In July 1879, the Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield was ordered to produce a self-extracting revolver to compete against foreign models for an upcoming British Army test. Enfield’s first handgun, it was accepted, but soon found “a clumsy weapon” and, within a decade was replaced by a Webley-pattern break top design.
The mighty Webley .455 Mark VI, seen here at the Berman Museum in Anniston, Alabama with an aftermarket Pritchard-Greener bayonet, was the standard British Army revolver of the Great War-era. (Photo: Chris Eger)
For the next almost 50 years, Webley had a lock on the British sidearm trade but, in 1932, this changed after Enfield was ordered to cough up a second revolver design in a short-cased .38 caliber chambering, and did so with a model that looked a lot like the Webley.
The Enfield No. 2 was born and was soon made worse by the Enfield No. 2 Mk. 1* standard.
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To paraphrase Boris the Blade, these heavy duty mid-19th Century handguns brought a certain reliability to the fight.
Sold at a recent Rock Island Auction for $2,500, these two wheel guns abound with personality.
The top is a .45 caliber copy of a Smith & Wesson top break cartridge revolver with an integral and non-detachable knife. The bottom gun is a nickel finished Deane, Adams & Deane W. Tranter’s patent double trigger percussion revolver with a six-inch octagonal barrel in .44 caliber.
Either way, they look right out of a steampunk graphic novel. Perhaps the new owner will box them for display alongside a monocle and some vintage mustache wax.
Perhaps no other revolver screams ‘British’ louder than the .455-caliber Webley six shooter. This wheelgun was the go-to sidearm of the King’s military for generations and once you look at it, you can see why.
The British Army had been in the revolver game for more than thirty years before the Webley came on the scene. Starting with the Adams revolver of the 1850s (models of which popped up in the US Civil War) and moving onto the disliked and slow to reload Enfield .476-caliber six-shooter, a reliable handgun was increasingly needed in the Victorian era. This was the days when young British officers on colonial duty in far off and exotic lands needed sturdy, and effective firepower to stop charges of irate local warrior types in situations where numbers were very much relative. For instance, in the Battle of Isandlwana in 1879, 1800 British and colonial troops faced 20,000 Zulu warriors and were overwhelmed.
The redcoats needed a capable handgun that could be reloaded ricky tick, so they turned to Webley…
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