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Which Pistols Does the CIA Use?

Spy agencies, like the CIA, the KGB, and MI6, and the weapons they use have captured the public imagination for decades. Incredible gadgets, vehicles, and “ninja” skills have become closely associated with undercover agents. The suppressed Walther PPK of James Bond is perhaps the most iconic spy weapon of all time, but films are films.

While pen darts and cars with machine guns may not be standard issue for CIA agents, they do use weapons, and cool ones at that.

It’s worth noting that not every CIA agent carries a weapon. For many working at the CIA’s headquarters in Virginia, their jobs are not unlike jobs in the civilian world; they just do them with high level security clearances. However, there are agents and spies who work in the field conducting espionage and clandestine operations, and they need the best equipment for the tasks at hand.


The CIA was created in 1946. When conducting clandestine operations, stealth and concealment are crucial. This meant that suppressed pistols were ideal, as they are quiet and easy to hide. Early on, the CIA played around with a variety of suppressed pistols, but only one of them quite did the trick. The CIA adopted the High Standard HDM/S. It was a suppressed .22 pistol that was small enough to be carried stealthily and used effectively by agents in the field. It was used throughout much of the latter half of the 20th century.

They were also known to use other firearms like the Browning HP-35. It was developed by John Browning himself and could be chambered in 9mm and .40. It very closely resembled the Colt 1911.

They also used something called “The Liberator”. The Liberator was a tiny .45 caliber pistol. It only held one bullet at a time, but it was easy to hide. During WW II, the Allied Forces intended to airdrop thousands of them behind enemy lines in France. The idea was to allow everyday citizens living under Nazi rule a way to resist and fight back, although the plan never quite became reality. Later on, the smaller nature of the pistol made it a clear option for CIA agents who needed to stay hidden.

The stinger was a pen gun used by the OSS around the time of WW II. The OSS could be thought of as a precursor to the CIA. The Stinger was similar to the Liberator in that it only held one round although in this case it was a .22. Unlike the Liberator, the Stinger pen gun could be seen in plain sight without drawing unwanted attention.

Sawed-off shotguns were useful as they are one of the few concealable weapons around at the time that packed more punch than a pistol. They used tiny grenades called “Beanos”. There are a lot of other cool gadgets that the CIA is known to have used. They developed a camera that would appear to be nothing but a matchbox to observers. They would conceal a map in a playing card. One side of the card could be soaked off when the agent was ready to view the map.

The Pistols They Use Today

CIA operatives are not limited to the standard issue pistols used by infantry soldiers. While there is nothing wrong with a Beretta 9mm, it is not always ideal. Agents are able to pick their own firearms based whatever they think will be best for the mission at hand. This means they have access to the fanciest sidearms available and all gadgets that may come with them.

A favorite of operatives is the Glock 19. Its striker fired action makes it great for concealed carry in general, as it is almost impossible for them to accidentally discharge while also being smooth to fire. They can come with threaded barrels which allows them to attach suppressors. As one could imagine, suppressors are often crucial to the kinds of missions the CIA embarks on. They must be able to not be seen while seeing beforehand their enemies. Glock makes pistols in many calibers. While the Glock 19, with its 9mm rounds, is the most popular choice, operators have access to a wide variety of calibers within the Glock platform of pistols.

Sig Sauer’s P228 is another favorite. It is commonly used by many forces such as the Navy Seals and the CIA. It functions well, even when wet, and is compact.

While the Glock 19 and the Sig Sauer P228 can be concealed, the M&P Shield is designed with concealment as its main priority. The M&P Shield is manufactured by Smith and Wesson. It is based on their standard model, the M&P9, which is a favorite among law enforcement. Like Glocks, they are striker fired, and the recent upgrades with the 2.0 version fixed issues they used to have with their triggers.

Spy Weapons

While CIA operatives usually use more traditional weapons, there are some weapons that are James Bond level wild.

In the 1970s it was found that the CIA had a “heart attack gun”. It was a pistol that shot darts that were designed to barely leave a mark and would, well, cause the victim to have a heart attack.

The Russian KGB developed a few spy weapons of their own. They developed a gun that looked like lipstick although it is not known to have been used to kill anyone. They also developed an umbrella gun. This is what it sounds like, a gun made to look like an ordinary umbrella. The difference between the lipstick gun and the umbrella gun is that the latter was actually used to kill someone. It could fire a tiny pellet coated in poison. It was used to assassinate Georgi Markov, an author who had upset the Soviet government.

While 007 films are not exactly documentaries, the CIA and related organizations have still used some really interesting weapons throughout the years.

Jay Chambers – Minuteman Review

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