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From 1878 Wilkinson introduced a revolver with their own improvements but made for them by other makers.  This initial revolver was know as the Wilkinson-Pryse.  This was the first of a number of Wilkinson revolver models which would eventually lead to a relationship with the Birmingham gunmaker Webley & Scott and the models 1905, 1910 and 1911 ‘Wilkinson-Webley’ in the then standard (for that period) British service calibre of .455”.  As it was a requirement for officers to purchase their own sidearms the ‘improved’ Wilkinson revolver offered officers an alternative over the standard (Webley) service revolver.  Such refinements would eventually be adopted as standard by Webley and appear in their Mk VI introduced in 1915.

The silver oval disc fitted into the left hand side of the grip panel on this Wilkinson-Webley revolver has three initials engraved which read ‘T.K.R.’ attributed to that of Thomas Kane Rathdonnell.  A member of the Irish aristocracy he is also known to have served as an officer in the Royal Irish Rifles.  By the time this revolver was purchased (around 1907) T.K.R. was in his 49th year and no longer actively serving in the army, so this revolver was not his military sidearm but more likely bought for self defense. Perhaps this was in light of the turbulent times being experienced in Ireland at this time (?).  For more details about the life of T.K.R. and his family history please visit the wonderful website by Turtle Bunbury (a distant relative of T.K.R.) who has assisted me with my research and generously given his permission for me to use some of his research and period images here.

The revolver is a six shot in .450/455 Webley calibre.  This round is essentially obsolete but some companies will run a batch from time to time, so finding appropriate ammo is relatively easy although rather expensive.  The revolver is fired by single or double action (SA/DA).  This means that one can manually cock the hammer for a light trigger pull (single action) or by pulling the trigger in one action allowing both the cocking and firing to be accomplished simultaneously (double action), of course this results in a much heavier trigger pull.  The gun is a top break or ‘hinged frame’ revolver in that by depressing the stirrup leaver on the left hand side of the frame with the thumb (right handed shooting) the barrel and cylinder will pivot forward exposing the rear of the cylinders for loading.  When doing this after firing this will automatically eject all six empty cases.  The total weight of the gun (unloaded) is 2 pounds 3.7 ounces. The barrel length is just shy of six inches.

Let me start by saying that this revolver (now well over 100 years old) is one of the most enjoyable handguns I have ever shot.  There is something special about shooting such an historic weapon from a time before CNC machines and polymer pistols.  The quality of this Wilkinson-Webley is easy to see and feel, every function of this gun feels like it was made yesterday.  When you unlock/lock the action it truly does feel like the proverbial ‘bank vault’.  A nice gun to hold that sits comfortable in the hand despite its heft.  Well balanced, the gun points easily and surprisingly for this period the sights are excellent and easy to acquire. 

Although not up to the standard of todays high visibility sights, compared to many other handguns of its period the Wilkinson-Webley had an excellent set of sights which were easy to use (in good light) and with a little practice proved to be very affective. 

The ammunition used was Fiocchi 455 MkII 262 grain LRN (lead round nose).  It is my understanding that such historic calibers are slightly down loaded as they are intended for use in guns that are clearly vintage and for safety reasons this is very sensible.  As such the recoil of this large calibre was very pleasant to shoot, it felt very much like a .38” special in a large revolver. Hornady  are currently producing a similar round and I have just bought a quantity but as I had some Fiocchi left over that’s what I decided to shoot on this range day.  Although I am not into reloading I suspect that this would be a great round to reload. 

Over the last couple of years I have shot around two hundred round through this gun and it has always functioned flawlessly. Not one single misfire has occurred and of course the quality ammo must be given credit although the enormous firing-pin leaves little to chance.  As you can see from the adjacent picture 18 shots fired off hand at 25 feet shows a nice consistent group.  I used the single action mode which is clean, crisp and with a lovely smooth let off.  The double action although smooth is very heavy and with a one handed grip quite difficult to operate with my small hands.  I’m the first to admit that my shooting skills are somewhat laking but this gun is very accurate and enjoyable to shoot, I dare say that with a little practice one could achieve some some very respectable results.

A number of things come to mind when I think of my experiences shooting this gun, not least of which is the shear fun and enjoyment of shooting such an historic weapon.  These guns were meant to be shot and that’s what they do best.  Granted some antique guns are in such perfect ‘un-shot’ condition it makes one think twice about taking them to the range but for guns that have already seen a little trigger time it’s a real shame not to give these old soldiers a whirl once in a while.  Of course not all guns are of such high quality and every time I handle this gun I am impressed with the fine fit an finish.  This gun was hand built long before the First World War, it’s no spring chicken but by golly they knew how to build guns back them.  A pleasure to own, a joy to shoot and still a gun I would trust my life to today.


As well as the standard Webley serial number to the right side of the frame, Wilkinson’s own serial number can be seen here underneath the trigger guard.
Model 1905 Wilkinson-Webley .455 Revolver

Attributed to Thomas Kane Rathdonnell, 2nd Baron & formally of the Royal Irish Rifles

When studying/collecting guns it is almost impossible to resist becoming interested in their associated accoutrements and ammunition.  So in that vain I thought it would be nice to share a few items of association here.

Thomas Kane McClintock Bunbury ‘TKR’ (2nd Baron of Rathdonnell) 1848-1929
Revolver Details
Range Time
Final Thoughts
Accouterments & Ammunition

Although Wilkinson (originally trading as Henry Nock) had initially created its reputation as a fine London Gunmaker, by the latter years of the nineteenth  century it had expanded into numerous other markets and slowly withdrew from the manufacture of their own guns.  However this was far from the end of their involvement in the gun trade, as they continued to retail many guns by other fine makers of the period both domestic and foreign, a policy that continued well into the twentieth century.

The Wilkinson records from this period were regrettably destroyed, so the retail sale date is unknown, however from the surviving Webley records we do know that this revolver was supplied by Webley to Wilkinson Sword Co 53 Pall Mall London on the 30th January 1907 and presumably purchased by T.K.R. not long after. At right is a copy of the Webley & Scott records provided by Richard Milner of Arms Research, a link to his website is provided below.

Wilkinson of course did not just sell guns and swords but actually everything a young newly commissioned officer would need which included his uniform and equipment. this of course included a holster for his sidearm.   Below are two holsters for the .455” calibre revolver both of which were retailed by Wilkinson Pall Mall London.  The example at left is designed to be suspended from the left hip whereas the example at right is worn in the more tradition manner on the right hip and attached to the belt.

Accouterments
Ammunition

Finding period correct ammunition for such vintage guns as this 1905 Wilkinson-Webley is indeed challenging.   This original box of  Remington .455” calibre MkII was almost certainly intended for the US commercial market.   Never the less it is correct for both general period and calibre for this Wilkinson-Webley.   Of interest is that on the side label it states it is also for the ‘Webley-Fosbery’.  Fragile with age but an incredibly rare original box of ammunition.

Contact Details

Introduction
Historical Perspective

The gun is a ‘top break’ action.  By depressing the leaver on the left hand side of the frame this releases the action which will tip forward allowing for loading and unloading.  Although this is essentially an antiquated 19th Century design it is very functional and easy to use.  I for one would like to see this design make a comeback.

Original Wilkinson holsters are very rare but even more so are the correct Sam Browne pattern revolver ammunition pouches.  Below is a splendid early example in near perfect condition.  The familiar Wilkinson makers mark is ink stamped on the inside flap.

Period images of T.K.R. during his military service with the Inniskillings, 12 Royal Lancers & Royal Scotts Greys

© Turtle Bunbury

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