A fine and early commercial .455(Auto) 'Mark I Navy' self-loading pistol by Webley, no. 116904

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Lot 47S5
A fine and early commercial .455(Auto) 'Mark I Navy' self-loading pistol by Webley, no. 116904

Sold for £ 2,000 (US$ 2,375) inc. premium
A fine and early commercial .455(Auto) 'Mark I Navy' self-loading pistol by Webley, no. 116904
Retaining virtually full blued finish, the barrel with blade-foresight, the slide, stamped with Webley & Scott Ltd., Pistol Self-Loading, .455 Mark I, 1913 and the 'Winged Bullet' trademark, with windage-adjustable rear-sight, the butt with two-piece hard-rubber grips, grip-safety, lanyard-ring and magazine
5in. barrel, Birmingham nitro proof

Footnotes

  • www.armsresearch.co.uk have kindly confirmed that this revolver was sold in September 1914 to Holland & Holland, 98 New Bond Street.

    The Webley & Scott Self-Loading pistol was dogged by an uncertain military career. Introduced by William Whiting at a time where perceptions of unreliability and over complication held back the military use of self-loading pistols, the Mark I had to overcome both colonial pretenders and entrenched military doctrine in order to win its place in British service history. The initial testing phase won praise for the bulky pistol, with minor alterations being made by Webley & Scott in response to the test report. Most notably, this included the addition of a second notch on the magazine, holding it in reserve while the shooter hand loaded directly into the chamber, in a similar manner to that used on the early Lee service rifles. Despite positive reviews by the Navy, the Land Services were unable to see any advantages over the sturdy and reliable revolvers already in circulation. There were also safety concerns about the pistol's grip-safety, which Army inspectors claimed could allow an accidental discharge whilst the pistol was being drawn from its holster. A second round of trials saw the Webley pitted against the latest Colt self-loading design, which was victim to numerous mechanical failures and stoppages. Finally, after 12 years of development, the Mark I was accepted in limited numbers by the Navy, a decision about which much fanfare was made in the media, with The Birmingham Mail claiming 'the weapon is not surpassed ... by any other pistol in the world'.
    Despite the outbreak of World War I, the orders for the Mark I began slowly and only diminished as the war progressed. By 1917, orders for the pistol had halted completely as factor resources were redistributed to cater for the high demand for revolvers.

    An almost identical pistol was offered by Webley & Scott on the commercial market, which could be acquired either directly from the maker or, as this example was, purchased through a retailer. It was hoped both officers and civilians would be keen to outfit themselves with the latest sidearm, but the makers over-estimated demand, leaving Webley & Scott with an embarrassing surplus of pistols and parts. However, the advent of war induced some intermediaries to attach a premium to pistols, in anticipation of a greater demand. This practice was heavily criticized by both the maker and the government alike. Prices were soon brought back into line with their pre-war levels, but despite this only some 850 were purchased in the war's entirety.

    The inter-war years saw the demand drop even further, with the last unit finished in 1933 and sold three years later, and advertising finally disappearing in the late 1930's. The Mark I faced tough criticism of its durability and suitability for the rigors of a modern war since its inception. This was, as Webley & Scott Director Eric Bewley claimed, its downfall: 'it was the finest machined pistol ever produced. Perhaps that was its failing as a military arm'.

    World War II saw no resurgence in the fortunes of the Mark I, falling foul of its old rivals the revolver and the U.S.A.

    For further information on the Mark I self-loading pistol see Webley Revolvers, Revised from W.C. Dowell's The Webley Story, by Gordon Bruce and Christian Reinhart, Verlag Stocker-Schmid, 1988, p.233-249

    This pistol may be held under both categories of s.7 Heritage Pistols in the U.K.

Contacts
A fine and early commercial .455(Auto) 'Mark I Navy' self-loading pistol by Webley, no. 116904
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