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Thoughts on the 1917 Army revolvers

Gene LGene L Senior MemberPosts: 12,575 Senior Member
As you probably know, these revolvers are reloaded with clips.  Half moon, moon clips for 1917 revolvers in .45 APC.  I prefer the half-moon clips as they're historically correct and make a LOT more sense for a combat revolver, where if you fire only a couple of rounds, you can reload with three.  Unlike moon clips, where you'd have to eject 4 good rounds to reload with 6.

But...the half moon clips I could find were thin steel and very, very difficult to load with ammo, and impossible to unload the empties by hand. (Unlike the ones on videos I saw.) So I went looking online for a substitute for steel and found plastic moon clips.  They're easy to load and I assume easy to unload without a tool.  Couldn't find half-moon plastic clips and doubt they're made...probably would be too bendy.  So I recommend them for revolvers that use them.  Great for range use, but if I carried a duty Model 25, it would be with half-moons.

Since I got my S&W 1917, I've been researching them, since I like to know about guns and after the fake one mentioned below.  There is a lot of info out there on the internet, but not all in information in one source I could find.I had to read several sources and make inferences in a few cases, which I hope to be justified.  For example, I read that all Army S&W 1917s had govt inspector marks and the flaming bomb om them, and most of them did, those made after Sept 1918.  That's when Springfield Armory took charge temporarily of inspection.  Before, the ordinance dept trusted Smith and apparently Colt to make the specs.  Mine was made in April of 1918 and doesn't have ord marking.  On top of the barrel, it has the S&W two-line address.  I don't know if this was continued after the Springfield Armory became involved.  Smiths don't have the logo on the side, Colts have the prancing horse on the left side.  It's also 1/4 # heavier than a S&W.

One site said while S&W cylinders were rebated so you could use ACP rounds w/o a clip and eject them with a rod or pencil or whatever, Colts did not have this and the round would slide down in the cylinder causing headspace problems and maybe so deep the firing pin wouldn't engage.  This was true on earlier Colts, but before too long Springfield required the later ones to be bored like the Smiths.

I reported earlier on a faked Smith on another forum, where some faker had hand-lettered the butt US Army and the "Property...." line on the bottom of the barrel.  Didn't fool the others on that forum, but it fooled the guy who bought it and probably would have fooled me because I couldn't believe someone would take the time and skill to hand engrave the lettering, which was actually pretty authentic looking.  Anyway, it was this fake that led me to do the research on my revolver.

Concealed carry is for protection, open carry is for attention.


  • JayhawkerJayhawker Moderator Posts: 18,118 Senior Member
    As I recall the .45 Auto Rim was created to eliminate the need for moon clips in those revolvers...

    Anyway...I love the platform and have been looking for the right on for quite some time...
    Sharps Model 1874 - "The rifle that made the west safe for Winchester"
  • earlyagainearlyagain Posts: 7,928 Senior Member
    I guessing that when they were needed the need was dier. It's hard for me to imagine a mechanical failure of such a gun at that moment. There's a lot to be said for that.
  • Gene LGene L Senior Member Posts: 12,575 Senior Member
    The Auto Rim was developed in 1920 ~ or so because a lot of 1917s were surplused after the war ended. The numbers of 1911s weren't sufficient to meet wartime needs in WW 1 which gave birth to the 1917, developed from a Smith large frame revolver in various calibers. I think the revolvers were issued to support personnel from what I've read. S&W continued to make civilian versions after WW1, and supplied a good   They were re-issued in WW2 for the same purpose after being parkerized. The WW1 guns hab a pretty good blue finish.

    S&W continued the Model 1917, which I guess were the ones of WW2 issue and in the 30s (?) sold a bunch to Brazil.  These have the Brazilian crest and were imported back to the US and you'll see some of these in videos
    Concealed carry is for protection, open carry is for attention.
  • Big Al1Big Al1 Senior Member Posts: 8,502 Senior Member
    Mine shoots ACP's just fine, they just fall out of the cylinder. I picked up some auto rim at a gun show and reload those cases  for the 1917. Use the same dies as ACP just use a different shell holder.

    I found the half and full moon clips to be a PITA!
  • Gene LGene L Senior Member Posts: 12,575 Senior Member
    I've heard that all or most will fall out, but have not tried it.  Bad weather has kept me off the range.  The plastic moons work easy enough.  I'll try sans clips if it ever stops raining.  This evening after I first posted, I took a few steel half-moons that with empties, removed the empties, and they loaded with thumb pressure OK.  I don't know if they opened up a bit from firing or whatever, but it gave me hope.
    Concealed carry is for protection, open carry is for attention.
  • GunNutGunNut Posts: 7,642 Senior Member
    Someone told me you can use a spent 45-70 or 458 WinMag case as a tool for removing empties from the clips.  I’ve never tried it so just passing it along.
  • JunkCollectorJunkCollector Posts: 1,078 Senior Member
    Just to add to what Gene said there were also the commercial 
    1917's .
  • Gene LGene L Senior Member Posts: 12,575 Senior Member
    GunNut said:
    Someone told me you can use a spent 45-70 or 458 WinMag case as a tool for removing empties from the clips.  I’ve never tried it so just passing it along.
    I got a tool but you can make one out of a pipe and a Dremel tool with a cutting wheel...none of which I have.  So I bought a tool, which was cheap enough.
    Concealed carry is for protection, open carry is for attention.
  • earlyagainearlyagain Posts: 7,928 Senior Member
    Anyone know if occasional floods of surplus ammo accompanied the surplused guns? Or was it retained for reissue with the 1911?
  • AntonioAntonio Senior Member Posts: 2,986 Senior Member
    Cool revolvers; would love to have one in my collection. Closest I've got is a Webley MkVI in .455 and it's a beast!

    Wonder if they were actually used in combat at least during WWII for more than a whole cylinder of ammo. All the combat reports I've seen regarding sidearms were either captured pistols, 1911s or smaller revolvers some soldiers got from home.
  • Gene LGene L Senior Member Posts: 12,575 Senior Member
    Antonio, would like to see photos of your Webley.  Do you have trouble finding ammo for it?  Many of these seen over here had the cylinders "shaved"  back in the day to accept the .45 ACP ammo, but standard . 45 is way overpressure for the Webley.
    Concealed carry is for protection, open carry is for attention.
  • AntonioAntonio Senior Member Posts: 2,986 Senior Member
    Will pull it out of the safe tonight or tomorrow morning and send you some pics.

    Ammo is nowhere to be found over here. It's a 1917-made revolver that arrived in some old warships we got from the Brits after WWII. Since all the small arms onboard (These revolvers and some Enfield rifles) weren't in a locally available caliber (.455 & .303) already used by the Navy, they were allegedly tossed overboard and only a handful were spared when Officers took them as souvenirs from the pile  :s. So far I've seen only 4 in private hands or collections and this is so far the best preserved (Patina finish).

    Rounds were apparently never imported at least during the last 60 years. Overall British guns are very scarce here and to fire mine I usually ask a friend to download for me commercial FMJ.45ACP rounds to the safe pressure range for the Webley and then use a steel punch to carefully whack 4 spots on the rimless extractor groove base of the cases, thus creating an improvised "rim" strong enough to withstand the hammer hitting the primer without allowing the case to jam inside the cylinder chambers.

    So far such "jungle ingenuity" has worked OK, althought I've used it very little since I have a .22LR MkIV that is pretty much a 3/4 scaled version of the MkVI and it does the job of "scratching the top break revolver itch" pretty well  ;)
  • BigslugBigslug Senior Member Posts: 9,327 Senior Member
    Auto Rim brass:  Best thing to ever happen to those guns.  Turns that fiddling with moon clips into a friendly .44 Special equivalent.

    "Nothing is safe from stupid." - Zee
  • Gene LGene L Senior Member Posts: 12,575 Senior Member
    Good thing if you reload, which I don't for handgun.  Can you buy AR ammo, or just components?  I like the convenience of .45 ACP availability and price so I'm willing to put up with the clips, which do have some advantages...they allow you to reload quickly.  Kinda like early speed loaders.  Good for the range.

    One thing just occurred to me today, came from the S&W forum.  As I said in the OP the Gov took control of S&W 1917 inspections and control in Sept, 1918, but WW1 ended only about two months later, Nov. 1918.  so I wonder how long the gov was in charge,  If anyone knows, I'd appreciate it.
    Concealed carry is for protection, open carry is for attention.
  • AntonioAntonio Senior Member Posts: 2,986 Senior Member
    Reloading is VERY hard here. No one imports components and as far as I know only a couple of my friends have the proper State-issued license to do it and the local "BATF" is trying to void them since they allegedly issued only those two thinking they were for industrial purposes. Still a few manage to scrounge components (primers are the hardest to find; bullets are usually cast and powder is recovered from old ammo or shotgun shells) and keep some guns working despite being "odd" calibers.

    That's the main reason I seldom use mine; if in need I shoot the .22 MkIV. Got other surplus pistols I enjoy a lot more like Broomhanldes & Lugers, so this Webley is a very low proirity range visitor.

    Didn't had time to take the pics; will try tonight.
  • AntonioAntonio Senior Member Posts: 2,986 Senior Member
    Couldn't do it again but I found in my phone a pic of my "WWI handgun lineup" where the Webley is shown; hope it helps:

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