June 23, 2011
Tunnel Rat Pistol: The QSP Revolver
By David E. Petzal
I’m indebted to John Blauvelt for this post, but first, a note from Mr. Jerry Wagoner of West Virginia, who informs me that New York’s disgraced Congressman Anthony Weiner will shortly announce that he is running for President, and that his running mate will be Attorney General Eric Holder. Mr. Wagoner advises all of us to get our Weiner/Holder bumper stickers now before they’re all gone.
One of the most bizarre—and scariest—jobs to evolve in the Vietnam War was that of tunnel rat. Soldiers who drew that straw were small in stature and big in courage, as it was their job to crawl into the elaborate mazes that the Viet Cong called home and see what was what, and that frequently involved killing someone who had stayed behind to kill them, in the dark, from a couple of feet.
Tunnel rats quickly discovered that the Model 1911 .45 was not the ideal gun for the job—in an enclosed space its muzzle flash and report would leave a soldier deaf and blind. One solution was the Quiet Special Purpose Revolver, a highly modified S&W Model 29 .44 magnum. The standard barrel was replaced with a 1.372-inch-long unrifled tube, and the cylinder was bored out to accept six massive steel cartridges, each loaded with 15 tungsten-steel shot that developed a muzzle velocity of 750 fps.
The pellets were contained in a sabot, which was propelled by a primer—there was no powder charge—and the result was no flash and about as much noise as a cap pistol. Only 10 of the revolvers were made, and while they were lethal, they lacked the stopping power of the .45 ACP and there were reliability problems, so tunnel rats stuck with the old Model 1911 or whatever else they could scrounge.
If you’d like to read more, there’s a very good article on the QSPR called “The Bang in the Dark,” by Kevin Dockery in Vol. 5, No. 9 of The Small Arms Review. I couldn’t get it online, but maybe you can. And if there are any former tunnel rats reading this, pass in review.