Review: B&T Station SIX-9 Pistol

A faithful, modern-day recreation of pistol used by Allied American and British clandestine operatives during World War II.

by
posted on February 16, 2024
B&T STATION SIX 9

My dictionary defines the term purpose-built as, “something made to serve a specific purpose.” While virtually any commercially produced arm can be adapted for use on the battlefield, others are designed and custom built from the ground up, made for a specific task. One good example is clandestine operations. During World War II, Britain’s famed Bride Hall weapons-acquisition section, Station VI and later Station IX, was where the original concept for this article was conceived. Station IX was established in 1940 to develop useful “toys” for the Special Operations Executive (SOE). The SOE, known by its cover name: the Inter-Services Research Bureau (ISRB), was not only Britain’s espionage and sabotage organization during World War II, but it also served as the model for the United States’ Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the U.S. Army Special Forces. Although the SOE and OSS usually operated separately, they also occasionally worked together in groups like the ‘Jedburghs,’ which conducted guerrilla warfare with resistance groups in German-occupied Europe.

From Historic Origins

Station IX’s many creative workshops were staffed by talented teams of mad scientists. An engineer and inventor, MAJ. Hugh Q.A. Reeves is credited for the creation of the quintessential spy/special-operations pistol. Originally named the Mark I Hand Firing Device, the pistol eventually became known as the Welrod. It was given a code name beginning with “Wel-” like all the devices developed at Station IX. The “Wel-“ was derived from the Station’s proximity to the village of Welwyn, about an hour north of London.

Unlike the Walther PPK, the Welrod would certainly not win any beauty contests. But it is the Welrod’s ungainly “tubular” appearance that made it perfect for the clandestine nature associated with covert operations. Coupled with its unconventional look, the pistol possessed a simple but ingenious design. Interestingly, the first Welrods were chambered in .32 ACP (Mark II and Mark IIA) and fed by eight-round Colt 1903 magazines. Later 9mm variants were designated Mark I and Mark IA. Mark I were fed by six-round 9 mm Colt 1911 magazines and featured a trigger guard. Surprisingly, the pistol’s front sight was relocated back to the halfway point on the handgun, as opposed to near the suppressor’s muzzle. No idea why the mad scientists of Station IX opted to shorten the sight radius on an already accuracy-challenged pistol.

Adding to the pistol’s benign appearance was the fact that the Welrod did not sport a grip like a conventional pistol. Instead, the magazine served as the grip and a rubber sleeve slid over the magazine for added comfort. So, with the magazine was removed, the Welrod was not only much more concealable but, most importantly the last thing it resembled was a pistol—so much so upon seeing the Welrod for the first time without its magazine installed, many operatives said it resembled a bicycle pump.

Perhaps the greatest aspect of the Welrod was that that it was designed to be as quiet as possible. This was accomplished by combining its manually operated, single-shot action with a perforated barrel that is shrouded with an integral sound suppressor. A total of 16 to 20 holes were drilled through the barrel’s exterior and itis surrounded by a metal tube containing an expansion chamber and a perforated-metal ring, which led to the suppressor section that consisted of 18 removable metal discs along with rubber wipes. The use of rubber wipes permitted the fired projectile to pass through but then seal up behind it. The suppressor section is designed to be replaced after about 15 or so rounds, depending on the chambering. Unlike a conventional magazine-fed pistol, the Welrod’s bolt is locked in position and doesn’t reciprocate when the gun is fired. This lack of moving, metallic mass adds to the gun’s quiet factor. Similarly, since the bolt is not moving until after the gun has fired, there is no port pop that can typically be heard on conventionally suppressed semi-auto pistols. And given that the gun’s initial chambering was .32 ACP, a round that has a subsonic velocity of less than 1,000 fps, would only add to the quietness factor.

Modern-Day Recreation

So, what inspired B&T USA to produce a modern-day version of a clandestine sidearm from World War II? According to the firm’s VP of marketing, Chris Mudgett, “Shortly after 9/11 B&T’s owner was approached by a European Intelligence entity who were still fielding its clandestine operatives with World War II Welrods. They wanted something like the Welrod, only smaller in size with modern features and improvements. The result was B&T’s predecessor to the Station SIX-9 known as the Veterinary Pistol or VP9, which after much persuasion it publicly released in 2014. The VP9 borrowed several features from the Welrod, including the bolt-action operation and pistol grip acting as the detachable magazine for the small, silenced handgun. As its name implied, the VP9 was allegedly designed to put down wounded or sick animals while being quiet enough to not disturb any nearby animals or residents. Due to a finite supply of magazines, very few B&T VP9’s ever made their way into the U.S. market. That has changed with the slightly redesigned B&T Station SIX-9. Like the VP9, the Station SIX-9 borrows many features from the World War II-era Welrod. The Station SIX-9’s firing mechanism is operated by a knob at the rear of the action, requiring the operator to twist the knob and pull the bolt to the rear. It is then pushed forward to strip a round from the magazine and feed it into the chamber. The knob is twisted 90 degrees clockwise, locking the weapon and enabling it to be fired. Such a mechanism avoids the extra noise and weight attributed to traditional semi-automatic handgun actions. A simple grip safety blocks the trigger but not the firing pin. Unlike a traditional Welrod, the Station SIX-9 boasts a full-size polymer grip. (Much more on that later.) However, there is a line just below the magazine release where should the owner wish to cut it off and affix it to the magazine, thereby paying homage to the original design. Another feature held over from the original design, to cycle the bolt of the Station SIX-9, its grip safety must remain depressed throughout the chambering and extracting phases of operation.

A departure from its predecessor, the Station SIX-9 is not integrally suppressed. Its 3.15-inch barrel sports 1/2x28 tpi threads concealed beneath a generously knurled thread protector. Very wisely, the folks at B&T offer a choice of either two types of sound suppressors that are compatible with the Station SIX-9, a traditional baffle/wipe design (like the Welrod) or model that contains a conventional baffle stack without wipes, which B&T markets as a training model suppressor. Is there an advantage between the two? The folks at B&T USA tell me the use of rubber wipes in the suppressor instead of traditional metal baffles makes the suppressor self-sealing and thus much quieter than most sound suppressors containing a conventional baffle stack.

Yet, as chockful of cool and innovative features as the pistol is, this B&T pistol is far from perfect. While it points quite well and is extremely well balanced in the hand, its grip is much wider than it needs to be, while offering a somewhat ungainly look to the pistol. To compound matters, the grip contains an arched backstrap similar to a 1911A1. The contour forces the shooter to adopt a high hold on the Station SIX-9 and while that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, the combination of the arch plus the wide grip creates quite a distance or reach to the trigger. Now, as someone who is no stranger to wide-gripped handguns (the Boyd Bunker is home to a .475 Wildey Magnum and an LAR Grizzley chambered in .45 Win. Mag.) I find this very disconcerting. The presence of a miniscule grip safety exacerbates things—especially its concave design. While some may argue that a handgun like the Station SIX-9, or its predecessor is that last type of firearm in need of a grip safety given its intended use, Welrods did contain grip safeties. However, they were convex (or extended) in shape which, along with a narrower and straighter grip I suspect made it much easier to depress when necessary.  In its current configuration, the Station SIX-9’s grip could stand to lose some of its excess bulk and given a straighter contour like the original Welrod, which would ultimately enhance the Station SIX-9’s ergonomics, aesthetics and, of course, the shooter’s overall comfort. Such a minor change would make a great gun even better.

The End Result

Despite being built like a Swiss watch (like all other B&T firearms I've encountered) the gun seemed otherwise capable of good accuracy, but every three-shot group was then ruined by subsequent fliers. Nonetheless, even if the trigger was superb, the Station SIX-9 is not intended for use at extended range. Given its truncated barrel and compact design, a gun like this is meant for up close and personal work—or to put it plainly "bad-breath distance” where accuracy is assured to 10 yards at most. To split the difference accuracy testing was conducted at 7 yards.

triggerRange time with the Station SIX-9 was not without its challenges. The undersize grip safety proved challenging to fully depress at times. So, in an attempt to remedy the problem, I wound up having to cut a piece of foam-rubber pipe insulation to size, securing it to the face of the grip safety and taping the grip safety down to assure its reliable disengagement. But the challenges didn’t end there. The pistol’s trigger was far from ideal or consistent. Some let-offs would be crisp and concise, but occasionally I’d experience quite noticeable stacking and a wall—a wall that rivaled the one that loomed over Checkpoint Charlie for so long—then there would be a long delay while keeping my trigger depressed until the striker finally released.(By the end of the shooting session, this odd phenomenon left a large and painful blister on the pad of my trigger.)

Being a single-shot pistol, shooting the Station SIX-9 was unique and unlike any other magazine-fed handgun I’ve encountered. Though the process took longer than say a semi-automatic, the process was matter of rote and not altogether unpleasant: Press the trigger, rotate counter-clockwise to unlock the bolt, retract the bolt to extract the empty case, slide the bolt forward to chamber a new round, rotate the bolt clockwise to lock the bolt into batter and press the trigger again to fire another round. Lather, rinse and repeat for a total of 10 rounds. Could some consider it a rather lengthy and arduous process? While it is true that fatigue could have played a part in shooting this pistol, the Station SIX-9 isn’t intended for use in a traditional gunfight where multiple rounds are rapidly exchanged. It is designed to be deployed first—not shot fast—ready into that what you may. Got multiple immediate threats inbound? Draw your other clandestine-inspired semi-automatic that’s more suitable for the task from backup (perhaps a Hi Standard HDM, Smith & Wesson Model 39 ASP or the quintessential Walther PPK so as to remain in our chosen espionage genre.) Some failures to feed were experienced in testing with both the Remington UMC 147-grain FMJ and the Federal Syntech 150-grain TSJ loads. In both cases, the rounds would begin to chamber properly as the bolt was being closed, but the cartridge would pop out of the magazine prematurely before entering the chamber. As a result, both loads were hand-fed into the breech and shot/ejected fine. Since the pistol only ships with a single magazine, it’s impossible to say whether it was the culprit. However, it’s important to point out that both loads share a common trait: Each one utilizes a projectile with a flat ogive. Could the flattened point shared by both the Federal and Remington loads been catching on the feed ramp and been the source of the problem? Perhaps, either way, it was worth note.     

Though not the common suppressor-height apertures commonly seen on such pistols, the sight picture of the white-line-enhance front post against the corresponding white-outlined, black square-notch rear proved more snag resistant than the former and proved good enough for the distance at hand. While the trigger pull could benefit greatly from the hands of a professional gunsmith by the end of the shooting session the Station SIX-9 delivered surprising accuracy with each suppressor, the best being .953 inch from Federal Syntech Action Pistol 150-grain TSJ across three different loads at 7 yards while outfitted with the Wipe tube. The best group while using the Trainer can was with the Remington UMC 147-grain FMJ. Best of all, no point-of-impact shift was apparent when swapping from one- suppressor to the other.

While it may be capable of defensive applications, the B&T Station SIX-9 isn’t likely to be a purchase for one’s concealed-carry complement, nor is it meant to be. It is designed for those collectors and/or World War II buffs like me who appreciate history and wish to own modern recreations of the firearms that took part in shaping it. 

Carrying The Station SIX-9

Holster for Station SIX-9In order to carry a handgun as unique as the B&T Station-SIX-9, for obvious reasons you’ll need a unique holster. Fortunately, B&T USA has you covered there, too. The company has partnered with Palmetto Leather Works to offer an interesting take on a shoulder holster that offers both practical features with a touch of old-school flair. The company offers one of its shoulder holsters for a single handgun, designed to carry the Station-SIX-9 with a sound suppressor installed oriented in a vertical position. However, unlike most vertical shoulder holsters, (like the classic Bianchi X-15) which typically utilize a wide, X-style harness to support the weight evenly on the shoulder via a thin elastic strap that encircles the off-side shoulder for enhanced stability, Palmetto's holster features a four-point harness system with a central, shield-shaped yoke and minimal width straps for concealability and comfort. Such a harness is more commonly associated with horizontal shoulder holsters (like the classic Jackass Shoulder Holster, or its more recent sibling the Galco Miami Classic. Palmetto’s harness is constructed from rugged steerhide and it, combined with the vertical orientation of the holster makes for a truly hybrid design.

Rightfully so, the body of the holster is equally as curvaceous as the station-SIX-9. Each side is flanked by circular stitch lines. The mouth of the holster features a strap with a thumb break, the back of which is doubled over where the female portion of the snap resides. All of these features: the holster’s rounded shape, its circular stitch lines, a doubled-over thumb break and an open toe are design characteristics that harken back to famed holster maker Roy Baker, the pancake maker. The high-ride belt holsters that carried the same name and were favorites of policemen and plainclothes detectives in the early ’80s. Nickel hardware and Chicago screws add to the holster’s robust design and eye-catching appeal—as does a stamp on the holster containing the B&T logo—while an integral belt strap below the two ensures the holster will remain anchored in place, should you need to draw your pistol. Best of all, the folks even made a left-handed model to help me with my southpaw affliction. If you’re looking for a holster for Station-SIX-9, this one from Palmetto Leather Works is built to last and won’t disappoint. MSRP: $193; palmettoleather.com.  

Specifications: B&T USA Station SIX-9

  • Manufacturer: B&T AG, Switzerland
  • Importer: B&T USA; (813) 653-1200, bt-usa.com
  • Action Type: Locked-breech, single-shot pistol
  • Caliber: 9 mm
  • Capacity: 10 rounds
  • Frame: Polymer
  • Slide: Steel
  • Barrel Length: 3.14 inches
  • Sights: Windage-adjustable white-outline rear; fixed white-post front
  • Trigger Pull Weight: 11 pounds, 8 ounces
  • Length: 6.92 inches
  • Width: 1.33 inches
  • Height: 5.59 inches
  • Weight: 32.5 ounces
  • Accessories: One 10-round magazine, manual, soft case, wipe suppressor
  • MSRP: $2,284 (wiped suppressor included) training suppressor sold separately

Accuracy Testing (Wipe Suppressed)

Load Smallest Largest Average
Remington UMC 147-grain FMJ 1.83 2.8 2.26
Winchester Super Suppressed 147-grain FMJ 1.35 1.99 1.69
Federal Syntech Action Pistol 150-grain TSJ .953 2.36 1.52

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