How the No2 Revolver Lost its Hammer Spur (A Correction & A Story)

In my previous video on the Albion-production No2 revolvers, I said that the removal of the single action capability and hammer spur from the design was done because of problems armored vehicle crews had with the hammers catching on hatches. That was wrong, and today I want to correct it and also explain the interesting series of circumstances that led to that story being commonly accepted.

Thanks to viewer Thomas for not simply correcting me in the previous video, but having the specific documented evidence to explain the error. That is how scholarship improves!

There is a kernel of truth at the tank crew theory, and that is that the armored corps did specifically request a hammerless version of the No2 in 1936. However, when testing of this pattern was done in 1938, it was not adopted because of anything having to do with tank hatches. Instead, as List of Changes item B2289 from June 1938 explains, it was primarily a matter of simplified handling and simplified training combined with a minimal difference in practical effectiveness that led to the DAO model being adopted.

My original source for my video was the book “.380 Enfield No.2 Revolver” by Mark Stamps and Ian Skennerton. This was published in 1993, and during its writing the tank crew explanation was apparently confirmed by Pattern Room curator Herb Woodend. It is hard to blame the authors for accepting him as a trustworthy authority on the subject, although we can see now that they should have dug deeper. That sort of digging is made a bit more difficult int he case of British small arms by the fact that the List of Changes is under Crown Copyright, which makes it less accessible to researchers than documents form other countries.

As for myself, I used the open-topped tanker holster as a reason to accept the tanker explanation, but I should not have. Actually testing the fit of the revolver in that holster would have shown me that despite being open-topped it completely covers the hammer. That should have been my sign to investigate the question further!

34 Comments

  1. It takes a big man to admit in public that he was wrong. Of course, I’ve never had to do so (I used to be conceited, but now I’m perfect). Seriously, mega kudos. Ian

  2. I interpret Number 2 at 3:29 as continuation of the first sentence about accidental discharge not due to the hammer being back but in fact due to the very light single action pull in a bouncing armored vehicle or motorized bike. If you were holding the gun with you finger on the trigger which was common back then and would be the case in combat; you could have an accidental discharge in the vehicle or at something you don’t mean to shoot at.

  3. Perfect case study in “How does bad information propagate”, and I have to commend Ian for following up on this and making the whole thing transparent.

    I think we’d all be absolutely shocked and disillusioned to see just how much bad information is out there, and how wrong much of what we all like to think of as “accurate and truthful” really… Isn’t.

    I’ve run into innumerable cases where published and supposedly authoritatively sourced information is just plain wrong. What’s worse is that there aren’t many authors or information sources who’re willing to do what Ian did here and confess to error and make a correction.

    Sad reality is, there’s a lot of what we think we know that simply isn’t so; you can even find fully documented and “verified” things that everyone reports as ground truths, but which actual participants will tell you simply didn’t happen that way. They may be telling you a truth, or they may simply have been mistaken; alternatively, it could well be that they saw a different angle on it all, and what they saw did not match the conventional accounting of the event because of that.

    What Ian demonstrates to us here is that you absolutely have to have as many mutually supporting sources as possible; the initial mistake stemmed from accepting one source as authoritative, when it really was not. The authors of that source did the best they could, but the raw fact is, they were misinformed.

    This is how real scholarship and real history should be conducted; source your information fully, and even then, examine the physical reality. I can think of a couple of cases where historical records which were widely accepted as accurate are actually highly questionable because an examination of the physical reality makes what those records say appear to be physically impossible.

    One really should have as many sources as possible, and include physical examination of all artifacts and terrain before making any sort of pronouncements as to “What really happened…”

    Sadly, thanks to things like the Crown Copyright, that’s difficult, and only getting worse as time goes on and they either classify or obfuscate the records. We’re going into what I’d term “the digital dark age” because of things like this. If you want WWII records, down to the morning reports submitted by every unit above company size, you can get them in the National Archives, unless they were destroyed by misadventure. If you want the same sort of reports from Iraq or Afghanistan, good ‘effing luck: Those records were kept on classified hard drives that got wiped when every unit redeployed; only a select few records were retained by some units, and that was very haphazard and entirely random. It’s unfortunate, but there it is: The ironic reality is that we’re likely going to have much better documentation for WWII than we ever will for the campaigns in Iraq or Afghanistan, despite the massive amount of information that modern command and control systems generate. Good luck to any former service members trying to go back and recreate lost documentation about wounds or service for VA benefits, because those records simply don’t exist any more. Unlike WWII.

  4. Actually it strikes me that Herb’s answer is correct that the removal was requested by the Tank Corp since nothing has been found from anyone else observing how much time was wasted teaching troops how to use the SA function etc and once the Tank Corp made the request the powers that be decided that there were other good reasons for making it a general thing to remove the hammer spur and used those reasons to justify the change generally since no doubt lots of people who were the users not the trainers would object to it just like lots of law enforcement troops objected to DAO weapons but the trainers and the bosses liked them for a variety of reasons none of which made the officers more efficient gun fighters on the street.Thus the book and Herb are correct and once requested by an end user the training people thought it was a good idea to adopt it generally not that they came up with the idea.I would go with that approach until you find some document that is from the training people complaining about the time wasted on teaching revolver shooting with both the SA and DA hammer spur revolvers.
    I agree that it is nice that you made a follow up video but you were likely right the first time but it was interesting to see the justifcation for adopting the Tank Corp request generally.

  5. I thought I had read the Tank Corps story earlier than 1993. So I checked my copy of Military Small Arms of the Twentieth Century by John Weeks and Ian Hogg. I don’t think they need an introduction and their reputation proceeds them “These pistols were introduced because their principal destination was the Tank Corps, and the earlier model had the habit of snagging the hammer on various internal tank fittings” Copyright 1981 I also have a copy dated 2000 withe same story. So I went further back, to John Weeks’ Infantry Weapons of 1971. Same story. So it sounds like LTC Weeks and Master Gunner Hogg were repeating a latrine rumor. I wonder if there are earlier references peddling the same story.

    • Colonel:

      You are quite right about Weeks and Hogg. In fact I have a copy of “World War II Small Arms” by Weeks, published in 1979, which states that the DA revolver was issued to the tankers first, and only the demands of WWII meant that it was subsequently issued to all arms.

      I am very pleased that we can now refute these claims, which seem to have been based on Chinese whispers. As Ian shows, the issued Royal Armoured Corps holster entirely covers the pistol, and if it did not, it would have been much easier (and cheaper) to have issued new holsters than change the revolver.

      The intention to simplify revolver training makes perfect sense. I have used the No2 Mk1* in the past, and feel it is much maligned. The grips are very comfortable, the trigger pull is not excessive, and the sights are very good, much better than contemporary American revolvers. The 0.380 revolver round is on a par with 0.380 ACP, so is very comfortable to shoot.

      One story that Hogg and Weeks keep repeating is that the British soldier received only 12 rounds of ammunition per year with which to train. This does sound criminally inadequate, and might be the next urban myth to receive the Forgotten Weapons detective treatment.

      • I suspect that the source would likely be found in some classroom or BS session, wherein a young soldier asked “Why’d they do away with single-action and the hammer spur…”, and then someone who was marginally authoritative misremembered what they’d heard or been told, and then made up information to fill in the blanks when they tried to explain/justify the decision.

        I’ve seen that process take place in real time. At least part of it stems from dealing with young soldiers that are often as annoying as your typical 3 year-old that constantly asks what we in the trade term “Stupid ‘Why’ Questions”. Friend of mine became so exasperated with one of his guys that he put his squad on a limited ration: They got to vote, as a squad, on their one question per day, and got no others answered in that 24-hour timespan. Cut down on the general “Stupid” a lot, that did.

        In his defense, he was a really good leader that always went the extra mile in explaining things; it was just that one soldier he had that kept asking entirely extraneous questions like “Why is everything in the Army green? Wouldn’t brown have been better…?”

        I had that young man attached to me for one exercise, and in the span of just a 72-hour period, I was ready to use him as tamping on a cratering charge. Unfortunately, no live demo on that exercise. (cue the sad trombone noises)

  6. Misinformation is easily spread. That is why historians try to find the primary
    sources. As these become more inaccessible, errors in more recent works get perpetuated.

  7. I have heard the tank corps explanation being repeated by collectors all the way back in the 1960s. This current explanation [training simplification] makes much more sense, even though it is a stupid decision. That big front sight would also get snagged on things just as much as the hammer spur. That light single action trigger comes in handy if you are in a situation where you are firing from cover and can draw a bead on an enemy soldier at distance. I’ve owned/used both the Webley and Enfield. I have been able to get good accuracy out of the old .455 Webley using the single action. I’ve owned both and prefer the single action mode. They should have kept the single action on the Enfield and reduced the spur to the shape used on the Smith and Wesson bodyguard.

  8. I am afraid, the desire to really look at primary sources is a dying art.
    There is no Soviet manual (beyond troop trial versions describing an early prototype, very different from the actually adopted weapon) that uses “AK-47” for the AK/AKM series of weaons. This fact does not prevent it from being used everywhere.
    Not long ago, German authors Buchholz/Brüggen published a volume about German machine guns up to 1918. They included a second volume, reproducing no less than 1804 pages of official German military manuals and other documents of the time. Nearly 2000 pages of original documents did not stop them from using the Czechoslovak designation 7.92 mm (invented after 1918!) in their work on German(!) weapons, which are invariably described as being of caliber 7.9 mm in the original documents.
    Misnomers like Schmeisser for MP40 or Spandau for MG42 (neither had the slightest connection to the guns in question) seem to have an attraction that is beyond me. Another example is the myth of a German 9 mm “hot” load for submachine guns.

    • Sometimes, ya just have to go with the roll when it comes to attempting to “correct the record”. It’s not always easy, once the incorrect information is already out there.

      I think there needs to be a study done, by someone a hell of a lot smarter than I am, to investigate the nature of information and just how “sticky” it is, for lack of a better term.

      I swear to God, when I was doing training in the Army, it was awe-inspiring to observe just how these things worked out. You could stand there and tell the troops the precisely correct truth about something, and they’d forget it immediately. Even after you went over everything, chapter and verse, refuting all the “Old Soldier’s Stories” about things like the M16 being manufactured by Mattel during Vietnam, they’d still spout off the specious information their “Unka Bob” told them in passing (which they invariably misunderstood as children…) twenty years before.

      I think there’s a direct relationship between the accuracy of a given bit of information, and how “sticky” it is with the average person. The more inaccurate and erroneous, the more likely they are to pull it out of their forepoint of contact when queried on the subject. The reciprocal is true, as well: The more accurate and truthful the information is, the less likely they are to remember it.

      If you think I’m joking, go spend a couple of years running troops and then tell me I’m wrong on this. I don’t know what the hell the causative factor might be, but this is purest observational truth as I’ve lived it.

      • Old Soldier’s Stories probably includes the stupid myth about how a squad of US Marines used their M1 Garands to outshoot a Japanese Type 92 Heavy Machine Gun from a mile away. No, I can’t remember the nitwit who told me the myth, but I’m pretty sure that no sensible person brings a rifle into a machine gun fight, especially when the machine gun is within the boundaries of a concrete pillbox.

        • That’s one of the perennial problems with figuring out what the hell happened in any action. All the Marines likely knew was that they were shooting at the Type 92 in a bunker, and then it quit shooting back at them. From those two facts, they extrapolated to “Yeah, we bad, we Marines, we suppressed the hell out of that MG position with our rifles…”

          Reality? Who the hell knows? Maybe they did; maybe the MG team ran out of ammo. Maybe someone dropped a mortar round on them; or, they could have received orders to withdraw.

          This is the reason why I mistrust every military history I’ve ever read, TBH. It’s like “OK, these guys told this writer/historian this; what’s to say that they had it right, themselves?”

          I’m here to tell you, from personal experience? If you think that you know what the hell happened around you in a given action, and you’re right? That’ll probably be the one time, ever, that you were. The rest of the times you thought the same thing were almost certainly (from statistics…) wrong. Hell, after a lot of the things I saw just at the National Training Center, I mistrust even my own “eye-witness”. You think you’re observing something, doing a good job of it, write down what you saw, and then you find out the hard way that what you thought you saw was utterly and unequivocally refuted by the computer records and all other witnesses to the event.

          • Let’s also consider the typical bunker for a Type 92 heavy machine gun. It’s made of concrete, which is cement reinforced by steel rebar. More than likely, the gunner is using a low power telescopic sight to acquire his intended targets. While the 30-round feed strip of the Type 92 doesn’t give much “suppression power,” it’s more than enough for the purpose of killing people who have been funneled into predetermined bottleneck zones beyond effective rifle range. Trying to suppress a machine gun bunker from very far away with a rifle, or even half a dozen rifles without actual concealment or cover, fits the definition of “foolish action likely to result in a very stupid death.”

          • Another issue with that bit of “history via anecdote” is that the sort of bunker is never quantified; it could have been a Maginot Line-esque concrete super-bunker, or it could have been some hastily improvised thing thrown together out of half-rotten palm fronds.

            And, again… This is why you have to suspect everything you hear and read about history, relying only on those things you can verify as substantive through cross-connecting sources that are verified as being both accurate and “on-scene”.

            Swear to God, when you go a-reading through all the variegated sources, the amount of sheer “WTF?” you run into once you start doing this is enough to make you rip your hair out.

            Guys like S.L.A. Marshall and Steven Ambrose are really aggravating, because they wrote with authority that they utterly lacked, which has gone to feed into later scholarship and “history”.

            One thing that cracked me up, kinda, was learning that when a historian was working to record some oral histories of the Vietnam War from participants, the guys he went and talked to initially didn’t know very much about the battles they fought in, because “Worm’s eye view”, and that they weren’t read into a bunch of things because they were privates. So, not wanting to sound like idiots when they went to subsequent interviews with him, they’d gone and gotten copies of S.L.A. Marshall’s books which described those battles.

            Now, what was “interesting” about that? Marshall had either lied or gotten bad information about what was going on during those fights, which was later pretty much refuted by deeper research and actual examination of documentation and communications logs. The historian doing the interviews knew this, and he was floored by the guys he was talking to telling him the false narrative that Marshall had created, as though they were eye-witnesses to things that there was no way they could have known, because they were taking place miles away in command centers that they had no access to.

            So, the whole thing is circular: Someone makes a BS history up out of whole cloth, participants try to make sense out of what they went through by reading that history, and then the whole thing gets enshrined into capital-letter “History” with full provenance and “eye-witness” testimony from participants.

            Makes ya wonder, sometimes, how much of what we know as “History” is actual truthful fact, and not utter BS.

      • “(…)don’t know what the hell the causative factor might be(…)”
        https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/H._L._Mencken claims that
        …when a candidate for public office faces the voters he does not face men of sense; he faces a mob of men whose chief distinguishing mark is the fact that they are quite incapable of weighing ideas, or even of comprehending any save the most elemental — men whose whole thinking is done in terms of emotion, and whose dominant emotion is dread of what they cannot understand. So confronted, the candidate must either bark with the pack or count himself lost
        Thus it might be that simpler information wins.

      • Some “old wives’ tales” are generated by the Army’s official organs. The forward bolt assist on the M16A1 being one example.

        Supposedly added in 1968-69 to deal with “dirty ammunition” in Vietnam, it actually was added in mid-1963 to Colt Model 603A rifles (AR-15s) for the Military Assistance Program (MAP), which was run by the State Department, not the Defense Department.

        Why? Lake City Arsenal, at that time sole source for 5.56 x 45mm milspec ammunition in both the Army Ordnance and Military Assistance Program systems. They had had serious QC problems with cartridge case dimensions going back to WW2, with their cartridges usually crowding the upper limits of spec.

        The usual symptom was the cartridge stopping bolt movement on first -round manual loading about 1/8″ short of lockup. Subsequent rounds loaded by the power in the mechanism fed and functioned normally. But getting the first one in could be a problem.

        On an M1 (Garand or carbine) a good hard push on the back of the operating rod handle would generally do it. However, the AR15 had no such option.

        Then a Colt engineer thought of the bumper jack in his car trunk. A ratchet and crank handle. You couldn’t put a crank handle on the rifle, but you could add a ratchet on the bolt’s bare side and a spring-loaded plunger.

        The FBA first started showing up on Colt rifles intended for MAP export nearly five years before they appeared on the M16A1 for U.S. Army issue.

        The U.S. Air Force issue rifles (for Air Police- base security) never had FBAs and never needed them. Why? They ordered their 5.56 x 45mm ammunition from Remington. Remington accordingly delivered .223 Remington ammunition, loaded with IMR powder (not “ball powder”), with 55-grain FMJ bullets, in brass cartridge cases made to SAAMI commercial specifications.

        What was really needed was back in 1942 or so, somebody needed to go to Lake City and clean house.

        Of course, being an Ordnance Facility (says so right on their golden escutcheon!), that was never going to happen. And it never did.

        cheers

        eon

    • JP:

      I suppose you go with what you are familiar with. In the US, the round seems to be called 8mm Mauser. In all UK textbooks, it is called 7.92mm, so that is how I think of it. The Germans, who ought to have known, called it 7.9mm, or more properly 7,9mm.

      During WWII, somehow British soldiers decided the MP40 was the Schmeisser, and the MG34 or MG42 was the Spandau. I don’t know why. Perhaps it was just good enough for their requirements. You can read medal commendations which refer to “heavy Spandau fire” for instance. I suppose so long as the British knew what that meant, what did it matter? The Tommies called a Panzer IV with a long 75mm gun a “Panzer IV Special”. The Germans may have called it a PzKpfw Ausf G, but that was not something that the crew of a 6 pounder needed to worry about.

      • The details of things are often extraneous and utterly unnecessary to the average soldier.

        I was once tasked with training the common task training for vehicle identification, back when the Cold War was still a thing. Being a motivated and overly detail-oriented young NCO, I set up some of the most detailed and imaginative training you could have put together, complete with dioramas and models, plus flow charts for distinguishing specific models of Soviet armored vehicles from NATO ones.

        Basically, the training was such that it made people’s eyes bleed. If you managed to pass it, and paid attention? You were equipped to tell someone that they were dealing with a T-64 or a T-72 from whatever angle you might have encountered it.

        Now, the boss had told me that he’d given me that station because vehicle identification was a perennial problem on the CTT test, and he wanted 100% to pass on their first try, once they’d completed my training site. I managed that, but what we actually did was substitute failure on the CTT with failure on my training site… Which was a bitch to get out of, TBH.

        Now, after the whole thing was over, the first day of that training, one of my other bosses came around and asked me some questions, namely “What’s the point of all this…? and “Do people really need to be able to tell it’s a T-72 that’s running them over, or is it enough for them to recognize it as an enemy tank…?”

        Which was about the time I drastically revised what I was doing, and simplified the hell out of it. The CTT test was basically “Threat? Or, friendly…?” only, so it was “excess information” if the guys knew it was a T-64 vs. a T-10. It might have been of more than academic interest to someone doing intel analysis at a higher echelon, but for us, “enemy or friendly” was quite enough.

        There is such a thing as “Too much information…”, I’m afraid. And, that’s where a lot of these inaccuracies come into play. So long as the PIAT gunners knew that that tank was German, not American or British? That was enough. The distinguishing differences between the various models of the Mark IV were immaterial.

        Which is how so many different German tanks got reported as Tigers or Panthers.

        The intel guys talk about “Essential Elements of Friendly Information” and all that. A similar tool for triaging what you’re expecting out of the soldiers would be of value, because that’s what winds up happening, anyway.

      • @JohnK

        For what it’s worth, C.I.P. calls it 8×57 IS, but the assault rifle cartridge is still called 7,92×33 kurz… Though C.I.P. names are mostly concerned about giving each cartridge a unique name rather than any historical accuracy.

      • “(…)MG34 or MG42 was the Spandau. I don’t know why.(…)”
        Originally Spandau name was applied by British during Great War at MG 08/15 after they captured sample which was procured by Spandau arsenal. Apparently sometime its meaning was increased to also include other German machine gun.

        “(…)British soldiers decided the MP40 was the Schmeisser(…)”
        https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugo_Schmeisser#Nationalsozialismus proposes following hypothesis
        …der MP38 und der MP40. Von diesen Waffen wurden 1,2 Millionen Stück hergestellt, und sie wurden international als „Schmeisser-MP“ bekannt. Das lag auch daran, dass das Stangenmagazin der MP38 bzw. MP40 von Schmeisser stammte und auch so gekennzeichnet war.
        that is
        1200000 examples of MP38 and MP40 were made, and will be internationally as “Schmeisser-MP” known. That was due to stick magazine MP38 bzw. MP40 will have Schmeisser name of them
        where MP38 bzw. MP40 means magazine which can be used in MP38 and MP40.

        • Daweo:

          Thank you, that is interesting information. It makes sense that if German WWI machine guns were made at Spandau, all subsequent German machine guns were just referred to as “Spandaus”.

          As for the MP38/MP40, are you saying that the magazines had “Schmeisser” stamped on them? That would explain why the name attached itself to the guns, but why would his name have been on the mags? I thought he had nothing to do with the design of these guns.

          • “As for the MP38/MP40, are you saying that the magazines had “Schmeisser” stamped on them?”
            If I understand Deutsch text correctly, yes.

            “nothing to do with the design of these guns.”
            Depend on whatever you consider magazine to be part of guns or separate from it. Hugo Schmeisser hold patent for magazine, U.S.Patent number is 1,833,862 which can be seen here https://patents.google.com/patent/US1833862A/en and is said to be equivalent to CH153230A (Switzerland) and BE377678A (Belgium).

            “why would his name have been on the mags”
            As you might known Hugo Schmeisser was working for Bergmann during Great War, latter after end of Great War moved to Switzerland where he used know-how to start production of MP.18,I clones without paying or even acknowledging efforts of Hugo Schmeisser. To avoid similar mishap in future Hugo Schmeisser make sure his work are correctly captioned, for example M.P. 28.II
            https://www.rockislandauction.com/detail/71/3514/schmeisser-designed-mp-28ii-german-marked-submachine-gun
            is clearly marked
            SYSTEM SCHMEISSER PATENT

          • Before they went to the three-letter code system, the Wehrmacht procurement department wanted the manufacturer’s name or trademark on virtually every procured item. I had P.38 magazines with the Walther banner on them and ones with the Krieghoff trademark instead, to cite just one example.

            The most likely explanation for the “Schmeisser” name on the MP38/40 magazines was that his factory manufactured them.

            Note that early MP38s were generally clearly marked with the Ermawerke trademark, but late MP38s and all MP40s generally had three-letter codes.

            cheers

            eon

          • Daweo:

            That makes perfect sense. So that’s how the MP40 became the “Schmeisser”. Good to know.

  9. They never did remove the spurs of their Smith & Wesson Victory models. The more elite British formations seem to have much preferred the Smith to the
    Enfield, and the Colt 1911 to either of the aforementioned.

    • “The other guy’s stuff is always better.” If the other guy is on your side, and you can scrounge ammo for it, then it’s even better — and a Colt 1911 has glamour besides. (“I daresay no Jerry’s ever stopped one twice, mm yass, quite.”) Dunno if there’s really much to choose between an Enfield and a S&W (although I do like the top break speed of those Enfield irons), but “I say, the Yanks do rather make a gentleman’s weapon, eh, what?”

      Hammerless? DA only? Absolutely. A man who knows his weapon and trusts it will use it in earnest without hesitation.

    • Weeks states (in Infantry Weapons) that the Victory had a better trigger pull than either the Enfield or the Webley MK IV, and thus was easier to shoot accurately double-action.

      Anybody who has ever used a pre-1960 Smith & Wesson Military & Police with the old “long” type action lockwork would probably agree.

      cheers

      eon

  10. Tik:

    The S&W Victory models came from the USA as they were made, so no, the hammer spurs were kept, there was no sense in changing them. But given training doctrine, I imagine they were used as DA only. A problem with that is that the sights on a S&W can only be properly used in SA mode, the hammer blocks the sight picture in DA. I imagine the Americans thought DA would be used at close range, without use of sights. Different doctrine.

    The Webley MkIV was always equipped with a hammer spur, and was widely used by the British as a substitute standard. Indeed, whenever anyone mentions a British revolver, it is usually called a “Webley”, even if it was an Enfield. I think they were made up to the 1970s, and were used by police forces in the British Commonwealth for many decades. I hope Ian decides to do a piece on them at some stage.

  11. Let’s recall that the Tanker story was promoted as debunking the Commando Revolver story common before that.

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