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  • Silent but deadly

    A gun that is silent holds some attractions for certain types of military and clandestine operation. The removal of sentries during a surprise attack without raising the alarm represents one example of how such a weapon might be used. Most guns are anything but silent. Even the Girandoni air rifle was not completely silent, the sudden expulsion of air making a loud ‘whap’ noise. It is possible to attach silencers, based on a design of Hiram Maxim's brother, to conventional firearms, these are attached to the end of the barrel, but these have a number of disadvantages. They are still not completely silent unless used very close to their target as the bullet creates a small supersonic shock wave as it passes through the air. The silencer rapidly looses its effectiveness with every subsequent shot as the material used as a baffle in the device becomes increasingly compacted. Depictions of silenced guns in film or on the television should not always be believed. The silencer itself increases the length of the gun barrel and can make the weapon unwieldy. Many governments, even those with relatively relaxed gun controls, are unhappy at the production of devices that can make an ordinary weapon comparatively silent and therefore a more effective tool for assassination.

    During World War Two the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) had a requirement for a gun that was very silent for use in sabotage and assassination missions in occupied Europe. To this end the Welrod silent pistol was developed. The Welrod incorporated silencing in its barrel and could fire a bullet at a velocity slightly lower than supersonic. The pistol was very quiet indeed.

    The Welrod did have some limitations. The low velocity round limited its effective range. Although the weapon was a repeater it was not an automatic, as the necessary recoil and ejection mechanism would have compromised its silent operation. The gun was in essence a bolt action weapon with the clip forming the grip and the bolt operated by pulling back and turning the disc at the breech end of the weapon. Unfortunately the bolt itself made a click as it was operated so for missions requiring really silent action it was important to make the first shot the only shot needed.

    The Welrod was used by SOE in a number of successful assassination missions. The American OSS (Office of Strategic Services), effectively the precursor to the CIA, had unsuccessfully tried to develop their own silent pistol (it turned out to be anything but silent). This weapon had had the unusual, and expensive, characteristic of firing gold bullets. The OSS also adopted and used the Welrod. It is quite possible that the Welrod remains in service with some clandestine units to this day. These is still considerable official secrecy about its deployment.

    The Sten gun was the standard British submachine gun during most of World War Two. It was cheap and very easy to manufacture (indeed copies have been made in small workshops all round the World and used in various insurrections and guerrilla campaigns). It used the same 9mm round as many German weapons and could therefore use captured ammunition. The relatively universality of its ammunition is another reason why it became a favoured insurrectionist weapon in the immediate post war years – it is relatively easy for a small third world workshop to make small numbers of copies of guns using a basic lath and hand tools but it is fiendishly difficult to make the ammunition (for the brass cartridge requires the use of expensive stamping and extrusion machinery) so that any weapon that uses ammunition that is relatively abundant will be popular.

    The SOE had a requirement for a relatively silent submachine gun. Rather than fit silencers to existing models of the Sten a number of versions were built with silencing integral with the barrel. Whilst not as quiet as the Welrod the silenced versions of the Sten were extremely muted. It was difficult for anyone not standing very close to the firer to detect the noise and impossible for anyone being fired at to determine by ear alone the direction from which the rounds were coming. The system also suppressed muzzle flash thus making the weapon ideal for night time ambushes.

    Like the Welrod the silenced Stens were also used by the American OSS and some German special forces made use of a small number of captured silenced Stens. Otto Skorzeny one of the main German exponents of special operations (and the man who lead an airborne assault to spring Mussolini from his mountain top prison) demonstrated the characteristics of the British weapon by firing an entire magazine load of rounds into the ground immediately behind a crowd of generals and other senior officers who were watching a military exercise, none of them noticed the gunfire taking place immediately behind them. One wonders if Skorzeny was aware of the personal risk he took for in British service the silenced Sten guns were normally used only in semi automatic mode as there was a significant risk when firing them on automatic that the gas pressure would build up in the silencer and cause it to explode.

    Despite this convincing demonstration he failed to convince the German authorities to initiate the production of copies of the silenced Sten gun. Silenced Sten guns were used by Allied units in both Europe and the Far East. It was especially efficacious in jungle ambushes as those attacked would have no way of knowing from where the fire was coming (and could sustain significant casualties before becoming aware of being under attack at all). When in the post war period the Stirling sub machine gun replaced the Sten gun silenced versions of the new weapon were produced in small numbers.

    The British appear to have been the World War Two experts in silenced weapons for a third type of silenced weapon was produced for use by commando units. This was the De Lisle silent carbine. The De Lisle could be classified as a hybrid weapon combining the bolt action of a Lee- Enfield rifle with the magazine and pistol grip of a Colt automatic pistol and the barrel of a Thompson sub machine gun around which was built a Maxim style silencer. The De Lisle may have been marginally less quiet than the Welrod (because of the noise of the bolt) but as it was intended to be used at greater range this may have not been significant.
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    Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
    Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

  • #2
    Originally posted by MarkV View Post
    A gun that is silent holds some attractions for certain types of military and clandestine operation. The removal of sentries during a surprise attack without raising the alarm represents one example of how such a weapon might be used. Most guns are anything but silent. Even the Girandoni air rifle was not completely silent, the sudden expulsion of air making a loud ‘whap’ noise. It is possible to attach silencers, based on a design of Hiram Maxim's brother, to conventional firearms, these are attached to the end of the barrel, but these have a number of disadvantages. They are still not completely silent unless used very close to their target as the bullet creates a small supersonic shock wave as it passes through the air. The silencer rapidly looses its effectiveness with every subsequent shot as the material used as a baffle in the device becomes increasingly compacted. Depictions of silenced guns in film or on the television should not always be believed. The silencer itself increases the length of the gun barrel and can make the weapon unwieldy. Many governments, even those with relatively relaxed gun controls, are unhappy at the production of devices that can make an ordinary weapon comparatively silent and therefore a more effective tool for assassination.

    During World War Two the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) had a requirement for a gun that was very silent for use in sabotage and assassination missions in occupied Europe. To this end the Welrod silent pistol was developed. The Welrod incorporated silencing in its barrel and could fire a bullet at a velocity slightly lower than supersonic. The pistol was very quiet indeed.

    The Welrod did have some limitations. The low velocity round limited its effective range. Although the weapon was a repeater it was not an automatic, as the necessary recoil and ejection mechanism would have compromised its silent operation. The gun was in essence a bolt action weapon with the clip forming the grip and the bolt operated by pulling back and turning the disc at the breech end of the weapon. Unfortunately the bolt itself made a click as it was operated so for missions requiring really silent action it was important to make the first shot the only shot needed.

    The Welrod was used by SOE in a number of successful assassination missions. The American OSS (Office of Strategic Services), effectively the precursor to the CIA, had unsuccessfully tried to develop their own silent pistol (it turned out to be anything but silent). This weapon had had the unusual, and expensive, characteristic of firing gold bullets. The OSS also adopted and used the Welrod. It is quite possible that the Welrod remains in service with some clandestine units to this day. These is still considerable official secrecy about its deployment.

    The Sten gun was the standard British submachine gun during most of World War Two. It was cheap and very easy to manufacture (indeed copies have been made in small workshops all round the World and used in various insurrections and guerrilla campaigns). It used the same 9mm round as many German weapons and could therefore use captured ammunition. The relatively universality of its ammunition is another reason why it became a favoured insurrectionist weapon in the immediate post war years – it is relatively easy for a small third world workshop to make small numbers of copies of guns using a basic lath and hand tools but it is fiendishly difficult to make the ammunition (for the brass cartridge requires the use of expensive stamping and extrusion machinery) so that any weapon that uses ammunition that is relatively abundant will be popular.

    The SOE had a requirement for a relatively silent submachine gun. Rather than fit silencers to existing models of the Sten a number of versions were built with silencing integral with the barrel. Whilst not as quiet as the Welrod the silenced versions of the Sten were extremely muted. It was difficult for anyone not standing very close to the firer to detect the noise and impossible for anyone being fired at to determine by ear alone the direction from which the rounds were coming. The system also suppressed muzzle flash thus making the weapon ideal for night time ambushes.

    Like the Welrod the silenced Stens were also used by the American OSS and some German special forces made use of a small number of captured silenced Stens. Otto Skorzeny one of the main German exponents of special operations (and the man who lead an airborne assault to spring Mussolini from his mountain top prison) demonstrated the characteristics of the British weapon by firing an entire magazine load of rounds into the ground immediately behind a crowd of generals and other senior officers who were watching a military exercise, none of them noticed the gunfire taking place immediately behind them. One wonders if Skorzeny was aware of the personal risk he took for in British service the silenced Sten guns were normally used only in semi automatic mode as there was a significant risk when firing them on automatic that the gas pressure would build up in the silencer and cause it to explode.

    Despite this convincing demonstration he failed to convince the German authorities to initiate the production of copies of the silenced Sten gun. Silenced Sten guns were used by Allied units in both Europe and the Far East. It was especially efficacious in jungle ambushes as those attacked would have no way of knowing from where the fire was coming (and could sustain significant casualties before becoming aware of being under attack at all). When in the post war period the Stirling sub machine gun replaced the Sten gun silenced versions of the new weapon were produced in small numbers.

    The British appear to have been the World War Two experts in silenced weapons for a third type of silenced weapon was produced for use by commando units. This was the De Lisle silent carbine. The De Lisle could be classified as a hybrid weapon combining the bolt action of a Lee- Enfield rifle with the magazine and pistol grip of a Colt automatic pistol and the barrel of a Thompson sub machine gun around which was built a Maxim style silencer. The De Lisle may have been marginally less quiet than the Welrod (because of the noise of the bolt) but as it was intended to be used at greater range this may have not been significant.
    A silent weapon on sentries was a bayonet or knife but even so you also needed a large slice of luck to be completely successful, never so simple as the Movies make it look!! lcm1
    'By Horse by Tram'.


    I was in when they needed 'em,not feeded 'em.
    " Youuu 'Orrible Lot!"

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    • #3
      The De Lisle Silenced Carbine seems like it would be handy. A silenced .45 would still be hard hitting. A carbine would be more accurate than a hand gun.
      "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" Beatrice Evelyn Hall
      Updated for the 21st century... except if you are criticizing islam, that scares the $hii+e out of me!

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      • #4
        The USSR developed some silenced rifles from memory. The VSS Vintorez + AS VAL are chambered in a custom 9mm round - basically the 7.62x39 necked up to fire a 9mm bullet. The purpose being to have the heavier bullet travel below the sound barrier but deliver increased damage/penetration over a more conventional subsonic pistol round.

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