On May 22nd the NRA Museum, in Fairfax, Virginia, received a very special donation, a Vietnam War-era CIA Deer Gun. The pistol was donated to the museum by Thomas Ring, a former Master Armorer. Mr Ring donated both an original condition Deer pistol and a tool room prototype replica that he made himself.
The Deer gun, designed by Russell J. Moure, can be considered a successor to the Liberator pistols of World War Two – a simple, single shot pistol which could be air dropped or distributed to poorly equipped resistance fighters en masse to help them capture enemy weapons. Chambered in 9x19mm and made by American Machine & Foundry for the CIA. It was developed when the US’ involvement in Vietnam was still limited and somewhat clandestine, it is speculated that the guns were intended for friendly elements within Vietnam such as the Montagnard.
The Deer guns were reportedly made with both smoothbore and rifled barrels, they had no trigger guard and like the earlier Liberator had no extractor. In an improvement over the WWII gun, the Deer gun, came with a rod to punch the spent case out of the breech. This could be stored in the grip along with 3 more rounds of 9x19mm.
The striker-fired guns cost just $3.50 to produce using cast aluminium. They were shipped in unmarked polystyrene boxes with just a sheet of pictographs showing how to operate the weapon. The pistols were never deployed and US involvement in Vietnam subsequently escalated into a full-blown conflict, precluding the need for a clandestine pistol.
Approximately 1,000 of the pistols were made in 1964, its thought that today between 10 and 25 survive. This makes Mr Ring’s donation of the pistol very special. Back in 2011, Rock Island Auctions sold a boxed example of the gun for just under $26,000.
For more on the history of the Deer gun check out this Small Arms Review article.