The Welrod pistol, commonly nicknamed the Bicycle pump due to its resemblance to one, was a pistol invented by Major Hugh Reeves being developed for the British S.O.E. (Special Operative Executive) and manufactured by the Inter-Services Research Bureau (later Station IX). The Welrod was designed around the idea of covert missions in Nazi Germany during the Second World War, being suppressed to produce a noise below 73dB in volume.
The Welrod was designed in an era of subterfuge, where the British government were considering missions to assasinate the leaders of Nazi Germany and bolster the resistance in France. The Welrod was therefore designed around the suppressor, which would be externally fitted so that the Welrod could be better concealed and user friendly in non-covert situations. This attachment was so successful, reducing the noise produced to 73dB, that the Welrod became unofficially known as the "Assassin's Pistol".
The Welrod was, in appearance, a tube attached to a grip. The rear of the tube housed the bolt (operated via a knurled knob that extruded from the rear) and firing mechanism (which was virtually silent due to simplicity of the design), the middle contained a muzzle brake, and the front of the tube contained a thread to attach the silencer. The barrel in total length, measured 12.2in. The Welrod was provided with sights marked with flourescent paint for use in low light conditions.
The Welrod's ported barrel (ie the muzzle brake) served two distinct purposes: Firstly it released the gases (produced when firing) slower than they otherwise would have been, reducing noise produced. Secondly the muzzle brake would reduce the muzzle velocity to subsonic speeds, preventing the sonic boom that the ammunition would produce (when fired in normal conditions). These factors, combined with the suppressor and the fact that the muzzle itself was specifically shaped to allow the Welrod to pushed into the side of the target and fire without the risk of missing and reducing noise, meant that the Welrod was an effective weapon for undercover use.
The grip was designed to hold the magazine, essentially meaning that the user effectively held the magazine when using the Welrod. The grip/magazine could be removed, hence improving the concealment of the Welrod. The Welrod lacked any markings, making it virtually impossible to identify bar a few indiscriminate markings and a serial number, these being added by the military rather than the manufacturer.
The Welrod was designed in two different caliber sizes: 9x19mm Parabellum and .32 ACP. These were fired from two different magazine sizes, either six or eight shot capacity, with the purposes of using the two different calibers being determined by where the Welrod was being used.
The Welrod was produced in two different editions. The Mk I was preferred by the British Special Operations Forces while the Mk II was distributed to resistance forces in France and Denmark.
Welrod Mk IEdit
The Mk I was the more powerful of the two versions of the Welrod, firing the larger 9x19mm Parabellum while having a smaller magazine and longer overall length (which housed a longer muzzle brake and suppressor bringing the total length to 13.2in). This version was fitted with a suppressor as standard, and thought to have been exclusively produced by the Inter-Services Research Bureau.
Welrod Mk IIEdit
The Mk II was the less powerful of the Welrod, being used by resistance forces in occupied Europe against Nazi Germany. This version was shorter than the original, lacking the suppressor as standard, and fired the less powerful, but easier to obtain, .32 ACP round. Although official numbers are unknown, an order totalling 14,000 was submitted to the Birmingham Small Arms Company (BSA) in 1943.
The Welrod was used by British Special Operatives against Nazi Germany in the Second World War. As it is unknown when the production, or indeed the service, of the Welrod ended the Welrod was reportedly used during Operation Desert Storm in 1991. The Welrod has also been used in the Falklands War in 1982 and the fighting in Northern Ireland.
Other nations to use the Welrod were Denmark (whose special forces adopted the Welrod in the late 1940's) and the various resistance forces across Europe whom fought against Nazi occupation. The Welrod was usually dropped to its users via air drops.
The inventor of the Welrod has been revealed, via a government document released at the end of the Second World War (that named the inventions at Station IX to their inventor), as Major Hugh Reeves, whom has also been credited with the invention of the Sleeve gun and other inventions.
The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Firearms - Ian V. Hogg