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Best all round primary handgun of the Great War


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#1 khaki

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 12:03 AM

I feel that the Colt 1911 .45acp would win the title, with probably the Webley mk6 being a close 2nd. I believe the 1911 speed of fire and reloading,magazine capacity and cartridge superiority clearly places it in the front. I believe the functionality of the Webley in the worst trench conditions and its ruggedness makes it a great second choice.
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#2 The 26TH Yankee

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 01:14 AM

The 1911, hands down.

#3 4thGordons

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 01:45 AM

The 1911, hands down.


"Hands up!" surely? :whistle:

#4 khaki

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 02:02 AM

It appears we have the NG votes for MA. and IL so far in this primary.

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#5 smleenfield

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 05:06 AM

Totally in favor of the M1911. Accurate, reliable and extremely hard hitting piece of equipment.

#6 auchonvillerssomme

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 08:07 AM

Shame there is no one around to answer that question with any real expertise or experience.

#7 MikB

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 08:35 AM

I feel that the Colt 1911 .45acp would win the title, with probably the Webley mk6 being a close 2nd. I believe the 1911 speed of fire and reloading,magazine capacity and cartridge superiority clearly places it in the front. I believe the functionality of the Webley in the worst trench conditions and its ruggedness makes it a great second choice.
khaki


I wouldn't differentiate much between the 1911 and the top-break Webley 455 (of whatever Mark).

Which was better would depend on who you were.

If you were a firearms enthusiast with lots of experience outside the services, you'd understand how the semi-auto worked and know how to use and maintain it, so the 1911 would be preferable. If you were fighting from necessity or sense of duty more than enthusiasm, and didn't especially like guns for their own sake, the revolver is the better choice. Its use is more straightforward, and its maintenance needs can be understood just by looking at it.

We might agree that the P.08 was both complex and vulnerable to trench-dirt, but you don't hear much criticism of it from the German side, and it had a considerable cachet in the US after the war - whether deserved or otherwise.

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MikB

#8 chrislock

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 08:48 AM

After having fired both at my club range in a clean enviroment, without doubt if serving on the Somme of 16 or within the Salient by mid 17 I would opt for the revolver every time.
I own and shoot a Smith and Wesson M39 semi auto 9mm and I simply cannot imagine this pistol remaining operational after being immersed in mud and as for field stripping....

My choice would be the Colt for a sterile and target rich enviroment but the Webley model as mentioned for my first general choice.

Then again, after having never used a hand gun in anger or within the scenarios applicable to the Great War what would I know. Two of the iconic and brilliant side arms without doubt!!

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#9 31543 Ogilwy

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 09:09 AM

I have to agree with the previous posts!

Having fired most of the handguns (and other weapons) from the period I hate to say it but that the 1911wins! It was accurate, efficient (even in mud and poor conditions) and the .45ACP, 230 Gr Ball is a really effective round for putting a man down. With the slow low recoil of the .45 I would put it ahead of the 9mm even.

The Webley is superb but it's rate of fire and reloading (even with speed loaders) put it behind the 1911. Add the necessity of using double action to achieve rapid fire I think a reliable semi auto has to win.

For accuracy the best is probably the C96 Mauser and although I've shot Artillery and Naval Lugers I can't remember how accurate they were.

I'm taking out the Steyr Hahn M1912 and M1912 P16 in the near future and it will be interesting to see if they are better.

Although just carrying a handgun is a bad idea in combat if you had to do so the 1911 at the time would be the best by far.

Now, to throw a proverbial grenade! Lebel, SMLE, Mosin Nagant or G98 now which one would win there?

#10 Tom W.

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 09:09 AM

Steyr-Hahn fully automatic M1916 with extended clip. Take out a whole trench all by yourself.

#11 chrislock

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 09:42 AM

Although just carrying a handgun is a bad idea in combat if you had to do so the 1911 at the time would be the best by far.

Interesting point quoted above by Ogilwy. When I deployed on ops in the mid 70's it was SLR or LMG only for normal work but with 9mm Browning only for personal protection when engaged on dedicated under cover work however, for todays soldiers the standard practice is rifle and side arm simultaneously always! This situation will have been the result of a learned experience when dealing with a multiple target and close range enviroment without doubt. Even our Harry was never without his sidearm conveniently located on his body armour.
Come to think of, a pretty damn good comforter to say the least.

#12 MikB

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 10:11 AM

Although just carrying a handgun is a bad idea in combat if you had to do so the 1911 at the time would be the best by far.

Interesting point quoted above by Ogilwy. When I deployed on ops in the mid 70's it was SLR or LMG only for normal work but with 9mm Browning only for personal protection when engaged on dedicated under cover work however, for todays soldiers the standard practice is rifle and side arm simultaneously always! This situation will have been the result of a learned experience when dealing with a multiple target and close range enviroment without doubt. Even our Harry was never without his sidearm conveniently located on his body armour.
Come to think of, a pretty damn good comforter to say the least.


Yes, but you're still talking about professional soldiers.

Most handgun-users in WW1 would be officers, and many of those would be wanting to do their bit for King and Country, but really looking forward to getting back to their families, their lands and their horses when it was all over. Such men might find the automatic fiddly and demanding, especially since it's not easy to carry it safely in a condition where all you have to do is point it and pull the trigger, as you can with a revolver.

The DA auto with the inertial firing pin didn't get invented for no reason, and they weren't around then.

For the men mentioned above, the revolver is better, and safer for them and their comrades.

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MikB

#13 chrislock

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 10:28 AM

Good points and really does show that the weapon concerned is without doubt governed by the qualities of the user. :thumbsup:

#14 Doc2

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 10:49 AM

I have carried various handguns in adverse conditions throughout a 30 year military career, and have fired the vast majority of WWI primary sidearms from the primary combatants. I would agree with the previous comments extolling the virtues of the M1911 Colt. Without a doubt, if I go "in harm's way", I would prefer to be armed with the M1911 .45. Doc

#15 31543 Ogilwy

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 11:01 AM

MIKB,

Total agreement! I get fed up of dealing with 'professional' soldiers who still manage to randomly discharge automatic pistols (with varying degrees of humour and tragedy!). With ba DA revolver in the hands of a novice it is vastly more safe for all around, however that includes the enemy as I'm sure you'll agree the practice and skill required to hit a target DA is not something just picked up over night!

One thing about the Webley though - it is a damn good noise maker, and in the close confines of a trench when faced with a fire spitting loud thing, retreat or surrender is often the first reaction.

Chris,

I miss my SLR :( ! My current replacement although good is still not the same. I have always carried a backup pistol though. When working, the ability to rapidly use a long arm is as you point out very much restricted. I must admit though that on the one occasion I was separated from my rifle when contacted, and only had a Browning to return fire with it did feel somewhat inadequet, although my ability to answer you does show that it works (mind you the Warrior providing me with support from it's Chain Gun also might have alot to do with it! :lol: )

Tom,

Yes, the whole point of the shoot is I need to see the marks left on the fired cases from the M12 P16 and how they differ from the normal M12. it's also a good excuse to get out and shoot stuff!

Regards to all,

Rod



#16 TonyE

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 11:25 AM

Steyr-Hahn fully automatic M1916 with extended clip. Take out a whole trench all by yourself.


Have you ever fired a full auto handgun? :wacko:

The first shot might go where you wanted it to but the rest might as well be anti-aircraft fire! They are all the same, Mauser Schnellfuer, Star, Llama etc.

Even the modern Beretta 93 Full auto with the fold down fore-grip is the same. At seven yards if you aim it at the bottom of a Fig.11 you might get two rounds on the card with the rest going over the top.

Returning to the original question, I think I would probably opt for the Webley, preferably a Mark V. I have smallish hands and find the 1911 grip uncomfortable, but the birds head grip of a Mark V is fine and even if a Mark VI I would still choose it over a Colt.

One particular reason would be the event of a misfire due to mud or whatever. Just pull the trigger again on a revolver, although of course you could always ask the charging Hun to stop for a moment whilst you use both hands to clear your Colt.

The Webley has a low velocity admittedly, but the bullet is heavier and it is more likely to stay in the victim and therefore deliver all its energy, increasing its incapacitating effect.

Also, I totally agree with Mik about ease of use and levels of skill to maintain the weapon.(There is also the question of ammo supply, but we won't go into that!)

On the other question of rifles, there can be no argument. It is the SMLE of course!

Regards
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#17 MikB

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 11:31 AM

MIKB,

Total agreement! I get fed up of dealing with 'professional' soldiers who still manage to randomly discharge automatic pistols (with varying degrees of humour and tragedy!). With ba DA revolver in the hands of a novice it is vastly more safe for all around, however that includes the enemy as I'm sure you'll agree the practice and skill required to hit a target DA is not something just picked up over night!

One thing about the Webley though - it is a damn good noise maker, and in the close confines of a trench when faced with a fire spitting loud thing, retreat or surrender is often the first reaction.


Regards to all,

Rod

It might be a bit unfair to call the kind of officer I was talking about a 'novice'. He might already have had considerable battle experience, but in his mind soldiering was supposed to be an episode, not a career, providing he could get through it alive. The stuff his life was really about was at home, and he only saw himself as fighting to protect that.

It's true about the noisemaking of the Webley! At school a very long time ago we did a play which ended with a grenade explosion straight after the curtain went down. A teacher's old Webley Mk.VI (some of them still had 'em in those days) loaded with blank was used for the sound. Didn't 'arf make the audience jump! :D

Regards,
MikB

#18 31543 Ogilwy

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 12:08 PM

Hi Tony,

Yes, I've fired several varying from the Schnellfeur to the Skorpion (that I carried for a while, another story!). I fired a modified 1911 on one occasion and it was both horribly unreliable and totally uncontrollable. The worst I've ever fired was a little Americal 'Drive By Special', that even with the addition of a supressor was totally uncontrollable (but fun to shoot). Accuracy is not the test here, I'm after fired cartridge markings. More PhD research to try and prove a point!

As with yourself, my hands are not large, I have trouble with the Beretta 92 for instance, (so went over to Glock in .45!). But I could always manage the 1911, A1 and Government / Gold Cup without a problem.

Remember that one big factor in choice is personnal preference! Especially when the powers to be don't get too upset if you carry your own choice! We all have favorites, and even today some of us have been known to carry some odd choices because we like and trust them, (I still maintain the best close in weapon I've ever had is an M1928!).

We have found odd caliber rounds in the trenches that I can only put down to personal weapons. I'm looking into some at the moment.

Don't right off the G98 though, the Mauser action is still today one of, if not the best bolt action in the world, (I think that's what's called head above parapet!).

Good luck with your lecture. I think it's shortly isn't it! Sorry I won't be there I'm off to Belgium, Martin will explain.

Yours Aye,

Rod

#19 chrislock

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 12:38 PM

Ref safety and reliabity aspects perhaps a clue lies here:
I have often noticed that the police in my town are equipped mostly with semi autos whilst the Security guys delivering bags of cash to the shops however are carrying revolvers.

I still feel the answer to the dedicated thread question must surely be the Webley.
Then again....... :unsure:

Chris

#20 Garron

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 01:48 PM

I'd go with the Webley, as should you empty the magazines with the Colt you have to refill them whereas with the Webley its straight forward; load into the cylinder and fire. If you should lose the magazines in combat you have a paperweight as without a magazine its next to useless. You can't lose a cylinder. If you have a FTF with the Webley there is no need for a clearance drill e.g tap the magazine, check and rack the slide its just pull the trigger and try again. The Webley was in service in various forms from the 1880's up to the 60's so it was certainly doing something right.

As for the rifle, hands down its the SMLE, the Mauser action is a great piece of engineering but the 10 round capacity and ability for accurate rapid fire does give the SMLE the advantage. To fire 10 rounds you would have to reload, I wouldnt.

#21 TonyE

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 02:11 PM

Rod - Sorry you won't be there for the talk. I did the No.4 and No.5 at the IWM on Monday evening and I think it went down well. Good luck with any trench finds though. Although we find plenty of .303, 7.92 and 8mm Lebel in the tunnels and spoil when digging it is very rare to find any pistol calibre cases.

Garron - I quite agree. No doubt the Mauser is technically the best action, front locking, massively strong etc but as a WWI combat rifle the G98 suffered from 5 round capacity, cock on opening and a straight bolt handle. The SMLE overcame all these points and as the biggest plus would carry on working through thick and thin.

Although I love my SMLE, I actually prefer my Pattern '14 to shoot as it has the best of the Mauser coupled with an ergonomically positioned bolt handle and cock on closing, although of course still a five round magazine.

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#22 Thunderbox

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 04:05 PM

I've actually carried a Webley VI for personal defence (in Africa, long, long, ago...), and subsequently have carried GP35, CZ35, SIG and a variety of other autos on military and (cough!) commercial service.

Thinking myself into a WW1 trench scenario and the likely carriage and usage of a pistol, my vote actually goes for the Webley MkVI.

Apart from the fact that its probably going to be a lot more reliable for a point-and-shoot after a crawl through some mud, part of my assessment is based on the fact that other people around me would be carrying the same pistol (assuming its general issue) - I'd feel a lot safer about my own men waving around uncocked but double-action Webleys, than i would if they were waving around cocked 1911s behind my back....

#23 The 26TH Yankee

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 04:11 PM

I'd go with the Webley, as should you empty the magazines with the Colt you have to refill them whereas with the Webley its straight forward; load into the cylinder and fire. If you should lose the magazines in combat you have a paperweight as without a magazine its next to useless. You can't lose a cylinder. If you have a FTF with the Webley there is no need for a clearance drill e.g tap the magazine, check and rack the slide its just pull the trigger and try again. The Webley was in service in various forms from the 1880's up to the 60's so it was certainly doing something right.

As for the rifle, hands down its the SMLE, the Mauser action is a great piece of engineering but the 10 round capacity and ability for accurate rapid fire does give the SMLE the advantage. To fire 10 rounds you would have to reload, I wouldnt.



You don't reload the magazine, you carry multiple mags. Changing the magazine of a 1911 is many times faster than reloading a revolver. I love revolvers, I own 7 of them but, my daily carry gun is a SA 1911-A1. It can't be beat for reliability and knock down power.
Granted, I don't crawl around in a muddy trench all day but, the men that did didn't seem to have many problems with them.

#24 Matthew

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 04:26 PM

I would suggest that the answer would be what was smallest, lightest and least likely to get in the way :whistle:

My reasoning is thus. A pistol is more a comfort blanket and a status symbol. Officers are more use with a map, a whistle and a pair of binos. Radio ops etc are better served looking after their kit. For personal protection get an infantry section.....

....otherwise I'd have a .45 1911.

#25 4thGordons

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 04:39 PM

load into the cylinder and fire. If you should lose the magazines in combat you have a paperweight as without a magazine its next to useless. You can't lose a cylinder. If you have a FTF with the Webley there is no need for a clearance drill e.g tap the magazine, check and rack the slide its just pull the trigger and try again. The Webley was in service in various forms from the 1880's up to the 60's so it was certainly doing something right.


My comment above (hands up!) was a weak joke rather than necessarily an endorsement.

Personally so long as I was fighting Barn Doors either would work for me - if the targets are smaller than that I am in trouble anyway.

But just for the sake of stirring the pot a bit - if the .45 cartridge is preferred to the .455 and the revolver's reliability to an semi-auto -- how about throwing the Colt/Smith and Wesson M1917 into the ring?
Loading can be sped up too with half moon clips?
Photos seem to suggest large numbers of these were carried by AEF men.

Chris