S&W M&P vs Webley .38 Mk.IV

If you don't like anoracky reloading things, this thread is Not For You :)

Had the opportunity today to shoot the same loads out of a 5" 38 S&W M&P and a Webley .38 Mk.IV. The results are quite astonishing. All measurements in God's Own fps, HL = handload.

S&W:

Magtech 125gn 38 spl shorts: 752, 755, 782 ,775
Prvi 145gn 38 S&W: 638, 665, 661, 627, 647
HL: 148gn Magtech WC: 711, 731, 727
HL: 200gn Dominion cases: 544, 538, 557
HL: 200gn Geco cases: 518, 604, 607
HL: 200gn Prvi cases: 603, 572, 605


Webley

Magtech 125gn 38 spl shorts: 583, 517, 601, 672
Prvi 145gn 38 S&W: 537, 581, 451, 594, 532
HL: 148gn Magtech WC: 642, 612, 662
HL: 200gn Dominion cases: 471, 465, 493
HL: 200gn Geco cases: 490, 482, 471
HL: 200gn Prvi cases: 530, 481, 536
HL: 200gn* Prvi cases 490, 481, 525

HL 148g = hollowbase wadcutter, 2.75gn Bullseye, COL 29.7mm, bullet diameter .358
HL 200gn = 2.1gn Fiocchi 32G (cf. Unique), COL 31mm, NOE 200-364, sized .363"
HL 200gn* = same as HL 200gn, but bullet set up on seating in once-fired cases, so only fits the Webley.

Several things amaze me: the Smith gets 100fps+ over the Webley! The WC load shot bang on point of aim at 7m (range I had access to was short), but is super low at 50m. The 200gn loads run about 3" high at 7m, and are almost the same over poa at 50m. I guess at 25m I'll be high too. In the Webley, I'm about 100-130fps under the Mk.1 service velocity (620-630fps, although 1 source has it at 590. LoC doesn't say... I wonder if the service ammo shot rather hotter in the Smith revos compared to the Enfields and Webleys?

One thing does not surprise me: the Webley shoots crap compared to the smith.....

I'm also happy that there's little difference between the various cases.

Some differnces between the 2: the Webley chambers and throats are tighter (.362), but the taper into the throats is longer. The Smith barrel is tighter - about .3625"m but the chambers are .363 (which is perfect for cast bullets) with a short taper. The Smith cylinder is much, much longer though, which might be responsible for the increase in velocity.

Thoughts?
 
A friend just suggested that a generous cylinder gap on the Webley might be responsible. Given the side flash that the 148gn WC load caused (none seen with the Smith), it could be likely.

EDIT: on this point, the smith will take a .006" gauge but not a .008: Webley, with trigger held back (because the trigger cams the cylinder forwards slightly), takes an .018" easily, a .020" with a bit of persuasion, and a .022" enters one side but won't go right through...
 
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A friend just suggested that a generous cylinder gap on the Webley might be responsible. Given the side flash that the 148gn WC load caused (none seen with the Smith), it could be likely.

EDIT: on this point, the smith will take a .006" gauge but not a .008: Webley, with trigger held back (because the trigger cams the cylinder forwards slightly), takes an .018" easily, a .020" with a bit of persuasion, and a .022" enters one side but won't go right through...
I agree with the cylinder gap being the most likely cause. If I'm not mistaken, the M&P is a solid framed revolver while the Webley is a break-open. It's probably a lot easier to hold tighter tolerances on a solid frame since you can machine the critical dimensions all in one set-up. This should let you machine things more closely and still get all the bits together.

With a break-open design you have two halves made separately which go together with a pin (possibly with a bit of slop in the stirrup lock as well). If all else is equal, I would expect you would need at least double the tolerance, if not more. You seem to have about three times the gap, which sounds about right.

Was there a problem with 19th century cartridges sticking? If so, the extra leverage in a break-open may have been a big help when ejecting and reloading with one hand on horseback. Conditions are completely different today however.
 
I am actually looking for a source of .38 S&W bullets in the UK.

Ideally I'd like something around 125 for my Mk.III Pocket Revolver and some 146/148s for my Mk.IV. I'm guessing HB would be best.
 
My Webley Mk IV is a Boer war vintage nitro re-proofed version in .455 British carried by my great Grandad in both world wars. Until recently there was a lot of variation depending on which chamber was used. The drum spindle was quite worn and rocked slightly, this has recently been sorted by a German gunsmith. The revolver still has one chamber which gives the best result for target shooting though, 19th century machine cutting and measurement skills were not even close to modern CNC stuff. Find the sweet chamber and stick to that for comparisons.

The Webley Mk IV in .38/200 (and older .455s) were a used as a second world war stop gap due to not enough Enfield No 2s being available. War time manufacturing was also somewhat rougher than peace time models to cut costs, I have seen an SMLE with only two rifling grooves for example. If your Webley is of that vintage it might have been in military service until 1963, police versions will be similarly hammered.
 
Just to be clear for other readers benefit. Cernunnos's Webley Ml.IV (a Webley Service Revolver Mk.IV) is a completely different gun to the .38 Webley M&P Mk.IVs.

BTW, my Webley .38 is a "War Finish" and although the finish is extremely rough (even for a War Finish) it shows no evidence of being "hammered". Service pistols and revolvers were rarely fired.
 
Yes, mine is a better hammer and mess nutcracker.

The onus during war time production was the ability to throw lead with a modicum of safety. They cut out any machining which could be considered unecessary, including fine finishing of the rifling. this could cause the difference. How old is the Smiffy?
 

Blogg

LE
A friend just suggested that a generous cylinder gap on the Webley might be responsible. Given the side flash that the 148gn WC load caused (none seen with the Smith), it could be likely.

EDIT: on this point, the smith will take a .006" gauge but not a .008: Webley, with trigger held back (because the trigger cams the cylinder forwards slightly), takes an .018" easily, a .020" with a bit of persuasion, and a .022" enters one side but won't go right through...

May be of some interest

http://www.ballisticsbytheinch.com/gaptests.html
 
To answer several points at once:

Webley is a 1943 War Finish. Smith is a 1944 (or possibly early 45) commercial finish. Webley has a early 70s BNP proof, the Smith has a US Ordnance mark, no broad arrow, and a mid-50s BNP mark. Neither were fired much, and both show evidence of having been carried (the Smiff was dropped on its muzzle at least once too :( )

Rifling is bright, crisp and shiny in both. Smith's bore is half-a-thou tighter.

Webley lockup is very tight at both at the hinge and the stirrup, so it wasn't even played with regularly.

I suspect that the large cylinder gap plus the forward-camming action in the Webley is for dirt tolerance moreso than anything specific related to being break-open.

@Beerhunter - do you cast? For 125s cast 9mm bullets very soft and put 2gn Bullseye or equivalent behind them. For 145-150ish, a hollow base wadcutter (e.g. Magtech, H&N, but not the plated ones) is good. You may find you need 175-200gn to shoot to point of aim at any reasonable ditance (although my Webley shoots low even with those - the velocity results explain why. The 148gn WC load shot bang on POA at 7m in the Smith, btw. I wonder what it'll do at 25 - at 50 it was super low.
 

4(T)

LE
IIRC the Webley cylinder gap is indeed a designed-in dust tolerance. Not surprising, given the global service conditions that British arms at the time had to endure.

Long ago, I had a beautiful WG Target Model. The cylinder gap was incredibly tight (don't recall the actual dimension, but do recall it was tighter than someone's accurised Model 14!) but , so clearly they were perfectly capable of engineering very fine tolerances when required.
 
a friend stated that he had a Webley Mk.IV that threw 380 Mk.2 at only 400fps...... I wonder if the Enfields were better in that respect?
 
having another look at my figures, the 200gn loads average out 570fps from the Smith. That's still 20-50fps (depending on who you ask) under the official service load (which I've seen quoted as anything from 590 to 620 - does anyone have the definitive answer? LoC doesn't say, nor does the 1929 Textbook of Smallarms). And that's from the revo with the tight, US-spec cylinder gap.

When ladder testing with the S&W I took it as high as 2.5gn, and chose 2.1gn because it had the tightest groups, a comfortable amount above POA at 50m. Also, the higher loads started to develop some incipient tumbling and felt a touch lively in the hand. 2.5gn gave stickier ejection also.

Part of the problem with these tiny charges is that 0.1gn is already about 5% of the load, and the coarser powders don't even meter to that degree of accuracy from a powder measure - I'm weighing charges with a Lyman digital automatic powder dispenser for safety.

I haven't had a chance to try these loads at 25m yet though - I might try them with some ladder testing 2.1 to 2.4gn if I get the opportunity.
 
*according to jbm, the WC load that was bang on at 7m should be bang on at 25m too, and 5" down at 50m.

We shall see...
 
*according to jbm, the WC load that was bang on at 7m should be bang on at 25m too, and 5" down at 50m.

We shall see...

JBM is correct - the WC load is indeed near as damn it bang on at 25m.

Now to see if I can reproduce the same thing with a 150gn LRN.
 

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