Handguns: the first General Issue Service Revolvers

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Re: Handguns: the first General Issue Service Revolvers

Postby Frogsmile » 21 May 2011 12:56

GrantRCanada wrote:Actually, Colt Model 1873 (i.e. "Single Action Army") revolvers were indeed produced and sold in various British calibers, including .450, .476 and .455 (which, based on case-mouth diameter are in reality all .455's!)

Such sales were primarily through the Agency which Colt maintained in London long after their earlier London factory producing percussion revolvers ceased to function.


Good info Grant, thank you for clarifying. I had read that colts were not usually that popular, partly because of the single action and partly because of the lack of a top strap on their earlier models that made them a bit flimsy for campaigning, although I know that some were still used and the 1873 model did of course have a robust top strap.
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Re: Handguns: the first General Issue Service Revolvers

Postby Matt Easton » 23 May 2011 13:12

During the Indian Mutiny there were various reports of the .36 bullet of the Colt (Navy) being insufficient to stop an opponent in all cases. Hodson apparently placed little faith in his Colt, instead usually trusting to his sword (a well sharpened 1821 pattern trooper's sword) or a pig-sticking lance!

I find it interesting that the .36 Colt Navy was so popular in the US, yet found so lacking in British colonial warfare.
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Re: Handguns: the first General Issue Service Revolvers

Postby Frogsmile » 30 May 2011 14:03

Matt Easton wrote:During the Indian Mutiny there were various reports of the .36 bullet of the Colt (Navy) being insufficient to stop an opponent in all cases. Hodson apparently placed little faith in his Colt, instead usually trusting to his sword (a well sharpened 1821 pattern trooper's sword) or a pig-sticking lance!

I find it interesting that the .36 Colt Navy was so popular in the US, yet found so lacking in British colonial warfare.


Yes, there were found to be real problems with so-called 'stopping power' in the Indian Mutiny, the Afghan, Zulu and Sudan Wars, often because of the sheer momentum of a charging and fanatical enemy, but apparently also because many were 'drugged up' with various concoctions before entering battle. Because of this it was found that anything below .455/476 was often insufficient and this in turn led to heavy, strong framed pistols and revolvers.
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Re: Handguns: the first General Issue Service Revolvers

Postby Wildone_za » 01 Feb 2012 07:10

I have recently come across this thread and someone here may be able to help. I was given by my father a Webley RIC No1 476CF New Model S/N:35449. The story goes that it was given to my great grandmother by a british deserter who was offered shelter at a farm in Dundee in Natal (South Africa) during the Boer War. In exchange for shelter and food the officer enquired as to whether the family had any firearms for protection, as they did not, he gave them this service revolver. It has since been handed down from father to son. The condition of the firearm is pretty good considering its age, however there are patches where the nickle (or some other type of plating) has flaked off. I have managed to fend off the draconian firearm laws in my country that would have seen this 100% working firearm welded into a deactivated state, and thus it has been licensed for sports shooting, anthough that is not likely to happen with this particular firearm.

My questions really are the following - anyone have any idea when this firearm could have been manufactured? Would it be advisable to keep it in its current state or replate firearm?
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Re: Handguns: the first General Issue Service Revolvers

Postby GrantRCanada » 01 Feb 2012 18:17

As you may know, the RIC model was not a standard "issue" sidearm in the British military, although the War Department did purchase over 1,000 of them in the period 1898 through 1898. (contrasted with approximately 100,000 Webley service revolvers, Marks I through IV, from 1887 to 1903.) A nickle-plated revolver (that being the likely plating material) would be unusual in the case of a WD-issued firearm, but officers, who were required to provide all of their own uniforms, equipment and arms at personal expense, were not limited to the official service revolver models in their selection of a handgun. An plated RIC revolver such as you describe would be a very likely choice for an officer's personal sidearm.

It is my understanding that the surviving Webley company records, although not complete, are held by Mr. Richard Milner in the United Kingdom, who offers a service of providing information on specific firearms .... for a fee, of course. He can be contacted at http://www.armsresearch.co.uk

Another invaluable resource in this regard is the sales records of the Army & Navy Co-Operative Society Limited (ANCSL), one of the largest suppliers of of firearms and other kit to British officers well into the 20th Century, and which retailed many thousands of Webley revolvers. The ANCSL firearms sales ledgers are held by Glasgow University and enquiries can be made of them at http://www.gla.ac.uk/archives/ (..... particularly if your revolver is marked as having been sold by them - usually "Army & Navy C.S.L. - although their records are so extensive that the serial numbers in them can help "bracket" the manufacture date of other revolvers.)

To the extent that snippets of such information have been published in the reference books at my disposal (in particular, "Webley Solid Frame Cartridge Revolvers: RICs, MPs and No. 5s", by Joel Black, Joseph L. Davis and Roger G. Michaud) my best guess is that your revolver likely dates to the late 1880s. This volume includes one excerpt from the ANCSL records showing four RIC revolvers with near consecutive serial numbers in the 317XX range being sold by them in 1884-1886, and another such excerpt showing nine RIC revolvers (all .476 caliber) in the 371XX serial number range being sold by them in 1890-91.

However, there do seem to be some oddities in the Webley serial numbering system ..... possibly because they made (and numbered) revolver frames in batches and stockpiled them, to be used possibly years later to produce a run of revolvers. As one example of this, the same page of ANCSL sales records from 1890-91 lists (directly below the above noted nine revolvers) four RIC revolvers, also shown as .476 caliber, with serial numbers in the 6XXX range! On the other hand, the RIC No. 1 New Model revolver (.455CF) in my collection - serial number 6597 - is marked as having been retailed by the ANCSL, whose sales records show this particular revolver was sold by them in 1883 ..... :?

Finally, I would advise against having the revolver re-plated - indeed, against having any extensive repair or restoration work done on it - because such work would only serve to reduce the collector value of the piece. For the most part, historic firearms have much more value to collectors in original configuration and finish (regardless of how degraded) than if they have been extensively restored/refinished.
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Re: Handguns: the first General Issue Service Revolvers

Postby Wildone_za » 06 Feb 2012 13:31

Thanks for that information, there is a marking that I neglected to mention, on the top bridge is the marking Watson & Hancock 308 High Holborn. As I understand it they were only together for a short time and although they manufactured their own firearms, they were also suppliers of firearms made by other manufacturers at the time. This may tie in to what you say that officers procured their own equipment, and quite possibly this officer purchased this firearm at Watson & Hancock before departing to South Africa. Unfortunately, the family members with more detail on the exact details on how this firearm came into the possession of the family have long since passed. It would have been great to know who this officer was. Although my family from that time were Afrikaans speaking, and essentially ‘Boers’, they did sympathize with the English and not really into the war effort.

I will keep the firearm as standard, it is 100% fully functional and it was passed to me with the last remaining 6 black powder cartridges, which are still live. I am not sure of the stability of the cartridges, and although I do not believe they are from that time period, possibly much later, I have removed them from the firearm and placed them in a seperate container. I do know however that the Webley was used quite a bit by my father. I have no intention of firing the weapon though as I have many other more modern firearms at my disposal.
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Re: Handguns: the first General Issue Service Revolvers

Postby GrantRCanada » 06 Feb 2012 17:11

Actually, if the cartridge propellant is black powder, that is a very stable substance, being a simple mechanical mixture of carbon, sulphur and saltpetre which retains its properties without signifiant change for many years unless subjected to moisture (which would tend to lessen its potency). On the other hand, at the time of the Second Anglo-Boer War smokeless loadings of cartridges had become the standard, so these cartridges may actually be loaded with cordite or a similar propellant, which is not so stable. Is there a headstamp on the cartridges you have? If so,it might be possible to give a better idea what propellant they likely contain.
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Re: Handguns: the first General Issue Service Revolvers

Postby trooper » 07 Feb 2012 18:21

Regarding the use of Colt's by British officers the attached might be of interest. It is of an officer of the 10th hussars in 1885 and, as can be seen, he is armed with a Colt's single action army cavalry model with 7 1/2 inch barrel. Trooper
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Re: Handguns: the first General Issue Service Revolvers

Postby GrantRCanada » 07 Feb 2012 21:00

Trooper:

Some time ago there was a discussion (on some other forum) regarding that very photograph. Unfortunately, in your version it is impossible to make out much detail - if it was scanned from a book or the like, it was probably printed there in a "dot matrix" type of shading, in which case it is usually imperative to utilize the "de-screening" setting to get a decent copy for display on a computer monitor. I have tried to locate that other discussion, in the hope of being able to post a better image, so far without success .....

Although not a British "General Issue Service Revolver", Colt certainly did market many revolvers in the United Kingdom through their London Agency which, in turn, sold them to various retailers. I am attaching some images which may be of interest .....

First, an example of London Agency promotional material ..... (This will likely display here too small to make out the text, so don't forget to click on the magnifying glass icon at the top left corner, to enlarge it.
Image

Despite all the information regarding American .45 Colt and .44-40 cartridges in the above, most Colt single action revolvers sold by the London Agency were chambered for British cartridges. Here is a summary of the statistics regarding such "British caliber" revolvers from Keith Cochran's "Colt Peacemaker, British Model" ......
Image

From the same source, a compilation of known British retailers supplied by the London Agency -
Image

Photograph of a "British" Colt single action revolver, in a London Agency casing -
Image

A Uberti-made reproduction Colt of mine, which I cased in the same style, complete with a replicated London Agency label -
Image
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Re: Handguns: the first General Issue Service Revolvers

Postby QSVC » 08 Feb 2012 06:39

Thats wonderful information Grant, thanks very much for posting......The Bisley Model wasn't as popular as I'd have imagined, and its an education to me as well that they were produced in British calibres.......Makes my own search for something that will shoot competitively and be relevant to the period I'm interested in much easier.

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Re: Handguns: the first General Issue Service Revolvers

Postby fantomark » 29 May 2013 21:04

trooper wrote:Regarding the use of Colt's by British officers the attached might be of interest. It is of an officer of the 10th hussars in 1885 and, as can be seen, he is armed with a Colt's single action army cavalry model with 7 1/2 inch barrel. Trooper


Hi, Grant!

This photo has been previously posted by me and examined and commented upon by you in full detail (with the addition of a wealth of very useful information ) in this same Forum - here:

viewtopic.php?f=16&t=6103


Ciao!

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Re: The First General Issue Service Revolver?

Postby Matt Easton » 15 Jun 2014 18:25

Sorry to revive such an old thread, but I'd like to question a detail quoted above:

Isandlwana wrote:The Beaumont-Adams revolver was the first officially adopted revolver in 1856


GrantRCanada wrote:During the Crimean War, and thereafter, (i.e. late 1855 and thereafter) Britain also acquired a significant number (over 30,000 in total) of Deane & Adams 5-shot percussion revolvers in both 54 Bore (nominal .442 cal.) and 38 Bore (nominal .50 cal.) commonly referred to as the Beaumont-Adams, as they incorporated the lock mechanism improvements of Lt. F.B.E. Beaumont -
Image


Is it correct that the Beaumont-Adams was produced from late-1855? From what I have read it was patented in 1856 and produced for the Army from 1862. Were they being produced in small numbers and to varying forms between 1856 and 1862? That was quite a critical few years in the development of revolvers and other types of firearm and ammo, and the difference between 1855/56 and 1862 is quite important to pin down and get correct IMHO. The 1851 Adams, whether adapted with a double-action or not, is NOT what most people are referring to when they name a Beaumont-Adams, which has a different shape to the earlier Adams design.

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Re: Handguns: the first General Issue Service Revolvers

Postby GrantRCanada » 15 Jun 2014 23:50

Those statements were an addendum to the primary point I was trying to make - i.e. that the first "issue" revolver for the British services was actually the Colt Model 1851 revolver, adopted in 1854. I was simply adding, as clarification, that acquisitions of the British-designed "Beaumont-Adams" revolvers didn't begin until 1855 .... which I understand was the case regardless of when Beaumont's patents may have finally been granted. (Perhaps what we would now call a "patent pending" situation?)

My statements were based on this passage in "Revolvers of the British Services, 1854-1954" (Chamberlain and Taylerson) -
However, War Department contracts [3] of 31 August 1855 and 3 January 1856 had been placed, respectively, for 300 "Revolvers, Dean [sic] & Adams improved on Beaumont's principle, with appurtenances," and for 2,000 "Pistols, revolving, Dean & Adams' patent, with Lieutenant Beaumont's improvement, 54 gauge," plus spares and accessories.
(Emphasis added.)

The specific reference given (Note 3) is: "Returns of all Orders given and Contracts entered into by the BOARD OF ORDNANCE/the WAR DEPARTMENT for SMALL ARMS ... The House of Commons, 2 February, 1855 and 20 February, 1857."
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Re: Handguns: the first General Issue Service Revolvers

Postby Matt Easton » 16 Jun 2014 07:58

It's an interesting but (it seems to me) fuzzy history. It seems that quite a few of the earliest Adams-type revolvers were adapted to double-action, then they made some varying models and finally ended up with a specific fixed design from about 1860/62. The shape of the 1850's Adams is quite different to the shape of the 1860's Adams. I can't find any published work that has managed to detail the development any more than described in this thread.

On the subject of WD orders for revolvers, it's a shame they didn't issue them to troops who needed them! In the Mutiny many officers started off without any pistol at all and many were restricted to single and double-shot pistols because they couldn't get hold of or afford revolvers. Many of the letters home request relatives to purchase and send out revolvers.
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Re: Handguns: the first General Issue Service Revolvers

Postby L. Braden » 16 Jun 2014 18:33

Fuzzy indeed! The Wikipedia article on the BA is ridiculously contradictory, in one place saying that it was adopted in 1856 and in another 1862. 19th-century sources are far less contradictory, varying between 1855 and 1856. Anyway, for some reason, the term "Beaumont-Adams" was never used, either officially or unofficially, in the 19th century. It was still the "Adams" or "Deane & Adams revolver", a.k.a. "the double-action revolver", with "Beaumont improvements" or the "Beaumont system". It was followed, in 1859, by the "Deane-Harding revolver".
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