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Outgoing and incoming, some Armorer-Zen

First up - outgoing!

U.S. Army Pvt. Jeffery Hansen crouches after launching a 60mm mortar round from the mortar range on Forward Operating Base Lane in Zabul Province, Afghanistan, Feb. 15, 2009. Hansen is assigned to Company B, 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Adam Mancini
U.S. Army Pvt. Jeffery Hansen crouches after launching a 60mm mortar round from the mortar range on Forward Operating Base Lane in Zabul Province, Afghanistan, Feb. 15, 2009. Hansen is assigned to Company B, 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Adam Mancini

Next, incoming...  delivered by the FedEx guy yesterday, the newest projectile-expeller of Argghhh!  A 1902 Webley Mark IV "Bird Butt" pistol, so-called because of the shape of the hand-grip. 

Is this still a great country, or what?  Not that Brady, McCarthy, Schumer, Feinstein, Boxer, et. al. probably won't try to change that.  For the startled-that-you-can-get-firearms-through-the-mail (well, package delivery service in this case) I did sell my soul for an 03 FFL.  Though California, for example, still requires that 03 FFLs go through an 01 FFL (regular dealer) to receive a handgun because of their registration and reporting requirements.  Remember, boys and girls - all legal where *I* live, not necessarily where you live, depending on which Borg collective you might be a citizen of.


The Arsenal of Argghhh!'s newest acquisition - a 1902 Webley Mark IV "Bird-butt" Boer War era pistol.

This pistol was unofficially known as the "Boer War Model." This particular example is a commercial proofed and blued pistol that was probably a private-purchase pistol for a British officer or NCO during the Boer War period, and may have seen service in WWI as well.  The Mark IV was also approved by the War Department as a military pattern in 1899 (meaning it was purchased for issue to the troops, as well as approved for private purchase at a time when British officers were expected to provide their own personal sidearms) and was supplied in large numbers to British troops during the Boer War (deliverys being made between 1899-1902).   

This pistol (as were all Webley products) was a very robust revolver of the "top-break" variety (meaning it breaks open to load, vice the cylinder swinging out) and they were used by officers of all arms, and NCOs of the mounted arms. There were some 30,000 of them delivered to the British Army during the Boer War.  They will be found with either 4- or 6-inch barrels, this example having a 4-inch barrel. 

This pistol is marked  ".450/.455" which means it was considered safe to shoot both the .45 caliber rounds the British had in service during that time of transition from large-bore black powder to small-bore smokeless powder.  It will probably be a handful to shoot - and the bird-shaped butt, while easy to cross-draw, is less-than-optimal for controlling the pistol during rapid fire - a reason that you don't find that butt on current-production revolvers.

As I noted earlier, this pistol has commercial markings, with one exception - the hammer has the War Department's "Broad Arrow" property mark on it - which means this pistol probably had the hammer break and was repaired in the field - an indicator of military service at some point.

Or not. 

It could also be that the hammer was broken much later and a gunsmith or owner repaired it using surplus parts. These are mono-bloc hammers, meaning they're made from a single piece of metal, with the striker of the hammer protruding through the frame to hit the primer.  Repeated dry-firing of a pistol (or a rifle for that matter, especially if they weren't properly heat-treated during manufacture),  can break the firing pin/strikers.  Regardless of what the problem or when it occured, the hammer is the only part of the pistol with a military property mark on it. 

The lack of an "importers" mark on it suggests it was imported to the United States before the 1968 law was enacted, and like most of the Webley revolvers in this caliber I've seen (the Mark VI is far more common than the Mark IV) this one has had the cylinder "relieved," meaning a bit has been shaved off the back end, so that you can shoot the common .45 Auto (a rimless, vice rimmed per the British service cartridges of the era) cartridge through this weapon with the use of what are called "half moon" clips.  The .45 ACP round is shorter than the .455, and won't protrude sufficiently from the cylinder for the firing pin to reach the primer, without the clip.  Plus, if you did manage to fire it, the case expansion would pretty much jam the cartridge in the cylinder and you'd have to use a dowel to remove it.  Tedious, that, when on the range - not to mention dangerous should you be in a firefight.

While for the nonce it will reside with the other pistols in the display case, it will probably find itself at some point displayed with the Castle's Boer War New Zealand-captured Mauser rifle and Brit Long-Lee rifle in some sort of Boer War display.

12 Comments

Apropos of nothing, my mother had an uncle who lost fingers in the Boer War fighting for the Imperium.
 
Nice revovler, I have a Enfield Mk VI in .455, also a guy at my range casts the proper 265gr hollow based bullet for it. In SA it's a very accurate gun, the DA mode is not so nice.
 
Indeed, Colin.  The trigger pull is *stout*!

The Arsenal also has a Mark VI, which is a far more beat-up a pistol than the Mark IV.  I'll have to take some pics and toss 'em up here.
 
I've owned a 4" barrel Webley Mark VI for nearly 30 years now.  It appears to have been a postwar depot rebuild, because the original serials have been struck through with a chisel and new serials hand-stamped on various bits of frame. My Webley has also had the rear face of the cylinder relieved to shoot .45 ACP with clips.  Which makes it possible to load it with shot rounds for making the water moccasins more relaxed when I work down near our creek in the summer.  A useful property, that.

The wife, upon being introduced to the Webley not long after we were married promptly christened it "Roscoe, the World's Ugliest Handgun."   A couple years after that she used it to nail a running raccoon with one shot.  Hit him right behind the left shoulderblade as he was beating feet away from the back porch toward the undergrowth around the toolshed.  We've had lots of problems with rabid raccoons in our part of the county, and a raccoon that was coming up on the back porch in broad daylight made us a mite uncomfortable.

It's a nice, easy pistol to shoot single action.  The double-action trigger pull gives stiff a whole new meaning.  On the other hand, with no manual safety, a stiff double-action trigger pull isn't an entirely bad idea. 

And with full-moon clips, it empties and reloads about as quick as a modern revolver with a speed-loader.  And it's a .45...
 
The Mk IV is really not much worse to fire than the Mk VI but I do prefer the VI. Mine has a good (though stout, as you say) trigger pull and is accurate either single or double action. I once fired a full cylinder at a butter dish while out plinking; bounced the dish six times with six shots, rapid fire.

I've never tried that again, because I'm not that good a shot and the story will suffer if the second attempt was to reflect that.........

Good, solid pistols. Love the Wobblys.....
 
I'm a little confused, does "relieving" the cylinder make it impossible to fire the older cartridges?  Or is there enough room at the front of the cylinder for the rimmed cartridges to sit a little farther forward?
 
You can fire all the cartridges (but you aren't going to find many .455 Webley cartridges around that are serviceable to shoot that aren't also expensive).  Very little metal is removed from the cylinder.
 
Cool.

And if you want to invest in the equipment to draw your own brass and swage your own bullets, you could shoot all the .455 Webley you want...
 
Josh, that makes me wonder if one needs a Feddle manufacturing license if all he does is draw brass into empty cases, and does not put powder, bullets and primers into them.
 
Purty Baby Picture!!!
 
Josh, that makes me wonder if one needs a Feddle manufacturing license if all he does is draw brass into empty cases, and does not put powder, bullets and primers into them.

Ummm...I don't know...I always thought you didn't need a license if you were making ammunition strictly for personal use?  I guess I'm not really up on the paperwork involved...

But I don't quite see how it's relevant anyway, as the empty cases aren't much good until you add the primers, powder, and bullets...unless you're suggesting that one person draw all the brass to provide for all of the other Webley collectors to handload?
 
Fiochi and Starline make brass for the Webely and Lee has the molds as do a few other makers. I was justed quoted $41CDN for 100 brass casing, the Fiochi loaded goes for $61 per 50 up here.