Big Bertha

Big Bertha
Circa 1940, on the streets of Rochester New York, Bertha does her work.
"I don't make hell for nobody. I'm only the instrument of a laughing providence. Sometimes I don't like it myself, but I couldn't help it if I was born smart."

1st Sgt. Milton Anthony Warden.
"From here to Eternity"

Paul Valery

"You are in love with intelligence, until it frightens you. For your ideas are terrifying and your hearts are faint. Your acts of pity and cruelty are absurd, committed with no calm, as if they were irresistible. Finally, you fear blood more and more. Blood and time."

The Wisdom of the Ages

"When a young man, I read somewhere the following: God the Almighty said, 'All that is too complex is unnecessary, and it is simple that is needed',"

Mikhail Kalashnikov
"Here lies the bravest soldier I've seen since my mirror got grease on it."

Zapp Brannigan

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Of Automatic Pistols and Poorly Dressed Scotsmen

"Zardoz speaks to you, his chosen ones.
The gun is good.
Go forth and kill.
"

I saw this movie exactly one time. 1974, the base theater at Port Hueneme (thirty-five cents admission).
I just put it on my Netflix list so I can see it again because, back in the day I missed a salient feature.
You only have to see the first thirty seconds or so to see what I'm talking about: The piece of ordnance being wielded by Mr. Universe, at least Scotland's most famous contender circa 1952.
Apparently this gun also shows up in "The Maltese Falcon" but that movie doesn't have the bitchin' cool, low-budget '70's special effects and Mr. Universe/Scotland Forever with a long braid and running about in various states of undress.
The heat Mr. Connery is packing is something unique among firearms - a revolver that has a safety - and needs it.
That would the Webely-Fosberry, an automatic revolver.
Not "automatic" as described by Iver-Johnson in the marketing of their low-cost double actions such as this.
No, this is an automatic - as in; self-cocking - revolver; produced from 1901 'till 1915 with less than 5,000 total.
For my money, this design is brilliant. The top half of the frame, along with the cylinder slides back with the recoil - just like the slide on a regular auto-pistol does.
In the process the cylinder, its zig-zag grooves following a stud on the lower, immobile, part of the frame is advanced.
Some tricky machining I would think, especially in aligning the cylinder with the bore.
Of course, in the process of this backward movement, the hammer is cocked as well and it's left ready to fire again.
This brings us to the safety aspect. This puppy took two hands to cock initially. The off hand would grip the hammer and pull it and the frame/cylinder back until it locked.
Thereafter it was carried at full-cock making the safety (the big lever at the top of the grip) very important.

About the photo: and a million dead Scotsmen spin like rotisserie chickens in their graves.
This was his first post-Bond flick and I would think he'd have saved some bucks from them but... maybe not.
Or maybe there's things we don't know (or want to know) about old Sean.
Myself, I simply adore the boots.
Okay, when you manage to tear your eyes from the beefcake, you'll notice that Zed (his name in the movie) is holding his piece un-cocked. This was necessary because the blanks used in filming didn't generate enough recoil to cycle the action so it had to be cocked (two hands) every time he fired it.
And 'cause this is just a cheesy publicity still.
The Fosberry used the same top-break action and fired (in the service version) the same .455 round as the standard Webley, service revolver. A later civilian model fired .38 ACP with half-moon clips - eight shots vs six for the .455.
Depending on who you talk to, this was either never issued or was issued to the RAF.
Its use by the Airedales made lots of sense but down in the mud of the trenches the groove-stud dynamic would only suffer.
Alas, the invention of Lt Colonel George Vincent Fosberry, VC never took off but the old boy wasn't a one-trick pony.
He also came up with the paradox gun which I understand Holland and Holland are going to produce again.
This was devised so big-game hunters didn't have to be encumbered by carrying a shotgun as well as a ginormous rifle.
This sweet unit was a standard gauge shotgun with the final two inches of the bore rifled.
When you think about it, a rifle with 12 gauge bore (roughly 3/4" or .75 caliber) would be an impressive thing.
In closing; another flick of the W/F in action:

Almost forgot.
The idea was resurrected with apparently the same level of success more recently with the manufacture of the .357 magnum Mateba Utica.
From Italy, the country that gave us Michelangelo, Titian and lasagna among other things.

1 comment:

Andy said...

Okay, so the Sosberry trumps my garden variety Webley...I think I'll look for the MST2000 version of Zardoz though...

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