Back in the early 1990s C. Reed Knight Jr.'s Knight's Armament Co (KAC) of Vero Beach, Florida 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.
What was it?
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.
(Note the funny rounds)
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.
This made the addition of a can to the 19th Century wheel gun an instant assassination and black ops whacker.
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.
A soldier poses with his Tunnel Exploration Kit, consisting of a silenced .38 S&W, special holster and a mouth/teeth bite-switch activated headlamp.
An 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.
The QSPR snubby .410 and one of its shells
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.
The KAC Silenced Revolver Rifle
According to reports, Knight took a commercial Ruger Super Redhawk .44 Magnum and replaced the barrel with a 10-inch .30 caliber 1:9 RH one that had a gap between the cylinder and the barrel of five one-thousandths of an inch (0.005). For comparison, a standard U.S. 10-cent piece is 0.053 inch thick. Over the barrel, a 6061 T6 aluminum suppressor tube 18.5-inches long was fitted. Then the whole affair was coated black, a bipod was fitted, and the result was a 36.5-inch long, 8.5-pound suppressed revolver.
What round did it fire? Well, like the Nagant before it, the cartridge was very special.
The gun made its first mention in the "gun rags" in the September 1992 issue of Lt. Col. Robert K Brown's Soldier of Fortune magazine, the article (preserved on a German website here) went into extreme detail in the method of sealing the cartridge to prevent gas escaping and thus make it more silent.
"Screw-turned with a needle sharp point, the bullet is encased in an aluminum piston with a black plastic front face seal. Both are loaded into a Federal .44 magnum case. Powered by an undisclosed propellant of undisclosed charge weight and upon ignition, the piston moves forward a small amount and its beveled face interfaces with the rear end of the barrel to seal the front cylinder gap. A rubber O-ring on the piston seals the case from propellant blow by, so that all of the propellant gas is driven into the sound suppresser attached to the barrel."
Nevertheless, did it work?
From the SOF article:
"The sound signature produced by this system is about 119 dB. The sound pressure generated by the weapon unsuppressed is about 163 dB. The sound of the hammer dropping on an empty chamber is about 112 dB, so the muzzle blast is reduced to only 7 dB more than the sound of the action and the firearms flash signature is completely eliminated."
How can you get your own?
Well that's the thing. This Ruger is the ultimate black eagle vaporware revolver. Never a factory option from Ruger, it is believed that KAC only made a few prototypes.
An actual Knights Armament Revolver Carbine, Via Gun Runner Hell
However, as noted by the Internet Movie Firearms Database, that has not stopped mockups of the gun from appearing in nearly a dozen films, TV shows and video games.
Perhaps the most notable of these was in the 1993 action comedy Another Stakeout in which mob hitman Tony Castellano (portrayed by Miguel Ferrer) uses one extensively. As noted by IMFDB, the KAC Revolver Rifle is actually a mock up made by the movie's armorers from a propped Super Redhawk and not a "real" gun.
In fact, according to the fine folks at IMFDB who track these things, the same mock gun has been reused over and over in TV shows to include Supernatural, Stargate SG-1 and the X-Files, proving that, while actors may fade, prop guns are forever.
Moreover, in the end, the gun itself is likely worthy of its own X-Files episode.