Lancaster Pistol Ammunition

I obtained a copy of a Lancaster catalog from 1893, and wonder about the ammo fired from the various Lancaster “howdah” pistols.
The .455 bore weapon could also fire a shot load – would someone know a typical loading (pellet size and number, muzzle velocity) for this? Apparently it was made both by Eley and Kynoch.
The smaller models could fire .360 and .380 CF cartridges. What were there exact designations? Where they compatible with any other cartridges, especially the various Colt and S&W patterns?

Many thanks!



Shot cartridges for a number of pistol calibres were made by Eley / Kynoch (basically the same company, Nobel Industries) in the 1020s. Falcon has my old copy of the catalogue.

The term “Howdah” for pistols in calibres like .455 is a bit misplaced. A howdah was the box on the back of an elephant from which Maharajas and the like would shoot tigers. A wounded tiger could and would charge and had been known to basically run up the elephants trunk and attack the people in the howdah.
Against this risk a pair of very heavy calibre pistols, often 16ga and loaded with solid ball were mounted in holsters at the front of the howdah as a last line of defence against a nasty death.

True howdah pistols are as rare as hens teeth and usually very ornate. They also challenge the assertion that the Walker Colt was the most powerful pistol made before the introduction of the .357 mag.

I have checked the Eley, Kynoch and Nobel catalogues from various years between 1902 and 1914 and whilst all list a shot load for .455 (and for all their other revolver calibres), none of them give any ballistic data as to size or weight of shot. Prices tend to be slightly dearer than the equivalent ball load.

I agree with Vince about the Howdah pistols. Although Lancaster made his beautiful four barrelled pistols in a number of calibres, .455 or smaller would not stop a tiger clawing its way up an elephant’s flanks. For that you needed a .577 pistol. The true howdah pistols are usually side by side .577s.


I think the shot cartridges were basically anti snake loads. Given the velocity of the .455 (circa 7-800 fps) and the small charge of shot they would not be any good as game getters or much else that I can bring to mind.
However, the British Empire did embrace some of the places in the world that contained horrible snakes and with nothing more than an inspired guess i would suggest snakes as a possible reason for the cartridges being sold.

I played around with .38 special shot cartridges in the 1980s and the results were just pathetic. Couldn’t break a bottle at ten feet.

I agree with you Vince. I have always assumed the ,455 shot were for snakes and maybe rats. Having travelled fairly widely in sub-Saharan Africa I can vouch for the need for them!