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How were revolvers used and worn in the British army in WW1?

How were revolvers used and worn in the British army in WW1?



hello and welcome to blogeee of the range in an earlier video I gave a general discussion on why British and other European armies tended to wear their holsters on the left basically economic issues now in the comments lots of people said well that's because the pistol replaced the sword well yes and no so what this is going to lead into is a general discussion on the use of the pistol in the First World War British Army and the peculiarities of hostel we're now in the British Army in the First World War pistols were used by officers who were expected to supply their own cavalry sergeants and upwards alrights of the military police as a badge of rank and to persuade people they needed to persuade the Royal Flying Corps who also got a fair issue of automatic pistols Lewis machine gun teams the number one and two on the Lewis gun the tank corps when that came in because they've got useful for shooting out of thoughts and if you had to bail out of the tank and from spring 1916 rifles were withdrawn from the Vickers machine gun detachments of the machine gun Corps and replaced with pistols and apparently this was accompanied by much target practice now in the British Army of the First World War there was in principle at least a rank distinction on how you wore your holster now an officer was supposed to wear his holster on the right in a holster like this leather closed flap at a fairly jaunty angle other ranks half of them were supposed to wear an open-top leather holster this isn't one this is a Second World War in a tank Paul Stone is just doing a stand-in for me and I was supposed to worry on the left now while office is supposed to wear it on the right and other ranks on the left now for an officer where as I described why cross draw is more ergonomic with the high belt position of the era Ian officers were supposed to wear them on the right and that is a throwback to wearing a sword because if a sword is one on the left it's very difficult to wear a pistol on the left as well because they'll clash and get in the way so let's just take a little diversion back a few decades from the period which will keep about to see where this all comes from now this rather dashing fellow here is depicting an officer in the time of the Zulu Wars so the late 1870s now as you can see at the start the pistol was a supplement to the sword and the swords worn on the left for obvious reasons and there's no way you could wear a pistol anywhere on the left without impinging on your ability to draw the sword so this chap has it slung down low on the right on a cross strap but you also see other depictions where the pistol is up on the belt more first of all wore style and as I mentioned it was a supplement to the sword and not a replacement for it and then as time went on the sword was used less and less until around the time of the first world war it was basically gone altogether but officially the holster stayed on the right officially we'll get to that in a moment now I couldn't possibly comment on who this chap is except to say that he looks the type who might have said Oh will you stop throwing those bloody Spears at me or maybe not and because there's always exceptions here's a Zulu War officer swordless with his pistol on the Left moving forward to the Boer War now his four officers with swords and pistols on the right no sword pistol on the right and wearing a skirt but don't worry this one's armless but a gene and finally two young officers trying desperately not to be bullet magnets no pistols lee-metford rifles and dressed as infantryman now other acts wouldn't have had swords previously so the left side was already free now of course swords were no longer routinely carried that went out before the First World War but officially the habit was there to keep the pistol on the right however this was by far from universal so here we have a photograph of the officers of the first / v territorial forced York and Lancaster regiment so in the American experience these would be the equivalent of National Guard officers now this photograph was taken in April 1915 prior to them getting on a train to get on a boat to go on a little holiday to France now what you notice from this is that there's massive diversity in how the hosters will want and there's a chap here wearing it on the right but quite in front of himself this chaps got it tucked up under his armpit these two young looking fellows on the right this guy has it in a fairly economical cross draw position and this guy's got it at an improbable angle even the colonel of the regiment who is this fellow with the fantastic moustache is wearing cross draw now I don't know whether they'd gone out to France prior or this was their first deployment it's quite probable judging by the date and the fact that territorials that it is in fact their first deployment but we're already seeing adaptations for the field such as wearing oh eight pattern webb belts which are made of heavy canvas rather than Sam brown leather belts which are just nasty in the wet now aside from the people I mentioned earlier who officially got a pistol they were often held as trench stalls and dished out as required for instance for renting parties to go and pay the Germans a little visit during the night time now I was particularly recommended that bond as I think the guys whose main job it was to give the Germans the good news by means of grenades should also have a revolver and at least 25 rounds and there were the most desirable of weapons that very rarely picked up in battlefield archaeology because if someone carrying one fell someone else would pick it up and you often see pitches as the war went on of people with it with their tunics part open and a pistol stuffed in or behind behind ammunition pouches all sorts of ways to get it here reasonably quickly now I mean the Americans had the policy of attempting at least to supply everyone they possibly could in the front line with a secretary weapon with a handgun and effectively the only people who would have a secretary wear either someone who'd picked one up and managed to not have it taken off him and put into a sort of general trench stores the officer who had picked up a rifle to be less of a bullet magnet Lewes Gunners and and so on now the official scales of ammunition were all of 12 rounds on the man 12 rounds per man in the company baggage-train and 12 rounds per man in the brigade ammo dump which isn't exactly a lot however in reality people took up as much as they could get away with because why would you 12 rounds it's a lot to go in a boxing match with Mike Tyson but to face up to the German army not that good that was an awful pun geez now there are actually 22 VC citations for people using pistols seven of which two officers so they were used quite offensively but even though they were used offensively the pre-war pistol training was pretty village most of it was conducted at 30 yards slow fire single and double action each hand which is at least something but no time limits and what's interesting is that the civilian shooting that went on at Bisley largely influenced by people like Walter whiners had very much progressed into snap shooting advanced attacks that sort of thing but the army took a while to catch up and it was only once the war had stagnated into trench warfare and people were actually relying on their pistols not only defensively but also using them offensively particularly in trench raids where it started to get a bit more practical and a chap called Tracy developed all sorts of practices that were used by the army losses snap and basically based on the civilian competition program but also with some practical things like moving down a mock-up of a trench now Tracy reckon that anyone armed with a pistol should be able to deliver one hit in one second from the ready position and we'd be one-handed so we factory ready position at the time buy into a 12 by 18 inch rectangle at 10 yards now this corresponds conveniently to about an 83 sheet of paper so we turn this into a competition the only difference being being modern and wet we are two hands on that here's a clip of it are you really watching sure now for anyone that's interested in seeing the full 24 hour course of fire I'll put it at the end after the copyright card now there was always a shortage of pistols and practically anything in 455 was pushed into service but in the frontline in principle it would have been a Webley of sort of Mach 4 not 5 Mach 6 era a Smith & Wesson or a Colt for training lots of obsolete break open Smith & Wesson copies of the under hinged room type like a bit like the chaps Russian model all ordered in Spain but they were so poor that they were relegated to training and most of them seems were disappeared after war I certainly never seen one in a collection now a typical British military fashion after the war a lot of the lessons learned in use of the pistol were lost and had to be reinvented again during the Second World War and were then again lost and it seems really from talking to people who are serving right now that is only as recently as recently that use of the pistol has been taken seriously in the British Army again and again is following the civilian experience of what's being learnt in IDP a USPSA IPSC shooting that's finally being applied to British Army pistol doctrine so there you have it hope you enjoyed the video like and subscribe like our Facebook page and I hope to see you again on the range sometime bye all you really watching shoot please couple off surprisingly hard you don't pick you foster up you're dead


Reader Comments

  1. As a member of the military myself I can say that with things like your pers kit you wear it how it works for you and is comfortable

  2. Great clip and subject. I've always been familiar with the Revolver/Pistol holster being worn on the left, but now that I know it's also on the right I'll probably spot the detail, I've probably seen it but it didn't "register". I also like the photo showing the Territorial Army (TA) officers, particularly the one with the 1908 Web Belt instead of a Sam Browne. I was thinking, perhaps it's possible he's using it due to wartime shortages of Sam Browne's, sometimes things like this may inadvertently start a trend or a practice? Kind regards.

  3. I can understand this, i carried my colt conversion the same way, barrel length effects the speed of the draw, and pulling it out crossed if faster and a more fluid motion, Ive since upgraded to a Tokarev and I still carry in the same manner

  4. Can you help us out. When you talk about bombers carrying a revolver on raids, did that include on the attack as well. Would a bomber carry a revolver and a SMLE? Thank you for the help

  5. In the 70s we rarely saw a pistol and firing one was so rare that it was almost a treat. A bit of a come down really as I was in 5 Regt RA which was heavy artillery firing M107 (175mm) pieces.

  6. In the 1960's, the Metropolitan Police started to up their game in terms of pistol training (before then, firearms training was rudimentary at best). The new firearms instructors decided to see what best practice they could draw from the Armed Forces so they attended the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, their experience left them less than impressed. For police officers, the pistol is the primary weapon, for the military (at the time), the pistol was an afterthought.

  7. Hey Mr Bloke can you teach us something about the Sam Browne belt how was it rigged how was the pistol hung .?

  8. Why were revolvers used at all in WWII? Why not semiauto? Are revolvers better in certain situations (apparently revolvers are easier to instinctive fire)?

  9. you dont find a lot of them because after the war everyone nicked them and took them home. when i was a kid i cannot remember a house that was not full of stolen kit brought home and most was bloody dangerous stuff . rifles . machine guns . ammo . Knives. pistols i even saw hand grenades ! yet not once did i ever ever hear of a shooting or an injury from there use . my dad had an entire field radio set . it was massive the thieving bastard !

  10. I wonder if the lack of regard for the pistol in the Armed Forces has anything to do with the fact that British civilians are banned from owning any kind of modern pistol? Without a kind of practical pistol competition on civilian shooting ranges maybe the skills and tactical use just withers away.

  11. Were there any accounts of enlisted men bringing privately-owned revolvers or automatics with them into combat?

  12. I would add that pistol skills were maintained and evolved by Fairbairn in Shanghai inter-war, and then reintroduced to the British military in WW2 by Fairbairn and Sykes. Also, if you look at what we might call Israeli style (particularly the practice of carrying chamber empty and chambering a round on the draw) it seems to have been heavily influenced by Fairbairn & Sykes methods as taught in WW2.

  13. For the original style competitions, look at the Classic Pistol Competitions at the now defunct Pistol AD ran by the National Pistol Association in the UK. All are shot one handed. The Service Revolver Course was a challenge. Series 1; 12 shots, 6 with the strong hand followed by reloading and then 6 shots with the weak hand, all in 2 minutes (including the reload). This was followed by Series 2, 3 and 4 with each series of 6 shots fired double action in a maximum time limit of 3 minutes. Scored the gun score minus the number of complete seconds for that series. An easy course of fire, no. But good fun.

  14. I learned from some other videos that the US Army was initially slow at adapting to new tech. They were still using muskets when semi autos were first available. At one time American civilians were better armed than American soldiers. Which is as it should be.

  15. Completely off point question, but @ 3:47 a photo is shown of Officers in the Boar war sporting cloth bandoliers. I did not know cloth bandoliers existed or were used by either side in the Boar war. I've seen many images of troops of the Boar war, styling with leather bandoliers but never cloth. Does the image @ 3:47 give us a glimpse of a rare piece of field kit?

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