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DateOriginal Topic
28th October 2003Officers revolvers
By Andrew
Does anyone know the name of the revolver the British officers used throughout the Zulu war. I have always wanted to know. Thanks
28th October 2003John Young

At the time of the Anglo-Zulu War officers purchased their own revolvers. So there was no standard issue service pistol.

Some of the makes used were Tranter; Adams; Webley & Colt. Also the calibres varied as much as the makes.

John Y.
29th October 2003Ian Essex
Not knowing a huge amount about revolvers...did they have to purchase ammunition as well, particularly if the calibre was not standard? Or did other weapons ammunition 'fit'?
30th October 2003Paul

John young is right in saying there was no standard issue, but there had been serious reservations regarding stopping power at the time of the Crimean War and Sepoy Mutiny, India.

Lieutenant - Colonel Fosbery noted an incident: " An officer, who prided himself on his pistol shooting , was attacked by a stalwart mutineer armed with a heavy sword. The officer, unfortunately for himself, carried a Colt's Navy pistol, which as you may remeber was a small calibre (.36), and fired a sharp pointed bullet of sixty to the pound and a heavy charge of powder, it's range being at least 600 yards, as I have frequently proved. This he proceeded to empty into the sepoy as he advanced, but, having done so, he waited just one second too long to see the effect of his shooting and was cloven to the teeth by his antagonist, who then dropped down and died beside him. My informant, who witnessed the affair, told me that five of the six bullets had struck the sepoy close together in the chest and had all passed through him and out his back."

Following such revelations, the British Government then adopted the Beaumont-Adams as it's official revolver (muzzle loaders).
The first breech loader purchased for the Army was made by William Tranter in 1863, a .44 calibre 'police' revolver using rim fire cartridge . The only rim fire weapons to be issued, ever, by the British Army. Tranters 'Army' revolver was adopted in limited quantities by the Government.

In 1880 the first centre fire Enfield came into service.

30th October 2003Adrian Whiting

A breech loading conversion of the Dean & Adam's revolver, in .455", was introduced for Royal Naval service in November 1868 (LoC 1738), but as Paul indicates above, it wasn't until 1880 that the army introduced a standard revolver.

This was the Enfield Mk in .45" calibre, (LoC 3776). At first the correct ammunition was not available so for two months or so the Adam's ammunition was used.

The Webley RIC (Royal Irish Constabulary) model, in .442", was an apparently popular choice. It had been introduced for the RIC in 1868.

My recollection is that the pistol apparently carried by Lt Chard, now in the RE Museum's collection, is a Webley RIC. It may be that Martin Everett is able to comment on the type of pistol carried by Lt Bromhead since I understood that his revolver is in the Regimental Museum collection. I expect there may be other site contributors who can advise on this as a point of accuracy too.

Given that the revolver was not an issue item, the owner was responsible for providing his own ammunition. I have read a few later sources where officers share out what they have brought with them - so long as the calibre is right !

I hope this helps,


30th October 2003John Young
Picking up on Adrian's last point, Horace Smith-Dorrien scrounged eleven rounds of pistol ammunition from Gonville Bromhead, on the morning of the 22nd January, 1879. At least they seemed to share the same calibre weapon.

John Y.
30th October 2003Martin Everett
Dear Andrew,
The revolver in the museum collection belonging to Gonville Bromhead was given to him by the villagers of Thurlby, Lincs on his return to UK. It is a Stanton .45 and was NOT used at Rorke's Drift.
31st October 2003Mark Hobson
A query which Martin Everett may be able to help with.
I'm trying to find out any information about a Lance Sergeant James Taylor who was present at Rorke's Drift. In Adrian Greaves "Rorke's Drift" there is info concerning his army career and a brief description of the man, but I am after infomation such as: Date of Birth, Date of death, Place of birth, location of grave, names of his family and children (if any). It states in the book that he was born at Meltham, Halifax. I am from Halifax and can tell you that Meltham is actually south of Huddersfield, not in Halifax. If you, or anyone else, could clarify this as well as provide any more info it would be much appreciated.
30th November 2004Tom Reynolds
I have a question- I have a Tranter 1878 45 cal. pistol. It was or may have been used in the Zulu War. It is gov. marked with the arrow and date 4-79. I would like information as to the history and if possable a location for parts. thank you TR.
1st December 2004Michael Boyle

The good news is you have a rare pistol. The 1878 .450 boxer pistol was made for the British Army on a contract of 2,000 units(later suspended).

That's also the bad news since Tranter retired in 1885 leasing his factory to George Kynoch (thus becoming the Kynoch Gun Factory) you would probably be hard pressed to find replacement parts. If you're trying to return the pistol to serviceable condition you may have to enlist the help of a master gunsmith, although that would detract from it's value as a collector's piece.

For more information on Tranter firearms:

Athough today the Tranter name is more identified with the bicycles his nephew assembled in the 1890's the Tranter pistols were quite famous during the American Civil War and the favourites of Alan Pinkerton and his detective agency.

William Tranter was also a founder/stockholder/director of the Birmingham Small Arms Co.