ST. PAUL Having never fired a gun in her life, Faamati Winey pulled up on a flying clay pigeon and dusted it with the latest version of the Quiet Gun.
A small audience at the Metro Gun Club in Blaine, Minn., gave an enthusiastic cheer for Winey, who grinned and said, "Hey, this is easy."
Inventor Wendell Diller, who developed this shotgun with its characteristic long barrel, beamed proudly. He then watched as Winey, his boss's wife, broke another clay target, scoring two out of four in her introduction to shot gunning.
"People look at the long barrel and think it's going to kick or that it's too hard to shoot," he said. "Well, we're here to show that's not the case."
Three more shooters put the shotgun with a 31-inch extension barrel to their shoulders and dusted clay targets, while the gun emitted a pop slightly louder than a pellet rifle.
The Oakdale inventor hoped to duplicate that success with his first public demonstrations of the Quiet Gun at Game Fair, the annual outdoors event in Anoka, Minn.
Ten years after the first prototype, the Quiet Gun is becoming Diller's contribution to keeping urban wildlife in check and urban gun ranges open.
The gun is much quieter than traditional shotguns because the long barrel uses a series of holes, or ports, to bleed away the blast-producing gases that come from discharging the shot shell.
Diller began tinkering with the concept in order to hunt crows without disturbing nearby homeowners. Many of Diller's favorite crow-hunting spots were in urban areas where development was creeping in.
"The gun is my way of adapting to a changing environment," he said. "I wanted to continue hunting, but I am not willing to upset other folks in the process."
Diller's invention has gained acceptance among park managers grappling with growing deer numbers.
The Three Rivers Park District, based in Hennepin County, Minn., has used the Quiet Gun for two years to help cull deer from three different parks. The park district typically relies on recreational hunting and sharpshooters to keep deer herds under control, but managers were looking for a safe alternative to killing deer in urban parks where gun noise wouldn't be tolerated by neighbors.
"We've used it in places where there might be skiers 75 yards away and they haven't recognized it as a gunshot," said Larry Gillette, wildlife manager for the park district. "We haven't had one (complaint) about it."
Gillette said when he tested the Quiet Gun, he stood about 50 to 75 yards away.
"The sound we were picking up from the gun was not much more than loud talking," he said. "If you were listening for a pellet gun, you could probably hear it."
The Quiet Gun sharpshooters also use another Diller invention: a "frangible" shotgun slug that disintegrates when it hits a hard surface. Made from No. 7 1/2 birdshot encased in plastic, the slug will humanely dispatch a deer, but it disintegrates if it hits a hard surface, like frozen ground, thus avoiding dangerous ricochets.
"With a .243 rifle, you never know where the slug might go if it ricochets off a hard surface," Gillette said. "That's not the case with (Diller's) safe slug."
Gillette said the park district has killed about 40 deer with the Quiet Gun and haven't had a single wounded animal. His biggest concern was the accuracy of the gun, but outfitted with special light-gather scopes and the safe slugs, shooters have humanely dispatched deer.
"I don't shoot myself, but the people who shoot for me have been pleased with the performance of it," Gillette said.
Diller said hunters have killed ducks, geese, pheasants, doves, crows, deer, coyotes and fox with the gun. He's supplied guns to paraplegic hunters and a group that helps disabled sportsmen, Capable Partners, who have successfully hunted geese with the Quiet Gun.
He hoped that Twin Cities municipalities dealing with nuisance geese would use the Quiet Gun and Capable Partners to remove geese, but "they find it's easier politically to capture and remove the geese than use hunters," Diller said.
His latest version of the Quiet shotgun uses a new lightweight barrel. His initial invention put the entire gun barrel length at 7 feet, and the barrel was heavier than Diller wanted. After more tinkering, he developed the 31-inch barrel extension made from aluminum and steel. It weighs just 9 ounces.
"When I put this 31-inch extension on the 24-inch gun barrel, it weighs just over 2 ounces over a standard 28-inch shotgun barrel. It's deceiving when you look at it because it looks so long and unwieldy," he said.
Diller has built Quiet Guns for friends and wildlife managers, but he hasn't produced them commercially. (A version of the barrel is being produced by a commercial manufacturer, but not under Diller's guidance. He is seeking a separate patent.) Diller's primary motive isn't making money with the Quiet Gun.
"I wouldn't mind making money. I'm not against that," said Diller, who works as a marketing manager for a company that makes high-end speaker systems. "I'm well fed, I get to go hunting and I have gas for my Volare. How much more do I need? I guess I'm more interested in social issues."
By that, Diller said he means he hopes the Quiet Gun might help stave off the future demise of hunting and gun ranges. He thinks the gun might have applications for shooting ranges that are encroached by development by giving shooters a quieter alternative. He worries about land development and its impact on accessibility to hunting areas. He sees connections between all those issues.
"If a gun range goes out of business, people stop shooting and take up golf," he said. "Then hunting pursuits suffer. Then fewer people care about the environment or land-use issues. As it is, land-use issues aren't high enough on our radar."
Diller's mind is awash with such issues and ideas. He's developed other shooting aids, such as a cheap and portable sound muffling system that could be used on rifle ranges. He's also developed a new product that he said will "improve people's shooting" and has the interest of an ammunition manufacturer. He admits, though, that the Quiet Gun, because of its long barrel, won't catch on quickly with the sporting gun public. He's not deterred, however, from introducing it to as many people as possible.
"I wish this concept were a total flop," he said, "but it may be the gun your great grandchildren will have to use if they want to continue hunting."
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