Object Title

Webley Mark VI revolver

Webley Mark VI  revolver


The iconic Webley top-break revolvers served the British armed forces in various incarnations from the 1887 to 1963. Developed and manufactured by Webley and Scott (formerly P. Webley and Son before a merger with W & C Scott) until 1921. The British military officially adopted the Mark VI revolver from 1915 to 1923. This model retained its automatic extraction feature, as sported by its predecessors. Improvements included a more squared grip, a longer barrel and removable front sights.

The revolver chambered six rounds of 'man-stopping' .455 in ammunition. Introduced as a Victorian black powder cartridge in 1892, attempts were made to improve the round. The switch to cordite propellant in 1894 increased the round's velocity and accuracy. The .455 in Mark II ammunition used in the Webley Mark VI was adopted by the British Army in 1897. The Mark II ammunition had a round nose bullet, and was shorter than the Mark I in order to increase the rate of burn of the cordite. Shorter cases were a good method of reduced manufacturing costs, which were so vital to the war effort. Although the cordite increased the round's velocity and accuracy, it was still comparatively under-powered, compared to its opponents, mainly due to the bullet's weight.

Use and effect

Whilst British officers could purchase their own pistols, provided they were chambered in .455 calibre, the Webley series of revolvers was available to them and issued as standard to machine gun crews, aircrew, raiding parties, tank crew, and naval personnel. In 1915 procurement was switched from the Mk V revolver with its 'birds head' shaped grip, to the longer barrelled Webley Mk VI. A very robust double-action design, it performed well in the mud of the trenches and the dust of the Eastern Front alike. It could be fired rapidly, if inaccurately, by pulling through on the trigger to both cock and release the hammer. Accurate shots were possible if the hammer was manually cocked with the thumb between shots, but even this required a combination of natural ability and practice. Second-Lieutenant John Hayes Fearnhead of the 7th Battalion, Liverpool Regiment, wrote on this subject just eight days before he was killed in action on the Western Front:

'Have I told you I have got my revolver? Had it a week or more now, of course the army calls it a pistol, Webley, one, but it revolves so I call it a revolver. After assiduous practice over the top I am at last able to hit the side of a fairly large house at a distance of 5 paces, with luck. The weapon is a beauty though with an absolute hair trigger and a very easy action. Feel quite safe now wherever I go! Even if I couldn't hit anybody, I could make a big row and frighten them away!'

Like most revolvers, the Webley Mark VI held six rounds of ammunition; less than the standard Enfield service rifle. A vital accessory for trench fighting was therefore the Prideaux speed-loader, which greatly reduced reloading times. The operator only had to press a thumb catch with his shooting hand, break open the frame with his other, and push the complete loader into the cylinder. This dropped all six rounds neatly into place, requiring only that the weapon be snapped shut to resume firing. A bayonet was also commercially available at one time. Another accessory sometimes claimed for the Webley is a shoulder stock. This unwieldy combination is now thought to be a post-war fabrication using the stock developed by Webley for their signal pistol.

A lanyard was typically worn with this revolver by officers. This prevented the pistol being dropped, but had the potential to catch in the hammer, preventing the firing pin from reaching the primer in the base of the cartridge and resulting in a misfire. This could mean the difference between life and death in close- quarter combat. As the lanyard was worn around the neck, it could also in theory be used by the enemy to choke the wearer if things came to blows. The safest and most effective way to carry the Webley was with the lanyard being secured on the arm or around the belt of the Sam Browne.


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Webley Mark VI revolver being loaded and fired into ballistic soap target.


Action / Operating system Double-action
Barrel length 10.6 cm (4.17 in)
Calibre / Bore 11.5 mm (.455 in)
Capacity (rounds) 6
Country of manufacture Britain
Date entered service 1915
Effective range 30 m (34 yd)
Feed Cylinder
Manufacturer Webley and Scott
Muzzle velocity 190 m/s (620 fps)
Overall length 28.6 cm (11.25 in)
Primary operator Britain
Weight 1.1 kg ( 2 lb 4 oz )


Lisa Traynor