British Boomers:

Reloading The .455 Webley MKII

By John Taffin

I must admit I find myself fascinated by British revolvers; you know, those “ugly” Enfields and the Webleys. They are not pretty, but they do have a certain charm and they served their purposes well.

All Webleys are double-action, top-break revolvers with a lever on the left side of the frame behind the cylinder to allow unlatching for loading and unloading. When the action is unlocked and the barrel assembly pushed down, fired cases are automatically ejected and loaded rounds can then be inserted. All models are homelier than the proverbial mud fence, however they are at the better-looking end of the mud fence scale.

From the MKI which arrived in 1887 through all the minor changes to the MKVI of 1915, the Webley .455 served the Brits for more than half a century. The American nomenclature of the cartridge can be confusing, but it doesn’t even come close to the British versions. There is the .476 Eley, .476 Enfield MKIII, .455 Colt, .455 Revolver MKI, .450 Revolver, .450 Short, .450 Adams and the .450 Colt — and all of these can be fired in the same .455 Webley.

Now it gets even more confusing. The original .455 Webley case length was .85″–.87″ and was loaded with black powder. With the coming of smokeless powder the cartridge length was changed to a shorter .74″–.76″ length to better accommodate the new powder in 1897.

Targets fired with .455 Webley MKII at 20 yards. Not too shabby!

The .455 Webley top-break revolver may not be pretty, but it can be a blast to shoot!

Diving In

Today the only source I know for loaded .455 ammunition, at least in this country, is Fiocchi. These are labeled .455 MKII on the box and are the shorter cartridge case version loaded with the strange-looking, nearly cone-shaped 262-gr. bullet. The case itself also uses a small primer.

My loading dies are from RCBS and are labeled “.455 Webley MK II.” For loading the .455 Webley I use Winchester Small Pistol Primers and the above-mentioned RCBS three-die set of reloading dies. This is a steel set so cases require lube, and I accomplish this with Hornady’s spray lube by placing my brass cases in a shallow aluminum tray and spraying them liberally. This lube has a wax base and will not attack primers.

Webleys have been around a long time, spanning the time from black powder to smokeless powder. They are robust revolvers, however, care must be taken — especially with the early ones as the steel is not even close to what is in use today. The only loading information I could find was labeled “455 Colt & Webley” in a 60-plus-year-old Lyman manual, and half of the powders mentioned for use are no longer produced. The Bullseye and Unique loads mentioned were made for the longer case, or at least appears so to me. I did use Unique loads mentioned, but with some modification.

The Webley .455 bullet itself is in the 260-gr. weight range so I chose two comparable versions — the RCBS #45-255FN and the classic Lyman/Keith #454424 — both of which are in the correct weight range. The factory Fiocchi .455 Webley LRN weighs 262 grains and according to my LabRadar clocks out at 649 fps with five shots going into 17/8″ at 20 yards. It will not garner any speed records, but 260 grains of .45 lead is still a formidable self-defense load.

John uses RCBS .455 Webley MKII reloading dies.

Going Retro

Istarted my reloading using Goex CTG and FFFg black powder as well as Hodgdon’s Pyrodex P. My best results were with the RCBS #45-255FN over 15.0 grains of Pyrodex P by volume for 675 fps and a five-shot group of 1.75″. Switching to smokeless powder, I experimented two ways. I found crimping in the crimp groove cut the case capacity of a short cartridge case so I lowered the powder charge found in the old manual down to 4.0 grains of Unique. With this load, the #45-255 FN clocks out at 667 fps while the #454424 is right there with it at 662 fps. Groups at 20 yards measure 25/8″ and 3″, respectively.

For the use of 5.0 grains of Unique I increase case capacity by seating the bullets out and crimping in the grease groove instead of the crimping groove. Loaded thusly the RCBS bullet clocks out at 658 fps with a group of 23/8″ while the Lyman bullet groups in 2.25″ with a velocity of 672 fps. With 4.0 grains of Red Dot and bullets seated out, velocity was 719 fps and a 2″ group for the #45-255FN while the #454424 load was just under 700 fps and gave a group of 3″.

It is obvious the .455 Webley is not a target pistol; it was never meant to be. However, it is definitely a most pleasurable shooting double-action revolver and the more I shoot it the better it looks. It can definitely occupy a grand space in the Sixgun Hall of Fame, if you ask me!

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One thought on “British Boomers:

  1. Dennis Seitz

    Your article on Brutish Boomers was interesting, but I think there is a simpler way to reload these great guns.
    In the September 1977 issue of American Rifleman there is an article by Frank Marshall Jr. on reloading .455 guns.
    Take .45 long Colt cases and cut with a tubing cutter to no longer than .785″ or shorter than .750″.
    The Colt rim thickness is .060″ compared to .040″ on .455 cases. You can remove a small amount from the backplate or trim some from the case rim or both.
    I use wheel weight .45 ACP lead 230 grain round nose over 3 grains of Bullseye with good results.
    For case prep I use a .45 ACP size die to squeeze just a little at the case lip to hold the bullet and then seat the bullet and roll crimp with .455 factory crimp die from Lee Precision. (I add a spacer inside the die to get the right crimp.)
    This creates an accurate easy to shoot load with mild recoil.
    Once the cases are modified reloading is simple and the cases last a long time.
    I hope this information is of some value to you and if you think it is a good idea I hope you will pass it along to your readers.

    Dennis Seitz
    Omro WI.

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