.500 Royal Irish Constabulary Revolver by G. Dowler

Does anyone have more information on this box? Will, are you there?


Not sure about the specifics of the box, but it looks like G. Dowler was a certain George Dowler of Birmingham, who manufactured ammunition at the “Plume works” from around 1865 to 1871. Since The Webley RIC was made in 1868, with very few of them being in .500, and since Dowler was apparently bankrupt in 1871 (see below), it must be a very rare box, and must date from those few years. It would figure that they would contract with the RIC to make cartridges for their revolvers since Dowler had already been making whistles for them and other police forces for decades according to some info I found online.

The 2009 book “The Birmingham Cartridge Manufacturers” by C.W. Harding has a section on him at 8.14:

In the first paragraph here, it mentions “the failure of George Dowler”, and it is dated April 7, 1871, so the .500 Tranter (is it a pre-Tranter thing?) box in question would supposedly be from before that date?:

This is also him having a patent on a matchbox design:

While on the subject of the .500 R. I. C. ammunition, has anyone seen or heard of a multiball loading in this caliber ?? Thanks. M. Rea

I second that inquest! However I was told a while back that there were not any known multiball loads in any of the British pistol calibers such as .450, .455, .442, .38, etc. Which I was surprised and saddened to hear.

Matt, thanks for posting those references. The firm of George Dowler has a short but interesting history, and is worth to mention that it was even contracted by French agents for the manufacture of Chassepot cartridges during the Franco-Prussian war. What intrigues me of this box is the London adress associated with him and I also wonder about its contents.

Interestingly, there is a Company called G Dowler in Kings Norton Birmingham right now. It was started in 2004 and shows up on the current business register. Weird coincidence I would imagine, although its not that common a surname. Maybe I should try a shot across their bows, metaphorically speaking. I am not shy of doing that.

The name is new to me but I would imagine from his connection with police whistles that he was slightly more of a middle man than an actual ammunition manufacturer. The Birmingham gun trade was “organic” thousands of individual artisans who rented a work bench and “hired out” on a job by job basis rather than worked for one manufacturer. Everything was made by subcontracting out. It worked very well.

My paternal Grandfather Harry Green was one such artisan although he was in the Jewellery trade which worked cheek by jowl in the same rabbit warren of streets and buildings in Birmingham as the gun trade.

Today the Jewellery quarter of Birmingham is all Twee converted apartments and cobbled streets. The gun trade involvement is being ruthlessly erased from the history.

Incidentally, I have a British police whistle thats about 60 years old. The first SERVING or Rtd US policeman to PM me gets it for free with my best wishes.

I second that inquest! However I was told a while back that there were not any known multiball loads in any of the British pistol calibers such as .450, .455, .442, .38, etc. Which I was surprised and saddened to hear.[/quote]

Multiball was not a very British concept, mostly because the cases were too small and the loads, although big in diameter were rather pathetic in powder charge. I really wonder why that was, the .455 was only about as ballistically significant as a .38 spec. You would have thought that with revolvers like Tranters and Webleys that were of good build quality they would have “grown a pair” and gone for the 40grn loadings of the .44-40 and the .45LC.

Instead they seem to have hovered around 19grn pip squeak loads.

I am constantly suprised by how pathetic the British loadings were and how many lives that must have cost. There is evidence in even WW1 that privately purchased pistols for officers. many chose the Colt over the Webley, wise choice IMO

One of the things associated with this which has been the subject of discussion between myself and TonyE in the past is the number of British loads that were listed in the catalogues as shot loads way back.

We presume that was because most of the British Empire was situated in places where snakes were a concern and the family revolver was more likely to deal with snakes than any other problem. Although a box of real ammo would be in the back of the drawer snakes were day to day.

I lived in West Africa for 18 months, carried a pistol every day (.32 Browning 1910, even wore it while swimming. wasn’t going to leave it on the beach) yet never saw a single snake ever. Total salt water immersion never affected gun or ammo (S+B) even on a weekly basis.

Boy was I Pd to hand that pistol in for destruction when the handgun ban kicked in in UK. Still PD today, that gun was an old friend.

Hi Fede et al.

This is the first I have seen a Dowler box or illustration or reference. Was this actually a box or from a catalogue? I went down and had a look over my 500 boxes and I only have one that states RIC on the label, with no makers name. The ammunition inside are Kynock with the round nose bullet. The style of label is nothing like the Dowler box. However, that tells us nothing.

The big question is: Did Dowler actually manufacture metallic cartridges? It’s one thing to manufacture paper cartridges but quite another to manufacture metallic cartridges. Perhaps DK Configuration answered that indirectly. If Dowler had been manufacturing Police whistles at this time, he would have had machinery similar to that required to manufacture the ‘new’ metallic cartridge. Also, at that time, competition within the ammunition trade was fierce to say the least. He was in direct competition with Eley and Kynoch as well as Joyce and Gevelot and Gaupillaut (SFM) from France as well as others. Little wonder he went bankrupt.

It would be really interesting to see an identified round by Dowler to see if was indeed his manufacture or contract ammunition.

Perhaps some our European friends (JP) could tell us if SFM had any contracts to sell ammunition or components to Dowler.

The English ammunition manufacturer’s continue to fascinate me. Anyone with an empty carraige shed or potting shed seems to have manufactured ammunition during this time period. This is another that I didn’t know about.

Vince: With regards to multiballs, I have not seen one yet in 500 revolver by any manufacturer, nor heard of a specimen in anyones collection, yet. That is not to say that someone didn’t make one, just that I have not seen one yet. I know that Chris P has not seen one yet in 450 either. Your comments about the shot loads being used for snakes and such makes sense. Also, small game and small game birds would have been potential targets as well as ferral dogs (depending on the region of the world).

With regards to lethality, there are a number of rounds by different makers including RWS, that have pointed, HOLLOW bullets. I have been told that these were police loads. I have not been able to verify that yet. Quite a number of different variations have come out of South America (Argentina), but I have not seen any boxes yet, nor do the rounds have a makers name on the headstamp. You have to wonder how effective this would have been in a shooting situation. I would think that the full lead bullet would have more knock down power, but I don’t shoot, nor do I have much knowledge in that area. Perhaps someone could enlighten me in that regards.

Fede and JP and everyone else on the Forum: Please don’t stop digging and submitting information to the forum. Perhaps some of the threads don’t get responded to and it may seem like it’s a pointless excercise. I read many of them and have found them all to be useful and informative. Please don’t stop.


Perhaps some our European friends (JP) could tell us if SFM had any contracts to sell ammunition or components to Dowler.


Nothing on my side .
My customers listing starts in 1900 only.

I’m somewhat confused as this box lists the RIC cartridge yet we also seem to be discussing the 500 Tranter.

I thought there was only one RIC cartridge variation, (by an unknown to me maker) unheadstamped, a .887" / 22.52 mm CL, a battery cup type primer, a round nose lead bullet without any visible grooves and a 1.375" / 34.92mm oal. That the Tranter would likely work in the RIC is quite probably likely, but the RIC cartridge being longer might not work in the Tranter?

(see lot 597 in our #13 catalog [currently on my site}, for a RIC photo).

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Will, this box was auctioned by Weller & Duffy in 1978 with a Webley RIC .500 caliber revolver inside a case by Mortimer & Son, Edinburgh. George Dowler of Plume Works, Aston, Birmingham was listed as a “cartridge maker” in a few pre-1871 references and with W. Pursall he also applied for a cartridge patent on December 7, 1869 (noted as “abandoned” on July 1870). A Birmingham directory for 1871 list him as a “Bell Founder” and at the same page “Brook Son & Co” is listed as the only “Ammunition manufacturer”. In 1876 the Plume Works was sold to Greenway, Clive & Vale. Said all this, his relationship with the London adress still eludes me.

Here are some very abbreviated snippets of information relating to George Dowler. They can be viewed with other newspaper articles at britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/ (which has varied levels of subscriptions available).

Aris’s Birmingham Gazette, Monday, June 29, 1857
Fire- A destructive fire broke out early yesterday (Sunday)……workshop at the back of Lionel-Street, in the occupation of a cabinet-maker named, Jefferys…….beneath were the premises of Mr. Denham, cooper………Adjoining Mr. Denham’s premises are those of Mr. George Dowler, brassfounder, which also took fire.

Birmingham Daily Post. Monday March 10, 1862
Fire had occurred on Friday 6 March 1862 in the premises of Mr George Dowler, Great Charles Street.
Mr Dowler, as is well known, is a manufacturer of bells, military ornaments, and wax “vesta” matches.

The Birmingham Journal, Saturday, April 26 1862
The Great Exhibition
George Dowler, Birmingham, has a case containing medals in lead and bronze commemorative of the present Exhibition, ornamental metal paperclips, inkstands, sheaths for dusting brushes, &c.

The Bradford Observer, Friday March 18, 1870
Great Fire at Aston. £15,000 damages
On Wednesday evening, a serious fire broke out in the manufactory of Mr. George Dowler, Plume Works, Aston, Birmingham. Mr Dowler is a general manufacturer, a fancy brass founder, and wax vesta maker, and has recently added the manufacture of cartridge to his extensive business.

The Birmingham daily Post, Thursday, January 5, 1871
Application for a license to manufacture cartridges, &c.
Yesterday an application was made to the magistrates sitting at the Erdington Police court……….by Mr George Dowler, residing at Knowle, and carrying on business at the Plume Works, Plume Street, in the parish of Aston, for a license, and to license the manufactory and premises, situate at Tyburn, near Erdington, late in the occupation of William Wiley, but now of the applicant, for the making and keeping respectively certain preparations or compositions of an explosive nature, called ammunition, percussion caps, and cartridges, and for the purpose of manufacture to keep and use gunpowder caps, and to determine the quantities of such articles to be kept on the premises. It appeared that Mr. Dowler had been working under the license granted to Mr. Wiley (who occupied the same premises) some years ago, and that it now became necessary for him to apply for a new license.

The Birmingham Daily Post, Wednesday, February 8, 1871
Local Law Case
Action against a Birmingham Ammunition Manufacturer: Damages at £10,000
Le Beau v. Dowler
Too much info to write, so see this jpg.

Messrs Le Beau and Company were contracted by the French Government to supply ammunition, cartridges, and Chassepot percussion caps. Dowler was then contracted by Messrs Le Beau and Company, to supply 10,000,000 Chassepot percussion caps, at 1,000,000 per week.

Lloyds Weekly London Newspaper, April 2, 1871
The failure of Mr. George Dowler….liabilities 30,0000£……
The cause of failure is stated to be the repudiation of several heavy French contracts for ammunition.

The Birmingham Daily Post, February 1, 1872
Application for a license to manufacture gunpowder……by Mr. Albert Smith Pearson, oil merchant,…
(at the Tyburn premises occupied by Dowler. The premises layout is described)

Wow! Fantastic information. Now, this all begs the question: Did Dowler actually manufacture brass cartridges or just paper cartridges for the French Gov’t. If he had a brass foundry, which it appears he did, then the obvious answer would probably be yes. I will now have to keep an eye out for another English 500 box and rounds…

Pete: The .500 tranter and .500 RIC are the same cartridge. Check out Kynoch’s 1884. It shows the round you are talking about as the .500 Bore, with no reference to RIC. I have two boxes marked RIC, both the same, one has the Kynoch rounds you describe and one has Eley rounds with the early Eley Bros headstamp with the cartridges having the early two piece heads. However, I think these may have been put in this tin at a later date.

I am always amazed by the amount of information you guys turn up. Totally astounding. We have gone from a little known company to one with a considerable history, for such a short time in production. Good work all!


Here’s another legal action against Dowler, when he was unable to supply 500,000 Snider cartridges.

The Morning Post, Monday, December 5, 1870

(I found this interesting, as I suspect that had he supplied them they would have been destined for Japan, an area of interest to me)

Hi Will
yes the Kynoch 1882 catalog sure shows it just as the .500 bore & no reference to RIC, but why are there two distinct over all lengths. Does the Tranter revolver, still revolve with this longer cartridge in a chamber?

Nice to know the round is by Kynoch, ta for that & how about a photo of the tin’s label?

I too am amazed at the fantastic information that shows up here. THANKS everyone!

safe travels
AZ kid

Wow! Fantastic information. Now, this all begs the question: Did Dowler actually manufacture brass cartridges or just paper cartridges for the French Gov’t. If he had a brass foundry, which it appears he did, then the obvious answer would probably be yes. I will now have to keep an eye out for another English 500 box and rounds…


Guns and Ammo bought in England by the French government during the 1870 war

A) August order :

  1. 20 000 Snider rifles (made by Small Arms Company of London and Small Arms Company of Birmingham)
  2. 8 000 000 Snider ctges (made by Eley in London)

B) November order :

  1. 30 000 Snider rifles
    They have been manufactured by :
    a) Bonehill & Co in Birmingham (10 000)
    b) Wilson Deeley & Co in Birmingham (4 000)
    c) Riley & Co in Birmingham (3 000)
    d) Hollis & Co in Birmingham (4500)
    e) Barnett & Co in London ( 6 000)
    f) Guilgud & Co in London (1 540)
    g) Other manufacturers (960)

  2. 12 000 000 Snider ctges
    they have been manufactured by Eley Brothers in london

  3. 12 000 000 remington ctges
    they have been manufactured by:
    a) By Eley Brothers in London (2 000 000)
    b) by Kynoch & Co in Birmingham (10 000 000)

  4. 12 000 000 Chassepot ctges
    They have been manufactured by:
    a) Kynoch & Co (8 000 000)
    b) Peter Pritchard (500 000)
    c) Peter pritchard (1 500 000) (powder loaded by them, cases and bullet coming from Kynoch)
    d) Dyer & Robson (500 000) (powder loaded by them, cases and bullet coming from Kynoch)
    e) Other companies (1 500 000) (powder loaded by them, cases and bullet coming from Kynoch)
    Among them were Charles Phelippault (62 000),Edward Johnson (200 000)

  5. caps for Chassepot (manufactured by Kynoch)

  6. 70 000 bolt heads for Chassepot rifles
    They have been manufactured by Charles Bonehill of Birmingham

  7. 40 000 Snider reaplacement parts sets (firing pins, firing pin springs, extractors spring)

  8. 40 000 Snider tools sets (screw drivers, oil recipient, aso)

  9. 1 000 12 mmm Lefaucheux revolvers with tools

  10. 50 000 12 mm Lefaucheux ctges

  11. 4 000 9 mm Colt revolvers with tools and bullet molds

  12. 20 000 9 mm Colt ctges

C) Other orders:

  1. 11 918 Chassepot rifles
    They were manufactured by
    a) Potter & Hunt in london
    b) Webley & son in birmingham
    c) Tippinf and lawden in Birmingham
    d) and so on

  2. 1157 Remington rifles

  3. 5357 Snider rifles


Thanks for that. With regards to the Chassepot cartridge makers, I had only heard of Dyer & Robson. Pritchard, Phelippault and Johnson are new to me. Once again, anyone who was willing to take a contract and had a shed available could make paper cartridges. Just source the components and hire women and children to put them together (they had nimble fingers for the exacting work required) and you were an ammunition manufacturer. I wonder how many others there were out there during that period.

Also, Guilgud & Co are a new gunmaker to me. I have looked through my reference books and found nothing on them. The others I already knew about, but did not know about the contracts to the French Government. It appears that wars were good for ammunition makers profits. Nothing new there!

Thanks again.


Thanks everyone for the extra information.

I am specially interested in the discussion about George Dowler from Birmingham.
The Dowler family were active brass makers in Birmingham from the mid 1700’s.
The family business was on Great Charles Street in central Birmingham.
Eventually, around 1864, George moved the factory to a more spacious building on Plume Street near the Aston rainway station.
On March 16th 1870 a spectacular fire destroyed most of the Dowler factory. Fortunately the building and its contents were insured so about six months later George was able to restart the business.
Following financial setbacks during the Franco-Prussian War he, and his family, moved to Ontario Canada where he spent the remaining years of his life.
After trying to farm for a few years he moved into the town of Bracebridge where he opened a match factory which ran for several years.
I am always interested in finding out more about the various products that George Dowler manufactured, any references (e.g., newspaper, court records, etc.) to help add more details to the family story.
Michael Ball

In my on-going research into George Dowler I discovered a provisional patent application.
It No. 3533 and is dated Dec. 7, 1869 for "Improvements in Cartridges for Breech-Loading Firearms"
This patent was applied for by George Dowler and William Pursall.
The description, extending over three paragraphs, does not include any drawings.
I have also not been able to discover if a permanent patent was applied for at a later date.

As always, I am interested in hearing from anyone with additional information about George Dowler and his cartridge making business in Birmingham.