KGB ultra-silent pistols still in active use

ammo-a-sp-3-1.jpg

Reader Tarkan emailed me a couple of interesting news article about the assassination of a former Chechen commander in Turkey last week. Sabah reports:

According to police investigations the gunshots hit the victim from a diagonal angle and the weapons used were especially made for the KGB. Known as ‘small special guns’ and used in assassinations, both the SP3 and SM4 models only let off minimal noise when shot. Police are stating that the previous Chechen commander that was murdered, Gazhi Edilsultanov was also killed by a 7.62 gun and the same weapon might have been used in both murders.

As usual, the media got the facts incorrect. The SP-3 is a cartridge. The S4M is a pistol.

 Ammo A Sp-3-1
SP-3 Cartridge (Photo from guns.ru)

 Handguns S4M-1
S4M pistol (Photo from guns.ru)

The round is one of many Russia piston silenced rounds. The gas from the primer propels a piston (I doubt they contain any powder) which in turn propels a 123 grain bullet at 490 fps generating 66 lbs of muzzle energy. This is significantly less energy than a High Velocity .22 Long Rifle (130+ lbs). The piston then locks in the gas preventing muzzle noise.

The bullet itself is similar to the 7.62x39mm (AK) bullet. In theory this is supposed to fool investigators into thinking the victim was shot by a conventional rifle. This may have worked when the cartridge was classified but any modern forensic expert would not be fooled by a rifle bullet that clearly left the muzzle slowly and had very poor penetration.

A combination of very low power and a relatively large caliber bullet means the round is not capable of much apart from gangland style executions as demonstrated in the recent assassination.

JamesTown.org reports that in September another Chechen was assassinated in Turkey:

On September 6 Gazhi Edilsultanov, a former Chechen colonel, was gunned down in Istanbul reportedly during a dispute over financial aid being collected in Turkey for Chechen separatists. Edilsultanov was the head of the Chechen refugee camp in Istanbul

It is suspected that the killing was not a robbery but an assassination:

Perhaps, however, the story of killing Edilsultanov for the €50,000 was not true, and the suspects invented the money story to cover up the fact that the murder was committed by Russian intelligence.

I would be surprised if Russian intelligence are still manufacturing the pistols themselves. Ammunition on the other hand is relatively simple to make. I am sure with a lathe and reloading press any competent machinist could manufacture the SP-3 cartridge.

A bit thanks to Tarkan for the information he emailed me.




Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


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  • http://www.personaldefenceweapons.com//index.htm Sven Ortmann

    “The gas from the primer propels a piston (I doubt they contain any powder) which in turn propels a 123 grain bullet at 490 fps generating 66 lbs of muzzle energy.”

    Jane’s Infantry Weapons 2004/2005 has a cross-section drawing of this cartridge that shows a separate propellant in the case, not just a primer.
    (SP-4)

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com Steve

      Sven , I stand corrected, thanks. Considering the short distance the piston travels and that it has to lock in the gas and itself not be blown out the barrel, it must be a very small charge of very fast burning powder.

  • http://existingthing.blogspot.com existingthing

    I keep seeing these underpowered “assassination guns,” and can’t help but wonder if a tack hammer would be a more reliable means of dispatch.

  • jdun1911

    Three shots and he died instantly. I would expect with that kind of ballistic that he would bleed to death. I guess that’s possible if the assassin know where to aim or just plain lucky.

    Why couldn’t they use a suppress subsonic .22lr. It would be a better choice.

  • jdun1911

    Thinking about. Who would do assassinations in front of witness? The Russian or the Mob?

    In the JamesTown.org article, it is the reporter opinions more then anything else.

  • tarkan

    Close 3shot to the head,seems like they were professionals,else they would shoot more,mobs target different areas to give a ”message”.GRU did similar activities in Qatar and were caught,given death sentence.3×7.62 mm cartridges were found on scene.Some elite teams also use silenced revolvers for more jam proof results.Like GIGN;MR-73 revolver (either the .44 magnum w/ 8in or .357 magnum w/ 10in barrel)it is said they can hit 4cm disk in 100 meters.I agree it is nonsense to take multiple risks.But this is their way,remember Litvinenko?

    • Abakan

      Seems rather sloppy for russians to use a dated ineffective weapon that screams KGB, more likely it was a false flag assassination carried out by elements of the secular military in Turkey to intimidate opponents with russian support.

    • Abakan

      Litvinenko was infinitely more high profile. In contrast taking out Chechen commanders is routine business for the russian government, so they would want to keep something like this hidden.

  • jdun1911

    I doubt at those speed it will penetrate the human skull.

  • jdun1911

    After thinking for a while, I’m interested at the location of those shots.

    BTW the only revolver that I know off that can be suppressed is the Mosin. There might be others but those are custom made. With that said the MR-73 cannot be suppressed.

    Remember folks unless its a subsonic suppress .22lr it best to keep your hearing protection on.

  • http://www.thegunzone.com Daniel E. Watters

    FWIW: The US played with similar ‘silent’ captured piston cartridges back in the early ’60s under the “Whisper” program. The Army developed the .30 caliber XM76 cartridge for the M1 rifle, and a .38 caliber cartridge for conventional revolvers. This led to work on the “Silent Weapon System – Alpha” for Special Forces use. I believe that the .38 caliber XM202 cartridge was developed for this weapon.

    Later, AAI developed captured piston cartridges for the “Quiet, Special Purpose Revolver” for use by Tunnel Rats, and an underwater defense weapon used by SEAL divers. AAI used a similar concept with an expanding diaphragm replacing the piston to create ‘silent’ 12 gauge shotshells and 40x46mm grenades.

  • tarkan

    Thanks for feed-back Daniel,what amazes me is to silence 44 magnum,357 magnum in revolver(MR-73)anybody saw them shooting or they are just sweet small bipod added revolvers with scopes with leveled noise?LSW-low signature weapons could be a topic to be discussed.Daniel your ‘silent’ means they are not so planned as silent?

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com Steve

      tarkan, the problem with silencing revolvers is that a lot of gas escapes from the gap between the cylinder and the barrel making a lot of noise. You certainly can add a suppressors onto the end of a revolver but it will not be very effective.

      The Nagant M1895 is one type of revolver that can be suppressed effectively:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nagant_M1895

  • tarkan

    Silencing medusa model 47 is it possible?Are they still in use by SEALs?

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com Steve

      tarkan, not possible. If there is a gap, between the cylinder and the barrel, it will take a lot of noise, even if a suppressor is at the end of the barrel.

  • http://defense-and-freedom.blogspot.com/ Sven Ortmann

    “tarkan, not possible. If there is a gap, between the cylinder and the barrel, it will take a lot of noise, even if a suppressor is at the end of the barrel.”

    PSDR 3, a S&W 625 in .45ACP – custom-made by Joe Peters in 1993 for German SEK’s (SWAT teams).
    This (huge) revolver included a shell around the cylinder.
    Noise reduction from 136 down to 90 dB, comparable to a CO2 gun.

    Source: Visier Special 6, 1997
    (special edition of one of the three big German gun journals)

  • Mang

    Knight’s made 2 models of suppressed Ruger revolvers. One was based on a GP-100 frame, using a 5.56 rifle bullet in a sabot that slipped out enough upon firing to close the gap between the cylinder and the forcing cone. 7.62 in a Redhawk carbine, same system.

    http://img179.imageshack.us/i/revrifleetrevpistolknighthy9.jpg/

    Apparently it was mfg’d in response to a military request for a short-range sniper with quicker followup than a bolt action, that didn’t leave cases around? The guns were in Soldier of Fortune and Guns & Ammo in the early 90’s. I recall that the .44 carbine was also wielded in an Xfiles episode.

  • Victor

    “In theory this is supposed to fool investigators into thinking the victim was shot by a conventional rifle. This may have worked when the cartridge was classified but any modern forensic expert would not be fooled by a rifle bullet that clearly left the muzzle slowly and had very poor penetration.”

    Actually, that was intended by the makers of the S4M. It was designed so that forensic investigators would mistake the wound for one caused by an AK-47 from several hundred feet, hence the low velocity.