The De Lisle Carbine - Sneaky sentry sniper
by Chris Eger - 17 September 2012
The Second World War
saw a number of innovative weapons rushed into service. One of the most interesting of these was a well-designed
internally suppressed rifle used by Allied commandos. It is best known as the De Lisle
In short, it was a classic infantry rifle modified into a
carbine, using ammunitions for which it had never been designed
Manufactured in little quantities, it was more the work of
skilled craftsmen than the result of industrial production.
Why the DeLisle?
The first year of
World War II went pretty bad for the allies as by July 1940, Hitler had overrun seven countries. To keep the Nazis
busy, the PM Winston Churchill ordered the creation of a number of Commando units to raid behind the German and Italian
lines in occupied Europe. These small bands of carefully selected volunteers were given intense instruction in close
quarters combat, demolition and sabotage.
Their instructors, such as the legendary William Fairbairn,
Eric Syke and Rex Applegate, taught some of the most brutally effective hand-to-hand combat of their time. To increase
these irregular warfare experts better chances of success, the Commandos were armed and equipped with submachine guns,
the Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife, the Smatchet, and other exotic weapons from their initial organization onward. With the type of fighting
the commandos and other Allied special forces such as the SAS, Rangers, and OSS, practiced, the need for a quiet intermediate ranged weapon was apparent. The weapon needed to
be able to take out sentries, guard dogs, et al outside of knife range without alerting the rest of the garrison to the
Invention and specifications
In 1943, W. De Lisle came up with a design that was something of a workshop nightmare. Cutting the standard Enfield .303 rifle at the
breech, he added the 7.25-inch barrel of a U.S. Thompson submachine gun. This made the weapon could handle the .45 ACP
round with a modified Enfield
bolt. Unlike the standard 9x19mm round used in British Sten, the .45 was a sub
sonic round that would not ‘crack’ when it broke the sound barrier in flight.
De Lisle removed
the standard 10-shot Enfield box magazine and converted the well to hold the 7-shot USGI M1911 Colt mag.
Most importantly, almost half of the weapon was shrouded inside a new-built suppressor. Holding 13 rigid baffles made of
Duralumin, one of the earliest types of age-hardenable aluminum alloys, the suppressor was fixed, stable and reliable.
One test gun fired over 5,000-rounds through it and still was functional. The final design gave the finished product a
length of 35.3-inches and an unloaded weight of 8.25-pounds.
The De Lisle is considered by many weapons scholars to be
the most effectively suppressed firearm ever placed into production. In demonstrations, the ‘muffler’ sounded
completely unlike any sort of firearm. When compared to the silence MkIIS Sten gun,
the stubby .45 carbine was preferred as it was easier to clean and more effective in the field. Moreover, the De Lisle
produced no perceptible muzzle flash, even at close range at night, a key advantage to raiders who preferred to hit
their targets at O’dark-30.
Use of the De Lisle
The weapon, very much a niche piece for special operations
units, was never put into wide circulation. Seventeen handmade prototypes were assembled by the Ford Dangenham works in
early 1944 and quickly put in the hands of commando beta-testers on live combat missions behind the German lines
A production run of 500 was ordered in August of that year
from the Sterling Egnine Co, of which about 130 were completed before the end of the was was apparent. Besides
these, two prototypes with folding wire stocks and a few of Mr De Lisle's own original workshop models were the only
ones officially completed. They were extensively used in 1944-1945, not only by the British but also by the Free
French Army Commandos, US OSS agents, and others.
Post War Use
he British continued to use these 150 or so odd little
weapons against Malayan insurgents in the 1950s, as well in other third world hot spots where SAS operators carried
them. A few even made an appearance in Northern Ireland in the 1970s and the Falkland Island War in 1982.
It is rumored that a couple continue to be held in
regimental stores, just in case...
The De Lisle today
With the odds of ever coming in contact of the real-thing
outside of a museum being slim-to-none, the best most of us can hope for is a replica. Many small companies in the US
and abroad have gotten into the business of producing De Lisle reproductions, complete with NFA registered integral suppressors.
These include Valkyrie Arms and Specialty Arms and range
anywhere from $1200-2000. With the ready availably of surplus Enfield .303 rifles, it has also long been a project gun
for garage gunsmiths to make visually similar “Commando Carbines” with fake suppressor shrouds over a .45 caliber
The De Lisle is to the gun world what the platypus is to the
animal kingdom, but hey, nobody ever said it had to be pretty to work well.