A Heart Attack Gun Created by the CIA

The logo of the CIA, who is responsible for creating the heart attack gun.

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The logo of the CIA, who is responsible for creating the heart attack gun.

In 1975, a great deal of unregulated CIA activity came to an enormous halt after almost thirty years. After what happened during the Watergate Scandal, public interest in intelligence agencies suddenly spiked. Because of this, the Senate gathered a select committee directed by Idaho Senator Frank Church to look into some of the deepest secrets the CIA withheld. What they found was mostly expected – ideas of assassinating national leaders and a considerable amount of spying on citizens- but there was one other matter that caught the eyes of investigators. They came across the heart attack gun, a morbid weapon designed to kill someone in minutes without leaving a trace.

The source of the heart attack gun lay in the hands of a woman named Mary Embree. Mary Embree was an 18-year-old high school graduate that worked on creating audio surveillance equipment at the CIA. Eventually, she was promoted to the Office of Technical Services and was tasked to find an undetectable poison; her research led her to conclude that shellfish toxins were the optimal option. This discovery ultimately led to her being a part of Project MKNAOMI, a successor of the more well-known Project MKULTRA. Both projects had to do with creating biological weapons, and while Project MKNAOMI was focused more on poisoning crops and livestock, Embree’s discovery was destined to do more. It was intended to make killing a human being – and getting away with it – extremely easy.

The creation of the weapon began in a laboratory in Fort Detrick that was dedicated to biological warfare research since World War II. There, a CIA chemist named Nathan Gordon mixed the shellfish toxin with water and froze the mixture to create pellets that could easily penetrate the skin. It was fired out of a modified pistol and could travel over 100 meters and be virtually noiseless. Once the pellet was in the body, it would immediately melt and release the toxins into the bloodstream. This would shut down the cardiovascular system and mimic a heart attack. All that would be left was a red dot on the skin, and if one didn’t know what to look for, they would never notice it.  

Although the heart attack gun seemed like something out of a sci-fi movie, statistically, the weapon would have worked perfectly fine, but there’s no actual evidence that it was ever used. The heart attack gun was only one of many biological weapons that were created under the MKNAOMI Project, and if not for the increased interest in Federal Agencies, the gun may have never been discovered.