The Webley is a top-break revolver with automatic extraction; breaking the revolver open for reloading also operates the extractor, removing the spent cartridges from the cylinder. The Webley Mk I service revolver was adopted in 1887, but it was a later version, the Mk IV, which rose to prominence during the Boer War of 1899–1902. The Mk VI, introduced in 1915 during the First World War, is perhaps the best-known model.
Webley service revolvers are among the most powerful top-break revolvers ever produced, firing the .455 Webley cartridge. Although the .455 calibre Webley is no longer in military service, the .38/200 Webley Mk IV variant is still in use as a police sidearm in a number of countries.
The British company Webley and Scott (P. Webley & Son before merger with W & C Scott) produced a range of revolvers from the late 19th to late 20th centuries. Early models such as the Webley-Green army model 1879 and the Webley-Pryse model were first made during the 1870s. The best-known are the range of military revolvers, which were in service use across two World Wars and numerous colonial conflicts, but Webley & Scott also produced a number of short-barrel solid-frame revolvers, including the Webley RIC (Royal Irish Constabulary) model and the British Bulldog revolver, designed to be carried in a coat pocket for self-defence.
In 1887, the British Army was searching for a revolver to replace the largely unsatisfactory Enfield Mk I & Mk II Revolvers, and Webley & Scott, who were already very well known makers of quality guns and had sold many pistols on a commercial basis to military officers and civilians alike, tendered the .455 calibre Webley Self-Extracting Revolver for trials. The military was suitably impressed with the revolver (it was seen as a vast improvement over the Enfield revolvers then in service, which lacked a practical extraction system), and it was adopted on 8 November 1887 as the "Pistol, Webley, Mk I". The initial contract called for 10,000 Webley revolvers, at a price of £3/1/1- each, with at least 2,000 revolvers to be supplied within eight months.
The Webley revolver went through a number of changes, culminating in the Mk VI, which was in production between 1915 and 1923, finally being retired in 1947, although the Webley Mk IV .38/200 remained in service until 1963 alongside the Enfield No. 2 Mk I revolver. Commercial versions of all Webley service revolvers were also sold to the civilian market, along with a number of similar designs (such as the Webley-Government and Webley-Wilkinson) that were not officially adopted for service, but were nonetheless purchased privately by military officers.
Webley revolvers in military serviceEdit
Boer WarEditThe Webley Mk IV, chambered in .455 Webley, was introduced in 1899 and soon became known as the "Boer War Model", on account of the large numbers of officers and Non-commissioned officers who purchased it on their way to take part in the conflict. The Webley Mk IV served alongside a large number of other handguns, including the Mauser C96 "Broomhandle" (as used by Winston Churchill during the War), earlier Beaumont-Adams cartridge revolvers, and other top-break revolvers manufactured by gunmakers such as William Tranter, and Kynoch.
First World WarEdit
The standard-issue Webley revolver at the outbreak of the First World War was the Webley Mk V (adopted 9 December 1913), but there were considerably more Mk IV revolvers in service in 1914, as the initial order for 20,000 Mk V revolvers had not been completed when hostilities began. On 24 May 1915, the Webley Mk VI was adopted as the standard sidearm for British and Commonwealth troops and remained so for the duration of the First World War, being issued to officers, airmen, naval crews, boarding parties, trench raiders, machine-gun teams, and tank crews. The Mk VI proved to be a very reliable and hardy weapon, well suited to the mud and adverse conditions of trench warfare, and several accessories were developed for the Mk VI, including a bayonet (made from a converted French Gras bayonet), a speedloader device ("Prideaux Device"), and a stock allowing for the revolver to be converted into a carbine.
Second World WarEdit
The official service pistol for the British military during the Second World War was the Enfield No. 2 Mk I .38/200 calibre revolver, but owing to a critical shortage of handguns, a number of other weapons were also adopted (first practically, then officially) to alleviate the shortage. As a result, both the Webley Mk IV in .38/200 and the .455 calibre Webley Mk VI were issued to personnel during the war.
The Webley Mk VI (.455) and Mk IV (.38/200) revolvers were still issued to British and Commonwealth Forces after the Second World War; there were now extensive stockpiles of the revolvers in military stores. An armourer stationed in West Germany recalled (admittedly tongue-in-cheek) that by the time they were officially retired in 1963, the ammunition allowance was "two cartridges per man, per year." This lack of ammunition was instrumental in keeping the Enfield and Webley revolvers in use so long: they were not wearing out because they were not being used.
The Webley Mk IV .38 revolver was not completely replaced by the Browning Hi-Power until 1963, and saw combat in the Korean War, the Suez Crisis, Malayan Emergency, and the Rhodesian Bush War. Many Enfield No. 2 Mk I revolvers were still floating about in British Military service as late as 1970.
The (Royal) Hong Kong Police and Royal Singaporean Police were issued Webley Mk III & Mk IV .38/200 revolvers from the 1930s. Singaporean police Webleys were equipped with safety catches, a rather unusual feature in a revolver. These were gradually retired in the 1970s as they came in for repair, and were replaced with Smith & Wesson Model 10 .38 revolvers. The London Metropolitan Police were also known to use Webley revolvers, as were most colonial police units until just after the Second World War. There may still be some police units with Webley Mk IV revolvers that, whilst not issued, are still present in the armoury.
The Ordnance Factory Board of India still manufactures .380 Revolver Mk IIz cartridges, as well as a .32 caliber revolver (also known as IOF Mk1) with 2-inch (51 mm) barrel that is clearly based on the Webley Mk IV .38 service pistol.  Military service .455 Webley revolver marks and models
There were six different marks of .455 calibre Webley British Government Model revolvers approved for British military service at various times between 1887 and the end of the First World War:
- Mk I: The first Webley self-extracting revolver adopted for service, officially adopted 8 November 1887, with a 4-inch (100 mm) barrel and "bird's beak" style grips. Mk I* was a factory upgrade of Mk I revolvers to match the Mk II.
- Mk II: Similar to the Mk I, with modifications to the hammer and grip shape, as well as a hardened steel shield for the blast-shield. Officially adopted 21 May 1895, with a 4-inch (100 mm) barrel.
- Mk III: Identical to Mk II, but with modifications to the cylinder cam and related parts. Officially adopted 5 October 1897, but never issued.
- Mk IV: The "Boer War" Model. Manufactured using much higher quality steel and case hardened parts, with the cylinder axis being a fixed part of the barrel and modifications to various other parts, including a re-designed blast-shield. Officially adopted 21 July 1899, with a 4-inch (100 mm) barrel.
- Mk V: Similar to the Mk IV, but with cylinders 0.12-inch (3.0 mm) wider to allow for the use of nitrocellulose propellant-based cartridges. Officially adopted 9 December 1913, with a 4-inch (100 mm) barrel, although some models produced in 1915 had 5-inch (130 mm) and 6-inch (150 mm) barrels.
- Mk VI: Similar to the Mk V, but with a squared-off "target" style grip (as opposed to the "bird's-beak" style found on earlier marks and models) and a 6-inch (150 mm) barrel. Officially adopted 24 May 1915, and also manufactured by RSAF Enfield under the designation Pistol, Revolver, Webley, No. 1 Mk VI from 1921–1926.
Type Service Revolver
Place of origin United Kingdom
In service 1887–1963
Wars First World War, Second World War, Korean War, British colonial conflicts, numerous others
Designer Webley & Scott
Manufacturer Webley & Scott, RSAF Enfield
Number built approx 125,000
Weight 2.4 lb (1.1 kg), unloaded
Length 11.25 in. (286 mm)
Cartridge .455 Webley Mk II
Calibre .455 Webley
Action Double Action revolver
Rate of fire 20–30 rounds/minute
Muzzle velocity 620 ft/s (190 m/s)
Effective range 50 yd
Feed system 6-round cylinder
Sights Fixed front blade and rear notch