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  1. #1
    Bob Wright's Avatar
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    Thoughts on the top-break revolver.....

    On a TV show called "Top Guns" last night some of the arms featured were British top break revolvers, the Enfield and Webleys.

    The thumb operated stirrup latch of the Webley was about the most ridgid and most intuitive to use. And the auto ejecting action made reloading very fast. Surely the top break revolver could not hold its own in modern practical pistol shooting, but in real-life usage it has served the British very well in actual war time conditions, and its still in use in many former English colony countries.

    To be sure, a top-break is no competition to a Model 29 .44 Magnum, nor a Super Blackhawk, for that matter. But slicked up to American tastes, and maybe in .45 ACP, or even .45 S&W, looks to me like many police departments would do well to junk their plastic bottom-feeders and revert to the revolver once again. Lord knows, too many departments have adopted the "spray and pray" technique today.

    And, with the hinged frame, there is the built in barrel interchangability even easier than the Dan Wesson guns.

    The arguement that the hinged frame cannot stand heavy use is disputed by the long-serving Webleys. To be sure, short moderate pressure ammunition is dictated for use in these guns instead of heavy magnum pressure cartridges throwing nearly an ounce of lead, but sure seems to me a good Americanized top-break could hold its own in today's shooting world.

    How say you?

    Bob Wright

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  3. #2
    DWARREN123's Avatar
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    Good training is needed for any type of defensive device. A bottom feeder usually a lot more rounds and sometimes that is needed.
    Just my opinion.

  4. #3
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    I always liked the idea, and I think it could work in modern firearms. I think as designs progressed years ago, they gave up on the top break, which is a shame.

  5. #4
    Bob Wright's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DWARREN123 View Post
    Good training is needed for any type of defensive device. A bottom feeder usually a lot more rounds and sometimes that is needed.
    Just my opinion.
    I'm not so sure that is true. In such cases where many rounds were fired, the question arose whether the shooter was actually seeking a gunfight. And in one case here in Memphis the claim of self defense was denied because the defendent poured multiple rounds into his victim. In one case, the shooter reloaded and continued firing after his victim was clearly down and out of the fight.

    Many cases that transpire here in Memphis are very difficult to analyze as criminal activity is suspected on the part of both parties. But the fact remains that many unintended victims are the result of "spray and pray."

    Most legitimate self defense shootings have involved the firing of only one or two shots at one assailant.

    Bob Wright

  6. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Wright View Post
    On a TV show called "Top Guns" last night some of the arms featured were British top break revolvers, the Enfield and Webleys. . . How say you?
    OK, I claim to be a mechanical engineer. Long retired.

    A properly executed top break design really seems to be a VERY good solution for a revolver. Certainly it can make the case for being "the best".
    That said, the old (and not too cool a design concept) 1873 Colt, and later the double-action "side cylinder" beat out the production of the top-break.

    This stuff is not the first time in world history that an inferior design concept "won the day" for production numbers. And not just for gun design.

    Sometimes the "cool-looking" stuff wins the day.
    As in engineers would like to believe "form follows function". But not always given good sales pitches.

  7. #6
    870ShellShucker's Avatar
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    I'd love to own a Top-Break, Auto Eject 6 shot .357 Magnum, which of course would also fire .38 Special.

    Factory sighted to near dead-on POA with 125 Grain SJHP at 10-20 Yards.

    That would be a great self-defense tool.

    Hey wait, my Police Service Six does that already, but it doesn't have Top-Break and Auto-Eject, which would both be very cool to have.

    Add to the list a super nice trigger job, and this project would be a dream revolver for sure.

  8. #7
    Steve M1911A1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DanP_from_AZ View Post
    ...[E]ngineers would like to believe "form follows function". But not always given good sales pitches.
    From my own Design 101 professor: "Form follows function...until it gets in the way of customer-appealing visual design."

    The weakness of the top-break design seems to have always been its locking latch, not its hinge. Even the Webley, which was made for some awfully large-diameter cartridges, was limited to low-pressure loadings. It threw huge, heavy bullets at very pedestrian (pun intended) velocities.
    I bet that the top-break revolver died because its latch couldn't be engineered to stay together, even with ordinary .38 Special loadings. Confront it with even the .44 Special, and you might be headed for catastrophe.
    Closely examine the latch geometry of an Enfield service revolver from WW2, and you may see what I mean. To me, it seems that the whole thing depends upon the strength of two small pivot screws.

  9. #8
    Bob Wright's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve M1911A1 View Post
    From my own Design 101 professor: "Form follows function...until it gets in the way of customer-appealing visual design."

    The weakness of the top-break design seems to have always been its locking latch, not its hinge. Even the Webley, which was made for some awfully large-diameter cartridges, was limited to low-pressure loadings. It threw huge, heavy bullets at very pedestrian (pun intended) velocities.
    I bet that the top-break revolver died because its latch couldn't be engineered to stay together, even with ordinary .38 Special loadings. Confront it with even the .44 Special, and you might be headed for catastrophe.
    Closely examine the latch geometry of an Enfield service revolver from WW2, and you may see what I mean. To me, it seems that the whole thing depends upon the strength of two small pivot screws.

    From my somewhat limited experience with top-breaks, the major problem came from wear on the two lugs projecting upward from the frame. The opening and shutting tended to round over these lugs, making the guns sort of "jump open" when fired. Building these up with weld metal then dressing them back down to original configuration solved the problem for us.

    When the revolver is fired, the top-strap is placed under considerable tension, and with the stirrup latch of the Webley, this tension is borne by the lugs of the frame and top-strap, the latch itself merely keeping the action closed. The cartridges were rather short to keep the cylinder within reasonable length for the massive boss required for the barrel pivot screw. Use a long cylinder, and the frame becomes unwieldy due to excessive length. And British practice was to use a heavy bullet at moderate velocities, which worked pretty well for them.

    Bob Wright

  10. #9
    Steve M1911A1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Wright View Post
    ...When the revolver is fired, the top-strap is placed under considerable tension, and with the stirrup latch of the Webley, this tension is borne by the lugs of the frame and top-strap, the latch itself merely keeping the action closed...

    Bob Wright
    The frame lugs of both the Webley and the Enfield exhibit "draft," that is, they are slanted or rounded as manufactured, to permit the top strap to open and close over their tops. Thus, not all of the forces generated by firing are taken up by the junction of top strap and frame lugs. Absent the stirrup latch, the top strap would tend to lift up off of the frame lugs upon each discharge. Thus the stirrup latch absorbs some amount of force from each discharge.
    The stirrup latch is joined to the frame of either gun by means of two fairly small screws, one at each side of the stirrup. Thus, these relatively small screws absorb all of the discharge force received by the stirrup latch.

    This design worked for the British because their man-stopping philosophy required the use of large, heavy bullets travelling quite slowly. This was as true for the Enfield 0.380 revolver, which used 200-grain bullets, as it was for the Webley 0.455 gun.
    The combination of large bullets travelling slowly puts relatively little strain on those two smallish stirrup screws.

  11. #10
    aarondhgraham is offline Member
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    Russian designed MP-412,,,

    Click here please,,,

    And here as well,,,

    Personally I like the elegance of the top-break revolvers,,,
    But historically they weren't the strongest revolver frames out there.

    Yes the Webleys have had a long life,,,
    But that was with a comparatively weak cartridge,,,
    Even the S&W Schofield (sp?) never used a powerful cartridge.

    I've had several gunsmiths tell me that,,,
    "Break-Tops are easy to design but difficult to design strong."

    I don't know if that's true or not,,,
    But I've seen a lot of old ones and rarely a tight one.

    Now in a .22 revolver like the H&R revolvers,,,
    They were a joy to shoot,,,
    Easy to reload,,,
    Accurate.

    As a kid I never owned one but two of my friends did,,,
    I can't recall them ever having any problems,,,
    And they were as accurate as my Colt.

    But I would expect that from a .22 that isn't stressing the frame too much.
    If I ever find an H&R 999 Sportsman for a decent price,,,
    I'll snag that sucker and enjoy shooting it.

    But as for a centerfire cartridge,,,
    I don't see any advantage over a rigid frame gun.

    It would definitely have a cool factor,,,
    But it would bring no real practicality to the table.

    Just my humble opinion,,,
    Your mileage may vary.

    Aarond

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  12. #11
    Don357's Avatar
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