455 Webley Mk 1`unusual bullet


#1

Howdy folks,

Attached to this post is a photo of the Webley auto round with unusual bullet ,is this a Helmet Test bullet or some other special purpose round ?

The bullet is all lead, coned crimp into a groove , the headstamp is E. 18 1

Thanks, Randy


#2

I am inclined to believe that either this is an altered bullet, or an out and out reload. No such round is shown in any United Kingdom source that I have for this cartridge. Further, your headstamp, from Eley in 1918, is among the two or three most commonly encountered in this claiber; I dare say it IS the most commonly encountered of itself. It is, therefore, the one most likely to have been used by a reloader.

It would have been helpful if the entire cartidge had been shown, along with a picture of the head showing the primer.

You might look on the base for anything that appears to be an extractor marking, and then around the inside of the rim (the top side of the rim, seen by turning the head away from you) to see if there is an obvious extractor mark.

In the absence of any definite proof it is a reload, I cannot give any other hint as to what it might be since I have never seen such a projectile in this caliber, nor any reference to one, despite having spent some time studying this cartridge for an article that I never finished, due to the publication of the fine book by Lynn Harris (Deceased), of New Zealand, shown as a reference below.

If anyone can identify this as a legitimate round, I would love to receive any pictures, documentation of other types, etc. for my files, and a possible blurb in the IAA Journal as a addendum (and tribute) to our departed friends Lynn Harris and Peter Labbett.

Reference: Webley’s .455 Auto Pistol Cartridges, by Lynn Harris
Reference: British Service Pistol Calibre Ammunition, by P. Labbett & P.J.f. Mead
Reference: British Commercial Revolver & Self Loading Pistol Ammunition, by P. Labbett & P.J.F. Mead
Reference: “Cartridge Corner” by Kingsley field, Australian Shooters Journal, May 1991, pages 44, 85, 86 (article “A Drop-out in Britain” on the .455 Auto cartridge
Reference: .455 Auto specimens John Moss collection


#3

I agree entirely with John. I have never come across any reference or drawing that shows any load like this. Apart from anything else, I doubt that it would feed.

Regards
TonyE


#4

I have a .455 revolver rd, headstamp KYNOCH .455, with a similar bullet that was touted as a helmet test round, I assume it too is a reload.


#5

It is possible your .455 is a helmet test, but the “official” cartridge was the .500 Revolver case with the shrapnel ball bullet.

Regards
TonyE


#6

Thanks,
Here’s a pic, the primer is rounded and not flat as it seems in the pic.


#7

Thanks for all the replies, I am just starting out posting pics,and I will get better I tried to do a close up of the bullet and the seating as I thought that was going to be the most important feature of this round, as in all other instances it appears identical to other rounds ,in the meantime I can say that there are no extractor marks on or inside the rim and the primer looks factory and the same as other E.18 1 , headstamped rounds in my collection, the same goes for the bullet crimp, it looks factory and original ,now as to the bullet being altered , if it is not a genuine round , I guess that can be the only other possibility, or can it ? Regards Randy


#8

Randy - if the bullet is jacketed at the crimping groove and below the crimp, it is a genuine bullet that has been reshaped in the case to remove the outer jacket and then round down the core. It does NOT look that way in the picture though. If it is completely lead, I have no answer for you other than I have never heard of or seen such a bullet in the .455 Webley Auto cartridge. I assume that the primer is a copper cup, not nickel like the .455 Revolver round you show.

Thinking about the helmet test application, since the firearm used is not a determining factor in testing helmets, but rather the load is, according to the examiner’s criteria, I cannot imagine the British using .455 Autos for this purpose, unless used with original loads to test the service cartridge itself for helmet penetration, rather than just a set velocity and bullet weight. The .455 Auto was, compared to the various Marks of Webley Revolver, issued in miniscule quantities during WWI. As far as I can glean from references, less than 10,000 military models were made for the Navy, Army and the royal Flying Corps combined. Compared to the numbers of troops mobilized at the time, this was a tiny figure compared to revolver production. It is hard to think of them using them for special purposes like helmet tests in 1918, with the war still in full swing. Of course, that is just my view. I have no documentation of any British helmet tests of any kind.

Neither of the two most often used references on British semi-automatic pistols mention any lead bullet load at all for these pistols, nor any special loadings. Admittedly, their sections on ammunition are scant. Evidently, the only approved cartridge for the pistol was the Mark I ball. Sources have indicated that neither proof loads nor dummies were officially approved, although both exist. Not counting the “C” headstamped rounds that were a much discussed topic on this Forum a short time ago, I have a commercially headstamped Kynoch Proof Load as well as an Eley (E.14 I) proof, both with purple stripe across the head and both originating from the Birmingham proof house, the commercial years ago thru one friend, and the other from the surplus rounds sold some years ago, thru another friend. I also have one military pattern drill, although with commercial Kynoch headstamp, as well as a Kynoch commercial dummy and a solid-steel inspector’s dummy. So, patterns of ammunition exist that were not officially approved by the Military Agency charged with that responsibility.

Regardless, your round remains a mystery. It may be some ultra rare experimental, or it could be some home reloader’s attempt to make some sort of gallery load, or a dozen other explanations, none with any documentation known to most authorities on this caliber.

Reference: The Webley Story, by William Chipchase Dowell, Pages 166-168, 249-250
Reference: Webley & Scott Automatic Pistols, by Gordon Bruce, Pages 233-264,


#9

I’ve had a look through my .455 auto rds and found this on. It doesn’t appear to be a reload. The primer annulus is purple. The headstamp is R/|\L 39 I


#10

I would say that the .455 auto round was among the least likely round to ever be encountered as a reload. It had virtually no take up in the civilian market what so ever although I did see a 1911 colt factory chambered for it about twenty odd years ago.
I’m not aware of anybody making dies or moulds for it. Even NDFS who supplied dies and cases for every obsolete calibre you could imagine did not list it, not even for special order.
I never ever saw a Webley auto pistol in private hands in the UK. Cartridges of the World suggests that some of the pistols were sold in the US after WW2 so maybe the origin lies over there.


#11

This is a digresion from the main topic, but I have to take issue with you Vince about the pistols.

I owned a Mark IN pistol for a number of years and shot it frequently, and I know a number of people who still own one. There were some 14,000 Colt government models made in .455SL for the British government in WWI and these served with the RAF through WW2. I also had one of those for a short while.

Prior to the pistol ban in the UK there were both cases and bullets available on the UK market.

As for the lead bulleted R^L 39 round, I cannot offer any constructive suggestion. I do not think it is an original factory load but then again one must never say never.

Regards
TonyE


#12

I know nothing about the pistol or cartridges but my military mind tells me that 3 different cartridges, three different headstamps, all with the same or similar bullets, is more than a coincidence.

Ray


#13

The RL 39 round with a lead bullet is quite interesting. Obviously, the primed case is original - correct primer and seal. The bullet at least has something resembling a correct ogive. I have no answer for it. I agree with Tony entirely. I don’t think it is factory, but have no explanation for why it ended up up in that case, or what it might have been used for if it is factory.
By the tinme is was made, lead bullets in military handguns were pretty much banned for combat, I think. Interesting round, though.

Ray - the bullet in the picture with the RL 39 case looks different to me than the others. In fact, none of the three look identical with each other to me. Could be the angle the pictures were taken at I guess. Three differenct rounds isn’t much when you are discussing something on the Forum with all the people who read it, and all the ammunition accumulated. Two have showed up here in .455 Auto (I know nothing about .455 Revolver - lots of lead bullets in those I would guess), but the combined research of many different people, including Peter Labbett and Lynn Harris, two of the greats when it came to British ammo, nevered turned up any. that is not to make it impossible that both the E18 and the RL39 are legitimate. My opinion is that they are not factory loads, but it is an opinion based only on what has shown up before, and what I see as a lack of military usefulness for them. Lord knows some strange things have shown up that proved to be absolutely genuine. I have my opinion on them now, but my mind isn’t totally closed to the possibility that they are more than just home loads in primed cases.

Regarding the pistols. I am not surprised they don’t show up much now in England, Vince. I don’t know your age, but years ago, when England really started getting tough on handguns, the were forcing people to turn them in if they weren’t licensed collectors, or whatever (I don’t really know what the criteria was even then for owning handguns in England). Then, as Governments do, despite thinking that somehow pistols in the hands of perfectly fine British subjects was somehow on a par with possessing a nuclear explosive device, they felt perfectly free to sell them at auction for sale in the United States. In the early 1960s, we purchased, thru our agent in Liverpool, W… Richards Ltd (this is NOT Westley Richards), some 890 assorted handguns. There were scads of Webley .455 and enfield .38 Revolvers, a few Enfiled-produced .455 revolvers, three Webley Fosbury “Auto” revolvers, and a fair assortment of .455 autos, not to mention 80 German Artillery Model Lugers, about the same number with 4" barrels, etc. The point is, within the last four or five decades, so many pistols have let the hands of British citizens, and gone either to destruction or elsewhere, that it is not surprising one would think they were not ever available. that was our biggest importation, but not our only one. I suspect Richards found for us, over a few years, probably about 1500 handguns. those who knew our store know that we had a fair collection of British cartridge boards decorating it. That was a result, primarily, of our association with Mr. Len Brown, of W. Richards, also. As was our almost lLegendary purchase of the “few” British-made Mauser Broomhandle Pistol stripper clips Kynoch had left in their basement - those “few” turned out to be 32,000.

When I had my auto pistol collection, sold in the 1970s, I had a Model 1912 Mark IN, An Army issue 1912, a Royal Flying Corps Webley with genuine shoulder stock serial number 3, two .38 Hammerless Webley Autos, 9mm Browning Long Webley autos commercial, and South African Police Model. Even though out of my field, I also had a Webley .32 auto, of which I have forgotten the model, but it was an extremely early one with a safet lever around or on the hammer, brand new in the original box. That was a gift to me, and I wish I had kept it when I sold my collection. Every one of my .44 Webley autos was picked, when I decided I wanted one, from several available at large gun shows, except the Royal flying Corps Model. So were my 9mm Longs. The .38 Hammerless Models were always rare in the U.S. and I owned the only two I personally have ever had my actual hands on, one at a time. I had one and was able to upgrade it, so I gave my other one to a friend who collected. I have seen Webley collections in America that had literally dozens of Webley auto pistols, ranging from 6.35s up to .455s. Oh yes, I also had an RAF-marked M1911 Colt. Should have kept that one too, I guess, but heck, I could say that of the whole collection I suppose.

I still would like to be kept up if anyone finds out anything positive about any here-to-fore unknown .455 auto load. While I only have 25 or so specimens in my collection (no dates just for the dates, of course), I really like the caliber for some reason.


#14

Once again thanks to all who replied, the bullet looks to be pure lead into the crimp, there is no sign of a copper or nickel jacket , the primer is the usual copper one , the 455 Revolver round with the nickel primer was posted by Armourer, thanks Randy


#15

Old cynic that I am - I suspect all these loads are ‘handloads’ or ‘reloads’. Never seen any evidence they were factory loaded.
Re the .455 with round ball - I used to load these myself - used them in a Colt .455 on squirels and bunny rabbits.
Your .455 ‘Helmet Test’ Armourer features a case made by NORMA - ID from nickel primer (it will be Boxer primed) and the open numeral ‘4’ in the headstamp - loaded by Kynoch from late 1968 til 1971. Except for some blanks - only 265 gr lead bullets were loaded in these NORMA cases - also sourced from NORMA and sometimes from HIRTENBERGER. No other type bullets were loaded by Kynoch. I have searched the Kynoch loading cards.
Surplus primed NORMA .455 cases were sold off by Kynoch in the early 1970’s - I bought some from Longstaff’s at the time - so they were widely available to reloaders.


#16

J P-C, thanks for the info on the .455 revolver.


#17

[quote=“TonyE”]This is a digresion from the main topic, but I have to take issue with you Vince about the pistols.

I owned a Mark IN pistol for a number of years and shot it frequently, and I know a number of people who still own one. There were some 14,000 Colt government models made in .455SL for the British government in WWI and these served with the RAF through WW2. I also had one of those for a short while.

Prior to the pistol ban in the UK there were both cases and bullets available on the UK market.

As for the lead bulleted R^L 39 round, I cannot offer any constructive suggestion. I do not think it is an original factory load but then again one must never say never.

Regards
TonyE[/quote]

Hi Tony
Yes but you are talking about a very specialist group of shooters. In the normal world of clubs and events that represented the mainstream of the sport you just did not encounter .455 autos. Like I said in all my years I only recall seeing one and that had its barrel switched to shoot .45acp the same day it was bought.

I’m 54 and have been shooting all my life, I have run clubs and shot in all the usual events but don’t ever remember seeing a .455 Webley auto in use.

Vince


#18

54? A mere child… no wonder you don’t remember .455 autos. I can give you another ten years on that.

Only kidding,
Regards
TonyE


#19

Hi Vince - 54? You;'re still young. I assume you were born in 1954. I was born in 1939, and if I assume that you got interested in arms even at age 15, 1969, that is a couple of years past the really great importations of small arms from Europe into the U.S. By the time you were 15, I dare say we had more .455 Autos in the U.S. than were left in England.

A shame that happened. Good for us and our studies, but bad for England who lost lots of their own historical items in all those turn-ins. Fortunately, it seems that at least British Museums are better than ours at keeping their history, and their archives seem to be better too.


#20

Vince, John, Tony

The number “54” seems to be popular today. I shot my first pistol competition in 1954 and have to say that , like Vince, I have never seen a .455 auto on the firing line, not once, never.

Ray