A Most Quiet Weapon: The De Lisle Carbine


The stories of forgotten weapons make for interesting reading.  One such weapon was Britain’s “De Lisle carbine,” which remains one of the more obscure small arms stories of the Second World War.  It is perhaps the most quiet weapon ever produced.  Very few of them were made, and its full service record will probably never be fully known.  But it does have an interesting story behind it and deserves more recognition than it has received.

It was designed by William Godfray De Lisle, an engineer in the Ministry of Aircraft Production.  Prime Minister Churchill had a known fondness for commando raids and irregular operations, and his leanings may have had something to do with the development of the carbine.  It was specifically designed for silencing sentries during raids, rescues and other missions where stealth and secrecy were paramount.

Originally constructed with the .22 round in mind, it soon became apparent that the .45 caliber pistol round would be better suited to the task.  The body of the weapon was a modified Lee-Enfield No. 1 Mark III frame, and retained that rifle’s smooth bolt action.  It was produced by the Sterling Armament Works at Dagenham.

The prominent silencer is what made the De Lisle carbine so distinctive.  It used a large number of successive rings to trap the gases produced by firing; this, combined with the .45 round’s subsonic character, made the carbine a very quiet weapon indeed.  As the video below shows, it also had almost no recoil.  Its maximum effective range was only about 250 meters, but this mattered little in practice, since the weapon was almost always used at close ranges at night.  During field tests in combat in northern France it proved very successful.  In the later years of the war, many of them found their way to Burma and the Far East.

Silenced weapons have always been looked upon with some unease in Western militaries, perhaps because of fears of their potential misuse in the wrong hands.  Only a small number of De Lisle carbines were ever produced; the number seems to have been only about 600 or so.  As a result, the gun is a great rarity, and can only be found in the most extensive weapons collections.


Caliber:  .45 in.

Length:  35.25 in.

Weight:  8.25 lb.

Muzzle velocity:  830 ft/sec.

Magazine:  7 round box

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