Mitch WerBell’s Silenced Destroyer Carbine
By Al Paulson
As unconventional warfare heated up in South Vietnam, former OSS officer and prolific silencer designer Mitchell Livingston WerBell III realized early that a silent carbine of pistol caliber would provide substantial tactical dividends for special and black operations being conducted throughout Indochina. Ideally, the weapon should be similar in size and performance to the impressive .45 ACP Silent Carbine developed by William Godfray De Lisle for Sir Malcolm Campbell of British Combined Operations during World War II. The De Lisle Silent Carbine was used with extraordinary success by British commandos on raids against Fortress Europe prior to D-Day, and against the Japanese in the Indo-Pacific Theater. After VJ Day, the De Lisle carbine proved to be a most useful weapon during the Malaysian Communist Emergency, when it was employed by the British Army and Special Branch Police against Communist insurgents and terrorists in a classic counter-guerrilla warfare campaign. The De Lisle was quiet and powerful, but the baffle stack was fragile and subject to damage in the field, which ruined accuracy. WerBell sought to make a more robust and modern version of the De Lisle that would have all of its virtues and none of its shortcomings. The net result was a series of weapons produced by the Military Armament Corporations that were collectively called the Destroyer Carbine.
The original incarnations of the MAC Destroyer Carbine were based upon the Spanish Model 1921 Destroyer Magazine Rifle. The earliest variants of the Destroyer Rifle were made by Gaztanaga y Compania of Eiber, Spain. Subsequent variants marketed as the Destroyer Magazine Rifle were apparently made in the 1920s and 1930s by Ayra Durex. The Magazine Rifles came in several calibers including 9mm Bergmann-Bayard (also known as the 9mm Largo and 9x23mm), 9mm Parabellum (9x19mm) and .380 ACP (9x17mm). Clearly inspired by the Model 93 Mauser rifle, the Destroyer has a personality all its own. Like the Mauser, the Destroyer cocks upon closing the bolt. The Destroyer also features a Mauser-type wing safety on the bolt sleeve and a Mauser-like claw extractor. Unlike the Mauser, however, the extractor is located on top of the bolt rather than on the right side. Furthermore, the bolt’s two locking lugs are located just in front of the bolt handle, perhaps half of the way back from the bolt face. This arrangement is reminiscent of a Ruger 77/22 rather than a Mauser M93 and facilitates the stripping of rounds from a pistol magazine.
For several reasons, WerBell decided to chamber his modern incarnation of the De Lisle Silent Carbine for the 9x19mm cartridge rather than the De Lisle’s more potent .45 ACP, despite the fact that M1911 magazines fit neatly in the magazine well of 9x23mm Destroyers. Doing so saved expensive re-manufacturing and heat-treating of the bolt. Furthermore, the steel used in the Model 1921 rifles was very soft and of variable quality, so there was some question whether the actions could stand up to the larger cartridge when used for military-rather than sporting—applications.
WerBell developed a number of variations on the 9mm Destroyer theme. Some contained replaceable wipe modules, while others were based on WerBell’s typical frusto-conical baffles.
WerBell developed at least five documented variants of the Destroyer Carbine. One variant used a shortened barrel with an early suppressor designed for the Ingram M10 9mm submachine gun. This early suppressor featured a single tube measuring approximately 1.75 inches in diameter and 10 inches in length.
Another variant used the standard MAC .30 caliber suppressor designed for the M14 rifle. The bore of the M14SS-1 silencer was sufficiently large to safely accommodate the relatively short 9mm pistol projectile. This variant was particularly accurate when fitted with a Tasco 4-power scope, but it was not particularly quiet—even with subsonic ammunition, delivering a sound signature of 136 decibels when I test-fired this Destroyer with Black Hills 147 grain RN FMJ subsonic ammunition. (That’s comparable to the sound signature of HK’s UMP-45 submachine gun with B&T’s SD UMP silencer.) A photo of this variant of the MAC Destroyer with M14SS-1 silencer accompanies this discussion.
A third variant employed a two-stage suppressor that featured a replaceable wipe module called an “auxiliary front chamber” at the front end of the can. The entire two-stage suppressor measured approximately 1.5 inches in diameter for its entire length, which was about 11.75 inches. The rear end of the can extended back to the Destroyer’s receiver.
A fourth variant was identical to the third, except the wooden butt stock was removed and the weapon was retrofitted with a collapsible wire stock and pistol grip, along with a side-mounted Mossberg 4-power .22 rimfire scope. This version was demonstrated at the ARVN Infantry School in South Vietnam in the late 1960s. The Army ordered a small quantity (4 to 10) of improvised silenced carbines for field evaluation in Vietnam in 1969. It is not clear which of the preceding variants was used to fill that requirement.
The final variant featured a simple suppressor measuring about 1.5 by 11 inches that came back to within 1/4 inch of the receiver. It was this variant that was delivered to the Army in some quantity, when an order for carbines was placed with the Military Armament Corporation.
The second Army order arrived just as the availability of the Spanish rifle dried up in the States. Therefore, most of the Destroyers delivered to the Army were built upon the Remington 788 rifle, which was converted to 9mm and modified to accept modified Walther P-38 pistol magazines and a Tasco 4-power scope mounted directly on the receiver. I have not yet learned how many Destroyers were actually delivered to the Army.
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