George Fosbery, V.C., was a decorated British officer with substantial combat experience in India when he decided to design a better sidearm in 1895. True semiautomatic handguns were in their very early stages of development at that time, and Fosbery thought that one could have a more durable, more powerful, and simpler weapon by using a revolver as a foundation. He began experimenting with a Colt SAA, but soon moved to using Webley revolvers when he found the Colt internals insufficiently durable for his conversion.
What Fosbery did was to make relocate the barrel and cylinder into an upper assembly which could move independently of the grip and trigger of the gun. Upon firing, the energy of recoil would push the upper assembly rearwards, recocking the hammer and indexing the cylinder to the next chamber. This gave the shooter the rapid fire of a double action revolver with the excellent trigger pull of a single action revolver.
The gun was introduced at the Bisley shooting matches, where it proved quite popular as a target gun. By the time production began in the early years of the 20th century, however, semiauto handguns had improved significantly, and the opportunity for the Webley-Fosbery to be a big seller had already passed. Still, British officers were required to provide sidearms chambered for the .455 service cartridge, and more than a few opted to purchase Webley-Fosberys.
Thanks to Mike Carrick of Arms Heritage magazine for providing this Webley-Fosbery for this video! Make sure to check out his column!