Two of an Imperfect Pair

(This is one of the posts from July that WordPress somehow lost)

The British Bulldog was invented in the late 1860s by Webley. These were a compact double-action revolver in .442 Webley and .450 Adams. Big-bore cartridges in a small, fast-firing revolver proved to be a very compelling combination. They were immediately popular, not just in Europe but across the world, particularly in the United States.

The style of revolver was quickly adopted by the many, many gunmakers in and around Liege, Belgium, who had never met a design they didn’t want to steal. This, coupled with their utter contempt of foreign patents meant that the vast majority of British Bulldogs were produced in Belgium. But they weren’t alone; Forehand Wadsworth in the United States also produced a version that they even had the temerity to actually label British Bulldog.

Forehand Wadsworth British Bulldog, this one holding 7-shots of .32 S&W.

The F&W solid-frame guns were offered as a six-shot .38 S&W, a seven-shot .32 S&W or a 5-shot .442 Webley. Today the .38s are the most numerous, with the .442s being somewhat rare. The .32 S&W seven-shooters are fairly common and, I thought, unique.

Nope. I was at Pintos today and was asked to consult on a Bulldog revolver. While answering the questions as best I could I spotted something tucked away in the corner of the case: a small Bulldog revolver labelled as Belgian and offered at a very attractive price. I had to look, of course.

It appeared to be a F&W .32 seven-shooter, but it had an odd trademark and was not labelled as the F&W revolvers usually were. I was intrigued, and since it was basically all there I pulled out my wallet. Damn you, Pintos!

Two F&Ws? Close, but no cigar. Among other things the screw just above the back of the trigger-guard is located in a different place.
The new gun does not say Forehand & Wadsworth’ or indeed anything at all. The Checkering on the hammer is also different. (Perspective in this photo makes the new gun appear larger; it isn’t.)

The shape of the trigger, the loading gate and the hammer are too close for the resemblance to be accidental. Despite the similarities of the guns there are small differences, and many of the parts are not interchangeable. They’re close, but not identical. Normally you’d expect a Belgian gun to have proof-marks, either real or faked. Likewise any European manufacturer. This gun has none of that. OK, it could have been made anywhere and still lack proof-marks, especially if it were made for export to the US, where proofs were not so much a thing.

The Faux-hand and Wadsworth at the top is missing the flange that prevents the cylinder-axis pin from rotating. I’ll fix that. As close as they look the axis-pins are not interchangeable.
The cartoonish bulldog Trademark is another clue that the gun isn’t a F&W.

Forehand & Wadsworth sold a lot of these guns; I’m not sure how many. Someone, somewhere got ahold of one and copied it at least once. Probably many times. To me this is actually more interesting than finding an actual F&W. You learn something new every day. Unless a compelling reason not to comes to light I’m going to refurbish this gun; strip the little remaining nickel and rust-blue it, make a new set of grips probably. I’ll also test-fire the gun, using some mild loads of course. Interesting times ahead!

Take care and stay safe. Michael Tinker Pearce, 30 July 2021

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