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Handguns in British Service

Goatman

ADC
Book Reviewer
As I have mentioned elsewhere, the depth of ignorance on Quora cannot be fathomed- it requires a bathyscaphe .

Occasionally ,someone posts a response which makes sense:

David Rendahl
·
Updated November 2
Former Intelligence Analyst at British Army


Why did the British military keep issuing revolvers long after everyone else (more or less) switched to pistols?
To answer this question you have to ask why the revolver/pistol was needed in the first place. Neither have any practical value if your enemy was more than 50yds away. Close range fighting was rare in the period 1870–1914, your first generation smokeless rifles were reaching out to 1,800yds and military planners worked their requirements around that.

The only people close enough for handheld weapons to be of use were your own men. And thats why officers carried revolvers. Self-defence and physical encouragement.
If the weapon is to go under a pillow as you sleep, stay with you at all times and be capable of being pulled quickly on a miscreant, it has to be small and quickly deployable.
A revolver can be carried loaded and safe with the pin resting on the cylinder. When you draw it all you have to do his thumb back the hammer and you're good to go.

A well-thumbed hammer is a very effective last warning.

Automatic pistols kept ready with a round in the chamber require safety catches or other complex features to keep the firing pin from primer. If you leave them cocked and locked for extended periods you will wear out the parts.
When designing the hammer on a revolver you can easily place it in a comfortable position for the thumb as the working parts are all forward of the hand. With the long slide, toggles or delay systems on an automatic most of the working parts are directly above the hand, making quick thumb cocking harder.

Many of these issues would be engineered out of automatics with time, but we’re talking 1896–1939 when autos were often complex, dirt prone and expensive - like the Mars, Luger or Mauser which all required two hands for cocking.

The Royal Navy had greater use for handheld weapons as they were commonly in close quarters with boarding parties and guards in the confines of a ship. They were far more open to automatics than the Army for that reason. They adopted the Webley & Scott Mk1 in 1912 and later adopted an M1911 in .455 long before the Army was interested in such things.

So the largest branch of the British Military had a general issue self loading pistol in service only a year after the Americans.

Webley & Scott .455 Self-loading pistol Mk1 (Royal Navy 1912–1942)


------------------------ ------------------------ ----------------------------- ----------------

Note also the 'grip safety' - later incorporated into the Israeli Uzi smg as a standard feature.

( currently Price: $2845 Shipped )





 
Last edited:
As I have mentioned elsewhere, the depth of ignorance on Quora cannot be fathomed- it requires a bathyscaphe .

Occasionally ,someone posts a response which makes sense:

David Rendahl
·
Updated November 2
Former Intelligence Analyst at British Army


Why did the British military keep issuing revolvers long after everyone else (more or less) switched to pistols?
To answer this question you have to ask why the revolver/pistol was needed in the first place. Neither have any practical value if your enemy was more than 50yds away. Close range fighting was rare in the period 1870–1914, your first generation smokeless rifles were reaching out to 1,800yds and military planners worked their requirements around that.

The only people close enough for handheld weapons to be of use were your own men. And thats why officers carried revolvers. Self-defence and physical encouragement.
If the weapon is to go under a pillow as you sleep, stay with you at all times and be capable of being pulled quickly on a miscreant, it has to be small and quickly deployable.
A revolver can be carried loaded and safe with the pin resting on the cylinder. When you draw it all you have to do his thumb back the hammer and you're good to go.

A well-thumbed hammer is a very effective last warning.

Automatic pistols kept ready with a round in the chamber require safety catches or other complex features to keep the firing pin from primer. If you leave them cocked and locked for extended periods you will wear out the parts.
When designing the hammer on a revolver you can easily place it in a comfortable position for the thumb as the working parts are all forward of the hand. With the long slide, toggles or delay systems on an automatic most of the working parts are directly above the hand, making quick thumb cocking harder.

Many of these issues would be engineered out of automatics with time, but we’re talking 1896–1939 when autos were often complex, dirt prone and expensive - like the Mars, Luger or Mauser which all required two hands for cocking.

The Royal Navy had greater use for handheld weapons as they were commonly in close quarters with boarding parties and guards in the confines of a ship. They were far more open to automatics than the Army for that reason. They adopted the Webley & Scott Mk1 in 1912 and later adopted an M1911 in .455 long before the Army was interested in such things.

So the largest branch of the British Military had a general issue self loading pistol in service only a year after the Americans.

Webley & Scott .455 Self-loading pistol Mk1 (Royal Navy 1912–1942)


------------------------ ------------------------ ----------------------------- ----------------

Note also the 'grip safety' - later incorporated into the Israeli Uzi smg as a standard feature.

( currently Price: $2845 Shipped )





British officers didn't carry revolvers to protect themselves from their own men.

In WW1 the RFC carried semi auto Webleys and M1911s (chambered for ,455 Auto), and RHA also used Webley s/autos with detachable shoulder stocks, as a carbine.

You don't have to thumb cock double action revolvers.
 
Last edited:

tgo

War Hero
did any revolver of that era have any type of protection if you carried it with a round under the hammer and you dropped it, I sure as shit would be keeping the chamber under the hammer empty personally.
 
did any revolver of that era have any type of protection if you carried it with a round under the hammer and you dropped it, I sure as shit would be keeping the chamber under the hammer empty personally.
The Webleys had a rebounding hammer.
Other revolvers had a bar which moved between the hammer and transfer pin unless the trigger was being pulled.
The Iver Johnson company had an advertising slogan, "Hammer the Hammer" to emphasise that a blow on the hammer would not ignite a cartridge primer.
 
As an army cadet in the early sixties I had the chance to handle the Webley never fired it but what amazed a young 12 year old was the weight of it
 

Goatman

ADC
Book Reviewer
British officers didn't carry revolvers to protect themselves from their own men.

In WW1 the RFC carried semi auto Webleys and M1911s (chambered for ,455 Auto) in WW1, and RHA also used Webley s/autos with detachable shoulder stocks, as a carbine.

You don't have to thumb cock double action revolvers.
Agreed....but let's not nit-pick a reasonably informed response to a typically dumb Quora enquiry...the basic premise of which is ' Everything American is superior....Europeans are weird'


I would be more interested to know who invented the grip safety originally - and if anyone knows it is the assembled Arrse Small Arms Institute.... :)
 

AlienFTM

MIA
Book Reviewer
My brother was a firearms officer in Northumbria SPG (subsequently disbanded for making the Waffen-SS look soft). In 1974 he was outraged that Princess Anne's bodyguard was carrying an automatic that jammed during an attempted kidnapping. I can still remember him blaming the bodyguard, and had he had a revolver, it wouldn't have jammed.

His opinion, not mine. Besides his issue weapon, he had his own 38 Special (iirc. It's 46 years ago). Even though he earned a lot more than me (he once saw my pay statement and exclaimed, "How much?!? I thought my pay was sh¡t!") I always got the feeling he was jealous because, as we all know, if you ain't cav, you aint.

Edited for accuracy.
 
Last edited:
My brother was a firearms officer in Northumbria SPG (subsequently disbanded for making the Waffen-SS look soft). In 1974 he was outraged that Princess Anne's bodyguard was carrying a 9mm automatic that jammed during an attempted kidnapping. I can still remember him blaming the bodyguard, and had he had a revolver, it wouldn't have jammed.
The police bodyguard was using a Walther PPK chambered for 7.65 Browning aka .32 ACP. As far as I can recall, the first round fired because it was chambered. However, the next round jammed, and this was later put down to the fact that the mag had been kept fully charged for a long period and the mag spring had weakened and failed to lift the next round into the boltway sufficiently.
 

AlienFTM

MIA
Book Reviewer
The police bodyguard was using a Walther PPK chambered for 7.65 Browning aka .32 ACP. As far as I can recall, the first round fired because it was chambered. However, the next round jammed, and this was later put down to the fact that the mag had been kept fully charged for a long period and the mag spring had weakened and failed to lift the next round into the boltway sufficiently.
Rings a bell. Sounds right. Wouldn't have happened with a revolver.
 
My brother was a firearms officer in Northumbria SPG (subsequently disbanded for making the Waffen-SS look soft). In 1974 he was outraged that Princess Anne's bodyguard was carrying a 9mm automatic that jammed during an attempted kidnapping. I can still remember him blaming the bodyguard, and had he had a revolver, it wouldn't have jammed.

His opinion, not mine. Besides his issue weapon, he had his own 38 Special (iirc. It's 46 years ago). Even though he earned a lot more than me (he once saw my pay statement and exclaimed, "How much?!? I thought my pay was sh¡t!") I always got the feeling he was jealous because, as we all know, if you ain't cav, you aint.
I once was a constabulary force and the gats were long gone. On a night like this, my oppo said “do you wanna have a look” . In the attic, place for six revolvers. Next to the handle for the nuclear attack.
You can read the stories if you search.
As you say, @AlienFTM , if you ain’t cav, you ain’t.
 

Goatman

ADC
Book Reviewer
I understand that Herrick has resulted in a bit of a sea-change in BRITFOR regarding who gets issued a pistol these days.

My last Service pistol was the Browning 9mm.....superseded by the Glock 17 in service thse days I hear .

eg
( IMAGES TAKEN FOR THE WEST MIDLANDS PRESS Pictures By: PO (PHOT) Hamish B Crown Copyright © 2011)
 

offog

LE
did any revolver of that era have any type of protection if you carried it with a round under the hammer and you dropped it, I sure as shit would be keeping the chamber under the hammer empty personally.
The chamber under the hammer was loaded but the next was unloaded for safety. When the trigger was pulled cylinder would rotate to an empty chamber and so not fire unless you pulled the trigger twice.
 
Maybe one thing to be said for revolvers is that you don't have a magazine whose spring has to be relieved. Personally I only fired a revolver on a visit to a police indoor range many years ago.
 
As I have mentioned elsewhere, the depth of ignorance on Quora cannot be fathomed- it requires a bathyscaphe .

Occasionally ,someone posts a response which makes sense:

David Rendahl
·
Updated November 2
Former Intelligence Analyst at British Army


Automatic pistols kept ready with a round in the chamber require safety catches or other complex features to keep the firing pin from primer. If you leave them cocked and locked for extended periods you will wear out the parts.

[/QUOTE]
Ugh no you won't, an intel analyst is an expert on small arms now? how does a part wear out without moving. M1911's were designed to be carried cocked and locked
Many of these issues would be engineered out of automatics with time, but we’re talking 1896–1939 when autos were often complex, dirt prone and expensive - like the Mars, Luger or Mauser which all required two hands for cocking.




[/QUOTE]
Takes 2 hands to load as well be it revolver or Semi Auto
 
Maybe one thing to be said for revolvers is that you don't have a magazine whose spring has to be relieved. Personally I only fired a revolver on a visit to a police indoor range many years ago.
I've left over a dozen 20 rd m16 mags fully loaded for over a year and not a wibble when fired
 
I've left over a dozen 20 rd m16 mags fully loaded for over a year and not a wibble when fired
That's good to know but I was in the habit of relieving that spring (ooer missus) on a 9mm magazine while cleaning the wpn. I suppose the spring was smaller (shorter) than on a rifle mag.
 
did any revolver of that era have any type of protection if you carried it with a round under the hammer and you dropped it, I sure as shit would be keeping the chamber under the hammer empty personally.
I think that by then most if not all revolvers had some sort of drop safety. Generally the trigger had to be pulled or the hammer couldn't strike the primer. The trigger either moved a bar out of the way of the hammer, or else it moved a striker into position which the hammer could then hit.

Very early revolvers relied on a half cock, but that's also how pistols had worked since the days of flintlocks (if not before then even). They pretty quickly acquired better automatic safeties however. "Automatic" in this case meaning they wouldn't go off unless the trigger was pulled.
 
As I have mentioned elsewhere, the depth of ignorance on Quora cannot be fathomed- it requires a bathyscaphe .

Occasionally ,someone posts a response which makes sense:

David Rendahl
·
Updated November 2
Former Intelligence Analyst at British Army


Why did the British military keep issuing revolvers long after everyone else (more or less) switched to pistols?
To answer this question you have to ask why the revolver/pistol was needed in the first place. Neither have any practical value if your enemy was more than 50yds away. Close range fighting was rare in the period 1870–1914, your first generation smokeless rifles were reaching out to 1,800yds and military planners worked their requirements around that.

The only people close enough for handheld weapons to be of use were your own men. And thats why officers carried revolvers. Self-defence and physical encouragement.
If the weapon is to go under a pillow as you sleep, stay with you at all times and be capable of being pulled quickly on a miscreant, it has to be small and quickly deployable.
A revolver can be carried loaded and safe with the pin resting on the cylinder. When you draw it all you have to do his thumb back the hammer and you're good to go.

A well-thumbed hammer is a very effective last warning.

Automatic pistols kept ready with a round in the chamber require safety catches or other complex features to keep the firing pin from primer. If you leave them cocked and locked for extended periods you will wear out the parts.
When designing the hammer on a revolver you can easily place it in a comfortable position for the thumb as the working parts are all forward of the hand. With the long slide, toggles or delay systems on an automatic most of the working parts are directly above the hand, making quick thumb cocking harder.

Many of these issues would be engineered out of automatics with time, but we’re talking 1896–1939 when autos were often complex, dirt prone and expensive - like the Mars, Luger or Mauser which all required two hands for cocking.

The Royal Navy had greater use for handheld weapons as they were commonly in close quarters with boarding parties and guards in the confines of a ship. They were far more open to automatics than the Army for that reason. They adopted the Webley & Scott Mk1 in 1912 and later adopted an M1911 in .455 long before the Army was interested in such things.

So the largest branch of the British Military had a general issue self loading pistol in service only a year after the Americans.


Webley & Scott .455 Self-loading pistol Mk1 (Royal Navy 1912–1942)


------------------------ ------------------------ ----------------------------- ----------------

Note also the 'grip safety' - later incorporated into the Israeli Uzi smg as a standard feature.

( currently Price: $2845 Shipped )







I'm not going to claim to be an expert on the history of pistols, but that account looks like complete rubbish. I won't try to address all of it, but instead focus on why officers had pistols.

Let's start with the fact that British officers weren't "issued" revolvers originally. They had to buy their own, just as they did with their swords. I don't know when pistols went from private purchase to issue items, but it's important to understand that infantry officers started carrying revolvers because they felt they were a good supplement to their swords, and if they had the money they bought them. Later on they became required, but we're talking about origins.

The reason that infantry officers carried swords was as self-defence weapons on the battlefield. Their main job was to direct their men. A musket required a lot of attention from its user, while the officer's job was to pay attention to what the enemy was doing, as well as what the rest of his own army was doing, and to be ready to react as required and direct his men as necessary. A sword was a side arm that he could wear on his hip and wouldn't get in his way. If fighting came to bayonet range and he was attacked by an enemy infantry soldier, then the officer was trained in how to use his sword to defend against being spitted by the enemy bayonet (parry the musket with the sword, step forward, grab the barrel with the other hand, and then strike with the sword).

Single shot pistols, and later revolvers, came to be carried as a supplement to the sword. When fighting came to very close quarters a common precaution was to draw the sword with the right hand and the revolver with the left. If things came to close quarters with say a horde of Afghan or African tribesmen and the officer had to defend himself, the revolver would be discharged quickly at short range before resorting to the sword. This is why double action revolvers were so popular in Britain so early.

As the nature of fighting changed and there was less emphasis on fighting in line and close quarters bayonet fighting, then swords became less important and were carried into the field less often, and then not at all. However, officers still needed some sort of self defence weapon, which role was filled by the revolver.

It must be remembered though that the officer's main job was still to keep aware of his surroundings and of any orders from higher up, and commanding and coordinating his men accordingly. An officer could lead a very active combat career while never once shooting at the enemy personally. That's not what he was there for.

So the idea that the reason that officers carried pistols because the British army was full of mutinous scum who could only be kept in line at pistol point doesn't stand up to even the slightest of scrutiny. There may possibly have been a few occasions where troops did mutiny and were brought back under control by a stiff backed officer who stood in front of the mob with his pistol drawn, threatening to shoot the first man who stepped out of line, but such things were more common in adventure novels than in history.
 
As an army cadet in the early sixties I had the chance to handle the Webley never fired it but what amazed a young 12 year old was the weight of it

Snap. My old man used to do the block security for a collection of the buildings that were MQ flats in Aden in the mid-60's. As he was effectively the orderly officer out and about on Maala Strait most nights he had to be armed and used to bring a duty gat home with him every day. To confront the childs curiosity at the age of seven he dealt with the possible problem by doing skill at arms lessons with me. I also remember the Webley being a heavy thing, and I recall I could not cock the hammer back without a great deal of effort.
 

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