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Sunday, 17 December 2017

H&R 'BOBBY' Revolvers For "Unarmed UK Police":

The "unarmed" London Metropolitan Police Force (It's a Service now!) was formed in 1829 by Robert Peel. .. hence their being called "Bobbies" or "Peelers".

From 1884 until 1936 all of London's "British Bobbies" were permitted by their Commissioner  to carry revolvers known as "Comforters" when on night patrol .. then in 1936 they were instructed to keep them in locked cupboards in every police station but only for the next three years.

Webley Police "Comforter"

 - These arms were Webley revolvers .. however following the 'Battle of Stepney' in 1911 - Mk.I Webley Semi-Automatics were issued to officers.
Mk I Webley & Scott s/a .38" acp.

Early in the Second World War (1st September 1939 to 2 Sept 1945) - somebody in a position of authority (Home Secretary John Anderson) decided that Britain's 100,000 regular Police Force and 100,000 'Specials' should be fully armed - as the wartime footing & risks of NAZI sabotage were serious. - So 3,500 .303" Ross Rifles were obtained by 'Scotland Yard' - along with nearly 24,000 revolvers.

All Military arms were in short supply but American maker Harrington & Richardson were able to supply suitable arms - and a contract for 25,000 was agreed.  Based on the 'Defender' and earlier  'Automatic Ejector' series - these revolvers were supplied to the Met in .32 caliber and serial numbers running from 1 to 23,782 are known.

There is a very good story in Gun Digest 2002 by John Malloy about H&R Defender revolvers - that mentions this 'BOBBY' Model - and states that they were to be made in both .38" S&W caliber and in .32" S&W Long .. but I don't think any 'Bobbies' are known in the thirty-eight caliber.
.32" S&W Long H&R BOBBY Metropolitan Police Revolver.
VERY RARE.

 The revolvers were of abysmal quality and 1,700 odd were returned to the H&R factory for correction & modification to a "Mark II pattern" . There was quite a stink over the quality of these revolvers which were inspected at the Royal Small Arms Factory Enfield.

 There is discussion by expert collectors as to why the accepted revolvers were not marked with an Enfield inspection mark or 'Proof Marks' - but we are not likely ever to find-out as wartime records are thin on the ground AND almost all of these revolvers were scrapped & melted-down shortly after peace resumed in 1945.

 Almost every Police issued revolver was quietly destroyed except for maybe half a dozed that were 'pilfered' .. but who knows if these exist today. One or two had been lent to civilian dignitaries, but it's not known if those were ever handed back.

 - The cost of the MET's wartime purchase - that included several hundred thousand rounds of ammunition was seventy five thousand pounds. Their 'thirty-two' caliber "BOBBIES" certainly won't have been fired much during their short service lives.

  'BOBBY' - .32" S&W Long Caliber.

- From an online chat group:
Per your PM to me, here's what I know about the Bobby model. It was listed for one year( 1940) in the H&R catalog, and they named it their Bobby Model as some were sent to the London Metro Police - known as "Bobbys". 
Ser. #s ran from 1 to 23782. It was made mostly in .32 cal (H&R Model 15) and a few in .38 S&W cal. ( H&R Model 25 ) , aka MKII by the Brits.
"P.  M.P." = Property or 'Proof?' Metropolitan Police.

 Your gun is serial number 16,000. All had 4 inch barrels and were finished in Blue. Weight 23 oz. with checkered walnut stocks. From known examples it appears that the actions are the same as the Auto-Ejector models, although some guns have free wheeling cylinders and some have automatic cylinder stops.

 The guns were made on the "Rice" frame as used on the Sportsman models. Your gun does not have the required English proofs as would have been added to guns received by the Metro Police, however it does have the MKII stamp as added by the Brits, I believe.

 We know that Pre-Victory models received by the Brits in this time period were not given the required proof mark either, so that requirement may have also been shelved for the Bobby Models due to the war going on. The P.M.P. stamp on the grip stamp is believed to stand for "Property of Metropolitan Police" The fate of those guns sent to arm the London Bobbys is unknown to collectors, however since very few have appeared I would assume the majority were destroyed.



Blue Book of Gun Values says:

"H&R BOBBY LARGE FRAME TOP BREAK

.32 or .38 center fire cal., double action, 5 or 6 shot, round ribbed 4 inch barrel, fixed sights, blue finish, one piece oversize checkered walnut grips (some furnished with one piece plastic grips), free wheeling cylinder, only the .32 caliber seems to have been purchased by London's Metropolitan Police, these will be marked MK-II, on the top strap as well as having the company name and address on the top of the barrel rib, No. 15 model is .32 cal. 6 shot, No. 25 model is .38 cal. 5 shot, own serial number range, overall length 9 inches, 23 oz. Mfg. 1939-1942."


Goforth shows that revolver as the No. 15 "Bobby Model". According to the book, the serial number appears on the front grip strap and also on the left side "with one or two letters whose meaning is unknown." The illustration shows a revolver identical to that pictured by the OP, and describes the markings as on the OP's gun. In 1940-1942, serial numbers 1-23782 were shipped to the British Purchasing Commission. All were in .32 Caliber. The No. 25 was in .38 S&W, but "it is unknown if any .38 caliber revolvers were purchased by Britain."

While .38 would seem to be a logical choice for the British, perhaps they took what H&R could produce, or planned to order .38's later and did not.

So - as often the way - the UK's London "Unarmed" Police rightly had fairly free access to arms from 1884 and in (wartime) England 77 years ago.

 Irish police - both RIC RUC  were always armed.

Marty K.

Police Practice & Demonstration.

Link to Very Good History of UK Police Arms:

http://www.oldpolicecellsmuseum.org.uk/content/history/police_history/firearms

M.K.