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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 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 for 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. Regarding operating range, the Mk I manual states: "It is accurate up to 30 yd (27 m) in daylight or 20 yd (18 m) on a fairly light night, but is most effective when fired in contact with the target." The muzzle end of the gun is ground slightly concave to minimise noise during a contact shot; this may have also improved grip against the target, decreasing 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.
In 2002, 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.
The article states that earlier sound measurements did not meet current standards, and that the lower earlier measurements were ‘Undoubtedly […] a function of the available measuring equipment (including excessive meter rise time)’. But the article suggests that subjectively, the fully refurbished Welrod sounded quieter than a CO2 pellet pistol: ‘Hollywood quiet’. It goes on to state that the Welrod's sound is almost imperceptible at 15 feet in a quiet environment, and suggests it would be inaudible to the operator in a noisy environment were the muzzle in contact with the target.
There was a plan in 1943 to 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 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.
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.
- McCollum, Ian (27 December 2016). "Silent But Deadly: Welrod Mk IIA". Youtube. Forgotten Weapons. Retrieved 12 December 2018.
- Boyce, Fredric; Everett, Douglas (2004). SOE : the scientific secrets. Stroud: Sutton. ISBN 9780750940054. OCLC 56759813.
- McCollum, Ian. "B&T VP9 Silenced Pistol: A Modern Welrod". Youtube. Forgotten Weapons. Retrieved 15 December 2018.
- "Misinformation". Timelapse.Dk. 25 October 1955. Retrieved 24 August 2012.
- "The Suppressor". Timelapse.Dk. 12 February 1945. Retrieved 24 August 2012.
- Thygesen, Anders (15 March 2013). "The Welrod Pistol". Small Arms Review. Retrieved 31 May 2019.
- Michel, Wolfgang (2009). Britische Schalldämpferwaffen 1939-1945 : Entwicklung, Technik, Wirkung (1. Aufl., Korr. Nachdr ed.). Norderstedt: Books on Demand. ISBN 9783837021493. OCLC 705505671.
- "Welrod silenced pistol (Great Britain)". World.guns.ru. Retrieved 24 August 2012.
- "SAR Tests the .32 caliber Welrod". www.smallarmsreview.com.
- Stoll, Ulrich (25 March 2014). Die Schattenkrieger der NATO [The shadow warriors of NATO]. ZDF Info. Archived from the original on 28 March 2016.
Zum ersten Mal berichtet ein Mitglied der geheimen BND-Partisanentruppe "Stay behind" über seinen Auftrag im Kalten Krieg. "Dieter Gerlach", so sein Deckname
|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