The Vietnam War was the first war that saw the widespread use of suppressed weapons. Special Forces, MACV-SOG, Force Recon, the SEALs, and more pioneered modern special operations in Vietnam and often did so with suppressed firearms of one kind or another. They tossed cans on M16s, AKs, Walther PPKs, M3 SMGs, and many more. Alongside all those standard firearms, we began seeing a number of oddball-suppressed weapons.
There are so many oddball-suppressed weapons they warranted their own article, so I’ve gathered six of the oddest suppressed weapons I could find during the Vietnam War. Some were experimental, but all made their way to Vietnam and participated in the war. Let’s dig in.
1) The QSPR
I did an entire article on the QSPR (Quiet Special Purpose Weapon) and that article started my dive into oddball-suppressed weapons. QSPR was a highly modified S&W Model 29 .44 Magnum.
Firstly, it had its barrel chopped off. Further, since the QSPR as a revolver would have been near impossible to silence, so they devised special piston ammunition that relied on a piston to reduce the noise. The ammo fired a load of shots instead of a solid projectile to increase the potential for landing shots in a tunnel situation.
Initially, the gun was designed for clearing tunnels, but it was used in other capacities, and the Rangers scored a kill with one on patrol.
Related: The siege of the Green Berets at Plei Me: The first major battle of the US in Vietnam
2) High Standard HDM
The OSS was the first American organization that used suppressed weapons and its gun of choice was the High Standard HDM. This type of semi-automatic .22LR pistol is typically used for sporting and plinking purposes. Its use of .22LR ensured it was naturally very quiet when paired with subsonic ammo and a suppressor. It’s not quite as quiet as the movies would have you believe, but it’s dang close. A suppressed .22LR sounds like two hands clapping.
In Vietnam, the gun fell into the hands of all manner of special operations troops, including MACV-SOG, Force Recon, Green berets, and the CIA. It was very handy for removing sentries and killing dogs quietly. The High Standard HDM used a very reliable integral suppressor to reduce its size. Blowback-operated firearms work well suppressed without the need for additional attachments.
3) The Mk22 Mod 0 ‘Hush Puppy’
While the High Standard performed well, it was still just a .22LR. The Naval Special Warfare units wanted something a bit bigger in a more capable caliber. These guys were already using modified versions of the S&W Model 39, so that was a natural series of handguns to turn into suppressed weapons. The Hush Puppy model featured an attached suppressor, as well as raised sights to see over the can.
This gun was paired with a subsonic 158-grain ammunition that eliminated the supersonic crack associated with standard 9mm loads. One of its most interesting features was the slide lock. This locked the slide shut to make it a single firearm and prevented the tell-tale noise of the slide from moving and revealing the shooter’s location. In addition to that, the gun could be fitted with a stock for precise shots.
Related: How the Vietnam War changed the Navy SEALs forever
4) Silent Sniper System
I don’t have much to my name, but I did a ton of research back in the day to get some information on the Silent Sniper System. I dug through archives, called sergeant majors and commanding officers, and got the scoop on the Silent Sniper System. This specialized rifle was designed for precision shot placement with a sound signature so quiet it couldn’t be heard beyond 100 meters.
The Silent Sniper System combined a new .458×1/2 inch cartridge that was massive but subsonic. The rifle was a Winchester Model 70 fit with a huge integral suppressor. It was remarkably silent, but according to my interviews with Vietnam snipers, it was big, heavy, and not very accurate for their purposes. It did accomplish its goal of being inaudible past 100 meters, but it wasn’t a very efficient suppressed weapon.
5) Tunnel Exploration Kit
The Tunnel Exploration Kit was a complete system designed for tunnel rats. It involved a big headlamp with a bite switch, a radio, and a rather interesting gun. The gun is an S&W Model 10, a normal 38 Special handgun with a suppressor at the end. What’s weird is that they did nothing to deal with the gap between the barrel and cylinder, which is as loud as a gunshot.
Without a gas seal, this wouldn’t be a very quiet weapon. The suppressor seems mostly there to reduce muzzle flash and not necessarily noise. A pair of earplugs were also part of the kit. Thes guns were popular enough that 200 were sent overseas for tunnel operations. They were supposed to be issued with special “half charge” ammunition, but that ammo didn’t seem to make it overseas.
6) The Vietnamese Type 64 Silenced Pistol
So far, all of these suppressed weapons have been used by American forces in Vietnam. That doesn’t mean that the Vietnamese forces didn’t have their own suppressed weapons, including the oddball Type 64 Silenced Pistol. This pistol was of Chinese origin, and, according to a DIA intelligence bulletin, it popped up in Vietnam.
This is an integrally silenced pistol using a specialized round similar to the .32 ACP. It’s a two-stage suppressor with baffles and a second stage under the barrel. The gun could be set to semi-auto, to a single-shot mode, or a locked slide operation similar to the Hush Puppy. The gun is extremely quiet and would be a nightmare for American forces if t was ever used in large numbers.
Oddball suppressed weapons
Vietnam had no lack of oddball weapons, including suppressed weapons. Silence is golden for special operations. Even today, suppressed weapons are becoming the norm in military forces. I doubt we’ll ever see oddballs like these in conventional forces, but it’s fascinating to see the design and development that lead to modern suppressor use… even when it’s weird.
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