Thursday, April 03, 2014

Webley MK IV .38/200 (aka .380 Revolver or .38 S&W)

Webley MK IV .38 opened for loading
The Webley & Scott MK VI revolver, caliber .455, was the standard British service revolver during and immediately following the First World War. It was produced by Webley & Scott of Birmingham (who had been producing Britain's service sidearms since 1887) until 1921, when production of the MK VI was undertaken by the Royal Small Arms Factory (RSAF) at Enfield Lock. This government production continued until 1926. Despite good service during the war, it was considered by many to be bulky, heavy, and to have excessive recoil. In 1922 the War Office made the decision to introduce a lighter service revolver of reduced caliber. Webley & Scott was contracted to undertake the research and development of the new revolver.

The main reason for the desired change from .455-inch to .380-inch was that handgun marksmanship and handling are training intensive skills. This fact was painfully emphasized early in the First World War after the long serving professional British Army had been decimated in the 1914 and 1915 offensives and replaced by conscripts without shooting experience. The conscript force did not have sufficient time to be competently familiarized and trained with the big .455 MK VI. It was decided that a lighter pistol of smaller caliber would have been more suitable. Webley & Scott submitted a sample .380 revolver to the War Office on July 19th, 1921, along with 200 rounds of modified .38 Smith & Wesson (S&W) ammunition. The revolver was a modified Webley MK III hinged frame, self-ejecting pocket model. New features included a detachable striker for the hammer and a removable sideplate cover. The ammunition was modified to use lead bullets of over 200 grains in weight.

Based on the War Office's evaluation, a new MK IV model was submitted in January, 1922, and received favorable reports from the Army's Small Arms School. The revolver was generally liked for its lighter weight and shorter barrel and was considered to be a better service weapon than the .455 MK VI Webley, provided that a projectile of sufficient stopping power could be provided.

Schematic for MK IV
Since the length of the cylinder precluded the use of a longer cartridge, such as the .38 Special, the Kynoch ammunition concern produced a test batch of ammunition that had 200 grain lead bullets propelled by 2.8 grains of "Neonite" nitro-cellulose powder in a case dimensionally identical to the .38 S&W. This load produced a bullet which lost stability after target penetration, yet maintained a velocity in excess of 570 feet per second at 50 yards. This was deemed acceptable, and became the .380/200 service cartridge.

Meanwhile, all was not well at Webley & Scott. The government Small Arms Committee, on August 30th, 1922, directed RSAF Enfield to arrange the manufacture of the new revolver. This they did, making no changes to the Webley MK IV worthy of note, except eliminating certain manufacturing features to speed production, and a subtle reshaping of the grip. Webley & Scott was understandably upset by this turn of events - when they were shown the engineering drawings of the RSAF Enfield revolver, no design acknowledgment was given to Webley & Scott!

Despite this, two .380 Webley & Scott MK IV revolvers were sent to the Small Arms School in March 1924, and underwent trials from September 4th to 11th, 1924. These guns, one with a 6 inch barrel and one with a 5 inch barrel, achieved 1 inch groups at 10 yards and 2 inch groups at 20 yards.

By 1927, Webley & Scott became aware that their design for the MK IV had been pirated by the government as the "Pistol, Revolver, No. 2 Mk. 1," and that there was no intention by RSAF Enfield to have the new revolver manufactured by Webley & Scott. Webley & Scott sued the government for their development costs, but were denied. They were eventually awarded about 50% of their claim by the Royal Commission on Awards to Inventors, but the War Office took umbrage to the claim, and concluded the relationship which had provided Britain with her service pistols for so long.

Manual available from Cornell Publications
Webley was to have the last laugh, though. RSAF Enfield was to prove unable to keep up with the demand for pistols caused by the Second World War. As a result, Webley & Scott was to provide over 120,000 MK IV, .38 caliber pistols to the British and Commonwealth forces, with the MK IV becoming officially approved for British service on September 20th, 1945.

Use of the commercial Webley MK IV by many police forces around the globe, notably those in Britain, Israel, Canada, and Australia, continued as late as the 1970's, and in some places continues today, a fine testament to this outstanding revolver.

While British military .380 ammunition is available, the Webley MK IV shoots well with US commercial .38 S&W ammunition. Although the point of impact vs. point of aim may vary due to the lighter bullets used in the US commercial ammunition (146 grains as opposed to 178 or 200), group sizes can be quite satisfying.

This particular revolver is marked "S P F 5131" on the top of the "knuckle" or grip frame hump, i.e. it was issued to the Singapore Police Force. 5131 is the agency's "rack" number. As received it had apparently been converted to double action only. Not all SPF guns have been so altered. It is an earlier import though and lacks the cross-bolt safety or importer markings made mandatory on later imported lots.

I was certain I could convert it back to SA/DA from DA only. I was pretty certain that this would only require a new hammer with the sear notch. I think it is safe to say that I assumed too much.

I ordered a replacement hammer from Apex Gun Parts and it came right away. Got gun and hammer the same day but a couple of days passed before I was able to mess with it. This is not a particularly difficult gun to work on. However...

The No. 2 Mk. I Revolver
The Apex part does not have a firing pin so I had to move the pin from the original hammer to the "new" hammer. No difficulties there Hammer 1 is never fail to function albeit DA only. Guess what, hammer 2 is never fail to function... SA only. It will not function DA EXCEPT for the first time you try it after installation. And that part of it is really peculiar to me. It will correctly function the first trigger pull but thereafter it only advances the cylinder correctly and will not trigger cock the hammer. Is that odd or what? I haven't beat this but that wasn't the only surprise.

This gun has a hammer safety lever and two related parts (including the hammer safety lever) almost like the Enfield No. 2 MK I revolver. The hammer was modified to function with the hammer safety lever but if you take it out, i.e. omit only the safety lever, then either hammer function just fine. I decided to give it a rest and ponder the problem a bit.

So, one day some friends came by the militaria shop and I pulled out the revolver to show them how simple it was to take apart and reassemble. Using a dime to remove the cam lock screw I showed them how the gun was field stripped. I then reassembled the gun and, intending only to tighten the screw "finger" tight managed to turn the head right off. It was back to Apex Gun Parts for 2 of what they call the "cam fixing screw". It appears that I am now accumulating parts for this model gun. The cam fixing screw/cam lock screw arrived and it is a simple matter of removing the left side cylinder hinge screw and, while holding everything in place with the left hand, removing the cam lever and then using a pair of needle-nosed pliers to turn out the headless screw (the cam lever slipped right off over the headless screw), replacing the cam lever and cylinder hinge screw and then the cam fixing/cam lock screw. All back to normal now, I continued to ponder the work needed to return the single-action capability.

It seems to me that what was wrong with this gun was that there was insufficient room on the hammer for the trigger to engage the sear. Rather than stoning the sear itself, I used the stone to judiciously (I hoped) remove enough metal to give the trigger room to engage the sear without actually touching the sear. This seems to have worked. The gun has now been through 100 single-action dry fire cycles without failure.

This gun is a bit peculiar to the type. While the Enfield has a hammer block (which one can see in the above illustration/schematic) which is a flat metal bar operating in a slot machined to the right interior of the revolver frame from the area of the trigger to the level of the barrel catch, the Webley revolvers made to fill wartime exigencies did not have this nor did many of the revolvers made after the war for issue to various police agencies. This one does. Interestingly, the hammer was clearly modified after production without refinishing although the frame was clearly produced for this modification. To provide a "stud" on which the linkage connecting the trigger to the block could rotate, a screw was added to the right side of the pistol which is unthreaded inside the pistol to provide that "stud" or pin. No effort was made to inset the screw head in the revolver frame and it stands strong and proud. While it is a bit of an eyesore it doesn't interfere with the hand or fingers in firing. The hammer block itself has the appearance of an allen wrench flattened on the short leg with a hole through that flattened portion by which it is attached to the linkage at the trigger. The hammer body holds that part of it against its connecting stud on the link. For what it is worth, the gun will function without this part just as well as with it. It does complicate reassembly of the hammer and trigger but all this can be done without a third hand or vise.

At the gun shop, while on the floor stocking ammo, a fellow walked up to me with the short barrel small grip version of the gun. This has the cross-bolt safety, near the knuckle of the frame. Because of my experience with this gun I was able to educate him on his gun and on the one fault it possessed. The cylinder stop was worn. Webley uses a stop separate from the bolt that locks the cylinder in place during firing to keep the cylinder from rotating when not actually firing the revolver. Thus, his cylinder could easily be rotated when the hammer was forward although it did advance the cylinder and lock up properly when cocked. I think this could be fixed by replacing the part.

I seem to remember that his gun was a .38 (the .38 S&W) but all that I have seen in my research are .32s (for the .32 S&W Long). The Brits don't seem to have worried much about terminal ballistics in their choice of revolver chamberings. However, to give credit where credit is due, these cartridges are at least as good as the .32 ACP, .380 ACP/9mm Kurz or 9x18 Makarov cartridges with which these guns are contemporary in military usage.

Now I can begin acquiring and loading ammunition for this revolver. One of the most intriguing loads is the old Super Police 200 gr. bulleted load.

This is not a barn burner so far as velocity is concerned but it approximates the British .38/200 load that was the rationale behind adoption of the No. 2 MK I revolver (and the Webley war expedient purchases).

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Notes from the gun shop...

Yesterday was the first business day in the new shop. Very busy even with 5 people working the floor and register. Lots of visitors/shoppers.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Notes from the gun shop...

I think that people are really going to like the new store.  I spent much of the day moving ammo and other items to the store.  Jay S_____ showed me how to turn on all the lights, we pretty much got the gunsmith moved over but not quite set up.  There's lots of work to do still, but we're looking good.

The big quality gun influx has some real treats that continue to show up.  We have a list but it often understates the items.  For example, there is a 3d generation .44 Special Colt SAA in nickel with a 4-3/4" barrel and ivory stocks, several S&W J-frames including a Model 40 Centennial, a 649 and a 60. Looking at them all together in the case is almost overwhelming.

Another fellow brought in an interesting rifle for "appraisal" yesterday.  A Remington Model 30A, Express in .25 Remington with Noske scope.  A neat rifle but he's going to play hell finding loaded ammunition from the major makers.  Custom loaded ammo can be found of course, and he could load it himself.  That is a lot of rifle for the .25 Remington but recoil should be about nil...

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Notes from the gun shop...

Busy day moving.  It will be a very nice store.  We had lots more ammo than we thought and most of it will be on the shelves "out front" now.

Saw a first for me, a "flat-band" Winchester 1894 in .25-35.  I've got a flat-band .30 WCF but I've never seen a .25-35.  I had thought that post WWII Winchester didn't produce any .25-35s but there it is.  We also have a fine condition Colt Banker's Special with what appeared to me in my cursory inspection to be factory Colt ivory stocks.  There were also two new in box Colt National Match 1911s of differing vintages. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Notes from the gun shop...

Moving continues but stuff is coming in. Saw my first Remington R51 today. Underwhelmed maybe even disappointed. Trigger pull was pretty good. Size was pretty good. Feel in the hand was pretty good. Still, not enthusiastic. I would like to shoot one but I can't see spending my own money on it. Glocks are great guns but I still haven't bought one of them either!

Handled a bunch of great guns today as the big collection transits the store.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Notes from the gun shop...

Well, there's some big news.  The shop will be moving to 1301 Barterbrook Road and will open in the new location on 1 April.  Moving and stocking the new store location has already begun.  Hours will be the same.  There will be a gunsmith on site on Saturdays and Mondays. Phone number and fax number will be the same as well.  That's 540-886-3061 and 5640-886-3614 respectively. 

In the meantime, the shop has walked into a deal of almost 400 guns from the collection of a gun show promoter from Tennessee.  Really high grade guns ranging from shotguns to rifles to all sorts of handguns. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Notes from the gun shop...

Handled a S&W 69 yesterday and in my view it is a 4" 696 with matte finish and better grips AND, of course, the Magnum chambering. I showed it to a friend who stopped by the shop and he allowed that it would be perfect with .44 Special level loads, which is true. Not to stir the pot but he didn't like the lock or MIM parts (trigger really) nor did he like the matte finish. People commented on the black screw heads with the stainless gun. I think the cash price would be around $775. I don't know if I can get excited about it at that price.

Glock is doing a good job of getting the G42 out to the public. We had another bunch come in and about half have gone out already. More coming. I've been told that Glock has devoted ALL U.S. production capacity to the G42 until the intial spate of buyers are sated.

I went to the new doctor today. Need a physical and will get one from this guy. He had to interview me before taking me on as a new patient. Dang. Is everyone going through this?

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Notes from the other shop...

I was at the other shop and was paid a visit by Don S_____ of Waynesboro with his father's cartridge collection, or rather, a part of the collection.  Some neat things one doesn't often see.  Among those was a tin of Kynoch .470 Nitro Express cartridges.  Unopened.  Mint label.  No corrosion or staining.  WOW!  I'm including a photo of an opened tin just so you can have an idea what this is. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Smith and Wesson K-22 Masterpiece

K-22 Masterpiece dated to 1948 with box
I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to acquire a 1948 manufactured K-22 Masterpiece with its original box for less than the price of a new M-17. Since it was purchased new by the previous owner it has apparently sat in the box, unmoved although the tools were apparently "pilfered" sometime during that period. I haven't shot it much, but it does seem to have potential just as one would expect.

Production of the .22 on the M&P frame began in 1930 right at the beginning of the Great Depression.This would seem to be a bad time to introduce a high-quality handgun with a premium price. Christened the K-22 Outdoorsman in 1931, that revolver is now referred to as the K-22 First Model, and knowledgeable shooters and military and police training programs eagerly bought the revolver.

Original specifications were for a six-shot, K-frame revolver with a 6-inch round barrel, Circassian walnut grips and a Smith & Wesson medallion. Single-action trigger pulls were regulated to be 3 to 4 pounds. The 35-ounce revolver was guaranteed to shoot within 1 1/2 inches at 50 yards. The last of 17,117 K-22 First Models left the factory on 28 December 1939.

The new, improved K-22 Masterpiece replaced the First Model. Improvements included a shorter, faster action, a new micrometer-adjustable rear sight and a built-in, anti-backlash trigger. Despite the price of $40, quite a lot of money at that time, the revolver sold well. Unfortunately war was coming and Smith & Wesson had to redirect its resources and production efforts to supplying the British with M&P revolvers chambered in .38/200. Only 1,067 Second Models (collectors’ nomenclature) were produced in 1940 before all production efforts went to support World War II.

After the war, consumer desire for the K-22 made it clear that there was going to be a long-term demand for a quality rimfire revolver. Carl Hellstrom was first hired by the Wesson family in 1939 as shop superintendent then took over as president of Smith & Wesson in 1946 immediately after which he started implementing some cost-saving practices to the production line, as well as design improvements to individual products. Among those changes were the installation of a ribbed barrel on all K-frame target models—which swelled the weight of the new iteration to 38.5 ounces—with a new micrometer-click adjustable sight that did not have to be polished and was even to the frame, and a new anti-backlash trigger that no longer required the tedious and time-consuming fitting of the first Masterpiece series. The Masterpiece nomenclature was retained, partly because it was popular and partly because Smith & Wesson truly believed that it had produced a masterpiece revolver.

In 1949, a 4-inch barrel version, the K-22 Combat Masterpiece was introduced. Later it was to be called the Model 18. It was a great little trail gun, but sales paled compared to the 6-inch barrel version, and it was discontinued in 1985. My first K-22 was a 4-inch which I still have. I really enjoy squirrel hunting with it as well as range time. It is a great companion gun.
K-22 with Tactical Solutions conversion on Combat Commander frame

Friday, January 24, 2014

Rough week...

It has been a rough week.  We are accustomed to having the day revolve around Bailey's needs to eat, take bathroom breaks outside, etc and since that ended we have moments we are sort of at loose ends.  It has also been really cold for Virginia with temperatures as low as -2, we had some snow, we were putting away the Christmas decorations, taking Bailey's stuff either to put in storage for the "next dog" or to the SPCA to donate. Nana is picking up Bailey's cremains today.  I did work but it simply was not particularly interesting, in part because I miss the dog.

Saturday, January 18, 2014


'There is a bridge connecting Heaven and Earth. It is called the Rainbow Bridge because of its many colors. Just this side of the Rainbow Bridge there is a land of meadows, hills and valleys with lush green grass.

When a beloved pet dies, the pet goes to this place. There is always food and water and warm spring weather. All the animals who have been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.

The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind. They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. Her bright eyes are intent; her eager body begins to quiver. Suddenly she begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, her legs carrying her faster and faster. You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross the Rainbow Bridge together, never again to be separated.'

We can only hope. Goodbye Bailey.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


We've been to the vet today.  Bailey has been off her food and lost weight, I had no idea how much.  She's been intermittently throwing up as well.  The vet visit confirmed my fears that Bailey's kidneys are failing (or have failed).  We've given her something to calm her stomach, fed her some special low protein food, administered some antibiotics and felt our own stomachs churn at the news.  Anything we are doing now is merely delaying the inexorable approach of the inevitable.

We are very fortunate to have been retired for almost her entire life meaning that she's been able to be with one or both of us most of most every day.  She has survived bladder stones, one of which was as large as a golf ball.  She has traveled over more than half the country.  She has been a good dog all that time. A patient companion, a hardy traveler, a curious tourist, and an enthusiastic devotee of doggy delicacies. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Notes from the gun shop...

Yes, we've been to the shop.  No, there hasn't been much to report.  The ammo shortage continues.  Sales of what we have continue.  Nothing much of special interest is coming in, in fact, NOTHING of special interest is coming in.  The gunsmith quit.  We will do scope mounting and boresighting while you wait IF we have the mounts.  That's probably the biggest news.  Apparently there aren't any Weaver type rings for 1" scopes available.  Odd, isn't it?  I haven't figured that one out.  Today I'm at the other shop.  Nothing going on there either!  Some of this is rooted in the real economy which has 92 million Americans out of work and out of the work force, permanently.  The real unemployment rate is over 13%.  No money=no sales except for necessities.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Sunday, December 22, 2013


How they've been stored for 100 years (give or take)...
We had some very interesting epaulettes come into the shop for evaluation/identification and I must be overlooking something as I can find no references. 

Family tradition says these belonged to an ancestor who had revolutionary war service.
These are interesting in that they are actual articulated plates with an embossed American eagle (head towards the olive branch) on a cloth backing with wool padding and a silk (?) lining.  The silver bullion fringe is in excellent condition but the lining has deteriorated.

I took the time to take some close-up photos of the plates and the eagle device.

A side view attempting to show the overlapping plates and other details of construction.

A close-up of the eagle device.
Update 13 Jan 2014 from the owner:

My son, who is in the Va Guard working at the Bureau in DC pointed me to the U.S. Army Center of Military History at Fort McNair.

It turns out that these are not epaulettes but are more properly called "wings" because of the scales which arch over the shoulder. These are militia rather than regular army and date from 1821 to somewhere in the 1840s.

I'm trying to figure out who, potentially, might have worn them.