Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Gun show report

And one of my remaining dream finds found

Now that I've mostly recovered(yeah, I'm a wimp) and have some time, the basic would be that the Wanenmacher show is a very, very nice show. They advertised about 3900 tables, and I believe it. Guns, parts, accessories, tools, knives, more tools & parts, books and surplus gear. Unlike last year I didn't stock up on ammo, though I picked up a few bits & pieces there. Mostly I was looking for parts for the M1 Carbine receiver, some replacement screwdriver bits and other things like that.

On the Carbine, every part you can think of was indeed available, but I've got to say this: the price of GI-production barrels is officially insane. I saw one Inland barrel (in very good shape externally but a bullet would slip into the muzzle all the way to the case) priced at $350. If the damn thing was new in the wrapper, maybe; no way in hell it was worth near that much in that condition. Some others were anywhere from $150-250, with much less muzzle wear. I'd hoped to find an Inland barrel to go with the receiver, but at those prices it ain't gonna happen.

Now to the find: I'm now the owner of a Webley Mk VI revolver

chambered for the, as Kim puts it, manly .455 Webley cartridge.Unfortunately, yes, the cylinder is cut, but that's the big reason I could afford it; those with uncut cylinders run about twice what I paid for this one. The bore is bright with very strong rifling, the barrel & frame lock up without any play or slop, and the cylinder locks up like a bank vault. I saw one other for a bit less, but the barrel/frame lockup wasn't as tight as this one.

Monday was partly devoted to detail-stripping this and cleaning and lubing. I've torn down/helped with several Enfield and Webley revolvers, and the thing they all had in common was being dry inside, no trace of any lube. Cleaned and oiled(greased where appropriate) they've all proven to have smooth actions and light, clean single-action triggers(in those pistols that had single-action capability). And it's a very simple design inside. In the case of the Mk VI, the 'V' mainspring delivers power to the hammer and rebounds the trigger; the only other springs are one in the cam that works the ejector and the one that tensions the single-action sear. A very robust design.

Sights are a front post that's locked into the base with a screw(I've seen sight blades marked for the range they were sized for) and a wide 'V' rear that's actually part of the barrel latch. It should be noted that they did make target versions of this pistol which had adjustable rear sights.

Last couple of days I've done more research on this cartridge, which included finding this page of British revolver cartridge data if you want the entire rundown. Short version, this cartridge originally fired a 265-grain bullet of 12 parts lead and 1 part tin loaded to 700 fps. That, I would say, would leave a mark. There were several modifications over time, and at the time this pistol was made the standard was a flat-nose hollow-base bullet at about 650fps. One thing I'd like to note is that in 1898 this cartridge was produced with 'Thomas Webley's patented man-stopping bullet'

cast in 12 parts lead to 1 part tin. Now THAT would leave a mark. The record notes:Patented by Thomas Webley in 1897. It had a conical cavity in the nose which was to aid expansion, and the outer radius (of the nose) was slightly chamfered to aid initial penetration. This design was meant to increase stopping power when non-vital parts of the body was hit. It appears to have worked too, as the Mk III round was withdrawn from service because of it´s "over-effectiveness". I would tend to wonder, how can a combat bullet be 'over-effective'? In any case, that hollow base would also let the bullet swage out to fit the bore, which would help explain the reputation for accuracy of this pistol/cartridge.

I mentioned the cylinder was cut. At the start of WWII, when the Brits were desperate for any firearm that would go bang a lot of these were dug out of the armories for use. However, there was a shortage of the ammo for them, and no way to take manufacturing capacity from other cartridges to make them. So, since they could get lots of .45acp ammo from us, the cylinders/extractors had a little milled off the back; this made enough room for .45acp in spring-steel clips to be used. Accuracy suffered as the bullet of our .45 was of a bit smaller diameter, but it worked. So now it's not easy to find either a pistol with or an uncut cylinder alone, and the prices are high.

Fast forward, and a lot of these revolvers are on the market. You can shoot them with .45acp and clips, but if you don't want to do that there was a problem: .455 Webley ammo or brass was hard to get and expensive. Answer to this was to create the .45 Auto Rim, basically the acp case with a very thick rim

Auto Rim case on the left here. The rim engages the extractor properly, and the thickness fills in the space for the clip.

So you can set up to shoot it, but there's still a problem, the different bullet diameters. Which means not only is a standard .45acp bullet too small but the case is a bit smaller in diameter, too. I wanted to give this one a try before I wrote this so I did the same thing as I did for the .380 Enfield revolver: cast the bullet and don't size it, just lube with Lee Liquid Alox. I cast some 230-grain ball and 200-grain flat-nose, and this method gave me bullets of .455 in the ball and .453 in the flat-nose. I dug up some load information and put these in the Auto Rim cases with a suitable charge of Unique and this morning took it to the range.

Note: I've read everything from "It's perfectly safe to shoot with standard .45acp ball" to "You're a fool if you shoot it with .45acp". I've got a bunch of full-moon clips, and I'll use them with handloads kept to about the same pressure-velocity levels as the original cartridge, but mostly I plan to use the Auto Rim cases to load this.

Overall a very smooth action with, as I said, a clean and light single-action pull. I couldn't set up the chronograph so I'll have to check the velocity of the loads later. I boiled down to this: first target was fired single-action at about fifteen yards with the 200-grain loads:

(the hole an inch south & a bit east should be ignored; yes, there is a reason)

The second target was fired double-action at seven yards with the 230-grain loads, all fired in about five seconds:

Overall, I'm very happy with this thing. These groups in a dimly lit range with sights designed for fast acquisition, not precise marksmanship, ain't bad at all from my eyes. And recoil was negligible with both loads; the combination of size, weight, barrel length and grip size/shape made it very comfortable to shoot. A very nice pistol that I'm going to enjoy being the caretaker of for a while.

Other stuff about the show

One dealer was selling Duracoat in all the various colors. I got a kit of matt black(bottle of resin and bottle of hardener, with instructions) to try out. I've got an air brush I can hook up to the compressor, so we'll see how this works out. If I get good results there are a number of things I can use it on.

I found a very nice powder measure that I'm going to get when I've got some money again. Weighing every charge on a stick powder like IMR4895 or 3031 or whatever can be a pain, but every measure I've tried doesn't work well with them; you have to throw a charge that's a bit light and then put it on the scale and and add powder to bring it up to weight. This measure was dropping very consistent charges with a large, coarse stick powder( I can't remember which one offhand) with no cut grains.

There were a lot of old double-rifles out there, in calibers from .450 on up. Some absolutely beautiful examples of the gunmakers art, marred only by the fact I'd have had to sell my house to afford any of them.

Overall a very good show. I will make a suggestion if you're going to it: if you plan on buying much of anything and spending the day/s, take some kind of cart. I borrowed a suitcase cart(the kind that folds up) and used a bungee cord to hold a small storage bin on it and it was VERY nice to have. Among other things it lets you carry a couple of bottles of water and some munchies along.

1 comment:

John Saia, Potomac Falls, Virginia said...

The conversions to .45 ACP for the Webley Mk VI were not done during WWII, rather they were done after they were surplused after the War because .455 Webley was not common in the US, but .45 ACP was. This was very unwise for the simple reason the Webley is a break top design and full house .45 ACP loads operate at near proof pressures for .455 Webley. The gun will hold up, but will be damaged in the process if using standard .45 ACP loads.....just don't do it! The damage could be catastrophic and dangerous to the shooter. Your plan to handload .45 ACP and .45 Auto-Rim to .455 pressures is the way to go and will not damage the gun. Using the .45 Auto-Rim case it allows the gun to be used as it was before its modification and does away with having to use moon clips.