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Old September 14, 2013, 04:46 PM   #1
Doc Hoy
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Bristish Constabulary Revolver

Picked this thing up on the Gunbroker for 25.00 plus shipping (ten bucks)

The revolver is marked "British Constabulary"

The revolver is complete and appears to function pretty close to normal.

But if you look close at the photo, you can see the crack in the frame just forward of the hammer.





I do not intend to get it back to shootable condition but I want to get a good gunsmith to repair the frame.

It is a .38 which was build sometime around 1880.

The revolver is too small for the .38 Special case but in terms of diameter the case fits perfectly.

This is double action revolver which has an odd way of locking up. When the hammer is drawn back to full cock the hand and bolt lock the cylinder in battery. When the trigger is pulled to fire the weapon, the cylinder can move freely until the trigger is pulled back to about the half cock position. Then the bolt moves into the frame opening and stops the cylinder in battery. It may be that the half cock detent on the hammer is rubbed off. But the revolver really acts confidently.
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Old September 14, 2013, 05:07 PM   #2
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Coupla additional remarks on this revolver

It is a dead ringer for a British Constabulary Revolver manufactured by Swinfen sometime around 1880. There is an "HM" inside an oval on the right side of the frame which is absent on photos of this style revolver I have seen. I can not find the serial number.

The revolver appears to be complete with the exception of a lanyard ring which is present in some of the photos of other revolvers.

This one is nickel plated but not all BCRs were plated.

The action has a strange way of locking up.

The photo I included shows the rest position of the hammer. Note that it appears not to e all the way forward and this appears to be right since if it were, it would contact the primer of the round in battery. The hammer is resting against some sort of positive stop to prevent accidental discharge from bumping the hammer.

In this position the cylinder turns freely. The bolt and hand are both withdrawn. There is no bolt ring on the cylinder.

when the trigger is about half way through it's travel.

I could not find a serial number on the revolver.
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Old September 14, 2013, 05:15 PM   #3
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I removed the grip from the revolver

I am impressed. The grip is made of ebony or some other such very dark, very hard wood. It appears not to be colored unless it was carefully colored over every surface, even the rough unfinished surfaces under the frame.

The grip frame is marked with "MB" under the grip.

This does not appear to be a cheaply made revolver, but I stand by to be corrected on that score.

More reading to do.
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Old September 14, 2013, 06:02 PM   #4
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"British Constabulary" was a name used on Belgian revolvers. If you look on the rear of the cylinder, you might find an oval marking with the letters, E L G, the Liege proof mark.

My opinion is that you would be better off NOT having that gun repaired. The reason is that broken it is obvious that it should not be fired, where if it is repaired, someone might try to fire it and be injured.

Also, that frame is cast iron; it really can't be welded and would have to be brazed; the odds are high that anyone trying to repair it will totally destroy it.
Call it an interesting paperweight.

Jim
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Old September 14, 2013, 06:58 PM   #5
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James...

As you say, the proof mark is there.

I am going to have it looked at by a guy who has good knowledge of antiques

I think it is likely he will tell me as you did not to repair the frame.
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Old September 14, 2013, 09:30 PM   #6
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The caliber is most likely a 38S&W black powder I have a Hopkins Allen made in 1882 in that caliber.
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Old September 14, 2013, 10:22 PM   #7
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Yes I think so...

And I also think I inaccurately said the revolver was manuf by Swinfen, but distributed is correct.
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Old September 15, 2013, 07:01 AM   #8
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Looks very similar to the various "Bulldogs" I've had over the years.

Doc - I'm thinking it was on Proofhouse (may be wrong) where there were Belgium proof marks - or you could Google it. I have a Colt clone that was made in Belgium in 32 WCF that was my Great-uncle's - I was at least able to date it somewhat as if I remember correctly, the proof on it made it a post 1893 (or similar date). You might check that out and see if you can locate the proofs that are on your pistol - at least give you a pre or post date era.
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Old September 15, 2013, 08:15 AM   #9
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Quote:
Also, that frame is cast iron;
I would think it would be wrought instead of cast.
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Old September 15, 2013, 12:30 PM   #10
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Wrought iron, IIRC, is very brittle and should never be used in a pressure containment mode.

Ok for fences and patio furniture, but not guns.

I could be mistaken.

(Edit: See posts 11 and 13; I was mistaken.)

I agree with James K, a faux "repair" could lead to some future owner trying something stupid.

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Old September 15, 2013, 01:48 PM   #11
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Quote:
Wrought iron, IIRC, is very brittle and should never be used in a pressure containment mode.

Ok for fences and patio furniture, but not guns.
Wrought iron is malleable and can be worked and welded, cast is brittle and cannot. Colt revolver frames were made out of wrought iron up until the smokeless period.
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Old September 15, 2013, 03:42 PM   #12
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The caliber is more than likely .380 ( not 380 ACP ) British. A popular European round based on the 38 Colt.
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Old September 15, 2013, 04:55 PM   #13
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Looked it up, and Hawg Haggen is correct that wrought iron was used in early firearms, such as using several rods and hooping and welding them together to form an early "barrel."

Bronze seems to have been safer to use, and more commonly used, prior to steel.

"Malleable" cast iron was commonly used, not too long ago, to make engine blocks and cylinder heads. Most cast irons are not "malleable" cast, and are more brittle than wrought iron.

Sorry for any veer, but I found this interesting. I still wonder what metal was actually used to make the OP's revolver.
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Old September 15, 2013, 05:29 PM   #14
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Wrought iron was more expensive than cast iron, so the cheap guns were usually cast. I don't know of any non-destructive test to determine the character of the metal in that revolver.

Jim
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Old September 15, 2013, 05:47 PM   #15
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Doc - the nice thing is that these are small and really display nice . . . keep making those nice display cabinets - you can fit a lot of 'em in one!
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Old September 15, 2013, 08:31 PM   #16
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Cartridge

Quote:
The caliber is more than likely .380 ( not 380 ACP ) British. A popular European round based on the 38 Colt.
I cannot find a ".380 British" cartridge (not in Hoyem, not in Datig, not in There is the .380-200 which was a British version of the .38 S&W aka the .38 Colt New Police. Is that the cartridge being referred to? It was a common chambering in pistols of this sort.
The caliber is nominally .362".
It could be the ".380 Revolver" originating in 1868 and similar to the .38 Short Colt (and to the .38 S&W). Caliber is nominally .375.

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Old September 15, 2013, 09:32 PM   #17
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My error, it is not labeled the 380 British, only the 380 Short and Long Revolver cartridge. Cartridges of the World, 10 Edition, revised, page 312.
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Old September 18, 2013, 05:29 PM   #18
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Yep, .380 revolver, which used a heeled bullet like the Colt cartridge.

I don't even know where you can ammo for one.
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Old September 18, 2013, 09:41 PM   #19
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I don't think the OP cares about ammo since the frame is cracked, but the old .380 revolver ammo can be made from .38 Short or Long Colt, .38 Special or .357 by trimming the case to .70" and thinning the rim from the front to headspace properly.

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Old September 19, 2013, 07:37 AM   #20
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The big problem is bullets. The .380 revolver cartridges used a heeled bullet, and I don't know of anyone making molds for such these days.

Years ago a friend who was into all things British managed to gloam himself an early but relatively good condition double action in .380 Long by.... Tranter? Webley & Pryse? Exact make escapes me, but it was British and overwrought in a very Victorian fashion.

Nominally they were supposed to be about .372-.375 bore diameter, but this one was a lot closer to .380 due to years of age and wear. It was probably oversized to begin with given that it still had passable rifling in much of the bore.

He decided he wanted to reload for it just to try it out, and asked for my help since at that time he wasn't a reloader.

First we tried hollow skirt LWCs. It seemed like they were expanding enough to engage the rifling, but they were still tumbling like mad, and with no grease grooves, bore fouling became a real issue.


The next step was to try casting something more appropriate. We didn't have a hollow base mold in anything near the correct caliber, so we ended up casting pure lead 255-gr. bullets originally intended for .38-55 black powder cartridge rifle (think BIG grease grooves). They came out of the mold at something like .3755, IIRC.

We shortened them and cut a shank using the lathe and ended up with bullets around 170-180 grains. Very labor intensive, and until we got the hang of it, we ruined more than we created.

We hoped that the soft lead would upset enough to make up for the difference when they were fired.

Big. Fat. Failure.

It was pretty evident from a couple of recovered bullets that they were simply skidding down the bore and not upsetting.

So, we tried shortening the bullets and drilling a BIG, DEEP hollow in the ass end. I think those bullets ended up in the 140-gr. range because we chewed them out so much.

But, that was the ticket. Accuracy at 25 yards was still in the 20 to 30 inch range, but we could get all of the shots on the paper. Usually.

At 5 yards it was in the 4 to 6 inch range, which I found to be quite surprising, but on examining a couple of the bullets that we recovered from the trap, it was looking as if the skirt was blowing out unevenly when it left the bore and that was throwing the bullets for a curve.

It was a fun exercise, but man we wasted a lot of time on it!
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Old September 19, 2013, 12:23 PM   #21
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Couple of you have said....I rightly so

That if the frame is repaired for cosmetic reasons the revolver could fall into the hands of a person who tries to shoot it with whatever cartridge will fit in the chamber. And without resort to having it checked out before shooting it.

This of course is true.

I'll keep this revolver with no intention of ever selling it, but that discounts the possibility that I cross over to the other side and my heirs sell it or shoot it.

I have a decision to make here and I do appreciate all of the input.

I will certainly talk it over with the gunsmith who does the work on it.

But I must confess to you all that I may get the thing fixed (if it is fixable) and just take the additional precautions to reduce the likelihood that it ever gets fired to as near zero as is doable.

Indeed I am now up to five cartridge revolvers which should not be shot. All but one of them are shootable but not safely so. They are wall hangers and conversation pieces, which only a fool would try to shoot.

Problem is, the world is full of fools.
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Old September 19, 2013, 09:22 PM   #22
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Many years ago, Winchester sold bullets for the .38 S&W that were heel type and miked out at .380". I never loaded them for a cartridge revolver but they worked great in a .36 Navy Colt.

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Old September 19, 2013, 09:31 PM   #23
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but the 38 Smith and Wesson never used a heel type: bullet. it was loaded originally with a . 361 bullet of standard modern type.
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Old September 20, 2013, 05:34 AM   #24
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Bullets

Correct....no heeled bullets for the .38 S&W.
As to finding heeled bullets for obsolete cartridges like the .380 Revolver, try GAD Custom Cartridges.
http://gadcustomcartridges.com/

Pete
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Old September 20, 2013, 06:57 AM   #25
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Whoa!

Nice source!
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