View Full Version : The British choice of weapons

February 6, 2012, 06:05 PM
I read some stuff on this site about whether or not to load 5 or 6 bullets in a colt or any other revolver, holster choices etc. I thought some may be interested in a British perspective. Consider this: 1878 a British officer tired of killing the queens enemies retires to America. He will be an excellent rifle shot, because it was his job to tell the squadies at what range to set their sights. As officers could buy their own weapons he could bring with him a Webley bulldog in 442 RIC calibre. If he did he would be used to loading all the cylinders, because its mechanism is such that it holds the hammer away from the chambered round. Furthermore he would normally carry it in a flapped cross draw holster.

Upon unarmed arrival in America, he may decide to buy a local pistol type. The Colt cloverleaf can be loaded with 4 rounds and the hammer let down between the chambers. A Merwin Hulbert in 44-40 or a Belgian copy of the Webley would be the more logical choice.

If taken by the wanderlust and deciding to moving west he would require a more effective pistol. I don't know how the barrel latch on the S&W number 3 works but it looks flimsy. My choice and probably his would have been a Colt Single Action Army in 44-40. The Colt has a safety notch to hold the hammer away from the chambered round and is secure in it's flapped holster. Any pistol is a defensive weapon. Without his squadies round him he would probably buy an 1876 Winchester 45-75 (I would go for the carbine).

Our hero now has three weapons requiring different ammunition. So what?
The Winchester has power close to the Martini-Henry he would be used to, and when trouble starts this is his weapon of choice (so buy 5 boxes of 20 rounds). With this weapon all disputes are settled, the Colt is for when the Winchester is empty, yet the problem is too close and so far unresolved. I've never understood how (in westerns) horses saddles, rifles and other kit are left outside saloons for people to steal.

While having a quiet beer in a saloon, his cross draw holster is there for all to see (buy 3 boxes of 20 rounds). The Webley Bulldog for emergencies only, needs only 1 box of twenty rounds. The Webley could be tucked into a neat flapped shoulder holster.

Doc Hoy
February 7, 2012, 06:18 AM
We wonder about the "westerns" too.

When I tie my horse to the rail I just lock the doors.

February 7, 2012, 10:14 AM
When sudden death is a very real result of stealing, people tend to leave other folks stuff alone.

February 7, 2012, 10:39 AM
I always wondered how they carried everything they ever needed in two small saddlebags and a bed roll.

February 7, 2012, 10:49 AM
There's no way I could be "taken by wanderlust" and just ride off into the sunset with 5 shells in my rifle, 5 in my pistol and 3-8 extra bullets in my belt loop, while maintaining any level of confidence I could handle any situation. I'd need a pack mule just for my ammo.

February 7, 2012, 01:34 PM
The latch on the #3 wasn't all that flimsy, and it was used widely in its day, even in a major military contract with Russia.

The Colt's so-called safety notch to "hold the hammer away from the chambered round" doesn't stop the gun from firing if dropped on that hammer, which is why knowledgeable Colt-ers carried an empty chamber in front of it.

I don't think the .45-75 is comparable in power to the issued Martini service round, but...

There were all sorts of combinations carried in the Old West, yours could have happened. :)
Moderately unlikely there were many British handguns carried here, though, ammunition would have been an issue.

February 7, 2012, 09:06 PM
There must have been a fair amount of British ammo around, Custer felt comfortable packing a pair of Double action Webley's with him as he road off to the Little Big Horn..

I know the type of Webleys they were can be hotly debated but never the less he chose to take them and must have felt he had enough ammo for them. And there are accounts of him Practicing with them, So it make you wonder how he was feeding those beasts out on the plains..

February 7, 2012, 09:21 PM
Undoubtedly there would have been some British ammunition in the country, but nowhere near as common or as easily found as the infinitely more prevalent US cartridges of the day. :)

February 7, 2012, 09:36 PM
Sorry my phone line went down and double posted.. Thank you sprint

February 9, 2012, 12:00 PM
Since my first post I saw a video of a pocket 32 S&W showing how the latch tips up to release the barrel, not sure what keeps the latch down until you're ready to open it. The video went on to show the hammer let down between the rounds and locking the cylinder, presumably the cartridge rim. prevented further movement. I assume this could be done with any revolver. My solution is take you're revolver to a gunsmith and get him to drill six small holes for the firing pin to drop into and lock the cylinder. The only leg shooting I read the hammer was caught and turned the cylinder, the half cock notch wasn't caught and the pistol went off. The hammer on an empty chamber would have the same result. With the above Mod the safey notch might catch. The US Government tests showed the Colt worked when the others wouldn't.
The 76 Winchester is less powerful than the Martini but has 7? in the magazine, and it is much nearer the Martini in power than the more popular 73 model.

February 9, 2012, 12:12 PM
The empty chamber thing had nothing to do with the hammer catching & rotating the cylinder, it had everything to do with dropping the gun.
If the gun landed on the hammer behind a loaded chamber, it'd tend to fire, and the safety notch wouldn't prevent that. The notch isn't strong enough to resist shearing off.

The trigger tip that engages the hammer notches is actually quite small, comparatively, and either it'd break off or it'd cut through the thin hammer notch on impact.
Dropped Colt SAs killed enough men over the years to create the common practice of leaving the in-line chamber empty.

Your "six small holes" in the cylinder idea won't accomplish anything at all, since the firing pin isn't long enough to engage them in the back of the cylinder.

February 9, 2012, 01:00 PM
Perhaps wanting six rounds in a six gun is a bit British of me, but I do see the sense of five, so that leaves Double actions. The Colt 1877 was (I think their only disaster). I read that it was perhaps because of the Webly bulldog that it was first introduced (perhaps too soon). I DON'T believe the British gunsmiths are smarter than American ones. Yet the Webley has a double action which draws the hammer away from the round when the trigger is released. This leads me to believe American gun makers must have had a similar device in use does anyone know how it works when and on what guns.

February 9, 2012, 03:27 PM
I include a drawing a thumb safety could be fitted to part 5. When forward it shoots a bolt into the back of the hammer when it is in the safety notch. The hammer is now trapped between the safety notch and the bolt. A blow on the hammer would have to break the bolt and the safety notch at the same time to fire the gun. The gun can be neither cocked or fired as the hammer is held firm away from the chamber until the safety is released. This type of saftey came in with Flintlocks.
I know there are better modern (Ruger) methods but in 1878 any gunsmith could do it.

February 9, 2012, 03:59 PM
But, none would have. :)

February 9, 2012, 04:28 PM
I agree. It does not ever seem to have been done. However if I approached a gunsmith with a bag of money I would get what I wanted. Perhaps the answer is most people would think 1 -2 dollars better spent on ammo, or put toward another gun or even food.

February 9, 2012, 04:52 PM
Most Colt users of the era were just happy to have a powerful revolver with self-contained waterproof ammunition and five rounds that could be relatively quickly reloaded.
In 1878, with many still carrying percussion revolvers, and single-shot handguns not ALL that distant a memory, the transition to the "new" technology was still just getting started.

Colt users just accepted the realities & limitations of the Peacemaker, or died accidentally in learning the hard way. :)

February 9, 2012, 10:42 PM
oddities here on the "officer" in question. seriously look at the type of person in question, the officer would be a happy killer and i couldnt see him as being nothing but a wealthy mans sons as those were the ones who ran the british military till the end of ww2, and i dont see how hed leave the home country were hed be a provileged hero with the right to have weapons while the population in general had few weapons. and then go to a country were frontire territories had a higher density of firearms then the uk.

February 10, 2012, 01:19 AM
i dont see how hed leave the home country were hed be a provileged hero with the right to have weapons while the population in general had few weapons. and then go to a country were frontire territories had a higher density of firearms then the uk.

Lots of reasons for that to happen. 2nd or later sons couldn't inherit and they sought their fortunes in the colonies. Many English men did buy land in the US.

Exploration was a big thing for Victorian gentlemen. It wasn't just Africa and Asia that they explored.

If this is a wealthy gent I don't see why he wouldn't use European weapons and ammo. He could tote a few thousand rounds in his steamer trunk along with some spare firearms.

A later Adams cartridge revolver in .450 would be an adequate side arm and A later Martini variant ain't bad for a rifle.

February 10, 2012, 10:13 PM
In reference to how a cowboy carried every thing they needed in their saddlebags? well they didn't, when ever they hit the wanderlust trail they had a pack horse trailing behind. I know this is never shown on the movie westerns but that's the way it happened. They also had a " war bag " tied behind the saddle, somewhat like a modern duffel bag that carried quite a bit. Just once I would like to see a western that shows a drifter ride into town with a pack horse and a big bag tied to his saddle:Many times cowboys had their own string of horses, if not, they pulled their working horses out of the Ramada and hoped for the best.

February 10, 2012, 10:32 PM

In reference to how a cowboy carried every thing they needed in their saddlebags? well they didn't, when ever they hit the wanderlust trail they had a pack horse trailing behind. I know this is never shown on the movie westerns but that's the way it happened.

Whatever happened to Randolph Scott
Ridin' the trail alone
Whatever happened to Gene and Tex
And Roy and Rex, the Durango kid

I may not be Randolph, Gene, Tex, Roy or Rex............. but.

Every time I hunt lately its on horsesback, and I bring one of my wife's Shires along with me as a pack horse. And I only go out for a week at most.

And yes, you rarely see it in the movies.

Ideal Tool
February 11, 2012, 11:33 PM
Hello, Mikthestick. I'm going to take a differen't view on this..An alexander Henry dropping block rifle has the same basic action as the American Sharps we over here are so enamored with..However, IMHO, the Henry is like a Rolls, compared to a Chevy. These were hand built, finely finished, engraved, with some of the most accurate barrels available at that time. I have an original
.45 Webley Kaufman revolver (1880..still in basic time-frame)..with a smoothness to it's double action, that rivels my best modern Smith & Wessons.
I believe our traveler would be well served with these (British sportsmen hunted the globe with basically the same armament).
He might have purchased a Winchester 76'..possibly a .50-90..these were popular in India (cat guns).

February 12, 2012, 03:26 PM
In Britain we don't have the same access to gun information as you do so forgive me. I know about guns but, did not know Henry made many rifles good or bad, I thought it was his rifling that went with the Martini.

I have been researching S&W break open revolvers, overall I think the S&W catch is better than the Schofield version and not as flimsy as I thought. I have very little info on the Webley Kaufman. its barrel latch seems like an improved pryse. My info says its .45 so I think it must use the Adams round. I thought the US produced 44/45 Bulldog and perhaps 442 RIC but the problem then as now would be ammunition.

A British officer would likely prefer an American long gun. They got beaten at Isandulwana because to save money they used brass foil cartridges with iron bases. Americans used extruded brass. A good enough reason to buy all American.

February 12, 2012, 04:31 PM
Henry is regarded by many in the US as sorta the "father" of the SUCCESSFUL lever-action rifle.
His design gave birth to the original Winchester company.

As far as the S&W latches go, I prefer the Schofield.

The standrard latch on the topstrap requires two hands to open the revolver, the Schofield latch on the lower frame only requires one.

February 13, 2012, 07:52 AM
Schofield made $3000 so about 6000 got made. I think his latch looks stronger but needing two hands might be safer. S&W made many more thousands with their latch although most seem to have been in 38. Does anyone out there think the S&W is better than a colt.

February 13, 2012, 11:35 AM
The S&W large-framed No. 3's only superiority, in my estimation, was its quicker loading & unloading.
Otherwise, it didn't balance like the Colt, the grip configuration was not as "good", and it wasn't as handy in working the hammer.

February 13, 2012, 07:27 PM
on a side note, the most popular handgun for pistol shooting competitionsin the 1800s was the sw top break chambered in 44 russian, not withstanding that "odd" feel of how it feels in the hand.

February 14, 2012, 01:27 PM
I have read the US army test of the colt Vs S&W and Remington. If you drop the hammer between the chambers on a colt does it lock the cylinder like the S&W. If it does then I feel it would be safe to carry 6 in a cross draw holster. If you can't settle an argument with 5/6 rounds speed of reloading won't make much difference. At the little bighorn Custer's men had nothing to hide behind when reloading except perhaps dead horses. 10 seconds saved on ejection would hardly have effected the outcome.