By Marc Kelley
Syndicated by: Montana News
This week we will look at how, silencers became viewed as a tool of the assassin, as opposed, to the piece of safety equipment for which they were designed. As with any critical thinking process, gaining a better understanding of the things we do not fully understand, allows each of us to make an informed decision for ourselves. Rather than relying on the Hollywood myth or the uninformed rants of the "Fake News" media, responsible gun owners, have an obligation to seek out the truth and expand their knowledge about firearms. Possessing this knowledge, allows us not only to defend our 2nd Amendment Rights, but to teach the next generation, the proper respect, use and safety rules, demanded by owning a firearm.
As a long time collector of firearms, I have had the good fortune of handling, shooting and studying many weapons. Thru this same approach, many of us develop preferences for the firearms we use on a daily basis; as well as, the types of firearms we add to our collections. The weapons used in WWII, are some of the most sought after items for many firearms collectors. This list would include the most recognizable US rifles, such as: the Springfield 1903 A3, the M1 Garand and the M1 Carbine. For collectors, these firearms are not only a piece of American history, but they are "sexy" in their own way. Over the years I have developed a taste for the unusual, far less known and without a doubt, far less sexy guns. Without a doubt, a pistol which falls squarely into this category, is the Welrod, single shot, magazine fed, bolt action pistol, developed by the British and produced by the Birmingham Small Arms Co.
The Welrod was designed from the ground up, as a suppressed weapon, with a specific purpose. Much like the US designed Liberator, 45 ACP pistol, the Welrod was a special purpose weapon, designed to be utilized up close and covertly. The Welrod, which was integrally suppressed, meaning it could not be fired without its suppressor, was chambered in one of two distinct calibers. The Welrod MKI, was chambered for the 9mm cartridge, while the MKII was chambered in 32 ACP. These cartridges were chosen because many of the German weapons of the day were chambered in these calibers, making ammunition readily available and easily stolen. So effective was the, design of the Welrod, it remains today, one of the quietest pistols ever manufactured, boasting a noise rating of only 73dB when fired. To put this sound level in perspective, in 2016, US automobile manufactures, were required to limit the noise level from their cars, to 74 dB.
Publicly, the US Government, has never sanctioned the assassination of specific individuals; however, in the dark days of WWII, both the British, SOE and US, OSS units, conducted a myriad of clandestine operations. In 1943, a joint plan between Britain and the US, was developed to disrupt the Nazi Command structure. The plan included dropping Welrod pistols into German occupied territory, to be used by the the resistance units, for the large scale assassination of SS and Gestapo officers. One such operation, code named Operation Arthropoid, received a green light, when intelligence was discovered, Major, Reinhard Heydrich, Hitler's personal choice to carry out the Nazi's "Final "Solution", would be meeting with Hitler, on May 27, 1942. The meeting required Heydrich, to travel to Berlin, from his post in occupied Czechoslovakia, a trip he would make by automobile. Armed with Heydrich's travel plans, two Czech resistance fighters, ambushed the man known as, The "Butcher of Prague". When their British, Sten, sub-machine gun jammed, Heydrich ordered his men to stop his car and kill the would be assassins. In what many see as a tactical mistake, fueled by hate, by stopping his car, Heydrich allowed one of the men the opportunity to toss an anti-tank mine directly into the staff car. Heydrich survived the initial assault; however, the blast caused several wounds including penetrating trauma to his left lung and diaphragm. Heydrich was rushed to a nearby hospital where he underwent surgery for his wounds. The emergency surgery went well and Dr's expected, Heydrich would indeed, survive the attack. However, in 1943 antibiotics represented a new treatment and were not fully trusted by many physicians. Heydrich's Dr. declined to administer the anti-bacterial drug, sulfonamide to his patient and Heydrich died on June 4, 1943, not from his wounds, but from the painful, post operative infection, known as sepsis.
The SS Officer Hitler called, "The man with the iron heart", was the driving force behind the Holocaust. Heydrich was responsible for planning and overseeing, "Kristalnacht", (The night of broken glass), the event which many historians believe represents the beginning of the Nazi's "Final Solution", the genocide of all Jews, living in German occupied Europe. From November 9-13, 1938, Nazi Stormtroopers, demolished the homes and business of over 7,000 Jewish citizens thru out Berlin, Austria and the Sudetenland. In only four days, 267 synagogues were destroyed and 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and sent to concentration camps. Heydrich is acknowledged by historians, and practically everyone, who has actually picked up a history book, as the principal overseer of the systematic murder, mass shooting and gassing, of six million Jews, in what we today, call the Holocaust.
Infuriated by the death of his officer, Hitler ordered the arrest and execution of 10,000, randomly selected Czech citizens, in retaliation for the Heydrich's assassination. Only after his top generals reminded Hitler, he needed the Czech labor force, did he revise his plan. Hitlers' SS, falsely identifying the two men who carried out the attack on Heydrich, as residents from the villages of Lidice and Lezaky, Czechoslovakia. In a perversion, justifiable only by a madman, Hitler issued new orders. All males over the age of sixteen who were in the villages, when the SS arrived, were to be killed. Additionally, every women and any child, under the age of sixteen, were to be sent to concentration camps and forced to produce munitions for the Nazi War effort.
Perhaps it was the horrific, unintended consequences of green lighting Operation Anthrapoid, which caused the US to rethink the large scale plan of assassinating SS Officers or perhaps the plan was carried out un-officially, no one will ever know for sure. What is not in dispute, is the fact, more than a few, high ranking Nazi Officers, were found dead, from a single gunshot wound to the head, without any witnesses to their deaths. It is from these events, the Welrod specifically, and suppressed weapons in general, became associated as tools of the assassin.
The Welrod pistol was a "sanitized" weapon, meaning it had no arsenal markings indicating its manufacturer or country of origin. Only after WWII was over, was the manufacture of the Welrod pistol acknowledged by (BSA) The Birmingham Small Arms Company of Southampton, UK. Over the next 40 plus years, the Welrod pistol would been used thru out the world, by Special Operation Forces. The pistol saw service in the Korean War, Viet Nam, The Falkland Islands War, and The Northern Ireland conflict. In more recent time, the Welrod was used in Desert Storm and in Afghanistan. Many firearms enthusiasts believe the pistol is still being produced, for use by both British and American Special Forces. This contention is bolstered by the Welrod look-a-like pistol currently being produced by Brugger & Thomet, under the designation VP-9 or Veterinary Pistol, caliber 9mm.
Approximately 2,800 Welrod pistols were produced during the war years, with another 14,000 being produced post WWII. These very low production numbers, make the Welrod quite rare and very much sought after by collectors. Scarcity of the pistol in the US was further compounded by the enactment of The 1968, Gun Control Act. The GCA required, foreign made weapons including the Welrod, to be registered under the 1934 National Firearms Act and required payment of the $ 200.00 tax stamp, we have come to associate with NFA weapons. As is typical with any gun control legislation, the 1968 GCA, created a huge increase in the value of the Welrod pistol. The GCA, allowed a grace period for anyone, who was not otherwise prohibited from owning firearms, to bring their unregistered weapons forward, pay the tax due and lawfully possess the weapon. In registering these pistols, it became legal to transfer ownership of the weapon, using the BATF, Form 3. Failure to register your firearm under this act, beyond the said grace period, constitutes, possession of a prohibited weapon. While I am quite sure, as with ALL "Gun Control" legislation passed by our lawmakers, 100% compliance with this law was achieved. Furthermore, none of the unregistered weapons brought back to our country as "war trophies", remain today, in private collections. History is replete with examples of how each and every time our Government has stepped in to regulate firearms, their meddling has only served to increase the value of owning those firearms. While doing research for this article, I was unable to locate any, original Welrod pistols being offered for sale at this time. However, sales information is available on a circa, 1939 Welrod, being sold at auction in 2014, for $ 8,000.00. Not bad, for a cheaply produced, vintage firearm, which only a "Deplorable" would appreciate.
History is replete with examples of how each and every time our Government has stepped in to regulate firearms, their efforts only served to increase the value of owning those firearms. While doing research for this article, I was unable to locate any, original Welrod pistols, being offered for sale at this time. However, sales information is available on a circa, 1939 Welrod, being sold at auction in 2014, for $ 8,000.00. Not bad for a cheaply produced, vintage firearm, which only a "Deplorable" would appreciate.
In the coming weeks, we will continue looking at several other suppressed pistols which have been used the world over and are a bit easier to come by….Including the Smith & Wesson Model 39, affectionally known as…."The Hush Duck."