British L66A1: A Pistol for Northern Ireland

In 1974, the British Royal Army Ordnance Corps purchased about 3,000 .22lr caliber Walther PP pistols to issue as Personal Defense Weapons to service members of the Ulster Defense Regiment. These were to be issued to servicemen (and women) who faced personal threats to their lives. the choice of a .22 caliber pistol is a bit odd, but that’s what was done. In about 1980 many of them were refinished with a black lacquer coating called Suncorite and refitted with strengthened firing pins. In 1989 they were officially replaced as Personal Defense Weapons by the Walther P5 Company and SIG P230, and quite remarkably sold as surplus by the military. They show up today in both European and American collector circles, often not recognized as actual British military-issue pistols.

Thanks to Ozark Machine Gun for loaning me this pistol! Check out his cool machine gun rental range in Missouri, and his sales on GunBroker.

34 Comments

  1. Not a military issue, but when I was in Jerusalem in the late 1980’s I saw a policeman with a .22LR semi-auto pistol as his duty sidearm. I can’t remember exactly what it was but I think maybe a Beretta of some sort.

    • Beretta M20 s I think. A bunch of them were imported surplus a few years ago. Mossad famously used them for Air Marshall type duties and assassination equally.

      • If the .22LR pistols were officially on service in Israel, it was only as a weapon for female Israeli police personnel.
        The application by the rest of the services was, let’s say, situational.
        The air travel security club used such weapons only until the non-penetrating 9mm bullets were invented.
        There is nothing to say about the Mossad.

        Be careful with idle fairy tales. 😉

        • They shot Palestinians in the legs with them apparently. As a form of “less lethal munition” in Saudi Arabia they sow the folks heads they chopped off back on you know; quite thoughtful of them, I thought.

          • Nikto ne parilsya s takimi melochami.
            “Geroyev” pervoy intifady mozhno uznat’ po negnushcheysya noge. Obychno pravoy.
            Vintovochnaya pulya gorazdo luchshe spravlyayetsya s zadachey. 😉
            Nobody bothered with such little things.
            The “heroes” of the first intifada can be recognized by their stiff legs. Usually right.
            The rifle bullet does the job much better. 😉

            As a “less lethal” means, 22LR cartridges with an aluminum bullet from carbines were first used.
            Then they played with plastic bullets for the M16.
            But it was all ineffective at medium range and deadly at close range.
            Therefore, we switched to rubber cylinders from the muzzle attachment.

        • Seeing a police officer with a .22LR pistol wasn’t a fairy tale…..not sure about any other .22LR use within the Israeli military and police – apart from the 10/22 of course.

  2. Ditto Gary above. Most if not all the UDR members were Protestant. It’s possible that official thinking was that a 22LR was good enough for self protection but not powerful enough for a bit of “private enterprise” re the Catholic population who made up the vast majority if not all of the IRA. There was an awful lot of tit for tat reprisals during whole of the troubles

  3. Wonder what streghtening been done at firing pins… .22” Walther PP/PPK firing pins are different than CF types and their taller height makes them seeming rather sturdy… This is the result of their stroke limiter point being formed over the igniting tip.

  4. Hi from Italy! I love these ladies and I have some of them, both blued and lacquered. The serial numbers doesn’t start at 40000 (as usually reported): I have the s.n. 37090 in its original British military box, with spares (magazine, cleaning jag etc.). The dates of purchasing run from 1973 to 1977 (as stated by proofmarks, both military and civilian in some cases).What is interesting is that many (if not all) of these pistols were not purchased by the British Government directly from Walther. They were sent by the firm to big sport and gun stores in England and Scotland and then sent by them to Ulster…
    Hope this can help…
    Fausto

  5. STORM. I was not aware I was going anywhere with that comment. There there were odd bods over the thirty years who batted for the other side

    • Worth going into; very interesting subject. How “nationalism” was prefered over Socialism in the height of the cold war, by the CIA for example. Quite similar to how even extreme relgious views were prefered, hence how our later “chum” Osama came about.

  6. Walthers in .380 were issued to the R.U.C.(royal ulster constabulary) as personal weapons. A good friend of mine very high up in the R.U.C always had his wife carry(hide) his in her handbag when they went out for the night.

  7. I was unaware of these interesting Walthers.

    Since the UDR soldiers were usually, not always, part timers who lived in the community, it makes sense that they needed a personal defence weapon. It is very British to have given them one in the smallest calibre possible.

    Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom where the civilian ownership of pistols is still legal. It is also the only part of the UK where pistols may be owned for self defence, usually by politicians and government officials and contractors, not little people, obviously. People with a permit for a PDW are allowed one pistol and a generous ammunition allowance of 25 rounds! Still, better than nothing. The last I heard there were about 10,000 legal PDWs in Northern Ireland, out of a population of some 1.5 million.

    The Walther PP was issued by the RAF as an aircrew pistol, but in .32 I believe. They have now been replaced by the usual Glocks and SIGs, but I doubt any were surplussed. The British government is paranoid about civilians owning guns, and I am amazed that these ex-UDR Walthers were ever sold off. Maybe because they were “only” .22s they somehow slipped through the net?

  8. Forgot to mention that when my friend retired they only gave him a licence for a shotgun as personal protection
    Mind a good spanish side by side is perhaps a better deterent then a itsy bitsy walther

  9. 1996 book THE OPERATORS, by James Rennie (ISBN 0 7126 7730 5),a personal account of his service in Northern Ireland in the 80s with 14 Intelligence Co .Royal Army. Many of its personal carried the L66A1 as a back up or in situations were their HPs were too hard to conceal. The women especially as it was easier to hide under their civilian clothing.

  10. Shared this video with my father who was in the Intelligence Corps (British Regular Army) and spent most of his second NI tour in plain clothes and he wasn’t aware of these Walthers but he carried a .22 Berretta that was technically on the books as a training weapon but given out as a theatre expedient “what do we have in the armoury that will do the job”. His – very personal – take on the calibre: “Much like the sand bags we put on the floor of our Land Rover out in Oman as ‘mine protection’, the main reason for carrying it was to make us feel less vulnerable so the calibre was pretty much irrelevant so might as well carry something a bit lighter.”

  11. https://youtu.be/K1IUiFirMkg

    You think Ireland was bad; Let’s see the SNP glory hole become a fact.

    Aye, I know anti Engiish “Racism” will pale in significance to the hatred “aye unadulterathed” hate. They’ll bring on each other, and it will spread like last time.

    Aye in the “English” Civil war. So fuck the lot of you Snp pricks.

  12. One of our first evenings here in France with my friend from the R.U.C. was priceless as he .explained to my speechless french wife how he checked underneath his car for bombs before going to work each morning. As the joke goes whats an Irishmans favorite desert Its a couple of pounds of jelly(gelignite)

  13. I wonder if the reason for the .22 LR was so that the end user certificate for the export license from the German government read training weapon rather than personal defense weapon for use in the six counties. That might have given some bureaucrat gas.

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