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Smith & Wesson/AAI 44 Magnum Vietnam Tunnel Gun

Posted 07-29-2011 at 10:14 PM by 29-1

Between 1968 and 1969, S&W shipped 23 (known serial numbers) Model 29-2 revolvers, some frame only, to Aircraft Armaments INC, (AAI), in Cockeysville, MD for conversion to what was known as the Tunnel Gun. After a 3 month field test between July-Oct 1969 in Vietnam, it was renamed the Quiet Special Purpose Weapon (QSPR), after some minor mods were made to the weapon. The changes made were based on recommendations from soldiers from the 25th ID, the 23rd (Americal) ID, and the 1ST ID, who field tested 10 revolvers over those 3 months in the VC tunnels in their areas of operation. Read the Tunnels of CuChi to hear about the 25th ID (Tropic Lighting), mention of the Tunnel Gun. S299258 pictured here represents an example that never made it to conversion for unknown reasons. I am very fortunate to have acquired one of my grail 44 magnums, albeit the frame only, just the way it was shipped to AAI on 5/23/1969. There will be a full article presented to the SWCA Journal for publication consideration. With the help of Roy Jinks and members of the International Ammunition Association, as well as retired employees from AAI to include the now 65 year old gunsmith who built the original Tunnel Guns, I've been able to gather much provenance and information on these arguably rarest of the 44 magnum variations. This will all be detailed in the planned article. I had hoped to have a mock up of the Tunnel Gun available by this weeks SWCA meeting in Orlando, but it wasn't possible. It was just finished yesterday by my gunsmith, John Blauvelt in Wallkill, NY. Voted by Field and Stream Magazine, one of the Top 10 Gunsmiths in America, John can do anything with a firearm, literally, and he described this project as "very interesting and a one of a kind job". SWCA members stay tuned for the article in the Journal, hopefully in the not too far distant future. S&W forum members will get an abbreviated version soon as well. For now, enjoy the pics of what must have been one heck of a weapon, as the Army test reports back in 1969-72 certainly claimed it to be. Unfortunately, timing is critical with most everything, and it was with the TG/QSPR. By 1972 when the final Land Warfare Unit/AAI testing and evaluation had been completed and all defiencies, especially with the cartridge (which is the real story), had been corrected, Vietnam was drawing down so the need for a tunnel weapon was no more. This became the Model 29 that really never was.
Enjoy
Chuck

Invoice to AAI 5/23/1969 for two 44 Magnum frames
S299258 and S318575


Factory Letter S229258


Frame only as shipped to AAI 5/23/1969


Notice serial number only, no model # stamp in frame. crane has same assembly number as the frame which was not always the case after AAI gunsmiths cannibilzed the first 10 guns received.




Blauvelt Conversion to exact original specs but false/plugged barrel to meet BATF compliance:








The cylinder chamber walls are paper thin as were the originals do to reaming them out to.526. Notice the daylight seen through the stop notches, as were the originals.






The cartridge is the real story behind this revolver. The captive piston round was capable of containing the blast noise, flash, and other energy normally done by the weapon. In essence, the round is the weapon and the revolver is simply the carrier.








Tunnel Gun Holster built by Bucheimer, Frederick, MD


Custom Made TG Holster for display purposes.


Original TGs at Aberdeen, MD. gun on the left is coated in Teflon and is the QSPR version with lanyard loop requested by soldiers in the field, for a "dummy cord" as Army Rangers call them.







Tunnel Gun Specs


S299258
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Comments

  1. Old Comment
    410bore's Avatar
    very informative....a must read!
    permalink
    Posted 08-05-2011 at 09:49 AM by 410bore 410bore is online now
  2. Old Comment
    fat tom's Avatar
    That's really incredible Chuck! Thanks for showing me something that I had no idea even existed.
    f.t.
    permalink
    Posted 08-06-2011 at 09:14 PM by fat tom fat tom is offline
  3. Old Comment
    jbull380's Avatar
    WOW! Never even heard of such an animal! Thanks for the joy ride.
    permalink
    Posted 10-17-2011 at 09:33 PM by jbull380 jbull380 is online now
  4. Old Comment
    Dadsnugun's Avatar
    Thanks very much for the terrific info. The round for that gun is incredible! I had no clue such a thing was even possible!
    permalink
    Posted 12-08-2011 at 04:09 PM by Dadsnugun Dadsnugun is offline
  5. Old Comment
    JJEH's Avatar
    Thank you very much for the info Sir.
    permalink
    Posted 01-16-2012 at 08:22 AM by JJEH JJEH is offline
  6. Old Comment
    I spent several years as an active participant in the SEAisan War Games busily doing bombs and bullets. I had heard of this gun but never seen one. Thank you very much for your detailed description.
    permalink
    Posted 02-02-2012 at 10:40 PM by big brother big brother is offline
  7. Old Comment

    Tunnel Gun

    Thank You for the look Vietnam 65-67
    permalink
    Posted 02-03-2012 at 06:14 PM by Old Seabee Old Seabee is online now
  8. Old Comment
    Mr. Moto's Avatar

    Tunnel Gun Info

    Your article is exactly why I joined S & W Forum. A little know, factual, well written piece of Smith and Wesson history. Thatks for a "good read."
    permalink
    Posted 03-23-2012 at 01:21 PM by Mr. Moto Mr. Moto is offline
  9. Old Comment
    GA 1911's Avatar
    Excellent article.
    permalink
    Posted 03-24-2012 at 03:08 PM by GA 1911 GA 1911 is offline
  10. Old Comment
    C Broad Arrow's Avatar
    Nice piece of history!
    permalink
    Posted 04-07-2012 at 12:31 AM by C Broad Arrow C Broad Arrow is offline
  11. Old Comment
    That is one of the most facinating articles i have ever read on a firearm.Thanks a lot for the history lesson.
    permalink
    Posted 04-07-2012 at 06:45 PM by nedclampet nedclampet is offline
  12. Old Comment
    skeetshooter's Avatar
    Awesome research,,incredible information,,WOW
    permalink
    Posted 05-06-2012 at 12:23 AM by skeetshooter skeetshooter is offline
  13. Old Comment
    Teruteru314's Avatar
    I was looking at the pictures when got a surprise in the trademark stamping. In the 2nd line it says literally "Marcas Registradas".
    Thats Spanish, not English as I would expect!

    Is there somebody who could explain this ?
    permalink
    Posted 06-23-2012 at 04:52 PM by Teruteru314 Teruteru314 is offline
  14. Old Comment
    627 city hunter's Avatar
    Very, interesting thanks.
    permalink
    Posted 07-15-2012 at 05:30 PM by 627 city hunter 627 city hunter is offline
  15. Old Comment
    Fascinating tale! I plugged my ears with live .45 acp rounds when I had the chance. Looked funny but they worked. I never went more than about 5 feet down one of those hell holes. The men who did had guts to spare!
    permalink
    Posted 08-11-2012 at 08:59 PM by Ohgoodgrief Ohgoodgrief is offline
  16. Old Comment

    What an education for an

    81 year old vet.

    I was aware of the Tunnel Rats, but not of this special handgun.

    Thank you.
    permalink
    Posted 08-15-2012 at 01:03 PM by GLVO GLVO is offline
  17. Old Comment
    I have only just joined the S&W forum and already much wiser for it. Thank you for a very interesting piece of history.
    Regards Biagio
    permalink
    Posted 08-26-2012 at 08:59 AM by Biagio Biagio is offline
  18. Old Comment
    Big Thanks for a great article, I was a tunnel rat Vietnam 26 marines 1968 the article is right on thus I had no idea that Smith-Wesson had built a weapon precisely for the tunnel rat I remember the concussion from a 1911 45 caliber blowing a marines ears plum out at which time I was issued a Smith-Wesson 38 revolver not sure of model at that time the 6 rounds were tracer first, non jacket lead second, fourth, and sixth round which was quite effective and I suffered no loss of hearing.
    permalink
    Posted 09-09-2012 at 09:21 PM by smith 29-2 smith 29-2 is offline
    Updated 09-09-2012 at 09:24 PM by smith 29-2
  19. Old Comment
    cellllman's Avatar
    Thank you very much for this part of gun history! One of the most interesting bit of gun lore I have read in a while!
    permalink
    Posted 09-22-2012 at 08:54 PM by cellllman cellllman is offline
  20. Old Comment
    cool.......................
    permalink
    Posted 02-23-2013 at 03:12 AM by ddixie884 ddixie884 is offline
 
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