British Bull Dog revolver

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British Bull Dog revolver
Webley .450 "The British Bull Dog" model - 1870s
Type Pocket Revolver
Place of origin  British Empire
Production history
Designer Philip Webley & Son
Designed 1872
Manufacturer Webley and various manufacturers in Europe & USA
Produced 1872–1900s
Barrel length 2.5 in (64 mm)

Cartridge .44 Bull Dog, .442 Webley, .450 Adams
Action Double Action revolver
Effective firing range 15 yd
Maximum firing range 20 yd
Feed system 5-round cylinder
Sights Fixed front post and rear notch

The British Bull Dog was a popular type of solid-frame pocket revolver introduced by Philip Webley & Son of Birmingham, England in 1872 and subsequently copied by gunmakers in Continental Europe and the United States.[1] It featured a 2.5-inch (64 mm) barrel and was chambered for .44 Short Rimfire, .442 Webley, or .450 Adams cartridges, with a five-round cylinder. Webley produced smaller scaled .320 Revolver and .380 calibre versions later, but did not mark them with the British Bull Dog name.


The design of the British Bull Dog revolver had been in existence since 1868, but Henry Webley registered the trademark in 1878. From that time to the present, the term has come to mean any short barrelled double-action revolver with a swing-out ejector rod and a short grip.[2]

Intended to be carried in a coat pocket, many have survived to the present day in good condition, having seen little actual use.[3] The design originated in 1868 for the Webley Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) model revolver and was manufactured as late as 1917.[4]

Numerous copies and variants of this design (authorized and unauthorized) were made in Belfast, Belgium, Spain, Pakistan. France and the USA during the late 19th century.[5] American copies were manufactured by the firms of Forehand & Wadsworth, Iver Johnson and Harrington & Richardson. Belgian and American versions were produced in smaller calibres, but most large calibre American copies were chambered for the .44 Webley (.442 British) cartridge.[6]

A version made by Webley, but finished by Belfast-based gunmaker, Joseph Braddell, known as the Ulster Bull Dog used a longer grip frame than the standard, making the revolver easier to control and shoot.[2][6]

The Bulldog was popular in Britain and America. US Army General George Armstrong Custer was said to have carried a pair at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.[7] British Bull Dog revolvers were issued to employees of the Southern Pacific Railroad Company through 1895.[2]

Garfield assassination

A .44 calibre Belgian-made British Bulldog revolver was used to assassinate U.S. President James A. Garfield on 2 July 1881 by disgruntled lawyer Charles J. Guiteau, who was angry that Garfield had not appointed him to a Federal post. Guiteau reportedly wanted a British Bulldog revolver with ivory grips instead of wooden ones, as he believed they would look nicer when the gun was displayed in a museum,[8] but decided not to spend the extra $US1 that the ivory-gripped model would have cost.[8] In all, he paid US$10 for the revolver, a box of cartridges and a penknife,[9] before spending the next day familiarising himself with the revolver's operation and firing 10 practice shots with it into trees along the banks of the Potomac River.[8] He used the revolver to shoot Garfield a week or so later in the Sixth Street Railway Station in Washington, D.C. After Guiteau's trial, the revolver was placed in the Smithsonian Institution but disappeared some time later.[8]


The large calibre British Bulldogs are now considered collector's pieces by some. Ammunition for these pistols is no longer commercially manufactured.

Charter Arms based one of their more popular revolvers on this design in a 5-shot, double-action revolver with a swing-out cylinder and a solid frame chambered in .44 Special known as the Charter Arms Bulldog.[10]

Over a million of these small revolvers were made by various makers of the late 19th century in Europe and Asia and many survive in good shape. Intended only for use with black powder by the 1930s due to World War I eliminating many of the small shops they had been made in and the increasing popularity of semi automatic pistols they were considered obsolete and ammunition was no longer commercially available. Ammunition for many of them can be manufactured by the hobbyist using components from other calibers if the hobbyist has reloading equipment, a lathe, bullets of the correct size and a supply of black powder. In caliber .380 (Rook or Webley) shell casings from a .38 Special or a .357 magnum can be shortened and the rim thinned to a thickness of 0.02 inches and for most of the 380 bulldog type revolvers heeled bullets of .355 caliber will work just fine. In caliber 450 and 455 modern shell casings are still available as are the bullets so only black powder is required to restore a 450 caliber Bulldog to full service. In caliber 442 Webley (also a Rook caliber once common in Australia) shell casings from a 44 Russian, a 44 Special or a 44 Magnum can be shortened and trimmed like the 380. Bullet moulds designed for the caliber 44 Henry Flat produce a perfect 43 caliber heeled bullet usable in a 44 Webley caliber Bulldog.



  1. Dowell, p. 68.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Bruce, Gordon (2011). "The Bulldog Pack, variations of the Breed". In Dan Shideler. Gun Digest Book of Revolvers. Iola, Wisconsin: Gun Digest Books. p. 68. ISBN 1-4402-3157-5. 
  3. Ficken, Homer R. "Webley’s ‘The British Bull Dog’ Revolver: Serial Numbering and Variations". Retrieved 2011-03-28. 
  4. Kinard, Jeff (2004). Pistols: An Illustrated History of Their Impact. ABC-CLIO. p. 141. ISBN 978-1-85109-470-7. 
  5. Kekkonen, P.T. "British Bulldog revolver". Gunwriters. Retrieved 2006-08-03. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 Hogg, Ian V.; Walter, John (2004). Pistols of the World. David & Charles. pp. 128–129. ISBN 0-87349-460-1. 
  7. Heier, Vincent A. (2009). Little Bighorn. Arcadia Publishing. p. 103. ISBN 978-0-7385-7007-5. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Elman, p. 166.
  9. Elman, p.171.
  10. Ramage, Ken (2006). Guns Illustrated 2007. Iola, Wisconsin: Gun Digest Books. p. 24. ISBN 0-89689-426-6. 


  • Elman, Robert (1968). Fired in Anger: The Personal Handguns of American Heroes and Villains. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company. 
  • Barnes, Frank C. (1972). ".44 Bull Dog". In Amber, John T. Cartridges of the World. Northfield, IL: DBI Books. p. 170. ISBN 0-695-80326-3. 
  • Dowell, William Chipchase (1987). The Webley Story. Kirkland, WA: Commonwealth Heritage Foundation. 

External links