare to Deer Gun regarding concealability?

  12. I have a Great Interest in Single
    Shot Pistols & Rifles.
    Thanks for your knowledge in these Guns and will continue in Correspondence. Carl Lucci

  13. I would hope that the originator of this useless piece of ******* received their just reward – hopefully sacked.
    Expensive – if not some cheap (perhaps 2nd. hand) firearms. Then surely designs or perhaps kits for a simple generic zip gun would have been far better. While far from anonymous – surely its unique design would soon become known and easily traced back to the CIA.

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