View Full Version : .455
July 11, 2008, 04:10 PM
Sorry this is a duplicate thread, I posted this in the Revolver section not realizing that it should have gone here.
A frind of mine come into possession of a Smith and Wesson revolver. The markings on the barrel say .455 Smith and Wesson and the grip shows 69457. I assume this is the serial number. Can anyone shed some light on this revolver. What is a .455, what is the ammo called? When were these produced?
Thanks for your time.
July 11, 2008, 04:39 PM
.455 is .455 Webley, the British service revolver cartridge from 1887 til 1926 and alongside .38s and 9mms after that through WW II.
A Smith & Wesson .455 most likely was made on contract during WW I. The Brititsh could not produce enough Webley revolvers to satisfy the need so they bought guns in the calibre from S&W and Colt.
HOWEVER, after WW II, a lot of .455s were altered to shoot either .45 Long Colt or .45 ACP and .45 Auto Rim so they would sell better as surplus back in the United States. He should know what he has before trying to buy ammunition. .455 is available but not cheap.
Come in to possession of...
Interesting weasel words. Can't tell if he bought it or got it by hook or crook.
July 11, 2008, 05:35 PM
Smith & Wesson made two different models of the Hand Ejector for British and Canadian service, early in WWI. The first version was what we now call a Triple Lock, and it was found to be too easily fouled with mud and junk in the trenches, and was replaced by the Hand Ejector Mk. II, which deleted the crane lock, and the lug surrounding the ejector rod. The Mk. II was the gun upon which the U.S. M1917 revolver was based, differing only in the chambering and a shortening of the barrel from 6.5" to 5.5". I have a Mk. II that has been converted to .45 ACP/AR via the fitting of a M1917 cylinder. While it allows shooting of the common U.S. caliber, it does not address the barrel's .457" groove diameter, which is not really compatible with .452" bullets. I have hand-loaded .454" bullets and gotten decent accuracy out to 10 yards.
July 14, 2008, 12:04 PM
How he came into possession of the gun is none of yours or anyone else’s business and that is why I termed it the way I did, but since you take into question mine and my friends character I guess I'll explain:rolleyes: His father recently passed away and he "came into possession" of the gun as part of the estate. I did post the serial number...........
Thanks for the information regarding the gun, how can one tell if it has been modified to accept other cartridges? Everything looks original. I guess I'll have him take it to a gunsmith and have it looked over before he fires it to confirm what it shoots and the integrity of the gun. This is probably the best approach as he cannot remember the last time it was shot, although he can remember his dad shooting it when he was a kid ~ 30+ years ago.
July 14, 2008, 03:55 PM
Hey Indy, I see you are in Alberta. Possibly it was a "bring back" from WWI service by someone. You should find some martial markings on it, either tons of "proof" marks and stamps in numerous places if it was a surplus export from England, or very little if it was a "take home." Very, very few were sold commercially and usually not in .455 caliber. It should also have a swivel for a lanyard on the butt.
Also, a few hundred were used in RCMP service in the teens until ??? - but those were in .45LC to start, not modified. To tell if it's been modified, look at the cylinder face:
This one has been carefully modified to .45 Long Colt. There were two ways to do this:
1) rebating the cylinders slightly (about .015") to allow for the thicker rimmed .45LC cases to drop in. The original S/N is still visible on the cylinder face.
2) the entire cylinder face and ejector star could be machined down the same amount - your cylinder face will be either in the white, or reblued and have no S/N. This is also how they were usually modified for .45acp.
3) Also, determine if the cylinders have been lengthened to accommodate longer cases like .45LC - either you'll see some machining marks, or just drop test cases in and see what fits.
It's sort of a toss up - if its still .455 that adds collector value, but generally only in higher finish grades. If it is .45acp or .45LC, you will have a much easier time getting ammo and thus likely shoot it and enjoy it more. Use lighter loads of either the acp or LC ammo, this is pre-heat treatment days of manufacture by S&W.
Also, note that if it is converted to .45LC, you should hunt up the "old" .45LC ammo, like RickB pointed out. This was the bullet diameter standard before WWII - .454. This is the same as the .455 bullet diameter - .454". Smaller diameter .45acp bullets or modern .45LC bullets at .452 will be slightly undersized for the barrel. I believe most of these were converted in the 20s as I've seem them offered for sale at that time. Also, the vast array of British export proofs on them, which were applied to surplus guns leaving the country in "official" channels usually differ in some details vs. the Lend-Lease .38 S&W's done after WWII.
Your gun is commonly known as the "S&W .455 Mk. II Hand Ejector, 2nd Model" and was built in 1917 most likely. As Rick already said, the difference between the 1st Model and 2nd Model was the locking lug on the yoke/frame, and the full-length ejector shroud - these were deleted on the 2nd Model. People will just refer to them as a S&W "455" or "455 HE" - since no other S&W model was ever made routinely in that caliber (I think a few .44 HE's were, but very odd limited runs), there's no real possibility of confusion by just citing the caliber to indicate the gun.
If the gun appears is in good working order, you determine the caliber, and it can pass a "check out," I would not worry about test firing it with suitable ammunition. I enjoy shooting mine periodically as do many others owners I have communicated with.
July 15, 2008, 11:08 AM
Great information, thanks for all the reply's about this revolver. My friend is taking it in next week and hopefully the gunsmith can provide some ammo as well, it seems that the ammo is few and far between up here in Canada. We have tracked some ammo down but it's $175 per 50 rounds, which seems pretty steep compared to reloading. I have reloading equipment so he may decide to go that route.
July 16, 2008, 12:28 AM
So did you actually determine it's still .455 and not altered?
Fiochi makes .455 and it's NO WHERE near that expensive. Somebody else announced earlier this year they were going to start making .455, but I can't recall who, so there are actually now at least two large commercial makers.
July 16, 2008, 02:06 PM
I can't tell if it is in original form or not, there do not seem to be any additional markings at all on the revolver, possibgly indicating that it has been modified. We'll see what the Gunsmith comes up and I will also show him this thread if need be. (I hope I don't have to)
The only ammo in Canada that I can find is 175.00 for 50 rounds. If you know of anything cheaper here in Canada that would be great.
July 16, 2008, 02:28 PM
FWIW, .455 Webley cases can be made from .45 Colt, .45 Auto Rim, or .45 Schofield by turning the rim down from the front and trimming to length. The job is a bit tedious, but not bad for 50 or so rounds.
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