Courtesy of Ti-Hua Chang
NEW YORK (CBS) 

Federal ATF Agents issued an officer safety advisory on what is called the world’s smallest gun after a CBS 2 inquiry. The Alert has been issued both in the New York and nationally to all Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives criminal investigators and will be passed on to other federal agencies.

ATF has confiscated thousands of disguised or miniature guns — from flashlights that shoot a .25 caliber bullet to pen guns.

The latest miniature gun that is alarming ATF agents is the SwissMiniGun. It’s extremely small — just over two inches long. It comes with tiny bullets designed especially for the weapon that can penetrate skin. Even in its holster, this gun is so small that law enforcement experts say it could pass for a keychain ornament.

According to William McMahon, special agent in charge of the New York ATF office, that makes it the perfect stealth weapon for a variety of criminals.

“A terrorist, a criminal trying to sneak into bank, all kinds of criminals. I can see no legitimate reason to own this gun. It seems to be just made to be hidden,” McMahon said.

As its name indicates, the SwissMiniGun is manufactured in Switzerland. CBS 2 News reached the company’s CEO, Paul Erard, by phone.

He said the gun is a miniature, detailed copy of the Colt Python revolver. He sells it for roughly $5,000 to gun collectors (though he added that most of his guns are encrusted with diamonds and gold, so they can cost $30,000).

He said he has sold 50 miniguns, all to only one area of the world. “Contacts in the Middle East asked me to make a miniature of Colt Python,” said Erard.

Erard refused to say which Middle-Eastern countries. His reaction when asked if terrorists might use it? At first he laughed and said, ” Absolutely ridiculous.”

When CBS 2 got him to admit his gun shoots bullets using gunpowder, he then changed his tone. “Of course I am concerned as manufacturers of air guns are concerned. This is not a toy,” said Erard.

A national police organization notes that unlike air guns, SwissMiniGuns can be concealed and shoot with gunpowder bullets that travel at 400-plus feet per second. These bullets could be aimed at the face.

Joe Occhipinti of the National Police Defense Foundation was alarmed by the SwissMiniGun’s potential uses, noting, “In a routine stop, a guy could certainly make a joke, and ‘Say see my little gun here?’ point at the officer and shoot. It looks like a key chain and [an officer’s] guard would be down.”

Occhipinti added, “I could easily see a passenger attempting to go to an airport take out a key chain put in with coins in the little basket. No one would detect that.”

SwissMiniGuns cannot be legally imported into the United States because the barrel is less than three inches long — in this case, a lot less.

No SwissMiniGuns have been recovered here yet, but McMahon admits, “If it came into the United States, it would be a concern.”

This alert is the result of a single officer in Maryland seeing the gun on a Web site and alerting other officers, including the National Police Defense Foundation.

CBS 2 News learned of the weapon and passed word on to the ATF. It is an example of officers using the Internet the way some terrorists do but in this case, to combat them.

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