Buried within the vaults of the Cody Firearms Museum here at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West is a revolver, holster, belt, and whistle that belonged to a man named Verne Stull.
Stull was by no means well-known, but he played an integral part in World War II history. He worked as a security supervisor at the Hanford Engineer Works in Richland, Washington, from 1943 – 1946. At the Hanford Site, scientists worked on the Manhattan Project, which was the program to produce atomic weapons. The Hanford Site was responsible for enriching uranium into Plutonium-239. This would be used in the Trinity Device and the Fat Man Bomb. Secrecy was paramount for the success of the project; less than one percent of the workers at the Hanford site even knew what they were making. Despite everything being well-hidden, Soviet spies were a major problem. The spies released classified information from the sites in Los Alamos, New Mexico, and Oak Ridge, Tennessee, but not from the Hanford site. Even though the U.S. was allied with the USSR, there was a plethora of mistrust on both sides, and both sides took to spying on each other. The U.S. Army Intelligence set up a program to catch Soviet spies called Operation Venona. The program succeeded at decrypting thousands of messages which led to capturing numerous spies and spy rings.
Stull’s job was a thankless job–he is not really remembered by history; the most recognition he received was a certificate commending him for his help with the Manhattan Project. He did play an incredibly important role in history though–keeping the Hanford Site secure and secret, thereby helping to keep the country safe.
Stull’s gun is a Colt Officer’s Model Target. He customized it: outfitting it with a heavy barrel, as well as a right-handed target shooting grip. That is not exactly traditional for a service weapon, as it would make more sense at the range rather than at a clandestine military project. The gun is chambered in .38 special, which was a very common cartridge for law enforcement at the time. The holster and the belt are nothing special: they were both sold by Brauer Bros. Manufacturing in St. Louis, Missouri.