Top Secret WWII Machine Guns: The Norm and Welgun

Eric Norman was one of the small arms designers at Special Operations Executive Station IX during the Second World War. The Norm Gun and Welgun were two of his designs that although never reached serial production, are interesting in their own right day, if anything due to their simplicity of mechanics and operation. Essentially both of these submachine guns almost slam fired rounds by way of a protruding pin that allowed the firing pin to push forward from the bolt only when that bolt face was fully pressed up against the chamber.

The same operating system was utilized with the Welgun, which was really a modification of the Norm Gun with a folding buttstock, an included safety, and a cover above the chamber and magazine that at least provided some protection against the elements.

Although the Welgun probably fared a much better chance at being adopted or at least put into production, both of these submachine guns never pushed past the trials stage in their development, being consigned to history.

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Infantry Marine, based in the Midwest. Specifically interested in small arms history, development, and usage within the MENA region and Central Asia. To that end, I run Silah Report, a website dedicated to analyzing small arms history and news out of MENA and Central Asia.

Please feel free to get in touch with me about something I can add to a post, an error I’ve made, or if you just want to talk guns. I can be reached at


  • PK

    The only gun I can think of off the top of my head that uses the same FP safety and which did reach production is the United Defense M42.

  • gunsandrockets

    Regarding the Norm Gun, and its forward folding grip:

    Consider, the British were already steeped in using SMG which fed from the left side of the receiver, said to be an advantage in prone shooting.

    Now go into the prone position with the Norm Gun, rotate the Norm Gun to the left and fold down the forward grip. Now do you see it? The forward grip is now a vertical forward grip, and the rear grip is held sideways, with the right hand palm up.

    This two handed grip style might also be useful when firing the Norm Gun in the standing position, when the stock is removed.

  • gunsandrockets

    Some features of the Norm Gun look well suited to garage workshop level production. Such as the pivoting firing pin, which is a clever way of solving safety issues with an open bolt SMG.

  • gunsandrockets

    I can’t help but be even more impressed by the M3a1 SMG after seeing these SOE attempts to replace the STEN.

    • Iggy

      It’s a different ‘cheap subgun’ design philosophy though. The M3 is cheap and reliable enough but requires access to a factory. The STEN is cheap and nasty but only requires a semi well equipped shed, which is more desirable when facing invasion and wanting distributed manufacturing.

    • Chris

      Especially since we would only be considering fmj ammo .45 auto from an 8 in barrel beats the heck out of 9mm ( .355 ) ! Both were ( around ) 1000 fps when suppressed however a 9mm weapon had to use a special subsonic ammo to knock about 150/200 fps off it’s velocity ,while a .45 auto was always subsonic !
      The original 1942 M3 was produced in both 9mm and .45auto and a 9mm conversion kit for the .45auto was also produced by 1944 ! And an integrally suppressed model was made by the Guide Lamp company with internal parts manufactured by High Standard Firearms Co.
      The original M3 was envisioned as a cheap “Use it till it broke and throw it away weapon !” That it only cost $15 ( in1943 dollars ! ) while the M1 variants of the Thompson cost $209.00 in 1939 , but cost cutting changes in spring of 1942 lowered the government’s Thompson’s cost to around $70.00 ! Two years later in February 1944 the M1A1 reached it’s lowest cost of only $45.00 …Still three times the cost of our $15.00 M3s !

      • Tassiebush

        Silenced stens in ww2 used a lot of gas ports to bleed off gas to reduce velocity to subsonic so the need for subsonic 9mm ammo was not needed. Of course that also means that you can only ever get subsonic performance.

    • Tassiebush

      I think this weapon was also intended to be superior in it’s performance for the sort of work they did. Think of pulling any of these options out of concealment quickly. These two would most likely be a better option for that than either the Sten or the M3a1 based on ergonomics.
      But yeah I share an admiration for it too.

  • gunsandrockets

    [edited to remove silly speculation]

    What do you suppose the point is of the Norm Gun magwell cutouts on the sides? Lightening cuts?

  • Tassiebush

    Looking at the Norm gun it seems like they took the idea of an ideal handgun and it’s method of employment from ‘Shooting to live’ by Fairbairn and Sykes and applied it here (they were pivotal to a lot of combat training). They were very keen on having no safety to get in the way and carrying on an empty chamber confident that a person could reliably pull the slide back very quickly. The Norm gun is all slide (welgun also offers large grip area) . I suspect it was heavily focused on being brought into action quickly.

  • Young Freud

    Welgun actually reminds me a lot of the Carl Gustav m/45 with a more open receiver tube.

  • Podsenkowski

    As the Royal Armouries still was named the Patern Room, based in Notthingham I visited it a few times. Herbie explained that the front grip on the right side was ment to be. You put the gun on your left front arm holding your fingers down and then grasp the grip bending your pulse up. Try it with your AR ,changing your front grip on your Picantiny to the right ,and you wil be amazed that when you take aim you will be directly on target because of the tension you create on your left arm. There are a few more XM guns in the collection that have that feature. The reason it is never adapted is that it is an extra item sticking out. And yes, they were working with the Patchet already which had the magazine on the left and a pistolgrip…
    So this is the reason for me having the front grip on the right side. I worked then for SOE and still does.