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The Welrod is a British bolt action, magazine fed, suppressed pistol devised during World War II by Major Hugh Reeves at the Inter-Services Research Bureau (later Station IX). Station IX, being based near Welwyn Garden City, gave the Welrod its unusual name, being derived from "Wel" from "Welwyn Garden City" (a prefix used by covert equipment designed by Station IX) and "rod" as a way to obscure its purpose.
Welrod Mk I
|Place of origin||United Kingdom|
|Wars||World War II; reportedly also Falklands War, Northern Irish Troubles, Desert Storm|
|Designer||Inter-Services Research Bureau|
|Manufacturer||The Birmingham Small Arms Company Limited; unnamed other manufacturers|
|Produced||World War II and onwards|
|No. built||around 14,000|
|Variants||Welrod Mk I; Welrod Mk IIA|
|Barrel length||3.25 in (83 mm)|
|Calibre||.32 ACP (Mk II) / 9×19mm Parabellum (Mk I)|
|Effective firing range||25 yd (23 m) (Day); 7–8 yd (6.4–7.3 m) (Night)|
|Feed system||6-round (9x19 Parabellum); 8-round (.32 ACP)|
Designed for use by irregular forces and resistance groups, the Welrod is an extremely quiet gun, developing only 73 dB[contradictory] when fired, about as loud as a present-day passenger car. Approximately 2,800 were made, with as many as 14,000 including post-WWII numbers.
The name Welrod comes from the custom of naming all clandestine equipment devised at Station IX in Welwyn Garden City starting with Wel, e.g., Welbike, Welman. A document produced towards the end of World War II ensured that the right people were properly credited for their inventions at Station IX. This document reveals that the inventor of the Welrod was Major Hugh Reeves. He was also responsible other important designs, including the sleeve gun, which was similar to the Welrod, though single shot and made to conceal up a sleeve.
The Welrod was a "sanitized" weapon, meaning that it had no markings indicating its manufacturer or country of origin; it was only marked with a serial number and some inscrutable symbols and letters. The Birmingham Small Arms Company Limited (BSA) confirmed that they manufactured some Welrod pistols, but that they put no markings at all on them, so it is likely that any markings were added by the British military after delivery.
The original model was the Welrod Mk II, chambered for .32 ACP. This was the primary model. Due to poor field results, the Welrod Mk I was subsequently developed using 9×19mm Parabellum rounds.
The Welrod takes the form of a 1.25-inch-diameter (32 mm) cylinder, about 12 inches (300 mm) long. The rear section of the cylinder contains the bolt, the middle section the vented (16-20 ports) barrel and expansion chamber for the barrel, and the front section the baffles (rubber) and wipes of the suppressor. There is a knurled knob at the rear that serves as the bolt handle, which unlocks when rotated 90 degrees. The magazine is also the grip and can be removed for easier conceal-ability. The exclusion of a pistol grip was apparently done to help conceal the weapon's purpose and in some groups it was called a "bicycle pump" due to its innocuous look with the magazine/grip removed.
The Welrod is provided with sights marked with fluorescent paint for use in low light conditions. Although it has a maximum suggested range of 25 yards (22.86 meters) it was intended for use far closer—up to point-blank range. The muzzle end of the gun is cut away so that it can be fired in direct contact with the target. This reduces the sound levels even further and removes the chance of missing.
The ported barrel of the Welrod serves two purposes: it releases the powder gases gradually into the rear of the suppressor, reducing the sound of firing, and it reduces the velocity of the bullet to subsonic speeds (especially important in the 9 mm version since the standard 9 mm loading is supersonic). The metal baffles and rubber wipes that follow the barrel serve to further slow the gases of firing, releasing them over a longer period of time and avoiding the sharp explosion that occurs when high pressure powder gases are suddenly released to the atmosphere.
The Welrod uses a bolt-action design because it is simple, reliable and quiet. The bolt-action has only the noise of the firing pin hitting the primer, and the bolt can be cycled quietly.
The pistol is manually operated using a rotary bolt, locking with two lugs. Loading is performed with a pull/push action using the round knurled knob to the rear of the weapon. The trigger is single stage with a simple safety at the back of the magazine housing. The detachable single stack magazine contains six or eight rounds (depending on calibre) and serves as a pistol grip with the bottom part enclosed into the plastic cover.
Small Arms Review tested the Welrod (in .32 ACP) and found a 34-decibel noise reduction compared to a control pistol with a same length (3.25 inch) barrel for a final 122.8 decibel value.[contradictory]
The Welrod was used in Denmark during World War II as well as being dropped in several other countries and is reported to have been used during the 1982 Falklands War, throughout The Troubles in Northern Ireland and during operation Desert Storm by British Special Forces. Welrod guns were also found in weapons caches from Operation Gladio.
There was a plan to in 1943 drop them into German-occupied territories for the mass assassination of SS and Gestapo officers and soldiers within a month period by resistance units. This was plan was possibly delayed or called off in the aftermath of Operation Anthropoid, the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich by Czech resistance forces. In the wake of his assassination an estimated 13,000 civilians were arrested and interrogated, 5,000 civilians murdered in German reprisal killings and the villages of Lidice and Ležáky destroyed.
- McCollum, Ian (27 December 2016). "Silent But Deadly: Welrod Mk IIA". Youtube. Forgotten Weapons. Retrieved 12 December 2018.
- Fredric Boyce and Douglas Everett. SOE The Scientific Secrets.
- McCollum, Ian. "B&T VP9 Silenced Pistol: A Modern Welrod". Youtube. Forgotten Weapons. Retrieved 15 December 2018.
- "Misinformation". Timelapse.Dk. 1955-10-25. Retrieved 2012-08-24.
- "The Suppressor". Timelapse.Dk. 1945-02-12. Retrieved 2012-08-24.
- Wolfgang Michel: Britische Schalldämpferwaffen 1939–1945: Entwicklung, Technik, Wirkung. ISBN 978-3-8370-2149-3.
- "Welrod silenced pistol (Great Britain)". World.guns.ru. Retrieved 2012-08-24.
- "SAR Tests the .32 caliber Welrod". www.smallarmsreview.com.
- Die Schattenkrieger der NATO. Documentary by Ulrich Stoll, ZDF Info, 25 March 2014
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Welrod.|
- Welrod Silenced Gun
- A Danish site with research into the production and use of the Welrod
- Welrod silenced pistol (Great Britain) at World Guns