By Bob Walsh
The Gun of the Week is the seldom seen and little-known Webley Fosbery semi-automatic revolver.
This is a really interesting gun, which a lot of people would not even know about except for one obscure (and inaccurate) reference in the Maltese Falcon.
It was designed at the ass-end of the 19th century and produced from 1901 thru 1924. The original design was developed on a Colt SSA revolver. The design was introduced to the general public at the Bisley matches in 1900.
The revolver was originally produced in the British service cartridge, .455 Webley. It was later produced in .38 automatic as well, chambered for eight rounds and loaded with moon clips. A very small number were made in .455 caliber but built on the shorter .38 automatic frame. There were a total of six different models made during its production life.
The weapon was very popular for a time with target shooters as the recoil of the mechanism rotated the cylinder rather than the leverage of the trigger, making for a smoother release of the hammer. In 1902 a well-known exhibition shooter, Walter Winans, used one to fire 12 rounds into a 2 inch bullseye in seven seconds at 12 yards, using a speed-loader to reload.
They came in 4 inch, 6 inch and 7 ½ inch barrels from the factory but could be ordered with custom barrel lengths. They could also be ordered with Metford (polygon) rifling.
The weapon weighed 44 ounces empty and was almost one foot long, making it less than ideal as a military weapon even for its intended cavalry use. No military service ever officially adopted it but it was purchased by British officers for use during the Boer Wars and WWI.
Production ceased in 1924 but it was carried in stock by Webley until 1939 as it did not sell well. Total production was under 5,000 units. The gun has a respectable collector’s value.