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Old Trooper Gunsmiths LLC

SPECIALIZING IN MILITARY FIREARMS.

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The "shaved" Webley revolver, MK I to VI

Posted on June 18, 2012 at 9:24 AM
      This is one of our favorite guns here at Old trooper. There is a special soft spot for what has been dubbed "the worlds finest combat revolver". I know there are S&W fans fumeing at the mear utterance of a challenge to the "combat masterpiece" and the Miclick "speed gun". But those guns were never issued and used by a standing army. The sort of "fugley" webleys defended the crown and her territories from 1870's to after ww2.  Sorry, our American entries of the 1917, both S&W and Colt, and "victory" series, do not even place...
   
       The webley is regarded by many American shooters as "loose" and poorly fitted with rough triggers. However in British hands they proved to be as rugged as a hammer and accurate enough to kill even the most stubborn opponent with its .455 bullet.  The reason for the "loose" judgment is that unlike the Yankee revolvers when the cylinder is "locked" (hammer back) there is still some "wobble". For a colt or S&W this is very bad, for these it is designed that way. Heavy barrels and massive forcing cones. Makes for a revolver that you really have to abuse to get them "out of time".  As for the triggers, well the double action on most "combat" guns is always heavy. The single action is still heaver than most American guns. But given the massiveness of the parts, are you really surprised?
 
     The webbley mkI first saw survive in the "africanas" campaigns. Fighting the Zulus, bores, and many local tribes. The mk I was improved as the cartridges were improved. The last "black powder" cartridge webley was the MKIII. This still retained the shape of the MKI with the "birds head" grips and shorter barrel (4inch). The improved CTG guns, the MKIV were made for a lower velocity (mk3) smokeless ctg, the MKV was simply a reinforced version of the the previous model. The MKV was first made around the turn of the century and saw service until WW1 when it was supplemented than replaced by the Bigger MKVI with a conventional "square" butt and a long 7in barrel. This was arguably the best version of the 455 guns. Possibly the best Webley ever manufactured. The big MK6 was made from 1916 till 1918 than made again by enfeild lock in the 20's.The Big revolver proved to be the most reliable pistol for trench warfare. Some officers even had privately manufactured bayonets made for them. Better than a sword I suppose.. In the firestorm of men, steel, blood and courage that was WW1, the Webley came out on top. It was not unheard of for a revolver to have 5 or more owners by the time it was turned it.
    After some argument from the ministry of war the big top break .455 were shelved in favor of a .38/200 (38 s&w here in America). The thought on this backward change would be that the "smaller bullet loaded to a higher velocity will cause as much if not more damage as our .455 cartridge". It also resulted in a revolver that looked like a 2/3'rds scale copy of the MK6. 
        The story for the big gun did not end there. The old caliber was proffered by the "veteran" officers and NCO's due to its outstanding stopping power. And they did as much as possible to retain the big breaketop. Fortunately for them hostilities came quickly, Issue of the .38 did not.. New ammunition was made and the gun placed back into frountline service. They were withdrawn after serving around the world once again. The last recorded issue of the .455 was in the early 50's in korea..
       The SHAVED GUNS
    Shaved? What do you mean?  In the late 40's and 50's the surplus firearms market was booming. Weather they be for your private collection or for your next coup or revolution, business was booming! There was one small problem for the .445 revolvers: No Ammo. Most if not all of the ammunition made for the big guns was shot up during the war. Little if any remained to make it to the surplus market. Some genius importer had found out if you mill down the rear of the webleys cylinder it can take a "half moon" or "full moon" clip like the 1917 revolver. This also allowed the .455 gun to shoot the plentiful .45acp cartridge. They sold quickly being a discount alternative to a 1917 or some of the newer .45acp weelguns available at the time. SO all the .455 revolvers with shaved cylinders started flooding the worlds gun markets of the 1950's. This unfortunately included "shaved" MKIV's and MKIII's even some MK2's have been reported. 
    The Problem
    First of all if you are reading this, hopefully you are smart enough to know that a modern higher velocity (yes I know, .45acp is not exactly a barn burner here)  cartridge out of a gun built for black powder is a bad idea! Heck, why do you suppose they have to stamp "Black powder only" on all modern replica muzzle loaders! SO you have a gun intended for a 456fps round, now lobbing a 800plus fps ctg.  Even the "Smokeless" ctg's were loaded (orig .455 loads) to around 650fps. On the black powder guns may have resulted in a few twisted frames, and blown cylinders. Possibly even some top latches blown out resulting in injury or death. The "smokeless guns" mainly suffer from bulged barrels from owners firing over velicoty ammo out of a platform not intended for it!  Despite these potential shortcomings many .45acp webleys continue to soldier on almost 100 years after manufacture.  Some when treated nicely make darn fine house guns! If you have ever wondered what the instructors of the personal protection in the home courses have beside their bed, YES it is a much loved MKVI!  We even have found a replica  bayonet!
    Due to the undersized round this pistol will never win any beauty contests or national match titles. But if you want a hammer reliable revolver that will defend your home and will go "bang" every time you pull the trigger, than this would be highly recommended!
 
     I would even take one of these to use against zombies! Yeah, that good...
 
    This has been the 3rd installment of "old troopers under valued guns of history".
 
 Any suggestions for #4?

Categories: Under valued firearms in history

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138 Comments

Reply Doby
4:10 AM on March 21, 2013 
There are several inaccuracies in this article that should be addressed. And though I am sure a lot of "bores" were shot with a .455 Webley, I have a feeling that many Boers were not all that boring in combat. This revolver also did not see service during the Zulu wars, since it was issued too late for that. Stanley Baker and Michael Caine were armed with them in the movies, but their real life counterparts were definitely not...These criticisms aside, a nice article on a great old warhorse.
Reply John S.
3:54 PM on August 22, 2013 
There are a few issues that I think can be addressed here regarding the modern use of the Webley Mk VI. First, as the other poster indicated, Webley Mk VIs were never issued in the 19th century. Second, yes, it is true the bore size of the .455 is just that and .451 and .452 inch bullets are undersized, but one can get .455 or .456 inch bullets sized for your Webley. On shaved or rather milled cylinder guns handloading .45 Auto-Rim cases with .454", 455" or .456" sized bullets to about 650 fps will allow the gun to be used with out moon clips. Using .455 sizing dies after firing .45 Auto-Rim or .45 ACP cases (downloaded to 650 fps) will also help with accuracy since the cases will be sized to the proper dimensions. Some blackpowder era Webleys were proofed for smokelss powder and can be shot with lower velocity loads, however, using blackpowder or pyrodex is probably better for these older guns. Shooting a Webley Mk VI with downloaded handloaded ammo with the correct sized bullets in the 250-270 grain weight range will also help with accuracy since the sights were set for a 265 grain bullet with the original load.
Reply John
5:42 PM on August 22, 2013 
John S. says...
There are a few issues that I think can be addressed here regarding the modern use of the Webley Mk VI. First, as the other poster indicated, Webley Mk VIs were never issued in the 19th century. Second, yes, it is true the bore size of the .455 is just that and .451 and .452 inch bullets are undersized, but one can get .455 or .456 inch bullets sized for your Webley. On shaved or rather milled cylinder guns handloading .45 Auto-Rim cases with .454", 455" or .456" sized bullets to about 650 fps will allow the gun to be used with out moon clips. Using .455 sizing dies after firing .45 Auto-Rim or .45 ACP cases (downloaded to 650 fps) will also help with accuracy since the cases will be sized to the proper dimensions. Some blackpowder era Webleys were proofed for smokelss powder and can be shot with lower velocity loads, however, using blackpowder or pyrodex is probably better for these older guns. Shooting a Webley Mk VI with downloaded handloaded ammo with the correct sized bullets in the 250-270 grain weight range will also help with accuracy since the sights were set for a 265 grain bullet with the original load.

Ack-sherally, it might come as a considerable surprise to discover that the old Webley likes .450" bullets just fine, and .455" bullets are too big. They were all drilled with a .442" drill, then rifled with .004" lands on each side for a total of .450"; and the chambers all have .450" forcing cones around the necks. I size my bullets to .450" - they mike-out at that - and they will not drop through the chambers, and have to be forced down the bore. As well, my Mk.VI, which I estimate JUST missed WW1, has both military and commercial markings, a sanded-out arrowhead mark and "455/450" stamped-on it. So slug your barrel, if you are in the least doubt.

Speaking of which, does anybody have a spare shaven cylinder/extractor for a Mk.VI? I want to shoot practical pistol with mine (it's lethally accurate), but there's a 'time' component and a vintage Prideaux speedloader is worth more than the pistol anymore; so I'll shoot targets with .455 ammo and its original cylinder, and PP using .45 ACP with a shaven cylinder and full-moon clips, if I can find a spare cylinder.

LEGAL DISCLAIMER: I don't know what I'm talking about and you follow my advice at your imminent peril!!! - that being got out of the way, my current standard load is 3.2 grains Trail Boss with a 250-grain Lyman #452424 LSWC bullet, and I shoot this load in both .455 Webley and .45 ACP. The only difference is the cartridge case, but my .45 ACP pistol is a mite tired, and you may find you need a lighter recoil spring; my ACP will cycle the 250-grain bullets at as low as 2.9 grains of Trail Boss, but will stovepipe or simply not eject a 200-grain LSWC with less than 3.6 grains of powder. I like the Trail Boss, it's not too smoky or stinky and in the Webley Mk.II case you'd be real hard-put to accidentally double-charge the powder. I also use 700X and I'm pretty sure I could fit a double powder charge of it in a Webley case, and I'm certain the Mk. VI would explode with such a load, so I'm sticking to Trail Boss; and using the same primers, powder and bullet in .45 ACP and .455 Webley really simplifies reloading. Again, if you're not an advanced enough reloader to determine safe loads on your own, please don't take my word for it!

Cheers!
Reply John
5:44 PM on August 22, 2013 
John S. says...
There are a few issues that I think can be addressed here regarding the modern use of the Webley Mk VI. First, as the other poster indicated, Webley Mk VIs were never issued in the 19th century. Second, yes, it is true the bore size of the .455 is just that and .451 and .452 inch bullets are undersized, but one can get .455 or .456 inch bullets sized for your Webley. On shaved or rather milled cylinder guns handloading .45 Auto-Rim cases with .454", 455" or .456" sized bullets to about 650 fps will allow the gun to be used with out moon clips. Using .455 sizing dies after firing .45 Auto-Rim or .45 ACP cases (downloaded to 650 fps) will also help with accuracy since the cases will be sized to the proper dimensions. Some blackpowder era Webleys were proofed for smokelss powder and can be shot with lower velocity loads, however, using blackpowder or pyrodex is probably better for these older guns. Shooting a Webley Mk VI with downloaded handloaded ammo with the correct sized bullets in the 250-270 grain weight range will also help with accuracy since the sights were set for a 265 grain bullet with the original load.

P.S. the above 3.2-grain powder load yields just over 600 fps with the 250-grain bullet.
Reply Earl Vastano
9:02 PM on October 30, 2013 
On typically the Internet
Reply Thomas Magwire
5:23 PM on November 2, 2013 
I have webley mk3 .455/476 shaved. I am in need of an extractor because the timing is off because of wear. Any one out there help me. Thank you, Thomas Magwire
Reply John S
1:12 AM on February 5, 2014 
I have found that the groove diameter of my Webley's barrel is 453" and the chamber throats are 454-455",so in my GUN the 454-455" bullets work just fine.
Reply Peet Roets
10:48 AM on March 22, 2014 
Hi Guys,

I have a .455 Webley Mk.1 that I want to sell. It has unfortunatately been modified to accommodate the 45 ACP Long, but does not take the clip, then is too thick. If you send me your e-mail address I can send some photo's.

Regards,

Peet
Eastern Cape Province
South Africa
[email protected]
Reply Amerson Bongay
2:06 PM on April 5, 2014 
My Father have a Mk. I .. Its not modified and all parts at original.. Its for sale. If you are interested send me your email and ill provide pictures or the gun. . Manila philippines.
Reply Rimkon
8:00 AM on April 9, 2016 
There are a few mistakes in this article ought to be tended to. Also, however I am certain a ton of "bores" were shot with a .455 Webley, I have an inclination that numerous Boers were not too exhausting in battle. This pistol likewise did not see administration amid the Zulu wars, since it was issued past the point of no return for that. Thanks!
Reply Jim
1:35 AM on May 28, 2017 
I have a Webley MK VI I believe is a commerical model as there are no government marking on it, no date on side only W&S over a winged bullet. my cylinder dia is .450, throat is .448 and barrel is .448. Is this normal for a commericial model as most webleys have a larger barrel dia than cylinder dia? any thoughts?