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Thread: ***WARNING for shaved or cut Webleys in .45 ACP/Auto Rim*****

  1. #21
    Back in my rookie era I white-smoked a 440 wedge in a St Regis patrol unit. May it rest in peace, the hot-running, oil-starving beast. A friend of my Dad's showed up at the shop once with a shaved Webley full of moon-clipped hardball. I've wanted one ever since but I think I'll settle for repurposing a couple of 28s.

  2. #22
    Boolit Buddy The Virginian's Avatar
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    Having a shaved Webley is not the end of the world, if properly fed handloads at .455 pressures. Handloaders can easily enjoy these guns safely.

  3. #23
    Boolit Grand Master Outpost75's Avatar
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    Agree! I enjoy my bird head Mk.IV with 230-grain Saeco #954 and 4 grains of Bullseye. 700 fps, about like the Schofield load.

  4. #24
    Boolit Master WallyM3's Avatar
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    I just wish I had something in .455 (again).

  5. #25
    To add my .02, I once had an Mk II that had been converted to .45ACP. The screw that goes through the latch that holds the thing closed was warped from a prolonged diet of .45ACP Ball. I only shot some sort of 200gr RN boolit and however much Bullseye it took get the boolit out of the barrel in .45AR cases. Very pleasant revolver to shoot, I used to call it my .22 that thinks it's a .455....
    Last edited by plain old dave; 11-11-2014 at 11:13 AM.

  6. #26
    Boolit Buddy The Virginian's Avatar
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    Going easy on these old warhorses is critical to keeping them working and mild handloads on the cut Webleys is a must not only for safety, but for preservation of function.

  7. #27
    Am I allowed to name the US antique firearms dealer who has several MkVI barrel and cylinder units in .455, at $650 apiece?
    .
    I agree with the original post. I once measured a friend's pre-WW1 Webley-Fosbery, which must surely be to the highest civilian build quality, and found it had .448in. cylinder throats and .455 grooves, and I doubt if the military revolvers were more. I wouldn't want to swage jacketed bullets down that much - any jacketed, in any revolver, even if it came out of the Ruger factory yesterday. Some people do get good accuracy with solid based bullets in Webleys, but I think this, although probably safe, depends on a soft alloy.

    The objection to GI hardball isn't entirely a matter of pressure. The French M1873 ordnance revolver was sometimes rechambered in .45 ACP, to various standards of quality, during their Resistance years, and a good many are still owned in France. I have seen some French calculations by a reliable engineer who considered there was very little wrong with basic but conventional ACP powder charges in this gun, which is solid frame in unsophisticated but not bad steel. Where they went wrong, however, was when hardball bullets were used. They have a history of topstraps broken by the impact.
    Last edited by Ballistics in Scotland; 11-26-2015 at 07:46 AM.

  8. #28
    Boolit Buddy The Virginian's Avatar
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    Whether or not pressure is the only issue it is a very bad idea to shoot 45 ACP standard pressure LOADS out of a converted Webley or a black powder era French M1873 Ordnance revolver......bad things will happen.

  9. #29
    On page 210 of Bruce and Reinhart's WEBLEY REVOLVERS, (Stocker-Schmidt 1988) there is a Mark VI Webley, No. 348229 which was proof tested to shoot .45 ACP in 1975 in the Birmingham Proof House and passed proof. This is one of several MK VI Webleys gunsmith altered to fire .45 ACP ammo and proof tested in Birmingham in the post war era. Given that Birmingham was the birthplace of the Webley firm, I think the Birmingham Proof House may know a few things about the strength of the MK VI and how to test them properly after alteration.

    Another point to consider is that the cylinder wall thickness of the S&W M1917 U.S. service revolver is slightly less than the MK VI Webley and yet no one claims that an M1917 will blow up if fired with .45 ACP service ammunition.

    There is a link, above, to a post on another forum showing a MK VI Webley with a blown cylinder. It should be noted that the cylinder in that case was blown with reloaded ammo and not factory loaded .45ACP. The original post included several images of the revolver in question including an image of the shell heads showing GI brass reloaded with commercial nickle plated primers. Clearly, the gun was fired with a bad reload. Webley cylinders are no more fragile than those of the M1917 U.S. service revolvers.

    The point is that one must take care in reloading for all revolvers not that the Webley is a "wall hanger."
    "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."
    Ben Franklin

  10. #30
    Boolit Buddy

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    There'sbeen some discussion of this topic on the Smith & Wesson forum.Comments there say the M1917 cylinders were heat treated.

  11. #31
    Boolit Grand Master Outpost75's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Freischütz View Post
    There'sbeen some discussion of this topic on the Smith & Wesson forum.Comments there say the M1917 cylinders were heat treated.
    S&W learned early-on about heat treating the M1917, because among the first test guns produced, several failed proof and the government required the heat treatment of all revolvers produced for the Army.

    My own Webley Mark IV Boer War period cylinder and frame were Rockwell tested in the course of the repair and did not register at all on the "C" scale, being 85-87 Rb, typical of a plain carbon steel similar to 1035 quenched and tempered....

    The frame was Rb90, its "black powder" metallurgy being similar to Colt Single Actions produced in the same era pre-1900.
    Last edited by Outpost75; 02-13-2016 at 12:09 PM.
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  12. #32
    Boolit Bub JWNathan's Avatar
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    I have a S&W 2nd model hand ejector that had left the factory as a .455 for the Candians in 1917. Unfortunately she's been cut, but for 45 colt. Does shoot real sweet with lighter loads.

    I've noticed at several Cabelas have had Webleys that have been cut for sale and no where on the tag is it mentioned that modern ammo should not be fired through it. Seems that whomever is doing their pricing research would notice that lil' kernel of information doing any Google search about these fine revolvers.
    -Jesse

  13. #33
    Boolit Grand Master Outpost75's Avatar
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    Maximum product average chamber pressure for .45 Colt is 15,900 psi and in the majority of cases the sample average won't exceed about 14,000. The .45 ACP operates at higher pressure, its sample average of 19.900 psi approximating proof pressure for .45 Colt.
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  14. #34
    Boolit Buddy The Virginian's Avatar
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    Proofing with .45 ACP does not show the accelerated wear and eventual damage on the hinge and lock up that a Webley Mk VI will suffer with a steady diet of .45 ACP ball. The heat treatment of the US guns was much different than the Webleys and whilst the cylinder may be thicker, the steel is not as strong. The standard lower pressure for .455 compared to .45 ACP should speak volumes as to why it is very poor judgement to do it. Stick with the mild handloads with lead bullets in cut Webleys and you will never have a problem.

  15. #35
    Boolit Grand Master Outpost75's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Virginian View Post
    Proofing with .45 ACP does not show the accelerated wear and eventual damage on the hinge and lock up that a Webley Mk VI will suffer with a steady diet of .45 ACP ball. The heat treatment of the US guns was much different than the Webleys and whilst the cylinder may be thicker, the steel is not as strong. The standard lower pressure for .455 compared to .45 ACP should speak volumes as to why it is very poor judgement to do it. Stick with the mild handloads with lead bullets in cut Webleys and you will never have a problem.
    I agree completely!!

    An "Accelerated Endurance Test" (AET) for an M9 pistol is 365 consecutive proof rounds, and is purported to put the same strain on the pistol as firing 5,000 M882 service cartridges. This is not something you would recommend outside of a controlled engineering environment, and is something done only in the interest of time savings in production to highlight weaknesses and failures. In practice repeated shooting of high pressure loads approaching proof pressure is dangerous and VERY damaging to the guns, regardless of the firearm platform.
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  16. #36
    Boolit Buddy
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    I was gifted a shaved MkII. I've found it to be pleasingly accurate with a Lee 200gr .452" SWC over enough Bullseye or such to yield 700fps. Shoots POI/POA at 15yds.

    However, it does have one charge hole (chamber) that is slightly bulged, I presume from someone firing factory.45acp. It's ok as long as nickel plated brass isn't used. Those will split longitudinal along the bulge.

    With moon clips it's a neat range toy. I have better carry/truck guns...

  17. #37
    Excellent and instructive post! I too discovered this after a friend just had to have a converted Webley .455 and I started reading up on it. I quickly discovered that even the lightest, copper-jacket ammo is really unsuitable for it, so I ended up loading some 175 grain LSWC over very light charges to hold MV down around 700fps. After all, he has plenty of modern semiautomatics and revolvers in .45ACP/Colt for real life events.

    Granted the original load was something like 265 grains but it was only loaded to around 600fps. In fact, one wonders if the Webley might be "happier" is loaded with a soft-swaged, hollow-base slug at low speed.

  18. #38
    Boolit Grand Master Outpost75's Avatar
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    A condensation of the article on the .455 cross-posted here by permission from the author, appeared first in the Cast Bullet Association's Fouling Shot

    Tales From The Back Creek Diary

    Modern Cast Bullet Fodder Safely Feeds Old Brit War Horses

    Proper bullets and brass with prudent load development enable old .455 revolvers to soldier on…

    C.E. “Ed” Harris, Gerrardstown, WV

    “The revolver is… a weapon for quick use at close quarters… looked upon more as a defensive weapon than an arm of precision…for delivering a knock-down blow within the limits of its normal short fighting range… used instinctively… aligned and discharged as a shotgun is used on moving game, rather than being consciously sighted…” - [British] Textbook of Small Arms, 1929

    The first self-extracting revolver issued by the British Army was the Enfield .442 rim fire, issued later in .450 centerfire. The Enfield proved unreliable in combat, due to its delicate mechanism and under-powered cartridge, attaining only 500 fps with its 225-grain hollow-based bullet. When the .450 was withdrawn it was replaced by the Webley Mk I, a 4-inch barreled “pistol,” firing the .450/476 cartridge, in August 1890. The Webley was produced in successive “Marks” I through VI. Of these only the Mark IV (Boer War Model) and later Mark V and Mark VI revolvers are suitable for safe use with Cordite or smokeless loadings. The earlier Marks I through III should be limited to black powder only.

    The Mk VI cartridge, introduced in 1939, is the variant most commonly found, used during WW2. It has a 265-grain FMJ, hollow-based Hague-compliant bullet propelled either by 5.5–7.5 grains of chopped cordite, or alternately 5.5-6.0 grains of flake nitrocellulose, the powder charge being determined at the time of loading to produce 625 +/-25 fps. Cordite-loaded cartridges bore a "VI" in the head stamp, whereas nitrocellulose-loaded cartridges were marked "VIz". Although obsolescent by the end of WW2, the Mark VI cartridge continued to be made into the late 1960s by Kynoch to fill export contracts for Pakistan, Kenya and other export customers. Late production was produced with small size Berdan primers. Remington and Winchester produced .455 in both case lengths prior to WW2. CIL in Canada loaded .455 Colts into the 1970s. Hornady produced a limited run of Mk II ammo in 2008. Fiocchi is the only current occasional producer of .455 M k II cartridges, other than custom loaders.

    Cautions for Feeding “Shaved” Webleys Converted to .45 ACP!

    The .455 Webley has a maximum operating pressure (sample average) of 12,700 psi, whereas .45 ACP may run up to 19,900 psi. This means that when firing your imported surplus Webley, commonly modified to fire .45 ACP for the US market, every time you pull the trigger, you're re-proofing the gun!

    While many converted Mk IV and later .455 Webley revolvers have survived repeated firing of .45 ACP ammunition, such treatment is equivalent to an accelerated endurance test, feeding the revolver a steady diet of proof loads. Such abuse is testimony to the sturdiness of these revolvers, because this practice certainly cannot be considered safe.

    Cylinder throats of all original Webley revolvers I have measured were tighter than barrel groove diameter, typically .449-.451." Colts and S&Ws, usually have very large cylinder throats of .457-.459” with barrel groove diameters being .455-.457”. Forcing oversized bullets into tight cylinder throats increases chamber pressure dangerously, PARTICULARLY when bullets are full metal jacketed or cast hard! Safe results require SOFT lead bullets not exceeding 10 BHN, sized to fit the cylinder throats. Bullet weights from 230-270 grains are recommended to shoot to point of aim with fixed sights. I recommend that ammunition destined for “shaved” .45 ACP revolvers be assembled into .45 Auto-Rim cases for positive identification. Loads developed in stronger Colt and S&W .455 revolvers using larger bullet diameters and producing velocities over 700 fps should NOT be fired in any Webley revolvers!

    Limit revolver velocity of 270-grain bullets to 600 fps and 230 grain ones to 700 fps by using 3.0-3.5 grains of Bullseye or 4.5-5.0 grains of Unique. You can determine safe charges with other powders in “shaved” .45 ACP Webleys or unaltered .455 revolvers using the 0.88” length .455 Colt cases by adhering to the “start” load charges listed for .45 ACP using #452374 in the Lyman Cast Bullet Handbook, 4th Edition (2010) on p.278, which do not exceed 13,000 cup. Reduce these charges by 10% either for heavier bullets or for use in shorter 0.76” Mk II cases, unless you are able to measure velocity of your revolver over a chronograph. Careful charge adjustment may be cautiously used to obtain uniform ballistics within the stated limits to compensate for a very large cylinder gap over 0.010”, which is very common in these revolvers. While you must be careful when reloading for any 100-year-old revolver, the Webley is a utilitarian piece of history which can be enjoyed with appropriate ammunition.

    You must be aware that the chamber throats of Webley service revolvers are highly variable. I encountered a .004” range of diameters among the various chambers of my 1914-era Mk VI. Several chambers were smaller than barrel groove diameter. With soft hollow-based lead bullets using black powder, this allows the bullet to swage down passing through the chamber throat, getting the most energy from a small powder charge, and the hollow base expands up again as the bullet passes through the barrel forcing cone to engage the rifling. But, I repeat my warning that firing hard-cast or jacketed bullets larger than cylinder throat diameter, such as the M1911 .45 ACP service bullet, combined with fast-burning powders such as Bullseye, can spike chamber pressure dangerously and should be avoided!

    My Mk VI Webley revolver has proven to be a satisfying gunsmithing adventure. While function and accuracy were very good for its type, it was plagued by occasional fliers and leading of its too-tight cylinder throats. After establishing baseline performance, I sent the cylinder off to DougGuy to have the throats uniformed. Thorough cleaning and close examination revealed residual circumferential tool marks from its original manufacture, as well as deep pitting which had hidden for years under accumulated lead and encrusted carbon fouling. DougGuy initially trued the throats to .4525” with an NM95 Borazon stone in the Sunnen hone to remove tight spots and enable close inspection, proceeding to clean up the worst damage in 0.001 increments, photographing the progress in stages. He explained:

    “Uneven throats cause differences in pressure which make the gun recoil differently in the hands from shot to shot, and groups open accordingly… It is more important that throats are even than what size they are. You can always size bullets to fit the throats. Pitting makes the throat diameter larger, which will both vent off pressure before the bullet leaves the cylinder, and it will lead the cylinder any place where gas escapes… Honed to .4555" with the 500grit borazon stone, the throats…show a HUGE improvement… I can see a seal down low in the worst throats, and I stopped here because I do not want to polish out the pitting to the point where it is too shallow to hold lube, powder residue…better to leave it where the residue from firing will have a good chance at sealing…

    “Here are the .4555" throats, and chambers, all polished up with an 800 grit ball hone. A .4555” pin gage goes smoothly and evenly in all the throats, a .456" won't go in any of them. I am quite satisfied with this endeavor, and for sure want to know how well it shoots… At the very worst, if you have 2 chambers that are not shooting to the same point of impact as the others, two things can happen. You could mark them with empty 45 ACP brass that would remain in the chambers, or you could send the cylinder back and see what taking the throats to .4565" does for it. My thoughts for the best scenario are that you fire the gun enough times to fill in the remaining pits, and determine that it shoots pretty good and just roll with it… You should see a tremendous improvement right away. For once, the caliber REALLY IS what the bullets are, and you now truly have a 455 Webley!”

    Soft Bullets and Mild Loads Are Best for Old Revolvers

    The .455 bullets are best when soft. I use a mixture of 50/50 plumber’s lead and backstop scrap with 2% tin added, approximating 30:1, about 9 BHN. Harder alloy is not needed, because velocities should not appreciably exceed 700 fps with 230-grain bullets or 600 fps with 265-270-grain ones.

    Fiocchi brass uses small pistol primers while Hornady uses large pistol primers. The other alternative is to modify Starline .45 Schofield cases. Ron Reed sells .45 Schofield cases modified to either .455 Webley Mk II (0.76”) or .455 Mk I Eley/Colt (0.88”) for $60 per 100. This is a very fair price considering the machine time needed. Doing so involves thinning the rim from the front from .055 to .039 and shortening the case body. Modified .45 Colt brass can also be used, but its smaller .512” diameter rim versus .520” for the Schofield and .535” for the Webley, may fail to engage with the extractor, which occasionally leaves a fired case or two in the chambers. The larger rim diameter of Starline Schofield brass, while smaller than original .455 cases, is more nearly correct, and is enough smaller in diameter to avoid rim interference which occurs when Hornady or Fiocchi cases are used in adjacent chambers of the .45 ACP Kirst conversion in the Ruger Old Army and Pietta New Model Army Remington type revolvers. The worst case when using modified .45 Colt brass in a Webley is having to manually poke a case or two out of the chamber every once in a while. This is not a problem at the range, because you are not having to clear angry hordes of charging, bayonet wielding Huns from your trench!

    Firing .455s in the Ruger Old Army with Kirst .45 ACP conversion installed proved safe, accurate, and reliable. Groups were about half those produced by the Webley in its original condition. It was easy to hit the 12” gong standing two-handed most of the time holding center-of-mass at 100 yards! Cylinder throats of the Kirst cylinder are .4535”, an acceptable fit for as-cast soft bullets from my Accurate molds.

    I was curious to see how much velocity gain was measured in the Ruger with 0.004” cylinder gap and 7-1/2” barrel, compared to the Webley Mk VI with its huge 0.018” cylinder cap and 6” barrel. In my first test I established a performance baseline firing 1942 British service ammo by Kynoch. These produced 567 fps in the Webley, 580 fps in the Ruger and 680 fps from my H&R Rook and Rabbit Rifle by John Taylor with 20-inch barrel. Despite a few hang-fires and two misfires, accuracy was acceptable and in all rounds which fired, bullets exited the barrels without mishap. Had I NOT been prepared with lead hammer and Brownell Squibb Rod, the Scheutzen troll could likely have indulged in his mischief!

    Next was to test Unique powder hand loads with 4.5 grains of Unique in Hornady brass with the MiHec 265-grain MKI hollow-based bullet. These gave 538 fps in the Webley, 679 fps in the Ruger and 788 fps in the H&R carbine, being a very good approximation of the original lead bullet service ammo.

    The Mk VI revolver came with several hundred rounds loaded with #452374 and 5 grains of Unique in the Hornady cases. Being cautious, I felt this starting .45 ACP load might be a bit “warm” in the Webley. So, I shot them first in the Ruger Old Army cartridge conversion and in the H&R Rifle. The Lyman cast hardball-shaped bullet shot to the sights of all three guns, and represents a good “full charge” in Mk II brass load for the Webley. Velocities recorded were 648 fps in the Mk VI (a maximum load not to be exceeded, considering its 0.018” cylinder gap), 716 fps in the Ruger and 814 fps in the 20” H&R.

    Velocities measured with 1942 Kynoch FMJ ammunition and cast bullet hand loads using Unique powder agreed with published references as to what they “should” be, considering cylinder gap. The velocity gain in firing Kynoch MkVIz in the Ruger was less than that experienced shooting lubricated lead bullet loads of similar energy. Pooling all five load samples fired in the Webley, their combined average velocity was 578 fps. This reinforces the well-established advice from our experienced Canadian neighbors that when working up loads for these revolvers, you should not appreciably exceed 700 fps with 230-grain bullets and not exceed 600 fps with heavier 250-270 grain one. I agree completely.
    Pooling the samples in the Ruger, its average velocity was 667 fps, or 89 fps faster than the Webley. This validates the advice that in working up .455 loads in your S&W .455 Hand Ejector or Colt New Service the 700 fps published velocity for the .455 Colt/Eley is still a good benchmark. BUT, if your sturdy Colt or S&W .455 likes a load exceeding 700 fps, you should NOT use that load in your Webley.

    Proper bullet “fit” is essential for safety as well as accuracy. It is common to encounter .455 Webleys having “tight” cylinder throats as small as .450”, whereas Colts and S&Ws often run .457-.459” Those inclined to hand load based only upon what they read, without MEASURING their revolver, may assemble ammunition with hard, oversized bullets which dangerously spike pressure. Original design soft, hollow-based bullets like the Mk II tolerate being squeezed through tight throats and will slug up again to take the rifling of a larger barrel. But doing so today is NOT the best technical solution.

    I recommend that cylinders be measured with gage pins and honed, when necessary, to 0.001” to 0.0015” larger than barrel groove diameter. A modern mold of design optimized for the Webley cartridge should be selected, which produces correct bullets that “fit” when cast in soft 8-10 BHN alloy.

    Reaming cylinder throats and having new Accurate molds cut to fit made a big difference in accuracy. A charge of 3.5 grains of Bullseye loaded with soft bullets cast from with Accurate molds 45-240H1 and 45-262H provide a useful approximation of original service velocity, with superior accuracy. While the Mk VI is not a target revolver, it easily meets or exceeds the traditional British service revolver accuracy criteria of One Inch Per Ten [yards], which defines practical handgun accuracy.

    Table 1 - .455 Velocity Test Data
    _______________________Velocity (fps), Sd _______Kirst Ctg. Conversion___”Rook Rifle”
    _______________________Webley Mk VI 6” Bbl.______Ruger ROA 7-1/2”______H&R 20”
    ______________________Cylinder gap 0.018”_________Cylinder gap 0.004”___Solid Bbl.
    Kynoch K42 Mk VIz 265-grain FMJ___537 fps, 29 Sd_____580 fps, 32 Sd_____680 fps, 40 Sd

    Handloads Assembled in Hornady .455 Mk II cases (0.77”) with Winchester LP primers

    #452374 225-gr. LRN 5.0 Unique__648 fps, 24 Sd____716 fps, 11 Sd_______814 fps, 14 Sd
    MiHec 265-gr. Mk I 4.5 Unique____538 fps, 24 Sd____679 fps, 32 Sd_______788 fps, 11 Sd
    Accurate 45-259H 3.5 Bullseye____622 fps, 6 Sd____720 fps. 16 Sd_______813 fps, 18 Sd

    Starline .45 Schofield Case modified to .455 Mk I (0.87”) by Reed’s Custom Ammo

    Accurate 45-259H 3.5 Bullseye____546 fps, 16 Sd____641 fps, 9 Sd_________753 fps, 11 Sd
    Column Means By Gun_______Webley 0.018” gap____Ruger 0.004” gap______20-inch rifle
    Pooled Avg. All Samples:_________578 fps_________667 fps______________770 fps
    Velocity Gain from Webley__________0___________+89 fps______________+192 fps
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  19. #39
    Boolit Master

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    Have no experience to speak of. A few years ago I saw a blown Webly at a gun show. The vendor kind of gave me an I dunno when I asked him about it. The he replied with "guess he got carried away with his reloads".

  20. #40
    Boolit Master


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    Speaking of abusing M1917s. I was a teenager when the local gun trader offered me a Colt ".44 Magnum". At that time, Colt made no .44 Magnum so I was interested to see what he had. It was a M1917 Colt with the straight chamber for use only with half moon clips. It was loaded with .44 Mag factory ammo with the bullet tips shaved off so it would allow the cylinder to close. He swore that he had shot it and it shot well. I guess the only way he got by with it was due to the difference between the .429 bullet and the .450+ barrel diameters. Who says the Lord don't take care of fools. I respectively passed on his .44 Colt Magnum deal./beagle
    diplomacy is being able to say, "nice doggie" until you find a big rock.....

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Abbreviations used in Reloading

BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
C Compressed Charge PR Primer SPCL Soft Point "Core-Lokt"
HP Hollow Point PSPCL Pointed Soft Point "Core Lokt" C.O.L. Cartridge Overall Length
PSP Pointed Soft Point Spz Spitzer Point SBT Spitzer Boat Tail
LRN Lead Round Nose LWC Lead Wad Cutter LSWC Lead Semi Wad Cutter
GC Gas Check