Webley Mark IV .38 S&W

Many of us, when we think of Webley revolvers, think of this iconic movie image, of Michael Caine and Stanley Baker playing Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead and Lieutenant John Chard in the 1964 movie Zulu, firing away with their Webley Mark VI in .455 Webley. Unfortunately for the movie, the iconic image is wrong. The revolver in question wasn’t introduced until World War I, thirty six years after the British Army fought the Battle of Rorke’s Drift. Nonetheless, the movie helped introduce more than a few people to the Webley, including me. When I noticed Century was carrying some Webley Mark IVs in their catalog late last year, I decided to grab one, since I had just renewed my C&R FFL. Delivered to my door a few days later. These aren’t very collectible revolvers, which their low price reflects, but they are in good condition, and should be a solid shooter, and a good introduction to the gun. The pistols are in .38 S&W, which is an older, than the .38 Special, and definitely more anemic than the man stopping .455 Webley. Unlike the Smith & Wesson designs, the Webley uses a top break reloading mechanism, where the entire barrel and cylinder can be moved away from the frame. This requires two hands to accomplish, so offers some obvious disadvantages to the more modern designs, but its’ still neat.

In the picture showing to the left, you can see the cross block safety that Century installed on these guns. That’s the main thing that kind of ruins these for collectors. Apparently it was done in order for Century to be able to import them under the ATF point system. Firearms explicitly listed on the C&R list can be imported by definition, without consideration to the point system (you can thank FOPA for that), but only the Webley Mark I is explicitly listed on the C&R list. These revolvers are C&R by virtue of the fact that they are older than fifty years. That gets it delivered to your door if you have a C&R FFL, but it doesn’t get you around the point system for importation.

In the picture to the right, you can see the origin of this particular pistol in Birmingham, England. I had wondered whether Century got these Webleys from one of the commonwealth countries, but I haven’t noticed any marks indicating that would be the case. I’m pretty sure that this Webley was never issued to any Commonwealth authority. It seems difficult to believe that it was imported directly from England, since I would imagine their export laws for pistols would preclude that possibility. In the picture to your left, you can see the proofs I am speaking of (click on the picture to see up close). Apparently all guns sold in the UK had to be “proofed” by one of several proof houses. This was one proofed by the Birmingham Proof House. The BV is the “Birmingham View” proof, indicating that the pistol passed visual inspection. The BP proof is a black powder proof mark, and NP is the “nitro proof” mark for certifying it will accept smokeless cartridges.

In the picture to the right, you can see up close how the Gun Control Act of 1968 forced Century International to butcher this pistol’s hammer. This would be a good collector piece otherwise. I didn’t even get a picture of the importer’s mark that was stamped on the underside of the barrel, something Bloomberg is demanding we make deeper and larger, in addition to adding a standardized extra serial number, further butchering imports and ruining them for collectors. You can see from the bit of serial number I didn’t Photoshop out, that it begins with A5, indicating a manufacture date of 1953. Had this pistol been imported into the United State prior to 1968, it would have been legal to import untouched, and an excellent collector piece. Thanks to our gun laws, it’s a shooter. I’m happy to finally have a Webley, and someday maybe I’ll spring for a collectable one. But for now I’m just happy to have something new to shoot.

20 thoughts on “Webley Mark IV .38 S&W”

  1. Congrats! Dad has both the .38 S&W and .455 Webleys, though the latter has the shaved cylinder for .45 ACP. Neither have import marks, etc.

    Though the reloading might be a bit slow, they feel solid in the hand, a feeling that they are made to absorb (and deal) punishment.

    I might have to pick up one of the newer imports myself if I run across one. I love a top break revolver for some reason.

  2. Cant see the price on Century’s website without logging in, how much did you give for it?

  3. FYI, back in the pre-.38 Spp days S&W Revolvers were top break too.

    If all my pennies weren’t currently accounted for I’d grab one too!

    Thanks for the review!

  4. The one-hand method of reloading the Webley, BTW, is to depress the latch with your thumb while levering the top of the barrel against the back of your leg to pop out the empties.

    All range safety rules apply.

  5. How often does ATF grant additions to the C&R list when someone requests it?

  6. Price was about $250


    There’s a criteria for getting on the list, found in 27CFR478.26. Basically you have to have written documentation, submitted to ATF, submit a description and photos, submit an actual gun if possible, and then the ATF will make the determination. ATF has a rule they use to make the determination.

    a) It has to be certified by the curator of a municipal, State or Federal museum which exhibits firearms to be a curio or relic, or of museum interest, and b) Must derive a substantial part of its monetary value from the fact that they are novel, rare, bizarre, or fromthe fact of their association with some historical figure, period, or event.

    Really, the Webley Mark IV ought to be on there, but it isn’t.

  7. “Dad has both the .38 S&W and .455 Webleys, though the latter has the shaved cylinder for .45 ACP. ”

    I’ve been told that the .45acp conversion to the .455s is kind of a dangerous one as .45acp is loaded to higher pressure than the older .455 round. Anyone able to confirm this?

  8. I got an old H&R Defender .38 in .38s&w. Was my ‘one gun’ for about 4 years until I got an Erma .380 Luger. I have about 1500 loaded rounds for it. It’ll be the last gun I grab during the Zombie Apocalypse. But them consarned undead won’t get to me until the next week. :D

  9. In the BBC’s excellent mini series “The Singing Detective” the Singing Detective shot a .455. I was watching it last week and day dreaming. It is on the list.

  10. Lyman makes a mold for a .38 caliber 200-grain roundnose bullet. That bullet, as cast and lubed with Lee Liquid Alox, works very well to duplicate the British .380/200 load.

  11. So what would the British officer have in that time frame?

    A British officer in the Anglo-Zulu War would likely have been armed with a metallic cartridge, .450 caliber Mk. III Adams revolver.

  12. …. also… I have a Mk. IV (1942 manufacture) imported in the late ’80s/early ’90s that is without any modifications whatsoever. Did the Mk. IV get dropped from the list?

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