The B&T VP-9 – 21st Century Welrod

    B&T VP-9 silenced pistol

    B&T's new VP-9 (image courtesy of )

    Whilst film buffs complain about the seemingly endless Hollywood cycle of remakes and reboots, those in the firearms world couldn’t be happier when a classic design is revisited for the modern age. Case in point, the new Brügger & Thomet VP-9 pistol, a 21st Century ‘re-imagining’ of the World War 2 Welrod integrally suppressed pistol. This pistol debuted at IWA this year, and is now starting to appear in the firearms press. Its product data sheet can be reviewed on B&T’s site, and Max Popenker’s new entry on the type appears on his site.
    Curiously, B&T are marketing it as a humane dispatch pistol that won’t disturb the neighbours, hence the designation ‘VP’, for ‘Veterinary Pistol’. Whilst I’m sure the original users would appreciate the irony of a Welrod so described, their targets were of course Nazi soldiers rather than ailing animals. This new variant appears mechanically very similar to the British classic, though clearly smaller and lighter. It isn’t clear what advancements in baffle and wipe technology might also have been incorporated into the suppressor portion. The most obvious upgrade is the use of a polymer grip/magazine well rather than the  rubber-sleeved steel original. Despite this apparently clear design lineage, B&T don’t seem interested in pointing out the similarity, and there is no mention in their marketing material of either the Welrod or any potential warlike application of this new version. It remains to be seen whether present-day special operations and security forces will take to the VP-9 as they did the Welrod, but a handy and efficient suppressed pistol would seem to have its uses even in today’s world.

    A Mk.I 9x19mm Welrod from the collection at the National Firearms Centre, Leeds, UK (Image courtesy Anders Thuygesen)

    A Mk.I 9x19mm Welrod from the collection at the National Firearms Centre, Leeds, UK (Image courtesy Anders Thuygesen,

    For those not familiar with the Welrod, I recommend perusal of Anders Thygeson’s site. it was developed by the Birmingham Small Arms company in 1942 to meet a Special Operations Executive requirement for a truly ‘silenced’ pistol that would allow them to quietly eliminate enemy soldiers and assassination targets. The type was supplied to resistance fighters, and a U.S. version was developed for SOE’s American counterpart, the Office of Strategic Services. The name derives from Welwyn Garden City, where SOE were based and, erm, ‘rod’, because the end product resembled a smooth black baton with additional pistol grip/external box magazine arrangement. The suppressor was integrated into the design to ensure correct capture of propellant gases, and it was made essentially bolt-action to prevent any sound from reciprocating working parts. .32 ACP was chosen to keep pressures low, though a 9x19mm variant was produced later. These design choices are widely thought to have produced the most effective suppressed weapon ever conceived, and the type served Britain into recent decades, there being no direct replacement available for this niche weapon. Basic pistol-style iron sights were radium painted for use at night, which poses a challenge for those collecting them today.

    At the UK National Firearms Centre, we are fortunate to preserve numerous examples of the classic Welrod, including the original prototype with cranked bolt handle, pictured on Anders’s site. We also aim to acquire examples of the new VP-9 for the collection, and hope to test its capabilities against the Welrod. Look for more info on TFB later in the year.

    Jonathan Ferguson

    Jonathan Ferguson is Curator of Firearms at the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds, UK. He is based at the National Firearms Centre, one of the most comprehensive firearms collections in the world and successor to the MoD Pattern Room. His research interests include the use and effect of weapons, and their depiction in folklore and popular culture.