Sunday, January 10, 2010

Webley Bulldog, an old fascination and a new project

MANY years ago I had acquired some books on guns one of which was a recap of the famous Stagecoach collection. In it was a Bulldog revolver. It looked purposeful, sturdy and interesting. Years after that came the movie "The Wind and the Lion" in which a character pulls his Bulldog revolver to defend the heroine and uses it to good effect, until he empties the cylinder.  How unfortunate that it looks like it was really an RIC or Metropolitan Police!  No matter.  These two things have put the love of the Webley Bulldog in my soul.

Of course, the Bulldog shows up in other movies. In "Joe Kidd" Helen arms herself with one and holds her Webley Bulldog on Sheriff Bob Mitchell (Gregory Walcott) in the courthouse. In "Unforgiven" English Bob has to give up his Bulldog to the Sheriff before he's beaten.  In the recent movie "Sherlock Holmes" Doctor Watson and Sherlock Holmes manage to fire a cylinder full of ammo each.  There's even a hint of black powder smoke. Apparently, Peter O'Toole carries one in a 2008 movie, "The Iron Road". 

The ammo?  A great example of the type of cartridges for which the bulldogs were chambered is the .455 Webley.  Ok, so these were mostly chambered for the .44 Webley.  Still this was a short stubby, large caliber cartridge producing rather sedate velocities from even longer barreled guns, these are cartridges for sitting room distances.  These were guns for self-defense.

Most all of this ammo used black powder, the propellant of the time.  Most all of the bullets used were lead and most likely swaged projectiles with round noses.  Neither black powder nor the lack of hollow-points (or, alternatively, a big flat meplat) would be accepted by modern users.  Perhaps something could be done about this, but not in original guns.

It is also an unfortunate truth that President Garfield was killed with an American made copy of this gun.  Long a resident of the Smithsonian, it has been on the MIA role for almost an equally long time now. 

Perhaps it is this fascination with the Bulldog that is manifest in my accumulation of modern snub-nose revolvers. I certainly have been accumulating quite a few of those lately. Unfortunately, I seldom see one of the Webley revolvers much less one for sale.  I want one.  Moreover, I want to shoot it.  I might even want to carry it!  How to do this?  Perhaps a project is in order.  How about building a new Webley Bulldog from modern materials?

Now before you go ape on me and point out that Charter Arms has just such a revolver let me reiterate that I want to re-create the Webley British Bulldog.  I think the .44 Special is a bit long a cartridge for what I want.  Maybe the .44 Russian will work, maybe the .45 AR, maybe the .45 Cowboy.  I think the original .455 Webley and predecessors are just too hard to get brass for and also, the appropriately sized barrel blanks might be much easier to acquire with .451"-.452" groove diameters.

I got Mr. Layman's book yesterday and read it last night after work. Worth every penny for the excellent illustrations as well as the information some of which is applicable to other interests! I also discovered that Mr. Layman and I had some things in common other than gun interests. Great read but I've already started to go back over certain sections, there was a lot to absorb! I'll have to write a detailed book review.

-Webley Solid Frame Revolvers - 2008 by Black, Ficken & Michaels
-THE BRITISH BULLDOG REVOLVER The Forgotten Gun that Really Won the West by George Layman
-Those Confusing .455s by Chris Punnett


Nate said...

Hi, I stumbled upon your post while looking at the bulldogs online. I too have become fasintated with these little guys and would also like to own, shoot, and carry one. I think the biggest problem with that is finding sudible ammo for them.If there was a modern re-creation that shot a size of ammo that was redily available, I would be all for having one. A type of ammo you might think about is the .45GAP. It is a shortend .45 made for Glock. Good Luck!

Caleb said...

i actually have a .380 british bulldod but was wonderin if u knew if the .380 ammo made know would work for it?

BigM-Perazzi said...

the .45 GAP is rimless, won't work.

I'm also considering the .45 Cowboy for my .44 Webley. probably find a .442 dia bullet and forgo the heeled bullet design. Also trying to locate some .45 AR...

Jim Chapman