This post is part of two others, about a recent range outing with some very historically interesting small arms, the DeLisle commando carbine, the M50 Reising submachine gun, and the Russian PM1910 Maxim heavy machine gun. All of these are NFA items (either Class III or suppressed) and the owner was extremely kind enough to take me out and blow over a thousand rounds through his small arms.
The DeLisle commando carbine was one of the more fascinating special operations firearms to have emerged out of World War Two. It was reputed to be the quietest of any suppressed firearm used during the war. However despite its lofty reputation, only under two hundred were produced during the war, the majority being used by British special forces behind enemy lines.
Essentially the rifle was a Lee Enfield No.1 SMLE cut in half, welded to a giant baffle system that was then mated to a .45 ACP magazine well that took 1911 magazines. The action being a bolt action design, commandos could fire a round at an enemy target, and not have to worry about the spent shell casing being discovered if all they needed was that one round on target. It was supposed to be used for covert operations out to 200 meters or so. The biggest limitation being the .45 ACP round itself, terminal ballistics and accurate round placement falling in efficiency as the range increased. There were 9x19mm, .22 LR, and Airborne collapsable stock versions and prototypes made, however these were never as successful as the .45 ACP version that was adopted and used by British SOE.
If you want to learn more about the DeLisle, Historical Firearms has an excellent post on it, in addition to this article reproduced online from Gung Ho magazine.
The DeLisle that I shot wasn’t an original, but instead a very faithful NFA reproduction done by Valkyerie Arms, LTD in Olympia, Washington. They produced 167 total, similar to the total amount of serviceable DeLisles that are estimated to have been made during World War Two. The company has even gone so far as to actually cut down a No.1 SMLE to stay faithful to the design. An interesting thing to note about their Delisle is that you need two NFA forms for the rifle, the SBR form, and the suppressor form.
Shooting the DeLisle was a fascinating experience despite two setbacks. Ever since I heard about the rifle through my gun books, I’ve always wanted to get my hands on an actual suppressed one, as there have been a number of dummy suppressed DeLisle rifles produced by various gunsmiths over the years.
At first appearances, the rifle was much heavier than anticipated (8 pounds, 4 ounces). All that wood and steel added up! However, handling it was simple, easy to bring up to my shoulder and acquire the sights. The safety was a traditional No.1 rotating safety on the left of the bolt. The reproduction had two problems though. First, the chambering of the rounds was very rough, and probably could have used some polishing up, as working the round from magazine to chamber turned out to be a chore. Second, the reproduction started having baffle strikes sometime during the range event. We noticed something was wrong when one, the rifle wasn’t grouping well on paper at 50 meters at all, and two, the suppressor started filling up with shards and cut jackets of the bullets passing through it. You could tell because it made a ruffling sound inside whenever the rifle was moved up and down, then we actually were able to pour all the shards out from the opening of the suppressor! At this point, we ceased all firing, and made the action clear.
However, the cute little thing, was wevy wevy quiet!