In the tradition of 'Get Smart' and '007,' here's a wacky weapon that's the 'Real McCoy' - a clandestine shooting gadget that might have come from 'Q's' workshop - the Welrod Silenced Pistol.

During World War II, a covert British operation, Special Operations Executive (SOE), was tasked by Prime Minister Winston Churchill to conduct espionage and sabotage behind enemy lines, to serve as resistance - in occupied countries - and at home, to Hitler's Germany and the Axis Powers.

Consider the mindset of the British, U.S. and those opposed to the Nazi threat - the war was a life and death matter with no room for compromise or defeat. The only option was total victory.

Faced with such overwhelming adversity, a besieged Britain pulled out all the stops.

The SOE was headquartered in London, at 64 Baker Street. They numbered in the thousands of British agents and operatives, and their network of behind-the-line supporters numbered over 1 million.

To support the war effort and defeat the Germans, every form of booby trap and gadget was tried. And foremost in front-line arsenals was the Welrod Silenced Pistol, often airdropped to agents.

The Welrod is a bolt-action, magazine-fed weapon with advanced noise suppression. Remove the pistol grip/magazine and the contraption might easily double as a foot-long length of pipe - or a bicycle pump, the kind that was so common on European and British bikes of the day.

Two caliber Welrod's were built - a single-action .32 ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol) or 7.65x17mm and a 9x19 Luger. The .32 version was coined the Welrod Mk. II; the 9mm version, the Welrod Mk. I. The Mk. II weighed slightly less than 2 1/2 pounds; the Mk. I weighed slightly more than 3 pounds. Both the Mk. I and Mk. II had barrel lengths of about 3 3/4 inches, without the silencer.

The overall length of the .32 version was slightly more than a foot-long; the Mk. I was 14 inches and change. The Mk. II held 8, .32-caliber rounds in the magazine; the Mk. I held 6 rounds.

Neither the Mk. II or the Mk. I were designed for distance shooting. Optimistically, they had an effective range of 75 feet, but agents were trained to take out their victims by shooting them in the head at point-blank range. Just in case, the Welrod had specially illumined sights for more distant targets.

The Welrod Silenced Pistol, especially in 9mm, has had a very long shelf life. Some of the weapons designed, built and distributed in World War II still remained in arsenals today.