Garrote Wire

First a disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only.  I built this garrote wire to conduct research and have no intention of actually using it and neither should you.  Like any weapon, this is not a toy.  You should not “play” with or “test” it on any human being under any circumstances.  Accidents happen, like when you play with a “unloaded” gun.  Don’t be stupid.

The garrote wire is a somewhat antiquated and exotic weapon in this day and age.  In the era of sub-machine guns with integral built in suppressors, often firing sub-sonic bullets, crude methods such as strangulation seem obsolete even when a completely silent kill is required.  Usually, this takes the form of sentry removal.  Soldiers needing to infiltrate a target area need to silently eliminate guards in order to maintain the element of surprise.

In chapter one of my book, “Reflexive Fire” my protagonist uses a unique type of garrote wire to silently eliminate the members of a drug cartel.  Of course, I wanted to actually built the thing first to see if it would work.

The wire itself is medium gauge piano wire which has been secured to a few inches of wooden dowel by drilling a hole through it, slipping the wire through, and than winding it back around itself.  Afterwords, the dowel is wrapped with the type of grip tape used my athletes to maintain their grip on a baseball bat or a kettle bell.  Normally, the other end of the wire would be secured in a similar fashion to another hand hold made from a second length of dowel.  In this case, the free running end of the wire is secured back on itself via a slip knot.  I bought the leather bracelet at the mall where the young fashionista’s get their club wear…but don’t worry, I don’t wear this sort of thing out on the town!  The bracelet is used to protect your wrist from the wire itself.

When the slip knot is secured around the leather bracelet (worn on the weak side, non-dominate hand), the garrote wire is employed in this manner.  When eliminating a sentry in a war time scenario, the soldier stalks towards his target from behind while keeping a low profile in order not to cast large shadows.  On final approach, the soldier places his weak side hand behind the target’s head.  Finally, using the hand hold, the soldier flips the garrote wire over the sentry’s head, hooking it under his chin before wrenching back on the hand hold.  According to what I’ve read, this produces a nearly instantaneous and silent kill.  Again, this is merely research for my book and any weapon, no matter how silly it looks, should be treated with respect.

Close look at the weak side hand

Close look at the dominate hand

When not in use, I found that the garrote wire can be wrapped around the weak side wrist and secured in place with a rubber band.

After Action Review:

-The garrote is probably of very limited utility due to the number of preconditions that need to be met in order to be employed properly.  You need cover and concealment for your entire approach up to the target, not to mention someone providing over watch with a (ideally) suppressed weapon.  The types of situations where a soldier could use a weapon like this seems far more likely to occur on a movie set than in real life where things go FUBAR real quick.

-I would add 6-8 inches more to the length of the wire in order to make sure I had enough slack to get it under our theoretical Nazi sentry’s chin.

-The wire needs to be secured around the leather bracelet in some manner, rather than just relying on the friction created by the slip knot to hold it in place.  If that slip knot moved off the bracelet during use and tightened around your bare skin, you would be in a world of hurt.

The verdict: The garrote wire may have some limited combat applications but with modern advances in fire arms, this would be my last choice of “silent” weapon.  I’ve used suppressed weapons while I was in the Army and would much rather have an MP5-SD3 that allowed me some more standoff than something like a garrote or combat knife.

Finally, once again, please do not construct or misuse one of these things.  This was written for research and informational purposes only.


Filed under Gear, Pictures, Weapons and Tactics

16 responses to “Garrote Wire

  1. Nice. Reading that section in RF, I dug the use of the garrote in those scenes, and the wrist-and-dowel design is cool, since it allows the user to hold a gun or other object in the bracelet hand.

    And while suppressed weapons are “quiet”, a garrote could probably give you as close to a “silent” kill as possible. I do believe they were used here and there in ‘Nam, and probably for centuries beforehand.

    The morbid-research writer in me would love to do some investigating on the art of close-quarters sentry elimination through history. As long as there have been sentries, there have been guys who needed to kill them, and “Best Practices” to do the dirty work.

    • gabe

      my fathers drill instructor used a garrote in NAM, they were also issued a .45 but that was for a no win sit. Also the garrote and training for it has been mentioned in the book “The Making of Navy Seals Class 29, by John Carl Roat pp. 33-34. it also explains in the verses just how silent of kill it is.

  2. I know their is some literature out there from the glory days of the OSS on this subject. I’d certainly be interested in hearing actual case studies of the garrote’s use in combat.

  3. Ahh, I remember Deckard got wet using one of these. The trouble with suppressed firearms–even those with true silencers, is that they still make noise. When the muzzle noise is reduced to near-silence and using subsonic ammo, you can still hear the action sliding and slamming.

    Then, of course, knifing or garrotting someone isn’t always silent, either. A risky proposition anyway, IMO. Gotta have complete surprise, and execute with some precision. In the case of a garotte, you wouldn’t want to try it in thick brush or anywhere the piano wire can get snagged or deflected, I should think.

    I was thinking the same thing about the slip knot on the leather cuff. Also, the dowel should probably be of smaller diameter to be practical–both for grip and for uninhibited use of the non-dominant hand. Not that you need to get that specific for readers, probably.

  4. Hey Hank,

    When I was in Iraq last year I took it upon myself to spend quite a bit of time firing the MP5-SD out of the range. I was pretty impressed with it. I’ve also fired sub-sonic rounds through my SR-25 back when I was a sniper. Sub-sonic rounds really are silent, in fact they have so little powder that they fail to cycle the bolt on semi-automatic weapons. Also, with so little power behind the round, I wouldn’t even trust the 7.62 beyond 50 meters. But it is true, the vast majority of “silenced” weapons don’t nearly live up to the hype, which is why you have to make sure soldiers understand the difference between suppressed and silenced.

    A suppressed weapon with sub-sonic rounds is the best alternative to the garrote for a silent kill, but it is also a specialty weapon, one that might be of little use during the rest of your mission. This would mean lugging around a secondary or tertiary “silent” firearm for the duration of the operation. If you really want to know the dangers of carrying such a gun as your primary weapon, read “The Bush War in Rhodesia” by Dennis Croukamp. He was forced into a six day E&E behind enemy lines with a suppressed Uzi with sub-sonic rounds. He gives a great AAR on the topic in the book.

    Of course the best option would be to carry a single magazine of sub-sonic rounds on your kit and make sure you place it in a manner that you don’t reach for it thinking it’s regular ball ammo during a fire fight. You could load that single mag and put the suppressor in place only when you needed it.

  5. machinetrooper

    Great. Thanks a lot, pal. My to-be-read list just grew AGAIN.

  6. Bump this one up to the top. Dennis was doing HALO infiltrations behind enemy lines in the 1970’s when he was a Selous Scout. It’s an amazing book written by a pretty amazing guy. I’m hoping he writes another one about his experiences after Rhodesia. You get a little taste of the trouble he was getting into in South Africa from another book, but I’m sure there is much more he has to tell.

  7. More books to add to the pile…

    In Killer Instincts, the main character (later in his career) winds up carrying one of those Ruger .22 autos with the integral suppressor for the point blank work, but has to use it really carefully (essentially point blank fire to the base of the skull) for sentry removal. I imagine a weapon like that, firing subsonic ammunition, would be about as quiet as a firearm can get, but would definitely not be a primary or even secondary weapon.

    Geez, I really need to move somewhere like Texas or New Hampshire so I can just go ahead and get a Federal license…

  8. I think I know the gun you are talking about. The concept of using a suppressed .22 with sub-sonic rounds for purposes of assassination is something we’ve all read about somewhere or another. I have to say, the concept is based on the idea of quickly emptying the entire magazine into the same target, an idea I’m no so comfortable with. I’d rather go with a 9mm and a double tap, just to be sure.

  9. Yeah, the only time I use it in the book, it’s a triple-tap to the base of the skull from about a foot away (ambush from behind a ship’s hatchway). Not the sort of thing I’d want to bring to a firefight. I do know the OSS used a Hi-Standard .22 auto with suppressor, but again, that’s more of the “step out, put against back of skull, fire several bullets” type of shooting.

    Funny enough, I just read last night the point in RF where the assassin shows up with a suppressed .22. Nice little scuffle there!

    Do you know if there’s any credence to the notion that Mossad favored suppressed .22 autos back in the day? I hear it always bandied about but I don’t know if that’s just hearsay or if it’s been documented.

    I also wonder if there is currently much use of the lighter calibers out there still with suppressed weapons. Walther PP or PPK, Beretta Model 81, that sort of thing. The .32 auto was such a popular caliber back in the day – I’d love to get my hands on a few vintage pocket autos in that chambering some day.

    I guess it all boils down to “how quiet do you need it?” Like you said, a double-tap from a suppressed 9mm is probably still pretty quiet; no average person is probably going to know what they are hearing if they don’t see what happened anyhow.

  10. That was a fun scene to write. The assassin was completely different the mostly ex-military characters I write about.

    I’m sure the OSS and other intelligence agencies have had assets using those types of weapons in the past. Off the top of my head I’m not aware of any documentation or anything of that nature. It would be a interesting research topic. I’m still interested to learn about historical examples of the garrote being used in combat/war.

    By the way, when do we get to take a look at your book?!?!

  11. Re-reading some books for research purposes. SOG teams did use the High Standard H-D suppressed .22 pistol. John Plaster has a picture of it in his book about MACV-SOG. Small Arms Review did a full blown article about it:

  12. jonathan eldridge

    I bought some cables and dowel rods and a bolt cutter size cable crimper the and made 2-3 Garrotes for a few of my good buddies for our Iraq 2003-2004 deployment. Of course they were not used. BUT damn they were cool. LOL

  13. jonathan eldridge

    I like this Leather bracer Idea. I have one somewere. Maybe Ill try to work it.

  14. Welcome, author and commenters, to every federal watch list that exists.

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