Dr.Watson, Your Revolver is Here!

Some (most?) of you may be unaware that my wife and I are novelists. A couple of years back Linda had a character that was enamored of the trappings of the Victorian Era and a Sherlock Holmes fan. Linda asked me what sort of gun she would have and I responded, “A Webley RIC. that was DR.Watson’s gun.”

These were a solid-frame fixed-cylinder gun double-action revolver, often with a short barrel. In 1868 they were adopted by the Royal Irish Constabulary, giving the gun it’s name- RIC.   These were initially available in .442 Webley, but were later offered in .450. In 1883 the model was given a longer, fluted cylinder and other minor improvements.

This month is my birthday, and in honor of the occasion Linda bought me an RIC in .450 Adams.  She found it on Gunbroker and paid far less than these revolvers usually go for.

The gun is in quite good condition mechanically, and has all of the proper proofs, markings, and with matching serial numbers.  Mechanically it is in in good shape; the lock-up would do credit to a brand-new revolver. the trigger is not light, but it is not too heavy and is extremely smooth. The chambers are in excellent condition, and the bore is not bad. The one-piece Walnut grip fits my hand like it was made for it, and the gun points very naturally.

This is a Model 83 (obviously) and after careful examination- and cleaning 130 years of gunk out of the works- there was no obvious reason not to fire it. As I already reload .450 Adams this was not a problem.

…except it was. Event though I had thinned the rims of my brass down for the British lion revolver many of them were not thin enough. I made a new run of brass with thinner rims and loaded them up and we were off to the range.

The gun is a good shooter with it’s smooth pull and unusually good sights for a gun of it’s age. The new ammo worked but the gun experience malfunctions where it would not rotate the cylinder on it’s own. Presenting any resistance to the cylinder (which some of the cartridges did) could cause this. Typically this would be a symptom of a weak hand spring, a common failing on old guns and relatively easy to fix. (The hand is the piece that pushes on the ratchet on the back of the cylinder to make it rotate.)

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Fired quickly at five yards

I had the British Lion bulldog along, and two new loads to try out- both used the 200gr. RNL bullet and Unique powder. One load used 3.2gr and the other 4.0gr, and both had a heavy roll-crimp. Loads were test-fired in the British Lion first, then in the RIC.

The 3.2gr. load worked fine, but was a bit lackluster. The 4.0gr. load was the real deal, with an authoritative bark and notably more recoil. Not in any way unpleasant, mind you- and this load shot closest to point of aim. I think this load closely replicates the original load and later cordite loads, but really this is just an educated guess.

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The Webley RIC (top) and the British Lion

Altogether a satisfactory outing; both weapons shot well, we’d found a good load to use in the weapons and the only issue was an easy fix. Yeah, sure it was.

The next afternoon I got the Webley apart and examined the hand-spring. Huh… it looked fine and seemed to be doing it’s job. I reassembled the gun and checked by applying light resistance to the cylinder- only two of the chambers were a problem. OK, the malfunction is happening because the hand is failing to engage. The tip of the hand seems nice and sharp, so… yep.  Two of the teeth on the sprocket are slightly rolled over at the top. Empty and with no resistance it works fine- apply resistance and the hand slips. The conventional solution would be to weld up the sprocket and re-cut the teeth. I can’t do that. Another solution would be to cut the teeth deeper to allow more engagement.

OK then- deepening the teeth won’t prevent it from being welded and re-cut if need be, so I decided to try that. Using a 1.5mm conical carbide burr in my engraver ( which spins it at 400,000 rpm) and some magnifying lenses I carefully went to work. Nerve wracking, but not particularly difficult.   Shortly I remounted the cylinder and tried it. All chambers now rotated, even against resistance. Success!

So I loaded some of my homespun brass for a function check… and those two cylinders were once again a problem. Took the brass out, no problem. Put it back in- problem. Hmmm… I had some original balloon-head cartridges, so I got them out and examined them. The rim is much thinner than my home-spun brass. I put them in the cylinder for a function-check- no problems. I put my own brass back in and, with the aid of a powerful flashlight, determined that the hand was hitting the thick cartridge rims, which raised it just enough to keep it from engaging on the dodgey ratchet teeth. Eureka! I just needed thinner rims.

Except that the rims were already so thin I had to be careful not to bend them using the hand-primer. Bugger.  Linda the research goddess rode once again to the rescue. She found new .450 brass and reloading dies at Buffalo Arms, which are winging their way to my door as I write this. Hopefully this will remove any issues… at least until I decide it’s time to have the job done properly by, you know, someone that actually knows what they are doing.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 14 June 2018

 

 

 

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Concealed Carry Decision.

I find that I am carrying outside the home a lot more these days, and the venerable S&W .38 DASH is occasionally feeling a little… light. A 5 shot .380 equivalent. Yes, it will take a J-frame speedloader, but I mostly carry a single speed-strip.
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Yeah, I’ve occasionally packed my 1911A1 or other, um, less practical (arguably goofy) choices, but usually I just drop the old Smith in it’s pocket holster and go. It’s easy and comfortable, and while it may lack power I can put rounds where I want them in a surprising hurry. But still…
A deciding factor was that Linda has said she really wishes I would carry something a bit more potent. Now when it comes to carry guns I suffer from an embarrassment of riches. But most of them are revolvers, and most of them are even less practical than the old Smith. They are also oddball enough that they might raise serious questions in the mind of a Prosecuting attorney. Like if I was trying to live out some bizarre fantasy, for example.
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It was a major struggle not to pick my Detective Special, but again, the caliber leaves something to be desired- It’s a .32 S&W long. My reloads are pretty stout and I have no doubt they posses adequate penetration but they are non-expanding SWCs. The Fitz Special is a purpose built carry gun and will handle +P loads all day long (Colt said at the time the original gun was issued that it could handle .38-44 loads.) I also shoot it quite well, but again it’s esoteric enough that it might bring my motivation into question in the unlikely event that I needed to use it. Also I have to admit the cut-away trigger-guard gives me pause…

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So, something in a potent caliber. Something practical, easy to reload, a gun that I shoot well and am comfortable with. Ideally something not too large. “Something semi-automatic,” Linda suggested. “Preferably something we don’t have to buy…” OK, that narrows it down… In the end it came to two choices:

Carry choices

The top gun is a Para-Ordinance LDA .45. The other is Linda’s Kahr E9 (which she loves but never carries.)  Both guns are single-stacks with semi-DA triggers.  Both are flawlessly reliable and easy to shoot fast and accurately. Their footprints are virtually identical.  But for all of their similarity they are very different guns.

The .45 is heavier, but not enough to bother me. It has a shorter, lighter trigger pull and a manual safety.  Importantly it has the hard-wired manual-of arms of the 1911. I like the big, soft shove of .45 ACP recoil, and in this gun the combination of the bull-barrel, multi-spring recoil system and the short, high-velocity slide-stroke brings double taps in on target in a way you wouldn’t expect unless you were familiar with Detonics Combatmasters. It only carries 6+1, but a pair of ten-round mags will help that right along.

The Kahr adds two rounds to the .45’s 6+1, and I have no issues with a 9mm with modern defensive ammunition. The sleeker profile allows me to get three fingers on the handle, and the wrap-around rubber grip is very comfortable and secure. The alloy frame makes it noticeably lighter- though the weight is not a deal-breaker. The trigger pull is longer but it’s like a super-light, super-smooth revolver trigger. So much so that double taps are no problem. As familiar as I am with revolvers these days the long reset bothers me not at all. Our spare mags hold 8 and 9 rounds, so the overall count is basically the same.

Both guns have a lot going for them, and I was having a hard time choosing…

“Carry them both,” Linda said.

“That seems a bit excessive,” I said.

“Not at the same time, you muppet! Alternate until you decide.”

Oh. Uh, OK.

Don’t get me wrong- the venerable Smith will remain on pocket-drop duty, and I’ll undoubtedly throw a revolver of one sort or another into the mix now and again as the mood takes me. I expect though that I will find myself carrying one of these guns more than the other and the decision as to my primary EDC will be made.

In the meantime I guess I had better get busy making some holsters and mag-pouches…

 

Michael Tinker Pearce  4 June 2018