Welrod Mk IIA (Video)

The Welrod is a nearly completely silent bolt action pistol designed by SOE Section 9 for covert operation and assassination use during WW2. Chambered for the .32ACP cartridge (which is subsonic to begin with), the Welrod uses a ventilated barrel and large-volume suppressor with several solid rubber wipes to bring its firing report down to the minimum possible level. This noise reduction only lasts for about a dozen shots, after which time the rubber wipes have more or less bore-sized permanent holes in them, reducing the suppressor’s effectiveness to pretty much on par with other typical designs.

The Welrod is a manually operated pistol, to avoid action noise. It feeds from a Colt 1903 Pocket Hammerless magazine, which also serves as its grip. A grip safety is the only safety device, and it fires using a striker mechanism. The Welrod was first introduced in 1943, with a larger 9x19mm version added later in the war. They appear to have been manufactured by BSA, with a total of about 14,000 made. Welrods were in service as recently as Desert Storm, and are most likely still in use for those times when a very efficient silent pistol is necessary.

Thanks to the Institute of Military Technology for allowing me to have access to this very cool pistol and bring it to you! For lots more great information on the Welrod, I recommend Anders Thygesen’s web site.

 

57 Comments

      • Clock type spring… Bullet can pass through the middle at all times, expansion of the “lids” contracts the spring- Sure it could be done.

      • Simpler method (and one I’ve used) is to chew a stick of gum, and stick the wad over the muzzle before firing.

        It reduces the “precursor wave pop” from the air being pushed out of the bore ahead of the bullet, only about a fourth of which gets shoved into the baffles normally.

        This does, however, accelerate baffle wear. I recommend it only for serious use.

        cheers

        eon

  1. One must wonder why few consider a suppressed bolt-action pistol a good idea in any role not associated with spying and assassination. Such a piece would be useful for discretely dealing with neighborhood pests like oversized rats. And no, this has nothing to do with the giant rat of Sumatra… or am I wrong?

    • Omg, why haven’t we been told about this giant Sumatran rat before. I mean, Sumatra is quite far away but I mean it’s 8ft tall. Someone should have warned us, surely. Frankly I’m shocked.

      • The “Giant Rat of Sumatra” was a mystery mentioned in name only in a Sherlock Holmes story. Fans have speculated for years as to what that mystery might be.

        • Thank you for that clarification, at the time upon performing an internet search for Giant Sumatran rat: I figured the representation this presented, of an unfortunate soul who just happened to be wearing a cape appointed with a Deerstalker hat, being mercilessly set upon by what appeared to be an approximately 8ft tall rodent was what we were up against in the here and now- Obviously in hindsight this appears not to be the case and I apologize for any distress caused.

    • Have you been personally affected by this plague of giant rodents your from out there aren’t you, or that way, are you. How is it going? I must confess to have been completely in the dark about their existence. Perhaps some sort of charity to supply you with Welrods to combat the existence of Sumatran giant rats could be organised by crowd funding via patronage if you think they’d help having been so blighted- I can’t participate, I don’t have an electronic means of monetary transfer available currently. But it sounds awful, won’t someone think of the children.

      • You can tell us, don’t suffer in silence. Speak of it man. The harrowing consequences of rampant 8ft rats running amok in your villages. Tokyo or whatnot, ravenous beasts gnawing at your broadband cables.

          • I was just stating a possible application for a suppressed weapon. Suppression of firearm discharges was originally intended for civil usage, such as noise reduction at a firing range or for the reduction of noise during a game hunt. Sadly poaching put an end to civilian use of suppressed guns after game wardens complained about vanishing deer populations…

          • Poachers eh, mind you… That was before supermarkets, folk need to eat.

            6 to 8ft rats might be tasty, perhaps you should breed some in captivity.

        • But No!
          They leave the internet cables alone.
          For they’ve learned the internet. It ‘s true. The smart buggers that they are, they understand true power lies in that direction. The tipping point, you ask? The “fake-news” that these rats are eight feet tall? Balderdash! They’re not an inch over 6 feet, 6’ 1″ at the most.
          (Don’t let fluffy out unsupervised.)
          Happy New year! ;):):)

          (Has anyone seen Fuffy lately?)

          • I’m not leaving my house, ever again. 6’1″ rats, mind you I need some more beers. Never come across one before, it was ok last night- Think I’ll risk it. Thanks for the update though chaps, I’ll tell everyone I know on Facebook prior to be vigilant. Outbreak of Sumatran giant rats.

    • In reality, rodents can get bigger than you might think;

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giant_rat

      And one such is, indeed, from Sumatra;

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Large_bamboo_rat

      And likely could have caused Holmes sufficient aggravation to be “of abominable memory”;

      http://headllamas.blogspot.com.au/2014/02/the-sumatran-devil.html

      We might not consider the Sumatran Bamboo Rat to be a “giant”, but if you’re used to Brown Norways, a rat almost two feet long (not including tail) and weighing upwards of fifteen pounds, would be definable as a veritable Gojira amongst the Rodentia.

      😉

      cheers

      eon

  2. Would have been really cool if they let you shoot it, although I’m assuming impossible. Does this pistol still retain the ‘wipes’ required for the very efficient silencing?

    • “Does this pistol still retain the ‘wipes’ required for the very efficient silencing?”

      Although the material was scarce during the war, I would guess that the rubber “wipe” baffles were probably made out of natural rubber, due to its high rebound-elasticity compared to the recently-invented synthetic rubbers of the day. If so, then the material would likely have badly deteriorated, becoming hard and brittle after just a few years, and resulting in an almost crumbly consistency today.

  3. “Welrods were in service as recently as Desert Storm, and are most likely still in use for those times when a very efficient silent pistol is necessary.”
    If that is true, that mean newer weapon should be designed as replacement (if still don’t exist).
    With modern technology it is totally possible to obtain noise-less weapon, which do not need manual cycling after each shot (see PSS silent pistol, S4M silent pistol, MSP silent pistol, PSS-2 silent pistol, OTs-38 revolver /which has also other odd features, as firing from bottom cylinder and way cylinder is opened for reloading/)

    • They got used in Ulster during the early 70’s apparently by Loyalist Paramilitaries, not sure how they acquired them- BSA, bet they didn’t give receipts if so.

  4. According to the old Paladin Press book on Silencers, there was also a U.S. Naval Ordnance Laboratory-developed version in .45 ACP, referred to as the Hand Firing Device MK 1.

    NB; in USN lingo, a “Hand Firing Device” is another term for the lanyard trip mechanism on a naval gun in an open mount. So the term being used in this context was likely an attempt at camouflage, rather like calling the Liberator pistol the “FP-45 flare projector”.

    However, later sources (like this article):

    http://www.guns.com/2013/01/14/the-welrod-assassin-gun-supressed-pistol/

    State that the term was the US Navy designation of the .32 ACP Welrod, while the later 9 x 19mm version was designated the MK 1. (As they said, don’t ask why.)

    So maybe there never was a .45 ACP Welrod at all. Although it seems to me that if you want a subsonic slug with maximum killing power, the .45 ACP round would be nearly an ideal choice for a Welrod-type platform.

    cheers

    eon

  5. .32 seems super flaccid for getting the job done. BUT was thinking, could that caliber (in part at least) be to ensure bullets don’t go through the target? In a crowed of people bullets hitting people or things past the target will arise suspicion for sure.

    • Interesting point, you couldn’t pull a “weekend at Bernies” off with the unfortunate individual you just rammed a Welrod into and fired amidst a crowd, if the person behind went down with a bullet in the face type thing.

    • Actually, .32 ACP FMJ is rather well -known for its penetration on “soft” targets. Unless they used hollow-points, which I seriously doubt, over-penetration in contact range shots was a virtual certainty.

      The real reason .32 ACP (7.65 x 17SR Browning)was chosen was, I suspect, ammunition availability “in country”. 7.65 Browning was a popular caliber for both personal protection and police duty sidearms on the continent “between the wars”.

      Even the Wehrmacht and etc. made extensive use of it; most Walther PPs and PPKs issued to everyone from the army’s officers, to the Luftwaffe’s bomber crews, to the SS were 7.65mm, not .380 (9mm Kurz). Not to mention huge numbers of Mauser M1910s, Browning M1910s and M1910/22s, Sauer “Behordenmodells” and 38Hs, and etc., all in 7.65 Browning.

      The Italians also used it, issuing the 7.65mm Beretta M1934 with a free hand to almost everybody.

      A .32 ACP pistol was, therefore, a reasonable choice for such a weapon because ammunition could be obtained almost anywhere- from the enemy, if all else failed.

      The later 9 x 19mm version made perfect sense in the same way. It was just less silent (due to its supersonic muzzle velocity), but on the plus side hit harder.

      As for the maybe-it-existed USN .45 version, I could see it being sent to SpecOps units in the CBI or elsewhere across the Pacific. After all, .45 ACP ammunition would have been available anywhere U.S. forces were engaged- and who wants to use 8 x 22mm Nambu if you don’t absolutely have to?

      cheers

      eon

      • “reason .32 ACP (7.65 x 17SR Browning)was chosen was, I suspect, ammunition availability “in country”.”
        I agree, even fast look at wikipedia query .32 ACP, section prominent firearms chambered in .32 ACP
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.32_ACP#Prominent_firearms_chambered_in_.32_ACP
        (it also contain post-war developments, but there are several pre-war examples)
        shows that .32 Auto fire-arms were produced in multiple Europeans countries.
        From the point of view of ammunition availability .45 Auto would be poor choice for usage in Europe (with exception of Norway) – hard to find and suggesting help from outside.

      • Speaking of cartridges and ammunition availability in enemy terriority:
        http://unblinkingeye.com/Guns/G380/g380.html states that – The intention was to make a suppressed pistol like the HD-MS chambered for various centerfire cartridges, including the .25 ACP, .32 ACP, .38 Special, .32 S&W Long, and 9mm Luger.
        It was developed during WWII, but war ended before it can be used.
        .22 rim-fire automatic pistol made by High Standard was actually used by OSS.
        I wonder how they solve problem with feeding (rimmed) .38 Special and .32 S&W Long? Or in this variants this gun become single-shot (load cartridge directly to chamber)?

        • Target autos firing .38 Special (Mid-Range Wadcutter, no less!) and .32 S&W were quite common from the 1950s on.

          They were intended for Olympic pistol stages requiring a centerfire round of .32 or .38 caliber, that up to then had been the domain of single-action or double-action revolvers.

          By the Fifties, .22 Short rimfire autos had supplanted all other types in Olympic .22 rapid-fire events; the Walther “Olympia” (made by Haemmerli postwar) was the first of the breed.

          Walther got back in the game with their “Mauser Broomhandle”-patterned OSP .22 Short, later also made in .22 LR. It was followed by the nearly-identical but somewhat heavier GSP in .32 S&W for the centerfire stages.

          Colt made a version of the National Match 1911A1 in .38 Spl. MRWC, straight blowback, only five rounds in the magazine (each stage is five shoots). S&W followed in the early Sixties with the Model 52 Master, a single-action, 5-shot mag .38 Spl. MRWC based on the M-39 9mm auto.

          It actually “played” an M-39 in a TV movie once, “Contract on Cherry Street” starring Frank Sinatra. Apparently, it worked with 3/4 load .38 blanks, while the M-39 is rather famous for not wanting to work with blanks, period.

          SiG came up with the P-240, a blowback auto firing either .38 SPL MRWC or .32 S&W depending on which barrel/spring/slide/magazine set you ordered it with. Interestingly, its external appearance seems to have at least partly inspired that of the later Desert Eagle.

          The Eagle, of course, uses .357, .41, and .44 Magnum rimmed rounds with equanimity. If it just wasn’t so blamed big and heavy, I’d probably still be using one.

          In short, autos using rimmed, centerfire rounds are a lot more common than you might think.

          As for the G380, my references say it was a short-barreled HD Military, straight-blowback, .380 ACP, with a six-shot magazine. It was developed because other than the Colt M1903, the Savage, and the(original) Remington Model 51, there were very few .32 or .380 automatics available in the U.S. that were not imports from Europe. (Which was now not a viable option for obvious reasons.)

          The short barrel was to be threaded at the muzzle for a Parker-Hale type suppressor. The sights were “built up” a bit like an Inglis-made Browning HP, to allow sighting over said suppressor, a problem often “overlooked” by people who stick “silencers” on firearms.

          The G380, short barrel and all (but not threaded at the muzzle) was made by High Standard off and on for the next thirty years. I have a 1972 Stoeger “Shooter’s Bible” showing it in the HS product line that year.
          I don’t believe it was ever a big seller, as by that time even with GCA ’68, small double-action autos like the Walther PPK/S (PPK slide and barrel on a PP frame to meet the GCA ’68 “minimum height requirement”), the Astra Constable, etc., had pretty much taken over the market.

          It was an odd but interesting sidelight on wartime “expedients”.

          In the end, Colt solved the problem by simply making some M1903 barrels that were 5/8″ longer than standard, so they stuck that far out beyond the slide when assembled, and then threaded the extra length to accept a screwed-on PH suppressor.

          Simpler is generally better.

          cheers

          eon

          • “In short, autos using rimmed, centerfire rounds are a lot more common than you might think.”
            But all automatic pistols you mentioned are post-war development, when High Standard automatic pistol was developed during WWII.

          • D;

            I know. I was simply pointing out that if there’s a big enough motive (in this case, $$$$$ to be made), some engineer will find a way to do almost anything, no matter how impossible others might think it is.

            Like the movie says, “If you build it, they will come”.

            An SF short story I read one time had someone come up with a way to goad engineers into making a working faster-than-light space drive.

            They put a sign up on the road to the main gate at Los Alamos saying

            SPEED LIMIT

            186,262

            MILES PER SECOND

            STRICTLY ENFORCED

            😉

            cheers

            eon

      • There is a story that during WWII “Wild Bill” Donovan (head of OSS) occasionally visited FDR at the White House. Sometimes Bill took along something for show-and-tell. One day it was a new silenced pistol. Bill took it, and a sandbag, to the Oval Office. While FDR was on the phone (with his back to Bill), Bill put the sand bag on the floor and shot more than once into it. FDR heard nothing. FDR got off the phone and was impressed with the new gun. Later on FDR said that Bill Donovan was the only Republican he wanted to have that sort of gun, or something to that effect.

    • The only way to kill a human being silently and reliably with a gun is a headshot and .32 ACP is quite capable of penetrating adult human skull at the distances this kind of weapon would mostly be used; that is less than 25 feet. The only problem would be sentries with helmets, which might be the reason for the 9mm version (or simply the fact that headshots were not always possible, but in that case the victim would likely make more noise before dying regardless).

  6. In this kind of suppressor design, a sharply-pointed spitzer bullet would presumably be far more effective, by neatly piercing the solid rubber baffle and and gently compressing the opening outward (making the rubber snap back faster the instant the bullet passes through) rather than blowing out a rubber chunk forward as a blunt-nosed bullet would tend to do.

    • They perhaps made specific ammo then for the pistol, given most pistol rounds don’t contain pointy bullets. Possibly, be worth some money if you could find some…

      Got any boxes of 1989 or so British government 9mm Nato ammo lying around- Make some, write Welrod in brackets on the box, your point seems plausible enough and given the secrecy whos to argue. Inflate the price according to the rarity I.e. This single box of 17 etc. Might work in an auction.

      If you have any equivalent.32 rounds your in business as they are probably rare anyway. Who wouldn’t want to own them.

    • The baffles generally had a hole through them according to my data on the Welrod.

      Also, a bore-diameter spitzer bullet would be about 3 times its diameter in length, and would result in a cartridge that was too long overall to fit in the Colt M1903 Pocket Automatic magazine, unless the “spitzer” was more of a short “cone” like some 9 x 19mm service ball ammunition. Or if it was “loaded deep” in the case, which could cause some interesting pressure effects on firing. (To put it mildly.)

      cheers

      eon

  7. Ian,
    Great video. I hope the Institute of Military Tech had a De Lisle silent carbine for you to do a film on.

    Thanks and keep up the great work.

  8. Steam app World of Guns (Free to install, but in-game purchases for new guns) has the welrod, you can field strip, detail strip and reassemble, operate by key presses, and cut-a-way operate in slow motion to watch the cyling. The first time you open the game after installing, you get (iirc) the Ak-47, 1911a1, HK MP-5, Beretta 92, and Tec-9, and CZ-75, and SIG SG550S to play with, you can add more guns by sucessfuly adding experience points, or if you’re lazy, buy gun packs, or just buy the *forever* license to get every weapon as they’re added, and future additions. Currently theres 155 weapons from derringers up to the FLAK-88. The company uses stange steps for the disassembly/reassembly of the weapons, that clash with the *offical* way to perform the actions.

  9. Just a small point: the Welrod was designed in Welwyn Garden City, and the second “w” in Welwyn is silent (don’t ask me why), so it is pronounced “well-in”.

    There is no reason for anyone not familiar with the place to know this!

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