The British Webley Double-Action Revolver

The British Webley Double-Action Revolver
The Webley Mark VI, patented in 1915, became the most-used revolver by armies of the British Empire. It and Webley’s “Man-Stopper” bullet (inset) gained iconic status.

In 1957 Great Britain noted the 100th anniversary of the Great Indian Mutiny, the fiercest of Queen Victoria’s “little wars” of the 19th century. By coincidence, the Mutiny saw the first real use of revolvers in combat by British officers, and they stayed in service for a century. As the British Army noted the centennial of the Mutiny, it also phased out the last of its revolvers, replaced by the Browning Hi-Power semiautomatic pistol.

That is really an astonishing record of service. The iconic British revolver is, of course, the British Webley Double-Action revolver. It was the official military sidearm for 75 years, but British officers and colonial officials also carried Adams, Tranter, Colt, and even a few Smith & Wesson revolvers, especially in the years from 1857 until the Webley’s official adoption in 1887.

There were many variations of the British Webley Double-Action revolver, but the Webley Mark VI—the revolver most commonly used in the Great War of 1914–1918—is typical. It’s a double-action top-break chambered for the .455 Colt, a cartridge only slightly less powerful than the .45 ACP. In other words, it has stopping power to spare. And since the Webley ejects all its empty cases at once, it can be reloaded quickly and provides impressive firepower in a sustained fight.

The British Webley Double-Action revolver evolved into its final form through rigorous testing by the military, both on shooting ranges in England and in battles of all descriptions, large and small, in the outer reaches of the Empire, fighting Pathans, Malay pirates, and the Mahdi’s Dervishes.


Like American troops in the Philippines fighting Moro tribesmen, British soldiers often found themselves on their own, facing fanatical natives who took a lot of stopping, and bit by bit the Webley evolved into an excellent tool for that purpose. In 1897 T.W. Webley patented his “Man-Stopper,” a 218-grain bullet with a cavernous hollowpoint. It was outlawed soon after by the Hague Convention, but it could be employed against bandits and rebels in undeclared wars. The standard .455 Colt bullet, a 265-grain lead roundnose, still did the job, if not quite so spectacularly. (For modern users, Hayley’s Custom Ammunition offers man-stopper bullets in several calibers, including .45.)


In today’s world, a Webley may seem clumsy and old-fashioned. It’s neither as racy-looking as a Colt Peacemaker nor as slick as an S&W Model 27, but when you need to stop an onrushing something or other, it is highly effective. As well, if your revolver runs dry and you have no time to reload, it makes a pretty effective club.

Always looking for ways of expanding the capabilities of infantry weapons, English manufacturers offered detachable shoulder stocks, bayonets, and a variety of speed-loading devices for the Webley. One user noted that with the bayonet fixed, the stock in place, and a bandolier of .455 Colt ammo, a man felt “well-armed indeed.”

In many ways, the British Webley Double-Action revolver in its various forms is very similar to the Lee-Enfield. It combines features others have abandoned or found inferior, yet taken together, they add up to a very effective firearm. If the Lee-Enfield is a great battle rifle, the Webley is a great combat handgun. The Lee-Enfield cocked on closing, had a detachable bolt head, and locked up at the rear—all features others had long-since discarded. But it was slick, fast to operate, accurate, and offered tremendous firepower. Similarly, the Webley top-break design was decidedly out of fashion by 1900, but it ejected all six empties simultaneously, allowing fast reloading. If you just needed to replace one or two rounds, you could open it part-way and do it quickly and easily. It offered close-range stopping power and lots of it.

Shooting a Webley seems awkward at first, but you soon adjust and start knocking over plates with loud and decisive clangs, then reloading quickly and doing it again. Suddenly, this old-fashioned warrior is not so quirky and anachronistic after all, and you realize why the Brits clung to it for nearly a century and nicknamed it “the Peacemaker of the Empire.”


GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Black Hills Evolution of Rifle Cartridge: .308 Win. 175 Gr. Match

Black Hills Evolution of Rifle Cartridge: .308 Win. 175 Gr. Match

David Fortier talks with Jeff Hoffman of Black Hills Ammunition about the evolution of the .308 Win. 175 Gr. Match bullet.

All About .300 Blackout

All About .300 Blackout

The .300 Blackout is here to stay, and we take some time to look at new technology surrounding this cartridge. Next, we pit subsonic rivals against each other before stretching the legs of this CQB round out to 600 yards from a short 9-inch barrel.

Skills Drills: 3-Second Headshot

Skills Drills: 3-Second Headshot

James Tarr runs through the 3-Second Headshot drill.

Hornady 6MM Creedmoor

Hornady 6MM Creedmoor

Tom Beckstrand and Neal Emery of Hornady highlight the 6MM Creedmoor ammo.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Cutting-edge projectiles provide unprecedented performance in the venerable old workhorse, the .30-06. Ammo

Get the Most Out of the .30-06

Joseph von Benedikt - April 01, 2019

Cutting-edge projectiles provide unprecedented performance in the venerable old workhorse, the...

Improved bullet ballistic coefficients lead to greater performance and accuracy downrange without upping blast and recoil. Here's why. How-To

Improved Ballistics a Key to Accurate Long-Range Shooting

Rick Jamison

Improved bullet ballistic coefficients lead to greater performance and accuracy downrange...

A half-century in the making, the new DGX Bonded is Hornady's best-ever dangerous-game bullet. Ammo

Danger Tamed: Hornady DGX Bonded Hunting Ammo

Joseph von Benedikt - May 23, 2019

A half-century in the making, the new DGX Bonded is Hornady's best-ever dangerous-game bullet.

Crimson Trace enters the riflescope business with the Crimson Trace CTL-3420 4-20X 50mm. Optics

Review: Crimson Trace CTL-3420 4-20X 50mm

Joel J. Hutchcroft - April 29, 2019

Crimson Trace enters the riflescope business with the Crimson Trace CTL-3420 4-20X 50mm.

See More Trending Articles

More Handguns

The painful part about Brian Lohman Manufacturing's new YMIR Model 1911 is that it carries a retail price of $6,999. Not many of us can afford to pay that much for a pistol, but if you think of this gun as being a piece of art, one that you can actually use and then pass down to an heir, then maybe the sting of its price is tolerable. Handguns

Lohman YMIR 1911 Review

Joel J. Hutchcroft - June 16, 2020

The painful part about Brian Lohman Manufacturing's new YMIR Model 1911 is that it carries a...

The Springfield Hellcat is also available in the OSP (Optical Sight Pistol) version, which has the same open sights as the standard model but a 0.190-inch-deep mortise machined into the top of the slide is a snug fit for a micro red-dot sight. It comes with a removable steel plate that fills the mortise, giving the user the option of using the gun with or without a red-dot sight. Embedding the optic allows the open sights to be viewed without having to make them uncommonly tall. Handguns

Springfield Hellcat OSP Review

Layne Simpson - June 18, 2020

The Springfield Hellcat is also available in the OSP (Optical Sight Pistol) version, which has...

Smith & Wesson's reintroduced eight-shot medium-frame Model 648 double-action revolver is a perfect platform for the .22 Magnum rimfire cartridge. Handguns

Smith & Wesson Model 648 .22 WMR Revolver Review

Joel J. Hutchcroft - April 01, 2020

Smith & Wesson's reintroduced eight-shot medium-frame Model 648 double-action revolver is a...

Just by looking at the Kimber Rapide 1911, you can tell it is built for speed. It has all the bells and whistles that a hot-rod 1911 needs for fast function, and its fit and finish are superb. Handguns

Kimber Rapide 1911 Review

Joseph von Benedikt - June 29, 2020

Just by looking at the Kimber Rapide 1911, you can tell it is built for speed. It has all the...

See More Handguns

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get Digital Access.

All Shooting Times subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now