Zigzag failure: automatic revolver "Vebley-Fosbury" and others with it


The six-shot Webley-Fosbury revolver of .455 model 1901 and the same year of manufacture. Royal Arsenal, Leeds, UK

“In Kansas, someone named George W. Smith
gathered two hundred farmers from the bay,
armed with shotguns and sporting rifles,
and a ridiculously small number of automatic revolvers,
and led them to set fire to the minuteman barracks. "

“It's Impossible With Us,” Sinclair Lewis

History firearms weapons. The appearance of this material was preceded by two circumstances at once: first, a request from one of the readers of the article about the Mauser revolver to write about other samples of weapons, the same revolvers that had “zigzag” grooves on the drum.

The second is related to the memory of the books read.

There are a number of books (in particular, Sinclair Lewis's famous admonition novel "It's impossible with us") that feature automatic revolvers.

And here the main question arises: were they?

Did they exist in reality, or was this the mistake of an idle novelist?

The last question is the easiest to answer. Yes, automatic revolvers did exist. This is not a fiction.

But what kind of revolvers they were, and how did their automation work? We will talk about this today.

Revolver "Vebley-Fosbury" Model 1903, Royal Arsenal, Leeds, UK

This unusual weapon, combining the qualities (good and bad) of both a revolver and a self-loading pistol, was the brainchild of British Colonel G. W. Fosbury.

He received a patent for his revolver on August 16, 1895, and then, having slightly modified its design, patented it again in June and October 1896.

That is, this revolver is the same age as the famous Mauser pistol and, obviously, then a number of designers were trying to find an opportunity to automate the work of both pistols and revolvers.

Fosbury did not have to look for a manufacturer for a long time: when he turned to Vebley and Son in Birmingham, they listened to him there with great attention. A year later, the company changed its name, and already in July 1900, the serial production of the Vincent Fosbury revolver began, which received the following name: "Vebley-Fosbury automatic revolver".

It was produced for a relatively long time, until 1918, and during this period about 4 copies of these revolvers were produced. However, this revolver was never in service with the British army, since it had one intractable defect: in the event of a cartridge misfire, it was impossible to manually crank the revolver drum.

Model 1914 The sport version of the revolver, with a barrel length of 190 mm, had an even softer trigger and even more precise automatic control. Its shooting accuracy was simply unattainable for other self-cocking revolvers, since a significant effort was spent on turning the drum in not only one index finger, but also the entire hand. Therefore, the shooters-sportsmen loved him very much. However, due to its obvious superiority over other service models, its use was recognized as "not sporting", and was banned in 1918, driving the very last nail into the coffin of even such a success! Royal Arsenal, Leeds, UK

The revolvers were chambered for .455 and .38 calibers (six and eight-shot, respectively) and with barrels of different lengths: 190 mm and 152 mm, but there was also a model with a barrel length of only 100 mm.

Despite the fact that they were not accepted into service, many British officers acquired them privately. So they smelled gunpowder both during the Boer War and during the First World War, where, in addition to officers, they tried to arm observer pilots of British airplanes.

And this is how he reloaded with a clip! Royal Arsenal, Leeds, UK

Be that as it may, this revolver was the first revolver in which, for reloading, the recoil force generated by each successive shot was used both to rotate the cylinder and, at the same time, to cocking the trigger for the next shot. That is, when firing self-cocking, the shooter did not have to forcefully press the trigger in order to simultaneously turn the revolver drum and cock its hammer.

Zigzag failure: automatic revolver "Vebley-Fosbury" and others with it
Diagram of a revolver from a US patent issued to Colonel Fosbury for his automatic revolver:
Fig. 1 - The upper part of the revolver frame is in its original position before firing.
Fig.2 - The upper part of the frame moves back under the influence of recoil, while it cocks the trigger and turns the drum.

This was achieved due to the fact that the frame of this revolver was designed in two parts.

The lower one consisted of a handle with a trigger, a spring and guides on its upper part.

The upper part of the frame - consisted of a barrel and a drum, and it could slide along the guides of the lower part, but was held in place by a spring.

When recoil, a special pin, fixed on the lower frame, followed the zigzag grooves on the drum and turned it so that the next charged chamber stood opposite the barrel. At the same moment the hammer is cocked.

When all the ammunition in the drum was used up, the revolver could be reloaded by pressing the barrel lock and turning the barrel downward on the hinge, thus pivoting the rear of the drum up. At the same time, the automatic extractor immediately pulled out empty sleeves from the drum chambers.

That is, it was a system similar to all other Webley revolvers and Smith and Wesson revolvers.

Types of guiding zigzag grooves of the drum
revolvers of different years of release:
1 - "Webley-Fosbury" M 1901 caliber .455,
2 - "Webley-Fosbury" M 1901 caliber .38,
3 - "Vebley-Fosbury" M 1902 and "Vebley-Fosbury" M 1914

The cartridges could be inserted into the drum either one by one, or all at once, using a flat steel clip, after which the barrel was lifted and locked. After that, the revolver could shoot after pressing the trigger, and for the first shot the hammer was cocked manually. But then it was enough to press the trigger, without putting any special efforts on it, so that the shots from it followed one after the other.

Revolvers "Vebley-Fosbury" also had a manual safety lever located on the left side of the handle.

.38 caliber Webley-Fosbury leather holster

In fact, this revolver did not have too many advantages over modern revolvers of the same caliber.

Basically, the advantages were less recoil (due to the fact that, firstly, it was absorbed by the spring, and secondly, because of its greater weight - 1,23 kg) and improved accuracy during automatic shooting, which in conventional self-cocking revolvers was unattainable.

However, the mechanism was quite sensitive to dirt and especially suffered from sand getting into it. And its reloading was carried out not much faster than that of modern revolvers, despite the fact that special flat clips were developed for this weapon, which simultaneously accommodate six cartridges of .455 caliber or eight - .38.

The characteristic grooves "zigzag" on the revolver drum, which ensure the rotation of its drum

The proverb states that "bad ideas are contagious", although it cannot be fully applied to the above-mentioned revolver.

But nevertheless, he did not enjoy massive success.

And nevertheless, there were imitators of this design. And not anywhere, but overseas, in the USA, where in 1909 the designer Charles Lefebvre - one of the sons of the founder and owner of the American Lefebvre Armory Company, Daniel Lefebvre, known for his invention of a hammerless gun, created the Union revolver, as two peas in a pod similar to Vebley-Fosbury.

Advertising revolver "Union"

However, in some ways he still differed from him.

First of all, in size - it was much smaller both in size and in its caliber: it fired .38 "Smith and Wesson" cartridges.

He received an American patent for it and was able to organize its mass production at his father's company.

The revolver cost $ 10, which is not so little for such a "kid" who, among other things, looked unremarkable.

It acted in exactly the same way as "Smith and Wesson" (unloading) and like "Vebley-Fosbury" (automatic), but it was simpler, and also had a box in the back, into which the movable upper part of the frame rolled back. In this he was more comfortable than a British revolver.

Nevertheless, he did not enjoy much success in the market. It was released for only three years, after which its production was stopped.

The appearance of the revolver "Union"

All these are classic revolvers, albeit with an automatic drum and trigger drive.

However, a man was found - his name was Halvard Landstad, who created an automatic revolver patented in Norway in 1899 (Norwegian patent 8564, April 11, 1899), which was, in fact, not so much a revolver as a pistol (magazine in the handle). But at the same time, all the same, and a revolver (the drum and the presence of a cartridge in it at the time of the shot).

That is, Landstad managed to "cross a snake and a hedgehog" quite well and get a completely workable design.

The appearance of the Landstad revolver. Pay attention to the drum pusher connected to the trigger: when the hook retreated, it pressed on this pusher, it went up, turned the drum and at the same time, at the very end, pulled the trigger from the combat platoon!

Its drum had only two chambers - upper and lower, and was a "flat box". The longitudinally sliding bolt sent the cartridge from the box magazine in the handle to the lower chamber, and then, when the trigger was pressed, the drum turned 180 °, and a shot from the upper chamber was fired. Then the shutter, under the influence of the recoil force, moved back, ejected the empty sleeve from the upper chamber and simultaneously charged the lower one.

Thus, unlike other systems, this weapon automatically performed a full loading cycle, including the extraction of the cartridge case.

Diagram of the Landstad revolver device

The Landstad revolver was tested in Norway, but never entered service.

The magazine was small: only six cartridges 7,5x23R, and besides, it was inserted not from below, but from the side on the left, which was completely inconvenient. There was no fuse on it, but due to the long trigger travel, it was unlikely. A shot could not have occurred when this revolver-pistol fell on a hard floor, since there was never a cartridge in the upper chamber opposite the barrel. He got there only at the moment of the shot, and because of the flat shape of the drum, he could not turn. But this is where all his merits ended!

The drum turns, the bolt striker moves back ...

Today there are also automatic revolvers of a rather interesting design. And not only do they exist: they are produced and bought. But we will tell about them some other time.
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  1. +13
    16 October 2021 06: 51
    In his youth, he tried to make something like an automatic piperbox for construction cartridges (also with a zigzag groove on the barrel block). Nothing came of it due to the weakness of the "production base" and was safely abandoned. But I doped it myself up to the principle of automation, then I read it by Zhuk.
    1. +10
      16 October 2021 07: 06
      Quote: mark1
      But I did it myself to the principle of automation,

      Perhaps in other circumstances you would have become a famous weapon designer. An article similar to yours will be discussed here!
      1. +5
        16 October 2021 07: 07
        Quote: kalibr
        Perhaps in other circumstances you would have become a famous weapon designer.

        It's unlikely ... but thanks.
  2. +6
    16 October 2021 08: 04
    Vyacheslav! hi As always, you will be intrigued, you are waiting for the continuation of articles written really, great! hi I always manage to write a comment, but I try to read your articles regularly! So, I look forward to continuing !!! hi +++ !!!
    1. +8
      16 October 2021 08: 13
      Well - I will please you again: there will be a whole series of articles about pistols of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I contacted one very interesting person and he gave the go-ahead for his photos and his story. So I'm on my own, writing one by one. Come in, read ...
      1. +5
        16 October 2021 11: 12
        Good morning, Vyacheslav Olegovich.
        Thank you for the article. Actually, I wanted to express my gratitude four hours ago, but what is interesting is that it was impossible to comment on your article! laughing
        Others - it was possible, but yours - no!))
        1. +3
          16 October 2021 15: 15
          Quote: Leader of the Redskins
          Others - it was possible, but yours - no!))

          The machinations of the reptilians! They took our form and live among us. Supporters of totalitarian regimes!
  3. +13
    16 October 2021 08: 13
    Thanks for the interesting article on obscure revolver models!
    The Landstad revolver was tested in Norway, but never entered service.
    In 1901, H. Lanstad presented his invention to the Norwegian military. According to reports, representatives of the military department immediately reacted to his proposal with skepticism. Nevertheless, despite the opinion that emerged after the first acquaintance, the “automatic revolver” was sent to the landfill for verification in practice. Such tests allowed to identify all the insignificant pluses and a lot of minuses.
    The main and, perhaps, the only the advantage of the new project was the very fact that the original architecture of the weapon was created by a Norwegian specialist. Other expected positive features, such as the safety of the revolver and the pistol ammunition, have not been confirmed in practice. It turned out to be too difficult to reload the weapon. The need to insert the handle of a large enough magazine into the side window made it difficult to work with the weapon, and also did not give any particular advantages over other methods of reloading, including clips for revolvers. In addition, according to some reports, to produce the first shot, it was required to pull the bolt handle twice to feed the cartridge into the lower chamber, and then turn the drum.
    In terms of fire characteristics, the presented sample could hardly be seriously different from the weapon in service. Nevertheless, it differed from them in other features. It was more difficult and more expensive to manufacture, and also did not have any special advantages in the size of the ammunition load, reload speed, etc.
    According to the test results, the Norwegian army decided not to accept H. Landstad's "automatic revolver" into service and not to order its serial production.
    The Landstad 1900 revolver turned out to be unviable due to the excessive design complexity
    and numerous technical and operational problems. Thus, the small arms revolution did not happen.
    1. +13
      16 October 2021 08: 17
      but there was also a model with a barrel length of only 100 mm.
      The Webley-Fosbery revolver was never officially adopted by the armed forces of England or other countries. However, the merits of the automatic Fosbery revolver were appreciated by individual officers. Thanks to the special weapons system that was widespread in the armies of the world at that time, almost any officer could, at his own expense, acquire weapons to his liking. Thus, the British officers and privately acquired Webley-Fosbery automatic revolvers.
      In addition, due to its low recoil, a comfortable grip and an easy descent, the revolver is very fond of sportsmen-shooters. The sport version of the revolver with a 7,5-inch barrel had a softer trigger and more precise automatic controls. The accuracy of this revolver was simply unattainable for self-cocking revolvers, where a significant effort was expended not only on the index finger, but also on the whole hand to turn the drum. For example, the famous British shooter Walter Winans from the Webley-Fosbery sports modification managed to place 15 of 18 shots in a 2-inch circle at 35 feet with fast forward fire. However, oddly enough, these virtues and ruined this weapon. In 1918, the English Rifle Association considered the automatic revolver "a significant advantage for the shooter," and removed the Webley-Fosbery from the list of approved for use in competitive shooting with service weapons. This put the final point in the history of the automatic revolver of the Fosbury system.
  4. +11
    16 October 2021 08: 37
    In fairness, it must be clarified that the revolvers described in the article are still semi-automatic or self-loading, that is, revolvers with full automatic reloading, the trigger of which allows only single firing. Nobody succeeded in designing truly automatic revolvers.
    The author described almost all known designs of such revolvers, except for one - the Zulaica Automatic Revolver of the Spanish company M. Zulaica.

    The weapon is rare, about 500 pieces were produced. In this revolver, due to the recoil energy, not only the rotation of the drum and the cocking of the hammer is carried out, but also the extraction of the sleeve.
    1. +10
      16 October 2021 10: 03
      Thanks for the interesting additions to the articles as always! Curiosity (and this is my middle name) took over, and while I was looking Zulaica Automatic Revolver of the Spanish company M. Zulaica(by the way, I found it, thanks, they say French officers often bought themselves as a pocket one, there was even a contract with a company from the army for the supply for the officer corps, but I did not find reliable information about this, alas), I came across something else
      Mateba Model 6 Unica or Mateba Autorevolver. The truth is not of the past, but of this century.
    2. +5
      16 October 2021 10: 18
      Quote: Undecim
      The author has described almost all known designs of such revolvers.

      And Mateb's revolvers? Dardik? ... Gadiev has a patent ...
      1. +7
        16 October 2021 10: 21
        And Mateb's revolvers? ... There is a Gadiev patent ...

        The last paragraph of the article.
        Today there are also automatic revolvers of a rather interesting design. And not only do they exist: they are produced and bought. But we will tell about them some other time.
        1. 0
          16 October 2021 12: 16
          Quote: Undecim
          But we will tell about them somehow next time

          Somehow? What is it like? Soon? Not soon? Very soon? what
        2. +5
          16 October 2021 12: 32
          Vic, good afternoon. hi
          Do you have anything on the inventions of Gadiev? I've found his self-loading pistol, but nothing really, just patent numbers and descriptions.
          1. +8
            16 October 2021 13: 24
            He also has a patent for a revolver. To be honest, it seems that a person invented a way to remove tonsils rectally.
            The description can be read at the link https://patents.google.com/patent/RU2294508C2/, and it is better to use the "download PDF" option and then read it.
            1. +5
              16 October 2021 13: 30
              ... a man invented a way to remove tonsils rectally.

              Precise definition. laughing

      2. +6
        16 October 2021 12: 24
        Hi Vladimir hi
        In general, Dardik has something mind-blowing, at first glance you won't understand what it is, a pistol or a revolver.

        In my opinion, it is very complicated and kind of clumsy.

        1. +4
          16 October 2021 13: 36
          (((Dardik has something mind-boggling at all, at first glance you can't understand what it is, a pistol or a revolver.))) But Dardik was not alone! He had "competitors"!
          1.American George Koontz ...; 2. Swiss Rudolf Amsler. hi
          1. +5
            16 October 2021 14: 17
            I didn't really find anything about these two guys, they are mentioned with revolvers and rifles, next to them, the aforementioned David Dardik is constantly mentioned, in connection with the "open chamber", a bunch of vague schemes and not a single photograph. request
            1. +4
              16 October 2021 14: 59
              Quote: Sea Cat
              connections with the "open chamber", a bunch of vague diagrams and not a single photograph

              Well, well ... what we have is what we have! "In connection with the open chamber ...": Duc, they all have "open chambers", so they are often mentioned together ... And as for the "indistinct circuits", they seem to be 100% indistinct "at the beginning" (!) ... if you "ponder" over them for some time, comparing them with schemes, images of Dardik, then "indistinctness" decreases somewhat ...
              1. +4
                16 October 2021 15: 44
                And as for the "indistinct schemes", then they seem 100% indistinct "at the beginning" (!) ...

                So after all, it was not possible to find anything entirely, only in "pieces", but in pieces about what intelligibility we are talking about. smile
                Well, how can you judge the subject as a whole? laughing
                1. +3
                  16 October 2021 16: 00
                  Quote: Sea Cat
                  how to judge the subject as a whole?

                  Is it really necessary ... in general? request
                  1. +4
                    16 October 2021 16: 18
                    What if there is IT? !!!! wassat
                    1. +1
                      16 October 2021 20: 11
                      Quote: Sea Cat
                      What if THIS is there? !!!!

                      Well .... between THOSE ....

                      and THIS ...

                      There is a whole "minute of happiness"!
                      1. +2
                        16 October 2021 20: 21
                        You are an optimist, Volodya. smile And that's great! drinks
            2. +3
              16 October 2021 20: 56
              Quote: Sea Cat
              I didn't really find anything about these two guys, they are mentioned with revolvers and rifles, next to them, the aforementioned David Dardik is constantly mentioned, in connection with the "open chamber", a bunch of vague schemes and not a single photograph. request

              Hello to an honest company!
              As for "crossing hedgehogs with snakes", I have an old pneumatic IZH-651 at my dacha. In fact, a magazine for balls was installed on all the barrels of the revolver. Considering that it is the firing element of the first "Junker" - the layout of the AK-74m.
              All this monster could be jokingly called - a pneumatic revolver with a pistol magazine on top of the barrel in a dummy machine gun!
              1. +2
                16 October 2021 21: 00
                Good evening, Vlad! hi

                I saw this device in the store, but did not dare to buy it, the appearance was too "frightened". laughing
                1. +2
                  16 October 2021 21: 13
                  Quote: Sea Cat
                  Good evening, Vlad! hi

                  I saw this device in the store, but did not dare to buy it, the appearance was too "frightened". laughing

                  This is already something new - no store, just a drum (balls, bullets). In the store, twisted in his hands, I liked the single-shot under the bullets. But I didn't buy it.
                  The tooth was put on the MP-61 in a tree, but so far not on the free sale. But this is more for the collection.
                  1. +4
                    16 October 2021 22: 59
                    I have had IZH - 61 in plastic for a long time. I am satisfied. We tried to put a more powerful spring, it did not work, the lever bends.
                    1. +3
                      17 October 2021 06: 14
                      It is difficult to "disperse" 60 and 61 Izhiki. Craftsmen changed the spring from 61 to 512, or even install two telescopic ones. True, after that, the rifle kicks like a "mad donkey." On mine, I changed the plastic to homemade wood, with the exception of 62 which was already in the tree and the gas cylinder MP-553. On one there is a gas spring, on the second there is a twisted one.
                      It's a pity that there are no photos in the phone, otherwise I would not have resisted bragging.

  5. +5
    16 October 2021 09: 14
    Thanks to Olegovich! Surprised!) We are waiting for the continuation hi
  6. +6
    16 October 2021 10: 01
    One can feel a certain "narrow-mindedness" of the ideas of those inventors based on the drum-revolving principle. And Browning, of course, is a genius.
    1. +4
      16 October 2021 15: 18
      Quote: Zufei
      And Browning, of course, is a genius.

  7. +4
    16 October 2021 10: 42
    The article mentions Landstad's revolver, one of the features of which is the presence of a cartridge magazine, along with a drum ... or rather, a "drum"! ("Flat drum" ... sounds? lol ) But other examples of small arms with a revolving drum and a cartridge magazine are also known, both revolvers and revolver rifles (!), Although not all of them can be called "automatic"!
  8. +5
    16 October 2021 13: 28
    Thanks, Author!
    It is always interesting to read your articles about various weapon systems.
    In this article, I especially liked the review of the "pistol revolver".
    I haven’t even heard of such systems. Very informative.
    I look forward to continuing!
    1. +5
      16 October 2021 15: 20
      Quote: KSVK
      I look forward to continuing!

      On moderation 4 articles about pistols of the late 19th - early 20th centuries and 1 about a rifle.
  9. +1
    18 October 2021 05: 58
    I read and enjoyed myself. Many thanks to the author. Again, a pistol revolver is something wassat ... The first time I heard and saw
  10. 0
    21 October 2021 11: 28
    I was always interested in weapons (as a result of this, I became an officer). As a child, I also tried to make a revolver, but it did not go beyond the drawings. However, I managed to make a fully functional single-shot pistol for 7,62 rounds for AK. They dabbled in shooting with it until my friend's mother found she threw it into the stove, which had to be repaired later. lol
  11. 0
    11 December 2021 10: 54
    Evil people did not tell the person that the cartridge can be fed from the store directly into the barrel.

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