455 Webley…This may have been your grand-dads revolver!

Webley Cover 3s

In 1887, the British Army was searching for a sidearm to replace their .476 Enfield Mk I & Mk II Revolvers. Webley & Scott, who were already well known gun makers tendered the .455 calibre Webley Self-Extracting Revolver for trials. As it worked out the military was impressed enough with the revolver to adopt them on 8 November 1887 as the “Pistol, Webley, Mk I”.

The Webley revolver went through a number of changes, culminating in my gun the Mk VI, which was in production between 1915 and 1923. While the 455 Webley revolvers were retired from British military service in 1947, a great many were in use by constabularies around the the British Empire well into the 1960’s!

It is worth noting that the .455 Webley is one of those guns (like the 1894 Winchester lever gun) that made the transition from the Black Powder loads of its birth into the modern era of higher pressure smokeless ammunition. This is a tribute to the engineering and build quality of these fine old guns.

Having owned two other Webley Mark VI “self-extracting” revolvers I was delighted to learn (after the match concluded) that this example was very accurate. Like nearly every example that made the journey to the colonies, these wonderful old tools had their cylinders “shaved” to accept our commonly available 45acp ammo. That is where the issues with accuracy (and potentially safety) come in. 455 Webley bores generally run from .454”-.455” and factory 45acp bullets run .451-.452”. Undersize bullets don’t generally shoot very well and factory 45acp ammo is loaded much hotter than 455 Webley. Both issues can be overcome with careful cartridge selection and of course…reloading your own.

Watch the video and see if you can tell if I had any fun spending the day on the range with this fine old war horse!

19 Comments On This Article

  1. Good video but low info. These had to be lead bullets. Factory loads? Source?
    I have one with a lot of cylinder play when cocked. Unaltered. Anyone specialize in smithing these?
    I set myself a goal to own a Mk VI the first time I saw Lawrence of Arabia. Also the Enfield SMLE. I believe Lawrence accidentally shot his favorite Mehari (camel) in the back of the head during a cavalry charge on the Turks with his Webley. Poor trigger control.
    455 handloading recommendations, anyone? Oh yeah, Indiana Jones used one of these in at least one film but during the sequence the handgun changes from a Webley to a Smith or Colt swing-out and back again.
    Watch to the very end for more information. The word “err” is pronounced “ur”, not “air”. It’s “airrur” but “ur”.ok?
    Best wishes to the author’s wife. In my prayers. The Old Curmudgeon

    • Patrick E. Kelley

      Sorry, I guess I should write a script rather than just hit record. Not lead bullets, Federal Gold Medal Match 185 SWC @ 760 fps. I know of no specialty smiths, but any one worthy of the title should be able to diagnose and repair. You have a sharp eye mister, bet you are a good shot!

  2. I am very interested in your article on 455 Webleys. My dad owns a snub nose version but we are unable to find ammunition. Is there a source or must we reload to get some? We do not have any supplies such as cartridges, etc. Do you have a source for those supplies, if not a source for finished ammunition. Your response is greatly appreciated. Thanks!

    Gary

  3. I’m 76 yrs old & have the Mark VI that belonged to my Mother. It was made by Enfield & marked 1926. Love to shoot it. Have no idea the value of my revolver. Excellent condition. Enjoyed your video!

  4. My question was going to be about the .45 acp ammo fired from these old Webleys but you addressed it nicely in this article. Used to own one and I wish I had it now. Nice revolvers!

    • SMITH AND WESSON WAS OWNED BY BRITS AT ONE TIME.
      That was during time they agreed to help gov register all their sales names and forced dealers to do same on all gun brand sales

  5. This was a particularly interesting article (and video) for me as I have an Enfield No.2 Mk1* that my father passed down to me. He picked it up in Europe when he was stationed there in WWII. It’s an exact copy of the Webley but chambered in the lighter S&W .38/200 round and is a blast to shoot (no pun intended) and ammo is readily available. Come to think of it, I could use a mental health day myself.

  6. ***
    There are some internet articles with photos of .455 Webley revolvers modified for .45 acp with photos of the cylinder with a couple of blown out sideways chambers! .45 acp pressures are around 18000 psi–way too high for the old pistol. Even the .45 Long Colt load is higher pressure than the Webley cartridge–around 12000 psi. Don’t shoot either in a modified Webley.
    ***
    John Bibb
    ***

  7. Fugly will still kill you!!! I have a MII (1894-1897 first model for smokeless) and form my own brass from .45 Schofield (Star-Line brass) cut to .760 and the rim ‘thinned’ from the case side so the primer pocket is not affected. I use a drill press with the cartridge held in the chuck (lightly) and with a half round file I pull down until the rim is thin enough.

    I avoid the ‘converted’ .45 auto versions. If you are going to collect them then get the ‘real-deal’.

  8. Make .455 out of .45 LC cases. Shave front of rim to .455 case specs, cut to length and reload for cheap fun. Mine was a import from India, love it.

  9. Sometime in 1944 I traded my shockingly loose 1911 for a Webley Mark IV and a handful of .38-200 British issue ammo. I remember my surprise how accurate and easy to shoot this wartime issue topbreak was.

    20 years ago I saw another one on a chance visit to a small country store in the wilds of Florida.

    Some previous owner had nickel plated it beautifully [98% remaining] and the store owner was finally persuaded to let it go for something less than 100 bucks. Back home on my own range and with S&W .38 ammo [same specs as the original British .38-200, but with lighter weight] the old warhorse produced constant tight pattern, even out to 50 yards. It immediately earned –and kept to this day- its permanent place on my nightstand.
    Fast forward to 2017. I had sold farm in Pennsylvania, and not been to a shooting range for some 10 years. My kids, as a present for my 89th birthday, offered to take me to a local pistol range and I gratefully accepted for me and my Mark IV.

    Now you have to imagine this scene: Saturday, shooting range full of wonder-9’s, 10mm’s, yea, ‘45’s- most around the half thousand mark, everybody shooting at 10 or 20 yards.
    After my kids shot their Glocks they wheeled me up to the bench and my neighbors, as I unwrapped my Webley from the newspaper I had carried it into the range -paused for a moment, the range officer came up behind me, I popped in 6 S&W’s .38 and cranked the target out to 40 yards. It really got quiet when I brought back the target, noted 2 flyers, but could cover the reaming 4 with my hand.
    Old weapons, like old people, sometimes can surprise you.

  10. I have a MkVI I bought way back in 1965, also converted to 45ACP. I loaded for it without much success until recently. I now use 45Auto Rim brass exclusively. I didn’t have any suitable bullets for this gun, wanting something soft and of a largeenough size to better fit the barrel. Lo and behold, I found a supply of 45cal TC Maxi-Hunter muzzle loader bullets which measure .454″ and weighing 255gr. I found a load using AA #5 powder, and while tight in my bullet seating die, I was able to seat and crimp them with the top lube groove outside of the case. This was a mild load with an average velocity of 628fps. It groups from 1.205 to 2.91 inches at 30 feet, but about 3″ left of center; this gun puts everything left of center. If I can find a spare stirrup latch, I may experiment with welding and re-cutting the rear sight notch to bring the groups to center. These loads look funny, but they work well and this old shooter is just plain fun.

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