<< Previous Topic | Next Topic >>Return to Index  

.455 or .38 cal. revolvers????

July 19 2004 at 7:48 PM

Did officers in the Canadian Army in WW2 have their choice of which weapon they wanted to carry, be it a .455 revolver,.455 colt automatic, both which were issued to the CEF in WW1, or the puny .38 cal. Smith& Wesson which to my understanding is a less potent cartridge ,than the .38 Special which up to a short time ago was the sidearm of the RCMP.

 Respond to this message   
Ed Storey


July 20 2004, 1:25 AM 

I believe that .455 was the standard service pistol ammunition and that any privately purchased sidearm had to be able to fire that calibre.

 Respond to this message   

Actually, .38/.380 or .45ACP or 9mm Parabellum ....

July 20 2004, 12:17 PM 

Check my article on Service Pistols in the Weapons section of the CANUCK Website for more detail (much of which I must credit to Clive Law's "Canadian Military Handguns, 1855-1985", which would certainly give you more detail yet...)

However, here is a summary:

1. At the outbreak of WWI, the only pistols in Canadian military stores were chambered in .45 Colt - what was left of the 1001 Colt Model 1878 ("New Frontier") revolvers acquired for the 1885 Rebellion and also used to equip the First Canadian Contingent in the Boer War, which were supplemented with the purchase, in 1900, of something over 900 Colt "New Service" revolvers in the same chambering for the Second Contingent.

2. With the outbreak of WWI, Canada purchased 5000 Model 1911 Colt semi-automatics (chambered in .45ACP, NOT .455) - which consumed almost two-thirds of Colt's 1914 commercial production of that pistol (i.e. all of this model not produced for the U.S. Government contract that year.)

3. In 1915, with the war clearly NOT "over by Christmas", Canada contracted with Smith and Wesson to purchase 2nd Model Hand Ejector ("New Century") revolvers chambered in .455, since that company was already producing them for Britain. A total of 14,500 S&W revolvers were purchased in 1915 and 1916. This model is the only primary-issue Canadian military handgun ever chambered in .455 caliber.

[Note: During WWI, officers were required to supply their own personal equipment, including sidearms, though many of them purchased their pistol from Government stocks, in which case they usually lack any Government ownership markings - that was apparently the case with both the Colt M1911 and the S&W hand Ejector in my collection. As Ed has indicated in his post, such private purchase pistols were required to be in one of the two chamberings of Government-issue handguns (primarily to avoid ammunition supply problems.) While .455 Webley revolvers were not purchased by Canada, they were certainly an acceptable option for such private purchase - which is the story of my MkVI Webley, engraved with the name and rank of a Canadian Lieutenant. These pistols are all shown in the article referred to above.]

3. Prior to WWII Canada had acquired a few (less than 600) of the "new" British Enfield No. 2 MkI revolvers (mostly for the fledgling RCAF) but in 1939 elected to adopt the Smith & Wesson "Military & Police" revolver, chambered in .38 S&W, because that chambering would also accomodate the standard Commonwealth .380 service ammunition. Over 118,000 of these revolvers were purchased from 1939 through 1943.

4. Canada didn't let pistols on hand go to waste, however. In particular, existing supplies of the .45ACP M1911's were earmarked for issue to airborne troops, and to supplement that quantity the Government also conducted a public appeal requesting citizens to sell (or donate) such pistols in private hands.

[Note: During WWII Officers were still permitted - though not required - to supply their own handguns, again provided they were chambered for one of the "official" Canadian rounds. My own M1911 Colt had been purchased from the Government during WWI by a Canadian Army Service Corps Major, who then sold it in 1942 to a young Lieutenant, who owned it until I acquired it a couple of years ago. Of particular relevance to your question, that individual specifically told me that he acquired this .45 because he wanted something more effective than the issue .38 - which apparently already had a reputation for "anemia"...]

5. In 1944, Canada officially adopted the home-grown 9mm Inglis High Power ("Pistol, Browning H.P., No.2 MkI") production of which commenced in February of 1944. None had been issued to Canadian troops by D-Day - if memory serves, issue commenced in Europe that Fall. Canada acquired over 54,000 Inglis pistols (out of the total production of both the "Chinese Model" - i.e. No.1, MkI - and the "Canadian Model" - well in excess of 150,000 units.
The Inglis remains our primary military-issue pistol to this day - more than 60 years after it went into production.

 Respond to this message   
  << Previous Topic | Next Topic >>Return to Index