Back in the early 1990s, C. Reed Knight Jr.’s Knight’s Armament Co (KAC) of Vero Beach, California responded to a shadowy call from a government agency as yet unnamed to produce a small and short ranged but devastating suppressed rifle. Their answer was a unique weapon based upon a Ruger Super Red Hawk.
The story goes that KAC built the gun on spec to provide a weapon capable of making effective anti-personnel shots at ranges of up to 100-yards while being capable of a rapid follow-up shot. The rub was that it could not eject shell casings (so there would be nothing left behind by the user to pick up before leaving the area presumably). This ruled out semi-autos, bolt, pump, and lever actions. In fact, it left the revolver as the answer. But everyone knows you can’t suppress a revolver, right?
Well, about that.
History of suppressed revolvers
Back in the 1930s, the Soviets took the Nagant M1895 pistol and added a neat and (reportedly) very effective suppressor to the barrel for use by their secret police and special operations kind of people. These guns remained in service into the specifically designed APB (Avtomaticheskij Pistolet Besshumnyj– automatic silenced pistol) was produced in the 1970s to replace it.
What made the earlier revolver special was the fact that the inventor, a Belgian by the name of Emil Nagant, designed his wheel gun to push the cylinder forward at the moment before firing, creating a near airtight seal in the chamber. Further, the gun used a unique 7.62×38R cartridge that had a recessed bullet, which completed the gas-seal when the gun fired. Now Emil did this to add some velocity to the underpowered 108-grain bullet– but the Soviets figured out a generation later that it could also work for a suppressed weapon.
In the West, the U.S. made their own suppressed revolver during the Vietnam conflict for the use of tunnel rats who needed an effective but muted gun (for obvious safety reasons– they were underground!) that was short enough to move around the Viet Cong tunnels with that also had a muted muzzle blast.
In 1966, the Army made a half-dozen tunnel rat kits that included a suppressed Smith .38 with downloaded ammunition for use by these underground gladiators. However, they weren’t liked and weren’t really all that silent due to the escaping gas from the cylinder.
Another attempted solution was the 1969-era Quiet Special Purpose Revolver, a Smith and Wesson Model 29 .44 Magnum that was chambered for a very low power special .410-ish Quiet Special Purpose Round filled with 15 tungsten balls in a plastic sabot. Since the ammunition itself had about as much powder as a 4th of July party popper, the gun was fitted with a short smoothbore barrel and did not need a suppressor. Just 75 were made and, though quickly withdrawn from Army use, were purportedly still utilized by SOG in places that never existed late into the war.
This brings us to the 1990s when again, for an end-user not currently known, KAC moved to make another suppressed revolver and went Ruger.