The Webley-Fosbery Automatic Revolver,
The Webley-Fosbery is perhaps the most well known from the class of pistols known as “automatic revolvers”. An automatic revolver, it used the recoil of a fired round to rotate the cylinder and cock the pistol. This is very different to single action revolvers, where cocking the hammer rotates the clyinder, or double action revolvers, where both the revolver is cocked and the cylinder rotates through the force of pulling the trigger.
Developed by Lt. Col. George Vincent Fosbery (British Army) and the Webley and Scott Company, the Webley Fosbery (WF) used the recoil force of the revolver to force the frame backward, which cocked the hammer. In many ways, the frame of the revolver was much like the slide on a semi-automatic pistol. Notice the line running below the cylinder, this was like a track on which the frame would move back and forth. As the frame recoiled backward, it would also rotate the cylinder, aided by the zigzag pattern grooves machined onto the cylinder which timed the revolver. Like single action semi-automatic pistols, the WF had to be cocked by pulling back on the frame (slide). It could not be cocked by pulling the trigger or cocking the hammer like with a double action revolver. Also like single action semi-auto pistols, the WF was mean’t to be carried cocked and locked (with the safety on to prevent firing). As a result the WF is one of the few revolver designs with a safety mechanism.
Similar to other Webley models the WF was a break open revolver, where the barrel tilts down, exposing the cylinder for loading while ejecting spent casings. Most models were produced in .455 Webley (six shot capacity), the standard sidearm caliber of the British Army. Others were produced in .38 Auto Colt (.38ACP) with an eight shot capacity. Between 1901 and 1915 4,750 were produced.
While Webley sought a military contract with the British government, the WF design was rejected, as the British Army preferred older double action designs. While rejected by the military, the WF became very popular among target shooters. Due to its automatic design, the WF had a short, crisp trigger pull and did not require the hammer to be cocked. Cocking the hammer requires a target shooter to momentarily take the sights off target, whereas double action revolvers had a long trigger pull. Despite being rejected by the British Army, the WF still saw combat service in the Boer Wars and World War I. Many British officers who could afford it bought their own WF’s with their own shilling rather than settle for the standard issue service revolver.