Printer Friendly

The Mk IV 380/200 service revolver: the British army played fast and loose with this top-break revolver design, but when war came, Webley was back in the driver's seat.

While the sun has set on the British Empire, Webley revolvers can still be encountered in various places around the world. Simple, tough and dependable, they earned an enviable reputation in heavy combat both extending and defending the Empire.


Chambered for the hard-hitting.455 Webley cartridge, these beefy revolvers offered superior terminal performance compared to their effeminate small-bore Continental rivals. Large caliber 265-grain bullets proved effective on native tribesmen, Huns, Turks, Bolsheviks, Nazis, Japs and anyone else who opposed the Grown.

While not nearly as elegant as a finely machined German P.08 Luger, Webley revolvers had a quality all their own. Tough as an anvil and simple as a longbow, they were not designed to impress other prissy European firearm designers. Rather, they were designed to be sent to the most inhospitable places on earth, subjugate it to the Crown and defend it from any power which dared challenge the Union Jack. They not only did this, but thrived at it and served the British Empire well for nearly a century.,

Webley & Scott's history can be traced all the way back-to 1790. It was founded by Williams Davis in Birmingham, and originally manufactured bullet molds, gun. locks, barrel gauges and more. He had apprenticed to the trade at the age of 10 and carried a Brown Bess at Waterloo at 25.

In 1817, he returned home and opened a shop, with his wife Sarah's help, in the center of the gun makers' area in Birmingham. He died in 1831, and three years later his company was transformed when his son-in-law, Philip Webley, gave it new direction. Webley undertook the manufacture of percussion firearms and his company became P. Webley & Son.

The first production revolver to bear the Webley logo, the Longspur, was introduced in 1853. During these early years, the handmade Webley revolvers were at a disadvantage in the market compared to less expensive mass-produced designs. However, they had their following and legend has it that George Armstrong "Custer was carrying a brace of Webley RICs at Little Big Horn.

In the 1880s, Webley began development work on a new large-frame top-break design. Designated the Mark I, it would become the foundation for an entire series of hugely successful models. Webley's first major achievement came in 1887 when the Mark I was adopted by the British Army. It went on to be adopted by the Royal Navy and British Police as well.

While adopted in.455 Webley, it was also offered in.450 and.476. A double-action design, it provided quick ejection of spent cartridge cases and rapid reloading. It sported a handy 4-inch barrel and a bird's head grip frame with a lanyard.

This original design evolved through five improvements, with the final Mark VI being adopted by the British Army in 1915. In 1897, Webley merged with W&C Scott and Sons. In doing so, the company gained its famous name, The Webley and Scott Revolver and Arms Company Ltd of Birmingham.

This series of military; revolvers was chambered for the equally famous.455 cartridge. Originally loaded with blackpowder, the propellant was soon changed to Cordite. It featured a case length of.770" with a rim diameter of.535" and a base diameter of.480". The neck diameter is.476" and it was loaded with a. 454" projectile. Overall length is 1.23 inches.

Like the revolvers, the cartridge went through an evolution of different "marks." The original Mark I load drove a 265-grain lead bullet with a charge of blackpowder and was Boxer primed. Introduced in 1897, the Mark II featured a slightly shorter case which was optimized for use with Cordite.

It was topped with a 265-grain hollow-base lead bullet propelled by a 6.5 grain charge of Cordite. The charge was ignited by a Berdan primer. By far the most interesting load was the famous Mark III "Manstopper," introduced in 1898. This was topped with a 218-grain lead projectile with a hollow in the nose big enough to boil lobsters in. It featured a hollow base for a tight gas seal as well.

The carnivorous cavity in the nose was to enhance expansion and increase terminal performance. One of the most effective military handgun loads ever fielded, it was soon withdrawn from service after the Hague Convention of 1899.

The Mark IV was adopted in 1912 and topped with a 220-grain flat-nosed wadcutter. The Mark V, also adopted in 1912, was simply a Mark IV using a harder lead alloy with a higher antirnony content. Both the Mark IV and V were intended for target practice.


The Mark VI, adopted in 1939, returned to a 265-grain bullet, however it was now jacketed to comply with the Hague Convention. The Mark VI was loaded with Cordite or, beginning in 1941, nitrocellulose (Mark VIZ).

Despite its effectiveness, the.455 Webley cartridge eventually led to the demise of the large frame Webleys in British military service. Following World War I the British military began studies on replacing the.455 Webley with a smaller cartridge.

This was intended to not only make a new revolver smaller and lighter, but more importantly reduce felt recoil to improve the hit probability of the average soldier. Yet they wanted similar terminal performance. While the British Army Ordnance officers should have known better, they thought they could have their cake and eat it, too.

Up until 1921 Webley & Scott had supplied revolvers to the British Army. In 1921 the government-owned Royal Small Arms Factory Enfield began production of the Mk VI Wesley in.455. It was to foreshadow sordid things to come When the War Office made the decision to introduce a smaller and lighter service revolver of reduced caliber it commissioned Webley & Scott to develop it. The only suitable model Webley had at the time was their.380 caliber Mk III. This was standard issue to the Royal Irish Constabulary and chambered for the.38 Smith & Wesson cartridge.

Due to the existing cylinder length Webley could not easily rechamber it for a longer and more powerful cartridge. So instead they teamed with Kynoch. Limited to maximize the performance potential of the cartridge.

Kynoch's approach was to seat a-200-grain lead round-nose bullet on top of a charge of 2.8 grains of Neonite nitrocellulose. Subsequent testing revealed this load to have a velocity of 630 fps at the muzzle and 577 fps at 50 yards.


The Small Arms Committee liked the concept, but desired some changes be made to Webley's design. Webley & Scott continued work on this project without knowing that on August 30, 1922 the Small Arms Committee recommended the Superintendent of Design to prepare his own revolver design.

Capt. H.C. Boys, First Assistant Superintendent of Design, subsequently took Webley & Scott's latest design and simplified it to ease mass production. Capt. Boys worked with Webley and had them produce prototypes, with, them unaware of the government's plan. When Webley discovered the government had basically stolen its design, and planned on producing it at the Royal Small Arms Factory Enfield, it sued.

As to be expected, Webley lost and the government declared the new revolver was designed by Boys with assistance: from Webley & Scott. They were, however, awarded [pounds sterling] 1,200, but the firm's relationship with the War Office had come to a bitter end. The British Army went on to adopt what became known as-Pistol, Revolver, No. 2 Mk I and produced it themselves. Webley's New Service Mark IV prototypes, complete with distinctive removable sideplate and a profile that virtually mimics the British government's new design, faded into history.

Webley &.Scott would have the last laugh, though, introducing the.38 cal. Mark IV revolver for commercial sale. This Mark IV was an evolution of the previous Mark III rather than the New Service Mark IV prototypes. Available with 4-, 5- and 6-inch barrels, it resembled a scaled down.455 Mark VI.


Like the Mark VI, the Mark IV was a double-action design built on a top-break frame. The cylinder held six.38 S&W cartridges. Pressing down on a latch on the left side of the frame allowed the barrel to be pivoted down. An automatic ejector then raised and simultaneously ejected all six spent cartridge casings before dropping back into place. Sights consisted of a blade front sight and a square notch rear.

Internally, though, the smaller.38 cal. Mark IV differed from the older big bore Mark VI. It was updated with F.T. Murray/J.W. Fearn's patented double cylinder stop. This design utilized two locking notches, middle and rear, for each chamber in the cylinder.

The design was intended to enhance lock-up and long-term reliability. A rebounding hammer with a pivoting, rather than fixed (as on the Mark VI) striker were standard. It was 10.25 inches long and weighed in at 2.4 pounds unloaded.

The original load intended for the new service revolver was adopted as the.380/200 Revolver Mk I. This drove a relatively soft 200-grain lead bullet at approximately 630 fps. However concerns over the legality of the projectile in regards to the Hauge Convention soon led to the adoption of a 178-grain FMJ load designated the Mk II.

After the adoption of the Mk II load the Mk I was supposed to be relegated to training purposes, but ammunition shortages led to it seeing combat as well.




Although the British Army had adopted and fielded the Enfield No. 2 revolver it wasn't long before it was buying Webleys again. When war once again reared its ugly head in 1939, the British Ministry of Supply placed orders for Webley Mark IV revolvers with 5-inch barrels.

During the war years, Webley & Scott produced more than 100,000 Mark IVs for the British government. These saw combat around the world. While these revolvers were substitute standard, this model was officially adopted on September 20, 1945 as Pistol, Revolver, Webley, 38-in. Trade Pattern (L) Mk 4.

Webley's Mark IV would go on to see additional action in the Malayan, Korean and Suez conflicts.- While officially declared obsolete in 1954, the Mark IV would remain in British military service until the mid 1960s.

Even after it was retired from military service the Mark IV remained standard issue withy many British police departments. It was also exported and the Hong Kong and Royal Singaporean police issued Mark IVs. The Singaporeans retained their Mark IVs into the 1970s. The sun finally set when Webley & Scott ceased production in 1978.

Although out of production, all those Mk IVs didn't simply disappear. They can still be encountered in various places around the world. For example, I carried a captured commercial Mark IV for a bit while in Iraq. It was in excellent shape and its previous owner was kind enough to supply a dilapidated leather holster and a bag of Kynoch ammunition.

Alter examining and photographing it, I dropped six of the Kynoch rounds back into the cylinder, latched it shut and stuffed it in my body armor. While its.38 cartridge is considered under-powered, I figured the old Kynoch loads would provide an edge in terminal performance over my Nikon D100. Eventually that pristine classic revolver was turned in, what happened to it I dare not guess.

Iraq wasn't my first encounter with a Webley and I've owned many down through the years. I bought, my first when I was 14 and I have always greatly enjoyed shooting them. Huge numbers of Webleys ended up being sold on the surplus market and so it's a familiar face to American shooters and collectors.

So I decided to pull one of my Mark IVs out and put it to work for this article. This was a 5-inch model in very good condition with an excellent bore. It sported the typical War Finish with machine marks present that would not have been acceptable on a commercial grade gun.



In the hand Webley & Scott's Mark IV is obviously from a different age. It is very different from a Colt or Smith & Wesson of the same period. The Bakelite grips were nicely checkered walnut and the revolver felt good and pointed well. One of the first things I noticed was the sights are less than perfect. The round front sight easily reflects light while the notch in the rear is too narrow.

The barrel latch is well placed for a right-handed shooter. Simply push forward with your thumb and push down on the barrel with your left hand. This will "break" the revolver open while ejecting spent cases.

The 5-inch barrel pointed nicely and made for a well-balanced package. The hammer spur is large and easy to thumb-cock from a firing grip. With the hammer at rest I noted a bit of play in the cylinder. But final lock-up was tight. Trigger pull in the single-action mode was approximately 5 pounds with a bit of creep. The double-action pull was smooth, fairly short but heavy. Compared to a Smith & Wesson Victory Model.38 SpL., I found the American design's single- and double-action pulls superior.



To give readers a baseline on how well the Webley Mark IV shot, I began testing at the bench. Four 5-shot groups were recorded at 25 yards firing single-action. Ammunition utilized was a fairly light 200-grain round nose lead load.

Accuracy proved very good with the Webley Mark IV averaging a respectable 2.5 inches. Point of impact was dead-on with this heavy 200 grain projectile. Velocity of this' particular load was on the lazy side, though, at just 500 fps. This is a bit slower than the standard British military.380/200 Mark I load.' This coughed a 200-grain round-nose lead bullet at approximately 620 fps. So accuracy from the bench is more than adequate for a service revolver and as good as or better than its contemporaries.

With an idea of how well the revolver shot, I moved from the bench and began to run more practical drills. I started at the 7-yard line and rapidly emptied the cylinder firing double-action into an Action Target B-27 Silhouette. Recoil is very light and the report is also relatively mild. All six shots clustered into a 2-inch group in the X-ring. Next I moved back to 15 yards and fired six rapid single-action shots at the head of the B-27 silhouette. All six rounds were on target with five in 2.2 inches and all six in 3.6 inches.

From there, I moved back to 50 yards and fired a cylinder from the prone position. All shots were carefully aimed and fired single-action. At this longer range the Webley stuffed all six rounds into an 8-inch group. So, practical accuracy of the Webley proved to be quite acceptable. However I noticed a significant amount of glare off the front blade which hindered precise shooting, especially at 50 yards.

Next, I ran the Webley through some drills, rapidly engaging multiple targets from 3 to 15 yards. These were performed double-action and required a reload. Here the Webley performed well. Side by side, the Webley Mark IV is substantially quicker to reload than the archaic solid-frame Ml895 Nagant that soldiered on with the Soviets through World War II.

Speed is on par with a Smith & Wesson Victory Model. The slowest part of the reloading process is dropping fresh cartridges into the chambers. Gloves posed no problems to the Webley.

The one major weak point of the Webley Mark IV is the cartridge it fires. While it tosses a heavy bullet, 200 or 178 grains, velocity is low. This low velocity is detrimental to penetration and terminal performance. In reality though terminal performance is likely similar to the U.S. military's .38 Spl. 130-grain ball load. While both of these loads are quite lethal and have put many men in the ground, terminal performance is not outstanding. Both of these smaller caliber moderate velocity loads are inferior to the .45 ACP and .455 Webley.

Today the Webley & Scott Mark IV is a great shooter and an interesting piece of history for the collector. Prices on examples in good condition are still quite reasonable, especially compared to their larger .455 brothers which have shot up in recent years. Holsters and accessories are also readily available.

When it comes to shooting a Mark IV they are also less expensive than a.455..38 Smith & Wesson ammunition is still readily available and works fine. Plus reloading dies are readily available. Starline offers brass at affordable prices and projectiles are easily obtained in a variety of bullet weights. Bullet moulds are also available from a number of sources. While bullet diameter of the.38 Smith & Wesson is slightly larger than a standard.38 Spl., I never had any problems using standard.357 diameter lead bullets.

Accurate Arms #2 and #5 both work well with 158-and 200-grain lead bullets. A starting load of 2.5 grain of Accurate Arms #2 will give a velocity of about 665 fps with a 158-grain lead bullet. A starting load of 3.3 grains of Accurate Arms #5 will drive a 158-grain lead bullet at about 675 fps.

If you want to drive heavier 200-grain lead bullets try a starting load of 2.1 grains of Accurate Arms #2. This will push a 200-grain lead bullet at about 575 fps. 2.7 grains of Accurate Arms #5 will drive a 200-grain lead bullet at about 540 fps. Velocity can be improved a bit, but I suggest keeping loads mild.

Final verdict? The Webley Mark IV is a nicely made European service revolver with a long service life. It's a great find for collectors and makes a fine shooter. The design itself is robust and features good sights and a usable trigger. Reliable and accurate its Only drawback is its weak.380/200 cartridge.

If chambered for.38 Spl., Fm sure the Mark IV would be much more popular as a shooter.

Still, it was markedly superior to the Ml895 Nagant fielded by the Russians during both World Wars and on even footing with the Smith & Wesson Victory Models issued during World War II.

However it was clearly inferior to Germany's P.3'8. If you have one sitting in your safe I highly recommend dusting it off and taking it out to the range.


Action Target

888-377-8033 /

Hornady Manufacturing

800-338-3220 /

International Military Antiques Inc.

908-903-1200 /



Type: Double-action revolver

Caliber: .380 Revolver

Overall length: 10.2 inches

Barrel length: 5 inches

Capacity: 6

Weight: 2.4 pounds

Muzzle Velocity: 620 fps

Manufacturer: Webley & Scott Ltd of Birmingham, England

Load                    Weight   Velocity  Average
                       (grains)    (fps)     (ins.)

Quality Cartridge LRN       200       500      2.5

Accuracy an average of four 5-shot groups fires from a rest at 25 yards.
Velocity measured 12 feet from the muzzle with an Oehler 35P Chronograph
1,030 feet above sea level at an ambient temperature of 80[degrees] f
LRN = Lead Round Nose.
COPYRIGHT 2011 InterMedia Outdoors, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2011 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:WEBLEY'S REVENGE
Author:Fortier, David M.
Publication:Shotgun News
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 20, 2011
Previous Article:Antis: Wisconsin too drunk for concealed carry.
Next Article:A contradiction in terms: "semiautomatic-only machine gun": this pan-fed classic is rare and very expensive in full-auto form, but you can get most...

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2022 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |