Severe, exceedingly obscure, fascinatingly trivial, yet amazingly fun history lesson follows! Approach with extreme caution.
Webleys are the iconic English military pistol. They’ve been around since 1887, and continued in Commonwealth and U.K. military service until withdrawal in 1970. The most famous of the Webley series was the Mk VI dating back to World War I, all of which were factory chambered in the oddball .455 Webley (most have since been rechambered for reduced pressure .45 ACP loadings). Worldwide there are probably tens of thousands of these things still being used in former colonies of the British Empire.
Well, this certainly looks like a Webley. And it’s even stamped “WEBLEY PATENTS” above the trigger guard:
And it’s stamped as a “MARK VI” along the backstrap:
The “broad arrow” stamps are a nice touch as well. The “broad arrow” was used as a British property stamp, and those “broad arrows” are all over this weapon. And I do mean all over it.
Indeed, this weapon even operates like a traditional top-breaking, self-extracting Webley revolver. You can see in the sequence below how this thing elegantly breaks open at the top. Then, as you continue to rotate the barrel-cylinder assembly away from the frame, the star extractor arm extends to eject cartridges from the cylinder. Finally, continue even farther and the extractor arm snaps back into its recessed position, ready for the user to reload the cylinder with fresh rounds.
I believe Smith & Wesson pioneered this break-top, self-extraction concept back in 1870 with their S&W Model 3. If there is an earlier version, I’d love to hear about it. And, yes, I am aware of the break-top 1858 French Divesme, but it used a manual extractor rod to push cartridges out from the front one at a time rather than an automatic self-extractor to pull out of them simultaneously from the rear. At any rate, this Smith & Wesson-style extractor is now more closely associated with Webley revolvers.
As you may have guessed by now, looking at all the bizarre “broad arrow” proof marks, there is something decidedly amiss with this “Webley.” But there are other clues, such as nonsensical “English” stamps:
Well, let’s take look at the serial number for some additional clues:
But, wait. What’s this stamped above the trigger guard?
So, which is it? Is the serial number 1950, or 195018? Being on the cautious side, and noting that the frame usually bears the serial number, the gun store went with 195018 on the ATF Form 4473. Probably a good move, as I’m pretty sure that’s the number it would have been imported under. Although… there is no import stamp, so it’s very likely a G.I. bring-back from…. Any guesses yet? I’ll give you a clue. This had to have wound up in the duffle bag of someone returning from a recent combat zone which would in the past have been under the United Kingdom sphere of influence (hey, it is after all a WEBLEY, right?). And the logical suspect would be…
I’m sure some of you have probably guessed by now that this an infamous, and here in the U.S. a very rare and much sought, “Khyber Pass clone” from somewhere along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. These clones are still made today by local gunsmiths operating their own metallurgic furnaces, casting and forging parts copied from abandoned relics of conflicts from long ago. In other words, this is a poor copy of a Webley revolver made at the hands of some backyard smithy. He then embellished his work of art with fake stamps meant to convey a place of origin on distant soil this gun never saw.
The only question remaining is which side of the Kyber Pass did this gun originate? Was it the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region of Pakistan, or was it Afghanistan’s Nangarhar Province? My gut tells me Nangarhar, but who knows? It’s a mystery, and likely to remain as such.
This particular example of a Khyber Pass clone is not something I’m ever going to test fire. The cylinder lockup is sloppy, and that’s an understatement. The metallurgy is suspect enough that I wouldn’t trust it to handle even the weak .38 S&W “Short“ for which it is supposedly chambered. Which, by the way, is a round for which the Mark VI was never chambered. Yet another clue that something is amiss.
I hope you enjoyed today’s Fun Firearm Friday, which closes out Revolver Week here at the blog. Next week we return to travel, with my first week-long ever review of a single cruise ship. And what a ship it is — 226,963 Gross Tonnage, 5,479 double-occupancy passenger capacity (6,780 maximum capacity), 2,300 crew, and seven distinct “neighborhoods” throughout this behemoth.
Meanwhile, if you found today’s article interesting and would like to know more about these Khyber Pass gunsmiths, here’s a nice, informative article for you to peruse:
The Gunmakers of the Khyber Pass